Making Sense of Genes by Kampourakis, Kostas
Cambridge University Press, 19 May 2017
Paperback, 314 pages
What are genes? What do genes do? These seemingly simple questions are in fact challenging to answer accurately. As a result, there are widespread misunderstandings and over-simplistic answers, which lead to common conceptions widely portrayed in the media, such as the existence of a gene 'for' a particular characteristic or disease. In reality, the DNA we inherit interacts continuously with the environment and functions differently as we age. What our parents hand down to us is just the beginning of our life story. This comprehensive book analyses and explains the gene concept, combining philosophical, historical, psychological and educational perspectives with current research in genetics and genomics. It summarises what we currently know and do not know about genes and the potential impact of genetics on all our lives. Making Sense of Genes is an accessible but rigorous introduction to contemporary genetics concepts for non-experts, undergraduate students, teachers and healthcare professionals.
'... a wonderfully engaging and pedagogical explanation of difficult concepts in biology ... Kampourakis has an incredible feeling for how to strike the balance between biological material and conceptual analysis. ... If you are teaching life sciences or engaging in any form of public outreach, this book is a must-read.' Tobias Uller, Frontiers in Genetics
'... this book addresses the crucial educational and translational science bottlenecks of postgenomics, and delivers on its promise to the readers to move beyond the gene sequence to broader sense making for human genetics and genomics.' George P. Patrinos, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 'Kampourakis describes concisely how the late 20th century saw a revision in our view of what a gene really is. ... [He] comes down hard on the hype surrounding 'decoding the book of life', as well as [those] who did not understand the relationship between DNA sequences and complex characters. ... [the book] provides a useful companion to biology undergraduates and the interested layperson will find it informative in its critique of naïve genetic determinism. I would certainly recommend it.' Charalambos P. Kyriacou, BioEssays
Endorsements "... a beautifully and lucidly written book of great insights ... I have not seen in one volume such clear analysis of the nuanced view of the 'gene' ... and justice [done] to understanding genetics in a non-reductive [manner] through a systems approach. The clarity, precision and insights are wonderful."
Sheldon Krimsky, Tufts University
"There is a vast and curious mismatch between what biological science has discovered ... and the understanding of the central concept of the gene. Kampourakis' book is an excellent attempt to correct the situation. By bringing impressive scholastic skills to tackle the problem, [Kampourakis] has in my view made a very major contribution. The book deserves very wide attention."
Denis Noble, University of Oxford
"... an extremely intellectual and erudite treatment of the history and meaning of genes and genomes. ... half hard-core genetics and half provocative and fascinating philosophy of science ... cogently written, highly informative, and genuinely thought-provoking."
John Avise, University of California
"... fills an important gap in the literature in terms of the balance it keeps between accessibility and scientific rigour. It calls for a change in the ways students and the public are told what genes are and what they do, and it does so with compelling persuasiveness. A must-read, packed with convincing empirical material, for educators, journalists and academics who are critical of the usual 'gene for' talk, but do not want to give up on the fascinating insights that the science of genetics provides."
Staffan Müller-Wille, University of Exeter
"... very clearly written, very thoughtfully structured, and marvelously sensitive to the needs of the reader, [Kampourakis] consistently manages to help the reader dial down expectations when faced with hype about genetic tests and the latest 'gene for' discoveries."
Gregory Radick, University of Leeds
An accessible but rigorous introduction to genes for non-experts, explaining what genes are and what they can and cannot do.
About the Author
Kostas Kampourakis is a researcher in science education at Universit� de Gen�ve, where he also teaches the course Biology and Society to biology undergraduates, and various science education classes to teachers and doctoral students. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Science and Education, the co-editor of Newton's Apple and Other Myths about Science (with Ronald L. Numbers, 2015), and the editor of The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators (2013). His book Understanding Evolution (Cambridge, 2014) was selected as a 2015 Choice Outstanding Academic Title.