The relationship of scientific facts with the idea of “Truth” has been made a pretty direct one in culture and politics. Hence the popular but debatable phrase – “facts, not feelings”. This has been shown to be a dangerous perspective of our humanity through studies in mental health. But if I may also suggest, it is highly irrational.
Our experimentation of human existence has led us into the depths of division based thinking, the curse of reductionist utilitarianism, which requires us to create researches for every observed phenomenon in human society. So here we are in the 21st century with a host of sociology studies that somehow describe to us our own social existence. Our expressions, interactions, speech and almost every aspect of human autonomy – has now been broken down into a relational phenomenon which transcribes our “personality”. An insistence to be able to say, this is what it means to be a person like you, now deciphered through scientifically proven data and explained to you in a fresh set of words in language. Thereby generating the fervent dispute to a mandated political correctness in Queer politics, supposedly enforced through learning foreign words.
Even though we know that there is a long history of cruel experiments conducted to scientifically explain race, sexuality and neurodivergence – the Modern in 2020 has become blind to this aspect of ‘determinism’.
Historically, this endeavour of explaining human societies through ‘scientific’ measures is a result of ideas of ‘determinism’ introduced by Europeans in the 17th century, during Enlightenment. This determinism has been questioned time and again by indigenous narratives which reject the explorer curiosities of the western world, post colonisation. I understand this resistance because it has deep roots in the Indian subcontinent’s fight for autonomy and freedom from colonisers. And I am just a person trying to uphold the tradition of independent thinking by obsessively reading the books in the public archive.
We know that historically there were studies conducted by the Raj to describe tribes and castes in India. One such study was by an “ethnographer” Herbert Hope Risley who was apparently worthy of a knighthood for his study dividing people into races on the basis of their nose measurements.
These studies conducted during the Raj were the establishing ideas of anthropology in the region – which I am not an expert on. Although it is not difficult to deduce how such studies and the appointment of such administrators in key positions of Indian Civil Services in the 19th century, led to the genesis of the supremacist rationalisation of genocide in the 20th century.
The argument against scientific determinism currently sees the most staunch defenders en-masse in Indian medicine. Which is why the support of Ayurvedic medicine is a key movement that has been used to sway voters by political factions. This movement is also supported by many qualified scientists, who have taken it a step further to draw connections to ‘Hinduism’. Although they are all gravely silent on the fact that, what is now considered a cohesive religion, is a rather bloody history of erasing indigenous practices through genocide and enforcement of the same “colonial” reductive divisions through religious scripture.
So in my opinion, it is quite fitting that the idea of determinism has also been used by *one* British author whose books about magical people sold all too well in India for them to become rich and famous. Only to now use their platform for specifically countering people with a transitioning gender identity through biological determinism.
The questions around determinism are logical contradictions which emerge in Eastern societies and have been debated for centuries. They also stand directly in opposition to cultural beliefs in the East, where we do not try to ascribe specific and immovable values to humanity’s material existence. Which is why a lot of people, however uneducated, deduce these ideas naturally in India and have supported post-colonial movements for self-reliance.
I believe there has always been a quiet opposition to assimilation by the Junta in India, which is now facing a real threat from the legal and cultural changes being brought on by extremist factions who will like to impose a singular majoritarian identity to the country. This opposition of the people has also led separatist movements in the subcontinent to fight neo-colonization; highlighting the need for ‘self determination’.
In my mind therefore, this continuous questioning of ideas around determinism is nothing but a goose chase through old philosophical questions, while making us ignore our current social reality.
I am sure someone may soon arrive at some provable conclusions in science, maybe a manuscript is already lying in the rejection pile of a publisher – I find this to be nothing but a political distraction by the powerful. Complex ideas that have plagued all thinkers in human history and intersect with concepts of science, religion and society in several ways can not be easily refuted through tweets. And don’t even need to be answered in order to know that we all need to be kind to other human beings.
However as a person identifying as Queer, I know all too well how resilient and brilliant we are. So I am sure now that we have begun discussing it, we will come to new conclusions on determinism too.
My personal interest is in disproving any notions of a ‘normal’ because I find the world has rejected many natural tendencies by its insistence of normality in social discourse.
Absurdity is not just natural, it is logical. But the modern in 2020 has become blind to this aspect.
The modern has become obsessed with data analytics which has exacerbated the typification of human behaviour. I feel we must now always belong to this typified world where I risk ostracism simply if I do not conform to a type.
Data has been used to construct streams of selective consciousness online through mass communication; a bubble of reality we unwittingly exist inside. In this way our ‘personal’ is being snatched away from us by the same process which claimed to help ward off social evils – science.
The claim that science has improved our way of understanding society has never been untrue, but it is also only a part of the truth. This can be demonstrated, not by establishing fallacies like in linear arithmetic – but by proving the existence of contradictions. This is why an abstraction of humanity must be kept at the centre of understanding the ‘social’ in social science.
I think for too long there have been people who have convoluted ideas of science to fit their own ideals into our social machinery. We try and question whatever is held as an absolute belief only when faced with genocide. And then we find these absolutes to be a result of the supremacist objectives of an inverted state of social existence – a pyramid. What is on top is not just a small fraction of the bottom, but also projected at a higher state to imply hierarchy. This is often the case even in infographic representations used in education of class and caste in India.
Which makes me question, why a triangle even thought to be the right shape for this representation? Because it is not only inaccurate, it is also an incorrect way to educate how our society actually functions. I think it may be a little bit to do with our general obsession of threes – the height, breadth, length of an easily perceivable 3 dimensional world.
So we find in recent studies, sociologists realised this error and started to use circles. A spherical representation of data gives us an acute idea of perceivable sizes in social sciences and also rids us of any linear relationships – upwards or sideways.
This also supports the existence of contradictions, allowing us to describe complexities of truths. It dispels any absolute thinking which may arise from insisting the nature of our societies must be projected as a tree; the fruits at the top and the roots at the bottom.
I find that sentence interesting because it is a metaphor. A metaphor is a rather fun thing in language which is understood by the human mind in two ways, visually and literally. The purported meaning behind the words is implicit and does not have to be explicitly presented for it to be known by a reader. For it to be understood as the truth.
A metaphor poses a powerful defiance to determinism. Or so I like to think.
Because like there is no linear relationship between a fact and a truth – there is no linear relationship between the scientific research of societies and the ever evolving deviations to the norm experienced by people in their life. And our discomfort with contradictions is a huge hindrance to our understanding of types and conformity.
A fact gives birth to multiple realities which can always be seen as contradictions.
I wear a hat. That I wear a hat on hot days, or on nights I want to hide – are both true realities. So does the fact that I wear a hat mean that I don’t like the sun on my head? Yes. It also means that I have a hat which I can use any way I want. And does the fact that I wear a hat mean that I have a hat? I may have stolen the hat or borrowed it. I possess the hat but I may not own it. How are possession and ownership different? Well, depends on who’s asking.
The oddity of words is that meaning can transform with context, much like our personalities. Who are you in this moment, who will you be in the next?
The certainty of an individual identity exists in modern culture, only because of a self-declared conformity into socially defined types. An act of non-conformity (or transition) can be seen as contradictory to it’s certain existence. Yet as we see in society, both are true.
John Venn describes in his book, Symbolic Logic, how mathematics is a language of symbols which uses laws to transcribe Logic. And eventually all mathematical symbols must be defined, therefore their meaning is not fluid. However in our use of logic to investigate our general culture he warns, “we are also training ourselves for perfectly serious intellectual warfare”.
I mean if you can read the book then you can definitively find the counter to reductive thinking in sociology from the OG diagram man himself.
I am not an expert like him, I just read and write because I get bored. I also feel tired of translating my non-conformist existence like this with words. But I found out recently, we can always be post-colonial but not post-genocidal. And intelligent dialogue without apparent motive is a great way to ensure survival.
If I can’t conform to the normal, I will spin circles around it. ∞
The contradiction to linear determinism is the concept of relativity – an idea of queer determinism.
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