Most of the books on eugenics from the radical environmental fringe, such as this one, recount the same earlier mistakes made in eugenics, and then the books trail off into some abstract Gouldian/Boas dissertation on the evils of biological determinism. This book follows the same worn out formula, but has a few interesting new twists on the story. But first, any discounting of eugenics because of errors made at the very beginning, would apply to virtually any scientific niche, including medicine. Do any of these authors try to convince people that we should give up modern medicine because at one time it was practiced only by witch doctors? I think not, but that is the general theme of all these books. But of course, no matter how recent they are published, they usually suspend scientific facts at about 1975 so they do not have to discuss the dazzling progress made in genetics over the last twenty five years.
This book, unlike others, spends a great deal of time discussing the eugenic movements success in penetrating education, by presenting its value to school children in the curriculum. Selden laments this, but of course the flip side is that now the radical egalitarians are demanding that racial equality in intelligence be taught in schools, along with other Marxist ideologies, but ignores the fact that like eugenics it is unfounded and pseudoscientific. In all fairness, during the earlier part of the last century, eugenics was largely pseudoscience. But now, the Gould/Boas school of egalitarianism now carries that mantle by denying what modern science has found. Genes matter far more than the environment on important human traits such as intelligence, athleticism, conscientiousness, and even religiosity. These are all solid facts now discussed openly at the academic level, but kept from the general public by the new doctrines of political correctness. Published in 1999, it even has the gall to ignore books and reports by the American Psychological Association showing that there is a real concern with regards to dysgenic trends and that blacks are in fact less intelligent on average than whites. (The Rising Curve / Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns.) These are stated policy positions of this very liberal organization, but ignored by Selden, putting him in the Marxist camp along with Gould, Kamin, Lewontin and Rose. He even discusses Gould's rejection of the correlation between brain size and intelligence, even though there have been numerous recent studies showing a correlation using MRI of about 0.4. (Gould has never apologized for omitting this latest evidence from his republication of "The Mismeasure of Man" to the chagrin of other scientists who have pointed it out to him.)
Selden hammers home again and again how biological determinism is a theory of limits, ignoring the fact that modern eugenicists believe that improving genetic capital means building for the future. Would we cut down the "rain forests" if it gave us additional money for Head Start programs? I wouldn't think so. But that is the logic used throughout the book to condemn all studies in human nature.
One rebuttal that I haven't seen so far, apparently because the Gouldian school is getting desperate in light of all the recent data in behavior genetics, is that twin and adoption studies are not reliable because the separated subjects, placed in different families, may in fact be in families that are so similar as to be almost like they are the same family. Did you get that? For years, sociologists have been looking for subtle differences between family environments to explain differences. But now, even after they haven't been successful at finding what Jensen says is the missing Factor X explaining racial differences in intelligence (which these debates are really all about), they claim that twin studies are invalid because, well, families are really just all alike. I would think even Gould should admit that this is a "just so" story with little empirical evidence. Anyone familiar with behavior genetics can see the duplicity of such an inane argument. But to the unaware reader it may appear to be valid. So much for academic honesty.
Overall, if one is aware that this book is really about politics and not science, and Marxist politics at that, it is easy to read and does a very good job of showing the lucid reader how desperate the left has become in trying to stop studies in racial differences.