Philosophy Colloquium
Mark Engelbert
University of Maryland
Is Racial Science Racist?

Over the last three centuries, a series of scientific research programs have sought to establish the existence of genetically-based differences between human racial groups in socially-important psychological traits (e.g., intelligence and aggressiveness). These claims have long been subjected to criticism not only on empirical grounds, but on moral grounds as well, including charges of racism. Practitioners of racial science hotly deny such charges, and these debates about the “racist” nature of racial science have generally been unproductive. I suggest that one reason for this lack of productive debate is the absence of a well-defined and shared understanding of precisely what racism is. Thus, in this talk I examine various claims of racial science in the light of several philosophical analyses of racism, including (a) racism as inferiorization or pernicious belief, (b) racism as an institution, and (c) racism as racial ill-will or disregard. I conclude that although charges of racism are often more difficult to sustain than many have supposed, there is room for a moral critique of racial science under the racial ill-will/disregard conception of racism. In closing I offer some suggestions for how practitioners of racial science can mitigate some of its morally problematic features.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
3:30pm

Skinner 1115