Pocas ideas han sido más perniciosas que aquellas que afirman que hay razas inherentemente superiores a otras. Por esa razón, el debate sobre las diferencias biológicas entre razas ha sido completamente proscrito del ámbito científico. La evolución humana, se insiste desde un inusitado consenso, acabó en la prehistoria.
No obstante, el consenso parece ser erróneo. Wade demuestra a lo largo de este libro que la evolución humana siguió su curso, que el aislamiento en el que han vivido las distintas poblaciones a lo largo de los siglos ha propiciado ese desarrollo y que existen distinciones, divergencias, en el comportamiento y por tanto en las sociedades mismas. Que, en consecuencia, atributos como el ahorro, el pacifismo, o la alfabetización, propios de las clases medias, han sido lentamente inoculados genéticamente desde la población agraria, culminado en la Revolución Industrial y la emergencia de las sociedades modernas.
Rechazando sin ambages la noción de superioridad racial, este libro demuestra cómo nuestra información genetica contiene una información vital para entender nuestra historia y las sociedades que la integran, y que la mejor forma de servir al interés público es buscando incesantemente sin miedo la verdad científica.
Fewer ideas have been more toxic or harmful than the idea of the biological reality of race, and with it the idea that humans of different races are biologically different from one another. For this understandable reason, the idea has been banished from polite academic conversation. Arguing that race is more than just a social construct can get a scholar run out of town, or at least off campus, on a rail. Human evolution, the consensus view insists, ended in prehistory.
Inconveniently, as Nicholas Wade argues in A Troublesome Inheritance, the consensus view cannot be right. And in fact, we know that populations have changed in the past few thousand years—to be lactose tolerant, for example, and to survive at high altitudes. Race is not a bright-line distinction; by definition it means that the more human populations are kept apart, the more they evolve their own distinct traits under the selective pressure known as Darwinian evolution. For many thousands of years, most human populations stayed where they were and grew distinct, not just in outward appearance but in deeper senses as well.
Wade, the longtime journalist covering genetic advances for The New York Times, draws widely on the work of scientists who have made crucial breakthroughs in establishing the reality of recent human evolution. The most provocative claims in this book involve the genetic basis of human social habits. What we might call middle-class social traits—thrift, docility, nonviolence—have been slowly but surely inculcated genetically within agrarian societies, Wade argues. These “values” obviously had a strong cultural component, but Wade points to evidence that agrarian societies evolved away from hunter-gatherer societies in some crucial respects. Also controversial are his findings regarding the genetic basis of traits we associate with intelligence, such as literacy and numeracy, in certain ethnic populations, including the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews.
Wade believes deeply in the fundamental equality of all human peoples. He also believes that science is best served by pursuing the truth without fear, and if his mission to arrive at a coherent summa of what the new genetic science does and does not tell us about race and human history leads straight into a minefield, then so be it. This will not be the last word on the subject, but it will begin a powerful and overdue conversation.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Nicholas Wade has covered the sequencing of the genome, as well as other health and science stories, for The New York Times, in the course of which he has interviewed many of the principal researchers in the field. In this book he describes what the genome means for the health of present and future generations.
Someday soon physicians will have access to DNA chips that, from a drop of blood, will screen a person's genes for all the diseases to which he or she may be genetically vulnerable. From full knowledge of the instruction manual of the human body, provided by the genome, pharmaceutical companies hope to develop a new generation of sophisticated drugs; one of the first genome-derived drugs is already undergoing clinical trials. Another vital tool will be regenerative medicine, a new kind of therapy in which new organs and tissues will be grown from a patient's own cells to replace those that are old or diseased.
With the help of DNA chips, medical researchers will soon be able to diagnose diseases such as cancer much more precisely and to tailor specific treatments for each patient. Individualized medicine will also become an important part of the pharmaceutical world. Many drugs will be prescribed based on information from DNA chips that identify which of a range of drugs is best for each patient, as well as which drugs are likely to cause side effects. The medicine of the post-genomic era will be customized for a patient's genetic make-up, providing treatments based on a precise understanding of the mechanism of disease.
Life Script describes a future in which good health, even perfect health, may become the standard for everyone -- at every age.