At a time when the complete human genome has been sequenced and when seemingly every week feature news stories describe genes that may be responsible for personality, intelligence, even happiness, Michel Morange gives us a book that demystifies the power of modern genetics. The Misunderstood Gene takes us on an easily comprehensible tour of the most recent findings in molecular biology to show us how—and if—genes contribute to biological processes and complex human behaviors.
As Morange explains, if molecular biologists had to designate one category of molecules as essential to life, it would be proteins and their multiple functions, not DNA and genes. Genes are the centerpiece of modern biology because they can be modified. But they are only the memory that life invented so that proteins could be efficiently reproduced. Morange shows us that there is far more richness and meaning in the structure and interactions of proteins than in all the theoretical speculations on the role of genes.
The Misunderstood Gene makes it clear that we do not have to choose between rigid genetic determinism and fearful rejection of any specific role for genes in development or behavior. Both are true, but at different levels of organization. Morange agrees with those who say “we are not in our genes.” But he also wants us to understand that we are not without our genes, either. We are going to have to make do with them, and this book will show us how.