The substance of what I'm interested in is that it's the genes that are related to behavior, and how they work. The big insight is that genes are the agents of nurture as well as nature. Experience is a huge part of a developing human brain, the human mind, and a human organism. We need to develop in a social world and get things in from the outside. It's enormously important to the development of human nature. You can't describe human nature without it. But that process is itself genetic, in the sense that there are genes in there designed to get the experience out of the world and into the organism. In the human case you're going to have genes that set up systems for learning that are not going to be present in other animals, language being the classic example. Language is something that in every sense is a genetic instinct. There's no question that human beings, unless they're unlucky and have a genetic mutation, inherit a capacity for learning language. That capacity is simply not inherited in anything like the same degree by a chimpanzee or a dolphin or any other creature. But you don't inherit the language; you inherit the capacity for learning the language from the environment.
THE GENOME CHANGES EVERYTHING: A Talk with Matt Ridley [6.18.03]
Ridley is an original thinker with deep insights who is in the top ranks of people writing about science. He also happens to be an English aristocrat who lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in a stately home on beautiful grounds. He embodies the best of that English tradition in that he uses his prestige, influence and his resources in the interests of science. Such patronage, and I use the term in the good sense, includes founding, and serving as chairman of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s science park and visitor centre devoted to life science. The centre is highly regarded for its serious research in genetics.
He is chairman of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s science park and visitor centre devoted to life science. He has ingeniously combined his chromosomes with those of his wife, the neuroscientist Dr Anya Hurlbert, to produce two entirely new human beings. His books have been shortlisted for six literary awards. He has been a scientist, a journalist, and a national newspaper columnist. He is also a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
Ridley presents his latest book: Nature Via Nurture
Beyond Edge: Matt Ridley's Home Page