The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,621 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Armed with extraordinary new discoveries about our genes, acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley turns his attention to the nature-versus-nurture debate in a thoughtful book about the roots of human behavior.

Ridley recounts the hundred years' war between the partisans of nature and nurture to explain how this paradoxical creature, the human being, can be simultaneously free-...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 6th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
While I agree with the central theme of the book, the author struggles to find the balance between an academic publication and a book for the general public. This book assumes knowledge of psychology, neurobiology, genetics, cultural anthropology, and sociology that are likely to be found only in people who have at minimum a BS degree and supplemental reading, or work experience in these fields. Reviews of pertinent studies in these fields are boring to those with this prior knowledge and insuff...more
Nicely written examination of a subject which everyone should understand. He does his best to put the "nature vs nuture" debate to rest. Informative without being dry.
Seán Hudson
I feel bad giving this book a rating, since it has been one of those rare ones that I decided to stop reading despite having only managed a few chapters. I did skim through a fair bit of the rest, and saw that the interesting facts and historical figures associated with the nurture-nature debate persist throughout the book. Those were the bits that made it informative and interesting. But I had some serious issues with some of Ridley's opinions disguised as fact, as well as some technical choice...more
Galen Maleficarum
My other favorite writer, next to Pinker. Ridley sets out to tear down the wall that has divided the "Nature vs Nurture" debate for centuries. Readable (as always from Ridley) and engrossing, this explains how environment can trigger genes, and how genes often determine which environments we choose.

If you entertain any notion that humans are unique, this book will seek to change your minds. By far my favorite parts are in his descriptions of Bonobos, Gorillas, and chimps.
Brandon Clark
Good book on the role played by genetics and experience on psychology and biology.
Ridley is quickly becoming one of my favorite science writers yet. The Agile Gene was a nice follow up to Genome, exploring the nature-nurture link more in depth. He does a wonderful job summarizing the latest (and not so latest) research findings in the field and painting a pretty accurate picture for the layman with great analogies.

He gives a summary of the major 20th century trends in psychology: including the usual (mostly deserved) jabs at Freud (he also gives Freud credit for his emphasis...more
Basic question - were you born with your personality/talents, or are you the product of the environment in which you were raised? The author argues it's not a nature or nurture debate, but a combination. The book is a great refresher course on many classic experiments (Pavlov's dog, teaching fear in animals, imprinting parents onto newborns, etc). I found the chapters on human instincts, and whether they are taught or innate, the most fascinating.

I found the theme of the book best expressed by...more
This book is successful at what it touts to do: Show how nature and nature are not opposed, but interact in exceedingly complex ways to produce our variable phenotypes. Yet, I probably would've been more impressed with the work had I read it five years ago. I was already familiar with just about every study Ridley discussed, and I was more than familiar with his thesis. But it's still a great book for reconciling the whole nature/nature divide.

If I had to criticize it, I would say that he brushe...more
Henri Hämäläinen
The Agile Gene is book from Matt Ridley about genetics, evolution and how people are people. It starts form really early in first studies about human and behaviors. It tells a full journey to the latest genetics researches.

The main question in the book is the long lasting debate on nature, meaning the DNA and inherited things and nurture, the things that environment effects on people. It goes trough studies from both sides and digs deep in to the main pillars of the both explanations.

One by one...more
Igor Korousic
I've accepted the fact that nature combines with nurture to shape most things that constitute life. Matt repeats this like a communist parole in this book. Ok, i got that. But he has filled me up with so much information that i feel that i should read this book again and write down the essential stuff and then look at the extract and try to figure out the rules. Although i learned a lot from this book, i don't know much more about how nurture influences nature than i knew before i started readin...more
R Hazman
Oct 30, 2013 R Hazman marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bilim, evrim
Bir Bölüm:
"Pavlovvari deneyler günümüzde meyve sinekleriyle yapılır fakat ilke aynıdır. Test tüpünün içine kokulu bir kimyasal püskürtüldükten sonra sineğe ayaklarından bir elektrik şoku verilir. Sinek kısa zamanda kokunun ardından şokun geleceğini öğrenir, o yüzden şok verilmeden havalanır: İki olayı (başlangıçta sürpriz olmuştu) bağdaştırmıştır. Bu deney ilk defa 1970'lerde Chip Quinn ve Seymour Benzer tarafından California Teknoloji Enstitüsünde yapıldı. Sineklerin koku ile elektrik şokunu ba...more
Igor Faynshteyn
Having read "Genome" by Matt Ridley (and liking it very much), I am somewhat disappointed in this book. Ridley's thesis is clear: he believes that the conflict between nature and nurture is a false one, because in fact nature is expressed and manifested through nurture and therefore there is no conflict, but rather only the interaction of the two. In going about to support his thesis, he demolishes many strawmen along the way. Ridley also appears to embrace demoloshing what is often regarded as...more
Toni Daugherty
Our genes and the promoters that switch them are what determine many of our decisions and physical outcomes. The dominant theme of Ridley's book is that the human genome is not simply a blueprint that will determine what an animal ends up physically, but rather, a flexible entity that also affects the processes of daily life and choices. He argues that environment also plays a role, and the nature v. nurture debate is a ridiculous one, once one sees this. When one studies the effects of genes, p...more
Aaron Michaux
The best book I have ever read on the nature-nurture debate. Ridley is an engaging author who weaves a tapestry of science, politics, history and anecdote. The binding thread are famous scientists and philosophers who have framed the nature-nurture debate over the past few hundred years. All of them have introduced profound insights, and if you were to put them all in a room together, then surely their bushy beards would all get tangled up.

Apart from the human and political element, I loved Ridl...more
Cassandra Silva
I love this author. He is direct with his examples, moves quickly and yet you never feel like you miss a step. It's always very fluid and easy with Ridley. I preferred both the Genome and the Red Queen to this however, if you have yet to read much on the subject of genetics those would be a better start. Not because anything in this one is incomprehensible in the least bit without any other knowledge, but more just because if you had to pick any one of these awesome texts those would be a better...more
Gerald Berke
A detailed, readable and witty treatise on how life is controlled by genes (nature) and how life controls genes (nurture). The research, the ideas, the roots of various theories of understanding from 100 years or more to studies that are quite current are all layed out.
I've listened to audio tapes of the book for a couple of years, and am now going carefully through the book, to locate and home in on specific details that I need to study to fully grasp.
The book is a marvelously readable compendi...more
A beautifully written book balancing the two extremes in anthropological & psychological thought.

"Social phenomena are scientific... but not reducible to biology."

"Scientific theories, like empires, are at their most vulnerable when they have vanquished their rivals. No sooner had the modular mind triumphed than one of its main champions started dismantling it."

"A calm home contains happy children; children who are hugged a lot are nice; children who are beaten a lot are hostile; and so on....more
More in-depth than other Ridley books I've read (and that makes it more satisfying somehow).

In a nutshell, Ridley is discussing the nature vs. nurture argument: are organisms the product of their genes? or their upbringing?

He spends a chapter examining the history of the argument from Plato through Darwin... then the rest of the book on the pendulum swings since Darwin.

In short, he holds that the answer is "Yes." Genes help determine development, but are affected by events and chance.

Lots of t...more
Naomi Hilsden
Parts of this were really interesting and I followed the explanations with ease. A good portion of the book was quite opinionated though and some bits were hard to follow, especially the molecular biology parts although that could just mean my brain isn't cut out for molecular biology. On the whole, I quite enjoyed it and was left with some new facts and ideas but I was also left with the impression that there is so much uncertainty and complications in behaviour genetics that there's almost no...more
GREAT BOOK - lots of science and even though it was published before the Human Genome project was finished, we (my book discussion group) could find nothing out of date about the data - basic premise: that Genes are not static but are an active and varying and incredibly wondrous part of the development of homo sapiens from conception to death. Many genes change sometimes as often as every second and sometimes as often as once in a lifetime and sometimes never depending on DNA switches that resp...more
Meghan Britz
Excellent book. I paid 75 cents for a book that gives me unlimited knowledge. I'm extremely satisfied, and I'm craving to find more books like this.I would recommend it to anyone interested in biology, or simply just intrigued in the argument nature vs nurture. I was absolutely thrilled to find Ridley taking neither side (such a petty argument). But what I loved most about this book is the fact ANYONE could pick it up and understand.

I'm excited to pick up more of his books, and find authors simi...more
Lea Wentworth
I was excited about this book. I read an article by Ridley and then went out and baught the book. I agreed with him, but found that it got repettitive and there was no new information coming to me about halfway through. I didn't finish it. Also his revered GOD "Genome Organizing Device" was wierd for me.

I did like what I read about the relationship between genetics and socialization. As with most heated debates I didn't see this as a black and white issue before I picked up the book.
Agilini gen je još jedna u nizu odlično napisanih knjiga od Matta Ridleya. Matt je vjerojatno jedina osoba koja raspravu "Nature/nurture" može razvući na tristotinjak stranica bez da osjetimo dosadu u bilo kojem trenutku. Veoma artikulirano iznošenje vlastitih zaključaka, nastalih na temelju detaljnoga istraživanja, autor iznosi u ne napadnom tonu. Obje strane zastupljene su veoma dobro, te ukoliko tražite konačnu presudu po ovom pitanju, bojim se da bi mogli ostati razočarani.

Ocjena 4,5/5
A great book! Such an easy book to read and a great viewpoint on the nature and nurture debate. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
Finally got this book done. It was a very enjoyable overview of the authors views on various gene-related issues and why we are human. Well written, easy reading for your average person, not so technical as to be a turn-off. The author covered basic biological sciences, along with psychology, and discussed various scientists views about the individual topics he wrote about. Quirky bits of humor throughout the book as well.
Fernando del Alamo
El título en castellano es "Qué nos hace humanos". Es un libro que analiza de dónde viene el comportamiento del hombre, si es genético o sólo depende del ambiente. Para ello, habla de diferentes tesis. Está muy bien porque justifica que todas las teorías tienen parte de razón: no somos totalmente genéticos en ese aspecto ni dependemos totalmente del entorno. Tiene algunos párrafos realmente buenos. Muy recomendable.
This book is a great introduction to modern genetics. It's an easy read, which covers a great breadth of topics, while going into detail only when needed. Using examples seen in nature (mostly from various scientific studies), this book explores how genes are affected by the environment and how the genetic machinery works in general. This book is defiantly worth reading if you are interested in genetics
Gary Maunder
This book is superbly written and makes a very turgid subject interesting and understandable. Ridley shows that those who attribute all human behaviour either to nature (genetics) or nurture (environment) are both determinist and both wrong. Genes respond to the environment in fascinating and complex ways which he describes with well chosen experiments described in a very entertaining narrative.
This really should be 3.5 stars, but I'll round up. Some of it was too technical (aka boring) for me so I skipped over, but it did include many interesting studies. I read the entire book and STILL have no idea what the point of writing it was except to give the reader a lot of seemingly unconnected information. But it was written simply enough that a non-science person could mostly understand.
Kirsty Darbyshire

Fabulous look into the relationship between genes and environment. Though it's left me more confused than ever. Though more informed than ever too. In summary, and as the title of the book sums up very neatly, there is no "versus" in the nature v. nurture debate. Great writer - the amount of information is enormous but the text is eminently readable all the same.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • DNA: The Secret of Life
  • Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
  • The Epigenetics Revolution
  • The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene
  • Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
  • Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--and How it Changed the World
  • Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
  • The Language of Genes
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
  • Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins
  • The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
  • Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
  • Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame
  • What Evolution Is
  • The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
  • Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution
The Hon. Matthew White Ridley (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989...more
More about Matt Ridley...
Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code

Share This Book