Thursday, March 29, 2012

Scientific Determinism as Disempowerment

The notion that we live in a clockwork universe where the present is determined by the past surely has its applications, but too often people apply the concept in their own lives in a way that disempowers them, inhibiting them from believing that they can improve their situation. The ecological systems model, a model used in social work, on the other hand, recognizes that although there are macro factors that shape a person's life, factors that Marx deals with very well, there are also micro situations that a person finds themselves in that shape one's life. Society might be a certain way overall, but on the micro level individuals live in particular situations, doing particular things, within particular social relationships. While it may be harder to change society on the whole, there is much more freedom for action and improvement as a person goes down the scale to the more micro aspects of life. It's here that general scientific determinism can be extremely disempowering, because broad generalities don't apply to situations that folks actually do have some direct control over, and if a micro aspect of one's life isn't going very well, looking at it from a deterministic perspective can inhibit you from doing something to change it for the better, because you believe, falsely, that what is to be must be and that you don't have any control over it.

At that point, broad generalities become false, but our society regularly makes the leap from speculation about genes to assumptions about human evolution that refer to times we don't have much direct evidence for, to present day behavior, as if we don't have freedom in our daily lives to rationally deal with and change basic situations on the ground level.

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