Born That Way: Genes, Behavior, Personality

William Wright, Author
William Wright, Author Alfred A. Knopf $27.5 (320p) ISBN 978-0-679-43028-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-415-92494-8
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In spite of fascinating material and an engaging writing style, Wright (Sins of the Father) is largely unsuccessful in his attempt to portray the current state of the nature-vs.-nurture debate as it pertains to the underlying causes of human behavior. On the positive side, Wright does a fine job of explaining the controversy between those who believe that human behavior is significantly controlled by genetic influences and those opting for the primacy of environmental factors. Similarly, his descriptions of the results, both anecdotal and scientific, of the Minnesota Twin Study of identical twins raised apart and brought back together later in life are compelling, clearly demonstrating the importance of heredity. What detracts greatly from these successes is Wright's relentless attack on those who disagree with his pro-genes position (e.g., ""Richard Lewontin, one of the Not in Your Genes authors, who has repeatedly proved he needs no collaborators in his campaign of distortion""). Wright's calling his opponents ""gene police,"" ""radical environmentalists"" and ""genophobes"" does nothing to elevate the level of the debate. And while Wright interviews and fully develops the personalities of many of the scientists on the ""nature"" end of the continuum, he presents caricatures of those on the ""nurture"" side. Nonetheless, many important public policy questions are touched on in this otherwise useful book. (June)
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