Who are we, and why are we the way we are? These are the questions examined by an intrepid science journalist.
Ouellette (The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, 2010, etc.) launches into her subject by looking inward. An adoptee, she had a sample of her DNA analyzed, looking for information about her genetic heritage. Her next venture was to undergo an fMRI of her brain. Limited as these tests turned out to be, they provided her with the opportunity to talk about current trends in the fields of genotyping and neuroscience. Next, Ouellette opted for personality testing, which leads to a critical look at that field of psychology and the author’s conclusion that our genes influence our personalities by regulating brain chemistry. Having come full circle in her examination of “me,” Ouellette moves on to “myself,” looking at behaviors and identity. She reports that studies with drunken fruit flies and mice provide clues about the link between genes and alcoholism and that research on virtual reality worlds indicates that the avatars one creates or that one bonds with can reveal much about self-perception. Gender identity comes under her scrutiny, too, as the author reports on the continuing debate about whether sexual orientation is a choice or a destiny created by our genes. She concludes that the essence of the self is not revealed by the information garnered through scientific investigations but that our personal narratives, the stories we tell about ourselves, are essential to getting the whole picture. The author’s personal anecdotes reveal a writer with keen intelligence, curiosity, a spirit of adventure and a sense of humor.
Solid science well infused with readable history, pop culture and personal stories.