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The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,526 ratings  ·  138 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-
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 6th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 2003)
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4.05  · 
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 ·  3,526 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Mohamed al-Jamri
الطبيعة عبر التطبّع للكاتب مات ريدلي

في هذا الكتاب يحاول الكاتب تفكيك العقدة القديمة التي تقول بأن هناك تعارض بين الطبع والتطبّع أو الجينات والبيئة وأن أحدهما فقط هو الصحيح. في البداية يستعرض تاريخ هذا الجدل قبل أن يطرح الكثير من الأمثلة العلمية التي تؤكد أن كلا الفريقين خاطئين، فالجينات والبيئة لا يتنافسان على تحديد صفاة وسلوك البشر، بل يتعاونان، فلا تظهر الصفاة الجينية إلا عن طريق التفاعل مع البيئة.
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
Soren Maleficus
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jurij Fedorov
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really good book.

I takes a centrist view of things. It is basically science with no personal views or observations. This is the middle ground in the nature-nurture debate. Well written and short enough to not get boring. Basically all the basics on the debate and a great book.

Ridley knows a lot. He is a scientists. I would imagine that 90% of the non 5 stars reviews here are by people who got a bit stuck on the paragraphs talking about the studies and how they were done. It explains th
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
عمر الحمادي
الطبع البشري ينشأ عن تفاعل الطبع مع التطبع، ويكون الطبع عبر التطبع، فالجينات هي خلاصة المشاعر، و الجينات ليست محركة دمى ولا مجرد ناقلات للوراثة، بل هي تنشط أثناء الحياة وتوقف بعضها البعض وتتفاعل مع البيئة، وهي من يتيح للعقل البشري أن يتعلم ويتذاكى ويتشرب الثقافة و يعبر عن غرائزه.

يقول داروين أن الاختلاف بين الإنسان والحيوانات هو في الدرجة وليس في النوع، فمن قال أن الإنسان الوحيد الذي يمارس الجنس من أجل المتعة أصبح مخطئاً مع وجود قرود البابون التي تمارس الجنس عند الاحتفال بالطعام، أو أن الإنسان هو
Lola White
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
يعرض الكتاب الصراع و الجدل الدائر بين أنصار نظرية أن صفات البشر تتحدد من خلال الجينات (الطبع), و أنصار نظرية أن صفاتهم تتحدد من خلال البيئة (التطبع), يتحدث الكاتب عن اشهر التجارب التي أجريت من قبل الفريقين و الآراء المختلفة لكليهما، و يحاول أخيراً إثبات أن كلّاً من الجينات و البيئة لهما دور كبير في تشكيل الإنسان و أن كلّاً منهما يؤثر في الآخر بطرق معقدة و متشابكة.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is not that simple. One cannot simply take a small aspect of reality and ignore all the rest, especially when the rest is more than closely connected, and, at the same time, hope to come to worthy conclussions. This, unfortunately, has been a common theme in biology, psychology, sociology and what not.

But here comes (the) Matt Ridley to the rescue. It is not nature or nurture, it is nature and nurture or nature via nurture as author with intelectual force proclaims. The dichotomy is false and
Aaron Michaux
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 is 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 Ridle
Cassandra Kay Silva
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Yasser Mohammad
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I do not remember enjoying (which is very different from liking or learning from) any book more than I enjoyed reading Genome. This is a real sequel and in many ways it has the advantage of being focused.

The main idea expressed in this book is that Genes are the underlying mechanisms for BOTH nature and nurture and as such these two are not in a fight they are collaborating factors. No matter how common-sensical this may be, many people for long time were against it.

Astha Garg
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first science book that I read for leisure and I must say it has got me hooked on the genre. I loved Ridley's style - the humor, logic, experiments and his own thoughts. I wish there were more authors writing not-so-technical science books in my own area of expertise.

Brandon Clark
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Good book on the role played by genetics and experience on psychology and biology.
Aug 15, 2016 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference  ·  review of another edition
I read prologue, epilogue, and discussion of free will. Considering how (relatively) old this is, that's plenty.
John de' Medici
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Quite a fascinating and an informative read.
Pippo Ranito
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was hard to put down because of Ridley's extremely engaging approach, which, to me was his greatest strength and also his weakness.

Let me tell you about it really quickly.

Chapter 1 is perhaps my favorite. You won't understand the book nor follow its flow if you won't commit to the argument and style of chapter 1. IN that chapter, Ridley builds the foundation for his "one long argument", if I may borrow from Darwin.

His argument follows flawlessly, like a river undisturbed. The flow is b
Jonathan Vazquez-Perez
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Exploring nature v nurture was always an interesting topic and this book was great at making it clear that it's not that simple. In fact the more I learn about Science, (molecular biology in this case) I learn that any claim that any 1 gene is the cause of something in particular is an insult to the real complexity that is behind the working of things. So really it's not ever nature that is the complete driving force and it's not really just nurture either, so you see examples of how nature play ...more
Mary Beth
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
The Agile Gene is a well-researched, well-delivered and informative book about how our genes influence who we are. Matt Ridley recounts the historical steps of the nature vs nurture debates, showing the different experiments and discoveries that contributed significant information to our current knowledge about genetics and environment. He places the history and the facts into a relevant context for any reader, and he creates useful metaphors that make scientific concepts easier for us non-scien ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genetics, psychology
Fairly nuanced, though likely dated, discussion on the role of genes in their causal relation to different types of behaviour. Discusses the implicit assumptions and socially fashionable ideas surrounding the long debate on nature/nurture (with genes proposed as relevant to both "sides"), and the implications of these ideas. Considerable thought is put into how our conceptualization/use of "genes" relate to this discussion. Author makes a fairly convincing case for how nature/nurture are inheren ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nature via Nurture is Matt Ridley's expert exploration of how genes guide our experience and growth and affect us through time, via nurture, while also being affected dynamically by our experiences.

He takes the reader through a number of the most famous "nature vs nurture" debates and shows how each time the conflict is illusory: we cannot be something that's not in our genes but our genes cannot do their job if we are not nurtured through an appropriate set of experiences - and depending on th
Robin Gane-McCalla
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ridley tells a story of scientific perspectives on the influence of nature and nurture on human perspectives. He combines the works of prominent scientists from the past with recent scientific discoveries. His somewhat colloquial style is both positive and negative, it adds to readability but it distracts from scientific rigor. His explanation of scientific concepts is good, but he does not posit a unified theory to explain behavior. Instead he goes through several specific cases and describes t ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinante libro, que viene a tratar el debate Herencia-Ambiente desde el punto de vista de la genética y la Psicología Evolutiva.

Es un libro fundamental, tanto para el experto en múltiples temas (tiene la brillante virtud de aunar y explicar historia, evolución, psicología, genética y sociología) de forma amena y entretenida. Divulgación científica (Ridley cabalga a hombros de los mejores científicos) de grandísima calidad. Debería ser obligatorio para cualquier estudiante de psicología.

El últ
Per Kraulis
A book on the Nature vs Nurture controversy that has stood the test of time. Its message - that genes act via environment and environment via genes in order to shape the organism - is as relevant now as it was when the book was first published in 2003, although a couple of the recent examples have been complicated by later research, I believe. But the basic argument of the book is as sound as ever. A good read which I can recommend.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Genome by Matt Ridley I couldn't wait to pick up another book by him. Nature via Nurture has some interesting research elements but I did find the system of how it was written to be slightly complicated. It was harder to read physically than genome but I definitely found myself seeing links to the other book.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very accessible read about genetics, explained very clearly in simple language, but still interesting for the slightly more advanced reader. Covers topics such as autism, schizophrenia, and eating habits in a very engaging manner. Highly recommended for the amateur biologist.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is an odd book. The facts and figures are great but I don't some of the author's opinions are facts. He makes wild suppositions which appear unsupported. I won't finish it but will skip bits til the end.
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Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci (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 cor ...more
“It is genes that allow the human mind to learn, to remember, to imitate, to imprint, to absorb culture, and to express instincts. Genes are not puppet masters or blueprints. Nor are they just the carriers of heredity. They are active during life;” 2 likes
“Similarity is the shadow of difference. Two things are similar by virtue of their difference from another; or different by virtue of one’s similarity to a third. So it is with individuals.” 2 likes
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