On Nicholas Wade’s A TROUBLESOME INHERITANCE—A Small, But Significant, Step For Race Realism

On Nicholas Wade’s A TROUBLESOME INHERITANCE—A Small, But Significant, Step For Race Realism, by John Derbyshire, from 2014.

Nicholas Wade [is a] longtime science reporter at the Times. Wade belongs to the older tradition of science writer. …

In his articles on genetics he has distinguished himself for at least the past dozen years by writing frankly about biological race differences … This is unusual in mainstream science reporting. For the New York Times, it is astounding. Charles Murray expressed the general bafflement: “Do any of the reporters at the New York Times who cover other beats read the Science section?”

All journalists in the West — including all the conservative commentators you have ever heard of — and most other educated people cleave to the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) of human nature, which declares race to be a “social construct,” a sort of figment of our collective imagination.

There has, says the SSSM, been no significant evolutionary change in Homo sapiens since one group of us left Africa to begin the colonization of Eurasia and the Americas 50,000 years ago. …

The book:

Wade raises high the banner of race realism and charges head-on into the massed ranks of the SSSM. He states his major premise up front, on page two:

New analyses of the human genome have established that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional.

Along the way he has fun tweaking the SSSM-niks:

A few biologists have begun to agree that there are human races, but they hasten to add that the fact means very little. Races exist, but the implications are “not much,” says the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Too bad — nature has performed this grand 50,000-year experiment, generating scores of fascinating variations on the human theme, only to have evolutionary biologists express disappointment at her efforts.

That “too bad” is priceless. Even better is Wade’s tossing and goring of Jared Diamond’s absurd best-seller Guns, Germs, and Steel:

It is driven by ideology, not science. The pretty arguments about the availability of domesticable species or the spread of disease are not dispassionate assessments of fact but are harnessed to Diamond’s galloping horse of geographic determinism, itself designed to drag the reader away from the idea that genes and evolution might have played any part in recent human history.

In a dry little footnote to Diamond’s well-known assertion that the tribes of New Guinea are “in mental ability probably genetically superior to Westerners,” [Guns, Germs, and Steel, p. 21] Wade notes, with a reference, that the mean IQ for Papua New Guinea is 83, and adds:

If Diamond is thinking of some more appropriate measure of intelligence, he does not cite it.

Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker is also given a jab of the lance, though more respectfully. … The human mind, says Pinker, is adapted to the conditions of 10,000 years ago and hasn’t changed since. Wade is having none of this:

Since many other traits have evolved more recently than that, why should human behavior be any exception? Well, says Pinker, it would be terribly inconvenient politically if this were so. “It could have the incendiary implication that aboriginal and immigrant populations are less biologically adapted to the demands of modern life than populations that have lived in literate states for millennia.”

Whether or not a thesis might be politically incendiary should have no bearing on the estimate of its scientific validity …

Damn right! If I had been wearing a hat at that point, I would have thrown it in the air. Such strong, clear endorsements of scientific independence against political orthodoxy are all too rare. Three cheers for Nicholas Wade!

More blasphemy from Wade, Galtonian eugenics with a highly beneficial result:

The fact that the rich were having more children than the poor [i.e. in England from a.d. 1200 to 1760] led to the interesting phenomenon of unremitting social descent. Most children of the rich had to sink in the social scale, given that there were too many of them to remain in the upper class.

Their social descent had the far-reaching genetic consequence that they carried with them inheritance for the same behaviors that had made their parents rich. The values of the upper middle class — nonviolence, literacy, thrift, and patience — were thus infused into lower economic classes and throughout society. [Pages 159-160.]

Today, feminism (smart women have jobs and fewer kids) and third world immigration is rapidly reversing that boon. Derbyshire again:

Some ideas about race are dangerous when linked to some political agendas. But the horrors of the Holocaust did not happen because the German public misapprehended some point of biology. They happened, along with many other great evils, because the Germans surrendered their government to a lawless gangster-despotism.

If people are blank slates and all groups are statistically equivalent, then environment and learning are all — and it should be easy to transfer behavior from one group to another, just like the left believes:

To the contrary, says Wade, those institutions “are largely cultural edifices resting on a base of genetically shaped social behaviors.” …

The much more prolonged and determined efforts of European colonial powers to shape African and Asian societies likewise slid off those societies like water off a sheet of glass.

The British left their African territories with parliaments, universities, and judges in horsehair wigs; tribalism, corruption, and Big Man despotism took over almost immediately. …

Again and again Wade contrasts the speed of cultural change — Germans and Japanese switching from militarism to pacifism well-nigh overnight — to the comparatively slow changes in genetically shaped behaviors.

The Malay, Thai, or Indonesian populations who have prosperous Chinese populations in their midst might envy the Chinese success but are strangely unable to copy it. People are highly imitative, and if Chinese business success were purely cultural, everyone should find it easy to adopt the same methods. This is not the case because social behavior, of Chinese and others, is genetically shaped. …

The readiness of human beings to imitate others, when they can, is a key feature of all our societies. It is, for example, the basis of fashion, and the rationale behind the concept “role model.” Yet it seems not to operate at all when a brutish tribal society needs to be brought up to a civilized level.

hat-tip Stephen Neil