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A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History

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Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea h Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea has been banished from polite academic conversation. Arguing that race is more than just a social construct can get a scholar run out of town, or at least off campus, on a rail. Human evolution, the consensus view insists, ended in prehistory. Inconveniently, as Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance, the consensus view cannot be right. And in fact, we know that populations have changed in the past few thousand years—to be lactose tolerant, for example, and to survive at high altitudes. Race is not a bright-line distinction; by definition it means that the more human populations are kept apart, the more they evolve their own distinct traits under the selective pressure known as Darwinian evolution. For many thousands of years, most human populations stayed where they were and grew distinct, not just in outward appearance but in deeper senses as well. Wade, the longtime journalist covering genetic advances for The New York Times, draws widely on the work of scientists who have made crucial breakthroughs in establishing the reality of recent human evolution. The most provocative claims in this book involve the genetic basis of human social habits. What we might call middle-class social traits—thrift, docility, nonviolence—have been slowly but surely inculcated genetically within agrarian societies, Wade argues. These “values” obviously had a strong cultural component, but Wade points to evidence that agrarian societies evolved away from hunter-gatherer societies in some crucial respects. Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews. Wade believes deeply in the fundamental equality of all human peoples. He also believes that science is best served by pursuing the truth without fear, and if his mission to arrive at a coherent summa of what the new genetic science does and does not tell us about race and human history leads straight into a minefield, then so be it. This will not be the last word on the subject, but it will begin a powerful and overdue conversation.


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Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea h Drawing on startling new evidence from the human genome, an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea has been banished from polite academic conversation. Arguing that race is more than just a social construct can get a scholar run out of town, or at least off campus, on a rail. Human evolution, the consensus view insists, ended in prehistory. Inconveniently, as Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance, the consensus view cannot be right. And in fact, we know that populations have changed in the past few thousand years—to be lactose tolerant, for example, and to survive at high altitudes. Race is not a bright-line distinction; by definition it means that the more human populations are kept apart, the more they evolve their own distinct traits under the selective pressure known as Darwinian evolution. For many thousands of years, most human populations stayed where they were and grew distinct, not just in outward appearance but in deeper senses as well. Wade, the longtime journalist covering genetic advances for The New York Times, draws widely on the work of scientists who have made crucial breakthroughs in establishing the reality of recent human evolution. The most provocative claims in this book involve the genetic basis of human social habits. What we might call middle-class social traits—thrift, docility, nonviolence—have been slowly but surely inculcated genetically within agrarian societies, Wade argues. These “values” obviously had a strong cultural component, but Wade points to evidence that agrarian societies evolved away from hunter-gatherer societies in some crucial respects. Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews. Wade believes deeply in the fundamental equality of all human peoples. He also believes that science is best served by pursuing the truth without fear, and if his mission to arrive at a coherent summa of what the new genetic science does and does not tell us about race and human history leads straight into a minefield, then so be it. This will not be the last word on the subject, but it will begin a powerful and overdue conversation.

30 review for A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brad Foley

    I wanted to give this book a 2, simply because when Wade actually writes about science here his writing was (mostly) clear, and while simplistic, largely factually correct. But most of "Troublesome" was fact-free speculation. Not only did Wade fail to achieve his stated goals in "Troublesome" (showing that ongoing evolution has shaped culture in the last 10K years), he scored a number of outrageous own-goals in the process. And let's be clear, I expected to like this book. I'm a behavioral geneti I wanted to give this book a 2, simply because when Wade actually writes about science here his writing was (mostly) clear, and while simplistic, largely factually correct. But most of "Troublesome" was fact-free speculation. Not only did Wade fail to achieve his stated goals in "Troublesome" (showing that ongoing evolution has shaped culture in the last 10K years), he scored a number of outrageous own-goals in the process. And let's be clear, I expected to like this book. I'm a behavioral geneticist studying variation in social group structure (in a model system) resulting from behaviors like aggression. I fully accept that there are genetic differences between lineages of humans. I know there are tons of genetic differences among people in behavior, and traits like IQ. I'll even accept that there are probably mean differences in these traits among different lineages (it's pretty much a statistical truism that one horse can run faster than another). I think it's also probable that social-evolutionary feedback contributes somewhat to ongoing social change (though let me emphasize, we have absolutely no evidence that this is true in humans). I should have loved this book. I thought it might be a book that I could recommend to my linguistics and anthropology friends. I thought, this might finally open up some rational discourse on a thorny subject. I was so wrong. If you care about truth, or science, or sociology, or humans: please don't read this book. So much needs to be said against "Troublesome" I've tried to be brief, but structured my criticism in case you care to read what follows. In A) I describe the nature of Wade's argument, and a few of the many problems in it. In B) I present just a little of the huge body of scientific evidence regarding how complex the biology of intelligence, personality, and culture is --- all of which Wade completely ignored. In C) I do a Wade-style analysis of some of his own case studies (Japan, Iraq, Africa) using the biology from B, and readily come to completely opposite conclusions. In D) I mention some of the stuff Wade gets right. A) The bulk of the book is a mishmash of broad strokes history (summaries of Francis Fukuyama and Niall Ferguson and a little Steven Pinker) that Wade tries to explain using a fairy-wand of Darwinism borrowed from Greg Clark (and this is not to fault any of these other writers, except partly Greg Clark). Wade is prone to unsupported proclamations like "if stronger bonds of trust help a society flourish, genes that increase oxytocin levels will become more common." When pressed about why we can't measure these changes (in the same way we can measure recent human evolution in insulin or lactase, or skin color) he invokes subtle mechanisms and indirect effects "But these small nudges, acting on every individual, can alter the nature of a society". The shame is, he never tries to support any of these claims with actual data, or even rigorous models, and then he switches right back to simplistic genetic determinist language."European or American institutions cannot easily be exported to tribal societies like those of Iraq or Afghanistan because they presuppose a large measure of trust toward non-kin..." Ignore for a moment the fact that Iraq was a cradle of civilization, where (western) writing and cities, and farming, and bureaucracy, and mathematics began. Forget Sumeria and the Babylonian empire. There is a single case of an identified behavioral allele (strictly, a complex of alleles) - MAO-A - that Wade can link to variation among populations. In this case African Americans and white Americans. There are a couple major problems with the arguments he makes here, that contradict other arguments he makes elsewhere. Even granted (based on the evidence of 8 positive cases) that MAO-A 2R correlates with higher aggression (and it probably does); and even granted that African Americans have higher levels of the 2R allele - this says little to nothing about genetic mean differences in aggression between the 2 groups. It's like trying to demonstrate global warming on the basis of a single warm afternoon in Wyoming. Aggression is highly polygenic and (as Wade acknowledges) mean levels will be set by the combined interaction of many small effect genes. White Americans are therefore almost certain to have higher frequencies of different aggression alleles than African Americans. The thing is, we've only found a single "aggression gene" so far. Wade however extrapolates from this one difference and directly states that Africans have been selected at many loci to be more aggressive than Europeans. You might as well claim "white people have a high frequency of cystic fibrosis alleles, therefore they've been selected to not breathe". His reasoning? Tribal social structure probably leads to positive selection for more violence, because violent men probably have more children in tribes. No support for any of this. Can I also mention here the purported "smart genes" he cites in Ashkenazi Jews? He says (I loosely paraphrase) "they cause disease therefore they were probably selected for because they increase intelligence, though we haven't been able to measure their contribution to intelligence in any way. Someone should probably study that." He apparently does not realize that Ashkenazi Jews are one of the best-studied populations for genetic association mapping (including for IQ). B) A major problem with all this broad brush Darwinizing (and again, I've worked in population genetic and evolution labs for over 10 years - I love Darwinizing) is that it cherry picks mechanisms and entirely ignores some of the strongest forces that we know in human inheritance of behavioral traits: cultural transmission and epigenetics. We know (from several studies especially the Dutch Hunger Winter cohort) that starvation during pregnancy leads to long term (multigenerational) deficits in IQ, increased risk of antisocial personality disorder, reduced impulse control, and reduced openness to experience. Early development exposure to violence and trauma, early exposure to drugs, or alcohol, or environmental contaminants like lead - all have similar effects. These effects (in the short to medium term, say hundreds of years) can swamp the contributions of genetics. We know this. There are large, consistent differences between the way that Asians and Americans conceptualize and interpret stories, characters and scenes. These are pervasive, and might explain a lot of the evident cultural differences between East and West (simplifying, Asians focus on context, and the interrelation of parts; Americans on a single focal agent). These differences disappear in a generation for Asian Americans, and apparently are due entirely to patterns of dialogue between parents and young children. We know this. Wade claims that if consistent patterns exist in cultures for hundreds or thousands of years, they are clearly genetic. To this I say, bullshit. Institutions like the Catholic Church; philosophy (sayings of Confucius or Buddha or the Mahabharata or Jesus or Moses); children's stories; metaphors and patterns of language; climactic, famine and food differences; disease differences - all these things and more will result in large, consistent, often transmissible, behavioral differences that have nothing to do with genetics. We know this. Wade claims that social selection (citing Clark here) is responsible for the rise of literacy around the world. Again, bullshit. It's an astonishing fact (it's one of the most amazing truths about humans I know) that you can take people from anywhere in the world who have never in the entire history of evolution had a literate ancestor, and teach 90% or more of them to read. We know that reading (and reading novels) changes the way people think and feel and interact (see Pinker, and a slew of more recent neurological studies). Literacy is heritable, and has changed societies without evolution. We know this. Wade ignores the Flynn Effect - measured IQ in the States has risen by about 1 standard deviation in only a generation or so - far too fast for evolution. And yet Wade says (paraphrased) "without genetics we can't explain differences between races, or changes in societies across time." Damningly, his single purported social genetic mechanism, oxytocin, works in exactly the opposite way he claims. High oxytocin levels promote in-group loyalty, and discrimination against outgroups. That is - high oxytocin promotes tribalism. The very institutions he demeans as produced by reduced tribalism are in fact the mechanisms by which we co-opt tribalism and expand our social horizons. The military, Church, sporting events, national anthem, schools - all these things establish the broad borders of trust on which modern society depends. Based on extensive research - we know this! C) The problem is, none of Wade's most bold claims are backed up by anything like the actual science he claims to be writing about. It is easy to make more plausible "just so" stories that "prove" exactly the opposite. I present 3 (and I stress, they have no more validity than Wade's arguments - I would fail a student for presenting, as "evidence" any of the scenarios I'm about to present.) 1) Starvation/fasting during early pregnancy can lead to pronounced lifelong cognitive and behavioral problems for the resulting baby. Despite Quranic prescriptions, pregnant Muslim women often fast - about 10% of Middle Eastern babies are negatively affected. This subtle population change is the source of all violence, tribalism and unrest in the Middle East. To remedy this, teams of Muslim doctors, armed with Quranic verse, sex-education tracts and gestational multivitamins are going in and in a generation the resulting change in sociobiology will bring peace to the Middle East. Soon, Jewish-Christian-Mulsim brotherly-love-sandwiches will be littering the streets of Tehran and Baghdad. 2) Japan and China transitioned from hunter-gatherer to feudal societies independently and with no gene flow. They share many highly derived cultural and behavioral traits, despite an exchange of only material culture. This proves there is no genetic underpinning to "Asian Character". 3) Given the degree of population structure and genetic diversity among African tribes, there are expected to be a number of different tribes with a higher genetic-IQ than even Ashkenazi Jews. The fact that they haven't produced highly developed literate and commercial cultures shows the determining effect history and geography have on cultural evolution. D) In fairness, Wade is a decent writer, and he gets a few things right. (I'll give him a pass on a complete howler, what must have been a typo - the claim that the "lactose tolerance allele" provided a 10x fitness advantage. Imagine if people who drank milk had 20 children and everyone else had 2? What?) He defines human genetic "race" in an accurate and completely sensible manner (but only about a third of the way through the book, in chapter 5, and glosses over a lot of detail regarding clines, and the arbitrariness of selecting 5 races, rather than 3 or 13). He spends another excellent chapter describing the pitfalls of eugenics, and the ways in which poor genetics and shallow racial stereotyping can lead to crap science and horrible social outcomes. In one of the most unintentionally ironic passages in the book, he says "Scientia means 'knowledge', and true scientists are those who distinguish meticulously between what they know scientifically and what they don't know or suspect." Too bad he didn't take his own advice.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fletcher Gordon

    It will be very interesting to see how the mainstream media reacts to this work: furious denunciation (possible), studied non-attention (possible), or thoughtful analysis (unlikely, but possible). Virtually the entire edifice of social-policy conventional wisdom depends on holding fast to the orthodox faith that "Race is a social construct." Even questioning this to the tiniest degree will basically get you labelled a Nazi. Heavily ideological thought enforcers from Franz Boas through Stephen Jay It will be very interesting to see how the mainstream media reacts to this work: furious denunciation (possible), studied non-attention (possible), or thoughtful analysis (unlikely, but possible). Virtually the entire edifice of social-policy conventional wisdom depends on holding fast to the orthodox faith that "Race is a social construct." Even questioning this to the tiniest degree will basically get you labelled a Nazi. Heavily ideological thought enforcers from Franz Boas through Stephen Jay Gould have successfully intimidated the intellectual public into leaving vast areas of thought untouchable. Dissent equals being drummed out of public discourse (see: Jason Richwine, James Watson, Charles Murray). But the truth can only be held back for so long. Charles Murray in the WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/S... Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re... http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

    I am grateful to have been provided an advance uncorrected proof of this book from Goodreads.com and The Penguin Press. As a Social Sciences graduate, I've long wondered why "race" is a taboo subject in the USA and other Western societies. Somehow the unwritten rule is that to acknowledge the concept of race, to study it, to define it, even to discuss it, is equivalent to the exaltation of some human groups and the vilification of others. This important (in my humble opinion) new book both puts f I am grateful to have been provided an advance uncorrected proof of this book from Goodreads.com and The Penguin Press. As a Social Sciences graduate, I've long wondered why "race" is a taboo subject in the USA and other Western societies. Somehow the unwritten rule is that to acknowledge the concept of race, to study it, to define it, even to discuss it, is equivalent to the exaltation of some human groups and the vilification of others. This important (in my humble opinion) new book both puts forth the latest scientific findings that support the classification of human groups into "races," and makes the case that acceptance of scientific facts instead of reliance on subjectively defined rules of "political correctness" will more effectively enhance our understanding of the branches of humanity and our evolving history. In this scholarly but accessible treatise, author Nicholas Wade describes advances in tracing the development of modern humans since scientists' sequencing of the human genome. He recaps Darwin's theory of natural selection and reviews the current scientific data regarding the separation of a small contingent of Northeast Africans from their homeland 50,000 years ago and their descendants' subsequent diaspora into the other continents of Earth. He postulates five distinct modern races, the major three being Africans, East Asians, and Europeans. He further sets forth very credible scenarios for the growth of varying social systems and institutions among diverse populations, invoking natural selection of certain successful genetic traits as the basis for further natural selection of successful social behaviors. The idea that, in prehistoric times, different physical traits and social behaviors suited inhabitants of different geographical and climatic environments has long been accepted; Wade further contends that human evolution continues apace: "Human evolution has been recent, copious and regional." In addition, he submits, more changes in DNA and in behaviors and institutions will occur as the planet undergoes future geographic, climatic, and social change. Mr. Wade meticulously separates proven statistics from logical but as-yet-untested hypotheses. Despite his clearly stated contention that genes inherited from one's ancestors can influence (though not necessarily dictate) one's present-day behavior, he is careful to note that the science of which genes and combinations of genes affect which behaviors is in its infancy. He allows that few specific DNA-based behavioral tendencies have been conclusively identified to date; but a certain heritable enzyme that enhances interpersonal trust and another gene variation that promotes aggression have been isolated and their operational variability between races may be taken as fact. Likewise, IQ variations among groups -- races -- are clearly demonstrable, but the precise genetic mechanisms involved in these differences cannot yet be stated with authority. In general, the structure of this book, early chapters providing a factual scientific framework for later hypotheses relating genetic inheritance to known historical events, makes the author's arguments all the more compelling. I confess to losing the "genetics" thread from time to time during the discussions of "Societies and Institutions" and "The Recasting of Human Nature" and would have appreciated having the DNA-social behavior link restated periodically along those paths. However, the thorough and clearly expressed concluding chapters of this book refreshed my memory of that linkage, and I finished the book satisfied that I did, indeed, "get it." In "A Troublesome Inheritance" Nicholas Wade discusses race with objectivity and sensitivity. He suggests that racial traits be ascribed to populations, not to individuals, as there are many variations among persons of similar racial makeup. He warns that judgments about racial "superiority" or "inferiority" are irrational, and meaningless in Nature, because each race has characteristics that are most successful under certain circumstances and less so under others. His views set the scene for intriguing discussions about where homo sapiens may be headed next on its evolutionary journey, what (if anything) our modern races can or should do to accommodate one another, whether humans can live compatibly in geographic regions with differing social systems and institutions, and the like. No one need fear this book. We're all grownups here. As humans, we are curious, social beings. Many if not most of us prefer truth over ignorance, especially when the truth is a clearer pathway to understanding, cooperation, peace and prosperity. So let's pull up our Big Kid pants and all read this book! We just might learn something that can knock down some arbitrary and artificial barriers that now exist between peoples.

  4. 5 out of 5

    E. Kahn

    288 pages of "I'm not racist, but..." 288 pages of "I'm not racist, but..."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Halliday

    A Troublesome Inheritance is a troublesome book. It is troublesome not because it presents a theory that different races, ethnicities, and human populations exhibit different social behaviors due to genetic inheritance, and that evolution of differing genes govern social behavior, but because it bases these claims on shaky ground surrounded by legitimate history and science. The author attempts to stave off criticism by telling us that today any hint of a genetic basis for cultural difference is A Troublesome Inheritance is a troublesome book. It is troublesome not because it presents a theory that different races, ethnicities, and human populations exhibit different social behaviors due to genetic inheritance, and that evolution of differing genes govern social behavior, but because it bases these claims on shaky ground surrounded by legitimate history and science. The author attempts to stave off criticism by telling us that today any hint of a genetic basis for cultural difference is usually immediately discounted and disallowed by scientists and academics for political and social reasons, but that it is an important discussion that must be had. In that he is correct; but the fact that the discussion is unpopular is no defense against the numerous unsupported leaps and assumptions he makes in this book. Wade obviously did a great deal of research into the literature surrounding his thesis. The parts of the book where he does what amounts to a “literature review” can be truly informative and interesting. It is when he draws his own conclusions that he gets into trouble. This is evident right from the start. One of the author’s favorite words appears to be “probably,” and it from his assessment of the “probability” of the pervasive existence of, and evolution of, genes for social behavior that he draws his conclusions and makes innuendos. For example in Chapter 3 he writes “This interaction between the genome and society, known as gene-culture evolution, has probably been a powerful force in shaping human societies. At present it has been documented for only minor dietary changes but these establish the principle” (p. 59 in the advance copy). “The genes that underlie social behavior have for the most part not yet been identified, but it’s a reasonable assumption that they, too, would have changed in response to new social institutions” (p. 61). “The best possible proof of the premise would be identification of the genes that shape social behavior… No such test is yet available because the genes that underlie social behavior are largely unknown” (p. 244); yet Wade’s entire argument is based on the genetic, as opposed to cultural, basis for social behavior, and in spite of his occasional hedges and double-backs he writes as though this is a foregone conclusion. “The genes that govern rule following and punishment of violators have not yet been identified” (p. 238 in the advance copy). Although he does tell the reader that many of his conclusions are purely speculative, once having said that he is off and running. Wade makes a well-supported case for the biology of race, an argument often discounted by those social scientists who claim that race does not exist. But he then takes this legitimate argument and extends it beyond existing evidence, and argues that genetics plays a large role in what has been identified in the past as “culture.” Although it might well turn out that genetics plays a role in culture and in behavior, the argument is not advanced well or supported here. Perhaps one of the most telling passages of the author’s naiveté is when he argues that no damage can come about in the modern day from a discussion of racial difference: “Fears that the evolutionary understanding of race will promote a new phase of racism or imperialism are surely exaggerated. The lessons of past abuses are still vivid enough” (p. 249). Although this reviewer agrees that such concerns should not slam the door shut on inquiry, the potential for abuse and damage cannot be casually waved aside; that realization alone should prompt any author on the subject to proceed with caution and armed with an abundance of facts. Finally, Wade seems to make the surprising assumption that all of his readers are white. To open the final chapter he writes: “Imagine you, as an English speaker of European descent, are standing on a hill with someone from East Asia and another from Africa.” The three individuals pictured now take a walk past long lines of ancestors and find that these lines merge and extend far into the past, making the point that what we share is more powerful than our differences. Sadly, by this point in the book it is a bit too late to ask readers to reconsider what they have been asked to consider. This book represents a great deal of work on the part of the author, but in the end it is unconvincing and potentially misleading. What is needed is a review of this book by someone well versed in the science of human genetics. Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from a Goodreads give-away by the publisher.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gwern

    Moved to gwern.net. Moved to gwern.net.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Four stars, not because the author never ventures onto "shaky ground" but because he does so and does it skillfully. Actually, his arguments are brilliant and I can't wait for academia to attempt to disprove some of his more speculative arguments. He asserts in the opening of the book that speculation and attempting to prove or disprove it is what leads science. It's no different than Jared Diamond's speculation in Guns, Germs, and Steel to which the author responds to (albeit several years late Four stars, not because the author never ventures onto "shaky ground" but because he does so and does it skillfully. Actually, his arguments are brilliant and I can't wait for academia to attempt to disprove some of his more speculative arguments. He asserts in the opening of the book that speculation and attempting to prove or disprove it is what leads science. It's no different than Jared Diamond's speculation in Guns, Germs, and Steel to which the author responds to (albeit several years later); it's just the speculation in this book is a lot more controversial. It's easy to stand up and say "everyone is the same except a few cosmetic differences here or there." In today's world, that's what we'd all like to believe. We have have the same intellectual inheritance, the same athletic inheritance, the same cultural inheritance, the same health inheritance, etc, but saying it and believing it doesn't make it true. That position is decidedly not true. This book begins with some simple, yet necessary, explanations of evolution. Without the first section of the book, the arguments would make no sense and would seem "out there." I'll give you an example from the book and just so you don't think I'm cherry picking, I'll use perhaps his most audacious and outlandish argument: Ashkenazi Jews, as a group, have inherited a gene adaption for success within a capitalist economy. Sound crazy? It should sound crazy. It should also sound very cliche and racist. Is Wade wrong? Well, before answering, let's figure out what we'd need for him to be correct (evolutionary speaking). The way I see it, you'd need three things: 1. natality highly correlated to economic success 2. economic success highly correlated with cognition 3. an endogamic group It would be helpful, of course, if the above loop were run within a capitalistic economy (since I phrased my assertion in terms of a capitalistic economy. I should note that Wade does NOT make such a specific argument, but his argument is extremely similar). If you can demonstrate those three things and then run the loop over several hundred years, you will create a group with a cognitive mean well above the norm. Are my three criteria racist or any other way outlandish? Think about it. I recently read Gregory Clark's The Son Also Rises where in one conclusion of his book he basically says (pertaining to the Jewish group adopting more exogamy than they have had in the past) "well, there goes their two thousand year run of greatness." (that's a paraphrase not dissimilar to what he actually says) Most of these arguments require genetic isolation. They also require variation. We can't all be the same, because if we were, every living thing on planet Earth would look identical to each other and there'd be one specie. If I can show you how a particular group (it doesn't have to be Jewish, it can be ANY group) can adapt over several hundred years to benefit the group (ie, evolutionary adaptation), what happens when different groups of people live in different climates? What happens when different groups face different dangers? Different ways to succeed? I'll tell you what you get. You get different adaptations. Keep it going long enough with enough genetic isolation and you'll get different races. Keep that up long enough and the races will split into different species. Mankind never made it to that part because our technology brought us all back together. However, in our past, there were relatives that split off to become different hominids. This isn't news. If you think it is, then you really need this book. If you want a better understanding of mankind and our virtual differences of strengths and weaknesses, then this is a great book for you. There are countless reviews out for this book. I personally spent more time reading reviews than I did the actual book. Perhaps the best one I came across was Here by Dr Thompson

  8. 4 out of 5

    Seema Singh

    Such a thought provoking book. So much of logic and good science. It is considered to he controversial but for people with an open mind, it will be worth reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Science has always been politically charged. Just ask Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin. Politics and religion have no place within science, but, unfortunately, politicians and religious leaders have, throughout the ages, forced their way into fields of expertise that they know little to nothing about. This has led to many egregious examples of pseudo-science or bad science being conducted in the name of politics and religion. Science writing, a field of journalism that has probably never been giv Science has always been politically charged. Just ask Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin. Politics and religion have no place within science, but, unfortunately, politicians and religious leaders have, throughout the ages, forced their way into fields of expertise that they know little to nothing about. This has led to many egregious examples of pseudo-science or bad science being conducted in the name of politics and religion. Science writing, a field of journalism that has probably never been given a fair amount of credit perhaps owing to the fact that most people think science writing is boring, is equally politically charged. Political correctness---a cringe-inducing term that should seemingly be inapplicable to science---has, unfortunately, hijacked many of the most important scientific topics of today in this country: stem-cell research, global climate change, cosmology, evolution, and genetics. While much of this political “correctness” stems from right-wing politicians who refuse to accept scientific facts or conclusions that would contradict their religious beliefs, economic models, or attempts at re-election, pundits and politicians on the left are probably just as guilty of forcing political-correctness into scientific issues. One of those issues is genetics, which is tied into race and evolution, two extremely hot-button words. A discussion of the controversy surrounding the word “evolution” is probably unnecessary, as it has been (and still is) being discussed and argued about ad nauseum between scientists who actually have volumes of supporting evidence to support evolution and proponents of creationism/intelligent design, who have the Bible. Race, on the other hand, is a topic about which very few people---right-leaning politicians and religious leaders a given, but also many on the left---don’t want to have a serious discussion, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fear of being branded a racist. Nicholas Wade, in his book “A Troublesome Inheritance”, attempts to wade through the politically correct bullshit surrounding the issues of evolution, genetics, and race to give an honest, logical, fact-based (as opposed to emotional and politically based) reportage of an important scientific issue, one that gets short shrift. This is science writing at its most objective. Wade clearly starts from a place in which human evolution is a given. This is probably enough to piss off plenty of readers at the get-go, not that many pro-creationist Christian fundamentalists will be picking this book up anyway. His main proposition is one that will probably piss off a large percentage of right-wing AND left-wing pundits and social anthropologists who believe that “race”, as a concept, does not even exist, genetically. This view, according to Wade, is prevalent and powerful within the field of anthropology and social sciences. It is, also, he claims, wrong. He writes, “The recent discoveries that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional severely undercut the social scientists’ official view of the world because they establish that genetics may have played a possibly substantial role alongside culture in shaping the differences between human populations. (p. 6)” Of course, he understands and appreciates the reasons why many social scientists hold the view that there are no races. It is precisely because of “the understandable fear that exploration of racial differences will give support to racism. (p.6)” Indeed, Wade, in his second chapter entitled “Perversions of Science”, gives a lengthy history to the egregious and truly abominable ways that science has been used to justify and condone racism, from slavery to the theory of eugenics to the Holocaust. Clearly, the fear is understandable. Using this fear, though, to dismiss outright the significance of the idea of racial differences, despite evidence to the contrary, is simply bad science. It also prevents the possibility of scientists one day discovering enough information about the human genetic code in relationship to race to help give us a better understanding of why certain human groups seem to behave and think differently than other human groups and how we can use that information to build better bridges of understanding and cooperation between those groups. Races exist, although Wade makes sure to point out, numerous times, that all humans share roughly the same genetic material and that those genetic differences that do exist---skin color, body shape, predisposition towards or genetic protections against certain diseases---does not, nor should they ever, imply that one race is superior over another. Humanity all comes from the same source. Our ancient ancestors (“our” referring to all humans---Europeans, Asians, North and South Americans, Africans, and Australians) evolved from the first people, generally agreed upon by a consensus of scientists to have originated in the northern and eastern part of Africa. At one point, we were all dark-skinned tribal Africans. Then, groups eventually split away from the central group to migrate north, to Eurasia, and some went south to the continent of Australia, which was, at one point, actually attached to Africa. Those humans in the north eventually genetically modified to become the white-skinned Caucasians. More genetic modifications occurred between those who stayed on the European continent and those who stayed on the Asian continent. As humans continually migrated away from each other to inhabit every section of the globe, evolutionary changes constantly occurred within the groups as they adapted to their various environments. Many anthropologists (about 40+%, according to Wade) claim that evolution “stopped” several thousand years ago, and that the differences in the races now are attributable to culture only. In other words, humans today are a result of “nurture” and not “nature”. More and more evidence from a growing percentage of anthropologists seem to be disproving this, however, and showing that evolutionary changes continue to be happening, even as globalization and technology shrinks the world. Culture alone can’t help to explain the successes and failures of various racial groups throughout history. Why, for example, did the Chinese, the Arab, and the Western worlds all independently advance in the fields of astronomy and mathematics but, for some reason, at some point in their histories, diverge to have vastly different uses and need for such fields? Certainly, differences in the culture help to explain some of it. The Arabs mistrusted scientific advances because of a strict adherence to Quranic law. The Chinese never advanced past a scientific point because of political systems that enforced conformity and discouraged outspokenness and creativity. The West, on the other hand, while, like the Arabs, also mistrusting science to an extent due to a strict adherence to Judeo-Christian philosophy, was also much more open to creative and innovative thoughts and practices than the Chinese. What accounts for these differences in culture then? Differences in the genetic make-up of these groups that shaped behavior and thinking to fit their needs as a group. Wade’s book is a fascinating look at the importance of evolution and how the concept of race and genetics can be a useful tool in bridging the gaps of understanding between groups of people. Rather than being a harbinger of more hateful racist ideologies and racial discord, the genetic differences between races could, ultimately, help create a harmonious world in which everyone can finally appreciate and respect individual and cultural differences as simply differences and not ways in which to exploit others.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I really enjoyed Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, so I didn't read beyond the title to get this & I'm glad I read it. It was well narrated, but too long & repetitious. His major points are well made: There are human races & we are still evolving. The idea that we stopped evolving 10,000 years ago or so is implicit in many studies & discussions today. That's just silly since we've identified quite a few changes such as lactose tolerance. Unfortunately, it is political I really enjoyed Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, so I didn't read beyond the title to get this & I'm glad I read it. It was well narrated, but too long & repetitious. His major points are well made: There are human races & we are still evolving. The idea that we stopped evolving 10,000 years ago or so is implicit in many studies & discussions today. That's just silly since we've identified quite a few changes such as lactose tolerance. Unfortunately, it is politically fraught territory, especially when it comes to those changes that might influence our cultures. Wade states that these areas aren't well understood, but maintains (correctly, IMO) that we'll never understand them until we examine them. He takes great pains & much repetition to point out that this doesn't require judgements of good or bad or superiority, but it does require acknowledging & discussing them, something which is highly discouraged now. Wade points out that it only hurts science to be guided by political correctness. No, there aren't hard boarders between races & there are a number of ways to qualify them depending on the use, but they exist. For instance, there are enough generally recognizable skeletal differences to let forensic science identify races. Some medical conditions are more common in some groups or races as are reactions to some drugs. (He didn't mention it, but there was a drug (heart or blood pressure?) that didn't seem to pan out for Caucasians & was considered a failure. Another study found that it worked well on Mexicans & Caribbean's, though. It became a financial success for the company.) If he had stuck to these points, the book would have been a lot shorter & I would have liked it better. Instead he tries very hard to appease the politically correct, so he broadens his examples into areas that I thought were sketchy. I found a lot of interesting trivia interspersed with opinions & incredible repetition. The book gets 5 stars for its main points, but it gets 2 stars for much of the opinion & repetition beyond that. Overall, I'll give it 4 stars with the caveat that skimming will help a lot. Table of Contents 1. EVOLUTION, RACE AND HISTORY 2. PERVERSIONS OF SCIENCE 3. ORIGINS OF HUMAN SOCIAL NATURE 4. THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT 5. THE GENETICS OF RACE 6. SOCIETIES AND INSTITUTIONS 7. THE RECASTING OF HUMAN NATURE 8. JEWISH ADAPTATIONS 9. THE RISE OF THE WEST 10. EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVES ON RACE

  11. 5 out of 5

    John-Paul

    While I read this book--especially the first half--I found much of it to be interesting, almost revelatory. But the second half is so utterly awful that it made me doubt everything else, rendering the book almost entirely worthless. Here's how this works: the first half surveys the scientific evidence of actual differences among the various human races. (The races are all human, i.e., of the same species. But variety exists as a biological fact. I don't see much of a problem with that when one is While I read this book--especially the first half--I found much of it to be interesting, almost revelatory. But the second half is so utterly awful that it made me doubt everything else, rendering the book almost entirely worthless. Here's how this works: the first half surveys the scientific evidence of actual differences among the various human races. (The races are all human, i.e., of the same species. But variety exists as a biological fact. I don't see much of a problem with that when one is simply speaking statistically and very generally.) There do appear to be some real differences, affected by climate and other environmental factors, such as the different lung capacity of Tibetans that lets them live at higher altitudes than the rest of us. Wade is also good about the ways that people like Stephen Jay Gould have falsified or misread evidence that supports claims of racial variation, such as the different sizes and shapes of human skulls. I think this is okay so long as one doesn't mistakenly read any moral or qualitative conclusions into these differences. Which is precisely what Wade sort of does in the second half of the book. He admits openly that he's just speculating, but he provides little reason for his speculations. It's not a big deal to say that climate and environment and even genetics affect the kinds of social and political and civilizational structures that evolve in different parts of the world at different times. It is a big deal to be so obvious about which one you think is best and to state this with almost no self-questioning or consideration of alternate interpretations. The same skeptical eye that worked pretty well in the first half of the book is shut very tightly in the second half. For example: Wade consistently refers to European civilization as dynamic and individualistic and whatnot, even to the point of referring to colonialism as an example of how they're basically "go-getters." But what about the colonial dynamism of various African civilizations in prior centuries? Or--to take a different tack--why isn't this cited as an example of European aggression and murderousness? Wade cites the everyday violence of Africans as an example of (it must be said) their cultural inferiority, but you don't have to be Frantz Fanon to think of white people as the most violent people in the history of the world. Why is the tendency to dominate other civilizations a "plus" for a civilization or a people? It gets worse when he just starts summarizing Francis Fukuyama and Niall Ferguson and other pop-historians to make his general point about the decline of the West, without actually noting that such claims totally derail the racial argument the book seems to want to make. Why did I read this in the first place? Because I believe in racial equality and social progress, but I don't want to base my beliefs in falsehoods. If there are true things that contradict my convictions, I want to engage with those things and see if they really are true. Steel sharpens steel. But Wade's book is base metal.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    I'm not sure feno- and genotypes have been distinguished by the author well enough to write an informed research on this. I'm not sure feno- and genotypes have been distinguished by the author well enough to write an informed research on this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roslyn

    This poor, scared man gets five stars because: "Another kind of flaw occurs when universities allow a whole field of scholars to drift politically to the left or to the right. Either direction is equally injurious to the truth, but at present most university departments lean strongly to the left. Any researcher who even discusses issues politically offensive to the left runs the risk of antagonizing the professional colleagues who must approve his requests for government funds and review his arti This poor, scared man gets five stars because: "Another kind of flaw occurs when universities allow a whole field of scholars to drift politically to the left or to the right. Either direction is equally injurious to the truth, but at present most university departments lean strongly to the left. Any researcher who even discusses issues politically offensive to the left runs the risk of antagonizing the professional colleagues who must approve his requests for government funds and review his articles for publication. Self-censorship is the frequent response, especially in anything to do with the recent differential evolution of the human population. It takes only a few vigilantes to cow the whole campus. The result is that researchers at present routinely ignore the biology of race, or tiptoe around the subject, lest they be accused of racism by their academic rivals and see their careers destroyed." I appreciate the bravery of those who are willing to risk their careers to share the truth they have discovered. And (drumroll please) maybe government funds should not be involved in education or research for exactly this reason.... That being said this book probably really deserves three or four stars. Should have been far shorter, more facts less conjecture. Interesting quotes: "Analysis of genomes from around the world establishes that there is indeed a biological reality to race, despite the official statements to the contrary of leading social science organizations... Geneticists can now track along an individual's genome and assign each segment an African or European ancestor, an exercise that would be impossible if race did not have some basis in biological reality." "Contrary to the central belief of multiculturalists, Western culture has achieved far more than other cultures in many significant spheres and has done so because Europeans, probably for reasons of both evolution and history, have been able to create open and innovative societies, starkly different from the default human arrangements of tribalism or autocracy." *World-dominating Western cities are made up of and have been made up of far more than just Europeans. If human evolution is recent, copious, and regional, I bet the tribal gene has disappeared in all of the people who make up these cities, not just the Europeans. "If fear of racism can be overcome sufficiently for researchers to accept that human evolution has been recent, copious and regional, a number of critical issues in history and economics may be laid open for exploration. Race may be a troublesome inheritance, but better to explore and understand its bearing on human nature and history than to pretend for reasons of political convenience that it has no evolutionary basis." "Until the great demographic transition that followed industrialization, the wealthy had more surviving children than the poor. As many of the children of the rich fell in status, they would have spread throughout the population the genes that support the behaviors in accumulating wealth. This ratchet of wealth provides a general mechanism for making a specific set of behaviors – those required for economic success – more general and, generation after generation, gradually changing a society's nature." "At the root of each civilization is a particular set of evolved social behaviors that sustains it, and these behaviors are reflected in the society's institutions. Institutions are not just sets of arbitrary rules. Rather, they grow out of instinctual social behaviors, such as the propensity to trust others, to follow rules and punish those who don't, to engage in reciprocity and trade, or to take up arms against neighboring groups." "Microevolution is detectable over just a few generations in a long lived species." *I bet every city is evolving. I wonder what genes every different race that lives in Los Angeles have in common compared to their ancestors from hundreds of years ago. At the very least I imagine our microbiomes may be more similar to one another than to our ancestors. These types of questions would be fascinating to answer. Wade's theory about Western dominance is in regards to its shedding of tribalism, which he believes has a genetic basis. This is why you cannot simply move Western institutions to other countries and have those countries succeed. But we'll see how the story unfolds. Seems to me that Western dominance may be on its way out.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shannan

    A Troublesome Inheritance poses some ideas that race is not only very clearly defined genetically, but that these distinctions in DNA account for not just the physical characteristics of certain populations, but also some of the social and cultural behaviours. The book frequently misrepresents much of the work that is used to defend his assertion that recent evolution within so-called races explains why certain people appear to be better or worse at certain things. According to Wade, the English A Troublesome Inheritance poses some ideas that race is not only very clearly defined genetically, but that these distinctions in DNA account for not just the physical characteristics of certain populations, but also some of the social and cultural behaviours. The book frequently misrepresents much of the work that is used to defend his assertion that recent evolution within so-called races explains why certain people appear to be better or worse at certain things. According to Wade, the English display a ‘willingness to save and delay gratification’ and this is absent from certain tribal cultures. Jewish genes are ‘adapted for success in capitalism’. The Chinese are predisposed to obey authority - this sentiment is almost identical to that of Francis Galton, president of the British eugenics society, expressed in a letter to The Times 150 year ago... read Adam Rutherford's 'History of everyone who ever lived' for more. Seriously, such statements are unsupportable in any form based on our knowledge of history, genetics and cognitive ability. They are also clumsy and gross stereotypes and straightforward racism. Sure, the book lays out 'controversial and provocative ideas', purportedly based on scientific evidence. But the value of this book is to look past the fallacies and inconsistencies feebly presented as science and understanding why this is such a sticky area to deal with. There is no doubt that humans have evolved in the very recent past and are still evolving today. The significance of that change in genetic material over decades, centuries and millennia is the subject of scientific debate. Wade frequently makes assertions about the changes in genes in his races over very recent human evolution that are simply unsupportable and, moreover, he does not try to support them. Let us not forget that evolution simply means change over time, so the question is really not if we are evolving but are we evolving under the duress of natural selection. Are we adapting to local conditions according to our genetic material?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Billy Roper

    Nicholas Wade walks up to the line of political correctness and kicks it with this controversially honest look at the reality that, as we all know in our heart of hearts, Genes-R-Us. Just as species exist despite the fact that lions and tigers or donkeys and zebras can mate and reproduce, so do races, and so do ethnicities. In fact, equality is a social construct, not a biological reality. Others, such as Rushton, have gone further than Wade in researching what role our genetic inheritance plays Nicholas Wade walks up to the line of political correctness and kicks it with this controversially honest look at the reality that, as we all know in our heart of hearts, Genes-R-Us. Just as species exist despite the fact that lions and tigers or donkeys and zebras can mate and reproduce, so do races, and so do ethnicities. In fact, equality is a social construct, not a biological reality. Others, such as Rushton, have gone further than Wade in researching what role our genetic inheritance plays in determining our relative intelligence, personality, temperaments, and creativity, but he does restate the obvious, which has obviously been willfully forgotten: culture is an expression of race. That's why 'multiculturalism' is a euphemism for 'multiracialism'. Good job at taking us back to the basics which government run schools and controlled media indoctrination have wiped from the minds of many sheeple, Nick. But what do those differences portend? If they are genetic in causation, what can be done about them, short of destroying them by embracing multiracialism and simultaneously destroying the true diversity which Wade points out is required by nature for the continued evolution of the species through natural selection? In a word: Balkanization. Yugoslavia, here we come. Here's how: Hasten The Day: The First Year Of The Balkanization of America

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    The author simply states what seems obvious: We are in significant part a product of our genes, we are influenced by our environment but nature plays a role as well as nurture. Our genetics play a role in our emotional characteristics (violence, trust, time frame for gratification, etc.) as well as our physical appearance. That over the past hundreds of thousands of years evolution has shaped man and when we became separated there was divergence among people creating different races. He creates The author simply states what seems obvious: We are in significant part a product of our genes, we are influenced by our environment but nature plays a role as well as nurture. Our genetics play a role in our emotional characteristics (violence, trust, time frame for gratification, etc.) as well as our physical appearance. That over the past hundreds of thousands of years evolution has shaped man and when we became separated there was divergence among people creating different races. He creates a reasonable scenario that helps explain the role of culture and the development of societies and how they differ. Some will continue to argue that there is no such thing as race or there is no difference in the races while touting the benefit of diversity, or that peoples behave differently only because of external forces, but the evidence from continued DNA investigation seems to support Nicholas Wade. Evolution exists and it has played a role in the development of different races as they diverged.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This is an important book to firmly reestablish that race is indeed a genetic reality. Political ideology has stood in the way of science for far too long and it has been detrimental to human progress. I have been studying genome mapping with an emphasis on ancient DNA, so I was familiar with much of the material. Nicolas Wade presents an introduction to some of the important genetic studies that have laid waste to the false race is just a social construct theory. Things are presented in a clear This is an important book to firmly reestablish that race is indeed a genetic reality. Political ideology has stood in the way of science for far too long and it has been detrimental to human progress. I have been studying genome mapping with an emphasis on ancient DNA, so I was familiar with much of the material. Nicolas Wade presents an introduction to some of the important genetic studies that have laid waste to the false race is just a social construct theory. Things are presented in a clear light and then the theories involving evolutionary selection and hunterer gatherer society are introduced. Much of that is conjecture, as we don't have enough scientific evidence on ancient peoples to fully understand their societies. One fault I found was in the chapter singling out Jewish intelligence, he neglects to mention that Sephardic Jews have substantially lower IQs than average...their average is only 86. The Ashkenazi have European admixture while Sephardic generally do not. Also, the notion that 206 countries ejected Jews due to jealousy is a bit farfetched. (yes, 206 that we know of throughout history). The author presents the idea that racial differences are due mainly to evolution. Understanding these differences is key to moving forward.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    First of all, it took cajones to write this book and even though I'm not 100% sure how much I agree with Wade I respect the hell out of him for having the guts to write this. Our culture is far too touchy about issues about race and sex and we really need science to beyond that. In a country where most people don't even believe in evolution the last thing we need is science pussyfooting around it's implications. I was disappointed that he didn't talk more explicitly about epigenetics. That's rea First of all, it took cajones to write this book and even though I'm not 100% sure how much I agree with Wade I respect the hell out of him for having the guts to write this. Our culture is far too touchy about issues about race and sex and we really need science to beyond that. In a country where most people don't even believe in evolution the last thing we need is science pussyfooting around it's implications. I was disappointed that he didn't talk more explicitly about epigenetics. That's really about the only negative thing I have to say as far as material goes. I could go on and on about the specific content but no one cares about what I think anyway.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lois

    This is scientific racism. It defies logic that this is still being published in 2018-oops published in 2014. In what reasonable mind are Africans more aggressive than Europeans? White men are *the* most aggressive people in recorded History. Seriously, why are white people like this?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    Whether this book is good or bad depends largely on what you expect it to be. If you expect it to be a cautious attempt to open up to discussion the subject of the existence of distinct races and genetic racial differences, and how those might affect social structures and institutions, you will think it is good. If you expect it to be a definitive proof of one interpretation or another of those same matters, you will think it is bad, for it is nothing of the sort. And, of course, if you are stu Whether this book is good or bad depends largely on what you expect it to be. If you expect it to be a cautious attempt to open up to discussion the subject of the existence of distinct races and genetic racial differences, and how those might affect social structures and institutions, you will think it is good. If you expect it to be a definitive proof of one interpretation or another of those same matters, you will think it is bad, for it is nothing of the sort. And, of course, if you are stuck in the old politically dictated paradigm that all differences among humans are purely random or cultural, and that “race is a social construct,” you will think it is mad, bad and dangerous to know. I think the book is pretty good, but has some gaps beyond those numerous gaps freely admitted by the author, and has at least one glaring and repeated contradiction in its analysis that tends to undercut much of its basic premise. I’ll get to that. But it is in essence a very well-written book with modest claims that would, if most people’s minds were not already closed, open up substantial areas of important and interesting discussion. (As a side note, this book has many one-star reviews. The vast majority of those show little evidence of having read the book, and many of them use the rhetorical fallacy of appeal to authority: “I am a molecular biologist and I didn’t like this book!” The book attracts reviews from lots of people who prefer to wish away evidence that doesn’t cohere with their existing political views. Amazon does, however, have an extended one-star review by Brad Foley, which is very much worth reading, along with its very interactive comments thread, for a negative take on Wade’s book.) Wade’s book is, in many ways, an attempt to extend and amplify the basic premise of Greg Clark’s A Farewell To Alms, to which Wade repeatedly refers. In short, Clark attempted to demonstrate that the Industrial Revolution began in England and not elsewhere because of basic changes in the English population itself—a change in the population’s behavior away from hunter-gatherer characteristics like high time preference (i.e., laziness), violence, unwillingness to save, and so forth, to “modern” characteristics such as thrift, industriousness and saving. Clark thinks (though he hesitates to say so) that this is a genetic change, caused by the rich distributing their genes over centuries throughout the society by having more children than the poor, but he is very tentative. Clark’s main analytical contrast is of England with modern India, where thrift, industriousness, and saving are still not established, so the society is backward. Wade attempts to not only reinforce Clark’s argument in the case of England but extend globally the same premise, that heritable genetic characteristics strongly influence economic success, by their influence on social institutions, which largely exist in each society in the form they do “because of slight [genetically based] differences in social behavior.” His target here is writers like Jared Diamond, an easy target because of his political denial of any genetic differences among humans, in services of his “guns, germs and steel” theory advanced in the 1990s, and other writers like Steven Pinker, who are not so simplistic but shy away from recognizing the possibility of genetic racial differences. The first part of the book is an extended expedition into the Social Darwinist and eugenics movements of the late 19th and early 20th Century, which Wade discusses in order to try to insulate himself from the charge of racism, by contrasting his approach to theirs. (He notes without comment that eugenics was pushed exclusively by the liberals and correct-thinking people of the day, such as the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, and including most notably Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood in order to help eliminate inferior races (though he does not mention her by name)). Wade does a good job both with the history and with distinguishing his non-racist approach, although doubtless those who originally created the “science” of eugenics could have said the same about what they were doing, and stated with equal conviction that they were only interested in the science, not where it would lead. I think there is no doubt that Wade is not a racist, and equally little doubt that Wade’s conclusions, if proven, would lead to an increase in racism (defined as perceiving one race as inferior to another, whether or not factually true). Wade begins by talking about the divergence of humans from chimpanzees, with emphasis on cooperation and altruism among humans as opposed to chimpanzees. He notes that trust, control of aggression, and the ability to co-exist with fellow creatures beyond the very immediate kin group do not exist in chimpanzees—in other words, that human societies are vastly different than chimpanzee societies (disposing along the way the silly notion of human nature being a blank slate, citing Steven Pinker, who wrote an entire book disproving the silly notion). Wade attributes, uncontroversially I would think, these differences to the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees. He proceeds to extend that genetic difference analysis to differences among human populations, using examples like the development of lactase tolerance and skin color divergence, to show that human evolution has continued to the present day. Much of this discussion is focused on technical discussion of the handful of known gene/allele effects (e.g., that the reason some races have lighter skin is completely genetically different from the reason other races have lighter skin). Wade then posits that continued evolution has divided the human species into five genetically distinct races, based essentially on the time of their geographical divergence from each other: African, East Asian, and Caucasian as the main ones; with American Indians and Australian/New Guinean aborigines as smaller races. Naturally, he notes that the margins bleed into each other, and that you could argue for sub-groupings of various types. (He also notes that over time, if this process continued, they would become separate species, which strikes me as a particularly unpopular statement.) There seems little doubt that distinct races can be identified by a cluster of shared characteristics, and that a set of characteristics define those races, and a set of genes (mostly unknown) defines those characteristics. In fact, though Wade doesn’t mention it since it’s a very recent development, police are now using sketches of suspects created purely from DNA, that show much more than the skin color of the individual; while such sketches are hardly perfect, this would be a silly exercise if you could not tell a great deal about how a person looked from his DNA. Wade extends this to posit that you can tell a great deal about how the average person in that race will, on average, act relative to a person of another race, for example in his thriftiness or aggression, and that those differences, created by adaptation to environment over time, greatly influence social institutions. Wade traces the source of genetic divergence to the needs of the local populations, largely influenced by local physical characteristics (e.g., whether the land supported a dense population), and the resultant impact on social organization (e.g., the move from tribalism to chiefdoms and cities), which in turn created its own genetic changes. He posits that, for example, genes (or more accurately alleles) for cooperation and trust in strangers had to become more prominent as a society moved toward “modern” organization. In other words—some modern humans, namely those with a more tribal orientation such as commonly found in Africa, are worse genetically adapted for modern life than others, based on their history and how that has affected their genetic makeup. He calls this “incendiary,” which is probably an understatement. Wade’s most glaring failing, which tends to undercut his entire thesis, is that he can’t seem to decide who “Cacucasians” are, even though the has the most to say about that group. He repeatedly defines the group as including “Europeans, Middle Easterners, and people of the Indian subcontinent”—really, everyone except East Asians and Africans, other than the minor races of American Indians and Pacific aboriginals. But this places him in a difficult position, because the modern economic and social structure of, say, England and India is nothing like each other (and most similarities are due to English colonialism, not racial or social similarity prior to colonialism). So Wade says things like (p. 177) “Consider first Caucasians . . . . Most European countries followed England almost immediately in transitioning to modern economies.” He then proceeds to state that because no Cacausians outside Europe did so, then or later, it was due to the institutions they lived under, which were unstable and did not reward savings and so forth. Fine enough, but by his theory that should make them a separate race over time. And then he gives the counterexample of some Middle Easterners, such as Lebanese, in fact having the desired traits. Wade can’t have it both ways. Given the enormous diversity of social institutions within his “Cauciasan” grouping, and his belief that even so Caucasians are a race because of the time and location of their divergence from other groups, it severely undercuts his thesis. (In fact, Clark, on whom Wade heavily relies, uses Indian subcontinent peoples as a direct counterpoint to the supposedly genetic traits of Europeans, and therefore would, apparently, entirely reject Wade’s characterization of the “Cacucasian race”.) Wade is at great pains to posit that merely slight differences in the aggregate can have dramatic impacts on social institutions, even though culture that is not driven by genetics can also have impacts. He never quantifies this, or tries to formally parse the two. In fairness, that’s not what he set out to do. He set out to speculate, mostly, about a forbidden topic, and tries to point out avenues for more research. In this, of course, he’ll be disappointed, because no researcher could touch any of these ideas and expect to retain his job or reputation among the right type of people. His ideas are speculative in part because research into them is actively and continuously suppressed. Wade only published this book when he retired, for obvious reasons—he would have been immediately fired by the New York Times for daring to suggest that genetic racial differences might exist. Bottom line: the book is hardly comprehensive or perfect, but it’s worth reading if you have an open mind and are interested in competing theories, of which there are very many, of how human societies came to be as divergent as they are.

  21. 5 out of 5

    James

    An clearly written book on what is, but shouldn't be, the most controversial topic of our modern age,Race, and whether or not our genetic code affects our cultural development which in turn causes feedback further alerting our genetic structure. In today's world this is heresy and I like heretics. Far more instructive and truthful than the orthodox as a general rule Obtuse language is left on the shelf and even obscure concepts such as gracilisation are explained clearly. Mr Wade has been chastise An clearly written book on what is, but shouldn't be, the most controversial topic of our modern age,Race, and whether or not our genetic code affects our cultural development which in turn causes feedback further alerting our genetic structure. In today's world this is heresy and I like heretics. Far more instructive and truthful than the orthodox as a general rule Obtuse language is left on the shelf and even obscure concepts such as gracilisation are explained clearly. Mr Wade has been chastised for asserting that race is relevant genetically and we are not all blank slates with equal capacity, rather as groups, we are just on different evolutionary positions of the spectrum and evolution is constant. He doesn't assert that genetics are the sole determinant of society, A clear look at North and South Korea will show you that, but it that it affects and drives societies forward, or backward, depending on the environmental conditions. A lot of this work is self evident, more is speculative. Whether or not it is true is politically subjective at this juncture, because like it or not we are in the paleo area with regards to genetic certainty. He draws heavily on a Gregory Clark's excellent work on the development of England from 1200 to 1900 ' A Farewell to Alms' . The chart illustrating the higher survival rates of offspring to wealthier families is a very strong rationale for England's brilliant age. This is rebuttal in the classic scientific tradition of controversy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaclynn

    Ugh. Honestly, he lost be completely about 75 pages in when he insisted on the very outdated idea that humans first migrated into the Americas no more than 15,000 years ago. Despite various sites dated to, at most, 30,000 years old and on average 20,000 years old. If he can't get that right, what hope did the rest of his book have? What Wade is offering is essentially a theory of economic and social inequality, explaining systematic racial differences in prosperity based on a combination of inna Ugh. Honestly, he lost be completely about 75 pages in when he insisted on the very outdated idea that humans first migrated into the Americas no more than 15,000 years ago. Despite various sites dated to, at most, 30,000 years old and on average 20,000 years old. If he can't get that right, what hope did the rest of his book have? What Wade is offering is essentially a theory of economic and social inequality, explaining systematic racial differences in prosperity based on a combination of innate traits and genetic adaptation to political and social institutions. And all in 250 pages....? I am skeptical of Wade’s inclination to come up with a story of genetics and selection pressure whenever a trend happens to be measured over a period of hundreds of years. (His examples of England from 1200-1800 are ridiculous) Wade offers no evidence to support his genetic story of Africa’s poverty because none exists. In the absence of evidence, Wade resorts to homicide statistics. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have higher homicide rates than the rich countries, which he calls “a difference that does not prove but surely allows room for a genetic contribution to greater violence in the less developed world.” This contradicts the basic logic of science. Please don't read this. You will lose IQ points in the process.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A most important book to be read by those who are looking for the way the world really exists. In other words how humans have evolved since leaving Africa about 50000 years ago as told by the evidence recorded in the human genome.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    I experienced this book in audio. This is a really good audio presentation that is easy to follow, and very concise. The general theme of this book is that all men ARE NOT created equally. This author uses genetics, evolution, and cultural comparisons to substantiate his contention that, not only is each man created uniquely, but races also differ substantially. The author laments that modern scientists too quickly discard racial research for fear of triggering social tensions. But the author’s I experienced this book in audio. This is a really good audio presentation that is easy to follow, and very concise. The general theme of this book is that all men ARE NOT created equally. This author uses genetics, evolution, and cultural comparisons to substantiate his contention that, not only is each man created uniquely, but races also differ substantially. The author laments that modern scientists too quickly discard racial research for fear of triggering social tensions. But the author’s point simply cannot be denied. It is too easy to look at men and to clearly see that they differ with regard to intelligence, personality, endurance, strength, demeanor, aggressiveness, and many other attributes. And these attributes tend to predominate in varying degrees among races, which the author demonstrates with recitation of various statistics, experiments, genetics, and historical comparisons. The overriding message is that clearly the time has come for us to stop pretending racial differences do not exist. The time has come for us to gain sufficient maturity to recognize these differences for what they are without prejudice and without accusation of prejudice. The reality is that unified diversity is much more powerful than generic blandness. When people are all the same they all sing the same tune, wear the same clothes, think the same thoughts, build the same things, and, quite frankly, squalor in the quagmire of their sameness. Conversely, when unified, diversity incorporates the power stemming from the ability to call upon many different specialties and skills. Even more potently, unified diversity can fuse certain skills and specialties into even newer and more vibrant skills and creativity, providing a broader toolset for dealing with problems that emerge. But the key is that diversity must be unified. Unification of diversity is, by its very nature, quite difficult. How do we get people who are naturally divergent to work together cooperatively? Perhaps the best way to do this is to point to examples of countries that fail to cooperate. The author uses the contrasting examples of Haiti and Iceland. Iceland exists on a lava bed, in a cold climate, where it is dark much of the year. Conversely, Haiti could be a tourist Mecca, with its warm climate, beautiful seas, and agricultural potential, particularly for sugar, coffee, and fruits. And yet, Haiti is one of the most impoverished nations on earth, while Iceland is wealthy! Why? This author contends the answer is the ability to work cooperatively and minimize corruption, violence, lawlessness, and disorganization. The author also cites the economic superiority of the western nations, contending that differences in cultural and religious evolution are a clear factor. The author cites the Protestant work ethic as of paramount importance, particularly the Protestant belief that one communicates directly with God and is thereby directed forward into productive action. Conversely, religions that rely upon spells instead of action, or chants instead of action, or other sorts of theological mumbo jumbo instead of action, are, by their very nature, paralyzing. The author attributes the success of the most economically and militarily dominant countries the world has ever known, Britain and the United States, to the Protestant view that men are called to work, that God worked, that Jesus worked, and that men are also called to work. But, as the author points out, work is not the preeminent cultural norm to every race. Some races have evolved to avoid work, minimize work, or to relegate work to lesser importance than other activities. Perhaps rightfully, such countries may not believe that economics and militarism are the most important things to pursue; but this remains the explanation for economic sluggishness and military impotence nonetheless. This is a stimulating read that relays a very necessary message for our particular time in history; which is, quite simply, that we need to stop whining about race and instead focus on our unique gifts; and how we may mutually deploy those gifts to better our world. This book calls the world’s population to graduate out of the immaturity of racial awkwardness, look for the best in one another, and jettison ultra-paranoid sensitivities about race. There is no “them”, only “us”!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Kosoris

    I’m very torn with this book. On the one hand, I felt it was a thoughtful exploration as to how genetics affects different ethnicities and culture. On the other, most of what is discussed at length is merely speculation––luckily, acknowledged by the author. Wade takes the time to explain the historical basis of discussion and research pertaining to race, along with the obvious cans of worms that open up as a result. Of course, this comes as the explanation for the dearth of information surroundin I’m very torn with this book. On the one hand, I felt it was a thoughtful exploration as to how genetics affects different ethnicities and culture. On the other, most of what is discussed at length is merely speculation––luckily, acknowledged by the author. Wade takes the time to explain the historical basis of discussion and research pertaining to race, along with the obvious cans of worms that open up as a result. Of course, this comes as the explanation for the dearth of information surrounding this topic; as any investigation toward differences in races comes attached with potential of ranking humans and making sweeping assumptions based on things that can’t be changed by individuals, a racist accusation usually follows. Thus, despite––according to the author––a clear biological basis for such research, most academics distance themselves from such things, which leaves this area of genetics far behind other areas of study. So it comes as no surprise that Wade speaks at length in order to defend himself from potential racist accusations. It really is a bit of a shame; while I can’t blame the author for such precautions (especially after quickly glancing at other reviews), the book improved immensely when Wade was able to move beyond such discussion and get to the juicy bits of his theories. It’s a shame that the inconvenient politics associated with the topic are not able to be separated from the science. I hope that this book is a step in the right direction, but I’m afraid the reception proves this to be untrue, or at least only a negligible step. I found A Troublesome Inheritance quite enjoyable while I read. If anyone can manage to read about genetics as it may have affected the success and failure of different civilizations––inasmuch as affecting behaviour, IQ, and the relationship with humans on career paths and institutions developed in various areas of the world––without dwelling on misplaced cries of racism, they may enjoy it just as much. I believe that, in finishing Wade’s book, I have cemented my interest topics such as this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alan Marchant

    A Troublesome Inheritance addresses a very small scientific question, the nature and significance of race in the human species. But because this has been literally a taboo topic for the past generation, science writer Nicholas Wade deserves praise for his substantive effort to illuminate it from several perspectives. His oft repeated thesis is, "human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional." The book is remarkable for synthesizing recent research from a very broad range of disciplines A Troublesome Inheritance addresses a very small scientific question, the nature and significance of race in the human species. But because this has been literally a taboo topic for the past generation, science writer Nicholas Wade deserves praise for his substantive effort to illuminate it from several perspectives. His oft repeated thesis is, "human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional." The book is remarkable for synthesizing recent research from a very broad range of disciplines including genome research, population genetics, evolutionary biology, economics, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, etc. Recognizing that scientific understanding of race is still very provisional, the author is more interested in provoking thought than in appearing certain, clever, or cool. In addressing the ramifications of race, Wade is both even-handed (with respect to competing but legitimate hypotheses) and fearless. His opprobrium is reserved almost exclusively for the disciples of Social Darwinism and for Jared Diamond's recently popular "Guns, Germs, and Steel."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Yoder

    From my review for The Molecular Ecologist: Knowing what I do of evolutionary genetics, and of how our judgments about the visible differences among human populations have shifted over time, I’m far more inclined to think that the social, economic, and cultural differences among human societies are products not of our genes, but of how we treat each other. Wade’s inclinations are, quite obviously, different from mine. However, comparing Wade’s claims to the scientific work he cites, I find it hard From my review for The Molecular Ecologist: Knowing what I do of evolutionary genetics, and of how our judgments about the visible differences among human populations have shifted over time, I’m far more inclined to think that the social, economic, and cultural differences among human societies are products not of our genes, but of how we treat each other. Wade’s inclinations are, quite obviously, different from mine. However, comparing Wade’s claims to the scientific work he cites, I find it hard to conclude that we are simply looking at the same data with different perspectives. Time and again, data that refutes his arguments is not only available and widely cited in the population genetics literature—it is often in the text of the papers listed in his endnotes.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    This book should come with a warning label. "Contains swill and tripe of the most vile kind, read at your own risk." I couldn't finish it. The author seems hell-bent on proving his supposition that Northern European descendant humans are genetically better than Black Africans. He repeatedly sites lactose tolerance as "evidence" and his literature review of 150 year old science is laughable considering what we know about genetics today. Readers interested in this topic would be better served with This book should come with a warning label. "Contains swill and tripe of the most vile kind, read at your own risk." I couldn't finish it. The author seems hell-bent on proving his supposition that Northern European descendant humans are genetically better than Black Africans. He repeatedly sites lactose tolerance as "evidence" and his literature review of 150 year old science is laughable considering what we know about genetics today. Readers interested in this topic would be better served with Gregory Cochran's The 10,000 Year Explosion. This guy sounds like my old man in 1960, racist to the core.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bryce Anderson

    I read this because I heard it was divisive. It is. it starts with about 6 chapters of "see I'm not racist look at the science I know" before going into "but isn't it funny how I've found genetic reasons for racist stereotypes?" and then finishing with hints of an incoming race war. For every point he makes that is tenable it's followed by more that almost certainly have roots in racism. Ever few generations we get new science that people with racist thoughts will try to use to justify their bel I read this because I heard it was divisive. It is. it starts with about 6 chapters of "see I'm not racist look at the science I know" before going into "but isn't it funny how I've found genetic reasons for racist stereotypes?" and then finishing with hints of an incoming race war. For every point he makes that is tenable it's followed by more that almost certainly have roots in racism. Ever few generations we get new science that people with racist thoughts will try to use to justify their beliefs, I think this is just the latest version.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erica Strand

    This book is completely racist. Wade basically argues that white people are intellectually superior to black and brown people. The problem is: all the measurements of intellect are devised by white people.

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