Previously [link] we talked about how evolution requires diversity within a species to be strong and robust. We saw that eugenics corrupted this concept of “diversity is good” and changed into “diversity is bad” using the erroneous logic of god’s blueprint, which led to the support of oppression, attrocities and genocide.
During the popular time of eugenics – from 1890 to around 1950 – many people, including scientists, medical professionals and politicians, thought that the idea of eugenics was good. To be clear, it was wrong as it goes counter to the evidence.
How could so many people get this wrong?
We have learned a lot since that era about human prejudice and how if information that we are given aligns with our personal or cultural bias, we accept it with less rigorous diligence than if an idea goes against our bias. As eugenics aligned with the general belief at the time that “different races” were “less good” or “less human”, it was an idea that was not examined well for accuracy. It be clear, it was false.
We have to remember that scientists, medical professionals and politicians are humans first, and thus prone to human error. Social sciences such as sociology, psychology and behavioural science have explored, identified and demonstrated a great deal of these biases that blind us. Ignorance of these biases means that you will fall foul of them, and knowledge of them means that you can bias against your own erroneous biases.
As a result of the realisation that eugenics was very, very wrong, we rebounded from the idea that there are better and worse humans into the idea that there is only one type of human. This seems like a good idea on the surface – we are all equal as we are all human.
Unfortunately this idea is also false. The opposite of a bad idea is often another bad idea, but in a new direction. This erroneous idea – that all people are the same – has created some horrible consequences. Last time we spent some time looking at the difference between equality and equity and how that creates problems when we don’t include variation in humans – briefly, if we treat all humans as the same human, then individual needs are not met on an individual basis.
Let us explore this idea a bit.
We can clearly see that some people are tall, some people are short and most people are average in height. [Insert Bell Curve] This same distribution exists for people’s widths and curves. A diverse range of melanin in hair, skin and the iris accounts for a large range of hair colour, skin colour and eye colour. These are mostly cosmetic differences, which only play an important role when trying to find clothing that fits and looks good, or working out how much sun you can withstand or need, and so on.
These can also include some important social differences. Taller people are often asked to get things down. Tall people are more often chosen as leaders and given positions of trust – based purely on their height. If the person is too tall, they run the risk of colliding into low objects placed with “average” in mind, being avoided as “freakishly tall” and stared at.
Anyone on the edge of the distribution curve is in a minority category.
Clearly one size does not fit all.
But again, this is all external stuff, surely it is what is on the inside that matters? Aren’t we all the same inside?
No, we aren’t.
Most people don’t have the same type of blood that I have. Not because I have a rare blood type, but because this is actually true for every human. While it all looks red, there are dozens of different types of human blood divided into roughly 8 groups. We humans cannot simply interchange our organs without the risk of organ rejection which is even more complex than matching blood types. Our DNA and immune differences make us very diverse. While we have come up with some interesting scientific solutions to these diversities, they were required because of our bodies’ diversities.
Sure, though, it is just a matter of scale then? Again, no. For example, half of the population does not have ovaries. Ovaries do not exist on a spectrum, so half of the population has no idea what it is like to have ovaries.
While we have roughly the same kinds of organs in the same locations, they are not the same and not all organs work as efficiently for all purposes. There are populations of humans who live very high up and are able to extract more oxygen from each breath and transport that around their bodies more efficiently. This high altitude tolerance has evolved at least 3 different times in human subgroups in 3 different ways in 3 different areas. This difference is important because it isn’t a recessive trait that became dominant, it is three different variations evolved to manage the same problem, but in different ways. This variability in humans has allowed humans to exist in an extreme that others cannot safely do so.
As stated before, roughly half the population has ovaries, and the other half does not. Most medications are tested on the population that does not have ovaries. There has been some strong criticism in the last few years that the efficacy trials of medications on people with ovaries is insufficient and thus we don’t truly know how or if they work, or what unexpected side effects they may have on these obviously different body types.
Another example is that it is well known that the visible signs of heart attack in the population of people with ovaries is different to the population of humans without. Most education on the signs of heart attack are taught based on the assumption that the patient does not have ovaries, which has led to many misdiagnoses and preventable deaths.
Our general physical shape and colouring varies.
Our internal systems vary.
Our brains vary.
Look around at your friends. Because they are your friends, there will be a certain commonality amongst them compared to everyone else. However even amongst a group of friends, where each friend is also friends with each other, there will be a large range of preferences and behaviours. If we all have the same brain, why is there so much variation in preferences and behaviours?
Because we are all different.
The main error of eugenics was that some humans were defined as better than other humans, and the pushback from that horrible concept is to state that we are all the same. Instead of recognising that different humans are equivalent, we have pushed back and made them all medically equal, despite the clear evidence that this is false. To keep this idea true, we underplay medical and social differences wherever possible.
This “all humans are the same” idea has led to some terrible social policy decisions which keep certain groups in enforced poverty, and is used to ignore the privileges of other groups. For “All lives matter” to work, then all lives have to matter. That is, all lives can’t matter until all lives *do* matter, which requires us to highlight the lives in populations that are not being given equity. To remind certain privileged populations of this, we must highlight that inequity – That is why black lives matter.
This “all humans are the same” idea has led to teaching the medical model of humans based on a sub-group of humans as the “standard” – cis, het, white and male – and either that there is no difference from this “standard” to other humans, or that those differences are irrelevant, or of low importance – which is clearly wrong.
This is not to invalidate all of medical science – this is to highlight that there are some inadequacies in the method and practice of medicine so that we can understand the follow on effect on how we see our mental health. Hopefully it might empower you to ask more questions about your own specific health if you are not cis, het, white and male.
A consequence to applying this one size fits all “normal” model is defining human minds as either normal or atypical – aka “crazy”, when the reality is far more complex.
Next time we are going to look at neurodiversity – a multiple axial spectrum model of human minds.