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Publisher's Summary

2019 Best-Of Lists: 10 Best Science Books of the Year (Smithsonian Magazine) · Best Science Books of the Year (NPR's Science Friday) · Best Science and Technology Books from 2019 (Library Journal)

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 World War II, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of intellectual racists and segregationists quietly founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s 1994 title The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races.

If the vast majority of scientists and scholars disavowed these ideas and considered race a social construct, it was an idea that still managed to somehow survive in the way scientists thought about human variation and genetics. Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Angela Saini shows us how, again and again, even mainstream scientists cling to the idea that race is biologically real. As our understanding of complex traits like intelligence, and the effects of environmental and cultural influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between "races" - to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores, or to justify cultural assumptions - stubbornly persists.

At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a rigorous, much-needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science - and a powerful reminder that, biologically, we are all far more alike than different. 

©2019 Angela Saini (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“An important and timely reminder that race is ‘a social construct’ with ‘no basis in biology.’” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

“A well-argued, timely, sobering wake-up call for those who believe science is always objective and apolitical. Highly recommended for academic researchers, journalists, and general science readers alike.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“In Superior, Saini expertly chronicles the broader social forces that have reinvigorated race science.... For such a weighty topic, Superior is a surprisingly easy-to-read blend of science reporting, cultural criticism, and personal reflection.” (Slate)

"In this essential book, Angela Saini deftly shows how science and racism have long been intertwined, why that pernicious history continues to this day, and why ‘race science’ is so deeply flawed. Deeply researched, masterfully written, and sorely needed, Superior is an exceptional work by one of the world’s best science writers.” (Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

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What listeners say about Superior

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So important.

I’ve been a fan of Angela Saini since reading Inferior. This book is equally informative, shocking, and heartbreaking. It will sharpen your senses to some of the race-related rhetoric and dog-whistling that is rampant in the modern era, and gives consistent and unbiased facts and perspectives about why such things are poorly founded. I highly recommend for people who are looking for answers, or even to have their views challenged. This book is a wake up call.

4 people found this helpful

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Content is great, volume is way too low

I listen to my books while traveling in NYC. You can’t hear this recording on a nyc subway. I can listen to my music and other books just fine. I do like the content. Going to have to buy the physical copy. To enjoy.

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Great book. Terrible narration.

It sounded like a robot was narrating. No modulation whatsoever. Book was very well written however.

3 people found this helpful

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Lots of great info, underwhelming narrative

Saini is clearly well informed about the history of racist science and I learned a lot from the book in that respect.

Where the book felt a little limited was in Saini's editorializing about modern genetics, and current figures. I am not sure she understood some of the conversations she had with modern geneticists outside the scope of the scientific racism and was technically incorrect on some points regarding modern genomics. I was underwhelmed when she walked away from convos with some world leaders in genetics to declare them scientific racists because they wouldn't support her declarations (though avoiding out-of-scope declarations is standard responsible scientist behavior).

In her dismissal of these scientists she illustrates a fundamental breakdown between scientists and social advocates. We will need to learn to communicate not dismiss if we want to make progress here.

1 person found this helpful

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Such an easy listen

A very thoughtful distillation of the thought process behind a false science.
The historical context of early man’s migrations was also very welcome.

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The science is only as good as the scientists

A broad review of the history of science inherently being the product of cultural biases.

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Excellent book!

A very well researched and argued book. Should be required reading in middle and high school, maybe an entire course.

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A good review of the issues

It was a good review of the issues and history of race in science. I was hoping for more science facts.

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Best book on race I’ve read

Race studies was part of my undergrad degree so I’ve read dozens of books on race, and this might just be my favorite

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Derailed

From the.outset, listening to this book was almost unbearable. It is painfully overdone. From the historical underpinnings to the scientific underpinnings of racial "superiority," all that was said could have been said more clearly and brilliantly succinctly. This is not a personal comment against the author, simply an opinion from someone who likes to trim down periphrastic discourse.