chapter  4
13 Pages

How Society Works: Essentialism

One of the most obvious examples of essentialism in recent human history is race essentialism. While publicly overt or explicit racism is far less popular in the twenty-first century than in the nineteenth, gender essentialism persists without showing any signs of abating. Some contemporary conservative Christian propagandists quite explicitly use sex essentialism to justify differential treatment of men and women. People regularly project stable, unchanging essences where there are none to find, despite all these obvious problems with essentialism. Despite all of the so-called "scientific progress", moderns frequently commit the same cognitive errors that they attribute to so-called "primitive animists", insofar as their causal accounts of group behavior tend to outrun the available data. From the perspective of methodological atheism, they should instead be very sceptical of claims about invisible essences that secretly lie behind group phenomena, for when people peek behind group labels they usually find only diversity and change.