Monday, July 11, 2011

Mismatch: Why Our World No Longer Fits our Bodies

Mismatch: Why our world no longer fits our bodies
Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson. Foreword by Robert Winston
Oxford University Press, 2006

About the Authors:

Gluckman and Hanson are doctors who hold posts in academia.

Amazon link

If you have a copy of The Selfish Gene throw it away. Don't give it to anybody, throw it away because it is a dangerously misleading text. I still recall reading it so long ago and being amused by such a simplistic and naive view of inheritance. Replace it with this text. Seriously, this text is a very good introduction to an emerging view of genetics that is transforming our understanding of evolution. If you are familiar with epigenetics and how it is now a huge focus of research you *may* find this text light and breezy. Nonetheless I can guarantee there are research reports in this book that will astound you. If you are someone who has long held The Selfish Gene in high esteem you definitely need to read this text. That is a serious recommendation. As the authors state:

"Our thinking has moved a long way from simplistic views of the interaction between genes(nature) and the developmental environment(nurture).

Hooray, how I have longed to see a popular text that takes the whole neodarwinian paradigm to task and politely pushes it to one side. With regard to Dawkins though I won't be polite, I think Doofus Dawkins is responsible for leading a huge cross section of the educated(?!) public up the garden path to the smelly outside dunny. I cannot recall the number of times people have addressed my criticisms of Dawkin's approach with bewilderment, as if Dawkins was the be all and end all of genetics.(That was NEVER true, Dawkins was popular with the educated (?!) public, not geneticists. In fact if you think I'm severe on Dawkins, trust me, I've seen others almost apoplectic over his claims.) Yes, I have long regarded The Selfish Gene as one big fat load of bollocks. But enough of my general contempt for that text.

Read Wiki for an introduction to epigenetics. 

I did not take any substantial notes on this text because for many years now I have been following the changing of the guard with respect to genetics. It is an exciting time, the emergence of a much more powerful, sophisticated, and complex model of evolution is going to take some decades to mature. To give you an idea of this approach consider the following:

Children brought up in poor societies but then adopted to rich one's is associated with much earlier puberty - with some girls having their first period at 6-8 years of age.
The text is replete with like examples, the research literature is now bulging with research into epigenetics and its implications for public health in general and individual health in particular.

My cognitive style is iconoclastic(ah der, no kidding John). I'm always on the look out for new ways to understanding being human and the the processes of Life. So I am delighted that the authors of this text have written a highly accessible text, certainly any educated person will have no trouble understanding this text. I suspect that is probably why I found it somewhat light and breezy because for myself, while I am not aggressively tracking the research in this area, I have long been interested in the newly emerging paradigm.

Mismatch should replace "The Selfish Gene". I certainly hope that turns out to be true. The authors paint a picture of a new kind of genetics that is both complex and beautiful, an amazing testament to the power of evolution to manage adaptation. This is the New Stuff, the future of genetics. If you have any interest in genetics and understanding why type 2 diabetes is turning into one huge public health disaster, you need to read this text. Oh just read it, it is a great and easy read that will open your eyes to the complexities of adaptation that hitherto most of us never dreamed possible.

Great stuff! Thanks to the authors.


Steve Edney said...

Sounds interesing John. Might try to pick up a copy. I'm sure I am part of the market influenced by Dawkins (although not overly so - I have read more broadly that just him).

John said...

Oh don't worry Steve, all of us fall prey to fallacies. Hence ....
*Gelett Burgess

If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.