A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade

A Troublesome Inheritance

By Nicholas Wade

  • Release Date: 2014-05-06
  • Genre: Life Sciences
Score: 4
From 14 Ratings
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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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


  • Excellent

    By ewoodard1
    Not really light reading, but great nevertheless. I can see why liberals heads exploded, because this book details how genetic science proves that race has a lot to do with behavior because of recent evolution. Genetics have also proven that Adam And Eve did exist, which of course is a cross to the liberal draculas. The best part about the book is how he takes you to the brink of a conclusion but does not state the conclusion. For example, he goes over chimpanzee social organization and compares it with the first human social organization (based on deduction from the genetics), leaving the reader to realize that the modern gangsta culture is almost identical to chimp culture, and is not really found anywhere else among humans. He explains the probable genetic reasons for the wild successes of Jewish people. He explains how humans left the horn of Africa and populated the world. He also hints that he is pulling his punches because of the leftist slant of academia. I highly recommend this book!