• “Psychology Gone Astray” – an excerpt from an upcoming Onus Books release

    Dr Caleb W. Lack, purveyor of the fine  opinions and science over at Great Plains Skeptic here at SIN, already has two Onus Books publications:

    Mood Disorders: An Introduction

    Anxiety Disorders: An Introduction

    These great little introductory texts illuminate the latest understandings on these conditions. Look out for one on OCD to come. Further to such contributions to the Onus Books portfolio, he is, with a fellow psychologist, producing a text called “Psychology Gone Astray: A Selection of Racist & Sexist Literature from Early Psychological Research”. Here is a post from his blog to describe the project. In reading the MS to edit it, I am finding much of interest in this early, pseudoscientific era of the discipline:

    As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been a bit absent from posting here on GPS over the past month and a half or so. This has been largely due to a very large writing workload, with the biggest culprit being putting the final touches on my newest book! The cover, below, tells you a bit about what it’s going to be covering.

    This book, which should be published in the next month, is the culmination of about 10 years worth of work by myself and my co-editor/co-author. Dr. Charles Abramson. Clocking in at around 400 pages, the book will consist of both original and reprinted works. The original chapters focus on the history of scientific sexism and racism, as well as providing guides on how to conduct and evaluate comparative research. We will also be reprinting 22 articles which date from 1895-1930 as illustrations of how “scientific” research was used to help further the ideologies of racism, sexism, and eugenics. A number of critical thinking and teaching exercises are also included, as well as a selection of classic quotes demonstrating how even some of the most well respected figures in psychology demonstrated (to us) deplorable attitudes towards outgroup members.

    What follows is a brief selection from the opening chapter, “Race, Psychology, & Scientific Racism,” from the section on pre-Darwinian views of race.

    The idea of race as a biologically determined feature is a relatively modern construct, dating only from the late 1700s (Richards, 1997). Indeed, before the Renaissance, the very concept of what is now known as “race” was defined entirely in social and cultural terms, rather than biological (Weizmann, 2004). Many historians agree that in ancient Mediterranean civilizations, discrimination based purely on skin color did not exist. Rather, discrimination based on social classes and cultural differences was the norm in Greek (Demand, 1996), Roman (Dupont, 1994) and Persian cultures (Frye, 1993). The view of many of the most prominent Greek philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, was that not conforming to their standards of civilization were what made one less than the civilized person, a view applied to even those Greeks who did not live in a polis (Weizmann, 2004). If anything, the views expressed by prominent Greeks, including the semi-legendary physician, Hippocrates, are supportive of an environmental rather than hereditarian view of differences among peoples (see Friedmann, 1981; and Snowden, 1983 for further discussion).

    With the rise of Christianity across Europe, the viewpoint that all of humankind shared a common ancestry came into prominence (Hannaford, 1996). In Christian mythology, all were originally descended from Adam and Eve, and even more recently from the sons and daughters of Noah, the only members of humanity to survive the Great Flood described in Genesis. The widespread belief was that the diversity of the world’s peoples could be explained by the differences in Noah’s children. The fact that one of his sons, Ham, had been cursed for seeing his father drunk and naked and that Ham’s descendents were cursed with black skin and inferior talents and skills, was often used to discriminate against those with darker skins (Johnson & Bond, 1933). This monogenistic view of humanity became especially prominent during the Christian-Moorish wars in Spain during the 8th century, when a number of statutes were passed that discriminated against individuals with Jewish or Moorish “blood” (as described in Weizmann, 2004). While many of these laws were highly contested across much of Spain and in fact renounced by the highest levels of the Church, some scholars have argued for this movement as the anticipation of later definition of race based upon biology, including the use of the term “blood” to refer to the degree of “racial pureness” one possess (e.g., mixed-blood, half-blood; Teo, 2004).

    I’ll post more updates as we get closer to the release!

    Category: BooksEqualityGenderPsychologyScience


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce