Margaret Wente: What if race is more than a social construct?

Nicholas Wade, a leading science writer whose specialty is human evolution, likes to ask interesting questions. Here are some examples:

Why has the West been the most exploratory and innovative civilization in the world for the past 500 years?

Why are Jews of European descent so massively overrepresented among the top achievers in the arts and sciences?

Why is the Chinese diaspora successful all around the world?

Why is it so difficult to modernize tribal societies?

Why has economic development been so slow in Africa?

Contemporary thinkers have offered lots of provocative answers for such questions. It’s all about geography. Or institutions. Or rice culture. Or the devastating legacy of colonialism. Or Jewish mothers. Now comes another explanation, one that bravely explores the highly dangerous elephant in the room. Mr. Wade argues that human history has also been profoundly influenced by genetics.