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Scientific Racism

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Racism, the prejudice or discrimination against someone of a different race, has been around for millenniums and can still be seen today. It is based on an ethnocentric mind-set, where one devalues the aspects of someone’s race or culture by means of comparing it to their own. Much of racism is derived from differences in physical appearance, behavior, religion, media, beliefs shared in communities and families, etc. Scientific racism is another factor that is often overlooked. The term can be described as the use of pseudoscientific (sub par scientific methods) techniques and hypotheses to support their belief in racism.

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Scientific racism is a significant and controversial aspect of cultural anthropology, and can be further appraised through the analysis of its history, uses of anthropologists, critiques, and how it contributes to cultural anthropology. Scientific racism has been around for the past few centuries, starting prominently in the later 1800s during the New Imperialism period. It was used to justify the White European colonization, where scientists of the time provided results from pseudoscientific studies that supported White superiority.

These results were published in university textbooks, and were taught to school children, creating a whole community with the same racist beliefs. Craniometry or the measurement of the interior skull volume was one of the first studies that produced scientific racists results. Pieter Camper, a dutch scholar, started some of the first works in craniometry, using results to scientifically justify racial differences. In 1770, Camper introduced the “facial angle” to measure the intelligence among different races of men.

Drawing two lines, one from the nostrils to ear, and one from the jawbone to forehead, the angle created from these lines will relate to an individual’s intelligence. Men with angle measurements closest to 90 degrees were considered more intelligent. His craniometry reported that the Graeco Roman had the ideal 90 degree angle, while blacks had a 70 degree angle and orangutans had a 58 degree angle, establishing a biological, racial hierarchy (David). More renown physical anthropologist, Samuel George Morton, also took part in craniometry research.

He spent a large amount of time collecting skulls from around the globe, attempting to create a logical classification system. Morton would measure the volume of the skull, and relate that to the level of one’s intelligence, saying the greater the volume, the more intelligent. Based on Morton’s craniometric data, Caucasians had an average of 87 cubic inches, Indians with 82, and Blacks with 78, again supporting the racial inequality of the 18th and 19th centuries (David). Another notable area in the history of scientific racism is the theory of eugenics.

Eugenics is the practice of attempting to improve the genetic composition of the population. It aims to increase the reproduction of more desired people and traits, and decrease the reproduction of less desired people and traits. Eugenics was most popular in the early 20th century, being supported by governments and individuals around the world. Many countries enacted various programs to support eugenics such as genetic screening, marriage restrictions, compulsory sterilizations, and genocide. One of the most notorious examples of eugenics is the holocaust.

Hitler and Nazi Germany believed of a “master-race” or “pure-race” consisting only of people who were of Aryan race. This belief lead to the genocide of six million of the nine million Jews that lived in Europe. After the second war eugenics was generally abandoned but new genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies have raised new questions regarding eugenics. Though, today eugenics is looked down upon, having caused previous massive, human violation rights. New laws against genocide were developed after the war to prevent future occurrences.

The critique of scientific racism is quite obvious; most scientific results that supported racial inferiorities were based on pseudoscientific studies where data was either exaggerated or fabricated. Therefore all scientific racism can be considered a negative influence in society and the study of cultural anthropology. Although the implements of scientific racism are clear, it is important to assess various arguments against the term.

In response to Samuel Morton’s craniometry studies, Stephen Jay Gould published The Mismeasure of Man in 1981. This book expressed ideas of iological determinism, and the belief that “social and economic differences between human groups—primarily races, classes, and sexes—arise from inherited, inborn distinctions and that society, in this sense, is an accurate reflection of biology” (Gould). Gould focuses on discrediting Morton’s study of measuring skull volumes, stating that he would measure the volume with bird seeds, and would pack the bird seeds in the white men skulls to fit more in and result in a higher volume. Gould also accused other anthropologists Louis Agassiz, and Paul Broca for basing research on racial and social prejudices rather than scientific objectivity.

The Mismeasure of Man states that if genetic heritability was provable in a given race or ethnic group, then it would not explain the IQ differences among the people in the group, or if these differences can be contributed to the environment. Gould’s book received much praise and won many awards. In the words of a critic “Gould has performed a valuable service in exposing the logical basis of one of the most important debates in the social sciences, and this book should be required reading for students and practitioners alike” (York).

Racism plays a critical role in the anthropological theory. Its a huge area in anthropology, and being able to understand it will lead to more comprehension of cultural group relations. It is caused by differences in physical appearance, behavior, religion, beliefs, and racially bias scientists. These differences are what make up anthropology as a whole. Scientific racism needs to be analyzed to fully understand racism because it is one of the main causes.

Renowned and trusted scientists from the 19th and 20th century would exaggerate and fabricate data in efforts of supporting racial biases. The results would be posted in articles and novels for the public to read. This caused whole communities to take belief in the racist theories. Scientific racism is rarely present in the 21st century, where people now realize that the center of the criticism is that the techniques are pseudoscientific (unscientific), and this usage is at odds with the mean of the first term, “scientific. ”

Cite this Scientific Racism

Scientific Racism. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/scientific-racism/

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