Why myths about superiority endure, in the face of science

Race is a social construct, not a biological trait. That’s the scientific consensus—so why do many people still dispute it?

Origin tales exist everywhere. In the United States there is the myth of Manifest Destiny, that European settlers were preordained to spread west across America. In China the remains of Homo erectus known as Peking man are used to claim an unbroken Chinese lineage going back at least 700,000 years, with suggestions that this was a direct ancestor and among the first in the world to harness fire. 

In India religious nationalists have suggested that fantastical legends as described in old Hindu epics aren’t allegories but actually happened. One prominent Indian scientist has even said that the tale of a woman who gave birth to a hundred children is testament to ancient Indian skill in advanced reproductive technologies that are only now being rediscovered. 

One of Donald Trump’s parting shots before leaving the presidency was to create an advisory panel called the 1776 Commission, to promote his vision of a “patriotic education” in the United States. The commission’s report downplayed the realities of discrimination and deliberate human exploitation in the nation’s founding. It took particular aim at scholars and activists who call attention to historical injustice as part of addressing modern-day inequality. 

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