Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unpacking "Social Construct" Linguistics

Identifiable population groups that correspond with racial labels are referred to by sensible people as "races." Denying that these population groups exist if referred to as "races" or insisting they be called "social constructs" instead are examples of linguistic sophistry designed to confuse and befuddle rather than clarify and enlighten.

What is social construction? Philosopher Paul A. Boghossian answers as follows:

"To say of something that it is socially constructed is to emphasize its dependence on contingent aspects of our social selves. It is to say: This thing could not have existed had we not built it; and we need not have built it at all, at least not in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had we had different needs, values, or interests, we might well have built a different kind of thing, or built this one differently. The inevitable contrast is with a naturally existing object, something that exists independently of us and which we did not have a hand in shaping.

"...If the preceding considerations are correct, social construction talk does not cogently apply to the facts studied by the natural sciences."

If scientists who study the genetic, skeletal, and neurological differences among human populations that evolved separately from one another for tens of thousands of years are engaged in “social construction,” then so are geologists who study rock formations. Call everything from galaxies down to sub-atomic particles “social constructs” if you want to, but doing so won’t make race any less real than anything else in the natural sciences.

The goal of “race as a social construct” dogma, as originated by leftist Richard Lewontin, was to undermine both the scientific study and common-sense understanding of race. It is corrupt terminology – or at least a corrupt application of it. “Social construct” talk is inapplicable to biology per se, including human biology and variations within it as expressed in the form of identifiable races.

The only possible referent of "social construct” is something that is actually constructed socially. Black History Month is a social construct since it can only be created by social forces. It is a cultural, not a biological, phenomenon. Black people are not social constructs, since their distinguishing biological characteristics exist independent of any social category ascribed to them.

There are lots of social and cultural constructs associated with the black race, and the distinction between what's racial and what's cultural in influencing the behavior of blacks (and individuals of other races) isn't always clear. Both biology and culture play roles. It is the interaction between the two that is denied by the social constructivists, whose aim is to thwart any biological explanations for non-superficial racial differences.

“Race” and “species” name underlying biological realities. By contrast, laws and holidays name social conventions. Laws are constructed by social forces alone. Races pre-exist our identification of them.

Racial distinctions were genetically constructed and are identifiable as they manifested through the fossil record. Racial distinctions exist materially, just like the various types of rock formations that geologists study. That’s what social constructivists want to deprive you of being able to grasp.

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