In his new book ‘She has her mother’s laugh’, Carl Zimmer dives deep into the science of DNA and dares to ask a few questions that will challenge long held views of our deterministic thinking about genetics and implications of it. I’ve read various books on this topic but no one was able to put all the questions as coherently as Zimmer did in this book.
Carl Zimmer discusses various perplexing questions regarding heredity. What do you call a child born with three parents (using a mitochondrial transplant from a donor)? What if a child is born long after father’s death (artificial insemination)? What if we can edit our DNA and eradicate most of the existing diseases that are caused by single mutations in the genome? What if we can edit the genome of an organism and disrupt the ecosystem of Earth itself? What if a man can develop both sperms and an egg and give birth to a child? Where do we stop or do we need to stop? Zimmer discusses epi-genetics, genetic chimeras, genetic foursomes, mosaics and the list goes on and on. It is a very fascinating journey.
Zimmer, at the end calls for a more inclusive view for genetics that takes into account all the other pathways where the DNA can influence a person’s future. It may not be as simple as we think it is. He rightfully points out the socioeconomic differences that could explain the lesser scores in IQ rather than the four digits in encoded in our DNA. Nature vs Nurture. We should be open towards all possibilities. We liked the DNA picture because it provided us with simple answers, but nature as we come to know is never really that simple. If you have time to read only one book in 2019 that discusses advances in genetics, this is one of those books. In the last few chapters, Zimmer puts all the ethical implications of editing our DNA, he nails it. What’s in the DNA, after all?