Jon Phillips takes on Nicholas Wade’s claims, and proves once again that so called “scientific” racism is little more than a pseudoscience. This was originally posted in September 2014 edition of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, ( Under the Title, Troublesome Sources ) and than cross posted at Alternet.
Nicholas Wade’s new book, A Troublesome Inheritance, is only the latest in a long line of works arguing that humans can be divided into discrete races, and that between those races, there are differences in behavior, temperament, intelligence, and even political and economic structures. Although the specifics of the arguments change, what remains constant is the idea that white people of European descent are inherently smarter, better, more “civilized” than members of other races, especially black Africans and their descendants. Wade’s work is no exception.
This book’s failure as a work of popular science has been well documented by biologists and anthropologists. This review will focus on another problem with Wade’s book, one just as damning as its scientific errors: its uncritical reliance on and legitimization of fringe racist theories masquerading as mainstream biology.
Wade, a former science writer for The New York Times, attempts to fabricate a sense of scientific credibility for his outlandish theories with the division of his book into two very different sections. The first half is intended as a survey of the history and science of research into human evolution, race, and genetics, and Wade supports most of his claims with citations to scientific literature.
In the second, more “speculative” half of the book, Wade’s claims about human genetics and evolution continue, but the scientific sources disappear. It is in this part of the book, for example, that Wade explains modern history through the claim that “European populations” have a genetic predisposition to “open societies and the rule of law to autocracies,” while the Chinese are inherently “drawn to a system of family obligations, political hierarchy, and conformity.” He posits that white Europeans and East Asians are innately more intelligent than Papuans or members of other “Stone Age societies” because “intelligence can be more highly rewarded in modern societies because it is in far greater demand.” Although he acknowledges at the outset that these portions of the book are intended to be speculative, in the text he presents these racist, hackneyed ideas as though they are simple facts, uncontroversial and incontrovertible.
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