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A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas Wade
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

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.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal:
“[A Troublesome Inheritance] is a delight to read—conversational and lucid. And it will trigger an intellectual explosion the likes of which we haven't seen for a few decades.”

Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American:
“Extremely well-researched, thoughtfully written and objectively argued…. The real lesson of the book should not be lost on us: A scientific topic cannot be declared off limits or whitewashed because its findings can be socially or politically incendiary…. Ultimately Wade’s argument is about the transparency of knowledge.” 

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University:
“Nicholas Wade combines the virtues of truth without fear and the celebration of genetic diversity as a strength of humanity, thereby creating a forum appropriate to the twenty-first century.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A freethinking and well-considered examination of the evidence “that human evolution is recent, copious, and regional.””

Publishers Weekly:
“Wade ventures into territory eschewed by most writers: the evolutionary basis for racial differences across human populations. He argues persuasively that such differences exist… His conclusion is both straightforward and provocative…He makes the case that human evolution is ongoing and that genes can influence, but do not fully control, a variety of behaviors that underpin differing forms of social institutions. Wade’s work is certain to generate a great deal of attention.”

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“Nicholas Wade combines the virtues of truth without fear and the celebration of genetic diversity as a strength of humanity, thereby creating a forum appropriate to the twenty-first century.”

The New Criterion
“Mr. Wade is a courageous man, as is anyone who dares raise his head above the intellectual parapet; he has put his argument with force, conviction, intelligence, and clarity.”

About the Author

Nicholas Wade received a B.A. in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2041 KB
  • Print Length: 281 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594206236
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G3L7VFM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,658 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
(264)
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
408 of 452 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And don't forget the genes May 6, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this book Nicholas Wade advances two simple premises: firstly, that we should stop looking only toward culture as a determinant of differences between populations and individuals, and secondly, that those who claim that any biological basis for race is fiction are ignoring increasingly important findings from modern genetics and science. The guiding thread throughout the book is that "human evolution is recent, copious and regional" and that this has led to the genesis of distinct differences and classifications between human groups. What we do with this evidence should always be up for social debate, but the evidence itself cannot be ignored.

That is basically the gist of the book. It's worth noting at the outset that at no point does Wade downplay the effects of culture and environment in dictating social, cognitive or behavioral differences - in fact he mentions culture as an important factor at least ten times by my count - but all he is saying is that, based on a variety of scientific studies enabled by the explosive recent growth of genomics and sequencing, we need to now recognize a strong genetic component to these differences.

The book can be roughly divided into three parts. The first part details the many horrific and unseemly uses that the concept of race has been put to by loathsome racists and elitists ranging from Social Darwinists to National Socialists. Wade reminds us that while these perpetrators had a fundamentally misguided, crackpot definition of race, that does not mean race does not exist in a modern incarnation.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientifically Accurate Inheritance. November 26, 2014
Format:Hardcover
I have been involved with genetics since 1983 and have been closely observing the recent revolution occurring in the technology that sequences genomes. The genetic information revealed in this book has been known for some time, but organizations like the American Anthropological Association proclaim that race is not real (biologically), and actively suppress this information from becoming public. This is a political strategy and not scientific reality. Any forensic anthropologist can identify the race of a skull found at the scene of a crime in a few minutes (Caucasian, Black, Asian/Native American) This is a routine function of crime scene analysis.
President Obama and Bill Nye have also stated publicly and in print (Nye) that race is not real. These statements are misleading and serve no more than a political purpose. Millions of people from around the world have had have their genomes sequenced by such giants as 23andMe. The information that is being compiled and analyzed is releasing a startling amount of genetic information concerning human evolution. Did you know that Tibetans evolved a genetic variant in their genes that allow them to live at high altitudes? Since 1980, every finalist in the Olympic 100 meter dash has had West African ancestry... want to learn more? This book is must read for everyone who has an interest in the science of evolution. I give the author credit for bringing forth this book and I hope more similar books follow. Genetics will be the driving force of the 21st Century.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book that explodes a popular myth August 6, 2014
By Anomaly
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A Troublesome Inheritance, by Nicholas Wade, should be read by anyone interested in race and recent human evolution. Wade deserves credit for challenging the popular dogma that biological differences between groups either don't exist or cannot explain the relative success of different groups at different tasks. Wade's work should be read alongside another recent book, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.

Together these books represent a major turning point in the public debate about the speed with which relatively isolated groups can evolve: both books suggest that small genetic differences between members of different groups can have large impacts on their abilities and propensities, which in turn affect the outcomes of the societies in which they live. Ever since the 1950s, Wade argues, many academics have denied the biological reality of race, and some have suggested that merely believing in racial differences constitutes a kind of racism (p. 69). But the rejection of race as a useful concept is often more of a political pose than a serious scientific claim, and it became especially popular among academics after the Second World War, during which Nazi pseudo-scientists used claims of racial superiority to justify mass murder.

As it turns out, Ashkenazi Jews - those from Russia, Poland, and Germany, who were nearly exterminated in the Holocaust - have been consistently found by intelligence researchers to have the highest IQ in the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for Racists....
I recently completed this book during the Ferguson debacle. The author does an excellent job documenting the dangers of eugenics and other atavistic fads of old and new, then... Read more
Published 17 days ago by bubbapug
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, thought-provoking, and counter-PC
One of the best books I've read recently - it even eclipses the very interesting but politically correct and somewhat disappointing "Guns, Germs, and Steel" aka "Blame... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Overall Impression
2.0 out of 5 stars This book gets nearly all of the science wrong (hence ...
This book gets nearly all of the science wrong (hence, why it has been panned by the leading scholars in both Physical Anthropology and Biology). Read more
Published 23 days ago by Justin Garcia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating book. I couldn't put it down. Whatever your viewpoint, there's much here to consume your attention.
Published 23 days ago by factumpactum
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Whether or not Mr. Wade's conclusions about race and genetics are correct is irrelevant. He makes a compelling case that the issues he discusses are important and worth... Read more
Published 1 month ago by George Towner
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read book in sociology though politically incorrect
I had read a review about this book and I couldn't let go of what could possibly be contained within its pages. It did not disappoint. Read more
Published 1 month ago by wthomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book.
Brilliant Book
Published 1 month ago by Christopher M Veith
5.0 out of 5 stars Good summary
Very provocative. Writing sometimes awkward. Contradicts himself occasionally with years and conclusions. Could be better edited
Published 1 month ago by John L
4.0 out of 5 stars A Troublesome Inheritance: new findings and lots of speculation
Based on recent genetic sequencing data Nicholas Wade makes a convincing case that there are genetic differences between races and ethnic groups, due perhaps to the selective... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SabaDave
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Incomplete (By Its Own Admission)
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... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Adam Wayne
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More About the Author


Nicholas Wade is the author of three books about recent human evolution. They are addressed to the general reader interested in knowing what the evolutionary past tells us about human nature and society today.
One, Before the Dawn, published in 2006, traces how people have evolved during the last 50,000 years.
The second book, The Faith Instinct (2009), argues that because of the survival advantage of religion, an instinct for religious behavior was favored by natural selection among early human societies and became universal in all their descendants.
A Troublesome Inheritance (2014), the third of the trilogy, looks at how human races evolved.
Wade was born in Aylesbury, England, and educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences. He became a journalist writing about scientific issues, and has worked at Nature and Science, two weekly scientific magazines, and on the New York Times.







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This book is a masterpiece of logic!
Great response. Absolutely confirmed what I said earlier.

"In other words, culture explains North Korean poverty but genetics explain Haiti's and E. Guinea's."

In other words, you ignore the fact that Wade is rightfully pointing out that the relative roles of cultural institutions... Read More
May 31, 2014 by Andrew Smith |  See all 14 posts
B.A.in Science?!? Riiiight....
There is probably no scientific issue that has caused more emotional and moral turmoil than the study of race and racial differences. I understand that those attacking possible evidence are doing so because they believe the science is bad and the conclusions are evil. They think they are fighting... Read More
Apr 19, 2014 by Red Pilgrim |  See all 11 posts
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