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on February 7, 2016
The negative reviews of this book actually encouraged me to buy and to read through it. Afterwards I perused the reviews here on Amazon, and my conclusion is that the controversy regarding this book is another episode in the ongoing reaction to new insights developed from recent advances in genetics,from supporters of established social science, linguistic, and historical paradigms. For example, I recall viewing on YouTube last year a presentation called "The Assault on Historical Linguistics" that criticized competing paradigms generated by discoveries in genetics and by the resulting haplogroup mapping of human expansion across the world. I have seen other examples of defensive reactions by proponents of paradigms social science and historical paradigms that were established with the evidence available by the 1970s, this had led to strong attacks trying to discredit new conceptual frameworks driven by new discoveries in genetics.

Nicholas Wade in his book states that racism must be opposed on principle, and that politics should not drive science. Perhaps the members of the current academic establishment need to retire so that a newer generation can look a new evidence with new and less prejudiced eyes.
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on November 23, 2017
Wow! After reading <A Troublesome Inheritance> and scores of reviews here at Amazon and elsewhere, I feel more inclined to review the reviews than I do the book. However I will start with the book but won't spend a great deal of time on it.

I take it that Nicholas Wade is attempting to make the case (1), that there are distinguishable races, and nations wherein some individual races predominate; (2), that it is plain that some nations have become more 'successful' than others; (3), that though genetic makeup in all is fairly straightforward in content, the presence or positioning of variant forms of those genes (alleles) cause differences in how they perform in the humans they occupy; (4), that said alleles are passed along hereditarily within races and nations, and possibly have the capacity to thrust those races evolutionally and advantageously forward in the human contest to achieve success; (5), that this process can be described as 'higher' societal cultures alongside higher IQs sending certain nations or societies into the forefront of international performance.

Because the above smacks of racism, politically-correct-oriented academics must oppose Prof. Wade's hypothesis. But Prof. Wade argues that academia should set such fears aside in the interest of the furtherance of science's progress towards truth.

My reviewing of the negative reviews of <A Troublesome Inheritance> tells to me that Prof. Wade's views as publicized in his book, will continue to face strong opposition from the PC academia currently ensconced in U.S. institutions of higher learning; this, though Wade's line of reasoning is just as sound if not more so, than those of the 1960s-affected academics. All of this can be described as a continuing standoff between PC and certain opposing ideas that transcend PC.
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on August 6, 2014
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. The authors of The 10,000 Year Explosion and A Troublesome Inheritance each spend an entire chapter detailing the remarkable achievements of Ashkenazi Jews, and hold them up as exhibit A in the argument that human evolution has been, in Wade's words, recent, copious, and regional. (Wade, chapter 8; Cochran and Harpending, chapter 7). The example of Ashkenazi evolution is supposed to show the absurdity of the view, held by authors like Jared Diamond and Stephen Jay Gould, that human evolution either stopped 100,000 years ago, or that natural selection has somehow continued to sculpt the bodies but not the brains of different groups of people.

Wade uses "race" to refer to groups of people who have been separated long enough to have developed clusters of functionally significant genetic differences, and "ethnicity" to apply to groups within races who have small but significant genetic differences from other groups within a race. The concept of an ethnicity is made especially clear if we understand the coevolution of genes and culture. If within a culturally diverse but racially distinctive region like the Arabian Peninsula, nomadic Bedouins tend to marry Bedouins while city dwellers marry each other, Bedouins and city dwellers may begin to diverge into biologically and culturally different ethnicities as they face different selective pressures. For example, because Bedouins were nomads who increasingly depended on their camels for transportation and milk, those who produced the lactase enzyme (which facilitates milk digestion) into adulthood had a reproductive advantage over those who lacked this enzyme. As the allele for lactose tolerance spread through the population, reliance on camels became even more entrenched in Bedouin culture, and selective pressure increased for lactose tolerance. Despite being both Arab and Muslim, Bedouins have enough genetic and cultural differences to constitute a distinctive ethnic group throughout the Middle East. The important point is that cultural pressures can directly impact natural selection, and pre-existing traits create propensities that shape culture. Wade ultimately invokes gene-culture coevolution to explain, among other things, how Tibetans evolved a greater capacity to tolerate life in the mountains than Indians, how Europeans who have depended on agriculture for thousands of years can consume more carbohydrates without succumbing to diabetes than Native Americans, and how Ashkenazi Jews could have evolved higher intelligence than Sephardic Jews in as little as 1,000 years.

In discussing how differences in gene-culture coevolution can explain the trajectory of different groups, Wade argues that as hunter-gatherers moved into settled communities, certain genetically-mediated traits changed, including a capacity to trust more people, and a greater willingness to defer to impersonal social norms and punish norm-violators. This seems plausible enough, and it may explain why it took so long for humans to move from small and mobile hunter-gatherer societies to large and settled agricultural societies. But it has a troubling implication. Wade thinks that some groups of people, including modern hunter-gatherers and their recent descendants, will have a hard time living in modern nation states - not merely because they are accustomed to a different way of life, but because they are genetically ill-suited to live under alternative institutions.

It is hard to know what to make of claims like this, especially without more knowledge of how genes mediate social behaviors. Although Wade cites studies that suggest some groups have greater frequencies of alleles associated with violence (p. 56), and that hunter-gatherers who are more successful at violent warfare are often rewarded with more offspring (p. 131), he warns his readers that he is going well beyond what the available evidence demonstrates and offering conjectures about why some groups have prospered under modern social and political institutions, and others have not (p. 15).

These claims raise compelling questions about the ethics of belief, as well as the justification of belief. For example, if some stereotypes turn out to have a biological basis, will this reduce our ability to treat each other fairly? It is not always unfair to use information about biological differences to make generalizations (for example, that men are more prone to violence than women, or that West Africans are more prone to sickle cell anemia than East Africans), but sometimes information - even if it is accurate - can be used by some people to unfairly dominate others. Wade's speculation would be innocuous if it wasn't likely to be read by people who will misinterpret it. Thoughtful readers should recognize that while some people will misuse this book to justify repugnant beliefs, its great virtue is that it forces us to face up to the uncomfortable likelihood that science will uncover differences between different groups of people that affect their life prospects.
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on November 26, 2014
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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on January 24, 2017
I'm a sucker for the "Barbara Streisand Effect". When someone tells me I shouldn't read a book, I'll run out and read it.

So much nonsense has been written about this book - most of the critical reviews drag out Lewontin's Fallacy to try and debunk the book, but that is dealt with more than adequately in the book (not that you would think so from the reviews). The key points about the genetics of race are no different than those made by mainstream authors like Richard Dawkins in several places. The critics know this, and they know that they are committing Lewontin's Fallacy - but the supposed political implications make it hard for them to face up to that. Rather bury the science and wish it all goes away. I disagree - face the genetics squarely, and combat racism squarely. Stop trying to avoid the issues by being disingenuous.
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on July 14, 2014
Definitely a good read. Answers a lot of questions I have long pondered. The author (if you actually read the book) is very clear about his facts and what are not facts but assumptions yet to be proved. He may seem a little defensive about taking on the race debate, but, knowing how this country responds to such things, it is understandable. Speaking of 'understandable', the book is, even when getting a little technical.
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on June 18, 2015
For the layman, a good, revealing insight into the latest genetic discoveries and research, and among other things, how human evolving genomes could relate to observed propensities with human behavior and abilities as it does with racial appearance. This occurs as groups are widely separated over long periods of time and as each adapts to different environments and develops different institutions.
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on July 30, 2014
Interesting and intriguing book. I first saw it discussed on the Charlie Rose show. It left me with a lot of thoughts about man's origin and evolution.
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on October 19, 2014
Wade is great, and this book is an act of brilliance and personal courage. There are few more intelligent, broad, and courageous, more grounded scientific minds at work in our culture today, in my opinion. I've watched Wade a long time, read his NYT output with interest for more than a decade, and we've sometime disagreed. For a general education, both broad and deep, and responsible, Dr. Wade's background could hardly be better - though he's an outsider by tenuring standards.

The idea that human genetics matters is emotionally fraught, in part for historical reasons, in part for emotional reasons that can't be changed, since the importance of human genetics is so linked to our flesh and our hopes. It takes great courage to face its implications - and there are fights involved, and costs, as the history of E.O. Wilson illustrates. Not many have the courage to face the emotions involved, and strive for explanatory clarity and deepened understanding. Wade does have that courage, and the seitzfleish and industry to make an achievement.

If you care about genes, race, and human history (as we all do) and are prepared to look at and think about evidence (not all of it PC) - this is a fascinating, admirable book.
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on July 20, 2017
Very interesting and thorough author. Have read other books by him. This material should be taught in our lower school systems. May be some religious disagreement with the evolution but we have to accept facts, is they are fact.
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