Last year, British science journalist Angela Saini s widely acclaimed Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That s Rewriting the Story examined sexism in science and used scientific arguments to counter various patriarchal notions.
Now, in Superior: The Return of Race Science, Saini looks at another misconception in science that race is a biological entity.
Engaging with scientists and historians around the world, Saini explores the concept of race, and how it evolved.
Even great scientists looked at race as a scientific characteristic and white people at the top of the hierarchy. Charles Darwin saw gradations between the highest men of the highest races and the lowest savages … Men were above women and white races above others.
Carl Linnaeus, who pioneered the globally standardised format for biological names, placed humans into four categories identified with colour red (the Americas), white (Europe), yellow (Asia) and black (Africa).
After World War II, scientists made an effort to move away from race science. Scientists have reached general agreement in recognising that mankind is one: that all men belong to the same species, Homo sapiens, read a statement in 1950 by 100 scientists, policymakers and diplomats, brought together by UNESCO.
Saini argues that white supremacists continued to study race science in the shadows, and it is now witnessing a revival.
In its review of the book, The Guardian cites the example of Richard Spencer, president of the white supremacist organisation National Policy Institute. Authoritarian leaders around the world look to people like this and to their underlying race scientists to add intellectual ballast to their prejudice on issues ranging from equality to immigration, The Guardian review says.