|Basic InformationLatest NewsBlog EntriesVideosLinksBook Reviews|10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate29 Gifts3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Body Brain Balance8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Journey Into Yin YogaA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA.M. EnergyAccessible Yoga for Every Body DVDAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAM/PM YogaAnd BreatheAnswers for AristotleAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaAuthentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBetter Sex Through YogaBeyond the SelfBody By BethennyBody Mindful YogaBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBOSH!Breath-Centered YogaBreathingBrightening Our Inner SkiesBuddhist Boot CampCalm Body Clear MindCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyChakra MeditationsChoosing CivilityClassical Pilates Technique DVDComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCreative Core AbsCreative Writing In Health And Social CareDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitEastern Body, Western MindEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotions, Stress, and HealthEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily ForagingFamily YogaFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow and YinFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFood You Can ForageForgiveness is Really StrangeFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Ripped & ChiseledGet RIPPED! 1000 #3Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsHandbook of MindfulnessHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealthy AgingHealthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa's Yoga for Young Bodies DVDHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHot Body Cool Mind - Level 1Hot Body Cool Mind: Waking Energy How to Be a PatientHow to Be a StoicHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?I Contain MultitudesI'd Rather LaughIn Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangInsight Yoga with Sarah PowersIntegrated YogaIntegrative MedicineInternational Perspectives on Reminiscence, Life Review and Life Story WorkIntroduction to Ashtanga Yoga DVDIntroduction to Qi YogaIntroduction to Yoga DVDIt's Up to YouJanis Saffell Beverly Hills YogaKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKnowing the Nature of FearKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga : DVDKundalini Yoga for Beginners & BeyondKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLife MakeoversLifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMean GenesMeditation in a New York MinuteMeditations for BeginnersMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMind GamesMindful AmericaMindful AngerMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1NeuroLogicNever Home AloneNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthOn Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive PersonPassionate VegetarianPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPilates for MenPortraits of ResiliencePositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga for HappinessPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptPure Yoga Pilates with Kerry BestwickQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRed Lotus YogaResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSaving NormalSelf-CompassionSeven Challenges To Change Your Life DVDSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessSports Hypnosis in PracticeStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStrength, Grace, HealingStress ReliefStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySun SalutationsSuper Natural CookingSuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift SuperhumanSupersurvivorsSurf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTaming Your Inner BratTeach Yourself MeditationTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Minutes to RelaxThe Accidental VeganThe Angelica Home KitchenThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Best Things You Can EatThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Breathing FieldThe Cafe Brenda CookbookThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Easy Yoga WorkbookThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Good LifeThe Happiness of PursuitThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Health Psychology HandbookThe Healthy KitchenThe Heart of YogaThe Indian VegetarianThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Soy BookThe Little Yoga BookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Freedom and the Way of MeditationThe Nature FixThe Origins of HappinessThe Perfect ExerciseThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Playful BrainThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Way of StretchingThe Weight of the NationThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Will to Live and Other MysteriesThe Wisdom of FrugalityThe Yin Yoga KitThink SmartTotal AstangaTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal PilatesTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegan Recipes from the Middle EastVegetarian Turkish CookingVegetarianoViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWalkingWalking a Literary LabyrinthWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWellbeingWhat We Say MattersWhen Things Fall ApartWriting in FlowYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYogaYoga & Pilates Workouts for DummiesYoga 4 TeensYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga and PsychologyYoga as MedicineYoga Beauty BodyYoga Bliss HipsYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for AthletesYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular GuysYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for the Young at HeartYoga for Your WeekYoga In BedYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga on DemandYoga Quick FixesYoga SanctuaryYoga SculptYoga ShaktiYoga TherapyYoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga To Go's Yoga Quick Fixes DVDYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on FoodYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Miracle BrainZen Encounters with Loneliness
by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan
Review by Antonio Casado da Rocha, Ph.D. on Feb 1st 2001
This book argues that because our psyches have been 'designed' by genetic evolution, in order to understand ourselves and our world 'we need to look not to Sigmund Freud but rather to Charles Darwin' (4). The authors, an economist and a biologist, think our evolutionary inheritance-what they mean by 'genes'-guides much of our subconscious choices. However, they hardly say more about the genes themselves, or how they work. Mean Genes is not a book on the quickly growing discipline of genetics, or about the exciting ethical controversies dealing with the emergence of genomics.
Mean Genes is both a book aimed to change the reader's habits and an explanation of everyday life in terms of evolutionary biology. Unlike many other self-help books, it claims to be scientific in its diagnosis and treatment of human ails. As a book about biology, it is one amongst the many other recent titles dealing in some way or another with genes-books filling the popular science shelves in every bookshop since 2000, the year when the first human genome draft was (said to have been) completed.
Promises of a gene-based therapy and medicine have created an enormous expectation in the general public. The book tries to reach such a wide audience, and therefore all the technical details have been expunged. Its sources, along with quotes and figures, are to be found in a helpful web site specifically set up as a companion for the book (www.meangenes.org). Everything is designed to make a light and entertaining read: written in short sentences and paragraphs, with every title as bold as it could be, the book is packed with riddles, jokes, and references to pop culture.
Most of Mean Genes consists in a presentation of examples and illustrations taken from the natural world, but there is only one main theme: our own inability to act on our best judgment, as caused by our 'mean' genetic inheritance. Animals solve problems common in their natural environment, and some of their adaptive solutions may be transmitted to their descendants, thus shaping their instinctive behavior. Our ancestors were not an exception: they were those who took risks and won the survival game; those who did not simply die, 'and their genes die with them' (50).
The argument, then, is based upon the long period of human history spent as hunter-gatherers in order to explain why now we 'instinctually' tend to spend rather than to save, to eat more than we need, to enjoy so much certain drugs, to indulge in risk, or to allow our greed and sexual desire to put ourselves in trouble. All this happens because our environment has dramatically changed, and our instinctive solutions do not work anymore in a world of effort-saving machinery, fast-food and small families. In such a world there is not much future for the hunter-gatherer way of life, and therefore we fight those very drives towards aggressive and selfish behavior that helped our ancestors to survive. It is a tough battle, for 'our genes will always fight to keep our own genetic interests first' (209).
But, what they mean by 'we' and 'our'? The book is written in a rather personal and direct style, so the reader gets to know how the authors apply their advice to their own lives. Look, for instance, at their way of solving our 'genetic' compulsion to waste money: juggling with credit cards and being 'realistic' about our ability to resist temptation. Their solutions to typical problems with food in parties and supermarkets include common-sense answers such as destroying junk food or doing the shopping after lunch. Other solutions-which they apply to addictions to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs-are high-tech substitutes, surgery and pills: the Promethean promise of changing, by means of medicine and chemistry, the biochemical balance that pushes us towards our 'mean' behavior.
Of course, the authors repeat every once in a while that genes are not the whole story; they do not ignore that environmental factors have to be considered. We may each inherit a particular genetic risk for a disease or behavioral problem, but lifestyle decisions affect dramatically the actual ability of the problem to appear. However, as this book is precisely focused on how 'genes' affect those very 'lifestyle decisions' (dealing with diet, exercise, home economics, or relationships), the reader is likely to hear only the genetic determinism message: namely, that everything is created by genes-not only our physical traits, but also more complex psychological phenomena such as 'willpower', 'integrity', or 'the ability to control behavior consciously' (5).
The conclusion is quite skeptical about the possibility of a 'selfless' human organization oriented to the common good (207-9). But this is hardly news. In his Second Discourse, Rousseau argued that Hobbes' political system was based on a confusion of parochial traits that were the product of seventeenth-century English life with enduring features of the human condition. In Rousseau's view, Hobbes wrongly thought the impulse toward self-preservation was incompatible with a desire to preserve others 'because of [his] having improperly included in the savage man's care of self-preservation the need to satisfy a multitude of passions which are the product of society'. Rousseau's own account of the state of nature has been criticized on analogous grounds, and so could Mean Genes: its depiction of human nature resembles too much its authors' society.
Moreover, it has been noted that a theory which purports to explain the ethical traditions which characterize different societies as the result of natural selection can easily become rationalizations for the status quo. In this sense, such a theory might serve as an intellectual obstacle to change those very ethical traditions. Mean Genes often looks like a re-enactment of the old protestant ethic with a new 'scientific' disguise-a disguise that condemns us to believe that the source of social and psychological problems is not to be found in society, but rather inside each one of us. Antonio Casado da Rocha, PhD, is a researcher at the University of Iceland, Reykjavík. His main interests are bioethics and political philosophy.