When Dr. Johnson mentioned that we will be discussing the difference between eliminitivism vs. conservationism for the rest of the semester, I thought it would be a good idea to hammer out what those both meant to me in order to see how my perception of the two change as the semester goes on. For now, I am certainly an eliminitivist.
From Bernier to Gobineau, we have generally agreed (as a class) that race is an artificial classification of peoples. In the case of Herder, we also saw that trying to define another term such as "volk" has almost as many problems as "race." Side-stepping the problem of "race" by the use of other terms such as "ethnicity" gives rise to generalizations that are debunked by the science of genetics. Montagu uses the analogy of the omelet to demonstrate this point. There are no omelets in nature, only the ingredients which make one up. Because of this, "race" as we know it has been deemed scientifically unsound; there is no race gene or set of well-defined race genes. Certainly different phenotypes exist, but they exist in such variety amongst the "races" that they carry no inherent meaning. To take this even further, these phenotypes certainly do not lead to characteristics of the individuals of that group such as ethics or civility.
Eliminitivism takes this evidence to make its point: race, as we know it, should be eliminated as a term of significance. Montagu states that not only it is false, but it also "leads to confusion and the perpetuation of error." As with all other meaningful ideas, once we know it is false, we should get rid of it. Keeping the idea around only leads to more falsities and harm. For example, once we understood the microbial model of infection, the old thoughts of blood humors and spirits were done away with in the medical field. One would be hard-pressed to argue nowadays that we should have kept those old models around.
Of course there may be other systems in which we would like to keep around falsities, but I am not familiar with them. I hope that the comments of this post could address this issue.
In contrast to elimintivism, there stands conservationism. Conservationism wishes to keep race as a meaningful term although it acknowledges that race is not a scientifically sound idea. As discussed in class, some peoples feel a sense of pride in their race. These individuals find a sense of community in their race, and thus gain something from their acknowledgment of race. A problem arises though, when that race sees themselves as different from other races and treats other races accordingly. Admittedly, my view and understanding of conservationism are not the strongest they could be, but that is why I am posting this. Hopefully as this course proceeds I will gain a better understanding.