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In Conversation with Maya Bahl on Ethnicity and Race


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/10/28

Maya Bahl is an editor and contributor to The Good Men Project with me. She has an interest and background in forensic anthropology. As it turns out, I hear the term race thrown into conversations in both conservative and progressive circles. At the same time, I wanted to know the more scientific definitions used by modern researchers including those in forensic anthropology. Then I asked Bahl about conducting an educational series. Here we are, part one.

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Looking at the ways in which the concepts of race and ethnicity are used for real discovery about the natural world in forensic anthropology, how does this differ from the standard pseudoscientific and racist theories with use, at times, as political and social tools?

Maya Bahl: Race and Ethnicity have been effective in defining humanity, whether it’s solving a crime or at a basic level, identifying populations and opening communication gaps. As the ever-evolving study of people and groups change, however, other standard pseudoscientific and racist theories have emerged, where it can be distracting.

Spurring on hatred as we see in political movements as Naziism or social tools as Islamophobia takes this much-needed conversation on tolerance back instead of forward.

2. Jacobsen: Evolution by natural selection is the foundation of biological sciences and medical sciences. In North America, this theory can be denied by large portions of the population, leave large parts of the population at a low cultural-scientific level.

Ironically, the leaders in denial of theory tend to promote Social Darwinism views on the social order.

Without knowledge of evolution, and connected to the previous question, and if indoctrinated with pseudoscientific and/or racist theories of human beings, how does this limit a citizen’s worldview?

Bahl: Efforts have happened in limiting cultural and scientific awareness, like with what we saw in The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, or more commonly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial in the U.S from the early 1900s, where a school system denied the teaching of human evolution.

Ongoing efforts in quelling human evolution’s existence in education have also happened since, where it is a loss in not embracing the fundamental fact of us coming from the earth.

It does seem that whatever is favourable to teach by a handful of people, then it shall be taught, even if it’s Social Darwinism by another name! This also seems to run top-down systems where the people at the top would have the most say, that they are the ones fittest for survival.

3. Jacobsen: Continuing from the previous question, how might this influence the conversation around proper, scientific definitions of race and ethnicity, e.g., those seen in forensic anthropology literature?

Bahl: The conversation would be affirmed or denied by those who are perceived to have the most say and power.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Maya.


SAHO. (2017, May 8). Pseudo-scientific racism and Social Darwinism. Retrieved from

Manning, K.R. (1999, September 4). ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Science and Opportunity. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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