Drawing on startling new evidence from the mapping of the 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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Yes, I already have. Ok, so I didn't actually turn any pages, but I did listen to the last two-thirds of the book in one Saturday sitting. This is a subject matter that I'm passionately interested in, but lack any science background to appreciate previous books that I've read. I would recommend it as a good broad introduction to evolution and natural selection.
The author's theories. He covers many questions that I have pondered on myself, offers some fascinating theories, and compels the reader to continue questioning. There are some interesting rebuttals to Jared Diamonds books. I also appreciated the citing of Fukuyama's books on political order. Wade suggests (I think) that our propensity for different forms of government may be inherited in our genes. This would explain why tribal cultures have difficulty in maintaining democracies.
I found the narrator's voice to be pleasant and commanding. I never want the narrator to be the star. If I'm rarely aware of the voice and delivery, then s/he has done a good job. That was the case here.
I wouldn't say that I was "moved", but what I read is still with me a week after I listened to it, and it has piqued my interest enough to read more about the subject.
Having read some of the book reviews on Amazon, I applaud Wade's courage to write such a controversial book.
This is NOT Racism!...