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A British author has sparked a race row by claiming that cultural differences are in the genes.
Nicholas Wade argues that genetic variations may explain why Western governments are more stable than those in Africa.
The Eton-educated writer also suggests that a certain gene gives African-American men an inbuilt predisposition to violence.
But his controversial claims in his book “A Troublesome Inheritance” have been condemned by leading scientists as shoddy and irresponsible.
A letter to the New York Times signed by 139 scientists - described as a “Who’s Who” of geneticists and experts in evolution - said Mr Wade had not checked his facts properly and had misunderstood the research. Mr Wade, a former science writer and editor at the New York Times as well as at the respected journals Science and Nature, says genetic differences, rather than culture, explain differences in IQ, economic success and political stability around the world.
He claims that genes may help explain why the Chinese excel at business and why the industrial revolution was spearheaded by the English.
Productivity was able to increase so rapidly in the mid-17th century because the nature of the people had changed, he claims.
Over hundreds of years, the rich had more children than the poor, so some had to sink in the social scale. This meant the genes that involve literacy, thrift, diligence and other values key to economic growth spread and became the values of English society as a whole.
But in their letter to the New York Times, the experts say Mr Wade has juxtaposed an “incomplete and inaccurate” account of their research with his own “speculation and guesswork”. They conclude: “There is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures”. One of the signatories, Jerry Coyne, a professor of biology in the US, accused Mr Wade’s book of “shoddy treatment of race and evolution”.
“While it made a valid point that ethnic groups do show small but significant genetic differences across the globe, there was no evidence for Wade’s main thesis: that differences in behaviour among groups, and in the disparate societies they construct, are based on genetic differences,” he said. “It was irresponsible of Wade to suggest that such evidence exists.”
Mr Wade accused the signatories of being driven by politics rather than science, adding that biologists risk damaging their careers if they write explicitly about race.
He insisted his book argues that “opposition to racism should be based on principle, not the anti-evolutionary myth that there is no biological basis to race”. - Daily Mail