Living with Our Genes

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Many scientists believe that genetic discoveries will turn out to be the most significant accomplishments of the twentieth century. For them, when all the genes comprising human chromosomes have been mapped, a new era in biology, medicine, and psychology will begin. This knowledge will enable scientists to design new drugs, eliminate most birth defects, and help people live longer and healthier lives. Furthermore, Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland, the authors of LIVING WITH OUR GENES: WHY THEY MATTER MORE THAN YOU THINK, believe that “virtually every aspect of how we act and feel ... shows genetic influence” and that many of the individual genes responsible for human behavior have already been isolated. They predict that scientists will soon be able to genetically engineer human behavior. Consequently, Hamer, a behavioral geneticist, and Copeland, a journalist, feel that scientists and laypersons should discuss whether they should begin tinkering with the genes regulating human behavior.

Because the authors devote a large part of their book to analyzing how genes guide such human activities as thrill-seeking, worrying, aggression, addiction, sexual behavior, thinking, eating, and aging, they tend to emphasize the nature side of the nature-nurture controversy. However, in their treatment of these topics they bring out the complexity of human behavior and criticize those who think that a single gene exists that will explain each type of human behavior. On...

(The entire section is 532 words.)