Author Topic: "Scientific" Racism.  (Read 1466 times)

Kai

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"Scientific" Racism.
« on: March 03, 2012, 11:26:03 pm »
I'm currently reading The Mismeasure of Man by SJ Gould, which is about the historical use of quantitative measures of intelligence (through brain size, skull size, IQ, and other numbers) to justify racism, sexism, and classism.

I am finding myself entirely fascinated by this, partly because just about every scientist of the 19th century (including Charles Darwin, a known abolitionist) was racist to some degree, and used evolutionary argument to support these social constructions. And the way they went about it was the backwards version of scientific method, despite these being scientists in all other respects. They started with socially generated racial stereotypes and then, more or less unconsciously, found their data to fit the conclusions. I'm not saying they fabricated the data, rather, they inserted ad hoc hypotheses to explain why the data didn't fit with their conclusions in an effort of immense cognitive bias. The anthropologists were the worst of them; if I'm to understand correctly, the whole field was originally created as unconscious think tank to justify Caucasian male superiority. It was almost evangelical, with evolutionary theory twisted to support a "hierarchy of man" with very precise, yet ultimately mishandled, measurements. Some of the worst offenders being Louis Agassiz, who was otherwise a world renowned glacial geologist and morphologist of fishes, and Paul Broca, the neuroanatomist who discovered the speech center of the brain.

Despite scientific racism being put out of style in the last 50 years (most scientists these days would be horrified at the idea), I can still see these same issues going on in medicine and psychology to target other groups, including women, homosexuals, and other "social deviants".

Take the Duesberg anti-AIDS type schtick. It is almost formulaic of Broca's style: take a social stereotype ("homosexuality is not innate, it is a lifestyle choice, and furthermore immoral"), choose an area of measurement (in this case, African population dynamics), pick the data for measurements that support the stereotype, and present the argument so it leads to the conclusions you desire ("since HIV doesn't lead to AIDS, it must be a disease in gay men brought on by drug use"). Shift the argument as needed to account for refuting evidence. This is not science, yet it looks scientific because there are numbers involved. And people take it seriously because it supports their prejudices.

You can even find these sorts of arguments outside of social concerns. Those people who still deny that birds are dinosaurs, for example. They start with a conclusion ("only birds have feathers"), see fossils with feathers (even Dromaeosauridae fossils), and present their argument ("they can't be dinosaurs [even though we labeled them such before we knew they had feathers] because they have feathers, therefore they are birds"). Shift the argument for every new feathered fossil found. Or, for example, when that T-rex hemoglobin was discovered, and found to be very similar to chicken hemoglobin.

The worst part about all of this is that the manipulation, the self-deception, is largely unconscious on the part of the people involved. They do not see how their own biases are shaping their conclusions. They think they are just following data.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 11:36:55 pm by ZL 'Kai' Burington, M.S. »
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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 12:02:06 am »
Is there any particular reason people refuse to think that birds are dinosaurs instaed of reptiles? I mean it threw me for a loop the first time i heard it but if t rex tastes like chicken then it tastes like chicken right? Also we need to clone dinosaurs for food purposes.
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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2012, 12:07:24 am »
Dinosaurs aren't reptiles?

eta: oh, it seems to have something to do with having warm or cold blood.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 12:15:08 am by Emo Howard »

Kai

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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2012, 01:27:49 am »
Dinosaurs aren't reptiles?

eta: oh, it seems to have something to do with having warm or cold blood.

Reptile is a bad category, a paraphyletic grouping of several extant Sauropsida taxa (namely, turtles, snakes and lizards, and crocodilians).

The rest of this is all an aside to the OP, but I feel like saying it anyway.

When you look at the Tetrapod tree of life (those vertebrates having four limbs), the Amphibians split off first, and the large group of the rest of the tetrapods is the Amniota. These are all vertebrates that have protective membranes around the embryo, and in the case of many have a hard protective shell as well. This is in contrast to the more general condition, where the eggs are highly water permeable and the young have a larval stage.

The Amniote tree splits into two groups, the Sauropsida, and the Synapsida. These are easily separated by the skull morphology: all synapsids have one hole behind the eye, and all sauropsids (except turtles) have two. The Synapsida includes the Mammals and other extinct groups (think Dimetrodon), and the Sauropsida includes turtles, snakes and lizards, extinct relatives of those, and the Archeosaurida. That final group is made up of the Crocodilia, the Pterosaurs, and the Dinosaurs, including modern birds.

The unnatural grouping "reptiles" often includes the non-mammal synapsids, turtles snakes and lizards and Archeosaurs minus the birds. It's a 'basal' grouping that doesn't include all the descendants. If it did, it would be called Amniota.

So, Sauropsid and Synapsid are so much more useful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauropsida Though, now that I think about it, turtles may fall out before the synapsid/sauropsid split, because they have no holes behind the eye (i.e. Anapsida). IIRC, there is controversy about this.


So much of this is charged with tradition and stereotype, as you might expect from the "dinosaurs don't have feathers" example above.
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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2012, 01:33:54 am »
I watched Jurassic Park 1 (rifftrax version) recently, and I was amused that the male main character was ridiculed for stating dinos might be birds :)
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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2012, 01:36:33 am »
Up until the 1970s, elements of this were what kept homosexuality in the DMSV III (I believe it was that edition, anyway).

It also fed into the 1920s eugenics movement, with predictably horrible results (Hitler thought it was a great idea, though).  Herbert Spencer can take part of the blame for that one, I believe.

Michael Mann (the sociologist, not the climatologist) links 19th century scientific racism, nationalism and democracies with the emergence of ethnic cleansing as a modern day phenomenon, in quite a convincing fashion.  In fact, let me just pull up the book and copy out a relevant fragment:

Quote
Thus, unfortunately for us, murderous ethnic cleansing is not primitive or alien. It belongs to our own civilization and to us. Most say this is due to the rise of nationalism in the world, and this is true. But nationalism becomes very dangerous only when it is politicized, when it represents the perversion of modern aspirations to democracy in the nation-state. Democ-racy means rule by the people. But in modern times the people has come to mean two things. The first is what the Greeks meant by their worddemos . This means the ordinary people, the mass of the population. So democracy is rule by the ordinary people, the masses. But in our civilization the people also means “nation” or another Greek term, ethnos ,an ethnic group – a people that shares a common culture and sense of heritage, distinct from other peoples. But if the people is to rule in its own nation-state, and if the people is defined in ethnic terms, then its ethnic unity may outweigh the kind of citizen diversity that is central to democracy. If such a people is to rule, what is to happen to those of different ethnicity? Answers have often been unpleasant – especially when one ethnic group forms a majority, for then it can rule “democratically” but also tyrannically. As Wimmer ( 2002) argues, modernity is structured by ethnic and nationalist principles because the institutions of citizenship, democracy, and welfare are tied to ethnic and national forms of exclusion. I concede that some other features of modernity play more subsidiary roles in the upsurge of cleansing. We will see that some modern professional militaries have been tempted toward wars of annihilation of the enemy, while modern ideologies like fascism and communism have been similarly ruthless. But underlying all this is the notion that the enemy to be annihilated is a whole people

Quote
Europeans perceived an enormous difference in civilizational level between themselves and natives. The natives were illiterate, “idolatrous,” “heathen,” “naked,” and “dirty.” Before their own arrival, this had been a land “full of wild beasts and wild men,” “a hideous and desolate wilderness.” The set-tlers could distinguish between the proud bearing and military skills of the Plains Indians and the lightly clad hunter-gatherers of California, described as “beasts,” “swine,” “dogs,” “wolves,” “snakes,” “pigs,” “baboons,” and “gorillas.” But ultimately, Indians were “savages.” Divine Providence was there for all to see in the form of disease. John Winthrop described the small-pox epidemic of 1617 as God’s way of “thinning out” the native population “to make room for the Puritans.” William Bradford wrote, “It pleased God to visit these Indians with a great sickness and such a mortality that of a thou-sand, above nine and a half hundred of them died.” Followers of the Lord, he said, could only give thanks to “the marvelous goodness and providence of God” (quotes from Nash, 1992: 136 ; Stannard,1992: 238 ). Whatever they did to the natives could be justified ideologically. Some say the English were influenced by experience of the “savage” Irish, but I doubt this. As Chapter 2 showed, the English wished to forcibly assimilate, not eliminate, the Irish. But to even live among the New World natives would pollute – which meant that Indian women and children were also at risk. The ideology had genocidal elements.

But it changed its form during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Labels for the natives shifted away from “savage” or “heathen” or casual analogies with animals to labels of race, influenced by experience with African slaves. Scientific classification of races as distinct species or as thousands-year-old adaptations to climate, ecology, disease, and so on then added rigidity, linking races hierarchically, conjoining physical, temperamental, and moral qualities, and viewing the whole ensemble of races as natural and God-given (Smedley, 1993: chaps. 4–7). Civilization might be learned, but race was fixed. God plus science reinforced economic, military, and political power to make it difficult for Europeans and Indians to live among each other.

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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2012, 01:38:08 am »
People still quote that fuckstick Arthur Jensen, much in the same manner some assholes still quote The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Kai

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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2012, 01:58:58 am »
I watched Jurassic Park 1 (rifftrax version) recently, and I was amused that the male main character was ridiculed for stating dinos might be birds :)

They actually knew that Velociraptor had feathers at the time of the filming, but left it out because it would have been too difficult and not what people expect (and not what was in the book).
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Kai

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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2012, 02:04:46 am »
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Civilization might be learned, but race was fixed. God plus science reinforced economic, military, and political power to make it difficult for Europeans and Indians to live among each other.

That's it exactly. Scientific racism was used as a tool to justify the ideologies that were already in place. Creationists and evolutionists got along quite merrily under these pretenses.
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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2012, 12:33:05 pm »
I hate how people assume something is true just because a 'scientific study showed that X true,'

i hate it even more that people do that tongue in cheek thing. Ex. "I'm not saying black people are more likely to commit armed robbery, but look at these numbers and words over here"

As if that somehow absolves them of their own stupidity by not thinking things through.

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Re: "Scientific" Racism.
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2012, 02:53:27 pm »
Great examples of humans creating categories, then getting confused about the objectiveness (or lack thereof) of said category.

- I don't see race. I just see cars going around in a circle.

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