Nicholas Wade’s *A Troublesome Inheritance*

Overall I was disappointed by my read of this book and I write that as someone who very much has liked Wade’s NYT pieces on similar topics.  I appreciated the honesty and courage of the work, but I felt Wade needed to have pushed deeper in book-length form.

For instance the discussion of intelligence and its evolution should have been drenched in the Flynn Effect.  It wasn’t.  The first few chapters didn’t cut to the chase quickly enough.

Wade makes a big mistake arguing that “race” is a coherent concept.  Surely that is a semantic issue which cannot move his case forward much, but can hurt it if he fails to establish his claims.

There is much I admire about Greg Clark’s (previous) book, but Wade doesn’t seem to realize Clark has hardly any evidence in support of his “genetic origins of capitalism” thesis.

The word “Denisovan” didn’t appear nearly enough.

We are told that Ashkenazim Jews may have sacrificed visual and spatial skills for other forms of (superior?) intelligence, but what about all the great Soviet Jewish chess players and mathematicians?  And did the shtetl really have so many more centuries of capitalistic training to offer than did say Istanbul?  I’m not suggesting anyone is required to answer these questions, but once you start playing the generalization game — especially on this particular topic — one ought to spend a lot of time picking up or at least recognizing all these loose ends and indeed there are many of them.

Had Kindle not tracked the percentage so accurately, I would have been surprised when the book ended.

Ross Douthat offers some remarks and links to a few other reviews.  VerBruggen had a good take on the book.  Arnold Kling is reading it too.  Here is Andrew Gelman’s review.

Overall reading this book didn’t budge my priors, which I suppose means…it did in fact budge my priors.


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