Biological determinism

This is a reflection of the book, The Mismeasurement of Man by Stephen Jay Gould which argues that the Western view of inherent inferiority and the ranking of groups of people was founded on bad science. This outlook has carried into our present thinking and social norms.

Race, racism, and other forms of bigotry have evolved over the course of our nation’s history. We have been witness to the notion that the ranking of groups is somehow dependent on innate capacities, or lack thereof, and the justification that seems to come from a common norm and understanding of our society. There is an understanding that the inferiority of minority groups is ingrained in their biology, and throughout history, science has been used as a tool for validating this myth. Biological determinism holds that social and economic differences among groups, such as race, class, and gender, is not contingent upon the their shared experience. These differences arise, however from an inherited inferiority based in the biology of that group, and that their social standings are a direct reflection of their biology. Science has been called to justify these claims. But science is not without cultural or political influence. It is not a solely objective activity, it has been used throughout history as a way for people to justify their prejudices.

Men considered historical heroes, from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, have long embraced the racial attitudes and movements of their time. However, we cannot take these men out of their social context for fear of idolizing them. They used science and facts to justify their prejudice, continued to oppress slaves and black citizens, and they possessed the power and social standing to do so.

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