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It Ain't Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions Paperback – Sep 30 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books (Sept. 30 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322950
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 12.6 x 18.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 372 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #607,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Words do matter to Lewontin, and his portrayal of scientists as pontificating from a position of "objective truth" is not an indictment of individual scientists, but rather, a charge against the whole scientific enterprise. And the charge will stick. Each scientist exemplifies this, some to greater, and others to a lesser, degree. Speaking from 35 years experience as a scientist, I can say Lewontin is much more right, than wrong in his assertion. For the most part, the modern scientific enterprise is contaminated by scientists believing they are working at the "wholesale" level when it comes to "objective' truth, while the rest of people unknowingly work "retail," making culturally-biased statements which merely pass as "truth." This problem intensified after the Enlightenment, when natural philosophers (scientists) began to seriously confuse an arrogant superficial materialism/a priori rationalism with true science (information painstakingly and imperfectly derived from studying a world which is diffuclt or impossible to fully comprehend). Lewontin has caught on to this.
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By A Customer on Dec 27 2003
Format: Paperback
First, the only reason this book gets four stars instead of five is because of the 'book review' format, and as book reviews the essays largely fail. As counteractive theoretical essays, however, they are insightful, scathing, and thorough. A friend of mine wanted to reread "The Selfish Gene" because it's a perennial favorite of humanities snobs, now I'll direct her to this text first.
This book deals much more with the philosophical implications authors imply in their texts than the actual Science, but has enough Science to placate those looking for basic information on genetics, etc. Lewontin's humble and witty approach is welcoming, and his thought process is enjoyable. His 'tell it like it is' approach to issues like Social Darwinism and the Human Genome Project are worth reading, especially for people relegated outside the physical and natural sciences who may be unaware of these perspectives. (Especially those who infrequently read Science texts and are consequently doomed to linger in outdated material).
The key strength of this text lies in its challenging other arguments, which is often stronger than texts with centralized theses. Because of Lewontin's critical authority, he is freer from the ideological rampages that blind many of the authors he addresses. My favorite sections of the text were the 'exchanges,' where authors wrote in to the magazine criticizing Lewontin and he responds. For the reviewer here who rebuked Lewontin for his simple approach to complex problems or his philosophical leaning, note that often those letters he responds to are written by the authors of the books he derides.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, let me say I feel a special admiration for Richard Lewontin. I believe he is a really smart man and always has an interesting point of view and lots of knowledge to sustain his opinions. This short collection of Reviews he wrote in The New York Review of Books undoubtly endorse my personal opinion on the author. I really recommend this book to anyone with some background on genetics, evolution and biology who wants to enrich his (hers) personal opinion on diverse themes in this subjects. I did not gave this book 5 stars because the reviews contained in it are not new. Although he writes some stuff at the end of his reviews in an attempt to update them, I believe that if he was to write them again, today, he might have changed (maybe, just maybe) a great deal of them. I think Richard Lewontin has more interesting things to say about this themes today than 12 or 20 years ago. He certainly has grown in knowledge and surely has mature his ideas with time and scientific enrichment. Just because he could have gave us more I did not give him 5 stars.
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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 13 2001
Format: Hardcover
A collection of disparate essays is an elusive target for a reviewer. The range of topics here is wide and of varying quality. With essays ranging from IQ testing through the Darwinian revolution to the Human Genome Project and cloning, Lewontin is able to declaim his own expertise in whichever subject he approaches. As with most New York Review of Books authors, he's witty and cleverly subtle when assaulting those authors or ideas he's contesting; passionately assertive in support. When you've finished the review, however, you're often left with little foundation for deciding whether you should buy that particular book for yourself. The usual reaction is wishing to run out and find all the other sources he refers to for confirming information.
The only consistent theme in this compilation is that of the iconoclast. Chipping away at perceived flaws in other people is a Lewontin specialty. He has favoured targets, such as Richard Dawkins and Philip Rushton, are frequently mentioned. A glaring omission, particularly in the updating Epilogue to "Darwin's Revolution", is that of Daniel C. Dennett's DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA. Given Dennett's scathing critique of The Spandrels of San Marco, co-authored by Lewontin and Stephen Gould, the oversight surprises.
The most engaging sections of the book are essays on the Human Genome Project, genetics and cloning. In an effort to undercut scientists like E.O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins, Lewontin attempts to restrict DNA's role to 'the stupid molecule' it was once considered. Using every verbal trick available, he writes a lawyer's brief against the Project and its supporters.
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