Monday, July 09, 2018

She Has Her Mother's Laugh

One of the books I finished reading last week (just in time for my semiannual reading update) was She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversion, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer. This is an interesting discussion that doesn't just consider the scientific aspects of heredity, but also the social implications. There are a couple of chapters that talk about the early 20th century effort to end feeblemindedness by sterilization and how family histories (which later turned out to be not accurate) contributed to this effort. There are discussions about diseases where heredity is fairly easy to trace and other topics such as the inheritance of height, which is affected by many genes. Although we normally think of inheritance as passing strictly from parent to child, there are also other ways where people can be mosaics, with different genes in different gene lines, and even instances of people obtaining genes from siblings while they were in the womb. Those cases might be potential inspiration for science fiction stories. Culture is also part of our inheritance, so there was a section devoted to that. Finally, the closing chapters considered the future of inheritance. It's a long book, but worth the read.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think it's too late to breed out stupidity.
Genes from siblings? That might make an interesting science fiction story all right.

Pat Dilloway said...

Obviously they didn't manage to stop feeble mindedness in this country.

Sandra Almazan said...

We can only hope the Flynn Effect continues, Alex and Pat.

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