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How can we explain both our disquiet about the new genetics and our enthusiasm biological explanations of human nature?

There were two broad responses to the unveiling, in June, of the first draft of the human genome. Some over-enthusiastic scientists and some gullible journalists gushed about having deciphered “the book of life.” Sequencing the human genome, they said, will enable us to “understand what it means to be human,” and will transform our ideas of man. “We used to think our fate was in the stars,” James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, has said. “Now we know it is in our genes.”

For others, the success of the geneticists was an occasion for dread, not celebration. Many…

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