Topic XVI. Mismeasure of Man
Context for this filter:
- B. CONCEPT ACQUISITION
- The abuse of science for social and political ends is particularly insidious when it involves the study of human groups and subsequent validation of societal power structures (typically by purporting to establish that some group(s) have lesser capacities than others).
- Just World Fallacy: The tendency to believe that outcomes are deserved and existing social structures are justified.
- Exemplary Quotes
- "The data describe in The Bell Curve shows that Black students perform more poorly on IQ tests than White students. But historically, tests like that have been used to justify existing power structures and racial oppression, so maybe we should think about that more carefully before we interpret it to mean that White students are smarter. The IQ tests were written by Whites, for students who had grown up in similar environments. Maybe there are cultural biases. And hang on, there's a lot of vocabulary on those tests; that requires education, and we know that there are systemic racial inequalities in the education system. That by itself could explain the difference."
- Cautionary Quotes: Mistakes, Misconceptions, & Misunderstandings
- "Looking historically at the usage of science by the Nazi regime or by colonial anthropologist to justify the superiority of a given race should serve as a caution to never analyse human beings' behaviour and mental faculties using science"
- C. CONCEPT APPLICATION
- Explain why the potential to abuse science for social and political ends is particularly insidious when it involves the study of human groups and subsequent validation of societal power structures, using a real example.
- Provide historical examples of the abuse of science for social and political ends.
- Provide examples of cases in which the study of human groups is legitimate and beneficial.
- Distinguish legitimate inquiry into human groups from bad science.
- Homework Questions
- Describe some of the dangers and problems with finding valid categories to use in classifying human groups.
- Explain in your own words what Gould means by ‘biological determinism’ (p. 52). How does it relate to what he calls ‘ranking’ (p. 56)? Briefly set out one argument for OR against biological determinism.