A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History
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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.
Deng Xiaoping, 179 Denmark, 13 Descent of Man, The (Darwin), 22 Devarajan, Shantayanan, 176 Diamond, Jared, 68, 117–18, 221–23 diet, 60, 108 lactase and, 60–61, 113 disciplined behaviors, 158, 183 diseases, 108, 110–11, 116, 223 alleles and, 114–15, 206 malaria, 110–11, 116, 117–18, 206 Mendelian, 202, 205–8, 209 sickle-cell anemia, 111, 116, 206 thalassemia, 111, 118 DNA, 14, 56, 70, 72–74, 96, 109, 113 AIMs (ancestry informative
mitochondria, 74, 79 Mizrahim (Oriental Jews), 200–201, 204, 209 Moche state, 134 moneylending, 202–5, 210, 212, 213 Mongoloid skulls, 91 Mongols, 136, 141, 246, 247 monkeys and apes, 39 chimpanzees, see chimpanzees monogamy, 45 Montagu, Ashley, 69, 70, 119 moral dilemmas, 52 morality, 50, 59, 124 Morton, Samuel, 20–22 mosaic zones, 83, 84 mucolipidosis type IV, 206 Muhammad, 229 Muller, Jerry Z., 213 Muslim world, see Islamic
proclaims the American Anthropological Association. “Race is about culture, not biology.” 5 A recent book published by the association states that “Race is not real in the way we think of it: as deep, primordial, and biological. Rather it is a foundational idea with devastating consequences because we, through our history and culture, made it so.” 6 The commonsense conclusion—that race is both a biological reality and a politically fraught idea with sometimes pernicious consequences—has also
MAO-A gene is that important aspects of human social behavior are shaped by the genes and that these behavior traits are likely to vary from one race to another, sometimes significantly so. How Societies Change to Fit Environment Trust and aggression are two significant components of human social behavior whose underlying genetics have already been to some extent explored. There are many other aspects of social behavior, such as conformity to rules, the willingness to punish violators
Kenneth Pomeranz.2 Some experts argue that demography was the real driver: Europeans escaped the Malthusian trap by restraining fertility through methods such as late marriage. Others cite institutional changes, such as the beginnings of modern English democracy, secure property rights, the development of competitive markets, or patents that stimulated invention. Yet others point to the growth of knowledge starting from the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries or the easy availability of