The great deceit of evolution is that it has bestowed characteristics upon us that are visible but not meaningful. We are obsessed with categorisation, plagued by an innate and tyrannous desire to group things together, and this includes one another. One of the easiest ways is by skin colour, but as Adam Rutherford shows this is a terrible way to categorise people. The way we talk about race is not reflected in our modern understanding of the genetic basis of human variation. 'Black' is an identifier that says very little about the similarities of billions of people apart from a very imprecise reference to pigmentation. Variation in skin tone predated humans' emergence in Africa and is moderated by a handful of genes out of 20,000. And - crucially - there is more genetic diversity within Africa than in the rest of the world put together. These are scientifically uncontroversial things to say. Yet scientific racism is back, and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. How to Argue with a Racist is a short, crisp manifesto for a 21st-century understanding of human evolution and variation, and a timely weapon against the use of science to justify bigotry.
Rutherford presents BBC Radio 4’s weekly programme Inside Science, and with Dr. Hannah Fry, The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. He has written and presented several award winning television documentaries, including The Cell (2009), The Gene Code (2011), the Beauty of Anatomy (2014), and Playing God, on the rise of synthetic biology for the BBC’s long-running science series Horizon. His first book, Creation was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.