Herding Hemingway's Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work

Bloomsbury Sigma. Mar. 2016. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781472910042. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781472910066. SCI
The human genome is not what the public thinks it is, says Arney, a journalist with a developmental genetics PhD from Cambridge University. Human DNA is not a flawless spiral staircase leading, step by purposeful step, to the perfection of life, for there are too few of us, and we breed too slowly. Because evolution had little time to perfect humans, our genome is filled with "garbage, control switches, and a few thousand proper protein-making genes dotted about in all the mess." Those who decipher it are flawed as well, for "scientists are about as conservative as the average religious type." The author is often highly amusing, and she knows her stuff, but while genetic control switches seem less than "organised," when they play the keyboard of the genome, they produce the awe-inspiring composition that is human intelligence. Arguably, the latter is underdeveloped in this study and could have been emphasized more without stinting on hard truths.
VERDICT An intelligent and engaging look at human genetics.
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