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Adrian Woolfson

An intelligent persons guide to genetics

In the coming years it is likely that the applications of genetics will play an important part in shaping our lives, and so it important that people have sufficient knowledge of the subject to make informed decisions on how society should react to these possibilities. This book is an attempt to fill that need. However, it is not a book to teach you genetics, and I feel that the reader needs to know the basics of the subject before starting it. What it does do is to provide a background of the subject, with each chapter starting with a historical anecdote and then describing an area of research in genetics mostly in a non-technical fashion (one chapter does get a bit technical, with a sudden increase in the average word length.)

The book deals well with the question of what makes humans different from other animals. Do we have extra genes, or are the genes we have in common slightly different. Are different genes turned on, and does 'junk DNA' play any part. You won't get any answers - these are still research topics - but you will get a better idea of the questions being asked. I did feel that the book was lacking a proper discussion of the ethics of the subject. Woolfson does speculate on how humans may modify themselves in future, but doesn't seem to think that we have much choice in the matter. If he believes that such changes will be beneficial, then I would say that he should give a lot more space to arguing his case.