A Book So Gene-ius

The preface leaves you wanting for more (or hurrying up to reach the next few pages), the word play makes you revisit the lines, and the analogies and allegories make you think why can’t there be more books in popular science genre written this way!

Thanks to my cousin, who knowing my interest (which is an under statement, of course) for these kind of subjects, passed on this book. It pays to have a Research Scholar in Molecular Biology for a sister (cheeky!).

Genome’ by Matt Ridley is an interesting read (an under statement again). It is not a treatise on human genome project, a hypothetical discussion on genetics or a comic version of Mars-Venus theories. It is the story of 23 pairs of chromosomes. Picking one gene from each pair of chromosomes, the book goes on to construct a story of US (as in you and me) and Life. So here we have something Basic and Real, if you know what I mean.

I just got past a few pages of the second chapter and I realize that I am not caught in mire of jargons. Simplicity, succinctness and light play of words has me enjoying it with an amused expression. Okay, I may be tempting the publishers to overprice the book; nevertheless, sample this:

There are twenty three chapters, called CHROMOSOMES.
Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called GENES.
Each story is made up of paragraphs, called EXONS, which are interrupted by advertisements called INTRONS.
Each paragraph is made up of words called CODONS.
Each word is written in letters called BASES


Analogies get a liberal sprinkling too. Literature enthusiasts – and others I am sure – would love this one:

RNA is a chemical substance that links the two worlds of DNA and protein…
… in a way it (RNA) behaves, it leaves little doubt that it is the ancestor of both. RNA was Greece to DNA’s Rome: Homer to her Virgil.
(Brilliant, isn’t it?)

No criticisms, only jestful reconciliations.

Pope John-Paul II, in his message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 22 October 1996, argued that between ancestral apes and modern human beings, there was an ‘ontological discontinuity’ – a point at which God injected a human soul into a animal lineage.
Thus can the Church be reconciled to evolutionary theory. Perhaps the ontological leap came at the moment when two ape chromosomes were fused, and the genes for the soul lie near the middle of chromosome 2*.

Are you one of those who keeps referring to “genetic blueprint”? It is for likes of you that misconceptions are made to side-step in gentle way.

… blueprints are too literal for genetics, because each part of the blueprint makes an equivalent part of the machine or building; each sentence of a recipe book does not make a different mouthful of a cake. (chuckle, chuckle…)

The tag line of the book says “Autobiography of a species in 23 chapters. The index may however surprise you with one chapter missing.
There! I Piqued your interest and curiosity.

“That is all you need to know. The tour of human genome can begin.”
Go, get the book…!!

*Apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, human beings only 23. The Chromosome 2 in human beings is fusion of two medium-sized chromosomes of apes.

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