Wednesday, July 6, 2016

conflicting views of Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance

Take the "Warrior gene" for example, MAO-A.  Wade's comments about it do little more than recognize that its violence prone version is being weeded out by natural selection because it conflicts with people living peacefully in cities, or as he says later on with our "self-domestication".

The following is from the wikipedia article.  It provides far more information than the mere reference I've run across so far in Wade's book but it doesn't disagree with Wade.   Wade as far as I can tell is a knowledgeable reporter working for the New York Times.  He seems antithetic to those who try to use genetics for political purposes. 

Aggression and the "Warrior gene"

A version of the monoamine oxidase-A gene has been popularly referred to as the warrior gene.[27] Several different versions of the gene are found in different individuals, although a functional gene is present in most humans (with the exception of a few individuals with Brunner syndrome).[28] In the variant, the allele associated with behavioural traits is shorter (30 bases) and may produce less MAO-A enzyme.[29] This gene variation is in a regulatory promoter region about 1000 bases from the start of the region that encodes the MAO-A enzyme.
Studies have found differences in the frequency distribution of variants of the MAOA gene between ethnic groups:[29][30] of the participants, 59% of Black men, 54% of Chinese men, 56% of Maori men, and 34% of Caucasian men carried the 3R allele, while 5.5% of Black men, 0.1% of Caucasian men, and 0.00067% of Asian men carried the 2R allele.[20][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37]
In individuals with the low activity MAOA gene, when faced with social exclusion or ostracism showed higher levels of aggression than individuals with the high activity MAOA gene.[38] Low activity MAO-A could significantly predict aggressive behaviour in a high provocation situation, but was less associated with aggression in a low provocation situation. Individuals with the low activity variant of the MAOA gene were just as likely as participants with the high activity variant to retaliate when the loss was small. However, they were more likely to retaliate and with greater force when the loss was large.[39]
“Monoamine oxidases (MAOs) are enzymes that are involved in the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and are, therefore, capable of influencing feelings, mood, and behaviour of individuals”.[40] According to this, if there was a mutation to the gene that is involved in the process of promoting or inhibiting MAO enzymes, it could affect a person’s personality or behaviour and could therefore make them more prone to aggression. A deficiency in the MAOA gene has shown higher levels of aggression in males, which could further stimulate more research into this controversial topic. “A deficiency in monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) has been shown to be associated with aggressive behaviour in men of a Dutch family”.[41]
Here are some reviews with favorable opinions about Wade's book:

Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal:
“[A Troublesome Inheritance] is a delight to read—conversational and lucid. And it will trigger an intellectual explosion the likes of which we haven't seen for a few decades.”l

Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American:
“Extremely well-researched, thoughtfully written and objectively argued…. The real lesson of the book should not be lost on us: A scientific topic cannot be declared off limits or whitewashed because its findings can be socially or politically incendiary…. Ultimately Wade’s argument is about the transparency of knowledge.”

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University:
“Nicholas Wade combines the virtues of truth without fear and the celebration of genetic diversity as a strength of humanity, thereby creating a forum appropriate to the twenty-first century.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A freethinking and well-considered examination of the evidence “that human evolution is recent, copious, and regional.””

Publishers Weekly:
“Wade ventures into territory eschewed by most writers: the evolutionary basis for racial differences across human populations. He argues persuasively that such differences exist… His conclusion is both straightforward and provocative…He makes the case that human evolution is ongoing and that genes can influence, but do not fully control, a variety of behaviors that underpin differing forms of social institutions. Wade’s work is certain to generate a great deal of attention.”

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“Nicholas Wade combines the virtues of truth without fear and the celebration of genetic diversity as a strength of humanity, thereby creating a forum appropriate to the twenty-first century.”

The New Criterion
“Mr. Wade is a courageous man, as is anyone who dares raise his head above the intellectual parapet; he has put his argument with force, conviction, intelligence, and clarity.”

Attacking Wade personally doesn't seem far.  He seems qualified to review and comment upon scientific matters.  This is from the book Jacket:  "Nicholas Wade received a BA in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Sciencemagazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor."
Here are a couple of reviews from Amazon com that match my impression of Wade's book:

By fenx1200 on November 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I have been involved with genetics since 1983 and have been closely observing the recent revolution occurring in the technology that sequences genomes. The genetic information revealed in this book has been known for some time, but organizations like the American Anthropological Association proclaim that race is not real (biologically), and actively suppress this information from becoming public. This is a political strategy and not scientific reality. Any forensic anthropologist can identify the race of a skull found at the scene of a crime in a few minutes (Caucasian, Black, Asian/Native American) This is a routine function of crime scene analysis.
President Obama and Bill Nye have also stated publicly and in print (Nye) that race is not real. These statements are misleading and serve no more than a political purpose. Millions of people from around the world have had have their genomes sequenced by such giants as 23andMe. The information that is being compiled and analyzed is releasing a startling amount of genetic information concerning human evolution. Did you know that Tibetans evolved a genetic variant in their genes that allow them to live at high altitudes? Since 1980, every finalist in the Olympic 100 meter dash has had West African ancestry... want to learn more? This book is must read for everyone who has an interest in the science of evolution. I give the author credit for bringing forth this book and I hope more similar books follow. Genetics will be the driving force of the 21st Century.

By Anomaly on August 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Troublesome Inheritance, by Nicholas Wade, should be read by anyone interested in race and recent human evolution. Wade deserves credit for challenging the popular dogma that biological differences between groups either don't exist or cannot explain the relative success of different groups at different tasks. Wade's work should be read alongside another recent book, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.

Together these books represent a major turning point in the public debate about the speed with which relatively isolated groups can evolve: both books suggest that small genetic differences between members of different groups can have large impacts on their abilities and propensities, which in turn affect the outcomes of the societies in which they live. Ever since the 1950s, Wade argues, many academics have denied the biological reality of race, and some have suggested that merely believing in racial differences constitutes a kind of racism (p. 69). But the rejection of race as a useful concept is often more of a political pose than a serious scientific claim, and it became especially popular among academics after the Second World War, during which Nazi pseudo-scientists used claims of racial superiority to justify mass murder.

As it turns out, Ashkenazi Jews - those from Russia, Poland, and Germany, who were nearly exterminated in the Holocaust - have been consistently found by intelligence researchers to have the highest IQ in the world. The authors of The 10,000 Year Explosion and A Troublesome Inheritance each spend an entire chapter detailing the remarkable achievements of Ashkenazi Jews, and hold them up as exhibit A in the argument that human evolution has been, in Wade's words, recent, copious, and regional. (Wade, chapter 8; Cochran and Harpending, chapter 7). The example of Ashkenazi evolution is supposed to show the absurdity of the view, held by authors like Jared Diamond and Stephen Jay Gould, that human evolution either stopped 100,000 years ago, or that natural selection has somehow continued to sculpt the bodies but not the brains of different groups of people.

Wade uses "race" to refer to groups of people who have been separated long enough to have developed clusters of functionally significant genetic differences, and "ethnicity" to apply to groups within races who have small but significant genetic differences from other groups within a race. The concept of an ethnicity is made especially clear if we understand the coevolution of genes and culture. If within a culturally diverse but racially distinctive region like the Arabian Peninsula, nomadic Bedouins tend to marry Bedouins while city dwellers marry each other, Bedouins and city dwellers may begin to diverge into biologically and culturally different ethnicities as they face different selective pressures. For example, because Bedouins were nomads who increasingly depended on their camels for transportation and milk, those who produced the lactase enzyme (which facilitates milk digestion) into adulthood had a reproductive advantage over those who lacked this enzyme. As the allele for lactose tolerance spread through the population, reliance on camels became even more entrenched in Bedouin culture, and selective pressure increased for lactose tolerance. Despite being both Arab and Muslim, Bedouins have enough genetic and cultural differences to constitute a distinctive ethnic group throughout the Middle East. The important point is that cultural pressures can directly impact natural selection, and pre-existing traits create propensities that shape culture. Wade ultimately invokes gene-culture coevolution to explain, among other things, how Tibetans evolved a greater capacity to tolerate life in the mountains than Indians, how Europeans who have depended on agriculture for thousands of years can consume more carbohydrates without succumbing to diabetes than Native Americans, and how Ashkenazi Jews could have evolved higher intelligence than Sephardic Jews in as little as 1,000 years.

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