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Superior: The Fatal Return of Race Science

Narrated by: Angela Saini
Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (112 ratings)

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Summary

'We can draw lines across the world any way we choose, and in the history of race science, people have. What matters isn’t where the lines are drawn, but what they mean.'

Modern science is pivotal in our understanding of race - not because of the lines that thinkers through the centuries have chosen to trace but because, once grouped, what they thought belonging to these groups signified. 

In Superior, award-winning science writer Angela Saini explores the concept of race, both past and present. At its heart, race is the belief that we are born different, in character and intellectually as well as in appearance. It’s the notion that as groups of people we have certain innate qualities that are not only visible but which may also have helped define the passage of progress, of the success and failure of the nations our ancestors came from. 

But modern science has moved on from these beliefs, finding reality to be much more complicated. Taking us from Darwin through the civil rights movement to 23andMe, Saini examines how deeply our present is influenced by our past and the role that politics has so often had to play in our understanding of race. Superior is a rigorous, much needed examination of the insidious history and damaging consequences of race science - and the unfortunate reasons behind its apparent recent resurgence across the globe.  

©2019 Angela Saini (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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This is a great book

I think everyone should read this book. It is a modern masterpiece. Angela Saini has written something here that will stand the test of time.

3 people found this helpful

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Not a science book, an anti-science book

This is an absolute travesty of a science book. It would be more correctly described as an anti-science book. It represents the triumph of political correctness over the impartial pursuit of objective truth that real science represents.

Saini has no scientific credentials. Have a degree in engineering makes you no more apt to assess biological science than being a software engineer makes you fit to design bridges. To a BBC recruiter, it may seem that all technical subjects have some degree of overlap. But, really, that isn't the case.

The whole thing seems designed to instil a sense of guilt and shame into white people. It could thus be interpreted as exactly what Saini accuses much of western science of having been: namely infused with a racist agenda that serves a fashionable political purpose, telling the powerful exactly what they need to hear.

Saini fails to explain the persistent correlations between biology and behaviour. She fails to explain how the process of evolution could someone have produced the magical result that people living in divergent physical and cultural environments could all have exactly the same distribution of traits (except those related to physical appearance). She fails to explain it because there is no explanation. Her stock answer is that the opposite has not been demonstrated or that research purporting to show biological difference became discredited after the Second World War. It's not clear how a war can overturn objective truth. It is difficult for scientists to demonstrate such politically undesirable truths today when they cannot gain employment, cannot gain research funding, face being hounded, and in some countries criminally prosecuted, for telling truths that the ruling class does not want to hear.

We are dealing here with something analogous to the medieval pursuit of heresy or witches, and Angela Saini is the witchfinder-general.

On the positive side, Saini has a pleasant enough voice. She is, after all, a broadcaster. Her emotional intonation makes her biases even more apparent.

It's worth listening to just to gain an insight into the new age of darkness into which we may be descending, one in which objective truth no longer matters, If you want real scientific insight into biological difference, however, I would recommend Robert Plomin's "Blueprint" instead.

4 people found this helpful

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Great but lacking

This was a brilliant and incisive book however from Chapter 8 onwards the analysis felt really lacking. Saini rushes through cultural explanations and more contemporary race science only giving superficial dismissals to these arguments instead of giving the more watertight analysis and rebuttals she did in the earlier chapters.

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An eye-opening read.

This book should be read by all kids/teenagers at school. It's a crime against humanity to not read this book to your kid, family and friends. It was an eye-opener. We, Humans, are complicit in our ignorance... and I am a research scientist!

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Superior read

Absolutely loved it! The author has really done her home work on the topic covering a wide range of views on such a hot subject.

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Insightful & humbling.

Saini’s overhaul of race science unearthed many things for me that I hadn’t even given second thoughts to before. Really thorough, yet easily digestible. Well read too.

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Superb

One of the best audio books I have ever listened to. Helped me to understand research, as well as the topic. I currently want to buy this for my friends and those who I think misunderstand the way evidence is used in policy.

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Fantastic review of race science

Angela Saini has written a fantastic review of the history and development of race science. Looking at the key findings that have shaped the area, Saini demonstrates how the researchers' naivete and even cognitive biases have led a series of scientists to draw fallacious conclusions from limited data, and how any such discoveries have been promoted by groups with political interest in demonstrating the superiority of their own 'race'. I bought the audiobook, which is narrated by the author who has a pleasant, soothing voice, and calm even through the rather moving Afterword, which was my favourite part.