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A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History Hardcover – May 6, 2014

ISBN-13: 860-1401399605 ISBN-10: 1594204462 Edition: Second Printing

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A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History + Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors + The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; Second Printing edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204462
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204463
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The Wall Street Journal:
“It is hard to convey how rich this book is….The book 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….At the heart of the book, stated quietly but with command of the technical literature, is a bombshell….So one way or another, A Troublesome Inheritance will be historic. Its proper reception would mean enduring fame.”

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.”

About the Author

Nicholas Wade received a BA 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.

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.

Customer Reviews

Very informative and interesting book.
Jeannine Coleman
His arguments are cogent and scientific, which is much more than can be said of his detractors, who, as Wade notes in his book, were motivated by politics.
He apparently does not realize that Ashkenazi Jews are one of the best-studied populations for genetic association mapping (including for IQ).
Brad Foley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

343 of 384 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar VINE VOICE on 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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Anomaly on August 6, 2014
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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Perry Clark on August 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wade deserves great credit for exploring ideas and analyzing actual evidence without aiming first and foremost to determine that the well-worn paths will be those that lead to greater knowledge. Here he has panicked an entire herd of human geneticists and scientists of various ilk who have sought safety in identifying with the "race is a social construct" crowd by carefully examining the data and pointing out some relatively straightforward bits, and then--oh, but he really isn't doing this, is he?--yes, he is--speculating about race, genetics, and human evolution in ways that cause great discomfiture amongst the annointed. And he does a rather good job of it.

And just as a note for those who don't know or may have forgotten: Wade is also the author of "The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures", which many of these same people who are now in a tizzy probably lauded over coffee with their friends. Of course, there were many theologians and religious believers who were at least as apoplectic in response to that work as any group of geneticists or other scientists are now, but discomfitting the religious is of course politically acceptable to many who've taken the Enlightenment just a little too far.

Bravo, Mr. Wade. You may be getting ever fewer invitations to dinner, but you've done an excellent job.
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Nicholas Wade is a science writer, not a scientist himself. His genius is to survey what is going on on the frontiers of science, collect reports from many different frontiers, and compile a composite picture of what is happening in the world.

This is ostensibly a book about the science of human evolution. Whatever its intent, it will be treated, or rather, egregiously mistreated, as a political screed. The era of free scientific inquiry which began with the Enlightenment is pretty much at an end. Most scientific questions of our age - global warming, the nature of human sexuality, and certainly human evolution - have implications for public policy. Powerful interests have a vast stake in the status quo. Wade is like Galileo challenging the Pope or Darwin challenging creationists. Government is the establishment church of our era, with acolytes in the educational establishment and the press. Wade has to believe fervently in the truth to summon the bravery to challenge them by writing this book.

Wade is self-aware. Rather than adopt the stance of a disinterested scientist, he acknowledges the abuse he expects, from which quarters, and why. He inoculates himself in two ways. First, he goes into great detail with regard to the treatment meted out to the sociobiologists and intelligence researchers by government, academia and the press. Secondly, quixotically, he has chosen to attack some figures like Stephen Pinker who would seem most support his arguments, and laud the expertise of others like
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