The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

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Harper Collins, Jul 6, 2004 - Science - 352 pages
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Armed with extraordinary new discoveries about our genes, acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley turns his attention to the nature-versus-nurture debate in a thoughtful book about the roots of human behavior.

Ridley recounts the hundred years' war between the partisans of nature and nurture to explain how this paradoxical creature, the human being, can be simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture. With the decoding of the human genome, we now know that genes not only predetermine the broad structure of the brain, they also absorb formative experiences, react to social cues, and even run memory. They are consequences as well as causes of the will.

  

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Contents

Twelve Hairy Men I
1
The Paragon of Animals
7
A Plethora of Instincts
38
A Convenient Jingle
69
The Madness of Causes
98
Genes in the Fourth
125
Formative Years
151
Learning Lessons
177
Conundrums of Culture
201
The Seven Meanings
231
o A Budget of Paradoxical
249
Homo stramineus
277
Endnotes
283
Index
307
Copyright

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Page 7 - Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.
Page 258 - It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
Page 31 - IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Page 16 - Nevertheless the difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.
Page 258 - He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want...
Page 247 - ... [E]very time that a social phenomenon is directly explained by a psychological phenomenon, we may be sure that the explanation is false.
Page 30 - WHETHER I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Page 184 - The Freudians twenty years from now, unless their hypotheses change, when they come to analyze Albert's fear of a seal skin coat assuming that he comes to analysis at that age will probably tease from him the recital of a dream which upon their analysis will show that Albert at three years of age attempted to play with the pubic hair of the mother and was scolded violently for it.
Page 271 - I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men's, acts of will. I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be somebody, not...

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About the author (2004)

Matt Ridley is the author of several award-winning books, including Genome, The Agile Gene, and The Red Queen, which have sold more than 800,000 copies in twenty-seven languages worldwide. He lives in England.

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