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Monday, March 21, 2011

Reviewing another book

Dr. J. Craig Venter is probably the most famous person you have never heard of.  His life is chronicled in his autobiography, "A Life Decoded, My Genome: My Life.  Many people are aware that the human genome has been mapped in the last few years.  What that means for the rest of us is being debated all over the world.  There are probably many people who barely comprehend what an incredible achievement this is for science.  What many people are not aware of is the central role Dr. Venter has played in this astonishing research.

The book explores the odyssey of Dr. Venter's life, from his early childhood to the present day.  What many people might find surprising is how fractious the scientific, political, and business fields are where genomic research is concerned.  While reading it, I felt Dr. Venter gave as candid an assessment of himself and the world around him as possible.  I have often discussed the topics of "nature vs nurture" with people and I was pleased to see that in many instances Dr. Venter is not completely convinced we can attribute everything about human beings to our genetic nature.  He frequently leaves open the possibility of our environment explaining much about who people are as individuals.  However, that the research he has been a major part of has given the world amazing insights into the causes and effects of our genetic identity is one of the greatest contributions a person can bequeath to the rest of us.  His discussion of the methods he has used throughout his career is extensive and readers will gain an appreciation of how much time and effort has gone into unlocking the mysteries of genes.

I believe many people can understand that knowledge can be dangerous and that there are many possible negative outcomes possible when people can simply "read a person" from looking at their genome.  I am satisfied that Dr. Venter realizes many of the implications, both positive and negative, of what this field of science has revealed to us.  I also think people might be surprised that we do not know everything about human beings, and many other species, based on this area of science.  Dr. Venter does in many instances explain that the more we have learned in this field it has also revealed how much more we do not know.

If there is one area in this book that I found disturbing it would have to be on page 284 where Dr. Venter talks about his blue/gray eyes and perhaps makes a slightly too pithy remark about the dust cover of the book.  On the cover his eyes are a very vivid blue.  In all of the pictures I have seen Dr. Venter he has gray eyes.  I made some remarks about Dr. Venter on June 30, 2006 (during my phone conversation with Nicole “an admitted shape-shifter” Scherzinger) and his gray eyes.  I admit to being bit disappointed that someone decided his eyes are not blue enough and made them “very blue” for the dustcover.  I have encountered many people that cannot seem to be very forthright about their eye color.  What does that say about us as people?  I posited the theory that we could conceivably tell a lot about about people and their genetic makeup merely by scanning their eyes, particularly their irises.  That might be explained in a another book.

I know that many people might consider this to be a strange tangent, but considering that so much has been devoted to this area of research do you agree with me that we should have made some startling discoveries about our origins and the preponderance of shape-shifters from this area of study?  Considering the amount of blood and other fluid samples science has access to, we should have isolated what makes people's eyes change color and teeth change shape on a regular basis?  If you really have taken notice of people around you then you would have noticed these are not just do to lighting circumstances, but is genetic, and in theory could be isolated?  Aren't we overdue for a time when we all stop ignoring the evidence of species' code being the result of genetic contributions from a variety of planetary origins?

If science could finally confirm what I knew over thirty years ago then perhaps there would be fewer people who consider me to be insane or confused.  Those who know what I said about other scientific areas, also about thirty years ago, know that those theories have been confirmed by scientific methods in more recent times.  This is not about a need to be acknowledged with any major awards, but simply to confirm that I did in fact know what I am talking about all this time.  Someone like Dr. Venter would be essential in this type of scientific revelation.

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