Scientific Racism

For centuries, scientific theories have been used to support racist beliefs. It’s striking how such false science keeps reappearing over time. It’s also striking how those we would normally hold in high regard have bought into or promoted these false theories.

In the 17th century, scientists believed that each race was a separate species. Race in this case was mostly identified by skin color. There was a belief that four different species of humans existed with those whose skin color was white were superior. Those of a darker skin color were thought to be inferior. Thomas Jefferson bought into this scientific racist belief as did Charles Darwin initially.

The science justifying these racist beliefs is laughable today. Some of the justifications were based on the size of one’s hand. Religion also played a role in perpetuating these racist theories with religious beliefs thought to be based on race.

Scientific racism was used to justify Black African slavery so as to persuade others of the moral justification. It was also used to justify apartheid in South Africa.

The 20th century saw a rise in scientific racism with the advent of the eugenics movement. This movement endorsed select breeding, sterilization, and limited access to health resources for those deemed inferior. Heredity was the new scientific justification. One of the results of this thinking was the Holocaust

The 20th century also saw the use of intelligence testing as a basis for racial stereotyping and restrictions on immigration. With the rise of testing services, access to higher education has been denied based on pseudo-scientific predictions of student access.

Scientific racism continues to infect our society in ways that are hidden to many of us. Just imagine the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to spread scientific racism through misinformation, false predictions, and other spurious justifications for exclusions. Just imagine how AI could become a sophisticated version of scientific racism designed to perpetuate societal divisions.

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“Some day after I am dead, scientists will recreate my brain with a kind of three-dimensional printing press and use it to create new quotes by me, instead of phony ones like this.” – Albert Einstein

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