As of this writing, readers of The Huffington Post have been treated to not one but five hostile reviews of my book A Troublesome Inheritance. I trust that all now understand the peril of exposing their minds to the book's central ideas, which are so beguilingly subversive of the social order that none of the reviewers dared even say what they are.
The book's starting point is the abundant evidence from the genome that human evolution didn't grind to a halt thousands of years ago. Rather, evolution has proceeded vigorously throughout the recent past and almost certainly up until the present day.
If that's the case, then might that be something that historians and economists should pay attention to? Could evolution have had a role in major but still unexplained events, such as the transition from hunter-gathering to settled life some 15,000 years ago, or even those of just 250 years ago, such as the Industrial Revolution?
That's the question explored in my book. Surely it's a logical one, and one worth asking.
So why are some of its critics incoherent with rage?
Because many have been indoctrinated in the social-science creed that prohibits any role for evolution in human affairs. Social scientists believe that all differences between human groups are due to culture alone, and that to ascribe any part of these differences to genetics would lead to racism.
A major argument of my book, also ignored by all its critics, is that exploration of the human genome lends no support to racism. I was delighted with the headline of an Amazon review that complained that the book "Opens Pandora's Box But Doesn't Pull Anything Out." Understanding the human genome will not liberate the plagues of racism. Rather, it's a data trove that will shed a whole new light on our recent evolution and history. My book is an attempt to make a start on that interpretation.
The latest of its five reviews on The Huffington Post says nothing of this. The review, by Pete Shanks, simply asserts that the book has been dismissed by scientists, without offering any specific instances of scientific flaws. In fact, the book's central genetic premise, that human evolution has been recent, copious and regional, has not been challenged by any serious scientist, so far as I am aware. Shanks failed to notice, or failed to share with readers, the fact that scientists critical of my book have attacked it largely on political grounds.
Although a science writer, Shanks is at sea in assessing scientific expertise. He places excessive weight on the views of Agustín Fuentes, the author of two of the five critical reviews that have appeared on The Huffington Post. To ascertain a scientist's field of expertise, all one need do is consult their list of publications. Fuentes' primary research interest, as shown by publications on his website, is the interaction between people and monkeys at tourist sites. I don't know what the scientific merit of this project may be, but it establishes Fuentes' field of expertise as people-monkey interaction. If you seek an authoritative opinion on human statistical genetics, the principal scientific subject of my book, he would not be your go-to expert.
"This was just a bad book," Shanks says. Critics are entitled to their opinions. But shouldn't they do at least a minimum of work to earn that right? Shanks' review is based on his highly skewed summary of other people's reviews. Of what value is such an appraisal?
Still, I don't wish to disturb the impression left by the five reviews that A Troublesome Inheritance is a highly dangerous book. Every reader has the proof: It ruffles feathers and induces embarrassing lapses into rage and incoherence. It contains novel ideas disturbing to historians, economists and social scientists. It pries open Pandora's box (even if only to reveal that there's nothing in it). Anyone tempted to read the book in defiance of the critics' explicit warnings should be fully confident of their ability to think for themselves.