If anyone wants to read more about it ‘Skull Wars’ by David Hurst Thomas is a decent resource, especially if someone’s interested in how skull typing was used to justify how white people treated Native Americans.
In the 19th century measurements of cranial capacity by Morton
and others supported a “Caucasoid>Mongoloid>Negroid” hierarchy of intelligence. This continued through most of the 20th century but was challenged by a nonhierarchical view originating with Boas. Beginning in the 1980s Rushton correlated cranial and IQ measurements and presented a hierarchy with “Mongoloids” at the top.
Each of these periods relates to its social context: the 19th-century hierarchy paralleled the height of European world domination; the nonhierarchy of the 20th century reflected world wars, worldwide depression, and the breakup of empires; the “Mongoloid>Caucasoid>Negroid” hierarchy followed the economic success of several Asian nations.
Morton’s cranial ranking was the result of his sampling error and his acceptance of the hierarchical thinking of his time. But how is it possible for Rushton to support the ordering while using the data of several anthropologists who have rejected racial hierarchies on empirical grounds? The answer to this question involves a critique of Rushton’s use of the race concept, his aggregation of diverse populations into three traditional races, his claim to explain differences in “cultural achievements” on the basis of variation in brain size, and a number of other problems.
The study concludes by noting that the major consequence of these hierarchies is the apparent justification for the exploitation of
those at the bottom.
"How ‘Caucasoids’ Got Such Big Crania and Why They Shrank: From Morton to Rushton" by Leonard Lieberman
Math and Science Week!
Anyone interested in the history and historiography of Scientific Racism and the ways in which it manifests today should have a look at this article, which also includes responses from not only people working in these fields, but Rushton the skull-measurer himself.
What are your thoughts on determining the authority of sources? Your interest in accessibility seems tied up in the problem of academia having a monopoly on scholarly authority (and I don't mean unbiased). What brought this up was your link to SPP, which publishes "unconventional or controversial research". Its cautious language in stating its mission lent it credibility, but then I wondered if it does peer review, or if that is even a thing outside academia and hoped you could…muse upon that?
Well. Part of my goal here is to actually demonstrate the ways in which the relative “authority” of sources is socially constructed, in addition to other ways of determining whether or not a source is ‘better’ or ‘worse’.
A great example of this is a time when someone challenged my use of Stephen Jay Gould as a source. That actually shocked me a bit, because the guy was one of the more decorated interdisciplinary writers in the sciences that I’d come across, in my own studies back in the day, and in other works I’ve read for my own edification on my own time. I always found him inspiring because of his insistence on writing in context, documenting the historiography of scientific racism, and challenging common misconceptions in the popular consciousness about well, a lot of things.
Back in 2003, I took an interdisciplinary biology+ethics course, which coincided with the completion of the Human Genome Project, and we read a LOT of Stephen Jay Gould. I loved it. It was like, “what even IS biology, how did we get here, and should we even?” After the class, I ended up xeroxing the incredible Sci Fi short story, Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation by K. N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin, and leaving it in my professor’s mailbox (I had recently purchased Starlight 2, and was pretty high on speculative fiction anthologies at the time).
I’m telling you this because I wanted to pose the question: is there anything that exists that we can really say is “outside academia”?
If it exists, it can be analyzed, it can be written about, and it can be shared. There is a case to be made that they way we construct “peer review” is in and of itself rather biased; it is inarguable that it IS a form of gatekeeping. The way funding for academic AND scientific studies, projects, and published analyses is allocated is how money controls what does and does not get looked at.
That being said, it really IS important to shove words back into the mouth they came out of, and take a long, hard look at how that fits into the bigger picture. So basically what I’m getting at is that some people will say “this source is no good”, while others will say, “this source is ironclad”, about the same source. What you do is up to you. :)
And now, you’ve had my musings on this topic!
Didn’t the Romans prize Germanic people and Slavs more anyway? And not in terms of skin color. They were just more valued as slaves
What you’re talking about is an idea derived from how the Greeks basically believed that the further away your country (and climate) of origin was from Greece, the more barbaric you were. Then, there were some Greek writers, philosophers, whatever, who adhered to the whole “climate=personality type” school of determinism.
That’s an interpretation of evidence.
You can go back to the sources in the OP and see what they’re talking about, basically. It’s just ethnocentrism, but like, cultural, not racial.
The problem comes in with the Renaissance, and even further into the European Enlightenment, when the train wreck of “revival of Classical” and “a desperate need to justify chattel slavery and colonialism” got warped into the re-interpetation of geographical origin+climate=biological determinism/personality . They were literally mistranslating and extrapolating on documents that were like thousands of years old to try and justify race-based chattel slavery, and putting forth their own “climate” based theories (by Montesquieu and G.W.F. Hegel, notably).
So, that idea comes more from the 1700s-1800s in Europe than Ancient Greece or Rome. I recommend some of Frank M. Snowden’s scholarship, not on history, but historiography, and his documentation of the translations of documents from the ancient world:
Modern scholars have at times suggested that the Greeks regarded the Negro’s physical appearance as ugly and that the Greeks saw something comic in many artistic representations of the Negro type. Nothing in Greek literature, however, warrants such an assumption.
Not only did many racist historians use biased language in their work, but even used racial slurs in place of terms like “Aethiops”, which was a neutral term (meaning “Ethiopian”) used as a synonym for “Black person”. In his conclusion, he places the blame for this projection of modern racist attitudes squarely where they belong: the shoulders of his “fellow” academics:
Unless other evidence is brought to light, we cannot place the onus of “color-prejudice” on the ancient Greeks, as some scholars have done. The attitude of the ancient Greeks toward the Negro is epitomized, as this paper has shown, by Menander, who insists that it makes no difference whether one is an Ethiopian or a Scythian; natural bent, not race, determines nobility. The evidence of both art and literature seems to indicate that Menander was representing not merely the philosophic hope of an idealist, but that he was reflecting rather an attitude which had its roots deeply imbedded in the social subsoil of contemporary society.
The idea that “whiter” slaves were “more highly prized” is a kind of last gasp of the dominating racist narratives that continue to be perpetuated in academia. It’s a further bowdlerization of Ancient Greek texts that mention everything on race from aesthetics, to politics, to early forms of sciences or biology.
Uh... I'd advise you to reread that post, friend. They were agreeing with you and you just kind of tore 'em a new one.
I don’t think it’s really scientific to claim that black people are not in fact people, actually…
When in fact, part of that posts cites the father of zoological taxonomy, Carl Linneaus, who literally classified various Africans as “nonhuman”.
Biological disciplines all use this system. In which Khoisan peoples were designated “nonhuman”.
Which led to Saartje Baartman being displayed like a zoo animal, and Angelo Soliman, a man who spoke seven languages and was called “the Father of Pure Masonic Thought” being posthumously stuffed and displayed as a curio surrounded by bones and dressed in a loincloth.
Which led to this awful woman following around Khoisan people TODAY with a thermometer, calling them some kind of connection with “our ancestors”, in the NAME OF SCIENCE.
Acting as if science and racism are some kind of natural enemies, as if one eliminates the other, merely divorces the present from its historical context, and if you hadn’t noticed, is counter to the purpose of this blog.
And it’s probably worth noting that the takeaway from this (at least, as I’m reading it) isn’t “Science is bad, we should stop doing science ‘cause all of it’s racist!”
Rather, it’s to recognize that a rather lot of our current body of scientific…stuff (be it knowledge, terminology, models, etc) either itself dates back to or is built on top of the work of people who were kind of super racist.
It’s the same thing as, like — to this day we still tend to name sciencey stuff in Latin, and it’s because Enlightenment thinkers had a gigantic hard-on for classical antiquity. Sciencey Latin is pretty ubiquitous and is something we generally take for granted, even though it contributes significantly towards making scientific terminology really inaccessible.
(We can even contrast the fields of chemistry and biology with, say, modern psychology — which is loaded with its own issues too, but isn’t all in Latin because it (by my layperson Wikipedidating) didn’t start being a thing until a century later.*)
Scientific racism is the same deal: it’s there, but because it’s built into the woodwork it’s easy to gloss over or take for granted if you aren’t looking for it — and correspondingly difficult to extract without upsetting a bunch of people.
And even though there’s nothing about race in the scientific method itself, when you’re dealing with people it can be hard to dissociate your process from the environment…which gets you a vast array of scientific studies performed mostly on white, upper-middle class college undergrads.
….aaaaaand then I try and track down the source that the numbers I remember hearing regarding that came from, and get this paper, which…basically makes the argument that we should think about college undergrads in the same way as we do one of those wacky, isolated tribes of brown people that anthropology gets all of its anecdotes from.
1. yes, absolutely you make a lot of really great points which i have bolded
2. I really wish people would stop cutting eras into chunks when I’m trying to demonstrate a linear historical narrative that goes from before the period I’m talking about to after the period I’m talking about. Nothing happens in a void.
Every discipline is built on the foundations of predecessors. My work is based on foundations laid by people who came before me.
"Science" was not born like Venus from the foam, come adult and fully formed into the world complete with all the ideas we associate with it, like "objectivity" and "rational thought". It was created on purpose by human beings with thoughts, feelings, beliefs, cultures, genders, sexualities, and, eventually, races as we think of them today.
The past doesn’t just disappear into the ether when people die or ideas are replaced by others. I mean, the entire point of having records of anything humanity has done is so we can look at them now and be influenced by them.
Choosing how we are influenced by them is a very important part of learning, growing, and becoming a sentient adult and engaging with our environment and society.
Alchemy was the basis of modern Chemistry, would people that want to clean up science demand that we discard chemical names and symbols since they were used in Astrology and looking for the transforming lead into gold?
I don’t know, would they?
The important thing is, that someone actually discusses it at some point.
If the Alchemical roots of Chemistry results in running around after people and trying to take their temperature and practically calling them the missing link, then perhaps we should discuss it.
What you’re doing is creating a strawman and stuffing it with Alchemy and people trying to “clean up” the sciences. It’s like you’re holding a telescope that works two ways, but you’ve never bothered looking in the other end.
On one side, you have a lot of people very invested in the idea that because they’re practicing scientific processes, that makes THEM “neutral observers”. Even if the process is neutral, their observation IS NOT. Biases in scientific processes and reporting of findings is something that must be actively engaged, acknowledged, and discussed at all levels with diverse input in order to be LESS biased.
^ You know what proves that fact? Science.
The other side of the telescope is the people who are affected by those biases. For example, the African-American women who were misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency because the test used was calibrated using samples from White women and their vitamin D levels.
If science is about anything, it’s about correcting false information. So don’t try and spread more of it in the name of Chemistry, Alchemy, or any other looming non-issues you’d like to derail with.
I’m just glad that physics and computer science are pretty racist free.
I’m really curious why so many people are so quick to decide their particular discipline is free of racism. Doesn’t that just prevent you from analyzing things and using critical thinking in your discipline to remedy these problems instead of ignoring them?