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Superior: The Return of Race Science af…
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Superior: The Return of Race Science (udgave 2019)

af Angela Saini (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
4382057,735 (4.28)20
"A powerful look at the non-scientific history of "race science," and the assumptions, prejudices, and incentives that have allowed it to reemerge in contemporary science Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science. After the horrors of the Nazi regime in WWII, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of unrepentant eugenicists quietly founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Hernstein's and Charles Murray's 1994 title, The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races. If the vast majority of scientists and scholars disavowed these ideas, and considered race a social construct, it was still an idea that managed to somehow make its way into the research into the human genome that began in earnest in the mid-1990s and continues today. Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Saini shows us how, again and again, science is retrofitted to accommodate race. Even as our understanding of highly complex traits like intelligence, and the complicated effect of environmental influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between "races"--to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores or to justify cultural assumptions--stubbornly persists. At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a powerful reminder that biologically, we are all far more alike than different"--"In Superior award-winning science writer Angela Saini explores the concept of race, past and present. She examines the dark roots of race research and how race has again crept gently back into science and medicine. And she investigates the people who use this research for their own political purposes, including white supremacists. They believe that populations are born different, in character and intellectually, and that this defines the success or failure of nations. It is a worldwide network of eugenicists with their own journals journals and sources of funding, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Hernstein's and Charles Murray's 1994 title, The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races. Taking us from Darwin through the civil rights movement to modern-day ancestry testing, Saini examines how deeply our present is influenced by our past, and the role that politics has so often had to play in our understanding of race. Superior is a powerful, rigorous, much needed examination of the insidious history and damaging consequences of race science and the unfortunate reasons behind its apparent recent resurgence across the globe"--… (mere)
Medlem:RFellows
Titel:Superior: The Return of Race Science
Forfattere:Angela Saini (Forfatter)
Info:Beacon Press (2019), 307 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:*****
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Superior: The Return of Race Science af Angela Saini

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Viser 1-5 af 21 (næste | vis alle)
A great overview of the paradoxes of race with some well focused insights on how science and culture find ways to bubble up the old contradictions into new power structures by slight of hand twists and reframing.

The one disappointment is that the author herself shifts between contexts so that a reader might not be sure of how we bring together ideas like - no biological basis for race - and how policy relates to race. I think this is extremely hard but I wish the author had done a little more to project how we should move whatever race is, fully into culture and just drop any sort of institutionalisation around badly formed ideas. ( )
  yates9 | Feb 28, 2024 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Review of: Superior: The Return of Race Science, by Angela Saini
by Stan Prager (11-13-21)

In what has to be the most shameful decision rendered in the long and otherwise distinguished career of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in 1927 the Supreme Court ruled in Buck v. Bell to uphold a compulsory sterilization law in Virginia. The case centered on eighteen-year-old Carrie Buck, confined to the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, and Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the near unanimous decision, famously concluding that “three generations of idiots is enough.”
Similar laws prevailed in some thirty-two states, resulting in the forced sterilization of more than 60,000 Americans. Had Carrie lived in Massachusetts, she would have avoided this fate, but she likely would have been condemned to the Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded, which—like similar institutions of this era—had its foundation in the eugenics, racism and Social Darwinism of the time that argued that “defectives” with low moral character threatened the very health of the population by breeding others of their kind, raising fears that a kind of contagious degeneracy would permanently damage the otherwise worthy inhabitants of the nation. I have written elsewhere of the horror-show of inhumane conditions and patient abuse at the Belchertown State School, which did not finally close its doors until 1992.
Sterilization was only one chilling byproduct of “eugenics,” a term coined by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin whose misunderstanding of the principles of Darwinian evolution led to his championing of scientific racism. Eugenics was also the driving force behind the 1924 immigration law that dramatically reduced the number of Jews, Italians, and East Europeans admitted to the United States. White supremacy did not only consign blacks and other people of color to the ranks of the “less developed” races, but specifically exalted those of northern and central European origin as the best and the brightest. This was all pseudoscience of course, but it was quite widely accepted and “respectable” in its day.
Then, along came Hitler and the Holocaust, and more than six million Jews and other “undesirables” were systematically murdered in the name of racial purity. Eugenics was respectable no more. Most of us born in the decades that followed the almost unfathomable horror of that Nazi sponsored genocide may have assumed that race science was finally discredited and disappeared forever, relegated to a blood-spattered dustbin of history. But, as Angela Saini reveals in her well-written, deeply researched, and sometimes startling book, Superior: The Return of Race Science, scientific racism not only never really went extinct, but it has returned in our day with a kind of vengeance, fueling the fever for calls to action on the right for anti-immigration legislation.
Saini, a science journalist, broadcaster, and author with a pair of master’s degrees may be uniquely qualified to tell this story. Born in London of Indian parents, in a world seemingly obsessed with racial classification she relates how her background and brown complexion defies categorization; some may consider her Indian, or Asian—or even black. But of course in reality she could not be more British, even if for many her skin color sets her apart. The UK’s legacy of empire and Kipling’s “white man’s burden” still loom large.
But Superior is not a screed and is not about Saini, but rather about how mistaken notions of race and the pseudoscience of scientific racism have not only persisted but are rapidly gaining ground for a new audience and a new era. To achieve this, the author conducted comprehensive research into the origins of eugenics, but even more significantly identified how the ideology of race science that fueled National Socialism and begat Auschwitz and Birkenau quietly if no less adamantly endured post-Nuremberg cloaked in the less fiery rhetoric of pseudoscientific journals grasping at the periphery of legitimacy. Moreover, a modern revolution in paleogenetics and DNA research that should firmly refute such dangerous musings has instead been incorporated for a new generation of acolytes to scientific racism that serve to both undergird and add a false sense of authenticity to dangerous political tendencies on the right that long simmered and now have burst forth in the public arena.
Whatever some may believe, science has long established that race, for all intents and purposes, is a myth, a social construct that advances no important information about any given population. Regardless of superficial characteristics, all living humans—designated homo sapiens sapiens—are biologically the same and by every other critical metric are essentially members of the same closely related population. In fact, various groups of chimpanzees of Central Africa demonstrate greater genetic diversity than all humans across the globe today. Modern humans likely evolved from a common ancestor in Africa, and thus all of humanity is out of Africa. It is just as likely that all humans once had dark skin, and that lighter skin, what we would term “white” or Caucasian, developed later as populations moved north and melanin—a pigment located in the outer skin layer called the epidermis—was reduced as an adaptation to cope with relatively weak solar radiation in far northern latitudes. The latest scholarship reveals that Europeans only developed their fairer complexion as recently as 8500 years ago!
The deepest and most glaring flaw in the race science that was foundational to Nazism is that it is actually a lack of diversity that often results in a less healthy population. This is not only apparent in the hemophilia that plagued the closely related royal houses of the European monarchies, but on a more macro scale with genetic conditions more common to certain ethnic groups, such as sickle cell disease for those of African heritage, and Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazi Jews.
Counterintuitively, modern proponents of race science cherry pick DNA data to attempt to promote superiority for whites that concomitantly assigns a lesser status for people of color, and these concepts are then repackaged to champion policies that limit immigration from certain parts of the world. Once anathema for all but those on the very fringes of the political spectrum, this dangerous rebirth of genetic pseudoscience is now given voice on right-wing media. Worse perhaps, the tendency of mainstream media to promote fairness in what has come to be dubbed “bothsiderism” sometimes offers an underserved platform to those spinning racist dogma in the guise of scientific studies. Of course, social media has now transcended television as a messaging vehicle, and it is far better suited to spreading misinformation, especially in an era given to a mistrust of expertise, thus granting a seat at the table to the unsupported on the same platform with credible fact-based reality, urging the audience to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
The United States was collectively shaken in 2017 when white supremacists wielding tiki torches marched at Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” and shaken once more when then-president Donald Trump subsequently asserted that there “were very fine people, on both sides." But there was far less outrage the following year when Trump both sounded a dog whistle and startled lawmakers as he wondered aloud why we should allow in more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa instead of from places like Norway. (Unanswered, of course, is why a person would want to abandon the arguably higher quality of life in Norway to come to the U.S. …) But the volume on such dog whistles has been turned up alarmingly as of late by popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who in between fear-mongering messaging that casts the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and Critical Race Theory (CRT) as Marxist conspiracies that threaten the American way of life, openly advocates against the paranoid alt-right terror of the “Great Replacement” theory, a staple of the white supremacist canon, declaring the Biden administration actively engaged in trying “to change the racial mix of the country … to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly-arrived from the third world." Translation: people of color are trying to supplant white people. Carlson doesn’t cite race science, but he did recently allow comments to go unchallenged by his guest, the racist extremist social scientist Charles Murray, that the “the cognitive demands” of some occupations mean “a whole lot of more white people qualify than Black people.” Superior was published in 2019 but is chillingly prescient about the dangerous trajectory of both racism and race science on the right.
There is a lot of material between the covers of this book, but because Saini writes so well and speaks to the more arcane matters in language comprehensible to a wide audience, it is not a difficult read. Throughout, the research is impeccable and the analysis spot-on. Still, there are moments Saini strays a bit, at one point seeming to speculate whether we should hold back on paleogenetic research lest this data be further perverted by proponents of scientific racism. That is, of course, the wrong approach: the best weapon against pseudoscience remains science itself. Still, the warning bells she sounds here must be heeded. The twin threats of racism and the rebirth of race science into the mainstream are indeed clear and present dangers that must be confronted and combated at every corner. The author’s message is clear and perhaps more relevant now than at any time since the 1930s, another era when hate and racism served as by-products that informed an angry brand of populism that claimed legitimacy through race science. We all know how that ended.


I have written of the Belchertown State School here:

https://stanprager.com/projects/belchertown-state-school-historic-preservation-p...

Review of: “Superior: The Return of Race Science,” by Angela Saini https://regarp.com/2021/11/13/review-of-superior-the-return-of-race-science-by-a...

PODCAST: https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-25r8r-112ea4e ( )
  Garp83 | Nov 13, 2021 |
Best for:
Those interested in the history of of science used in support of and to further racism.

In a nutshell:
For centuries, racism has received some support from those who seek to use science to suggest there are biological differences (and inferiorities) among race. This book explores many of the ways they are wrong, and many of the ways they continue their racist work.

Worth quoting:
(I tried to narrow this down, but there’s so much good in here)

“Because of the narrow way Europeans had set their parameters of what constituted a human being, placing themselves as the paradigm, people of other cultures were almost guaranteed not to fit.”

“The idea of race didn’t make people treat other people as subhuman. They were already treated as subhuman before race was invoked. But once it was invoked, the subjugation took on a new force.”

“Scientific racism has come out of the shadows, at least partly because wider society has made room for it.”

“The true human story, then, appears to be not of pure races rooted in one place for tens of thousands of years, but of constant mixing, with migration both one way and another.”

“The desperate hunt for ‘black genes’ reveals just how deeply even well-meaning medical researchers believe that racial differences in health must be genetic, even when a goldmine of alternative explanations exists.”

“Enjoy your culture or religion, have pride in where you live or where your ancestors came from if you like, but don’t imagine that these things give you any biological claim.”

Why I chose it:
The author gave a remote talk at my workplace (I work at a University).

Review:
This book is dense yet extremely readable. Author Saini organizes it chronologically, so the reader gets a real sense of how ‘race science’ has evolved over time. She focuses on how it has changed to provide the racists with different avenues for trying to prove their belief that there is a biological difference among races, and further, that those differences mean that some people (usually whites) are superior.

Saini covers so much ground that I’d be doing a bit of an injustice to try to summarize it all here. But her basic premise, which she backs up repeatedly with not just source material but with interviews with some of the offenders, is that racists have made use of science for decades to try to support their ideas of racial superiority, when in fact there is basically no evidence for the concept of race to be found in biology.

I found the history extremely interesting, but I was especially taken with the discussion of the focus specifically on genes, and how genetics has played into and furthered some racist ideas about biology. And the chapter called ‘Black Pills,’ about how medicine has suggested a biological difference in disease treatment and process that could be much better described looking at sociological factors, was fascinating and frustrating.

Saini doesn’t just present the facts though, she also explores what all of this means for us as society, when some people are so desperate to feel superior that they seek to misuse science. I think we are getting closer as a society to understanding that science is yet another area that is not free from bias; this book makes it extraordinarily clear.

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it ( )
  ASKelmore | May 16, 2021 |
I thought I knew a bit about race "science" going into this book, but hearing the history all laid out and how science/health is still so tangled up in it today was astonishing. ( )
  thereserose5 | Mar 3, 2021 |
A very accessible survey of attempts to “prove” the existence of race by scientific means, pretty much solely to justify thinking that one group is better than some or all of the others, and, of course, mostly white people trying to claim they’re special.

Over and over again, we see the power of science applied to explain differences by biological factors by researchers who are, somehow, incapable of taking into account blindingly obvious explanations such as poverty, racism, educational differences, and other cultural beliefs and practices whose effects are overwhelmingly powerful compared to the tiny differences “explained” by twisty statistical manipulation of data from small samples, small population sizes, or both.

It’s especially painful to see the focus on genetics/biology when, again, over and over, we see groups once described in horrifyingly demeaning terms—such as immigrants from China, Japan, India, Greece, Italy, and Ireland—who are later reevaluated and acknowledged to be normal people after all, or, even, when convenient, to somehow have some special innate something that allows them to outperform whites on some measure. (Said something, of course, is assumed to be biological, rather than cultural. And, of course, white people are always still better than other groups they look down on.)

The author is London-born and raised by her Indian immigrant parents, which provides a unique perspective on the issues as racist beliefs are a bit different in the UK/Europe than in the US, and also because the “East Asian” communities in the UK have had different experiences despite being lumped together.

She also talks about how powerful hierarchical cultural systems, such as India’s castes or closed orthodox Jewish communities, can create actual biological effects, such as various rare genetic disorders that appear in populations with small numbers much more often than in the broader population, by limiting the possible partners of people enmeshed in these systems, and the powerful social limits on things like access to education, availability of employment, exposure to outside ideas and opportunities imposed by these systems create the sorts of differences in IQ and similar measures that disappear when those structures are loosened or individuals escape from their control. ( )
  cmc | Jul 13, 2020 |
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"A powerful look at the non-scientific history of "race science," and the assumptions, prejudices, and incentives that have allowed it to reemerge in contemporary science Superior tells the disturbing story of the persistent thread of belief in biological racial differences in the world of science. After the horrors of the Nazi regime in WWII, the mainstream scientific world turned its back on eugenics and the study of racial difference. But a worldwide network of unrepentant eugenicists quietly founded journals and funded research, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Hernstein's and Charles Murray's 1994 title, The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races. If the vast majority of scientists and scholars disavowed these ideas, and considered race a social construct, it was still an idea that managed to somehow make its way into the research into the human genome that began in earnest in the mid-1990s and continues today. Dissecting the statements and work of contemporary scientists studying human biodiversity, most of whom claim to be just following the data, Saini shows us how, again and again, science is retrofitted to accommodate race. Even as our understanding of highly complex traits like intelligence, and the complicated effect of environmental influences on human beings, from the molecular level on up, grows, the hope of finding simple genetic differences between "races"--to explain differing rates of disease, to explain poverty or test scores or to justify cultural assumptions--stubbornly persists. At a time when racialized nationalisms are a resurgent threat throughout the world, Superior is a powerful reminder that biologically, we are all far more alike than different"--"In Superior award-winning science writer Angela Saini explores the concept of race, past and present. She examines the dark roots of race research and how race has again crept gently back into science and medicine. And she investigates the people who use this research for their own political purposes, including white supremacists. They believe that populations are born different, in character and intellectually, and that this defines the success or failure of nations. It is a worldwide network of eugenicists with their own journals journals and sources of funding, providing the kind of shoddy studies that were ultimately cited in Richard Hernstein's and Charles Murray's 1994 title, The Bell Curve, which purported to show differences in intelligence among races. Taking us from Darwin through the civil rights movement to modern-day ancestry testing, Saini examines how deeply our present is influenced by our past, and the role that politics has so often had to play in our understanding of race. Superior is a powerful, rigorous, much needed examination of the insidious history and damaging consequences of race science and the unfortunate reasons behind its apparent recent resurgence across the globe"--

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