Nicholas Wade`s Before The Dawn: A Milestone On Long Road Back From Race Denial
Last week, a reporter from another major newspaper
called me to find out the inside story on this hot new
idea that maybe—just maybe, and contrary to the
higher conventional wisdom of recent years—race
really does exist.
I strongly urged this journalist to make human
biodiversity a specialty—because we need a second source
in the mainstream press.
Nicholas Wade, genetics correspondent of the New
York Times, has been doing an outstanding job. But
if he gets hit by a bus tomorrow, the mass media will be
back to the
dark ages the next day.
Although he`s not a scientist, Wade may be the
single most invaluable figure in the human sciences
today. Now he`s written an important new book
Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors.
Through his competence, bravery—and, of course,
having the Newspaper of Record as his outlet— has done
more than anyone else has during this decade to break
barriers to the honest scientific discussion of
While most of the press is terrified of violating the
canons of political correctness, Wade has calmly
explained over and over in the pages of the New York
Times that the
genetic data that is now pouring in validates the
study of race.
Last September, for instance, Wade`s article about
University of Chicago geneticist
Bruce T. Lahn`s discovery of two human brain genes
that have been evolving differently on different
continents earned Lahn global publicity. (Researchers
Say Human Brain Is Still Evolving, September 8,
In contrast, just before
Christmas, the Hap-Map team led by
Robert Moyzis of UC Irvine released an even more
important paper listing
1,800 genes, many of them related to cognition, that
have similarly been diverging racially within the last
50,000 years. But Wade, who can`t work 365 days of the
didn`t get a chance to cover it when it came out. So
Moyzis`s landmark study has largely been ignored.
Of course, even if, God forbid, something
happened to Wade, you would still have
VDARE.COM. I must modestly note that there`s a
remarkable degree of overlap between what Wade writes
for the NYT and what I write for VDARE.COM on
genetics, as I first pointed out back in 2003 in "A
Couple of Wild-Eyed Wackos: Me and the New York Times."
It`s been a curious experience to see myself
denounced as a
disreputable extremist for writing the same things
that are appearing in the Science section of the New
Indeed, Wade`s thinking has increasingly come under
the influence of my good friend
Gregory Cochran, the physicist turned
genetic theorist (co-author of last year`s famous
Ashkenazi Jewish hereditary diseases are side
effects of a rapid increase in Jewish average IQ
beginning in medieval times). In an "Ideas
& Trends" NYT essay on March 12 on the
The Twists and Turns of History, and of DNA,
Wade pointed out:
believe the variations they are seeing in the human
genome are so recent that they may help explain
historical processes.` Since it looks like there has
been significant evolutionary change over historical
time, we`re going to have to rewrite every history book
ever written,` said Gregory Cochran, a population
geneticist at the University of Utah. `The distribution
of genes influencing relevant psychological traits must
have been different in Rome than it is today,` he added.
`The past is not just another country but an entirely
different kind of people.`”
Wade`s new book, a thematic history of the ongoing
evolution of humanity, Before the Dawn, reminds
me that there are two kinds of people:
- Those who say,
"There are two kinds of people."
- And those who
Among the former is Cambridge psychologist,
Simon Baron-Cohen (who, in case you are wondering,
is the cousin of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen of
Ali G fame). In his 2004 book The Essential Difference, Baron-Cohen
divides the human race into "systematizers" and
To help explain why autism is more common among males
than females, Baron-Cohen theorizes that autism, and its
less severe counterpart Asperger`s Syndrome, represent
pathologically extreme versions of the
normal male cognitive tendency toward
"understanding and building systems."
I don`t know whether or not Baron-Cohen`s distinction
explains much about autism, but it`s certainly more or
less true for humans in general. As I`m sure you`ve
noticed, classic systematizers like
computer nerds are mostly male. Men are, on average,
more interested in understanding the general rules that
govern complex non-human systems.
In contrast, women tend to be more attuned to what
makes the individuals around them tick. Thus, women tend
to be better than men at matchmaking, planning parties,
personal advice, and childcare. These are all tasks
where empathizing with another`s point-of-view and
personality is more important than discerning large
But I`d argue that there`s also a third, hybrid
category: “People Nerds.” It includes Simon
Baron-Cohen himself, Nicholas Wade, and me.
Like the empathizers, we People Nerds think there`s
nothing more interesting than human beings. But, like
the systematizers, we`re more interested in figuring out
the big picture than in focusing on individual
Wade`s Before the Dawn, an account of the
human race`s evolution over the last 50,000 years, is
shifted well toward the systematizing end of the
spectrum. This is both a weakness and strength.
The book lacks most of the usual human interest
filler that science writers normally shove in so your
brain can coast for a while and rest up for the next bit
of hard material. You know, the stuff like, "Dr.
Roxanne Jones rubbed the gritty dust of the Olduvai
Gorge from her cornflower blue eyes and stared in wonder
at the fossil she had traveled 6,000 miles from a small
town in Vermont to find."
Wade leaves out almost all of that padding, which
allows him to cover a huge amount of ground in just 279
pages of text. His ratio of ideas to words, his power to
weight ratio, is impressively high. But, in consequence,
those are not a quick 279 pages. Before the Dawn
is, instead, a book that rewards careful reading.
Fortunately, the farther you go, the more momentum it
develops as the wide-ranging power of the book`s
rigorous theoretical approach to human evolution becomes
Even if you`ve read all of Wade`s Times
articles, Before the Dawn features much new
material. Plus, it`s helpful to see the old topics
synthesized into one coherent whole.
One caveat: in the interest of brevity, Wade sometimes
puts forward the latest scientific views with less
ambivalence about their conclusiveness than may be
For example, one long-running controversy is whether
modern Europeans tend to be more descended from Europe`s
aboriginal Ice Age hunter-gatherers or from invading
farmers from the
Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. Wade states
that the great majority of Europeans` ancestors were
native hunter-gatherers (78 percent of male ancestors
and 87 percent of female ancestors). This could well be
true. But in the decade that I`ve
followed this controversy, I`ve seen the
state-of-the-art estimates yo-yo up and down. So I`d be
a little more cautious.
On the other hand, it`s clear that the farther
northwest you go in Europe, the less impact Middle
Eastern farmers would have had. So Wade is certainly
correct that a very large fraction of the ancestors of
have been in England for approaching 10,000 years.
Wade`s 21-page chapter entitled "Race" could
have been called
"Crimethink" with equal accuracy. He writes:
And he fearlessly goes on to explain the unpopular
"Because the human
population was dispersed across different continents,
between which distance and hostility allowed little gene
flow, the people on each continent followed independent
evolutionary paths. It was these independent
trajectories that led over the generations to the
emergence of a
variety of human races."
Wade then offers heresies about the biological
reality of race, the
validity of traditional definitions of continental-scale
races, the surprisingly
low rate of racial mixing during American history,
benefits of race-specific medicines, the
remarkable racial disparities in
Olympic running results, and the
dubiousness of Jared Diamond`s politically pious
bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel.
These are all concepts you`ll be familiar with from
VDARE.com articles. But they will come as shocking news
to much of the rest of intellectually oriented public!
The publication of Before the Dawn is thus a
milestone on the long post-World War II road back from
politically correct dogma that the evolution of
humanity magically ground to a halt the instant the
human race began to spread
out across the globe from Africa 50,000 years
ago—what we`ve called “Race
Denial.” And there`s more to come. The
scientific evidence for racial differentiation that`s in
the pipeline right now will be even more convincing.
Yet the appearance of Before the Dawn hardly
means the battle is won. Race Denial is supported by
powerful forces in contemporary culture. The coming
clash will be epic.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and