EGENIS seminar: "Epistemic Risk Meets Biological Race Realism", Dr Celso Neto (University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date14 March 2022
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceOnline event.

Biological race realism is the view that humans form biologically real groups. This view has a long history related to racists, colonialists, and pseudoscientific practices (e.g., Bernasconi and Lott 2000). Nevertheless, while these practices have been thoroughly exposed and rejected, it does not follow that biological race realism is wrong. In fact, new defenses of this view have emerged recently based on sophisticated and reputable work in science and philosophy (Hardimon 2003; 2017; Spencer 2012; 2014; 2019b; 2019a).

In this talk, I examine Quayshawn Spencer’s defense of biological race realism. According to him, races are genetically grounded and play a modest, yet epistemically significant role in biology. But are human races epistemically significant enough to be deemed real? I argue that answering this question inevitably depends on social and political value judgments which Spencer does not recognize. I rely on the notion of epistemic risk and discussion about values in science to make this point (Douglas 2000; Brown 2015; Biddle and Kukla 2017; Elliot and Richards 2017). Once one realizes the influence of value judgments, Spencer’s biological race realism is less appealing than one might think. Furthermore, one realizes that doing metaphysics of race is a value-laden activity in significant ways.  

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