Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Larry Learns His Lesson

And when the findings of science do not agree with the prejudices of the academy - well, then it's time to crucify the President of Harvard University! No doubt you've read about said President - Larry Summers. He gave a speech suggesting that a possible reason (among others given)women are proportionately underrepresented in the elite science faculties of American universities may stem from differences in aptitude. Of course there is enough IQ data out there to make this at least a partially testable proposition - either a statement of fact or fiction that could be refuted by some objective presentation of data. And in fact IQ testing supports the following points:

1) Men and women score the same average on IQ tests, but the standard deviation of test scores for men is greater. If you don't understand the implications of this, you are most likely a woman (based on the assumption that above average intelligence is required - if you don't understand why this assumption is necessary for the non-parenthetical to be true, again you are more likely to be a woman, assuming the same assumption holds for understanding why the assumption is required). If you take offense to that comment, you are definitely a woman. A higher standard deviation implies that there are more men at the tails of the distribution - i.e. we have more geniuses and morons (and sometimes they are one in the same - Noam Chomsky comes to mind). Under the reasonable supposition that only those with extremely high intelligence will secure positions in the Harvard science faculties (the Humanities are a whole different ball game), men would naturally be over-represented.

2) IQ is essentially determined by heredity - environment matters in the early years, but the influence of environment wanes to practically nothing by the time a person is 20. This is why the Hatcher's early education efforts with his boys consists entirely of tag team wrestling matches in the basement and watching cartoons (but not Sponge Bob, at least not since he came out).

3) 1 and 2 combined suggest that men are more likely (other things equal) to be scientists, and that this greater likelihood is not the result of teachers steering them to the lab while the girls were given aprons and sent to home ec.

4) And all of this is independent of another argument - that men are more interested, which is obvious to everyone other than a University professor. (Summers did suggest this also.) Boys like to construct things and then blow them up - interests that incline them naturally to science. Girls like to bake pastries - an interest that inclines them to baking pastries. Don't blame the Hatcher for these observations - I call 'em as I see 'em. And pulease don't decry the making of such generalizations - of course there are exceptions, but they are exceptions!

5) Before I lose all my women readers, I'd also point out that there are different types of intelligences, and that women are far better with words then men. Have you ever played Boggle with a chick? It's a humbling experience. If Harvard had a Boggle faculty, this whole debate would be reversed.

Poor Larry Summers is now on a worldwide apology tour in a desparate salvo to save his job. It won't work, because those he is apologizing to won't stop until they have his head (he's already given up one part of his male anatomy). Why? Because if what he said has any glimmer of truth, then the notion that discrimination accounts entirely for the lack of women scientists cannot hold true, and it even becomes possible that discrimination doesn't account at all for such disparities. That would go against the dogma of academics, and as such constitutes heresy! Showing them the data will do no better for Summers than it did for Galileo with the Church.

If Summers hadn't dropped to his knees in supplication to these losers, I'd be his biggest fan. But alas he has. He should have told his critics to grow up - in that he might have done more for academia than he'll ever accomplish as President of Harvard. (Accept he did drive Cornel West from Harvard - and that counts for something.) To borrow a concept from Orwell, all speech is free on college campuses, but some speech is freer than others. Larry Boy is now paying a steep price for the less free version of speech. If he is eventually run out, it is more proof, as if more is needed, that the college campus is truly an intolerant environment for certain objective debates.

I'll leave the men with a math joke: Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip? To get to the same side.

8 Comments:

Blogger pbryon said...

I too think that a lot of Larry's comments were taken out of context. Then again, you could make the same argument for people like Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek.

But I do wonder if many or your generalizations today are for "American" men and women. I'm seeing more and more Asian women in science, and their Boggle skills are nowhere near as good as their Western counterparts.

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a chance to give a seminar at Harvard about a week ago. Nobody on the economics faculty was particularly offended by Summer's hypothesis including the female faculty I met.

I don't think that your claim that certain hypotheses can't be entertained in academia is entirely true. Some of this probably goes on in the humanities, but there is much less of this nonsense in economics, at least in my experience. Some of us in academia actually want to help students learn, not shove our beliefs down their throats.

To some extent markets alleviate (albeit imperfectly) the problems you are talking about. Students can choose which class to take and which university to enroll in. The typical economics major would experience very little of this type of indoctrination in class. If you want to major in the humanities with a more conservative bent, there are options. For instance, go to a major Catholic university.

PatB

6:37 AM  
Anonymous ahatch said...

3 does not logically follow from 1 and 2. I think you mean to conclude 1 and 2 suggest that more men will be genius scientists (and moron scientists) than women, not that more men will be scientists.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Pbryon,

Shhhh! You don't mean to suggest that there could be racial differences in IQ, do you? We'll just forget you said that and hopefully your government employer will be none the wiser. But in the future, take your fascist observations to a less tolerant blog.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Pbryon,

Shhhh! You don't mean to suggest that there could be racial differences in IQ, do you? We'll just forget you said that and hopefully your government employer will be none the wiser. But in the future, take your fascist observations to a less tolerant blog.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Pbryon,

Shhhh! You don't mean to suggest that there could be racial differences in IQ, do you? We'll just forget you said that and hopefully your government employer will be none the wiser. But in the future, take your fascist observations to a less tolerant blog.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But can a man knit a moebius strip shawl in 100% wool?

P.S. - you left out the 'e' in 'moebius.' Off with your head!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Alessandra said...

I think socialization has far more profound effects on the great majority of people than genetics. And your observation about the types of intelligence is not to be overlooked. Given that men have been politically dominant, and most all the wars and genocides and rapes and forced starvation happened because of their enormous "intelligence", big deal about their IQ measurements. What is an IQ without ethics? A monster.
I think the biggest problem with repeating to people "men are the most intelligent" is that this has a psychological impact on many women (although not all). It's amazing what happens to a child or adult when you tell them they can't do something or they are not as good as others, instead of telling them they can reach the sky.

6:38 PM  

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