Week 2 Reflection Post

The Enlightenment was a period in human history when European society underwent tremendous social, cultural, and scientific changes in terms of accepted traditions and ideas. The change in the accepted methodologies also affected the concept of race. Due to the changes in the field of science, people started classifying living things, which led to the classification of humans into sub-categories, with the belief that Europeans were superior to all other sub-categories. Another aspect of this period was the rejection of any ideas rooted in Christianity because it was the religion of the monarchy, which was no longer considered a viable form of government. This led to the use of reason, mainly through science, as proof of a racial hierarchy, and as the justification of the slave trade, and the dehumanization of other races.

“Race” is a social construct, and is not biological variation. However, this does not mean that science has not been used to prove its existence. I believe that the Enlightenment was one of the first examples in which modern science and race went together because it was during this period that scientists such as Linnaeus and Blumenbach used biology and physical traits to classify humans into sub-species. Further, “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, and his theory of natural selection was used by many scientists to justify the existence of a racial hierarchy, and was even used to bolster the eugenics movement. Even scientific experiments, such as those conducted by Morton, measured the brain capacity of members of different races and found that since Europeans had the largest brain capacity, they were the superior race.

Racism has evolved as time has progressed. In the past, science has been used to prove the existence of different species of humans, explain the inferiority of certain groups by measuring skull sizes, bolster the eugenics movement by citing undesirable qualities of certain groups, and rationalize the dehumanization of certain communities. Even though science no longer plays the central role it once did in proving the idea of race, we still see subtler forms of race based discrimination perpetuating society such as those in the fields of education, employment, and healthcare.

2 thoughts on “Week 2 Reflection Post

  1. I agree with you that Enlightenment was one of the first examples in which modern science and race went together because it was during this period that scientists such as Linnaeus and Blumenbach used biology and physical traits to classify humans into sub-species. Plus Charles Darwin also offer explanation for categorizing humans by putting forward the theory of natural selection. Experiments were conducted to support the white superiority. I think the Enlightenment is a period from which we start to look things differently and get to know ourselves. People would like find a group they belong to in which way to identify themselves. To be honest, I believe being different is not the problem. It is not a bad thing that we recognize difference from other people. We should embrace the diversity. Feel superiority from one’s identity is problematic. Inequality stem from it. Although the racism may start from Enlightenment, I think it is a step we can not avoid in our journey of know ourselves.

  2. I think it is important to note that not all ideas related to Christianity were thrown out. In fact, monarchies were still very common in Europe and some still exist today. It is true that during this time scientists began to question aspects of the bible and religion, but it was still a driving force in many governments and many people still associated with Christian values. Remember that stories from the bible were still used to justify slavery, e.i. that African peoples were descended from Ham and thus cursed by God to lives of servitude.
    Overall, I thought your explanation of the influence of race and science on each other was very well stated. The misuse of science to justify the subjugation of others is a horrible tendency that has been seen over and over again throughout history. The culmination of science based justifications of the eugenics movement that were employed by the Nazi’s showed how wrong it was by taking racism to the extreme. It shouldn’t take the extermination of millions of people to open our eyes to the horrors of racism.

Leave a Reply