ready your umbrellas

may 6th:

A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History – by nicholas wade

“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.”

previously from mr. wade: Evolution All Around

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20 Comments

  1. It would seem that the distinction between ‘group X is on average better with numbers than group Y’ and ‘group X is better than group Y’ is lost for most people. It could only be true if we only measured the intrinsic worth of a human in terms of their ability to generate monetary gain, but we don’t… do we?

    Reply

  2. “It would seem that the distinction between ‘group X is on average better with numbers than group Y’ and ‘group X is better than group Y’ is lost for most people. It could only be true if we only measured the intrinsic worth of a human in terms of their ability to generate monetary gain, but we don’t… do we?”

    However we DO “measure” an adult’s ability and his willingness to attempt to provide for himself and his offspring. We (by “we” I mean non-elites) do still respect such a person’s work ethic, no matter the work. Painting houses, roofing…jobs requiring only supervision and a bit of training and a willingness to work still provide a decent paycheck for those who at least get out of bed, arrive to work on time, follow simple instructions, and commit to keeping the job. Elites have told people these jobs are simply beneath them. HA!

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  3. ““Inconveniently, as Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance, the consensus view cannot be right. ”

    And it never is according to Michael Crichton, especially when it comes to science. This is a classic. hat tip Lubos Motl

    Reply

  4. That’s RAYCISS!, get your spelling right.
    The day I pay $20 for a book by a “science writer”…..

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  5. Wade has courage, because he actually has something to lose. Most of us can put forth controversial theories without much career cost. As a social worker, I have some things that I am pretty careful who I say them to, but I don’t run much more risk than some irritation, talking behind my back, and mild shunning.

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  6. I agree with Assist. Village Idiot (again:) Wade will be “Watsoned,” but slightly more public discussion will be allowed. the brouhaha will be attenuated b/c the populace will be focused on summer blockbuster movie season.

    future books will develop more in-your-face titles – e.g., “attention: heredity deniers” (catchy, huh?:)
    or “it’s heredity, stupid!: but stupid can’t help it, b/c, well, see title :) i’m sure others can think of better “in your face” titles :)

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  7. It would seem that the distinction between ‘group X is on average better with numbers than group Y’ and ‘group X is better than group Y’ is lost for most people.

    Part of the problem is that we, as a society, tend to value people by their household income*, and “better with numbers” generally translates to “higher income” because of the demands of our economy.

    *There are exceptions to this, but it’s what we use for valuing most people we don’t personally know. Those who have high status for something other than income are probably less than 1% of the population, and many of those have high income because of their status (NFL players, for example), or have used a moderately high income to obtain higher status than their income would otherwise give (elected politicians, for example). Also – household income, because we generally grant the same status to the stay-at-home mom that we grant to her husband.

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  8. @grey – “well done, him”

    yeah, it’s going to be really great stuff, i’m sure. wade is a very smart guy, knows what he’s talking about, and is a fair and reasonable fellow. looking forward to the book enormously! clearing my calendar for that week (and heading to the nearest fall-out shelter (~_^) ). (^_^)

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  9. Anthony, I know that is commonly claimed, but I’m not sure it’s true. Everyone likely allows income to influence them somewhat – even those who dearly wish they wouldn’t. And some use that measurement as their primary, certainly. I don’t know that we can say more with confidence. Some have a distaste for displayed wealth, others value some other trait highly enough that it pushes income down the list. Beauty, charm, or intelligence, surely. And as we often note here, we value folks for their tribal closeness to us, and even more especially, their genetic closeness.

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  10. @sisyphean – “It would seem that the distinction between ‘group X is on average better with numbers than group Y’ and ‘group X is better than group Y’ is lost for most people.”

    yup. plus, as steve sailer regularly points out, there isn’t a “group x” that is better on average at EVERYthing than every other group. there is no master race.

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  11. @luke – “And it never is according to Michael Crichton, especially when it comes to science. This is a classic. hat tip Lubos Motl.”

    oh, thanks! (^_^)

    Reply

  12. @assistant village idiot – “Wade has courage, because he actually has something to lose. Most of us can put forth controversial theories without much career cost.”

    yes. although i thought steve sailer said a few months ago that wade was retiring. maybe he’s being really clever about the timing here. (^_^)

    still — could potentially make retirement unpleasant for him. and maybe he’d like to publish more books, too.

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  13. @anonymous – “The day I pay $20 for a book by a ‘science writer’…..”

    wade’s a great writer AND actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to genetics, etc. it’d be $20 well spent, trust me. (no, i won’t refund your money if you’re not satisfied!)

    Reply

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