The Resurgence of Genetic Hypotheses to Explain Social Behavior among Ethnic Minorities
Janis Faye Hutchinson
Genetic theories are increasingly popular to explain sociocultural phenomena. Such theories have been used historically and in modern times to explain intellectual ability among racial/ethnic groups. In recent times Philippe Rushton used the r/k reproductive strategy to explain black/white/Asian patterns of criminality, intelligence, altruism, sex drive, behavioral restraint, and other socio-behavioral traits. Rushton's work provides an example of sociobiology, the ultimate biological reductionist model. Using an evolutionary model, sociobiologists believe they understand the genetics of behavior, although the specific genes producing behaviors (altruism, parental investment) are unknown. Such theories are used to explain social structure and cultural processes among ethnic minorities. As a result, "cultural achievements" among ethnic minorities are viewed as genetically determined, and the lack of "progress" is viewed in the same way. The origin and maintenance of racism within the scientific educational process is examined as a component in the production of "science."
Why are biological explanations of social behavior among people of color prevalent today as in the past? This chapter focuses on the roots of this line of reasoning and provides a framework for understanding its current popularity in science. Since early historic times, Europeans created negative stereotypes of people of color. The motivation for these images was dominated by exploitative economic considerations. In order to legitimate European exploitation within the Christian world, those who were stereotyped were deemed less than human.