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Book Review: Genetics & the Manipulation of Life: TheForgotten Factor of Context

Hi, Folks!

I found this book *extremely* frustrating -- so I'm spreading the pain by
clogging up your mailboxes with it! ;-D

Oh, well, *one* lousy book out of all the ones I've reviewed isn't really
such a bad record. . .

Enjoy anyway! ;-)


Genetics & the Manipulation of Life:  The Forgotten Factor of Context by
Craig Holdrege, Lindisfarne Press, 1996.  ISBN:  0-940262-77-0, $14.95.

The "right brain" (more properly known as the right hemisphere of the
cerebral cortex) appreciates music and detects patterns while the "left
brain" (the left hemisphere, etc.) uses language and delights in logic. To
keep us whole persons who can use language to describe music, for instance,
a brain structure known as the corpus callosum runs between the hemispheres
so that electrical impulse, thoughts, etc. are given the benefit of both
"sides" of the brain.

If one sliced the corpus callosum, gave each resulting brain hemisphere
access to an electronic word processor and told them to write a treatise
about modern genetic theory, the result would be Craig Holdrege's Genetics &
the Manipulation of Life:  The Forgotten Factor of Context!

When Holdrege's left brain is dictating the pages, the book (roughly from
Chapters 2 through 4) is a clear, concise explanation of how current genetic
theory was formed,  If your high school biology teacher completely confused
you when talking about genetics (especially once McClintock's "jumping
genes" arrive on the scene), let Holdrege's 16 years experience teaching
high school biology guide you through the maze of past genetic tinkerings
and current biotechnology experiments. 

However, while Holdrege's right brain correctly warns that the environment
(or context) as well as heredity determines the life of an organism, like a
teenager who had a great opening sentence for a term paper, but can't find
the research to write more than a page or two of the paper, Holdrege's right
brain tends to draw "straw-man" arguments about genetic researchers who
believe they know everything about how genes will work and pads his pages
with repetition.  Maybe I've been working in environmental science too long,
but I personally haven't read (or heard on National Public Radio) anything
by a reputable working scientist that would deny Holdrege's statement that
"Neither organism nor environment can be understood without the other."
Holdrege's right brain, however, would have you believe that current
genetics researchers mantra really is "biology is destiny."  Anyone who has
followed the recent misadventures in gene-therapy trials at the University
of Pennsylvania will hear scientists who admit in almost every interview
that there is much in how cells and genes interact that they don't understand.

That said, Holdrege is a remarkably clear writer who thinks interesting
thought on both sides of his brain.  Here's hoping that Craig Holdrege has
his corpus callosum repaired soon!

Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's Organic Community Garden

A mission of 
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA  19460

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