In this month’s lead review, Mark Pagel, professor of evolutionary biology at Reading University, reads two new books about race, genetics and social structures—Strange Fruit by Kenan Malik, and Trust by Marek Kohn.
Pagel argues that our understanding of the evolution of our species must begin with an acceptance of the genetic reality of race, but must also recognise our unique ability to transcend this through co-operation of a kind no other species has remotely achieved.
The relationship between our “humanity” and our biological natures is always a troubling topic for scientists and sociologists. Yet, Pagel suggests, there is no inherent contradiction in our understandings of the societies we are able to build and those natures with which we are born, so long as we are able to talk of our unique social features with sufficient precision. Let us know your own thoughts below.