Research on Race and Human Sexuality and its Revelation on the Relationship between Scientific Knowledge and Common Sense
For sociologists such as psychologists, science provides answers that common sense cannot provide, but despite these stark variations the two fields are highly interconnected. The idea that scientific knowledge and common sense are at polar ends began immediately people realized that the two fields are always at loggerheads. Scientific knowledge was introduced as a way of confirming, explaining or refuting common sense. Most of the time, knowledge developed through common sense was more than often refuted by scientific knowledge and this has been a source of numerous problems. As explained by Twine and Warren (2000), the methods applied in science are not the same as those employed in the use of common sense.
The idea that common sense and science are at polar opposites is based on the aims of the two fields. Science helps in confirming and correcting flawed cognitions giving individuals a realistic view of situations. While common sense is a poor master relying fully upon unchecked reasoning and gut feelings, science operates on developing theories which are then tested and confirmed using solid evidences. Common sense largely relies on gut feeling which may fail most of the time while science relies on the existence of facts which makes it highly reliable. These variations make the two fields differ in the way they view a variety of aspects but both scientific research and common sense rely on each other and thus the survival of one pushes the existence of the other especially in relation to human race and sexuality.
Relation between Science and Common Sense
Obtaining scientific knowledge is a social activity that uses particular processes to understand the implications, uses and reasons for the existence of certain social structures. Science in itself is a discipline that uses experimentation which produces verifiable facts. It is based on the cognizance of particular phenomena or facts through the use of intensive and verifiable methods such as observation, analysis and critical thinking. Normally, scientific knowledge is developed through the use of a systematic study that reveals facts which are then arranged based on particular disciplines.
Aside from the normal five senses that are necessary for survival, every human being has the ability to interpret and understand these senses. Considering that this feeling connects and makes meaning of the others, it is designated as common sense (Minton 2002, p. 10). Even though it differs in various individuals, every person uses this intelligence to make sense of various situations. For instance, people use common sense to understand that it is necessary to run away from danger such as a snake. Initially, human beings used this intelligence to understand the occurrence of some aspects and this brought about the concept of common sense knowledge. Based on the fact that the level of common sense is varied in in individuals, knowledge obtained in this way is not free of bias.
Among the concepts that baffle the existence of humanity is race and sexuality which have been and still are the source of a lot of controversy. Sexuality in various cultural settings was looked at as a sacred thing to the extent that people would shame anyone caught in the act of partaking in abnormal sexual acts (Dreger 1998, p. 41). In as much as they remained not recognized as avatars of sexual dexterity, the British viewed sex as an important way of ensuring that traditional marriage is consummated (Minton 2002; Toulan and Fisher 2013, p. 10). Aspects such as feminism were largely glorified to an extent that some of the practices became a religion (Laquer 1998, p. 14). Common sense knowledge was and is still largely applied in explaining sexual behaviors. The whole exercise was largely recognized as one of the most important exercises only to be undertaken during adulthood.
Tradition merged with culture in the British populace where they both supported the ideology of sexual purity and the aspect that this is a practice introduced by god for the purpose of procreation. According to Jones (2013), Christians in Britain would look down upon any ‘abnormal’ sexual practices such as homosexuality (p. 920). In fact, anyone found engaging in such practices would be punished using crude means such as public flogging and other forms of demeaning punishments. Based on the aspect of the widespread egalitarianism, the British would not only use sex for purposes of procreation but to help in maintaining connections between a man and a woman (Durbach 2010, p. 91). .
There is a strongly held conception that the Christian view of sexuality has declined over the years and this has an impact in the way people perceive sexuality. However, up until the 20th century, it is still obvious that religion and culture influence the way people view sexuality (Jones 2013, p. 919). Aspects such as prostitution and homosexuality may have been looked down upon but they were still being practiced secretly in the traditional sense. Science brought the idea that there is nothing abnormal about sexuality (Jones 2013, p. 920).
With the introduction of science came technology and other newer ideas which were connected to the traditional beliefs. Science and technology introduced new ways of communicating such as the use of dating sites and online communication. People are now engaging in virtual sexual communication. While tradition called for understanding sexuality through touch and sight, science allowed people to gain the same knowledge virtually.
In addition to this, science also made it possible for people to understand some behaviors of sexuality using in depth and verifiable beliefs. With this, there is an immensely thin line between the idea of sex being normal or abnormal. For instance, Laquer (1990) shows that homosexuality is a phenomenon which has existed since time immemorial (p. 29). Using the example of gender, Tavris (1993) shows that traditionally, women would always try to fit into the routine and expectations of men. This is becoming more intense as science allows people to see the infinite abilities of the human being regardless of their sex. However, a psychologist called Sigmund Freud has made it possible for people to understand that which is considered ‘abnormal sexual behavior’ by using existing scientific concepts. Through this understanding, these ‘abnormal behaviors’ are now practiced legally and in public without condemnation or the feeling of guilt.
With the rise of slavery and other demeaning practices, understanding the way the British populace has been viewing and still views race is a question of analyzing the history of the existence of so many races in one territory. Race has always been looked at from the ideology that it divides human beings based on the aspects of superiority and inferiority (Twine and Warren 2000, p. 13). Initially, the continent of Europe was largely populated by people from the white race. However, after slavery took place a lot of people from different parts of the world found it necessary to settle in regions which they were initially enslaved. Based on the idea that the slaves had masters before, the common sense knowledge in Britain was that anyone who was white was superior to any other race. In fact, some extremists would even harm or treat people from other races like animals.
The problem is that these concepts even go to the extent of affecting a particular race (Twine and Warren 2000, p. 21). In a description of a particular culture, Twine and Warren (2000), show that children are particularly impacted by the way history is shaped by common sense on knowledge. In this case, nationality and gender impact the way people view race and this also directs the research to be conducted on the same. Race is subjective to the beliefs of individuals and this is also controlled by the way people use common sense to understand their lineage and background.
With time, the idea that some races are superior to others became a traditional belief. The British societies have always equated the physical appearances and especially the color of skin with certain human qualities. People from other races and especially those with darker skins were designated as inferior or as having lower qualities. Tradition then developed into stereotypical beliefs which have been in existence for a long time now and also have an impact on the way religions view races.
The connection between religion and race is that the society believes that some religions are for particular races. As explained by Twine and Warren (2000), religion spread in various blocks and this is why some religious beliefs are popular in some races more than others. For instance, religious beliefs connected to the teachings of Buddha are largely connected to people from the oriental races. While some religions such as Christianity would encourage its members to understand and embrace people from other races, some would encourage their members to look down upon anyone that is not of that race or even of the same gender (Tavris 1993, p. 11). As a result, the traditional belief on superiority of races was revived and propagated through religion.
The scientific knowledge on race used experimentation, theory and existing historical concepts and made people understand the aspect of race. Through scientific knowledge, people are in a better position to connect their beliefs to facts on various races and this helped people merge and engage in activities which would otherwise be forbidden by culture and tradition that impact common sense. Through scientific knowledge, the society is now free to engage in practices such as interracial marriage and this has been immensely helpful in ensuring progress (Gould 1997, p. 28).
The enterprise of science is based largely on theories which are either approved or thrown out while common sense lacks structure and is largely subjective to cognitive experiences. Beliefs on race and human sexuality were first developed through common sense in religion. When science was introduced to the world, it was evident that the ideals of common sense and that of theoretical knowledge are clashing (Alan 2003, p. 232). This is a reason why religion which has shaped the British view of sexuality has always been in conflict with science (Morgan 2013, p. 155).
An outstanding variation between common sense and the origin of science is that while the later calls for testing and verification of facts through the development of facts, the other one is based on personal feelings. Using the practical example of sexuality, Morgan (2013) explains that most of the religious beliefs are based on bias (p. 155). When science became a popular means of understanding various concepts, Alan (2003, p. 232) says that it pushed for the alleviation of untrue beliefs and this brought a lot of problems between science and common sense.
Conclusion: Implications for Social Science Research
There is a connection between scientific knowledge and common sense from the revelation of the meaning of race and sexuality. Common sense is the basis of any scientific research as it is knowledge that can be obtained easily and from a variety of situations. Common sense is responsible for building knowledge that is not only questioned by science but verified using similar means. Even if scientific curiosity develops from other means, common sense is the best source of such inquisitions.
The process of obtaining scientific knowledge is based on common sense which is the first knowledge that every human being can get even without any effort. According to O’Connell and Layder (1997), social research is particularly important in controlling the way people view life and the aspects surrounding them (p. 31). Initially, these concepts were controlled primarily by common sense. With the introduction of science, people became more intuitive and their perception is transformed. The process of scientific research helps the society find a variety of ways of obtaining information and each of them is particular for a certain group.
Science has brought about a major connection between the existing intuition and new knowledge. However, most of the time scientists are keen to attack common sense knowledge. The solid knowledge produced by scientific research is not only verifiable but also easily applicable in a variety of situations. Future science will be based on scientific research more than common sense for the purpose of confirming and ascertaining the existence of realistic knowledge. However, science cannot do without common sense as it appears that it is responsible for building curiosity which leads to experimentation.
Alan, G. (2003). “The history of sexual anatomy and self-referential philosophy of science”, Metaphilosophy, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 229-249.
Dreger, A. D. (1998). Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press (library eBook)
Durbach, N. (2010). Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California ‘The missing link and the hairy belle: evolution, imperialism and “primitive” sexuality’, pp. 89-114.
Gilman, S. (1985). “Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late-Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature”, Critical Inquiry, 12, 1985.
Gould, S. J. (1997). The Mismeasure of man. London: Penguin
Laqueur, T. (1990). Making Sex: Body and Gender From the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Minton, H. L. (2002). Departing from deviance: a history of homosexual rights and emancipatory science in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (ebook).
Morgan, S. (2013). Sex and common sense: “Maude Royde, Religion and modern sexuality, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 153-178.
Parezo, N. and Fowler, D. (2007). Anthropology Goes to the Fair: The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp200-210.
O’Connell D., J and Layder, D. (1997). Methods, Sex and Madness (read chapter 1). London: Routledge.
Tavris, C. (1992). The Mismeasure of women. New York: Simon Schuster.
Twine, F. and Warren, J. (2000). Racing Research, Researching Race, New York: New York University Press.
Toulan, S., and Fisher, K. (2013). The Routledge history of sex and the body in the West: 1500 to the present. London ; New York : Routledge