A couple of things bug me about this field.
The leftist-atheist-evolutionists (PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, etc.) vehemently denounce this book, say people shouldn't read it, and claim that it is full of errors and bad thinking. But they don't actually cite any errors and act as if evolution is the most important thing except that it must never be applied to human beings. (At least Coyne admits to some errors about race.)
There is overwhelming evidence that human behavior is heritable from twin studies and other social science, and we have extremely detailed info on the diversity of the human genome, but we have almost no evidence linking genomes to behaviors. In jargon, everyone says that the genotype determines the phenotype, but no one can explain how for human behavior.
People don't want to believe that there could be human evolution in the last 10k years or so, but there is more and more evidence of it all the time. Today's NY Times reports on research that American Indians have evolved:
Though her skull, found intact, is more narrow and angular than those of modern Indians, and her face smaller and her features more protruding, “we know that at least the maternal ancestry is shared,” said an author of the study, James Chatters, a forensic anthropologist with Applied Paleoscience, a company in Bothell, Wash.Coyne's political ideology makes him reluctant to admit the legitimacy of scientific research:
The reasons for the differences in skull size and shape are still a mystery, but modern American Indians may have evolved to have broader, larger skulls because of adaptations to different food, social or environmental conditions, Dr. Chatters said.
I am not absolutely opposed to all work on genetic differences in behavior between ethnic groups, populations, and sexes. That is a kind of scientific taboo which, as Steve Pinker has noted, has been enforced by social opprobrium based on the possibility of racism or sexism. I think the proper stand is that it’s okay to study those questions that are interesting (but make sure you ask yourself why you find them interesting), and realize that a). we don’t know the outcomes, and b). the fundamental equalities of all groups and all sexes don’t depend on the results of such analyses.There you have a couple of leftist axioms being applied. Facts should not be investigated unless done with the proper intent, and results must not be allowed to interfere with egalitarian political objectives. A more scientific view would be to get the facts first, and then decide what to make of them.
But Wade’s book oversteps the line, for his theories way outstrip his data.
A White House report says:
Big data raises other concerns, as well. One significant finding of our review was the potential for big data analytics to lead to discriminatory outcomes and to circumvent longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment, credit, and the consumer marketplace.Yes, big data means discriminatory outcomes without any racial intent.
Update: The NY Times has just reviewed Wade for this Sunday's paper, and "At least the reviewer waited until the second sentence to bring up Hitler."
Conservative scholars like the political scientist Francis Fukuyama have long argued that social institutions and culture explain why Europe beat Asia to prosperity, and why parts of the Mideast and Africa continue to suffer destabilizing violence and misery.Wade's argument appears to be the logical consequence of the heritability of the behaviors. But difference could be at least partially explained by other factors, such as whether the dominant religion approves of cousin marriage.
Mr. Wade takes this already controversial argument a step further, contending that “slight evolutionary differences in social behavior” underlie social and cultural differences. A small but consistent divergence in a racial group’s tendency to trust outsiders — and therefore to accept central rather than tribal authority — could explain “much of the difference between tribal and modern societies,” he writes.
This is where Mr. Wade’s argument starts to go off the rails.
At times, his theorizing is merely puzzling, as when he notes that the gene variant that gives East Asians dry earwax also produces less body odor, which would have been attractive “among people spending many months in confined spaces to escape the cold.” No explanation of why ancient Europeans, presumably cooped up just as much, didn’t also develop this trait. Later, he speculates that thick hair and small breasts evolved in Asian women because they may have been “much admired by Asian men.” And why, you might ask, did Asian men alone prefer these traits?Sure enough, the reviewer does not believe in evolution. Maybe the earwax variant was a Chinese mutation, or maybe the populations developed different preferences. The "origin of speciess" is based largely on such differences developing.
Update: Ron Unz reviews:
I have been very pleased to see that Wade’s book is beginning to receive the major attention it so greatly deserves. American intellectuals must begin shedding a half-century of lies and dishonesty based on the dismally unscientific dogma of Stephen Jay Gould and instead start to discover what modern evolutionary biologists and genetic researchers have all known for years or even decades.