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on 19 February 2017
An clearly written book on what is, but shouldn't be, the most controversial topic of our modern age,Race, and whether or not our genetic code affects our cultural development which in turn causes feedback further alerting our genetic structure. In today's world this is heresy and I like heretics. Far more instructive and truthful than the orthodox as a general rule

Obtuse language is left on the shelf and even obscure concepts such as gracilisation are explained clearly.
Mr Wade has been chastised for asserting that race is relevant genetically and we are not all blank slates with equal capacity, rather as groups, we are just on different evolutionary positions of the spectrum and evolution is constant. He doesn't assert that genetics are the sole determinant of society, A clear look at North and South Korea will show you that, but it that it affects and drives societies forward, or backward, depending on the environmental conditions.

A lot of this work is self evident, more is speculative. Whether or not it is true is politically subjective at this juncture, because like it or not we are in the paleo area with regards to genetic certainty.

He draws heavily on a Gregory Clark's excellent work on the development of England from 1200 to 1900 ' A Farewell to Alms' . The chart illustrating the higher survival rates of offspring to wealthier families is a very strong rationale for England's brilliant age.

This is rebuttal in the classic scientific tradition of controversy.
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on 19 November 2015
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on 1 July 2015
This is an excellent book which deals with the genetic influences on human behaviour and how groups have adapted to flourish in the social environment they find themselves.
Like books such as “The Anatomy of Crime,the biological roots of violence” by Adrian Raine it can’t help but be controversial as it goes to the heart of the ‘Bank Slate’ theory and conflicts with the dominant polical/social givens about the malleability of individuals.
Well worth reading as advances in genetics will inevitable require us to rethink so many of our assumptions.
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on 21 November 2016
Clearly expressed. Food for thought.
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on 18 August 2016
This is a book that I could hardly put down. It makes a compelling case for continued and on going human evolution.
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on 10 October 2014
This book shines an anti-aircraft search light on the elephant in the room – the role genes play in our characteristics, values and behaviour. Nicholas Wade provides evidence (and brazenly speculates even more) that different human races differ far more than just in appearance or culture.

Read it with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A brief history of humankind and silently mourn the narrowness and inadequacy of the history lessons we had at school.
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on 5 February 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Some of the data presented was absolutely astonishing and section on ashkenazi Jews was just mind blowing. I was frantically highlighting sections of this book and it will probably be the most highlighted book I own or will ever own. It has now pushed me to read other books with a similar theme. Just a joy to read, if you have an open mind rather than just brand it racist, which is pretty much idiotic
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on 10 April 2015
This is informative and breaks the current taboo on how race and genes impact human societies.
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on 1 January 2016
A Troublesome Inheritance

A troublesome book. The various races of humans, we are told, are not social constructs; they have even greater biological reality than the various races of dogs. Human races are actually expressions of the early stages of the speciation that resulted from geographical dispersion after the first modern humans left Africa.
Still more contentiously, perhaps, we are told that racial differences go far beyond physical attributes like skin colour, hair type, ear wax viscosity and even different bodily responses to medication. There are marked racial differences in behaviour, for instance in the ability to co-operate, to plan ahead or to defer gratification. These differences arose, says Wade, out of the complex interplay of genes with the physical and cultural environments.
Initially, new and harsher physical environments like those of central and north-eastern Asia selected for fitter genes (in the Darwinian sense). The fitter genes in turn strongly influenced the nature of the evolving culture. Since culture is also an environment in which selection takes place, then there was further selection for those characteristics which had already furthered success. So every culture has its accompaniment of genes, which partially determine its development. An example of this is the early growth in China of large-scale centrally directed enterprises such as irrigated rice farming. Such enterprises would not have been possible if the people had not already been selected in a challenging environment for their ability to plan long ahead and obey orders. Confucianism, it would seem, co-evolved with the Chinese genome, and possibly, too, the present-day communist society. Another example, much more at home for me and definitely more amusing, is where Wade, borrowing heavily from Gregory Clark's Farewell to Alms, traces the way in which the English are said to have undergone significant changes in behaviour in the period 1200 - 1800 CE. Medieval records indicate that the English were for the most part interpersonally violent, illiterate, improvident and lazy. The implication is that they were also none too bright, although Wade refrains from saying this outright. By the 19th century, however, most English people were peaceful, literate, provident and industrious. And presumably more intelligent (a form of the Flynn effect, I wonder).
From the middle ages until the 19th century, the relatively well-fed, healthy and foresighted nobility and merchant classes had more surviving children than the undernourished, unhealthy and heedless poor (by a ratio of about 4 to 2). Since there was limited room in the top echelons of society, many of the offspring of the privileged had little choice if they wished to marry but to marry downwards, taking with them the genes and habits that had made their parents successful. In this way, less violent behaviour, literacy, foresightedness, hard work (and probably even intelligence) became more widely diffused among the population. Wade adduces evidence from animal breeding to show that such rapid genetic changes in human populations are fully possible. This change in the genetic make-up of the English people, transforming them from dumb to smart, is hypothesized as being a major factor behind the creation of the world's first industrial revolution. The English genome and the Protestant Work Ethic co-evolved.

All this may or may not be correct. It's certainly a very interesting idea that set off a train of thought in me. In 1839 my great-great-grandmother, then a 17-year old mill girl in a northern English industrial town, was knocked up by an upper-class bounder who promptly did a runner - behaviour seemingly lifted from the popular fiction of the time. This gentleman's genetic intention, if any, was, it seems to me, to spread fecklessness and irresponsibility among the poorer classes. But then, as it turned out, the offspring of the brief union was a Fierce Victorian Moralist. Genes can work in unforeseen ways. Wade is looking, presumably, at much broader, historical patterns of change.
He is at his most controversial when dealing with the links between race and culture. He believes, for instance, that Jared Diamond's use of geographical determinism to explain European world supremacy is deeply flawed because it fails to take into account how Europeans have evolved a genetic component to their superior organizational and military ability. Also flawed is Diamond's ideological spin on race, which assumes an equality of abilities, which in Wade's opinion, has no foundation in research. As usual, Africans and their sympathizers are going to be the most aggrieved. I get the impression that Wade is not as specific as he might have been when dealing with this area. He ignores, for instance, generally accepted IQ differences, presumably to avoid more flak than is absolutely necessary. But he does indicate that the largely tropical environment of Africa created challenges that early man could only solve with low population densities (to avoid disease and soil degradation), which in turn precluded the growth of large, organized societies and the kind of culture in which further selection for complex non-tribal organization and advanced abstract thinking would be advantageous.
Given Wade's views on the primacy of the genetic component in our natures, it comes as no surprise to see that A Troublesome Inheritance has been endorsed by Charles Murray, one of the authors of The Bell Curve. Murray is on record as saying that we are due within the next ten years or so to see a paradigm shift in the social and mind sciences. The blank slate view of the human mind and its related ideological foundation (the sort of non-science that I was taught as gospel at university in the 60s) is to be replaced, whether we like it or not, by a better understanding of humanity largely based on the further decipherment of the human genome and its evolutionary messages. Wade advocates this view and we should read the book with this in mind. It is well written and appears to be thoroughly researched. It holds the attention and deals in a clear way with specialized technical matters for the more general reader. As an interested layman, I personally found Wade's arguments quite convincing. The book, however, has received damning criticism from the much more professional American Anthropological Association. But institutions always resist troublesome new ideas.
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on 21 August 2014
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