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How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say About Human Difference
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How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say About Human Difference

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,221 ratings  ·  484 reviews
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 white nationalism, fueling hatred, endangering lives, and corroding our discourse on everything from sports to intelligence. Even well-intentioned people repeat stereoty
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 6th 2020 by The Experiment
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NAT.orious reads ☾
3 STARS ★★★✩✩
This book is for you if… you harbour an interest in genetics. At least to me, the title was somewhat misleading.

Pre reading, I thought the title of this book was more attractive than the cute ginger I sat next to at the library that day I discovered it.

Post-reading, I must admit that I was hoping for more than I actually got. As the title suggested, I really thought I'd be given tons of inspiration to shut down racist behaviour, speech and thinking patterns. That's
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, race, non-fiction
DNA Up Close GIF - UpClose DNA Science GIFs

"If you are a racist, then you are asking for a fight. But science is my ally, not yours, and your fight is not just with me, but with reality."

I didn't bother reading the blurb for this book before putting a hold on it. The title was enough for me. I thought it would be suggestions on how to be a better anti racist, providing key talking points to counter racist speech.

I was delighted to start reading it and find that it's those things, yes, but based on the science of genetics!

Hell, yeh! That'
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race, science
The short answer to the question posed by the title of this book on how to argue with a racist is probably not to bother. Certainly, this guy has approached the question as if racists will respond well to logical arguments. This seems a little optimistic to me – I mean, half his luck, obviously, but most racist I’ve ever met haven’t particularly struck me as being capable of following the reasoning outlined in this book.

And there is a further problem, that race and eugenics are much more than me
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was great. It goes point by point on some of the genetic studies that some people use to argue for traits inherent to races and he debunks them point by point. I've read a bunch of other books on genetics that have made similar points, but as part of a whole text on genetic evolution, but this one really hones in on some of the most common arguments and shows why they are wrong. ...more
Michael Perkins
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting background story to all of this....


My favorite book on genetics is by this same author. (Link below). The book under review here was a strong reminder of how complex the science of genetics is. It takes a trained and experienced geneticist to understand it.

By contrast, “science reporters,” never mind journalists and political scientists, are not qualified to write knowledgably on this topic. I’ve read those books and they’re a
Kevin Kelsey
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is misrepresentative of its contents, but it was eye-catching enough that it caught my attention at the library. I'm glad that it did because I learned some fascinating things reading this. The section on the differences between genealogy and genetics was mind-blowing. Rutherford pretty much demolished 23andme and related tests in the tail end of that section.

There were also a lot of assumptions about race that I've inadvertently made over the years from "common sense" ty
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
An educational and interesting popular science book on a topic of profound importance. My view on it changed as I read it because my expectations developed as I read it. I initially wanted bite sized, easy to understand, points covering the genetics vs. Race question. Easy, simple science explanations are always welcome! But the author is an active scientist as well as a good science populariser, and in honesty he had to demonstrate what a complicated issue it is to relate genetics to human beha ...more
Lana Reads
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
It was really well written, fast paced and informative.
The author brought up an extremely important subject and put in a digestible, smart and funny package. I realise there is nothing funny about it, but the way he puts down racists, who try to back up their garbage with nonsense pseudoscience, is very amusing.

If you feel like you need a scientific backup for your arguments against racism and general narrow-mindness, this book would be a good help.

And even if not, everyone should read this. Abs
Zuky the BookBum
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, non-fiction, 4-stars, own
Mini-review: I really enjoyed this book that used science and genetics to dismantle old-school racist beliefs. Some of the things he tackled were as simple as myths such as ‘Black people are better sprinters due to slavery’ which he would then break down in step-by-step stages with science alongside him to back up all his points. Sometimes I did find this a little complex as there is a lot of genetic science terminology used, but overall it was an interesting read!
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
I’ve enjoyed Rutherford’s work before; he communicates clearly, and he’s clearly delighted by the intricacies and weirdnesses of DNA and inheritance. In this book, he tries to provide people with the tools to argue back with some key racist talking points about skin colour, intelligence, milk-drinking, ancestry and proficiency at sport. For the most part, he doesn’t argue with a specific study or source of an idea, but offers up general points. It’s actually a very ineffective way to argue with ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
How to argue with a racist? don't nor would most of us even attempt to. Stereotypes and myths of racism are pervasive and entrenched in modern society and are based on, basically, nothing but hatred of the "other". The rise of white supremacist groups add fuel to the fire and enlist followers who are attracted to that hatred.

The author uses this book to explain how even well-intentioned people believe that racial categories are based on outdated ideas. We have all heard that Black indi
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, e-book
I think this is an important book for anyone to read, whether scientist or science enthusiast or any member of the human race, as race no matter who you are, is all around us in what we see in racism, White privilege and science to name just a few.

I loved that this book was from a genetic standpoint, blowing normal arguments for racist remarks out of the water with science, such as Jews being good at maths and how such statements as those are just downright unfounded.

I am a white woman, scient
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A concise, readable rejoinder to those who try to use simple arguments about race, sports, and IQ to make racist claims. The author did a great job explaining genetic concepts, discussing what different genetic studies can and can't say about people, and dove deep into the major limits of race as a genetic concept. But I'm left somewhat unsatisfied. None of that is the fault of the author; it's more the fault of reality. Racist arguments are malicious and evil and wrong and misleading and a perv ...more
Esme Kemp
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He lost me at White Matter, because I couldn’t wrap head around GWAS, and my tiny brain can’t comprehend the human genome. But reGARDLESS this is actually fantastic and not what I was expecting at all.
I hated science at school so it was very refreshing to be taught some facts about biology and not be playing Snake under my desk.

I do want to raise that saying antisemitism is “rampant” in the Labour Party is surely hyperbole and it was jarring after 173 pages of well delivered, structured and ex
Kara Babcock
As a few other people on Goodreads have remarked, the subtitle of this book is more accurate than the title. How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say About Human Difference definitely discusses genetics as it relates to race. It is less useful if you’re looking for rhetorical tips on arguing with or debating racists or white supremacists. Adam Rutherford clearly and coherently lays out why such people are wrong to base their beliefs on a genetically-codified notion of race. ...more
Carlos Martinez
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: racism, science
Great book, calmly and systematically demonstrating that 'scientific racism' isn't at all scientific, but is definitely racist. It's particularly useful that the author is an expert in genomics, precisely the field that white supremacists jump on to provide pseudo-scientific justification of their theories.

The section on anti-semitism and the various claims made about the genetic predisposition of Ashkenazi Jews for science and music was very interesting. A shame that Rutherford adopts the media
Dec 13, 2020 added it
Super interesting, especially if you are interested in genetics. This is a deep dive into genetic differences, in direct contrast to racist pseudoscience. I think the title could potentially be misleading - this book isn't actually a how-to guide on how to argue with racists. It simply provides you with a concise history of genetics and how it's been used to reinforce racial stereotypes, and gives you a foundation on which to speak about how race is not founded in biology. I liked that Rutherfor ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
My answer, heretofore, to the titular question would have been “Don’t bother.” But I picked up this book because I figured that the brilliant Dr. Adam Rutherford, author of the runaway bestseller A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes, would have an answer if there was one to be had. And we in the West, especially in the United States, desperately need an answer if there is one to be had.

Alas, Dr. Rutherford does not have an answer to this question; indeed, he’s the
Amir Sarabadani
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Always love a good science book
Mugren Ohaly
May 31, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Yet another deceptive marketing ploy. It’s a book about genetics, not discussing racism. Yes, Mr. Rutherford, we are all related to each other. But, how is that piece of information going to help me?
Donald Powell
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Race is a social. cultural thing, not a biological, scientific thing. This short explanation of the current state of genetic research was very interesting and enlightening. He firmly dispels the concept of race and proves racism is a harmful social construct. A very worthy read.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting, informative and important book. Sadly, it feels like it's going be even more important in the coming years. Will it be read by people who need to read it? Probably not.

Anyway, this is a book about how certain people misuse science, specifically genetics, to justify their racism and how they are wrong. It is a concise read (probably took me a day in total to finish) and gets the points across nicely. However, genetics is complicated...very complicated. I'd recommend Adam R
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
This book has a lot of very fascinating information, but it wasn't what I was expecting and it wasn't really what I am looking for in this stage of my life. That's not to say that it won't be helpful or informative to others, it's just not where I am in my life. I thought it was going to be strategies on how to be anti-racist, and I suppose I should have read the subtitle to know that it is mostly about genetics.
Like I said, there is a great deal of very interesting information, but I don't exa
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-own
This book is titled in a way that will either spark your interest or totally turn you off. In essence, this short book dispells all the more common racist tropes that are used by ordinary people without ill will, but also refutes poisonous and dehumanizing junk science propagated by white nationalists and other extremists. Useful, succinct, rewarding.
Isca Silurum
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was ok

Not sure if another BBC hatchet job, but started off very jumbled.

Obviously, when arguing with rascists, their starting point is genetics and all the civil niceties of debate!

When return to at a later date but doubtful.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and utterly convincing. The three-star rating merely reflects my interest in genetics.
Alexandros Potapidis
Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. Neither race nor racism has foundations in science." (p. 186). Even though the book does not dig deep into social constructivist analysis, it nevertheless evolves around the idea that science is bigotry free and functions as an ally against prejudice. It would be very naive to assume that science has no normative affiliations, especially taking into account the fact that racism have always been rooted in science. Even the ...more
Menglong Youk
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that tackles the issue of race from a geneticist's perspective by using scientific concepts of genetics. When it comes to race, scientists in this branch has had countless arguments since its beginning as genetic biology was born in an era that the author calls racist. Race superiority was a popular ideas in the 19th century when the idea was formulated, thus human factors had greatly influenced the concepts of scientists at that time. But science is a self correcting mechanism, s ...more
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
While the title of the book is misleading (I thought it was literally going to be about HOW to argue and have a dialogue with those with opposing views on "heavy" topics), I truly enjoyed it for 2 main reasons.

I listened to this on audio (only about 5 hours) and the author narrates the book and his voice is lovely to listen to (think Jude Law).

Also the topic was fascinating! I've read other Adam Rutherford books about genetics and biology and while they're dense, substantially informational and
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Geneticist Adam Rutherford dispels many racist stereotypes in his book How to Argue With a Racist including the idea that Black people are genetically predisposed to sports. He also talks about the popularity of genetic tests especially among white supremacists, and how little these tests can really show. He points out that the greatest genetic diversity is to be found anywhere on the planet is to be found in Africa.

Genetics is a complicated subject but Rutherford makes it accessible especially
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Adam David Rutherford (born 1975) is a British geneticist, author, and broadcaster. He was an audio-visual content editor for the journal Nature for a decade, is a frequent contributor to the newspaper The Guardian, hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme Inside Science, has produced several science documentaries and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life.

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