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Statistics, Eugenics, and Modern Views on Disabilities

cool44man's picture

This is actually a post for last weeks (first week of Feb), but the post never got published somehow. Sorry for the delay.

A Disability History of The United States brought forward a view on disability that I didn’t think was possible. Perhaps selfishly, I thought that all cultures had a similar outlook on disabled people being a net loss on society. I was excited to learn that many Native American tribes cared more about people’s spirit than appearance. Based on this story’s narrative, everyone in that society was valued for their skills, even if those skills were not the ones expected of a specific person. It also appears that some Native American tribes were already masters of accommodation. I would support modern people if they decided to use sign language as a means of international trade. It erases the inherent advantage native English speakers have in many trade negotiations. I am in an anthropology class at the moment, and these stories sparked the desire to learn more about their society. As it appears to be with many things, it seems that, like with most things, white people in power were responsible for the destruction of the prevailing belief system. It breaks my heart that statistics, a tool I often use, was partially responsible for the current view on disability. I guess it makes sense that when people attempted to normalize things, some twisted individuals thought it would be a good idea to normalize people. However, people who believed eugenics was okay clearly could not think like scientists. In astronomy, when we attempt to normalize or rank data, we don’t hope to make everything normal or exclude outliers. We try to find what universal rules allow the exceptions to happen because all things must live under the same set of rules. The only reason quantum mechanics (or most things in modern physics or astronomy) exist is that we noticed that some data did not agree with “normal data” or the current underlying theory. Eugenicists misused parts of the scientific model to fuel their ideas. Please pay attention to your community outliers; they may give you new insight into how things work in life.