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Always Superior

May 28, 2017

White upper-class men are always superior.  That’s the principle.  It seems that for many years they have been looking for scientific proof for something that they already believed to be true.  All such attempts have failed.  For background on these attempts, see the book The Mismeasure of Man, written by Stephen Jay Gould.  There have been some criticizims of this book, but the concept still stands.

Several of these beliefs have been the subject of these searches.  One belief is that people must somehow be different from other animals, an idea that is anti-evolutionary.  In terms of physical differences, the search proceeded to smaller and smaller things, culminating in the shape of tiny structures in the brain.  When this search failed, it moved on to mental abilities like memory and sense of self.  The result was always that humans are not unique among animals.  All differents are matters of degree, not matters of presence and absense.

Another is that men are somehow superior to women.  Again, nothing beyond the obvious was found.  We are all humans, regardless of gender.  We all have similar abilities.

A third was that white people are superior to black or brown people, usually in intelligence.  This was only demonstrated scientifically when faulty information was used.  Some of it was based on brain size, once thought to be an indicator of intelligence.  Some was based on intelligence test scores, from tests given to people who were illiterate.  At least this gives us a good example of the damage that can be done by biased testing methods.

At one time, all of the ills of society were thought to be caused by low intelligence.  The list included poverty, immorality, and criminality.  It may seem hard to understand now, but this is what some people used to believe.

In all of these attempts, we see signs of a desperate search, one that explored many different aspects, in an attempt to confirm existing beliefs.  In some cases, the researcher cited small differences between groups while ignoring wide ranges within each group.  Diversity is normal.  Overlapping bell curves only show how much these groups have in common.

The consequences of these attempts are still around.  False beliefs persist, even though the attempts to find scientific justification have failed.  Maybe we should just accept that there is no scientific evidence.  Maybe we should just accept that our beliefs were false.  Maybe we ourselves should take responsibility for these social conditions.

As well, scientists are reluctant now to do legitimate research on some of these topics, because they are so sensitive.  With proper design, such research can be unbiased.  Still, scientists should expect criticizm of their methods, and should be prepared to defend them.


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