Race is not a biological reality. Racism thrives on our not knowing this.
Racist pseudoscience has become so commonplace that it can be hard to spot. But its toxic effects on society are plain to see—feeding nationalism, fueling hatred, endangering lives, and corroding our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even well-intentioned people repeat stereotypes based on “science,” because cutting-edge genetics are hard to grasp—and all too easy to distort. Paradoxically, these misconceptions are multiplying even as scientists make unprecedented discoveries in human genetics—findings that, when accurately understood, are powerful evidence against racism. We’ve never had clearer answers about who we are and where we come from, but this knowledge is sorely needed in our casual conversations about race.
How to Argue With a Racist emphatically dismantles outdated notions of race by illuminating what modern genetics actually can and can’t tell us about human difference. We now know that the racial categories still dividing us do not align with observable genetic differences. In fact, our differences are so minute that, most of all, they serve as evidence of our shared humanity.
About the Author
Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, science writer, and broadcaster. He studied genetics at University College London, and during his PhD on the developing eye, he was part of a team that identified the first known genetic cause of a form of childhood blindness. As well as writing for the science pages of The Guardian, he has written and presented many award-winning series and programs for the BBC, including the flagship weekly Radio 4 program Inside Science, The Cell for BBC Four, and Playing God (on the rise of synthetic biology) for the leading science series Horizon. He is also the author of How to Argue With a Racist, an incisive guide to what modern genetics can and can’t tell us about human difference; The Book of Humans, a new evolutionary history that explores the profound paradox of the “human animal”; A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction; and Creation, on the origin of life and synthetic biology, which was short-listed for the Wellcome Book Prize.
An International Bestseller Goodreads Choice Award Best of 2020, Science & Technology, Runner Up A BBC Science Focus Magazine Best Book of 2020 A Big Think 10 Best Science and Technology Book of 2020
“A fascinating debunking of racial pseudoscience. . . . Engaging and enlightening.”—The Guardian
“Nobody deals with challenging subjects more interestingly and compellingly than Adam Rutherford, and this may be his best book yet. This is a seriously important work.”—Bill Bryson
“Rutherford equips readers with the tools to discredit the prejudices of both racists and well-intentioned people. Despite its fraught history, scientists' understanding of genes has long since converged on one truth: race, while very real as a social construct, has no foundation in science.”—Scientific American
“Bringing together compelling stories, irreverent humor, and informed science reporting, Rutherford debunks some of the most pernicious myths and fallacies about race. . . Recommended. All readers.”—Choice
“Remarkable. . . . The reader is provided the fascinating scientific weaponry to confidently take on questions about race, genes, ancestry. Ultimately, Rutherford's book is a challenge against the manipulation, misrepresentation, and abuse of science to justify hatred and prejudice.”—Big Think
“Urgently relevant . . . Many nations have seen an efflorescence of anti-racist reading lists. Rutherford’s book is rightfully on them.”—Alondra Nelson, Nature
“Rutherford offers a general audience a compelling scientific refutation of racist claims that still enjoy wide circulation.”—Literary Review of Canada
“An earnest review proving that the concept of “race” has no basis in science. . . . An excellent overview of human genetics.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A timely discussion on how to counter racist arguments from a scientific point of view. . . . Rutherford systematically deconstructs where and how [racist] biases arose . . . and why the science actually does not support these claims.”—Shelf Awareness
“Smashes race myths that plague society.”—New Scientist
“Rutherford debunks [racism] brilliantly. What he shows, carefully and in detail, is that genetics, properly understood, doesn’t support any of this disgusting nonsense.”—UnHerd
“[Rutherford] is an excellent science communicator. His toolkit arrives at an opportune time, when open expression of bigotry is increasingly pushing its way into popular discourse. . . . Highly recommend.”—Greg Laden,American Scientist
“A fascinating and timely refutation of the casual racism on the rise around the world. The ultimate anti-racism guide.”—Caroline Criado-Perez, author of Invisible Women
“Short but impactful . . . Rutherford’s work provides ample ammunition to anyone wishing to use science to combat racial stereotypes.”—Publishers Weekly
“As timely as it is invigorating and important.”—Peter Frankopan, Oxford professor of global history
“Don’t get frenetic when racists cite genetics: just use hard science to prove them wrong.”—Evening Standard
“A counter-blast to those who would use science to justify prejudice.”—Tom Gatti,New Statesman
“Timely and accessible.”—The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice
“Poignant . . . A 21st-century manifesto for understanding human evolution and variation related to race. It is also a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry and casual racism.”—Cosmopolitan
“This fascinating, illuminating, and original book on human evolution and development is essential reading in an age of false science, resurgent racism, and conspiracy theory—and the perfect antidote to racial bigotry.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, historian and author of The Romanovs
“Lucid, enlightening, witty, and delightful.”—Kate Fox, codirector of the Social Issues Research Centre
“Adam Rutherford is the perfect writer to arm you with evidence.”—Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped