Recommended Reading

It Ain't Necessarily So : The Dream of the Human Genome Project and Other Illusions
By Richard C. Lewontin

Hardcover (February 2000)
New York Review of Books; ISBN: 0940322102

Editorial Reviews
Review by William A. Spriggs

This is an excellent book for advanced students or members of the established evolutionary community to keep handy in their personal libraries whenever they feel that their science may not be providing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Richard Lewontin, The Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University, has given us an extremely valuable document that combines nine essays that were originally book reviews written over a period of seventeen years in the The New York Review of books. From the inside cover:

"...Lewontin combines sharp criticisms of overreaching scientific claims with lucid expositions of the exact state of current scientific knowledge -- not only what we do know, but what we don't and maybe won't anytime soon. Among the subjects he discusses are heredity and natural selection, evolutionary psychology and altruism, nineteenth-century naturalist novels, sex surveys, cloning, and the Human Genome Project. In each case he casts an ever-vigilant and deflationary eye on the temptation to look to biology for explanations of everything we want to know about our physical, mental, and social lives."

But, I think the tonus of the book can be nicely summed up in Lewontin's chapter on "Women Versus The Biologists." Although arguing that there are precious few women in the biological sciences and his reasons for this state, Lewontin seems to lecturing to all the scientific community about something deeper, and perhaps, reflective of our society at large.

"It is also clear to anyone who has spent his life in the academy that departmental relations, both formal and informal, resemble membership in a small club, with all the exclusiveness and sense of uniqueness that is implied. It must be remembered that academics expend a major portion of their psychic energy acting as gatekeepers to professional acceptance, whether they are judging students, refereeing journal articles and book manuscripts, or deciding upon who may join their ranks. Thus academics confront the contradictions of the meritocratic ideal in a particularly acute form." p. 120

Heavens, Mr. Lewontin, are you suggesting that scientists are subject to exclusionary principals that reflect how the fundamental mechanisms of our societies truly exist, but somehow are overlooked?

This is not a book for the layperson, but it is highly recommended to those mentioned above.
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