Genetics theory slammed as ‘racist’

by jeeg 12. May 2014 22:06


A BOOK claiming genetics lies behind the emergence of ­Europe and parts of Asia as economic powerhouses has been criticised by scientists.

A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade, a New York Times science writer for 30 years, says that since the sequencing of the human genome in 2003, evidence of genetic differences has been mounting.

After our ancestors left Africa, he says, different groups of people evolved in slightly different ways to adapt to local conditions. The most successful of those people passed on their ­adaptations to their offspring.

Wade also challenges the consensus that human evolution stopped shortly after the Stone Age. “New analyses of the human genome have established that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional,” he writes. Populations have changed, grown lactose intolerant for example, or adjusted to live at high altitudes or in severely cold climates, he writes.

This part of the book has been relatively well received. However, his subsequent argument that there are genetic group differences in behaviour and cognitive skills, and that human history can be explained by genetics has left him vulnerable to attack. In The Times of London yesterday, Matt Ridley said he couldn’t accept the idea that genes account for momentous events in history, such as the Industrial Revolution.

Wade says evidence from surnames shows that entrepreneurial Europeans out-bred their less-able citizens, creating a hotbed for creativity. “The ability of the rich to raise more surviving children slowly diffused the social behaviours required for modern prosperity into the wider society.”

These behaviours became the fertile soil for the Industrial Revolution, which vaulted Britain out of poverty and paved the way for Western domination. “The rise of the West is an event not just in history but also in human evolution,” he writes.

Ridley responded: “Yes, there would have been genetic change in European society as certain types of personality had more offspring. But surely this was not fast enough and large enough an effect to spark the ­Industrial Revolution”.

Wade’s argument has run into criticism elsewhere. The US statistician Andrew Gelman calls his book “racist”.

In the book, Wade points out that in the early 1950s Ghana and South Korea had similar economies. Thirty years later, South Korea had become the world’'s 14th-largest economy while Ghana’s had stagnated.

The author believes South Koreans valued thrift, investment, hard work, education and discipline while Ghanaians had different values, and he attributes these attitudes towards East Asian genes.

Mr Gelman says: “Wade’s comments about creativity, intelligence and tribalism seem to represent views of superiority and inferiority.”



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