Early Scientific Approach to Race and Gender


​I have always known that people of the many centuries before us viewed women and races different from their own to be less superior than the white male.  These people believed it to be just a natural fact of life.  A “law of Nature” as they repeatedly refer to it in the Enlightenment newspaper.  Through reading these summations of the perceived “law of Nature” by these eighteenth-century scientists I found that many of them were somewhat arrogant to the idea of white male superiority.  In these readings, by no means do they express much doubt about the idea that white males are far more superior except for Marquis de Condorcet.  Some of the scientists even write that God (or the Supreme Being) undoubtedly gave these laws to man.  Throughout the newspaper these scientists refer to the men as being strong, smart, inventive, and superior.  The women are perceived as weak, passive, and for the benefit of the man.  This approach and belief in this time period was very common.  I found Marquis de Condorcet’s passage to be rather interesting because it takes an opposing view to the majority of the other passages in the newspaper.  Particularly what I found interesting about it was that he said this belief that all things aside “men are more intelligent than women” is far from having been proven.  He goes on further to say that until this is proven to be true, women should not have their rights deprived.  This is the type of approach that more scientists began to gravitate towards as the nineteenth-century came about.  
Furthermore, the passage by David Hume i found particularly amusing.  I find it to be amusing because, at least to me, it seems to be an utterly false statement both now and then.  He speaks how he believes blacks and all other species are inferior to whites.  What I found to be the particularly amusing part was his reasoning for believing so.  He states there has never been a civilized nation created by non-whites and that there are no inventors or manufacturers as well.  I think it is funny because it is absolutely false.  I kept asking myself the question “Has he ever heard of the Egyptian Empire?”.  Not only the Egyptians, but what about centuries of the Chinese Dynasties that occurred (see picture)?  I just do not know if they were completely oblivious such histories or maybe just refused to acknowledge them.  Either way, it does make me wonder how much they thought they knew and how much they actually knew.

The approach of this superior race idea that was embedded in many eighteenth-century scientists and citizens in general takes away the possibilities in the world.  This approach is close-minded and would not be the proper way for a naturalist or evolutionist to think when trying to prove such ideas.  As evolution and natural selection have taught us, the world works in an orderly chaos.  In this orderly chaos, there are so many different possibilities and factors contributing to a single situation or characteristic that all things must be considered to be possible.  This is the sort of change that I see taking place in scientists between the eighteenth-century and the nineteenth-century.  For scientists to purposely overlook or thwart possibilities would be detrimental to overall development.  Having a narrow approach to a situation certainly is not the best way to go about it.  I think this realization, and a large lack of proof in regards to white male superiority, lead to an approach by nineteenth-century scientists that would thrust human society in a direction it had never been before.  The nineteenth-century was a time where women and civil rights began to gain traction.  For centuries people just understood and accepted man being superior to woman and white being superior to all other colors.  Once these assumptions began to be questioned, serious progress in evolutionary science could be made.  

Picture by Imperial Painter

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