Book Review: Inheritance
How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes
By Dr. Sharon Moalem
Grand Central Publishing
Why are some people more likely to get cancer, enjoy cilantro, or have an easy time getting pregnant? Our contemporary go-to answer for explaining why we are the way we are is often simply “genetics.”
But it’s not quite that cut and dried, according to Dr. Sharon Moalem’s Inheritance. In this fascinating, deep dive into the gene pool, Moalem explains why our genes are more of a shifting tide than a crystal ball. The interplay between genes and our experiences, environment, and diet creates a unique genetic expression—flexible, not fixed. That means genes can carry trauma and disease from one generation to the next—but it also means genes can be influenced to change.
Why do bee larvae bathed in royal jelly produce more queen bees, and why are Sherpas genetically superior when it comes to maintaining endurance at high altitudes? Moalem’s intriguing examples at the extremes also illuminate the norm. Yes, we’ve isolated genes responsible for certain conditions, but far trickier is “untangling the complicated web of factors that give rise to conditions such as diabetes and hypertension that likely involve more than one gene.”
This is where expression—and ethics—come in. What’s most impressive about this book is Moalem’s understanding of how science impacts our social code. As technology makes detailed genetic information more readily available, it could have powerful implications for how we make choices, from whom we choose to have children with to what we eat for breakfast.