Ethical Relativism and Absolute Taboos - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

IV. Race

Social Darwinism, sociobiology, and, nowadays, evolutionary psychology are all derided and disparaged because they try to prove that nature - more specifically, our genes - determine our traits, our accomplishments, our behavior patterns, our social status, and, in many ways, our destiny. Our upbringing and our environment change little. They simply select from ingrained libraries embedded in our brain.

Moreover,repparttar discussion of race and race relations is tainted by a history of recurrent ethnocide and genocide and thwarted byrepparttar 132498 dogma of egalitarianism. The (legitimate) question "are all races equal" thus becomes a private case ofrepparttar 132499 (no less legitimate) "are all men equal". To ask "can races co-exist peacefully" is thus to embark onrepparttar 132500 slippery slope to slavery and Auschwitz. These historical echoes andrepparttar 132501 overweening imposition of political correctness prevent any meaningful - let alone scientific - discourse.

The irony is that "race" - or at least race as determined by skin color - is a distinctly unscientific concept, concerned more with appearances (i.e.,repparttar 132502 color of one's skin,repparttar 132503 shape of one's head or hair), common history, and social politics - than with heredity. Most human classificatory traits are not concordant. Different taxonomic criteria conjure up different "races". IQ is a similarly contentious construct, although it is stable and does predict academic achievement effectively.

Thus, racist-sounding claims are as unfounded as claims about racial equality. Still, whilerepparttar 132504 former are treated as an abomination -repparttar 132505 latter are accorded academic respectability and scientific scrutiny.

Consider these two hypotheses:

Thatrepparttar 132506 IQ (or any other measurable trait) of a given race or ethnic group is hereditarily determined (i.e., that skin color and IQ - or another measurable trait - are concordant) and is strongly correlated with certain types of behavior, life accomplishments, and social status. Thatrepparttar 132507 IQ (or any other quantifiable trait) of a given race or "ethnic group" isrepparttar 132508 outcome of social and economic circumstances and even if strongly correlated with behavior patterns, academic or other achievements, and social status - which is disputable - is amenable to "social engineering". Both theories are falsifiable and both deserve serious, unbiased, study. That we choose to ignorerepparttar 132509 first and substantiaterepparttar 132510 second demonstratesrepparttar 132511 pernicious and corrupting effect of political correctness.

Claims ofrepparttar 132512 type "trait A and trait B are concordant" should be investigated by scientists, regardless of how politically incorrect they are. Not so claims ofrepparttar 132513 type "people with trait A are..." or "people with trait A do...". These should be decried as racist tripe.

Thus, medical research showsrepparttar 132514 statement "The traits of being an Ashkenazi Jew (A) and suffering from Tay-Sachs induced idiocy (B) are concordant in 1 of every 2500 cases" is true.

The Merits of Stereotypes

Written by Sam Vaknin

"The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so." Henry Wheeler Shaw

Do stereotypes usefully represent real knowledge or merely reflect counter-productive prejudice?

Stereotypes invariably refer in a generalized manner to - often arbitrary - groups of people, usually minorities. Stereotypes need not necessarily be derogatory or cautionary, though most of them are. The "noble savage" andrepparttar "wild savage" are both stereotypes. Indians in movies, note Ralph and Natasha Friar in their work titled "The Only Good Indian - The Hollywood Gospel" (1972) are overwhelmingly drunken, treacherous, unreliable, and childlike. Still, some of them are as portrayed as unrealistically "good".

But alcoholism among Native Americans - especially those crammed into reservations - is, indeed, more prevalent than amongrepparttar 132496 general population. The stereotype conveys true and useful information about inebriation among Indians. Could its other descriptors be equally accurate?

It is hard to unambiguously define, let alone quantify, traits. At which point does self-centerdness become egotism orrepparttar 132497 pursuit of self-interest - treachery? What precisely constitutes childlike behavior? Some types of research cannot even be attempted due torepparttar 132498 stifling censorship of political correctness. Endeavoring to answer a simple question like: "Do blacks in America really possess lower IQ's and, if so, is this deficiency hereditary?" has landed many an American academic beyondrepparttar 132499 pale.

The two most castigated aspects of stereotypes are their generality and their prejudice. Implied in both criticisms is a lack of veracity and rigor of stereotypes. Yet, there is nothing wrong with generalizations per se. Science is constructed on such abstractions from private case to general rule. In historiography we discuss "the Romans" or "ancient Greeks" and characterize them as a group. "Nazi Germany", "Communist Russia", and "Revolutionary France" are all forms of groupspeak.

In an essay titled "Helping Students Understand Stereotyping" and published inrepparttar 132500 April 2001 issue of "Education Digest", Carlos Cortes suggest three differences between "group generalizations" and "stereotypes":

"Group generalizations are flexible and permeable to new, countervailing, knowledge - ideas, interpretations, and information that challenge or undermine current beliefs. Stereotypes are rigid and resistant to change even inrepparttar 132501 face of compelling new evidence.

Second, group generalizations incorporate intragroup heterogeneity while stereotypes foster intragroup homogeneity. Group generalizations embrace diversity - 'there are many kinds of Jews, tall and short, mean and generous, clever and stupid, black and white, rich and poor'. Stereotypes cast certain individuals as exceptions or deviants - 'though you are Jewish, you don't behave as a Jew would, you are different'.

Finally, while generalizations provide mere clues about group culture and behavior - stereotypes purport to proffer immutable rules applicable to allrepparttar 132502 members ofrepparttar 132503 group. Stereotypes develop easily, rigidify surreptitiously, and operate reflexively, providing simple, comfortable, convenient bases for making personal sense ofrepparttar 132504 world. Because generalizations require greater attention, content flexibility, and nuance in application, they do not provide a stereotype's security blanket of permanent, inviolate, all-encompassing, perfectly reliable group knowledge."

It is commonly believed that stereotypes formrepparttar 132505 core of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of xenophobia. Stereotypes, goesrepparttar 132506 refrain, determinerepparttar 132507 content and thrust of prejudices and propel their advocates to take action against minorities. There is a direct lineage, it is commonly held, between typecasting and lynching.

It is also claimed that pigeonholing reducesrepparttar 132508 quality of life, lowersrepparttar 132509 expectations, and curbsrepparttar 132510 accomplishments of its victims. The glass ceiling andrepparttar 132511 brass ceiling are pernicious phenomena engendered by stereotypes. The fate of many social policy issues - such as affirmative action, immigration quotas, police profiling, and gay service inrepparttar 132512 military - is determined by stereotypes rather than through informed opinion.

USA Today Magazine reportedrepparttar 132513 findings of a survey of 1000 girls in grades three to twelve conducted by Harris Interactive for "Girls". Roughly halfrepparttar 132514 respondents thought that boys and girls haverepparttar 132515 same abilities - compared to less than one third of boys. A small majority ofrepparttar 132516 girls felt that "people think we are only interested in love and romance".

Somewhat less than two thirds ofrepparttar 132517 girls were told not to brag about things they do well and were expected to spendrepparttar 132518 bulk of their time on housework and taking care of younger children. Stereotypical thinking had a practical effect: girls who believe that they are as able as boys and facerepparttar 132519 same opportunities are way more likely to plan to go to college.

But do boys and girls haverepparttar 132520 same abilities? Absolutely not. Boys are better at spatial orientation and math. Girls are better at emotions and relationships. And do girls facerepparttar 132521 same opportunities as boys? It would be perplexing if they did, taking into account physiological, cognitive, emotional, and reproductive disparities - not to mention historical and cultural handicaps. It boils down to this politically incorrect statement: girls are not boys and never will be.

Still, there is a long stretch from "girls are not boys" to "girls are inferior to boys" and thence to "girls should be discriminated against or confined". Much separates stereotypes and generalizations from discriminatory practice.

Discrimination prevails against races, genders, religions, people with alternative lifestyles or sexual preferences, ethnic groups,repparttar 132522 poor,repparttar 132523 rich, professionals, and any other conceivable minority. It has little to do with stereotypes and a lot to do with societal and economic power matrices. Granted, most racists typecast blacks and Indians, Jews and Latinos. But typecasting in itself does not amount to racism, nor does it inevitably lead to discriminatory conduct.

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