Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology 

Genetics of Original Sin: The Impact of Natural Selection on the Future of Humanity

By: Christian De Duve and Neil Patterson

223 pages, 20 b/w illustrations

Yale University Press

Paperback | Mar 2012 | #196241 | ISBN-13: 9780300182729
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NHBS Price: £12.99 $16/€15 approx
Hardback | Jan 2010 | #186536 | ISBN-13: 9780300165074
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About this book

This book offers new perspectives on the threat posed by humanity's immense biological success and on the resources human beings have for altering their current destructive path.

Focusing on the process of natural selection, the author explores the inordinate and now dangerous rise of humankind. His explanation for this self-defeating success lies in the process of natural selection, which favours traits that are immediately useful, regardless of later consequences. Thus, the human genome determines such properties as tribal and group cohesion and collaboration and often fierce and irrational competition with and hostility toward other groups' attributes that were once useful but now often ruinously dysfunctional.

The book concludes that humankind is endowed with the ability to deliberately oppose natural selection. Human beings have the capacity to devise measures that, while contrary to local or personal interests, can bring forth a safer world.

[This book offers] a broad and nontechnical perspective on fundamental questions about life as biology and life in the future of earth [and] has an original emphasis and perspective. . . . The authority of a Nobel Prize-winner, coupled with its easy style, set it apart from a lot of would-be competitors.
- William C. Summers, Yale University

"Alone on planet Earth, humans have come to understand the mechanism of their biological legacy, and to devise ways to transcend it. No better account can be found of the stark choices that humanity now faces, and no more authoritative a guide and expositor than Christian de Duve."
- Paul Davies, author of "The Eerie Silence"

"Every thoughtful person will want to enjoy and reflect on the fluid and logical progression of ideas that are so clearly presented in this masterwork. In it, Christian De Duve brings the full array of insights derived from modern biology to bear on the philosophical examination of our place in the Universe."
- Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden

"De Duve provides an outstanding treatment of historical, present, and future biological/societal issues. This is a concise, superb book, clearly, succinctly, and analytically organized."
- J. N. Muzio, CHOICE

"De Duve makes biology accessible to virtually any reader. In addition, 'Genetics of Original Sin' often provides a historical context for scientific discovery, describing biological innovation as the work of individuals, thereby heightening the drama of science."
- Jamie Schwendinger-Schrek, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine

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Christian de Duve is professor emeritus at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and at Rockefeller University, New York. During his distinguished career he has received numerous honours and prizes, including the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and fifteen honorary degrees. He lives in Belgium.

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