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

Nicholas Wade

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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.

Biographie de l'auteur

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.

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324 internautes sur 365 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 And don't forget the genes 7 mai 2014
Par A. Jogalekar - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
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. This part also clearly serves to delineate the difference between a scientific fact and what we as human beings decide to do with it, and it tells us that an idea should not be taboo just because murderous tyrants might have warped its definition and used it to enslave and decimate their fellow humans.

The second part of the book is really the meat of the story and Wade is on relatively firm ground here. Wade details a variety of studies based on tools like tandem DNA repeats and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that point to very distinctive genetic differences between populations dictating both physical and mental traits. For me the most striking evidence that something called race is real comes from the fact that when you ask computer algorithms to cluster genes based on differences and similarities in an unbiased manner, these statistical programs consistently settle on the five continental races - Caucasian, East Asian, African, Native American and African Aboriginal. Very few people would deny that there are clear genetic underpinnings behind traits like skin color or height among people on different continents, but Wade's achievement here is to clearly explain how it's not just one or two genes underlying such traits but a combination of genes - the effects of many of which are not obvious - that distinguish between races. The other point that he drives home is that even minor differences between gene frequencies can lead to significant observable differences because of additive effects. Wade also demolishes the beliefs of many leading thinkers who would rather have differences defined almost entirely by culture - these include Stephen Jay Gould who thought that humans evolved very little in the last ten thousand years (as Wade points out, about 14% of the genome has been under active selection since modern humans appeared on the scene), and Richard Lewontin who perpetuated a well-known belief that the dominance of intra as opposed to inter individual differences makes any discussion of race meaningless. As Wade demonstrates through citations of solid research and interviews with leading geneticists, this belief is simply erroneous since a variety of genetic clustering methods do seem to point to the existence of distinct races.

The last part of the book is likely to be regarded as more controversial because it deals mainly with cognitive, social and personality traits and is much more speculative. However Wade fully realizes this and also realizes that "there is nothing wrong with speculation, of course, as long as its premises are made clear", and this could be part of a scientist's credo. The crux of the matter is to ask why genes would also not account for mental and social differences between races if they do account for physical differences. The problem there is that although the hypothesis is valid, the evidence is slim for now. Some of the topics that Wade deals with in this third part are thus admittedly hazy in terms of evidence. For instance there is ample contemplation about whether a set of behavioral and genetic factors might have made the West progress faster than the East. However Wade also makes it clear that "progressive" does not mean "superior"; what he is rather doing is sifting through the evidence and asking if some of it might account for these more complex differences in social systems. Similarly, while there are pronounced racial differences in IQ, one must recognize the limitations of IQ, but more importantly should recognize that IQ says nothing about whether one human is "better" or "worse" than another; in fact the question is meaningless. Wade brings a similar approach to exploring genetic influences on cognitive abilities and personality traits; evidently, as he recognizes, the evidence on this topic is quite slim. He looks at the effects of genes on traits as diverse as language, reciprocity and propensity to dole out punishment. This discussion makes it clear that we are just getting started and there are many horizons that will be uncovered in the near future; for instance, tantalizing hints of links between genes for certain enzymes and aggressive or amiable behavior are just emerging. Some of the other paradigms Wade writes about, such as the high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews, the gene-driven contrast between chimp and human societies and the rise of the West are interesting but have been covered by other authors like Steven Pinker, Greg Cochran and Gregory Clark. If I have a criticism of the book it is that in his efforts to cover extensive ground, Wade sometimes gives short shrift to research on interesting topics like oxytocin and hormonal influences. But what he does make clear is that the research opportunities in the field are definitely exciting, and scientists should not have to tiptoe around these topics for political reasons.

Overall I found this book extremely well-researched, thoughtfully written and objectively argued. The many researchers whose work Wade cites makes the writing authoritative; on the other hand, where speculation is warranted or noted he usually explicitly points it out as such. Some of these speculations such as the effects of genetics on the behavior of entire societies are quite far flung but I don't see any reason why, based on what we do know about the spread of genes among groups, they should be dismissed out of hand. At the very least they serve as reasonable hypotheses to be pondered, thrashed out and tested. Science is about ideas, not answers.

But 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; as Wade notes, "Whether or not a thesis might be politically incendiary should have no bearing on the estimate of its scientific validity." He gives nuclear physics as a good analogy; knowledge of the atom can lead to both destruction and advancement, but without this knowledge there will still be destruction. More importantly, one cannot hide the fruits of science; how they are used as instruments of social or political policy is a matter of principle and should be decoupled from the science itself. In fact, knowing the facts provides us with a clear basis for making progressive decisions and gives us a powerful weapon for defeating the nefarious goals of demagogues who would use pseudoscience to support their dubious claims. In that sense, I agree with Wade that even if genetic differences between races become enshrined into scientific fact, it does not mean at all that we will immediately descend into 19th-century racism; our moral compass has already decided the direction of that particular current.

Ultimately Wade's argument is about the transparency of knowledge. He admonishes some of the critics - especially some liberal academics and the American Anthropological Association - for espousing a "culture only" philosophy that is increasingly at odds with scientific facts and designed mainly for political correctness and a straitjacketed worldview. I don't think liberal academics are the only ones guilty of this attitude but some of them certainly embrace it. Liberal academics, however, have always prided themselves on being objective examiners of the scientific truth. Wade rightly says that they should join hands with all of us in bringing that same critical and honest attitude to examining the recent evidence about race and genetics. Whatever it reveals, we can be sure that as human beings we will try our best not to let it harm the cause of our fellow beings. We are, all of us, human beings first and scientists second.
196 internautes sur 251 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Wade's genius is to report what is happening on the frontiers of science. Incredible courage is his great virtue 7 mai 2014
Par Graham H. Seibert - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
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 Acemoglu and Robinson who are politically correct down to their toenails. He seems to be claiming, "See, I'm one of you." I can guarantee him, this puny amulet will not ward off the witch hunters. He would have been better not to try.

His topic is human evolution, and especially, the implications of the past couple of decades' research in genetics. His main points are:

(1) There is genetic validity to the traditional classification of mankind into five continentally-based races. The dates at which the breeding populations separated can be fairly well established. A small band left Africa about 50,000 years ago. Some of them arrived in Australia 46,000 years ago, after which they remained isolated. They founded the New Guinea/Australian race. Others headed north into the heart of Eurasia, splitting 30,000 years ago into Europeans and East Asians. Amerindians form the fifth major race: they split from the East Asians about 15,000 years ago. These findings confirm work done some decades ago by Cavalli-Sforza and Spencer Wells using more primitive means.

(2) Humans have evolved more dramatically in latent characteristics, their temperament, intellect, aggressiveness/passivity, and work ethic, than in their visual characteristics. He draws useful comparisons with the evolution of our domestic animals. Moreover, the genome co-evolves with culture. The Chinese genome is adapted to Chinese culture, for instance. Wade has a highly useful chapters on the Jews, drawing mostly from Harpending and Cochran, though (to my surprise) not Kevin MacDonald.

(3) Human evolution accelerated after the exodus from Africa. Darwin's theory of evolution posits that changes in environment put selection pressure on any species, favoring some alleles over others. Inhabiting cold climes, collaborative hunting, and warfare using weapons placed immense evolutionary pressure on Homo sapiens hunter/gatherers.

(4) Evolution accelerated even more after the invention of agriculture. Hunter/gatherers had lived in communities of up to 150 people, not many more than our chimp-like ancestors of five million years back. All of a sudden we began living in cities, engaging in trade, specializing as craftsmen, and organizing large-scale governmental structures and wars. The cognitive and social skills required were immense, as was the selective pressure.

Some exciting science that is new to me with this book is Wade's identification of genes that are under significant selective pressure today. There are about 200 genes in each of the major racial groups: Europeans, East Asians, and Africans. Only a few of them overlap: for the most part, evolution is following a separate path within each race.

"How can you know?" is the big question. Geneticists are generally confined to the DNA of living people. Wade's discussion of the way the genome evolves is scientific deduction at its best. Groups of physically adjacent genes are generally passed on as a group. If one of them is beneficial, the others come along as free riders. Measuring the incidence of free riders points scientists to the genes under selection.

Wade advances the novel theory that there have been two breakthroughs in evolution over the course of our civilized history: the move to settled habitations, and the industrial revolution.

Settlement is generally agreed, although Wade adds some interesting detail. We began sedentary life about 15,000 years ago, well before the beginning of agriculture and pastoralism. There were advantages to living together, but it took a lot of evolutionary time for the genome to change enough that we could live and work together to the extent required for the next step.

Building up to the industrial revolution, Wade draws extensively on the work of economic historian Gregory Clark of the University of California at Davis. Clark's research into historical records in England reveals that violence decreased systematically and markedly during the decades from 1200 to 1800. In this he echoes Stephen Pinker. At the same time, the general levels of intelligence rose. First, richer people had more children. Second, because population was static, those people regressed in social status, bringing their intelligence down to the common ranks. Third, literacy and other indirect measures of intelligence grew steadily.

Though Wade documents this phenomenon in England, he implies that it happened as well throughout Europe. The mechanisms in East Asia were different - the Mandarin system of competitive examinations, among other things - but the result was similar in terms of intellect. The result in terms of culture and temperament -related factors - was different in Asia, a topic Wade investigates towards his conclusion.

There is much more to say, but readers weary of excessively long reviews. I've posted comments with other observations for those who are interested.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A sober yet provocative exposition 22 juillet 2014
Par Rwc - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Nicholas Wade has dared to tread on a scientific and sociological minefield. A "Troublesome Inheritance" lays out the case for the idea that genetic changes in humanity have continued to the present day; they happen quicker than one might think; and they have resulted in noticeable if not dramatic differences between identifiable groups of human beings. Some of the case is based on scientific data. Some of it is extrapolation from those data, and some of it is based on little more than plausibility. Along the way he takes to task, in a relatively gentle fashion, both the hard and soft sciences' avoidance of the subject. The avoidance is driven by good intentions (mischief always is), but the result is ignorance and indeed in some cases blatant untruths and distortions.

While acknowledging that much grief has come of dwelling on racial differences, he argues optimistically that the odds of going back to anything like the racism of the past are very small. Thus we can "grow up" and approach the subject of the genetics of race and ethnic differences as a mature society. The reader gets some samples of the ignorant product of this avoidance. The American Anthropological Association's Statement on Race (they actually go so far as to put the R-word in quotations) basically says that there is no such thing, pointing out that the genetic groupings that come out of studies amount to a mere 6% of the genes, smaller than the differences between individuals. But what we are not told by the AAA is that the allele differences within that 6% are highly correlated with each other, whereas individual differences tend to be random. Thus we see distortions of science in the interest of political correctness. And this raises Wade's hackles, as well it should.

The author poses some interesting problems that are usually hidden by the same political correctness. For example how is it that Ashkenazy Jews, an identifiable group for a mere thousand years or so, have an average IQ of 110-115, one full standard deviation over the European mean. He speculates that the pressures that drove this genetically isolated group to specialize in cognitive tasks resulted in a reproductive advantage for those who excelled at such tasks. This is plausible and perhaps even likely, but hardly an approved topic for genetic research.

Wade rightly stresses that differences in the genes that favor certain social behaviors are technically difficult to isolate because they are large in number, and each is likely to exert only a small influence. But when this technical difficulty is compounded with scientific avoidance in the service of political correctness, the result is ignorance about ourselves.

Many of the speculative arguments fall well short of convincing, but they are always intelligently thought out and presented. This reviewer was left wondering about other areas of science where money and political correctness are strong operating influences. Certainly global warming falls in this category, and the burgeoning problem of lack of reproducibility also comes to mind.
Science cannot be allowed to become just another special interest.
98 internautes sur 130 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Uneven, speculative and mostly right 9 mai 2014
Par Nigel Seel - Publié sur
Despite all you hear to the contrary, human evolution has continued up to the present: "recent, copious and regional" in Nicholas Wade's words. This would appear to be of great scientific interest - what are the genetic differences between different races and what are they coding for? Unfortunately we have a `blank slate' social-sciences establishment which denies even the existence of races and seems unwilling to admit to genetic input into such obviously inherited attributes as intelligence and personality. (`Obvious' means that everybody knows it really and that careful analysis, including twin studies, bears it out).

Is the author going to be sacrificed on the altar of `racism'? Wade is naturally keen to defend the scientific study of human racial differences from the inevitable charges of racism and eugenics. This is a difficult discussion and one the author approaches historically, showing how American ideas of Caucasian superiority and eugenics were eagerly picked up by the German National Socialists. But in the urge to be on the side of decency one has to be careful to reason accurately:

"By analogy with animal breeding, people could no doubt be bred, if it were ethically acceptable, so as to enhance specific desired traits. But it is impossible to know what traits would benefit society as a whole. The eugenics program, however reasonable it might seem, was basically incoherent." (p. 27).

Well, it seems that intelligence, a generally pro-social personality and good health are pretty good candidates for traits which would `benefit society as a whole' and later the author will argue that western medieval societies effectively bred for those traits over the last thousand years to our advantage. We do our own private experiments in positive eugenics whenever we seek out the best possible marriage partner.

Such sloppy argumentation is, sadly, not uncommon in this book.

Having got his defences out of the way, Wade now gives us some science -a comparison between chimpanzee societies and our own. Chimps are highly aggressive and promiscuous; humans not so much. In fact the key differentiator is our marked ability to cooperate. Wade has some plausible ecological suggestions as to how these differences might have emerged and can back up the behavioural stuff with genes coding for hormones such as oxytocin (increased trust within an in-group) and mono-amine oxidase (associated with aggression).

The gene which codes for the latter, MAO-A, comes in different alleles - the "two-promoter group" in particular is linked with criminal violence. In a large study, (p. 55), Jean Ship and colleagues found that African-American men had a 5% chance of carrying the "two-promoter" allele (these were predominantly the delinquents). In Caucasians the proportion was 0.1%. Clearly we are at an early stage in this research but the correlations are certainly thought-provoking.

The next few chapters reprise the story of the out-of-Africa human expansion and how this is captured in genetic sequencing. This will be familiar to anyone who has checked out 23andme or similar companies. The arguments for the objective existence of races are kind of obvious to anyone without an agenda, and are apparent in analysis of allele frequencies. Nevertheless, it remains true that in 2014 we know next to nothing about what most of these variant alleles actually do. Most cognitive, psychological and behavioural traits are under the control of hundreds or thousands of alleles, each of small individual effect, which accounts for the `bell-shaped curves' we see in population intelligence and personality attributes. This is a central problem for a book which is trying to create a compelling connection between race genetic differences and the distinctiveness we see today in human civilizations such as in the West (America, Europe), the East (China, Korea, Japan) and sub-Saharan Africa.

Such differences clearly interest the author and drive the second half of the book - which he deems `speculative'. The author is particularly interested in how humanity made the transition from its default social model, kin-based tribalism, to states and empires. Citing Francis Fukuyama ("The Origins of Political Order"), Gregory Clarke ("Farewell to Alms") and Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson ("Why Nations Fail") we are taken on a multi-millennial tour of the great civilisations of the world. What was the evolutionary impact of these novel social environments on population psychology? His thesis is that of gene-culture coevolution - that people were selected for `tameness' and prosociality as well, perhaps, for greater intelligence. There are good reasons for believing this is likely, but it has to be said that it may take a few more decades to get compelling genetic evidence.

The "IQ and Global Inequality" authors Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen get short shrift (p.191). They have demonstrated high correlations (c. 80%) between measurements of national IQ and GDP. Given the well-known strong genetic underpinnings of observed intelligence (in societies without widespread material deprivation) it's surprising to see Wade backsliding into confusion here. By highlighting poor and outlying data he makes his doubts clear but it just reads like he has an agenda. Perhaps he thinks his book is controversial enough as it is.

The final chapters cover the astonishing intellectual success of the Ashkenazi Jews, citing the well-known work of Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending (written up in "The Ten-Thousand Year Explosion") and further speculate about the reasons behind the rise of the West in recent history. Interesting but does not break any really new ground.

This is a readable book but one which lacks a strong sense of direction. Occasional sloppy reasoning and ideological argumentation can irritate. Gregory Cochran has identified some errors of fact (on the "West Hunter" blog) which highlight the limitations of the author's genetics sourcing but this is not where Wade's real interests lie. He is clearly infuriated by the assumption of human genetic uniformity in economics, history and public policy and is consequentially highly motivated to give an account of the world as if human and racial differences actually mattered. In the current absence of hard genetic results his views remain plausible but speculative and will probably be ignored by politicians and policy-makers for another generation, more's the pity.
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An important book that explodes a popular myth 6 août 2014
Par Anomaly - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
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, or use it to justify racist attitudes or policies. Assuming it is likely to have this effect on some people, the question is whether such speculation should be part of a public discussion. As academics, we should follow the arguments wherever they lead us and pursue the truth even when it challenges our most cherished beliefs. As citizens, we should worry that arguments like Wade's will be used by demagogues to prey on people who are prone to fantasies about racial purity. The trick for thoughtful readers is to separate science from speculation, and to highlight the difficulty of deriving normative conclusions from empirical claims.
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