Quantcast

«

»

Nov 05 2010

Movie Friday: Race, The Power of an Illusion

Is race biological? Well… kind of. The external physical traits that we call race are biological, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that.

This is a really cool PBS series that someone on reddit brought to my attention. It’s Friday, so it’s a movie, but you can still learn something. I learned a bunch of stuff watching this.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

This is one of the reasons I like science. It has the power to allow people (in this case, high-school kids) to work through, challenge, and debunk “traditional” ideas that have no merit. It’s also why I think skeptics are so well-suited to this kind of discussion – we’re happy to follow an idea only so far as there is evidence for it. When it comes to race, there just isn’t sufficient evidence to support the stark differences we see in the population; we have to look at alternative explanations.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

13 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Dale

    Cool, thanks for this one. I will have to finish watching the rest of this later.

  2. 2
    grassrute

    This was certainly interesting to watch, thanks for pointing your readers to it. The idea, however, that all “races” share the same ancestry is nothing new. Although there are many cultural differences between groups, there is only one race, the human race. Although Darwinism refuted this, it is clearly revealed in the Bible and is now being confirmed by science. The desired effect will be the end of discrimination based on race.

    Acts 17:26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    The Bible was used as justification for slavery, by branding Africans as the sons of Ham, thus being deserving of enslavement. Invocations of biblical justification for anti-racism are frankly ridiculous, and have no merit. The Bible can be used for or against any position you like, slavery included.

    Since natural selection and evolution refutes the biblical account of spontaneous creation, you’re probably not going to want to hang your hat on it.

  4. 4
    grassrute

    Crommunist “The Bible was used as justification for slavery, by branding Africans as the sons of Ham”
    This is almost correct, I would replace ‘used’ with ‘misused.’ Yes, Christians had slaves as did non-Christians. The attempts by Christians to use the bible to justify their addiction to slave possession were far-fetched. The assumption that the Africans descended from Ham was just that, an assumption. The desire to assume such was the result of self-serving hatred, not the love that is commanded by Christ in the bible. The bible teaches us to treat everyone equally regardless of race. Even if it were true, that Africans descended from Ham, the bible teaches us how we ought to treat them.

    Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    I realise this verse is not in opposition to slavery. The slavery of this time was not racially motivated, but the often the result of not being able pay back debts. This verse, however, is one of many that state clearly that there is to be no prejudice based on sex, race, social status etc. I repeat, we are all of one blood, one human race.
    This non-discriminatory love is what motivated William Wilberforce, after his conversion, to pioneer the abolition of slavery.

    Just as there are those who use Darwinism to justify racism, there are those who use the bible to do likewise. Both are just an excuse to justify what already exists in the heart.

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    You should take the time to learn about the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. In its essence, the fallacy occurs when someone says “but that’s not what a real X would do.” In your case, you are using the fallacy to defend the position of Christianity – that if they were real Christians they would interpret the Bible as you do. It’s fallacious reasoning, since there is no standard by which real Christianity can be judged. Fred Phelps considers himself a real Christian, and would likely consider you a prime candidate for hell. There is no way to prove him wrong and you right, certainly not using the Bible (which can be used in equal measure to justify anything, which was my original point).

    The bible teaches us to treat everyone equally regardless of race

    The Bible teaches us no such thing. It teaches that Christians are the true believers, that those who stray from the path will be judged forever with hellfire, that you ought to kill or convert all non-believers (particularly the Jews, since they killed Jesus), and that disbelief and “heresy” are to be condemned. I guess you’re partially right, since Jesus seems to hate people equally regardless of the colour of their skin. I’m sticking to the New Testament here, since Christians are so fond of dodging all the crap in the OT by saying that the New Testament somehow invalidates what was previously the “word of God”. It’s a good thing too, because the OT is about as hateful as something can get.

    And even if it were true that Darwinian natural selection was used to justify racism (instead of a version of “survival of the fittest” that had no evidence to support it – the external standard of truth that is so lacking from Christianity or any religion), that doesn’t say anything about whether or not it is true; just whether or not it is nice. Natural selection is true, and it is immaterial whether or not it is nice. Christianity is neither of these – certainly not true, and exactly as inspiring of nice things as it is of acts of great evil.

    Both are just an excuse to justify what already exists in the heart.

    Once again, we can look to the evidence. DNA is similar, performance in standardized tasks is similar (when socioeconomic factors are controlled for), biological history is similar, the list goes on. It didn’t have to be true, it just is. That’s not “justifying what already exists in the heart”, that’s looking at the evidence. It’s unfortunate that you can’t seem to get that.

  6. 6
    grassrute

    Crommunist – “The Bible teaches us no such thing” Your link here doesn’t back your statement. There is a big difference between God’s judgement of sin and how God’s people are to treat others.
    “That you ought to kill or convert all non-believers” This is a false statement, also not supported by the previous link. We are to live holy lives that are an example to others, and spread the gospel; it’s up to God to convert. Again, the bible is clear how Christians ought to treat others, including those who persecute Christians.

    Romans 12: 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless do not curse.”
    Romans 12:18 if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.
    Luke 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (29) If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic…”
    (32) If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.”

    “Christians are so fond of dodging all the crap in the OT by saying that the New Testament somehow invalidates what was previously the ‘word of God’”.
    I have no difficulty with the Old Testament. Very simply put, the Old Testament tells a story. God created everything good, mankind rebelled and what follows is a recording of the brokenness resulting from sin. The evil committed by the Israelites is not in obedience with God’s will and certainly not a model for Christians today. All the evil you read about is not a template for us but rather a display of how merciful God is.
    Imagine your children (if you don’t have any imagine you do) don’t honour anything you say, but instead rob, steal and rape despite your admonitions. While some fathers may turn their backs on these children, would you maybe just keep on loving them? You may report them to the police and ensure they receive the due punishment for their crime, but all in the hopes they change their ways.

    If you are absolutely unable to distinguish between what God does with the people He created, and how he commands Christians to tread others, in the hope they will see the goodness of God and his people, I can’t help you. Perhaps the biggest problem is that you see an ongoing discrepancy in the way some of God’s people behave and the way they are commanded to in the verses above. Feel free to admonish anyone claiming to be a Christian and not behaving like one.

    “And even if it were true that Darwinian natural selection was used to justify racism (instead of a version of “survival of the fittest” that had no evidence to support it”
    Was it not believed (b word again) by many Darwin followers that different “races” descended from different animals?” I recently heard from an agnostic at work, that Africans are more prone to AIDS than whites because they haven’t quite evolved as well as the whites in their resistance to the disease. I found the very idea of resistance to AIDS confusing. Certainly, at least until more recently, evolution has been a breading ground for these kinds of racist statements.
    You’re using the “No True Scotsman” fallacy yourself.

  7. 7
    Crommunist

    “That you ought to kill or convert all non-believers” This is a false statement, also not supported by the previous link

    Okay, Mark 3:29/16:16; Luke 11:23/12:10; John 3:36/12:48; Acts 3:23; Roman 14:23/16:27; 1st Corinthians 10:20; 2nd Corinthians 6:14-17; 2nd Thesselonians 3:6; 2nd Timothy 2:16; Titus 3:10-11; Hebrews 11:6; 1st John 2:22; 2nd John 7/10. You can continue to pretend that saying that non-belief is worthy of hell, and that non-believers should be shunned is not tantamount to saying that their lives are forfeit. You’re welcome to do so. Those of us living in the real world will ignore your feeble protestation and observe actual human nature.

    All the evil you read about is not a template for us but rather a display of how merciful God is.

    Right, like ordering someone to murder his child and then at the last minute saying “just kidding!” Very merciful. Or only revealing yourself to a small group of nomads, and then ordering the slaughter of everyone who doesn’t take it on your say-so. Or murdering the infant sons of an entire nation because the political leaders misstepped. Or killing a man because he didn’t want to get his dead brother’s wife pregnant. Or turning a woman into a pillar of salt because she disobeys a completely unreasonable demand. Or condemning billions of future people to unbelievable suffering because some mythical ancestor ate an apple. Or demanding a humiliating and excruciating blood sacrifice from someone when you have the option of just forgiving people without the need for bloodshed… I could go on and on and on. Mercy – you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.

    You may report them to the police and ensure they receive the due punishment for their crime, but all in the hopes they change their ways.

    What I absolutely would not do is tell them the rules in a vague and easily-misinterpreted way, and then punish them for all eternity because I was unclear in the first place. I would certainly not provide a list of internally contradictory rules with the threat of completely unreasonable punishment for the slightest deviation. Nor would I demand that my children scrape themselves on the floor thanking me for causing them to be born. Any father who treats his children this way is a psychopath, and should have his kids taken away from him for their own safety.

    “And even if it were true that Darwinian natural selection was used to justify racism (instead of a version of “survival of the fittest” that had no evidence to support it”… You’re using the “No True Scotsman” fallacy yourself.

    Yes, if you cut out the part of the sentence wherein I explain why my statement is functionally different from the fallacy, then this would be a valid claim. And no, there are no such thing as “Darwin followers”. Evolution is not a dogma – it is a scientific framework. Nobody worships Darwin, they just recognize him as a guy who had a brilliant insight. Our understanding of evolution has progressed since The Origin of Species, and nobody takes it as the inerrant word of anything. As I said in my original comment – whether it has been misused (in the lack of evidence) to support some specious claim has nothing to do with whether it is true or not. The truth of something has literally nothing to do with how nice it is; it has to do with how much evidence supports it.

  8. 8
    grassrute

    Finally, we’re getting to the root of the problem:
    -You don’t think God has just cause for His wrath
    -You don’t think mankind has done anything all that bad
    -You don’t like the standard set by God
    -You think God is unreasonable
    -For all these reasons, you don’t think God is merciful because he shouldn’t have had all those expectations in the first place.

    These feelings are natural and simulate the child that doesn’t like the household rules. What the child thinks of the rules isn’t going to change them. If the child did make the rules, the result would be chaos. That’s the truth and using your own words “The truth of something has literally nothing to do with how nice it is.” So, if you don’t like it, too bad.

    “non-believers should be shunned” You still have provided nothing to support this statement, but you live in the real world, so I guess you don’t have to. If this statement were true, I would have a lot in common with you if I were to live by it:
    http://crommunist.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/win-so-hard-in-the-face/
    Patiently waiting for the death of individuals so their ideology meets its demise eh.

  9. 9
    Crommunist

    Um…

    I don’t think God exists. That’s the root of the “problem”.

    The Christian description of God doesn’t match up with anything that we would call “merciful” if done by a human being, and the Bible doesn’t provide a coherent moral message in support of human equality. It can be used for or against just about any moral question, meaning that it is essentially useless as a book of moral teachings. So because a) there’s no logical reason to believe in a deity (by any standard that we would call logical to believe in anything else), b) there’s no reason even if it were logical to think that the Christian account is the correct one, and c) that even if the Christian account were believable, it is entirely unhelpful in determining right or wrong, I find the use of Biblical passages completely meaningless.

    Also, I grew up in a household where the rules were explained to us. We followed them not out of blind obeisance to a fearful tyrant, but because we understood them. When we broke the rules, the punishment fit the crime. If my father had beat the living shit out of me for watching TV on a school night, would you call that “mercy”? After all, he did set the rules and I did break them. What kind of chaos could be avoided if every infraction was met with a severe beating!

    You still have provided nothing to support this statement

    I have to do this again. Here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Each one of those passages is about the fact that unbelief is a sin, and that non-believers should be shunned and/or avoided.

    Patiently waiting for the death of individuals so their ideology meets its demise eh.

    It’s kind of futile to argue with a thunderstorm. You just sit and wait for it to die down before you can get back to doing your work. The ideology that ran the last election was dominated by old people who refuse to face the changing reality, stubbornly clinging on to an illusion of a time that doesn’t exist and never did. They have shown time and again that they will not be convinced by facts or logic. There’s nothing to be done except to wait until they’re no longer in the picture. And if you’re accusing me of “shunning” believers, you are, yourself, an example of how that is not true. I’m just not going to pretend that poor, trite answers and outright distortions of fact are rational arguments.

  10. 10
    grassrute

    Crommunist “I don’t think God exists. That’s the root of the ‘problem’”. Is that a confession? I was suggesting you had some reasons for not believing, but you are saying you simply don’t believe period with that statement. I agree with you, I am of the opinion your dead relatives could rise from the dead and tell you God exists and you won’t believe.

    Back to my original point, the Bible makes clear that we are all one race. Not one of the links you provide backs up your statement “That you (Christians) ought to kill or convert all non-believers” I am NOT going to let this statement slide because I find offensive, and it reeks of ignorance. Ignorance at best, but more likely stemming from hatred.

    To respond to your claim “Each one of those passages is about the fact that unbelief is a sin, and that non-believers should be shunned and/or avoided.”

    The closest links you can come up with are:

    2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness

    Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly NIV

    1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

    10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them.

    So if someone came to your house with ideas you found offensive, you would invite that person into your home? The Jehovah’s witnesses must have a hay day with you! Using your own words however “It’s kind of futile to argue with a thunderstorm.” You won’t invite them in cause your patiently waiting for them to die.

    The texts you provide speak of God’s just wrath against sin. You can speak of His unfairness, but a way to escape the wrath has been provided.

    This is elementary, it does NOTHING to support your statement! I’ve already provided “proof” of how Christians are expected to treat others with love. Murder, killing, and hatred are all condemned.

    As for the Old Testament slaughter of Nations. I sound like a broken record now, this is not a template of how Christians are to live. It is, however, a foretaste of the judgement that will come to all who don’t repent of their sins. God will carry out his just judgements, His people will not be the ones to carry them out! Again, nothing racist, prejudice, regardless of what “identifiable group” you may or may not fall into, you need to repent and turn to Jesus.

    “will not be convinced by facts or logic” It’s the evolutions that aren’t conviced by fact or logic. I will use one example:

    Natural Selection is a loss of information. The Tortoises found in the Galapagos islands as an example of how obtuse evolutions can be. On an island where grass is scarce, only saddlebacked Tortoises with long necks survive because they can reach the vegetation on shrubs. The saddlebacked Tortoises “evolved” from non-saddlebacked Tortoises that have a domed shell and a short neck. Oh wait, they didn’t evolve! The information was always there, in the non-saddlebacked Tortoises where the Saddlebacked originated. The Saddlebacked being the only to survive on one particular Island, having little grass, resulted in a loss of information as non-saddlebacked became extinct on that island. These changes, which simulate changes witnessed in other species, are what you claim to be proof of evolution. These changes are simply Natural Selection which proves nothing more than evolutionists are ideologists full of wishful thinking.

    I investigated your links, now humor me and investigate mine http://creation.com/

  11. 11
    Crommunist

    Not so much a “confession” as a direct declaration. I’m an atheist – I’m surprised that this surprises you. I make no secrets about it, and have written many of the articles on this very site on that exact subject. This doesn’t come from a place of having reasons not to believe (although there are plenty of those) so much as it is from having no good reason to believe. There are hundreds of thousands of gods you don’t believe in – I just don’t believe in your one either.

    The point is that those passages could be used just as convincingly to incite hatred as anything else in the Bible could be used to promote decency. History has shown us that Christians do not have a monopoly on good – being a Christian makes you no better or worse than anyone else in the world. If it were a useful teaching, there would be some benefit. And sure, if everyone who claimed to be Christian followed your interpretation, then that would be swell. However, if everyone followed my direct order to be nice to everyone and feed the hungry and protect the environment, the world would be a good place too; that doesn’t mean that I am some kind of great moral leader. We find the answers we want to find, just like those who were looking for justification to beat their wives and wage wars and murder abortion doctors were able to find it in the Bible.

    The problem with interpreting any body of literature is that it’s very easy to find things that support your contemporary values. If I looked at Moby Dick or Beowulf or the Bhavagad Gita, I’m positive I could find just as many passages to support the equality of mankind – that doesn’t make it any more than my personal interpretation of words many hundreds of years after they were written. The problem is that people think the Bible is something more meaningful than other books of literature. If the Bible wanted to make it clear that all races were equal, Jesus would have said repeatedly something like “It is a crime against God and against man to hold any person in bondage, regardless of his skin colour or ancestry.” It would have been a really quick way to unequivocally state that race-based slavery is wrong. Instead, he said… nothing. Nothing at all about one of the great crimes in the history of humankind. It’s just a book of stories, and any moral lessons contained within them are no more binding than Aesop’s Fables.

    So if someone came to your house with ideas you found offensive, you would invite that person into your home?

    I let you comment here unedited, don’t I? I don’t find your ideas offensive, but that’s not what the passages say. They say anyone who doesn’t profess Christianity shouldn’t be let into your home. Once again, you’re welcome to interpret the words any way you like, but there’s no way to know what the “correct” interpretation is. And I don’t invite Jehovah’s Witnesses into my home for the same reason I don’t invite the mailman in – there’s underwear on the ceiling fan and gravy stains on the curtains (I am a messy lovemaker).

    The problem with using passages like “Natural Selection is a loss of information” when having a discussion about facts and logic is that nobody will take you seriously if you’re going to start with a lie. Upon that lie, you build a fatuous account of tortoise evolution that (unless I am misinterpreting you) suggests that there was a population of both Saddleback and non- living on the islands, and then one died out because there was no grass. Not only is that exactly what evolution by natural selection is (the creation of divergent populations due to environmental stresses), but it is complete hokum. We have observed unified populations that diverge from a single ancestral line to form two separate sub-species. New information can enter the gene pool easily through mutation or the activation of certain genes that were previously unused when the population is well-adapted to its environment. And yes, if evolutionary theory was based on this one population of tortoises, or solely on observing phenotypic shifts in divergent populations, we’d certainly have good reasons to question the theory. It is the fact that it is supported by several different scientific lines of inquiry (homology, anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, paleontology, bacteriology, the list goes on) that we can be so confident that it is true. Not only that, but the theory allows us to make testable predictions – predictions which are reliably verified through observation – something that creationism repeatedly fails to do.

    I’ve been to many creationist websites, more than I care to recall. This one is no different than any other. It is a desperate attempt to use easily-identifiable logical fallacies, along with distortions and cherry-picking of facts, to prop up a ridiculous a priori conclusion. We’re all quite lucky that scientists don’t do this, otherwise we’d never have any progress, and certainly wouldn’t have the technology that allows you to post a link to a silly website.

  12. 12
    grassrute

    Crommunist “I let you comment here unedited, don’t I?” I certainly do appreciate it and am a little surprised by it too. My experience is that it’s uncharacteristic of the left (or progressives) to engage in dialogue, they seem to prefer censorship. Perhaps you can pioneer new rules of engagement for you friends.

    “And I don’t invite Jehovah’s Witnesses into my home for the same reason I don’t invite the mailman in – there’s underwear on the ceiling fan and gravy stains on the curtains (I am a messy lovemaker).” I would suggest inviting (Jehovah’s Witnesses) them in. The jaw dropping expression of shock is certain to be entertaining. I’m sure it would be an effective method of preventing their solicitations in the future :)

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    I got my rules for comment moderation from reading Respectful Insolence and Pharyngula. RI might not qualify as left-wing, but Pharyngula is unapologetically liberal. While I have no reason to doubt your personal experience, my guess is that if you were a liberal going onto conservative blogs, you’d be just as likely to be censored. It’s the Fox News guys, after all, who are screaming to have guests’ microphones cut off when they disagree with the host. I study free speech fairly closely – it is certainly not the province of either the left or the right. Some groups, particularly feminists and LGBT activists, are particularly sensitive to the kind of hate-trolling they receive on a regular basis, and tend to react more strongly. I’m not sure if that’s what you’ve experienced.

    I’ve actually dealt with JWs before. In the same way that I find Biblical quotes so unimpressive here, I find them equally unconvincing at the door of my home. I find it’s sufficient to point out how flawed their materials are, and express my direct disbelief in their core conclusions – “no we are not living in end times – there have been floods and famines and earthquakes forever” – that is usually enough to dissuade them from returning. I have never shied away from a debate, and have been known (occasionally) to actually be respectful of people whose opinions are different from mine (gasp). I am a little more belligerent when I am presented with poorly-researched and fatuous fallacious assertions – it’s hard not to consider those as an insult to my intelligence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>