“Superior” pinpoints racism in science: Naive scientists plus strategic racists

Read the full story from ARS Technica.

Science has had issues with racism from its very beginning. At best, many of the early scientists had ideas that typified the racist societies of their times. At worst, they actively participated in providing justification for that racism, a habit that reached its peak in the eugenics movement of the first half of last century. But World War II made the end point of eugenics painfully obvious, causing mainstream science to re-evaluate and reject many of its racist ideas.

But as racists have become increasingly public in the early years of this century, they’ve once again turned to science for support—and found some scientists ready to provide it. How in the world did this happen?

Angela Saini’s new book Superior provides not one but multiple answers to that question. They range from tracking how a rich segregationist helped keep race-focused biology on life support to a view into how naive scientists are still accepting society’s ideas on race despite their lack of a biological basis. The book makes for a compelling read, but it’s an especially important caution for the science-inclined, who can benefit from being forced to step back and re-examine their assumptions on race and where they came from.

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