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The Wonder of Genetics: The Creepy, the Curious, and the Commonplaceby Richard Kowles
Synopses & Reviews
Why are some of us male and others female? What makes us short or tall, blond or brunette, light-skinned or dark? Why do some people look like their relatives, while others dont? What causes defects of biochemistry that lead to debilitating illnesses and physical or mental handicaps? The answer to all these questions is genetics. This refreshingly clear laypersons overview elucidates the importance and scope of genetics, showing its broad applications in many areas of life. As the author demonstrates, its no exaggeration to say that in life experiences genetics is everywhere. He begins by leading readers through the science involved in genetic research to show how heredity actually works and how it is studied in plants and animals, clearly explaining these concepts without an overload of technical jargon. He devotes separate chapters to such popular topics as: the genetic differences between males and females, the potential effects of radiation on the human genome, eating irradiated or genetically modified foods, cloning, genetic therapy, stem-cell research, nature vs. nurture, and how genes are related to many diseases, psychological disturbances, and possibly other behaviors. The author concludes by addressing common misconceptions about genetics and emphasizing the disciplines potential for curing some diseases, extending human lifespan, enhancing medicine and agriculture, and generally improving society.
"For those who are unacquainted with the basics of genetics, Kowles (Solving problems in Genetics) provides a helpful primer, but when he goes beyond the nuts and bolts to tackle concerns about the widespread bioengineering of seeds (which he endorses), his complacent, conventional views reduce complex subjects to simplistic notions. His explanations of the genetic code, how genes work in clusters, the way that the extra-nuclear genes in mitochondria function, and varying methods for genetically modifying organisms are comprehensive and informative, but he ignores potential dangers to heath and ecology (embracing salmon that 'grow four times faster and larger than normal,' for instance) and adheres to a narrowly conservative view of environmental issues, equating the belief held by people living 90 years ago that absorbing radiation deliberately added to food was 'a metabolic rejuvenation' to a 'mood today that may be better described as radiophobia.' Moreover, by ignoring the implications of statistics showing that an 'estimated 70% of processed food in the United States contains products of genetic engineering,' Kowles does the general reader, in search of unbiased information, a disservice.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
Despite a title that's reminiscent of 1950s science books for kids, this book is an excellent introduction to heredity and modern genetics aimed at the general reader. Dealing with questions ranging from the basic (such as how genetic traits are inherited) to the more complex and topical (genetic therapy and stem-cell research), Kowles (Biology [emer.], St. Mary's University of Minnesota) shows how genetics are studied in plants and animals, and demonstrates the importance of genetics for many areas of our lives. While some readers may take issue with the author's views on radiation and genetically modified organisms, most will enjoy this wide-ranging (and good-humored) introduction to genetic science. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kowles devotes separate chapters to popular genetic topics, addresses misconceptions, and emphasizes the disciplines potential for curing some diseases, extending human lifespan, enhancing medicine and agriculture, and generally improving society.
About the Author
Richard V. Kowles, PhD (Winona, MN), is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in Biology at Saint Marys University of Minnesota. He is the author of Solving Problems in Genetics and Genetics, Society, and Decisions, among other publications.
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