Nicholas Wade, a leading science writer whose specialty is human evolution, likes to ask interesting questions. Here are some examples:
Why has the West been the most exploratory and innovative civilization in the world for the past 500 years?
Why are Jews of European descent so massively overrepresented among the top achievers in the arts and sciences?
Why is the Chinese diaspora successful all around the world?
Why is it so difficult to modernize tribal societies?
Why has economic development been so slow in Africa?
Contemporary thinkers have offered lots of provocative answers for such questions. It’s all about geography. Or institutions. Or rice culture. Or the devastating legacy of colonialism. Or Jewish mothers. Now comes another explanation, one that bravely explores the highly dangerous elephant in the room. Mr. Wade argues that human history has also been profoundly influenced by genetics.
Part of his new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, is a summary of new findings in genetic science, and part of it is highly speculative. All of it is bound to be deeply unpopular among social scientists, because it challenges their entrenched belief that race is nothing more than a social construct. The wide diversity in human societies around the world can be explained entirely by culture, they insist. We’re all the same under the skin.