THE SCIENCE OF DESIRE

THE SEARCH FOR THE GAY GENE AND THE BIOLOGY OF BEHAVIOR

An informal, first-person account of the discovery of a genetic link to male homosexuality by a scientist who has given thought to the ramifications of his findings. With the help of Scripps-Howard journalist Copeland, Hamer, a molecular geneticist who heads the National Cancer Institute's section on gene structure and regulation, describes in just the right amount of detail how he put together his research project on homosexuality. He relates how he obtained approval, funding, a research team, and a place to work; how he found the volunteers he needed (gay brothers willing to give blood samples and answer a lot of very personal questions); and what he learned from them and their family trees. Genetics being a statistical science, there's a fair amount of discussion of statistical techniques, but happily this is mostly presented with the general reader in mind. Hamer's account offers a glimpse into both the collegiality and the politics of science, and there's a delightful chapter on a confrontation he had at Harvard with critics of his research. The final portion of his book presents theories about how genes may influence sexual behavior and other human attributes and speculation about the implication of his research. In July 1993, in the midst of intense public debate over gays in the military, the journal Science published Hamer's paper, ``A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation.'' Tabloids and TV talk shows took it from there. Hamer does not dwell on his time in the spotlight, but the experience evidently sharpened his awareness of public concerns and misconceptions. After noting the possible misuses of genetic research, Hamer concludes that the real danger lies in not studying sex at all. Appendixes include the Science article (not seen) and the interview questionnaire used with research participants. Nothing to titillate, but plenty to think about. (Illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-88724-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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