A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History is a 2014 book by Nicholas Wade, a retired science reporter for The New York Times. Wade argues that "human evolution has been recent, copious and regional" and that this has important implications for the social sciences. The book has been widely denounced by scientists.
Wade writes about racial differences in economic success between whites, blacks, Asians, and others and offers the argument that racial differences come from genetic differences amplified by culture. In the first part of the book, Wade provides an account of human genetics research. In the second part of his book, Wade proposes that regional differences in evolution of social behavior explain many differences among human societies.
The book is criticized by reviewers, who state that Wade goes beyond scientific consensus. Evolutionary biologist H. Allen Orr wrote in his review in the New York Review of Books that "Wade’s survey of human population genomics is lively and generally serviceable. It is not, however, without error. He exaggerates, for example, the percentage of the human genome that shows evidence of recent natural selection." Orr comments that in its second part, "the book resembles a heavily biological version of Francis Fukuyama’s claims about the effect of social institutions on the fates of states in his The Origins of Political Order (2011)."
Orr further comments that "Wade also thinks that 'evolutionary differences between societies on the various continents may underlie major and otherwise imperfectly explained turning points in history such as the rise of the West and the decline of the Islamic world and China.' Here, and especially in his treatment of why the industrial revolution flourished in England, his book leans heavily on Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms (2007)." Orr criticizes Wade for failing to provide sufficient evidence for his claims, though according to Orr, Wade concedes that evidence for his thesis is "nearly nonexistent."
The book has not been well received by much of the scientific community, including many of the scientists upon whose work the book was based. On 8 August 2014, The New York Times Book Review published an open letter signed by 144 faculty members in population genetics and evolutionary biology. The letter read:
Professor Mark Jobling, one of the signatories to the letter, subsequently wrote an opinion piece in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Genetics explaining why the book had "aroused the ire of this dusty community of academics".
The book was further criticised in a series of five reviews by Agustín Fuentes, Jonathan M. Marks, Jennifer Raff, Charles C Roseman and Laura R Stein which were published together in the scientific journal Human Biology. The publishers made all the reviews accessible on open access in order to facilitate discussions on the subject.
Libertarian political scientist Charles Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve, wrote a more favorable review in The Wall Street Journal. Murray wrote:
"The discoveries Mr. Wade reports, that genetic variation clusters along racial and ethnic lines and that extensive evolution has continued ever since the exodus from Africa, are based on the genotype, and no one has any scientific reason to doubt their validity. And yet, as of 2014, true believers in the orthodoxy still dominate the social science departments of the nation's universities. I expect that their resistance to "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be fanatical, because accepting its account will be seen, correctly, as a cataclysmic surrender on some core premises of political correctness."
In reply to the letter, Wade wrote, "This letter is driven by politics, not science. I am confident that most of the signatories have not read my book [...]". Wade added that he had asked the letter's authors for a list of errors so that he could correct future editions of the book. On 19 August 2014, Stanford University Professor Marcus Feldman, one of the signatories to the letter, critiqued Wade's book, detailing its failures of scholarship and linking the book's controversial intellectual heritage to the racial and genetic claims of Arthur Jensen, Richard Herrnstein, and Charles Murray.