The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought

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In The Birth of the Mind, award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus irrevocably alters the nature vs. nurture debate by linking the findings of the Human Genome project to the development of the brain.Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30,000-40,000 genes. Since this discovery, scientists have struggled to understand how such a tiny number of genes could contain the instructions for building the human brain, arguably the most...

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New York, New York, U.S.A. 2004 Hardcover New 0465044050. BRAND NEW, FLAWLESS COPY, NEVER OPENED--278 pages. "The first book to show precisely how genes build the wonders of the ... human brain, and why the Human Genome project could radically alter our view of the world. In The Birth of the Mind, award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus irrevocably alters the nature vs. nurture debate by linking the findings of the Human Genome project to the development of the brain. Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30, 000-40, 000 genes. Since this discovery, scientists have struggled to understand how such a tiny number of genes could contain the instructions for building the human brain, arguably the most complex device in the known universe. Synthesizing up-to-the-minute biology with his own original findings on child development, Marcus is the first to resolve this apparent contradiction by chronicling exactly how genes create th Read more Show Less

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Overview

In The Birth of the Mind, award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus irrevocably alters the nature vs. nurture debate by linking the findings of the Human Genome project to the development of the brain.Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30,000-40,000 genes. Since this discovery, scientists have struggled to understand how such a tiny number of genes could contain the instructions for building the human brain, arguably the most complex device in the known universe. Synthesizing up-to-the-minute biology with his own original findings on child development, Marcus is the first to resolve this apparent contradiction by chronicling exactly how genes create the infinite complexities of the human mind. Along the way, he dispels the common misconceptions people harbor about genes, and explores the stunning implications of this research for the future of genetic engineering.Vibrantly written and completely accessible to the lay reader, The Birth of the Mind will forever change the way we think about our origins and ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Jascha Hoffman
When it is not bogged down in the nature-nurture debate, The Birth of the Mind presents a clear and accessible review of recent work on the biology of brain growth.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
NYU psychologist Marcus strikes a rare and delicate balance of scientific detail and layperson accessibility in this overview of an exploding field of inquiry. He traces a compelling story through the classic genetics and brain experiments of the past century up to present-day research, intriguingly illustrating how the human genome is intertwined with brain development, showing how the mechanisms that build brains are extensions of the mechanisms that build the body. Marcus dispels popular misconceptions of genes, showing, for instance, that most behaviors and disorders are much more complicated than headlines such as "gene for obesity discovered" would have us believe. Heavy explanations of complex results and abstract concepts are leavened by Marcus' upbeat, friendly writing style, which makes even the most arcane genetics principles a joy to read. Experiments with vision and language are particularly well-represented, with vivid descriptions adding color to the technical prose. If there is a fault here, it is that the book jumps around a bit too much, attempting to collect several decades of research and many threads of thought into a single slim volume. A lengthy glossary and bibliography, along with meticulous footnoting throughout, are helpful for those wishing to educate themselves further on the subject, but Marcus gives most readers more than enough to think about here. (Dec. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Scientific inquiry into the mystery of the human mind continues to flourish, as do books on the topic. Here, Marcus (psychology, NYU; The Algebraic Mind) focuses on how the relatively small human genome (perhaps fewer than 40,000 genes) can generate our enormously complex brains and how nature works with nurture in this creative process. In a lucid, lively text, he argues that our genes (each of which can be used repeatedly) provide not a blueprint but flexible recipes that are influenced by experience and the environment. Drawing on research in the fields of biology and psychology to support his theories, Marcus notes that learning is fundamental to the process of neural development and works by modifying the expression of genes, which, in turn, modifies the brain. Learning and the acquisition of culture, in fact, can be viewed as a product of genes-language being one very important way for the human organism to learn. The author also explains how our mental genes might have evolved using a coordinated process of duplication and divergence. An accessible book appropriate for public and academic libraries.-Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465044054
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Marcus is Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University. Author of The Algebraic Mind, Marcus received his Ph.D. from MIT at the age of twenty-three. In 2002-2003, he is a Fellow of the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. He lives in New York City. To learn more about Marcus' work, please visit http://www.psych.nyu.edu/gary/birth.html

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Neither Is Better 1
2 Born to Learn 15
3 Brain Storms 31
4 Aristotle's Impetus 47
5 Copernicus's Revenge 67
6 Wiring the Mind 89
7 The Evolution of Mental Genes 111
8 Paradox Lost 147
9 Final Frontiers 165
App Methods for Reading the Genome 179
Glossary 191
Notes 209
References 227
Index 259
Name Index 269
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    Old News-ABroken Record

    I tend to agree with Dr. Gronnerud, one of the previous reviewers. The last thing we need now is another fanciful book on how the mind works. Those of us who believe the mind is of 'spirit' will continue to believe that way. Those of us who believe that the brain/mind has a biological genetic basis will gain nothing from this book. The fact that there does not exist a one to one relationship between genes and physical maladies is old news and was recognized immediately after it was determined that the human genome project would not meet our expectations of unraveling the hidden etiologies of human disease. The complexity of genes and cytogenetics was well expressed in an article in a major magazine about two years ago. (I forget which magazine I read the article, it could have been 'Time' but I am not sure.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2004

    The best baby shower gift ever!

    True story: I gave this book to a young couple who were expecting their first child, thinking that they would enjoy it about as much as any other publication on infant development. Somewhat surprisingly, the father-to-be proclaimed that not only did he enjoy it tremendously, but that it was the greatest gift that expecting parents could ever receive. According to him, Prof. Marcus has written a cheerful elucidation of the genetic and environmental factors that, in pre- and neo-natal stages, conspire to create the phenomenally powerful and flexible baby mind/brain. Based on this true story, I would strongly recommend 'Birth of the Mind' to expecting parents, new parents, grandparents and anyone else deeply curious about early mental/neurological development.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2004

    Birth of the Mind (Genomes Made Simple)

    Birth of the Mind is an intelligently written, witty, thought-provoking book that explains in simple and concise language how the brain and body are basically the same machinery. Gary Marcus answers the question of nature vs. nurture and identifies new challenges society will face as we decide what genetic engineering really means and how far society wants it to go. Do we use our new evolving knowledge to enhance; do we use it to prevent physical and mental disorders? Birth of the Mind lets you in on where genetic research stands, where it's probably going, what we do know and how what we don't know can hurt us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2004

    this is bad science

    The idea that genes can be behind dynamic processes is bad science. The author has made the mistake that has cost so many companies their shirts, he has lept to an ill founded conclusion. The accumulation of so many genes as they behave together is far from the guess that is made in this work. Complex nonlinear dynamics and perhaps some eastern religio-philosophy would be a much better use of a readers time.

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