Race Thought Experiment #3

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If God created the universe not with the slow development most of us believe to have happened but pretty much as it is now, with all the "memories" and seeming causes that give signs of the past, would the racial groups we now identify still count as races? Would they be the same groups (i.e. would the lines of demarcation for races be the same as what they now are)?

6 Comments

I think the racial groups we now identify would still count as racial groups. The "memory" would function as the definer for what then follows. It'd be like the young earth and starlight thing. It may not have been necessarily "true" in the past but it is the model for it going forward.

Rey, I'm not sure what you say here is consistent with what you said on the previous race thought experiment post. If having no parents means the duplicate of Chris Rock isn't black, but fake memories are enough to make lots of duplicates of the black people in our world, then why wouldn't the memories of the duplicate of Chris Rock be enough? Or do the memories only matter when the entire world has no history, and history matters when there is a history? I guess that view would be consistent, but what would be the motivation for such a view?

Yeah, I meant the latter. It'd be something like Plato's forms. I would never would have known what redness was except for the "memory" of redness and that would wind up being the definer of "redness" even if I had just popped into being. Going forward I'd say "This is red" but with the memory I'd also say "this is red now".


Do you just mean that people would call him black if there were no history but fake memories of it? Of course that would be true. But would they be correct to do so? Do the fake memories make it true somehow, even though they're false memories?

I think I see my problem. I'm incorporating into the thought model things about God and the nature of revelation which has nothing to do with the basis of the question. The YEC argument about starlight is a weak one but it's enough for me to say "yeah, okay, I guess that can happen and God would still remain truthful and people are still required to believe it."

But if I remove God from the thought model and say that everyone popped into existence five seconds ago but with all the memories of race and so forth, they would not be correct in using those racial categories, no.

Putting God back in though, and given Adam and Eve, it does make me wonder how I can justify the concept of race at all beyond some pseudo-cultural and general characteristic shorthand.

Maybe you're just anticipating one of the conclusions I'm going to draw. If you just had the genetic information about everyone in the world, but they had no historical relations, it would be impossible to derive the racial groups we actually pay attention to (even if you might be able to categorize people into some sort of races without being biologically arbitrary). So the question then becomes what role historical relations play. They explain the use of our terms, but do they generate the actual categories, and does it affect things if (as is the case) some of the practices that are involved are thoroughly immoral and (as is also the case) some of the practices involve people believing false statements about the racial groups they classify people into? Can you accept such facts about racial classification and still think races are real? I think so. But it has implications about how your theory of race has to work. There are a few viable options, and they differ considerably, but I'm interested in teasing out people's intuitions at the pre-theoretical level.

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