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Superior: The Return of Race Science

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  3,305 ratings  ·  448 reviews
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 worldwide network of eugenicists founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shodd ...more
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
Paul Bryant
Jan 05, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, modern-life
This book is about the scientific basis of race. There isn’t one.

From a scientific, biological point of view, there is NO SUCH thing as race. You probably heard this, but there are more DNA variations between black Africans than between black Africans and white Europeans. Since the Unesco statement in 1952 (“The Race Question in Modern Science”) this has been official scientific policy. In their words race was “a fundamentally anti-rational system of thought”.

You will have noted that, alas, th
...more
Rama
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
...more
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
...more
Mehrsa
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. ...more
Emma
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
...more
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
Lou
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
Nick
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. ...more
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
Jonathan
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. ...more
Andrew
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
Imi
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
...more
Gretel
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
...more
jocelyn
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc, nonfic
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.
Olivia Davis
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Angela Saini has written a book that I think should be required reading for scientists. I loved seeing the growth in her writing style from Inferior to Superior. Her journalism background shines through and brings a unique aspect to her storytelling. She unfolds the focus of each chapter by starting with assumptions the reader/society has, quickly unraveling them and illuminating how there is more to every story. I love how she is able to layer scientific studies, personal stories, h ...more
Alison
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
...more
Meredith
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.
Maukan
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
...more
Anne
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this very interesting and thought provoking. Amazing how we all still refer to ‘race’ without really knowing what it is and this book provides an interesting insight into the mentality of and defences for undeserved ‘superiority’.

I am with Martin Luther King on this one… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Great writing, love this author.
Julie
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, finished-2019
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
...more
Raghu
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
In our public discourse, we assume that science and scientists are free of the prejudices that afflict others in society. This is because science is in search of truth, and hence scientists are logical. The biases of the rest of society do not influence them. Angela Saini challenges this notion in this combative new book. She says Science and scientists have influenced and advanced Race Science for two centuries. They can be racists as much as other sections of society.

I started reading this boo
...more
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
...more
Hannah Cook
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
EVERYONE MUST READ IT NOW
Gretchen
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.
Sahar
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
...more
Dan
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly researched and eminently readable historical survey of the stubbornly resilient field of race science, which white people keep resurrecting no matter how many times it is laid to rest.
Saqib Moosa
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really well-researched, lots of new information. Really enjoyed reading this. Very seldom that a book this academic is this hard to put down.
Eleanor Metcalf
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read "Superior", having loved Saini's previous book, "Inferior" - which used science to systematically debunk myths about essential differences between men and women. It was a brilliantly researched and written book, which gave me ammunition in conversations with (sometimes well-meaning) people who say things like "I'm all for equality, but men and women are just wired differently, aren't they."

"Superior" promised to do the same for racism and race science - I expected to see
...more
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STEMMinist Book Club: Discussion questions 6 47 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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