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Superior: The Return of Race Science

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,336 ratings  ·  326 reviews
An astute and timely examination of the re-emergence of scientific research into racial differences

Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science.

After the horrors of the Nazi regime in WWII, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by Beacon Press
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Roman Clodia
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a journalistic account of 'race science' - where both terms 'race' and 'science' are scrutinised with a sharp eye. Saini is quite up-front with her own stance: that there's no genetic or biological support for racial difference beyond the merest superficialities such as skin pigmentation. Driven by the re-emergence of the most pernicious ideologies that many of us thought had been exposed for what they are by the Holocaust and other race-based genocides of the C20th, this takes an intere ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
Politically correct but scientifically unsound

This book drew a lot of attention recently in which the author suggests that the use of race in biological/medical research is due to widespread racism. For example, in Chapter 1, she argues that Out of Africa theory is invented by Europeans, and Nazis wanted to prove superiority of Aryan race. This is false; Hitler made alliances with Muslims from the Middle east against Jews. The Third Reich was anti-Semitic. If Hitler was really a racist, he woul
K.J. Charles
Outstanding examination of 'race science' aka racism pretending to be objectivity. Extraordinarily good in how deep it goes (covering the intersection of 'science' with history, culture, and politics) and showing how very deeply rooted the tendrils are. Written with remarkable calm and objectivity which makes the final shout of rage all the more powerful.

It goes into excellent detail about the resurgence of 'scientific' racism in recent years, as well as laying out the foolishness of the thinki
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good overview of the history of race "science." I studied a lot of the earlier documents for my own research and they just sounded like such a ridiculous and desperate attempt to justify racial hierarchies. Unfortunately, this garbage science is coming back in the form of IQ testing and DNA "science." The best part of this book was when she covered David Reich's research--I would suggest going straight to the source if you're interested. His book "Who we are and how we got here" is excellent.
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
'There is a kind of will to truth. We will make this be the truth if we try hard enough'- Subir Sinha.

Oh how this resonates in our social media dominated/'fake news' society. Sinha's quote refers particularly to religious extremists but effectively demonstrates the kind of sentiment that underlies the 'science' and ways of thinking that the book works to demolish. That backwards system which starts with ideology and then looks for evidence to support it. Race is not about genetics/ biological di
Brian Clegg
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was always going to be difficult to follow Angela Saini's hugely popular Inferior, but with Superior she has pulled it off, not just in the content but by upping the quality of the writing to a whole new level. Where Inferior looked at the misuse of science in supporting sexism (and the existence of sexism in science), Superior examines the way that racism has been given a totally unfounded pseudo-scientific basis in the past - and how, remarkably, despite absolute evidence to the contrary, t ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having grown up as part of an ethnic minority group in London during the 1980s and 90s, Angela Saini has first-hand experience of the racism which was rife during these decades. Unfortunately, after being heavily discredited, race science has slowly and insidiously crept back into public discourse over the past 50-70 years. During her formative years, the murder of Stephen Lawrence in close proximity to her childhood home had a big impact on her and what really stuck in her mind was the differen ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book isn't written from a neutral perspective, and doesn't discuss the scientific research in detail. Or even is up to date with latest genetic research and information.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Poor book - despite it's heart being in the right place - does more to damage the thesis she presents by not credibly engaging with the academics she interviews. I think she is a bit out of her depth, perhaps as broadcast journalist she is used to the once-over-lightly feel-good style of journalism that this comes across as. Did not finish.
The power of nationalism is that it calls to the part of us that doesn’t want to accept being ordinary. It tells people that they are descended from greatness, that they have been genetically endowed with something special, something passed down to them over the generations. It attaches them to origin stories that have existed for hundreds of years, soaking into their subconscious, obscuring truth...
Simply outstanding. Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriti
Giovanni Chierico
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Important subject but somewhat rambling execution. The book doesn't seem to have a coherent trajectory, and repeats over and over the same points. It is essentially a reaction to the resurgence of racisms in today's world. IMHO the missing point is the following: there are facts and value judgments about such facts. Even imagining there are identifiable average differences between different populations (whose grouping might be a social construct) this does NOT imply any different treatment of su ...more
A full-length review needs more time than I currently have so TLDR:

- race science is full of crap
- it never went away and is now turning back full force
- "centrists" helped it gain traction because they inherently have racist ideas that they never critically engaged with
- STEM is full of "well-meaning" racists and needs to do fucking better
- white supremacists/nazis/right-wingers/eugenicists/etc. are fucking dangerous and unfortunately for us funded by the wealthies of people. The 0.1%. And they
Superior: The Return of Race Science, by Angela Saini, is a book looking at the disturbing history and modern application of race science. Saini argues that race science is almost entirely political - differences in humans are almost entirely related to nurture, economic and social differences, and culture. These factors are transferred between parent and child, but are not biological in any sense. Sainin brings together numerous data points and interviews with leading geneticists and biologists ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ideas about race came into roughly modern form in the early modern period when Europeans started to come into contact with other parts of the world. Ideas of race are based on the features that easily come to the eye, skin tone, hair, eye color. The categories which shift due to theses appearance differences and political conditions on the ground ie. slavery, colonization, exploitation at the time form the initial hunches that racists use to make an ideology usually crafted for the politically d ...more
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, poc
It takes some mental acrobatics to be an intellectual racist in light of the scientific information we have today, but those who want to do it, will. Racists will find validation wherever they can, even if it means working a little harder than usual.
I expected this book to focus on debunking the idea of innate differences in abilities between races. Instead, Saini documents the history of racial prejudice influencing science. The book is stronger for this approach, and I came out wiser, if a little more scared.
In a well-written, often absorbing narrative, Saini documents the thread of eugenics from Darwinism, through fascism, and right to fringe publications, wealthy foundations, and even members of the editorial boards of mainstream scienc
Detailed look at the interconnection of science(s) and its social & political aspects. Saini gives a good historical perspective and brings the issues forward to the present day to show how persistent and pernicious the effects of racism are on how we study (or try to study) human variation as well as how we apply the results. I appreciated that she took a global perspective, not just focussing on the United States, but had examples from other countries (Great Britain, India), and not only major ...more
Steve Bowbrick
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An utterly gripping book. An essential read for an era in which pernicious racism is finding new support in bogus science.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I believe it would be safe to assume that after finishing this book, many leftists feel the urge to go out and protest against the right wing. The impending urge that you as a Democrat need to peacefully fight against racism in anyway you can by supporting democrats is all too strong but deeply misleading.

If Donald Trump’s rhetoric abhors you, if his policies he has carried out offends you on the deepest levels and more importantly if you feel you need to go out and put an end to this by support
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-2019, race
I won an advance copy of this book through the website Library Thing. The subject matter is so timely, what with the rise of right wing nationalists in both the USA and Europe. When most people think of racists, they think of creepy inbred guys like the one playing banjo in the movie Deliverance. They think of guys wearing white robes, burning crosses on lawns. They think of Nazis wearing SS uniforms. They don't think of scientists and writers and professors.

It's these white collar, professional
Hannah Cook
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes it made me sad, often it made me angry, and at times it scared the bejeebers out of me; and I’m really glad I read it.
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Nothing is more seductive that a nice string of data, a single bell curve, or a seemingly peer-reviewed scientific study. After all, it can’t be racist if it is a “fact.”

Superior is a critical read in light of the rise of global xenophobia, white supremacy and scientific racism. Eugenic principles have often been exploited to justify mass genocides and barbaric atrocities committed against people all around the world, with the most well-known of these being the Nazi regime. Saini touches upon t
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, sci-comm
Easily one of the best books on the sociological aspects of race science and its return. Albeit very few and small scientific inconsistencies, Saini does the extremely difficult job of condensing a very complicated topic into an easily navigable and thought provoking text. The author does a phenomenal investigative and expositive work on a topic that has regained a newfound spotlight in the mainstream media and that deserves to be dispelled for good - race, as a biological concept, has no founda ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, poc, 4-star
very interesting historical and biological overview of "race science", removed one star for outdated language and unexamined usage of the concept of IQ
Angela Saini’s Superior is a well-written and well-constructed book about race in science. Starting from the history, Saini brings it to the present day. She gives plenty of examples of how race has an influence on so many things. How it has been the force behind colonialism and white supremacy. How our need of belonging has made us think we’re somehow better than the others. Unfortunately, racism is dead. And there’s still so much to do.
Zara Rahman
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m such a fan of this book! It feels so timely and important, and covers such a wide range of research and topics. I’m so glad it exists, and have already recommended it a lot (and am beginning to reference it in my own work too, as i feel like a lot of the conclusions about race science are also just as valid for technology that touches on race/ethnicity.) hugely recommended!
Paul Fulcher
Jul 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Angela Saini's striking dedication in Superior: The Return of Race Science reads "For my parents, the only ancestors I need to know," which immediately sets the tone for what is to follow.

The book an effective expose, and sometimes a demolition, of the shadier elements of race science, both historic and recent, but also one that argues convincingly that such science can never be fully objective, since much of it relies attempting to prove a prior hypothesis, or telling a story:

The answer is sim
Sharad Pandian
I wasn't much a fan of Saini's previous book on gender Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story, but in this follow-up on race, Saini does wonderfully.

Saini's central argument is that the politics of race science makes the neutral treatment of race impossible. The history of the holocaust and the presence of white nationalists eager to seize anything they can use should make everyone very nervous about treading in these parts. That there is a resurgen
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology, science
A very compelling, thorough investigation into the intersection of modern science and race theory.

The book is so titled (and especially subtitled) so as to suggest that the reader is into a major exploration of a resurgence of race science, and indeed, the work begins with a discussion of race science...only for the reader to learn how it never really went away. Ever since the end of the first half of the twentieth century there has remained a small minority of researchers and investigators atte
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STEMMinist Book Club: Discussion questions 6 40 Sep 02, 2019 06:19PM  

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Angela Saini is an award-winning British science journalist and broadcaster. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired, and New Humanist. She also presents science programmes on BBC radio. She has won awards from the Association of British Science Writers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was named European Science Writer of the Year.

Saini has a Mast

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“If it had turned out that Aboriginal Australians were the ones to possess that tiny bit of Neanderthal ancestry instead of white people of European descent, would our Neanderthal cousins have found themselves quite so remarkably reformed?” 4 likes
“All this intellectual jumping through hoops to maintain the status quo. All this to prove what they have always really wanted to know: that they are superior.

Well, keep reaching, keep reaching. One day there will be nothing left to reach for.”
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