More Super-Smart Boys Explains Gender Disparity in Science, o rly?

At least 3 people have asked me in the last two days if I intend to post something on that seriously underwhelming NYT article by John Tierney that was published a couple of days ago.  In it, Tierney postulates, YET AGAIN that there is a gender disparity in science because there are more men at the very upper end of the IQ scale than there are women. What was my response to everyone and their mother asking me if I was going to post on this topic- Yawn, yawn, and yawn again.  Apparently a plethora of other women scientist bloggers had the same reaction- and honestly, I could never have said it better than Female Science Professor or Isis– responses, in my humble opinion, completely spot on.

Then one of my science BFF sent me this article that appeared in the Daily Mail recently written by the estimable Professor Richard Lynn.  Ok, this time my response was less like yawn, yawn and yawn again and more like puke, puke, and puke again (on Richard’s shoes- a la Zuska). This little gem goes further than Tierney… I’ll just quote what Dr. Lynn said in the Daily Mail:

So here goes: one of the main reasons why there are not more female science professors or chief executives or cabinet ministers is that, on average, men are more intelligent than women.

Dr. Lynn says that he has reached this conclusion  from ‘a lifetime of academic research’- and he is aware that this explanation will unleash ‘howls of feminist outrage‘.

PUKE, PUKE, AND MORE PUKE.

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14 thoughts on “More Super-Smart Boys Explains Gender Disparity in Science, o rly?

  1. Bertrand Russell, in the “Principles of Social Reconstruction”, wrote: “But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back — fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be”.

    Perhaps Tierney & Lynn should stop making silly card castles and reach instead for a mirror – I postulate they might see a streak of yellow, glittering at the surface of their shadow. We live in an age of irrational fear — brought by loss of vision, lack of critical thought and an unsurmountable urge to make ourselves noted, even if for that we assume the role of fools and thus provide a spectacle for the blind masses.

    Congratulations on tenure, lovely flower bunch.

    Oak

  2. But at least he’s telling “THE TRUTH”: “As an academic, it’s my job to tell the truth, to explain the scientific evidence before us, irrespective of how unfashionable my conclusions are. Big ideas such as Galileo’s theory that Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than vice versa, or Darwin’s theory of evolution, met with vociferous opposition when first advanced.”

    I’m sure there was no rhetorical intent in comparing his brilliance and intellectual integrity with Gallileo or Darwin….HAHAHA!

  3. After reading Prof. Lynn’s article, I admit disgust is a natural first reaction for any red blooded woman working hard and succeeding in any male dominated field. But what if his observations are partially true? I will leave the discussion of scientific evidence on differences in intelligence to you scientists, but could there be a real difference in ‘drive’ and the ‘do-or-die’ need to succeed between men and women? I find that more believable based on my experience – as a woman competing in the cut-throat field of finance I admit to sometimes having to push myself to be as agressive as the chap I’m competing with. There is a certain discomfort with the ‘ruthless strategizing’ that is needed on the job compared to my male counterparts, and men certainly seem to be better at power politics than women in my field. While I have managed to motivate myself to be ‘more like men’ in that aspect, I have several friends who have dropped out of the race.

    I wonder why women seem to have this dislike for being in a constant state of battle, while successful men thrive in it. Maybe has something to do with nurture rather than nature – the competitive sports that boys tend to prefer versus the more artistic/literary pursuits of girls.

  4. @MS: I believe it is a nature versus nurture issue. Women have definitely been taught, even if not explicitly, to mind their manners, take care of the home and children, and be the one that halts confrontation, even if it means compromising our own interests/desires. So, when trouble arises at work, women tend to retreat. And when issues come up in the home, it’s almost automatic that the woman’s career takes a back seat. Whether it’s actually in our nature to be conciliatory or not isn’t as clear to me. But the way we use this “gift” is, IMHO, a learned behavior that will take time and support to change. Statements from people like Tierney and douchy Lynn, indicating it’s a natural lack of aptitude in women that causes this inequality, serve as unacceptable roadblocks to this needed change.

  5. MS
    “But what if his observations are partially true?”

    Then they will be true, and we will cope. But the thing is that so far these sorts of assertions, based on studies with serious methodological problems – let alone cavalier statistical interpretations – are a long way from providing sufficient evidence to embrace this version of the truth. To support a claim that women are not quite as smart as men currently requires a lot more evidence than has so far been farted out of the mouths of some of these intellectually substandard and empirically incompetent cretins.

    That’s the scientific side of the issue.

    There is also a political/ideological side which is nicely encapsulated by the quote above. The “But what if it’s true?” concern troll special attack is a real favourite among creationists, anti-vac folk, and various other groups, including – forgive the appeal to Godwin’s Law – deniers of the holocaust. The intent being to appeal to complicated, but ultimately flimsy “research” to implant a seed of doubt regarding the established and more widely accepted theory among the laity. As it is, Prof. Lynn has an apparent ideological bent that should be taken into account (see Pioneer Fund). No hypothesis – even one of a set of hypotheses well-supported to the point of accepted theory – should be regarded as infallible; that’s something that scientists and charlatans can agree on. The difference is that scientists acknowledge that only good, substantial evidence can be allowed to sweep away an accepted theory based on good and substantial evidence; charlatans, on the other hand, merely seek to exploit potential doubt to get their foot in the door and start shooing in all kinds of woo. What’s disturbing is that many of these charlatans apparently hold academic positions.

    “as a woman competing in the cut-throat field of finance I admit to sometimes having to push myself to be as agressive as the chap I’m competing with.”

    Let’s be clear: the reason you have to push yourself to be competitive hasn’t a bloody thing to do with your sex; at best, that’s a personality trait that might be influenced by social biases, but there is no evidence whatsoever (and good historical evidence to the contrary) that women are innately lacking in competitive drive and aggression.

    “Women have definitely been taught, even if not explicitly, to mind their manners, take care of the home and children, and be the one that halts confrontation, even if it means compromising our own interests/desires. So, when trouble arises at work, women tend to retreat.”

    Really? In the 1950’s possibly, but I know of few women under 50 yrs who were brought up in this manner. Quite the contrary, in fact. I know the comment is meant in a conciliatory tone, but it lays blame on the victim by implying that it’s the upbringing of women that was at fault (blame the past &c), as opposed to the very real discrimination that they face in contemporary society regardless of their competitiveness, aggression, or whatever other adjectives that have lately been assigned a completely hair brained and unwarranted gender bias.

  6. The problem with feminism of course is that it refuses to take reality into account. Sure…subtle and sometimes even not so subtle biases might exist and by the way, affirmative action is also just as real …perhaps a little more real than gender bias…going by the fact that affirmative action operates openly by day and can be measured while gender bias operates by night.

    But truth is, women do in fact enjoy a lot of freedom in the western world… the high schools seem to be graduating women at the top of their classes, top universities seem to be accepting more women students than men… by all accounts that are measurable…right up to the BS level, women seem to be easily taking the opportunity to outperform men … by a huge margin actually. Surely, things cant be as bad for women as feminists make it seem.

    And yet, 3 decades of affirmative action, of offering the best educational opportunities to women have still created a 4:1 ratio (at the very best) in the theoretical sciences. To say that its just due to discrimination is downright crazy. There have to be biological factors at work. We’re all scientists here… the observation is 4:1. We cannot accept an ideological “objection” to data.

    My question is simple: Are you saying that discrimination is the only factor behind gender disparity? Is this conclusion of yours based on observation or on what you want to believe? I am a scientist and I am ready to believe that women make better mathematicians on average than men, if the data says so…I will nod my head in agreement no matter how unpalatable the conclusion is to me. That’s the scientific method. Are you ready to accept that the opposite might be true? Or do you demand that a certain result be achieved?

    Equality of rights and equality of outcome are NOT the same thing.

  7. I also wonder why a woman succeeding in a male majority field would feel insulted by a suggestion that an average woman might be a lesser scientist than an average man. Averages say absolutely NOTHING about individual people.

    If I say: the boys scored 90% on average and the girls 85%, would you conclude that every boy scored more than every girl? If you think so, you probably really are not smart enough to be a scientist.

  8. SS,
    I’d like to tackle some of your more substantive points, but I would like to dismiss the following first:

    “But truth is, women do in fact enjoy a lot of freedom in the western world… “

    I’ll let you delve into the history of the criticisms levelled towards abolitionists in the 19th century, and will suffice here to say that this particular “But…” canard is representative of one of the most poisonous and self-serving arguments in the traditionalist’s armoury. Clearly, as we are scientists and champions of reason, we can dismiss the idea that because things are not as bad as they are elsewhere in other times we should not strive to make things better in the here and now.

    You go on to point out that women are currently experiencing a resurgence at the academic level, outcompeting boys on all fronts. That’s all fronts; the boys are struggling to even hold their own in the maths and physical sciences. As far as my own research informs me, there is no evidence of the 4:1 ratio you talk of having a correlate at the pre-college level, which invites the question; when exactly do boys suddenly get smarter at math in order to give rise to the 4:1 ratio come faculty hiring? Of course, they don’t suddenly get smarter, so some other selection procedure is going on, and the two best hypotheses are 1) women choose not to pursue such subjects at college level, and 2) women are either discouraged or barred from pursuing such subjects. The two are actually causally linked, at the conventional wisdom is that they are both contributing to the problem. A difference in smarts is not at issue at present, however.

    Now, a recent study did suggest that a greater variation in intelligence among men might underlie the observation that men tend to dominate at the elite end of the spectrum in certain fields. This is only a hypothesis generated on the basis of an inductive appraisal of the data, however, not a solid conclusion. Indeed, several critics have already highlighted some serious problems with this hypothesis, of which one of the principle ones is that it assumes a priori that intelligence and success are strongly correlated in the academic world. We don’t actually have much evidence to addressing the extent to which this is true (not sure we even have the methodology to do so), and at best, anecdotal data indicates that other qualities besides raw intelligence can contribute quite profoundly to one’s chances of success. George W Bush went to Yale and was elected president, you know.

    With regard to the following:
    “To say that its just due to discrimination is downright crazy. There have to be biological factors at work. We’re all scientists here… the observation is 4:1. We cannot accept an ideological “objection” to data. “

    I’m a scientist, but if you think these statements represents a sound appeal to the empirical, I have to wonder whether you are. Firstly, as I’ve said, there are numerous alternative explanations that have little do with gender-related biological bias; namely choice (for which there are well founded normative influences) and discrimination post-high school. Neither of these have been falsified, so they are very much on the table with equal stature to the view that women just might not be up to certain abstract tasks. The same holds for Watson’s recent suggestions that Africans are likely a bit dull-minded based on the current political and economic state of Africa. As if the hypothesis that this might have something to do with the continental rapine instigated over several hundred years of colonialism has at some point been scientifically falsified. It hasn’t, he’s talking nonsense, we move on and look for real answers.

    inrre,
    “My question is simple: Are you saying that discrimination is the only factor behind gender disparity?”

    No. And I don’t know anybody who is saying that. I think discrimination plays a significant role, partly in a direct fashion, but also in a passive and indirect fashion (via normative pressures for women to aspire to certain things and men to aspire to others, and thus make individual choices reflective of those pressures).

    “I am a scientist and I am ready to believe that women make better mathematicians on average than men, if the data says so…I will nod my head in agreement no matter how unpalatable the conclusion is to me. That’s the scientific method. Are you ready to accept that the opposite might be true? Or do you demand that a certain result be achieved?”

    Science doesn’t deal in truths (that’s for mathematicians), but pedantry aside, I would accept the support of such a hypothesis if it passed statistical muster (although statistics are of course merely arbitrary guidelines, not arbiters of facts). My feeling though is that given the contradictory results so far and the obvious narrowness of any differences between the sexes with regard to intelligence (no difference in average, and just a very slim difference in range, which may well turn out to be a sampling error), in addition to the fact that we are not in an informed position to truly understand how to quantify intelligence in anything but the most simplistic fashion in the first place, I don’t think we will have irrefutable evidence from which to form solid conclusions any time soon.

    Certainly, we are in no position – nor within a million light years of a position – to start attributing the obvious gender disparities at senior levels in the academic sciences to gender-based biological differences. We need a lot more evidence to consider this a scientific possibility, let alone a basis for policy.

  9. DSKS-

    You beat me to the reply, not hard since I was on vacation. I actually printed out SS comment and took it with me so I could write a blog post about it while away- but I see you kindly went for the smack down without me. thx.

  10. What about this as the foundation for a rational tax policy towards reducing rates and loopholes?We support a progressive income tax, not simply because the rich have more money. We expect more taxes from the rich because their income is in large part due to their good fortune of working in greatest country ever known – the USA.Don’t think redistribution of wealth. Think fairness in the returns from our common investment in creating and maintaining the American money-making machine. It is a machine built by all of us. A progressive tax system allows the rich the fun and glitz of working where they do while distributing a share of their income, built on the great nation that we share, to we, the People, partners and shareholders in the USA.To understand this, try to imagine the huge salaries, bonuses, and retirement packages, common to the wealthiest in the US, being received in Bhutan, Chad, or Paraguay. The super-wealthy in the USA exist because the USA provides the means for super opportunity for property, industry, and investment.The typical CEO can only claim 5% of the responsibility of the company’s success. Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney are exceptions that prove the rule. Leadership studies of other chief executives support the general rule. For example, top generals and coaches recognize the limits of their roles in organization and strategy to success on the battlefield and the playing field.What else, then, might account for the huge difference in salary for the CEO of a national delivery service and that of its drivers? Does one work longer hours? Does one have greater personal risk? Greater financial risk? (Who gets large termination guarantees?) Does one actually produce goods and services that add to the cumulative, national wealth substantively and not just by manipulation of economic systems and institutions? (The super rich enjoy a growing share of the nation’s pie without expanding the pie and often, shrinking it. Higher income inequality leads to slower economic growth.) Are CEO’s 20 or more times smarter and more talented? Is it harder to recruit a successful CEO than a driver? Actually, most high salaries are attributable to friends on the compensation committees of their companies.We support tax cuts for the rest that trickle up to the rich: Cut taxes for everyone (rich and poor) by reducing the tax on everyone’s first amounts of taxable income with a long-term goal of having no tax on the first $52,000 of taxable income our national median income.Everyone, rich and poor, benefits. Cutting the rate in the lowest bracket gives each tax payer the same tax savings as any other. More money to spend by the rest of us will increase the income of businesses and produce greater returns for their owner. A rising tide is still critical to lifting all boats. Helping to raise the lowest boats actually helps to keep the tide for yachts rising!Progressive marginal rates should begin at 5 or 10 times median national income – today approximately $52,000. Five times is $260,000; 10 times is $520,000.Certainly, one-size does not always fit all. For example, some allowance should be made for extra education costs incurred and the income deferred by entrepreneurs in considerations of the years they worked out of their garages and depended upon the spouse’s regular job to put food on the table. In addition, depreciation should be allowed to high paid athletes and others whose careers are shorter than normal. Tax expenditures would be limited, but to encourage home ownership, interest deductions should be allowed for mortgage payments on primary residence. After-tax 529-style savings plans should be available to provide for early retirements and for inheritances as well as college.Also, although it is not likely that we will see seriously large salaries of those in law enforcement and the armed forces, who actually do have greater personal risk than the rest of us, allowances might also be appropriate for them. Normally, however, we would expect the danger to be reflected in special pay and benefits.

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