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Genetics of Original Sin

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  • Book Review
  • Archaeology
  • Religious Science


Layout 1 Book reviews174 science, and culture that makes this book a fun read for audience members from all walks of life. Kathryn Tworkoski Department of Pathology Yale University Genetics of Original Sin. By Christian de Duve and Neil Patterson. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press; 2010. 256 pp. US $26.00 Hard- cover. ISBN: 978-0300165074. The continuous repetition of Christian de Duve’s primary thesis in Genetics of Original Sin ensures that however little the reader understands or is interested in biol- ogy, he will have no doubt as to the author’s primary concern: Natural selection has made humans poor prognosticators. As evolution- ary adaptation is all about living (and repro- ducing) in the moment, humans have evolved some unfortunate traits and are headed toward a Very Bad End, unless dras- tic change is implemented. The reader is also certain to realize de Duve’s good news, namely that humans alone can (and must) change their nature. The particulars here, however, are vague and underdeveloped as de Duve loses the clarity and insight he brought to the first three-quarters of the book. Genetics of Original Sin is divided into four parts. “The History of Life on Earth” provides proof of evolution; “The Mecha- nisms of Life” lays out the rudimentary bi- ology needed to understand de Duve’s main objectives, and in “The Human Adventure,” human evolution, in particular, is described. Finally, “The Challenges of the Future” in- cludes the author’s speculations and sugges- tions about ways to avert the coming apocalypse. The book draws intriguing parallels to the Christian narrative of evil entering the world through original sin (here played by natural selection) and subsequent redemp- tion (the role of redeemer now played by hu- mankind). De Duve carries this comparison throughout the book and returns again to re- ligion (including the major monotheistic and Eastern traditions) in the final

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