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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Luis F. Escobar, MD, MS (St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center)
Description: The author presents his perspective on how the evolution of our species has led to social organization that may be harmful to our own future and health in this book. It is a compilation of selective scientific evidence with significant personal input from the author.
Purpose: The author sets out to expose how environmental hazards interact with human biology, with the suggestion that socioeconomic stratification may have an influence on genetic behavior and gene expression. The book represents a tremendous effort by the author, compiling an impressive amount of information and reviewing an extensive number of scientific papers that suggest mechanisms by which the environment affects human life and gene expression. Unfortunately, in his attempt to translate scientific evidence into popular science, the author conveys an alarmist sense of our inability to control our environment, detailing a problem but providing no solutions. The objectives are interesting, but the book does not provide new or relevant information to those in the field of genetics or to the public. We all recognize now that societal environmental problems affect our health and the future of our species. We may even make this a topic of family conversation with our academically oriented relatives, during which one might suggest solutions to a complex problem of this magnitude.
Audience: The author dedicates his book to the toxicologists and pediatricians who guard the future of our species, but he does not specify who his audience is. It seems to be written with the general public in mind.
Features: The author presents his perspective on how self-destructive humans have become. In the chapter, "The Richness of Our Ignorance," he indicates "the psychological destinies of children in America are often shaped and mangled by man-made environmental effects that begin not with birth but with conception." He raises questions about the effect of pollution on babies, and provides provocative perspectives on "culture, poverty, and fetal destruction." A good number of references are provided at the end to substantiate the author's point.
Assessment: Based on traditional academic thinking, the scientific merit of this book is limited. It is a provocative compilation of ideas substantiated by academic papers. However, it presents a naive perspective of biology without clearly connecting true biological cellular human mechanisms to the gross observations.