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Science, Politics and Racism

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8/28/2015 3:01:04 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
(Couldn't really find a better title for this :/)

It's not uncommon for science or scientific observations to be used to justify a person's political or social views. A modern example could be seen in the Creationism/Evolution debate, which is very closely tied to politics. Much of the more Conservative politicians are in support of teaching Creationism or Public schools in Public schools. In fact, much of the posts in this forum (Admittedly I go to this forum rarely) are whether related to Evolution/Creationsim or Abortion (the former being more frequent).

However, science has also been used to justify social views in the past and even some racial views. This can be seen especially during Industrial and Colonial times. For example, Social Darwinism. Now Social Darwinism states that the theory of Natural Selection, in which the species most fit for the environment survives whilst unadapting species falters, also applies to society. In which the people most fit (or "superior" to some) thrives economically, while those less fit or willing to work are the ones that falter economically.

Furthermore, Evolutionary science had also been used to justify Eurocentrism. During the 1800's, many Eurocentrists argued that the reason for European dominance economically and politically could be linked to the idea that Europeans evolved better then other races who evolved differently, hence Europeans were "racially superior"

Example (text too small to read):

Similarly, in the 1900's with the Eugenics movement, many eugenicists using the same argument that different races evolved differently, and that, in order to improve the population's future, "undesirable" traits were to be genetically removed. In Nazi Germany this can be seen in the systematic de-fertilization of large sums of mentally disabled Germans. This was the prelude to the Holocaust.

Point being that, Science has a long history of being an excuse to justify ones political, social or racial views. Similarly I would argue, science has been used to justify political correctness now just as it was used to justify racism in the past. But I'll make another thread on that.
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8/28/2015 4:32:44 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I don't think this has much specifically to do with science, Uther. Politics can use anything for arguments: science, religion, appeals to authority or to popular belief. Most political arguments are rhetorical -- they appeal to emotion rather than intellect.

Of course, science can be misused in this way, but that doesn't mean that scientific evidence has ever supported political belief in the same way that it has supported (for example) models of thermodynamics.

There have been some scientific conjectures that have followed political views: that race determined temperament for example, or that head shape might connote intelligence. However, a conjecture is not a proven theory and ultimately the reason those conjectures were discarded is not political correctness but that the data invalidated them.

What stops similar conjectures being offered tomorrow is science's elimination of bad ideas. Once eliminated, bad ideas are never revisited. So science will never resurrect 19th century phrenology, or early 20th century racial conjectures unless the scientific practice is forced to abandon honesty and empiricism.