Michael Barone
"New analyses of the human genome establish that human evolution has been recent, copious and regional," writes Nicholas Wade in his recently published book, "A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History."

That sounds reasonable, and Wade, a science reporter and editor for many years at Nature and the New York Times, seems an unimpeachable source. But many well-meaning people will regard his words as provocative and even dangerous.

For they fatally undermine the idea, widely shared by so-called progressives, that any apparent differences between groups of people are the product of nurture rather than nature, of social conditioning rather than Darwinian natural selection.

This has become dogma among certain social scientists. The American Anthropological Association states that race "is a recent human invention" and "is about culture, not biology." The American Sociological Association calls race "a social construct" and decries "the danger of contributing to the popular conception of race as biological."

Unfortunately for these folks, the decoding of the human genome in 2003 has led to research showing significant genetic differences among people descended from Africans, East Asians and Caucasians.

Those differences must have arisen from natural selection in the different environments they occupied from the time the first humans left east Africa some 50,000 years ago.

They include not only skin pigment and facial physiognomy but many other physical characteristics, including genes that resist endemic diseases and (in Tibetans, developed only 3,000 years ago) the ability to live at very high altitudes.

Many of the progressives who reject the notion that races differ in significant respects are the same people who accuse those skeptical of global warming of ignoring science, even though the alarmists' warming models don't match the recent past or the present.

But at the same time they refuse to credit the much more soundly based science that Wade cites in detail.

These genomic-science skeptics fear that acknowledging differences between races will encourage people generally, and Americans in particular, to engage in racial discrimination.

That fear has some basis in history, as Wade concedes. But, as he argues, it has no relevance to life in America today.

Americans today are entirely capable of understanding that there is more difference within racial groups than between racial groups. This is a lesson they pick up from their families, at school, at work and in everyday life.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM