Book Review: Revise Your Assumptions on Heredity

03:11PM Sep 19, 2018
Library of books
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Carl Zimmer is one of our finest science writers, carefully crafting explanations of today’s cutting-edge research in available form for laymen. He might have met his match with the science of heredity. “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh” is not your average waiting-for-a-plane-book. Instead, it is a strenuous, multiple-winter-afternoon mind workout.

SheHasHerMothersLaugh--CarlZimmerIt might also be one of the most important books anyone in agriculture should labor through today. Our entire profession is laced with beliefs and myths of how heredity works. From fathers and sons to CRISPR hybrids and cancer risks, much of what we believe is based on an incomplete, if not flawed understanding of how living things propagate characteristics and behaviors.

Every few pages seems to offer a new mind-blowing statement like, “Everyone who was alive 5,000 years ago who has any living descendants is the ancestor of everyone alive today.” With the recent resurgence of racism, the explosive growth of genetic research, and popular DNA testing, Zimmer provides an important grounding to revise our assumptions about human heredity and utilize new scientific tools. He does yeoman’s work bringing this within our grasp. We should meet him halfway to inform our thinking about who we are and are not, and how we came to be.  —John Phipps