Sunday, June 14, 2015

Quote for Day: "Throughout the Nineteenth Century Biblically Based Racism Found an Unwitting Ally in Science"

In his Saving The Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire and Make Sense of the World (Beacon Press, 2015) (as excerpted by Salon yesterday), Karl Giberson reminds us of how long conservative religion and science colluded in American culture to produce the idea that the subordination of people of color to light-skinned people is "natural," good, and divinely ordained. He concludes,

I would love to write at this point that biblically based racism flew in the face of science, just as heliocentricity flew in the face of biblically based astronomy; I wish it were true that if conservative Christians had been better informed the story would have been different. But this is not the case. In interpreting the Bible's story about the first man the reality is that scientific and religious arguments conspired into the middle of the twentieth century and even beyond to rob the black man—and other nonwhite tribes—of whatever intrinsic value he may have possessed in seeming proportion to his extrinsic value as a slave. Rarely have science and religion—uneasy bedfellows at best for the past few centuries—collaborated so effectively to buttress a repulsive economic and moral argument. 
Throughout the nineteenth century biblically based racism found an unwitting ally in science. Scientists, in an effort to quantify the intelligence they believed was distributed so unequally among human tribes, administered tests and measured skulls. They established with the certainty that flows from quantitative measurements that their Caucasian brains were bigger and better than those of Africans and Native Americans. Evidence was amassed that the human races were very different and that the superior Caucasians should not intermarry with the inferior races and dilute the white line.

As I said several days ago, when I look at the troubling history of "scientific" racism and its interplay with conservative religion, I find it impossible to bow down and worship today at the shrine of "pure" science, as conservative people of faith tell me that gender complementarity and its attendant assumptions of the male right to dominate and the female obligation to submit are grounded in "nature" and "biology."

There is no pure science.

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