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Social Darwinism.docx

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Natural Science
NATS 1760
Vera Pavri

February 16, 2012 SOCIAL D ARWINISM I. SCIENCE ,R ACE AND BIOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATIONS FOR P REJUDICE a. Theories of Intelligence Prior to Evolution  Racial Ideology has played a role in framing scientific research throughout much of history  Science has been used to justify attitudes and ideas associated with things like racial prejudice. In other words, science has often been used to justify people’s understandings or beliefs that we would consider to be extremely racial or prejudicial even today  Science as a valued enterprise – When people believe certain things about others in society, they can and often have manipulated and used scientific data as a basis for these beliefs, and often times, this scientific data will be proven to be false  Mismeasure of Man by Steven Jay Gould – he took the scientific research and data of many scientists of the 19 and early 20 centuries; scientists who had made the claims suggesting that there were major biological differences between the races. Gould took much of this data critiqued it, and reexamined it to show us that either consciously or unconsciously, these scientists (or supposed scientists in some cases) had manipulated their data to make the facts accord to their theories. The theories that they held, many of which suggested that there were major biological and intellect differences between the races, could in fact be justified through this scientific data. In his book, Gould takes this data and shows the problems associated with it  Much of the research Gould did was of scientists who in many ways held a great deal of racial bias amongst African Americans in the U.S  The U.S in particular, has always been a country associated with racial tensions between Caucasians and African Americans. These tensions that date back to the days of slavery – even though the figures often associated with ideas of enlightenment and equality, believed that there is a biological difference between both African Americans and Caucasians  Abraham Lincoln: “there is a physical difference between white and black races…while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race”  Ideas of racial bias and prejudice are not new, but during the 19 century, this belief that there is a biological or physiological difference between African Amthicans and Caucasians is new  Prior to Darwin’s theory of evolution being published (mid-late 19 century), there was a different way of justifying scientific beliefs (i.e., Agassiz and Morton)  Louis Agassiz and Samuel Morton believed in a theory called polygeny – different human races were separate biological species and were the decedents/ancestors of different “Adams” (in reference to Adam and Eve). In other words, a commonly held belief was that different racial groups were in fact a completely different kinds of species, and were different decedents of different “Adams” in society  Science was used to justify notions of slavery by suggesting, for example, that both African Americans and Caucasians were essentially separate/different species. This idea was not just limited to African Americans but Native Americans in the U.S were also seen to be a separate species, different from Caucasians  What kind of data was used to prove this supposed “scientific” theory? How were these ideas justified, not on the basis of any social theory, but on the premise of science?  Agassiz – believed that this idea of polygeny was justified based on looking at the physical differences between Caucasians and African Americans. Much of his work was based on his colleagues’ opinions, and the so-called “visual differentiation”. Although this kind of data in 1 contemporary science would not be considered very scientific, it was not necessarily questioned during this period of time  When scientific knowledge is given a higher place in society, and when it’s often seen as being unbiased or value free, it means that this kind of data was considered to be legitimate, real and true. Thereby, this was the kind of data often used to justify and maintain inequalities in society  In other words, when people used science to justify gender bias or racial bias in society, this is the kind of knowledge, which is particularly disturbing to us because it is the kind of knowledge that is regarded as unbiased and value free. It’s important to see that in areas, especially associated with biology, this has been far from the case  Morton – he justified the idea that not only were different races essentially different species, but different races also had different levels of intelligence as well. He justified this idea by taking the skulls of different races, and then he filled them up with lead. He weighed them, and based his ranking of intelligence according to how heavy the skulls were, thereby suggesting, that heavier skulls were associated with a higher level of intelligence. He concluded that Caucasians were the most intelligent followed in varying levels of order – Native Americans, African Americans accordingly. He also used this kind of research to justify the fact that men were likely to be more intelligent than women because their skulls were heavier  Unconscious bias – Gould redid Morton’s analysis and he examined it. He found that the way in which Morton had actually gathered these skulls in the first place was somewhat problematic.  Unconscious bias leading to conclusive results: o Morton had consciously or unconsciously chosen the smallest skulls when measuring African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans o He had unconsciously or consciously chosen the largest skulls when measuring Caucasians. This skewed the data. In fact, there was an overrepresentation of female skulls in the study of African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans o Morton also switched from using mustard seed to lead. By doing so, you’re skewing the results when you’re using one particular results as opposed to another in terms of measuring the weight of different skulls o Gould shows us that this work which was considered to be very valid and very scientific at the time was in fact extremely problematic when we look at how these results were obtained – and it’s going to take well of 100 years before a careful reexamination of these facts will come to life  Prior to evolutionary theory being accepted, these were the kinds of scientific theories being proposed to justify what was in essence a great deal of racial bias in countries like the U.S, Canada, Europe etc. b. Theories of Intelligence after Evolution  After evolutionary theory, we see a continuous of these ideas associated with different racial groups having different levels of intelligence in society  After evolution, new science was used to justify these ideas  Frances Galton – a cousin of Darwin  He helps create a social theory based on Darwin’s theory of evolution  Social Darwinism was the idea of applying Darwin’s ideas of survival of the fittest within nature, to society as a whole. For example, just like you have animals in nature competing for resources for survival with only the most fit surviving, Galton claimed that the same kind of idea can be applied to humans as well. Humans, like animals, struggled for limited resources. He concluded that those humans more likely to survive and flourish in society, were likely to have genetic advantages that were passed down from one generation to another  In other words, for Galton, the idea of human heredity was extremely important in understanding things like success. Successful parents were likely to breed successful children. 2 Because human heredity played such a large role in his theory, little to no emphasis was placed on environmental factors or circumstances  These ideas (i.e., explaining success and linking it to heredity) is linked to the idea that different races were likely to be more successful because they had a higher level of intelligence than others  This idea continued through the work of Paul Broca (1824-1880). Like many of his contemporaries and colleagues, Broca also attempted to measure intelligence through measuring brain size. He made this claim that not only do races have different levels of intelligence, he also promoted the idea that men are more intelligent than women  With Broca’s work, Gould shows us (just like Morton and Agassiz) that many of Broca’s biases toward these different groups in society clearly had an impact on the way in which he conducted his scientific research  Focus on intelligence – the idea that different racial groups had different levels of intelligence which could be biologically ascertained  After evolution, these idea become much more popularized  Alfred Binet – was amongst those who in the early 20 century started to reject the idea that you could tell the intelligence of someone by measuring their brain size or the weight of their skull. Instead, he came up with a new psychological test in 1908 based on an individual’s ability to complete certain kinds of tasks – a “mental age” was given to the individuals upon completion of these tasks  Those individuals who were deemed to be of a lower mental age were then given more aid in their endeavors  “Mental age” or psychological test – it’s with Binet’s work that we see the roots of intelligence testing begin  When Binet first began the tests he made always tried to make it clear that these tests were only to be used by certain groups in society. In fact, Binet’s original intent for this intelligence tests, was to use them amongst children and only children with well-known development difficulties  Binet made clear that it was not his intent to use these tests, for example, to measure a single abstract thing like intelligence, nor did he advocate, for example, the idea of using these tests on children who were considered to be normal, or on adults. However, the exact opposite occurs, and Binet’s work will become the basis of the idea of measuring intelligence over time  Henry Goddard – amongst one of the first to bring Alfred Binet’s psychological tests to the U.S. In the early 20 century, Goddard suggested that these tests could and clearly did measure intelligence. By making such a claim, Goddard was suggesting that intelligence can be considered a single biological unit – easy quantifiable and easily measurable. Impact of this idea: when Binet introduced his psychological test, he was doing so to come up with the mental age of the individual. He did not suggest that this mental age was in fact a single/discreet number that on could claim as the intelligence level of an individual.  With the work of Goddard and others, we see a completely opposite idea has transpired and that in fact, they’re taking these tests and using them with the belief that intelligence can be measured as a single discreet entity. This allowed many individuals like Goddard to suggest that many individuals in society could be marked or labeled according to different levels of intelligence, and will use labels such as ‘idiot’, ‘imbecile’, ‘moron’  Goddard was also an individual who believed in this notion of heredity – that intelligence was passed on to one generation to another. One of the methods that he used to prove this idea was through a very intimate family called the Kalikak family. Goddard had taken a lot of photographs of, and he used this photograph as evidence that the Kalikak family was essentially breeding more morons from on generation to another. He used this by looking at the different 3 physical features and characteristics of the Kalikak clan. He suggested that not only their scores indicated their low
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