December 15, 2003
The Human Genome Project has blazed new trails in medical science and genetic research. We know that within hours of their birth, babies can recognize faces, connect what they hear with what they see and tell the difference between Dutch and Japanese. Our genes prepare us to observe the world; they shape the finest details of the human brain. But as far as psychology is concerned, writes award-winning cognitive scientist Gary Marcus, “it’s almost as if Watson and crick never met DNA.”
With The Birth of the Mind, Marcus enters the nature vs. nurture debate and changes it forever. Genetics isn’t destiny, but the only way to know what nature brings to the table, he argues, is to take a look at what genes actually do.
Startling findings have recently revealed that the genome is much smaller than we once thought, containing no more than 30,000-40,000 genes. Since this discovery, scientists have struggled to understand how such a tiny number of genes could contain the instructions for building the human brain, arguably the most complex device in the known universe. Synthesizing up-to-the-minute research with his own original findings on child development, Marcus is the first to resolve this apparent contradiction as he chronicles exactly how genes create the infinite complexities of the human mind. Along the way, he reveals the common misconceptions people harbor about genes and explores the stunning implications of this research for the future of genetic engineering.
Gary Marcus is Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University. Author of The Algebraic Mind, Marcus received his Ph.D. from MIT at the age of twenty-three. In 2002-2003, he was a Fellow of the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. He lives in New York City.