Phillip's Reviews > Mean Genes

Mean Genes by Terry Burnham
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, interpret-using-b-n

This is more of a book to make you think about things than it being a book that will provide you with reliable facts. The argument of the book is that we have genetic programming that is approximately a million years old that has helped our species to survive. That programming is causes disastrous behaviors for us during the past 10 thousand years since our social behaviors have changed. And it is even more true during the past 150 years of industrialization.

An example, food was scarce for the majority of human history. Our genes urge us to eat all food we can get our hands on as it is available because you don't know how long it will be before there is food again. We have the same urge but there is always food around us. The result is that the same urge that helped us to survive is now urging us to eat until it is killing us.

Another example, for most of the history of humans if you heard a story about something happening to someone then it was probably someone that you knew. In fact, if you heard of someone having good fortune then it was reasonable to believe that you could have the same good fortune because you didn't run into very many people in a life time. That same sense that you too can reasonably have good fortune is not true if you are expecting to win a jackpot lottery, or become an entertainer, or a sports figure.

The above is one example of the way that our senses of proportion are not accurate for the world we live in. That messed up sense of proportion results in things like math being really hard for us. The authors develop the theme of our poor sense of proportions and how it causes unproductive behaviors and poor decisions.

As I said, this is a book to make you think. It is not necessarily telling you the way things are. Either way it is a good read.

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