Plomin writes with authority about the ongoing genomic revolution that will unquestionably transform our lives and society... I applaud Plomin for his own scientific achievements, for making this new science accessible, and for discussing its potential implications for society.
His enthusiasm can be contagious and his exposition of the surprising and sometimes seemingly paradoxical discoveries in his discipline over the last three decades or so can be fascinating. But that enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of him: the book glosses over too many of the weaknesses of human behaviour genetics as it is currently practised and Plomin sometimes makes claims that, even if technically true, are at the very least deeply misleading... And this points towards the most important weakness of the book: Plomin’s relative lack of attention to the broader political realm. He seems, for example, completely to ignore the research on the effects of poverty on cognitive development and cognitive performance... If everyone were reasonably well-to-do and white, Plomin’s more sweeping claims would be less misleading. But that isn’t the case...and the profound effects of poverty and racism are surely an important cause of the kinds of ‘between-population’ differences that Plomin rather casually dismisses.
The flaw in this book is the one I detected in that use of the word “misplaced”. Plomin presents all this as a huge success story, but eugenics and the Holocaust are terrible warnings about how science can be used to support vicious superstitions....This is an important book, a must-read guide to one enormous aspect of the human future. It is slow going, not because it is badly written but because of the compression of so many complex ideas into such a relatively short space.
It concludes with the standard scientist’s pay-off calling for more debate because “genetics is much too important to leave to geneticists alone”. The problem is that genetics also shows that debate will have as little effect as a mother’s love on the outcome.
It is a hugely important book — and the story is very well told. Plomin’s writing combines passion with reason (and passion for reason) so fluently that it is hard to believe this is his first book for popular consumption, after more than 800 scientific publications...I had only one quibble with this mind-blowing book: the title. I hate the word “blueprint” in association with genetics, for two reasons: first, it is an anachronistic metaphor relating to a technology that nobody uses any more. Second, it gives a misleading impression that each part of an adult is determined by a different set of genes, as is the case with an architectural blueprint, in sharp contrast to the genes of general effect that Plomin is so careful to identify. We are cakes baked to a recipe, not buildings assembled to a blueprint.
This is an important and challenging book that reveals to the general reader what has quietly become a new scientific consensus: psychological traits, including intelligence, are significantly influenced by our genes... Plomin may overclaim for genes but he has provided important new evidence in a never-ending argument.
Plomin, a pioneer in the field of behavioural genetics, draws on a lifetime's research to make a riveting case for DNA as the most important factor shaping who we are, including our intellectual capacity, our vulnerability to mental illness, even our weight and likelihood to suffer from stomach ulcers. Our families, schools and the environment around us are important, but they are not as influential as our genes, he argues. The implications for society are huge, including the fact that teachers and parents should accept children for who they are, rather than trying to mould them in certain directions. "Will do for genetics what Matthew Walker did for sleep," says the publisher....