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NYT prints a demagogic essay on women in science

The New York Times have published a manipulative article about women in STEM fields,

Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?
by Eileen Pollack, a writer of a sort and a professor in the humanities who has received an undergraduate physics degree. She describes her – and not only her – hardcore conspiracy theory claiming that the underrepresentation of women in physics and related sciences is due to some evil cabal controlling the society.

In the first paragraph, she describes a 2012 paper written at Yale that "goes a long way toward providing hard evidence" of anti-women "bias" in science. If the admission committee gets the same documents about men and women, they're more likely to pick the male candidate and/or pay him some extra $4,000 in salary.




I doubt that the standards of that research would satisfy my quality expectations but I think that the result is right because it should be right. What Ms Pollack doesn't say is that this treatment of the applications is completely fair and rational. The people who are admitting new students or hiring only get some very incomplete information in the applications and they have to "guess" what the candidates really are and what they aren't, what they can do and what they can't do. And they have to realize that some of the comments in the recommendation letters are exaggerated.

There are two main reasons why this process ends up giving lower scores to the women. One of them is that it is a fact that the percentage of women who are capable of becoming really good physicists or mathematicians is lower by more than one order of magnitude than the percentage among men. So everything that the application doesn't say is naturally filled by some neutral expectations and the neutral expectations inevitably reflect the known group information about the candidates.

Second, every member of the admission committee knows that the female applications (especially the recommendation letters) are being improved more intensely than the male applications (because it's often considered "cool" or "gentlemanly" to say nicer things about women) so they simply subtract this improvement back from the female candidates' scores, to get an idea about the candidates that is as accurate as the data actually allow.




Moreover, these games about improving the female applications followed by the subtraction of the same improvements don't really matter. There are tons of institutions that are obsessed by the political correctness and who would selectively hire good female candidates if there were many of them on the market. But none of these institutions is flourishing simply because there aren't too many good female candidates for such jobs.

Pollack describes some of her math and physics classes where she had a hard time to catch up with others and she constantly wanted to raise her hand to slow the instructor down. You shouldn't be shocked that with these data, her environment wasn't optimistic about her being a physicist. Then she boasts that she graduated summa cum laude.

You may see that whenever the system makes her succeed, it "proves" that she is good. But whenever the system and the environment is telling her something bad, the system and the environment must be rotten. If she disbelieves the system, why doesn't she do so consistently? Most likely, her "summa cum laude" was mostly due to the political correctness at Yale but she is afraid to even consider this possibility and she would like to make sure that the readers will be afraid to consider it, too.

This is just plain dishonest. To make things worse, she blames her being slow on her attendance of a rural school where the education wasn't that good and where people "knew" that girls didn't go to maths and physics etc. Let me tell you something: the percentage of men and women is close to 50 percent in the countryside, too. There are many male physicists who used to attend rural schools, too. And the rural stereotypes also say that being a mathematician isn't a job for a "real man" (it's not macho enough); it is for sissies. The main point is that the anti-intellectual sentiments in the countryside are being supported by any arguments that can be found, regardless of the sex. Her references to the rural high schools clearly provide us with no evidence that her conspiracy theory about the anti-female bias is right.

The actual explanation is, almost certainly, that she just wasn't great in physics and – which may be more important – she doesn't even like it. Her negative attitude to what the "physics research package" includes seems manifest in every other sentence she writes. What she wrote is really a hostile anti-physics tirade. For example, we learn:
At the end of four years, I was exhausted by all the lonely hours I spent catching up to my classmates, hiding my insecurities, struggling to do my problem sets while the boys worked in teams to finish theirs.
Physics (and especially mathematics) is often supposed to be a lonely enterprise. So of course that if someone suffers whenever she or he tries to work on physics (or mathematics) in a lonely way, it is not a good idea for her or him to do similar things for decades.

The comment that boys surely solve their homework together and they don't accept girls into their gangs sounds just silly. It surely matches nothing that I have observed as an undergrad. The boy-girl relationships were actually used much more frequently than the "equal sex" bonds. And I don't even have to discuss what my roommate was doing with his future wife in the shower, greetings to Honza and Zdena Smolík. ;-)
I was tired of dressing one way to be taken seriously as a scientist while dressing another to feel feminine. And while some of the men I wanted to date weren’t put off by my major, many of them were.
This way of thinking also shows that she is in no way a natural physicist because natural physicists don't really care about the outfit. Of course that some kind of an outfit would look surprising in the environment of physicists but the outfit isn't the primary thing and physicists – male and female physicists – mostly don't care about it. Some of them do (physicists are also men, women, and human and they differ from each other) but that doesn't matter for their social status because most of their environment doesn't.

I know many male and female physicists who like to dress professionally, sometimes stunningly, and I know an even higher number of those who wouldn't give a damn about such things and those who deliberately dress in a homeless way. This isn't really the key to physics and her thinking that it is important is just another indication that she just isn't thinking as a physicist.
Mostly, though, I didn’t go on in physics because not a single professor — not even the adviser who supervised my senior thesis — encouraged me to go to graduate school.
Well, I wouldn't encourage her, either, after having observed years of her frustration about the solitude that physics often requires, frantic attempts to catch up with the classmates, and so on. Surely she agrees that they have legitimate reasons to make the conclusions they did make, doesn't she?

Long paragraphs about Larry Summers' famous 2005 speech about the women in science follow. In this discussion, she is already participating as a woman who "locked my textbooks, lab reports and problem sets in my father’s army footlocker and turned my back on physics and math forever" (no one who actually loves this science would do such a thing) and who just wants to fight against the physics community and physics itself for its having hurt her pride about her great talents that never existed.

Lots of boring emotional paragraphs about feminists who try to team up follow. None of the comments has any relevance for the issue, it's an emotional outburst similar to something that Stephen Hawking has called a stream consciousness in a somewhat related situation.
Other women chimed in to say that their teachers were the ones who teased them the most. In one physics class, the teacher announced that the boys would be graded on the “boy curve,” while the one girl would be graded on the “girl curve”; when asked why, the teacher explained that he couldn’t reasonably expect a girl to compete in physics on equal terms with boys.
What a scandal. ;-) In sports, no one would have doubted similar claims. Pretty much all sports are segregated. It's common sense. The men and women belonging to comparably selective groups differ in their muscle mass and other things. But one can't "see" the mental powers, can he? So it seems right to many folks to assume that no differences similar to the muscle mass etc. exist. Except that they do exist. And these differences are often much more dramatic than the relatively modest differences in the male and female distribution of physical strengths.

The most important factor deciding about the underrepresentation of women at the top of maths and physics is the higher standard deviation of the men's math-related IQ distribution. It's about 10 percent wider than it is for women. So if a woman is 5 female standard deviations above the female average, it really means that she is just 4.5 male standard deviations above the female average. And 4.5 and 5 standard deviations correspond to dramatically different (small and even smaller) percentages of the whole. Moreover, the different mean values – 3 points in men's advantage – play a minor role, too.

Pollack tries to demagogically abuse the most ordinary human interactions to justify her feminist delusions. For example, we learn the following about a Pakistani female student:
Shaken to find herself the only girl in the class, unable to follow the first lecture, she asked the professor: Should I be here? “If you’re not confident that you should be here” — she imitated his scorn — “you shouldn’t take the class.”
She imitated his scorn. Women couldn't ever talk this scornfully to younger men, could they? Well, they could. This is from the sperm bank scene in the first episode of The Big Bang Theory (I am sure that many of you remember the scene):
Leonard: Yes. Um, is this the High IQ sperm bank?
Receptionist: If you have to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be here.
Sheldon: I think this is the place.
You see that it's an almost identical sentence. In the Pakistani student's case, the instructor's reaction is more justifiable, by the way, because the Pakistani student had had hours to figure out where she had been while Leonard just came to the sperm bank only seconds earlier.

Well, The Big Bang Theory sitcom is being used as "evidence" of some bias in subsequent paragraphs, too. She tries to suggest that there are almost no female scientists in the show. Then she realizes that there's Bernadette and Amy (the visiting female scholars are quite frequent, however) so she realizes that the claim would be indefensible so she tries to change her explanation of her dissatisfaction many times and the result is completely incoherent. Pollack doesn't like Bernadette's voice or something like that. Why? Why does it matter?

But at the root of it, you can see that she hates the character features that are often linked to physicists:
“The Big Bang Theory” is a sitcom, of course, and therefore every character is a caricature, but what remotely normal young person would want to enter a field populated by misfits like Sheldon, Howard and Raj? And what remotely normal young woman would want to imagine herself as dowdy, socially clueless Amy rather than as stylish, bouncy, math-and-science-illiterate Penny?
It is not just a sitcom. It is a highly realistic sitcom when it comes to the physicists' social life (although it surely contains more stories than an average physicist goes through). And thanks to David Saltzberg, the physics quotes are more accurate than in most popular scientific TV programs.

But my main point is that Sheldon, Howard, and Raj aren't "misfits". They're great folks and Sheldon is the most beautiful mind of all. It's mainly this wonderful likable character that has attracted 15-20 million Americans to the TV screens for more than 6 years. If she considers them "misfits", she clearly has a more negative relationship towards physicists than 15-20 million of Americans, and that's just not a good starting point to become a part of the physics community.

And many "remotely normal young women" actually agree with me, not with Pollack. Bernadette married Howard. Amy (and many real-world women she represents) loves Sheldon and if I can tell something, Penny has a secret crush on Sheldon, too. (I have already absorbed the fact that Jim Parsons is gay and I have restored my desire for Penny and Sheldon to be ultimately put together – I belong to the Shenny community.) Rajesh is cute and sexy for many women on the show (and their real-world counterpart) and the actor behind Rajesh has married a Miss India winner. It's totally clear that Pollack hates physicists more than the average human does.

Some aspects of the geekiness are optional and "not critically important" for physics but some of them are – Sheldon's scientific integrity that shows up in the real life is something that a good physicist should share with Sheldon. Of course that to a much lesser extent, the other guys share it, too. And even the non-essential aspects of geekiness (including the science-fiction movie obsessions etc., something that I don't share) are quite widespread among physicists for understandable reasons, because of natural correlations between the physics talents and other hobbies and inclinations. So if she finds such things intolerable, that's too bad.

One can't rebuild what physics and science mean. They do depend on many things including the independence and scientific integrity which makes the average scientist's character differ from the average human character in a predictable direction. If she finds this deviation unacceptable, it's her who isn't ready to become a scientist and it's ludicrous to "blame" the society for that.
Although Americans take for granted that scientists are geeks, in other cultures a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative.
The main problem with Pollack's reasoning is that she thinks it's bad to be a geek. And it's incompatible with his or her being intuitive and creative. But that's just not the case. Sheldon is surely creative. I would say that he's deeply intuitive as well – just the type of intuition of a person with IQ 187 is more sophisticated and looks less intuitive to the wildly less gifted ones such as Ms Pollack. But her hostile attitude towards the guys' character says much more about her than it says about them (and about their real-world counterpart): Ms Pollack is just an average woman, not a "natural born scientist".
“In other words, it is deemed uncool within the social context of U.S.A. middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.”
It doesn't matter. There are still lots of great, purely white, purely American, sometimes Midwest-born folks who like maths and physics and who think it's fun (and cool!) to do such things. They don't really care about "social ostracism". After all, it's a mutual relationship. One may say that those over 90% of the less bright people who think that maths cannot be done for fun are being segregated from the more elite subgroup of the nations who realize that maths and physics are fun.

Longish paragraphs of preposterous claims that biology doesn't affect people's attitudes to maths and science are printed afterwards. The paragraphs use flawed data, biased analyses, and they're utterly illogical, too. She also seems to be enthusiastic about the idea that the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is just an American social construct. It's surely better in India and Pakistan etc., we learn. Except that the percentage of female physicists in India and Pakistan is also very small; be sure that I know dozens of Indian and Pakistani physicists and (almost) none of them is female. The bulk of none of these asymmetries depends on social factors.

We also learn that Feynman's IQ was just 125. We're supposed to believe that the IQ doesn't matter in maths and physics. Except that it does. It does matter more than it does in almost any other fields. 125 isn't spectacular but it's still 2 standard deviations above the U.S. average. Moreover, the story that Feynman's IQ was relatively low and he achieved so much anyway is one of the parts of Feynman's self-created image. One can't trust every single result of an IQ test. But when statistical ensembles of folks are being evaluated, the IQ becomes much more accurate and meaningful.

Pollack writes the following sentence in the bold face:
The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes on in science might be whether anyone encourages her to go on.
Right – but that's nothing else than another observation showing that women are much less likely to be "natural born scientists". Why? Simply because "natural born scientists" of any sex don't depend on encouragements. They just like the science or maths even without encouragement – and sometimes despite discouragement from their environment. If someone needs to be encouraged all the time, it really means that she is not in love with the subject because one doesn't need to be encouraged to love something (or someone) if he really loves it.

In other words, the very quote above supports the claim that the number of women in STEM fields is artificially increased by social engineering, by people who encourage girls to do something that they wouldn't naturally want to do and something that may ultimately make them unhappy, like Mr Pollack who prefers meaningless debates about outfits, being "cool" from the viewpoint of the average people, and libels of Dr Sheldon Cooper as a "misfit" despite the fact that he is 5,000 times more likable and social successful a person than she is.

Long pages of boring episodes about her studies are written in The New York Times and all of them are supposed to be used to support her theses about an anti-female bias except that none of them does support anything of the sort. Finally, she boasts about some positive words she has heard over the years:
... “By that measure, I would have to say that what you did was exceptional.” “Exceptional?” I echoed. Then why had he never told me? The question took him aback. I asked if he ever specifically encouraged any undergraduates to go on for Ph.D.’s; after all, he was now the director of undergraduate studies. But he said he never encouraged anyone to go on in math. “It’s a very hard life,” he told me. “You need to enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure being a mathematician. The life, the culture, it’s very hard.”
Well, the professor apparently had a consistent policy about encouragements and in my opinion, it is a wise one. It doesn't make any sense to encourage anyone. It doesn't make any sense to paint the life of a mathematician as being more cheerful than it is. Any distortion of the truth will be paid for in the future and the price may sometimes be high.
When I told Meg Urry that Howe and several other of my professors said they don’t encourage anyone to go on in physics or math because it’s such a hard life, she blew raspberries. “Oh, come on,” she said. “They’re their own bosses. They’re well paid. They love what they do. Why not encourage other people to go on in what you love?”
That's what Ms Pollack's current job – in the humanities – looks like. She's her own boss, sometimes writes an anti-science hostile tirade in The New York Times, doesn't have to use her brain much, is never criticized for her absolutely incoherent, crackpot-like texts, and has no problems when she writes them. But the life of a mathematician or a physicist is often hard, energy-consuming, sometimes stressful, and the research is often lonely while the evaluation of the claims and results usually lacks compassion. Ms Pollack likes to suggest that all the negative things only happen to the females except that it's complete bullshit. They happen across the board and men are just much more likely to pass the tests, get into the system, and/or to stay in it.

Having babies is discussed, too. Some women just find their biological instincts and realize that the plans for babies and then having babies are more important things for them than their previous love for maths or physics. On the other hand, the article mentions that the social pressures "not allowing women to have babies" aren't a good enough explanation of the underrepresentation because the academic jobs are actually much more flexible when it comes to maternal leave etc. than most other jobs. So again, it's about the biology, not about a conspiracy in the society.
As Nancy Hopkins, one of the professors who initiated the study, put it in an online forum: “I have found that even when women win the Nobel Prize, someone is bound to tell me they did not deserve it, or the discovery was really made by a man, or the important result was made by a man, or the woman really isn’t that smart. This is what discrimination looks like in 2011.”
Well, except that people make similar comments about men, too – they make them all the time. In the men's case, no one is trying to interpret these things "sexually". Incidentally, Nancy Hopkins probably didn't do much work since 1964 because the only chemistry or physics female Nobel prize winner was Ada Yonath in 2009 (chemistry, ribosomes).

It's just the case that none of the big discoveries in the last 50 years was made "mostly by a woman". The main reason why people mention such facts is that they are true – but something's being true isn't a factor that Nancy Hopkins would ever care about. She prefers her ideological delusions and lies. She prefers to throw up or at least whine and call her feminist friends from the media whenever she hears an ideologically inconvenient truth from Larry Summers' mouth. She's a dishonest bitch.



The rest of her article is boring and as far as I could see, it brings no new ideas. To summarize, Pollack's comments are very similar to the caricature of the feminists' opinions in the video above (hat tip: Honza Urban).

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reader Eugene S said...

Dear Luboš, that was like shooting fish in a barrel, wasn't it? Shouldn't you be given some kind of handicap when taking on such a light-weight opponent... as would be the case if you were playing golf? ;)

Regarding the supposed 125 IQ score (measured in high school, but not repeated later) of Feynman's: I just checked with Richard Gleick's meticulously referenced biography. He sources this bit of information to an address that Feynman gave in 1965 to students at Far Rockaway High School, a transcript of which is preserved in CalTech's archives.

If it's a transcript done by a third party, the number might have been misheard, or it could be a typo. It doesn't sound like something Feynman would invent as a joke. Well, perhaps he would in adult company, but I consider that he would have been more scrupulous around high schoolers. There is a possibility that he might have been a "late bloomer". That's hard to imagine, given his prowess in the citywide math competitions at an early age.

As opposed to this single data point, there are the testimonies of accomplished physicists who acknowledge the often stunning mental feats, both formal and informal, performed by RF that left others in the shade. Conclusion: Feynman's "125 high school IQ score" is a red herring, a distraction from the fact that he was supremely gifted (besides being hardworking and driven).

It's too bad this number has taken on a life of its own. For example, in this question on Quora. Someone asks, "How can I contribute to science and research if I have an average I.Q.?"

A few people sensibly suggest that s/he choose an activity like birdwatching or collecting weather data. Most, however, actually tell the asker that IQ does not matter. Example:

Feynman
had a reported IQ of 125. This is pretty high, considering the average
is 100 and the standard deviation is 15. If you do the math, that means
he's smarter than about 95% of the population. Pretty smart, right? But
think about that. One of the most accomplished scientists in history has
a lower IQ than 5% of the population. He had a lower IQ than a large
portion of his students.


"Average IQ", by definition, is always 100. I don't see how you can be a researcher in a scientific discipline with that kind of brainpower. It just can't be done and suggesting otherwise, I feel, is dishonest. And the "Feynman's high school IQ score was 125" should be laid aside as, at best, trivia and unrevealing. At worst it is simply wrong information.


reader Mephisto said...

Ph.D. is more or less a pyramid scheme. Only 10% of Ph.D. students make it to get a permanent job in academia. Ph.D. students work long hours in labs almost for free like slaves. They do the most shitty work and the results get published by their psychopathic supervisors. It takes 5 years of your best years, years that you could use to start a family and a career outside of academia. And what is the motivation of the majority of Ph.D. students? Ambition, snobism, 3 more letters and two dots attached to your ego
http://www.economist.com/node/17723223
http://trollingzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/bank-manager.jpg
Women have to face the choice between Ph.D. and family and the wise ones chose family. The not so wise ones chose Ph.D. and when they are 35 they find out that they no longer can become pregnant because they are too old.


reader Mephisto said...

10% is talent, 90% hard-work and obsession


reader Eugene S said...

10/90? Or 50/50, or 1/99? That's a totally subjective breakdown. But even if the latter, that one percent matters.



Another thing. Pollack quotes from a number of studies that each indicate discrimination against women. However, most of these studies were done by psychologists, who are battling with a huge credibility problem because so much of their data turns out to be creatively manipulated (and hardly any psych studies are ever replicated to see if the results turn out differently). I'd have to read her article again, but I don't think she quoted any "reviews" -- scholarly overviews of the state of knowledge in a field -- but only from individual studies... which she may have cherrypicked to bolster her case.


Now take the one study that she devotes the most space to. The scenario was, you are evaluating two candidates for the job of lab manager, both of whose résumés are O.K. but not great. On average, the people surveyed offered $26,000 a year to the woman, $30,000 to the man. Assuming the survey was conducted accurately, you still have to wonder if this situation was not chosen because the people conducting it were expecting that outcome. Perhaps female lab managers in their twenties don't stick with that job for long (at $30k or $26k/yr., it's really low) and move on to something better more frequently than men? If that is a frequent experience that supervisors hiring for the job have, it could explain their differential offers.


And if that is the case, what if the reason is that women find it easier -- not harder -- than men to move up the career ladder? (Provided, that is, they are as interested in a career in science as men.)


I may be wrong but looking around me I don't think so. I'm not a scientist but I know a number of scientists and in talking to them I don't see any firm bias against women. (Well, some tired old male chauvinist jokes are still being made...)


But in general (not only in science), a men-only working environment is less productive than a workplace with women in it. Having co-workers of the opposite sex also makes for a better working atmosphere. I think that people making hiring decisions know this and actively seek out female employees... if there is an equal chance of them not quitting before the men do.


reader Ann said...

Similar claims of sexism are being touted for Silicon Valley -- why so few female computer programmers/entrepreneurs. The fem argument is always that it is someone else's responsibility to create some 'friendlier, supportive' environment in which legions of talented women will then succeed wildly. It is pure horse shit. Women who compete in the ruthless worlds of ballet and opera don't whine about the tenuous and hard road in their fields. Ms Pollack has found her comfort level as a professional victim. I know several really smart men who did undergrad in physics, with aspirations to go on in theoretical physics. But they realized for themselves that they lacked the ability to succeed at that level of the game, so switched to engineering or economics and pursued lucrative, satisfying careers. They did not lock their physics notes in a footlocker and write bitter articles about how professors and society robbed them of a career in physics.


reader Ann said...

Just 2 more points. Most people who study piano or violin don't become professional soloists or members of major orchestras. Many of these people love playing their instruments throughout their lives, just because they love the music, love playing. My friends who dropped out of physics still love physics, unlike Ms. Pollock, i.e. they read science magazines avidly and follow developments in physics, they love math puzzles.


reader Roby83 said...

In order to hate men, feminists imagine oppression everywhere. The NYT article is tedious. This one is great fun: http://www.svt.se/nyheter/vetenskap/darfor-ar-kvinnor-kortare-an-man


reader Gene Day said...

Indeed, Ann. I am one of those men who started out with unrealistic aspirations in theoretical physics but quickly realized that I would be better off in experimental and applied work. I did get a Berkeley PhD but I was only an average Berkeley PhD physicist, which was still good enough to permit me to have a very fulfilling career in industry. I will be forever grateful for those professors and to that institution that made this possible.
In a career, as in life it itself, is essential to success to see oneself clearly. Sadly, Pollack does not.


reader Gene Day said...

Please read my comment to Ann.


reader Ann said...

Gene, you are one of the smartest people I have ever encountered in the blogosphere.


reader Gene Day said...

We live in a competitive world, Mephisto. You have the right to choose your game but you had better assess your strengths realistically. Then you decide how much effort you are willing to put into a career and you settle for the results that inevitably follow. Personally, I decided that money and the job would not be at the center of my life and they weren’t.
After thirteen years of retirement I have no regrets and I carry no blame.


reader Dilaton said...

If I were your young colleague who won the prize, I would have been very annoyed about the journalist being only interested in getting her discrimination prejudices confirmed, instead of wanting to know more details about the work the award was given for ...


To me it seems, people of both gender who love maths or physics and who have the necessary talent and determinism just do it, which makes them successful, instead of wasting time and energy by thinking about crazy discrimination conspiration theories ect ...


The physicists in TBBT are all cool nice guys (and some physicist girls are involved too, wondering why Lumo "forgot" to mention Leslie Winkle, ha ha ... :-D). And I guess at universities similar cliques of students form in a way, that the common way of looking at and thinking about things (for example about physics in the craziest everyday situations :-P) and the shared love for cool science is orders of magnitude much more important than differences in gender, provenance, etc ...


So, if a student (male or female) desparately wants to make friends with fellow students but is not able to, he/she has probably choosen the wrong environment ...


Not sure if this is a silly comment now ...


reader physicsnut said...

hey - sheldon didn't even get the feynman diagram. And for a social illiterate, Amy had the funniest line in the whole series "good thing you don't have a dog" !


reader John Archer said...

Nice comment, Eugene.

Feynman's IQ 125?

I never believed it either.

Actually I don't remember what the exact figure was, only that whatever it was it was quite unimpressive. Still, I thought it was total bollocks, whoever claimed it.

I remember being puzzled at the time I first heard about it as to whether it was a joke, an off-handed sideswipe at psychometry (or whatever it's called) as some kind of junk 'science' or what the hell. If it were true—that 125 were his actual score—maybe he was just messing around on the test and didn't give a fcuk what the trick cyclists thought of him and his mental capabilities? Maybe he got interested in some quirk on one of the questions and his mind ran along to thinking on it? [I remember that happening to me once, probably enough to lose a couple of points — doh! No harm though.] Maybe he got irritated by the questions in the verbal part where even what might be considered a decent vocabulary is sometimes insufficient. (I'd say developing an impressive-sounding and 'educated', but otherwise generally pretentious, lexicon, while certainly attractive to jumped-up humanities types wouldn't be quite the first call on an STEM candidate's time.*) Maybe the test was a strange one, something he'd never seen before so his mind was distracted by operating on two levels: one answering the actual questions, and the other wondering about the meaning and strangeness of it all and how exactly the examiners would glean a meaningful result from and maybe that they were fooling themselves in that? It might have been any of those things and more.

Then there's the rogue data point: the handwritten total score — apart from genuine errors on the part of the scorer, some people's handwriting is shit. So a transcription error maybe? Not 175 then? Who the hell knows?

The best thing to be said about it in my view is that that 125 is an outlier indicating a duff experimental set-up.

OT: When quoting IQ scores it ought to be compulsory on pain of death also to quote the standard deviation as measures vary. I know Luboš does, but so many don't, especially journalists (~100% innumerate arty-farties guaranteed). Deeply irritating.


* I doubt Feynman spent much time reading the 'great works of literature'. We certainly know he had little time for philosophy, a good subject to pick up stacks of big words. Which reminds me: David Bohm's Wholeness and The Implicate Order was handy for that and for its etymological diversions. Which in turn reminds me that I haven't seen my copy for decades. I wonder where the hell it is. Hey, Luboš, how about you doing one of your reviews on it here! Tee hee! :)

Incidentally, Levitt & Gross's Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and It's Quarrels With Science was another for beefing up one's vocabulary — those two must eat dictionaries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I couldn't put it down, so much was I enjoying the pain it was bound to cause its targets, which it did, not least in part by 'out-verbaling' the bastards!. Delightful! Mega-delightful!


reader Eugene S said...

Agree, and I really take exception to Pollack's calling the Amy Farah Fowler character "horribly dumpy" -- I think she is very attractive and sexy, in a bookish kind of way.


reader Gene Day said...

I look smart, Ann, only because I am standing on the shoulders of nincompoops.


reader Gene Day said...

Your chief doctor was biased. It may be less likely that a woman would be at the top of a certain profession but he needs to keep an open mind, obviously.
There are plenty of couples where the man keeps house and the woman pursues a top career. It is also less likely that a man will be as nurturing at child rearing as a woman but, again, it is not impossible.
We are talking here of statistics, not individual capabilities.


reader Shannon said...

Dear Anna, women being multitasks more than men is a myth .


reader Shannon said...

Article on a recent Swedish research:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2223137/Men-ARE-better-multitasking-women-Swedish-researchers-claim.html


reader Attila Smith said...

I posted two comments about Woit's take on "Not even wrong" about this New York Times article, politely pointing out that deleting posts with views dissenting from his makes for poor debate. They were deleted after about 50 seconds. Many commenters have applauded his general decision to suppress dissenting views. Strange guys these liberals who deem themselves so open-minded.


reader Dilaton said...

I know ...


On his own troll site (there he has the right to do what he wants), he deals with disagreement and criticism by simply deleting it, whereas everywhere else where he does not have the power to delete critical and/or disagreeing comments and the corresponding people, he starts whining about being personally ad hominem attacked, as soon as somebody (even politely but firmly) disagrees with or criticizes him.


This clearly shows the nature of character PW has, if any...


reader Mephisto said...

Yes, that is true. He is a whiner and a crook. He built his fame by attacking and criticizing others but he himself cannot bear any critique. If someone critisizes him, he adopts a role of a victim. Very much like Klaus


reader lucretius said...

Did anyone (on Peter W.'s blog) suggest that if one there were more women physicists, physics would not be in the sorry state it is in now? In other words, instead of "Not even wrong" just plain wrong? ;-)


reader Eugene S said...

Is that a rhetorical question? Of course they did. According to commenters in the king troll's lair,
(1) physics accomplished nothing worthwhile in the past 30 years
(2) physics is the least diverse of professions
(3) which probably explains (1)
(4) the people who are defensive about too few women in science tend to be the same people who are defensive about string theory.


Feminism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.


reader lucretius said...

I guess I should have known but it still seems a little too grotesque to be real.

I almost dare not ask if anyone further suggested that the fact that women are less mathematically “inclined” than men would actually be an advantage in physics?

(Or maybe that suggestion itself is heretical?)

I am afraid I can no longer read that blog myself: it’s bad for my blood pressure.


reader anna v said...

Well, it might be proven true in tests simplified like this and taking advantage of the fact that men are better at spatial functions,


II would like to see an experiment with emotional and language bias.



Anyway, for sure men/boys are very much better than women in focusing exclusively on what they are doing and excluding external distractions.. "yes dear" is a very well known response.


reader John Archer said...

Sorry, Anna ... what was that you were saying?


reader m said...

About item (4), I would say that that people who are against string theory research tend to be the same who are favorable of equal number of women and men in science, promoters of global warming and any other socialist conspiracy! And it is not difficult to see why!


reader John Archer said...

P.S. For the avoidance of doubt:

:)


reader James Gallagher said...

I think that it easier for men to be obsessive "loners" - in the sense of not requiring much social interaction - than for a woman. Just for the simple obvious reason of safety for one - a woman is more vulnerable than a man - and I would think (though can't be sure as I'm not female) that a woman would find being isolated more stressful than a man.


However it is curious that many famous mathematicians in history were unmarried, but not so for physicists


reader Gene Day said...

Yes, some men are excellent multitaskers but not all. I am very poor at multitasking but I am capable of prolonged focus while ignoring everything else. This frequently includes my wife, much to her annoyance. I think almost all women are good at multitasking while many men just can’t do it.
In the late 80s I was the CTO (chief technical officer) of a small company while my partner was the COO (chief operations officer), a job that does require multitasking. I simply could not have done his job. Raising children also requires multitasking, as Anna has pointed out. Some men can do that very well.


reader m said...

People who dislike the use of IQ to predict academic success love to recall Feynman's IQ. But its actually possible that Feynman's IQ were "merely" of 123 (according to his sister), and he could very well be a rare exception to psychometric, since that the way in which he thought were completely unorthodox.

For instance, in the same work in QED in which Tomonaga, Schwinger and Feynman won the Nobel prize, while the work of the first was very traditional, starting from the Schrodinger picture of quantum mechanics, the second make an extensive use of S-matrix and abstract algebra, what he liked to call the algebra of local fields. However, Feynman's work was different from anything else! He avoid field quantization by introducing propagators, and the thought by means of that "strange" diagrams. Indeed, it is also possible that his previous work with Wheeler was fundamental to his success (even if Feynman created the "absorver theory" almost alone ;) ).


Finally, the fact that Feynman had an IQ of ~123 could explain his more or less "ordinary" social behavior.


reader Gene Day said...

Right. We just cannot escape our evolutionary heritage.


reader Gene Day said...

Your daughter sounds exceptional but it is the exceptional ones of both genders that contribute so much to society.


reader lucretius said...

In connection with the (for me absurd sounding) Richard Feynman supposed IQ of 125 (or 123) , I thought it might be worth mentioning that the Americans asked all the Nazi war criminals charged at Nuremberg to take IQ tests. As Albert Speer described in his diaries, everyone was very keen and tried to get the highest score. You can see the results here:

http://www.eskimo.com/~miyaguch/grady/nazi.html



As you can see, if Feynman reported score is correct (which I have not believed even for a second), he would he would have finished in the bottom 1/3.


PS. Schacht was not a Nazi and was the only one who was acquitted.


reader m said...

It is also possible that Feynman's linguistic habilits were far below his mathematical ones. According to Gleick 1992, he attained a perfect score on the graduate school entrance exams for math and phys, but was very poor in English.


reader Eugene S said...

My evil twin has been posting here on my behalf, but I want everyone to know that I fully support the cause of feminism. Not only can women do any job a man can do, equally well or better. They can additionally do work that no man could, or should, do.


FEM POWR!!


reader lucretius said...

Are you Eugene's evil twin sister? I think you are cute...


reader John Archer said...

Hi Bro'!

You were out when I called so I left a greeting on your answering machine. Don't forget to return my call now. :)

http://tinyurl.com/nz4v5dq


reader Eelco Hoogendoorn said...

lubos at his best :)


reader lucretius said...

I omitted some significant aspects of my daughter’s brief “biography”, because I did not want to make it long and complicated (as real life stories usually are).

In fact she experienced quite genuine “discrimination” of the kind that Western feminists only imagine themselves experiencing.

My daughter received her primary education in an ordinary Japanese public school. Japanese public schools, at least at that time and probably also now, had not been affected by Western ideas of equality between the sexes. What’s more, Japan has never had anything like the Western tradition of “chivalry” especially in the relationship between men and women. On the contrary, the Japanese principle this has always been “gentlemen first” and everything in a Japanese primary school in the 1990s was based on it. If you add to this the fact that my daughter is only half-Japanese and in Japan she looked strikingly foreign (in a society that is almost perfectly homogeneous and governed by the rule: “a protruding nail will get hammered down”) you have all the ingredient for quite real and unpleasant “discrimination”, which, being deeply rooted I culture and human nature, you can do nothing about except to learn to treat with stoicism. If you can do that however, then another principle: “what does not kill you makes you stronger” begins to operate and, provided you have the necessary ability, this sort of experience can work to your advantage. In particular, to a person with this kind of background, the position of women in the West will seem positively idyllic and such a person will then more readily seize some of the numerous opportunities available without the feelings of entitlement and grievance that form the basis of today's feminism.


reader Rehbock said...

Yes.


reader Gene Day said...

Many years ago I travelled to Japan with a female colleague. When we caught a taxi together the driver loaded my suitcase into the car but left her to handle her own.


reader anna v said...

I would concur on this last guess by a personal story. I have said before that I met Feynman at a workshop back in early 1980's and took him around sight seeing in Athens etc, so we had some social discussions. I was telling him that by the time I was eight I was dealing with many languages, not only greek english and turkish but also versions of modern greek quite different in structure between them. and I was embarrassed by his response: that he was very bad with languages ( as if I had been bragging, but I was just making small talk).


reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, I would surely think you were bragging, too, and moreover, I would despise humanities and other fields for sissies just like Feynman did.


Was that news for you that he didn't have any serious respect for people who spend their time by shallow and redundant things like languages?


reader James Gallagher said...

I'm pretty sure Feynman didn't "despise" such abilities, but rather he just found them unimportant for his own interests. Come on Lubos, it is important that people can translate between languages isn't it? And not just robotically (a la siri), but with some skill and emotion, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to read some really quite great literary works.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear James, be sure that I am not "biased" against those things. I've been earning some money as a translator of books and other things - and I don't disagree with those who count me as a refined wright (I mean in Czech only, however).

However, those aren't things I count among the defining features of IQ and in my opinion, the people who get successful in these matters usually aren't that exceptional. In some sense, the art of articulation and communication, when stripped of the beef, is the art of mediocrity.

Feynman described the origin of his anti-cultural attitudes as follows:

Mixing Paints

The reason why I say I'm "uncultured" or "anti­intellectual" probably goes all the

way back to the time when I was in high school. I was always worried about being a

sissy; I didn't want to be too delicate. To me, no real man ever paid any attention to

poetry and such things. How poetry ever got written ­­ that never struck me! So I developed a negative attitude toward the guy who studies French literature, or studies too

much music or poetry ­­ all those "fancy" things. I admired better the steel­worker, the

welder, or the machine shop man. I always thought the guy who worked in the machine

shop and could make things, now he was a real guy! That was my attitude. To be a

practical man was, to me, always somehow a positive virtue, and to be "cultured" or "intellectual" was not. The first was right, of course, but the second was crazy.

I still had this feeling when I was doing my graduate study at Princeton, as you'll

see. I used to eat often in a nice little restaurant called Papa's Place. One day, while I was eating there, a painter in his painting clothes came down...


reader Rehbock said...

I think there can be a tension inside those exceedingly gifted. If they admit how exceptional they it distances and scares the less intelligent. Feynman my well have consciously understated his IQ. He could many away from a Sheldon's 187. One need not be the best IQ test taking man but he was good at too many things. One of which is that he appears to have been a sufficiently smart man to know that showing one's large IQ too quickly or too publicly is impolite.
It is only in the most intimate of company or greatest of necessity that one is rewarded for demonstrating that one's IQ is gigantic.
Whether and how size matters depends.


reader John Archer said...

Hi Anna. That's interesting.

I gather Murray Gell-Mann is something of a polymath, especially in languages, and that he and Feynman, although friends, had something of a tempestuous relationship, possibly with the linguistic aspects of MG-M's polymathery irritating RF — RF taking (mistaking?) them for pretentiousness maybe, a red rag to a bull as far as RF was concerned? I don't know how true or accurate any of this is; it's just an impression I have from old reading and my memory might not be too good. Given your RF story I could see how what I've just said might fit, sort of. [I didn't enjoy languages at school either (German, French, Latin and buggerall Greek), at least beyond learning the basic grammars. The same goes for English, which I hated with a vengeance. So have an instinctive sympathy for what I'm guessing might be Feynman's attitude to that kind of thing.]

Do you have a view on this? Do you think it might have any bearing?

But whatever the truth of it, Feynman having anything less than a genius-level IQ ain't part of it. If anything failed it was the IQ test, not Feynman.


reader James Gallagher said...

the anecdote seems to have been cut short.


In any case, I get the drift, but we are not really disagreeing here, just that I attribute a bit more worth to literary/artistic imgination than I think you do.


reader lucretius said...

This kind of thing is often just as much a matter of natural talent as of home background. Note that John von Neumann could speak German, Hungarian, Latin and ancient Greek at the age of 6, he had a great interest in history (his knowledge of Roman and Byzantine history was said to surpass that of many academic experts on these subjects), he was very gifted in music etc.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann#Cognitive_abilities



The fact that he had "photographic memory" certainly helped, but the fact that he was born in a wealthy, well educated and highly cultured family was just as significant. Feynman's background was very different, almost the opposite.


Feynman and von Neumann interacted only once, in Los Alamos, but according to Feynman, von Neumann's influence was quite important. This quote is from "Surely, you are joking Mr. Feynman":


Then there was John von Neumann, the great mathematician. We used to go for walks on Sunday. We'd walk in the canyons, often with Bethe and Bob Bacher. It was a great pleasure. And von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don't have to be responsible for the world that you're in. So I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result of von Neumann's advice. It's made me a very happy man ever since. But it was von Neumann who put the seed in that grew into my active irresponsibility!


reader m said...

[Lubos, 'speaking' in Portuguese, it seems that people are liking your book about Bogdanov in the 'lusófono speaking world', see this: http://www.cienciahoje.pt/index.php?oid=29745&op=all]

The 'shock' or the relation that Feynman had with Linguistic-related fields can be summarized as follows. You may remember a chapter called "O Americano Outra vez" from "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!". In this great story, Feynman tell us how in a few months here, in Brazil, he was able to understood something that nobody else seemed to or *wanted* to, that is, because Brazilian education simply did not worked (even if we had Lattes, Schoenberg and the rest of the band that time)! And he proposed that the motive is related to the fact that our teachers and students do not think, but they are constantly memorizing stuff. **Coincidence** or not, linguist related fields, like Portuguese, Arts, History (which here means left-wing bloody lies) are generally much more strong in high school than math and physics.

Now you may ask, have anything changed since Feynman visit to Rio in the 50'? Yes, it became much worse! There are two great motives: trade unionism in schools, since socialist ideas are very strong here, and the fact that my countryman have a mean IQ of 87 (+2 points above Latin American average! ;)

Anyway, I accept that it is possible that if the IQ test that Feynman had been submitted through were a Raven's progressive matrices, for instance, the result could have been very different. So, if what is important to test is the math-related skills, and since that is exactly where women are not as good men, Pollack's argument goes away again.


reader immetable said...

See also Philip Greespun's A Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists, here
http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/.


reader anna v said...

Dear Lubos, I certainly was not bragging, just making small talk as my age was not conducive to flirting ( he flirted like a teenager with the young female students), and somehow I was expecting to hear how many languages he had mastered by that time.



I think idiot savants would get a super genius IQ if it were a test of only mathematical abilities. I remember one giving a lecture at CERN and giving us a demonstration of his abilities , Stuckelberger, and he did make a significant contribution the development of quantum field theory, but most do not distinguish themselves that way.



A lower limit to the IQ as it is currently measured is used as a necessary condition for predicting the scholastic abilities of students entering universities.



Excellence in physics demands other necessary conditions, like intuition and the ability to comprehend the world that is being studied etc. In the end a mathematical IQ test would not guarantee an excelling physicist. After all Feynman, if he did score 123 in the standard IQ, was still successful college material :).


reader lucretius said...

On the subject of "idiot savants", the most famous (in the literal sense) of them is actually quite hopeless at math. Look at the errors section and her notorious "refutation" of Wiles' proof of Fermat's last theorem here:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_vos_Savant


reader m said...

Well, maybe it is not necessary to use only mathematical tests, as Lubos said, but only the non-verbal ones, like that progressive matrices, which are becoming very popular these days.


reader Mephisto said...

If you are interested in savants, watch this documentary about Daniel Tammet
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHGIUc9uS-w
His brain is fascinating from a neurological point of view - they showed him the number pi, but switched a couple digits at a 1000th position. He got angry how they could do something so ugly :-) He learned Icelandish in a couple of days.
Mathematics as a sole predictor of intelligence is imho inadequate. Some Asperger's might be good at mathematics, but are lost in social interactions, suffer from alexithymia etc. There are various skills - social, emotional, manual, mathematical, communication, empathy, self-reflection. IQ tests are biased and do not measure all of personality.
Einstein's IQ wasn't relatively that high (151) and he was kind of slow in mathematics. It took him a long time to understand tensors (with the help of his mathematical friends), but he was very creative and had great physical intuition. Some people are quick in mathematics but are not creative at all, cannot produce any original ideas.
Von Neumann had surely a monster IQ and was creative, but he was something of a psychopath, advocating nuclear strikes and similar stuff. He counted dead people just like numbers without any emotions, probably lacking some structures in his limbic brain


reader Rehbock said...

There is an old joke that if you are tri-lingual you know three languages, bi-lingual two. If you know just one you are probably an American.


reader Gordon said...

How can someone graduate "summa cum laude" in a subject when she, in her own words, is slow, behind her classmates, has trouble doing the homework, and quite obviously doesn't understand the material or her own motivation for learning it?

Perhaps she meant "summa cum laid"...


If you are going to go on in math or physics, you have to be curious about structures and natural phenomena, and you have to be talented and excited about the subject, and you have to have the ability to focus on things for an extended period---it is damn hard.
The fact that she considers the BBT characters "misfits" says something about her value system.


reader Gordon said...

Here is a Feynman-Gell-Mann

story:

Richard Feynman once encountered Gell-Mann in the hall outside their offices
at Caltech and asked him where he had been on a recent trip;
"Moon-TRAY-ALGH!" Gell-Mann responded in a French accent so thick that
he sounded as if he were strangling. Feynman - who, like Gell-Mann, was
born in New York City - had no idea what he was talking about. "Don't
you think," he asked Gell-Mann, when at length he had ascertained that
Gell-Mann was saying "Montreal," "that the purpose of language is
communication?"


reader John Archer said...

Haha. Nice!

Actually that story rings a bell now. Thanks Gordon.


reader Eugene S said...

Hi Ann, have you seen this yet?


If you won't go there to put in a plug for your book, I will ;)


reader Leïla said...

"But one can't "see" the mental powers, can he? So it seems right to many
folks to assume that no differences similar to the muscle mass etc.
exist. Except that they do exist. And these differences are often much
more dramatic than the relatively modest differences in the male and
female distribution of physical strengths."

Any proof of that ? Because I really doubt so. Despite the "proofs" given by anna_v, those differences seem to me due to society. I would not say society gives an external pressure but more an internal ones. And women sometimes propagate themselves a peer pressure that can be important at the age of teenagehood, where you take decisions about the future of your carrier. I don't believe that there is fundamentally a reason for women to be worst at science than men. So to claim such a thing, I'd like proofs Luboš !


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Leila, I've given hundreds of proofs to the likes of you and learned that it's a waste of time, it's throwing pearls to the swines, preaching to the wall, so I won't try to pretend that the two of us may debate.


reader Leïla said...

So to end a debate which did not happen, you, physicist who may have met many women working in this field I guess, even if not as much has women, but is nothing of a biologist, you really claim that the fact that women are women, that is they have 2 X chromosomes and the changes it implies, hormonally and physically, make them worst at science than men ?


reader Luboš Motl said...

In general, men have vastly more grey matter in the brain while women have more white matter, see

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050121100142.htm

This itself has important implications. For example, it's only the grey matter that is correlated with the strength of cognitive functions of the elderly

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_matter#Volume_and_cognition_in_elderly_people

The average number of neurons in the female brain in the cerebral cortex is 20% lower than in the male case, too.

For many biological quantities, not only cognitive ones, the distribution for men is measured to be substantially wider than for women.

The width of the IQ curve is 10% wider for men than for women. This makes men more extreme - on both sides -and this is actually the dominant effect deciding about the far lower percentage of women in top STEM fields. For example, one Fields medal may be calculated to emerge for women in 100+ years; so far none has materialized. See the calculation at

http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm



I could talk for hours because I've studied these things in some detail but it would be a waste of time to tell these things to you.


reader Brian G Valentine said...

Gee, Lubos, this kind of talk is likely to get you quoted with derision in blogs hosted by women "physicists" etc


reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, I've been the ultimate heretic in such corners for almost a decade and those things weren't any different from what we experienced during communism - perhaps much more passionate than the communists in the late communism were.


If the ladies overcome the limitations of the white matter and manage to learn how to use the clipboard, it's perfectly fine with me if they do some advertisements for TRF.


reader Brian G Valentine said...

The experimental treatment of male and female identically in the Kibbutz did not work.



Further experimentation is unnecessary.


reader namae nanka said...

"In the first paragraph, she describes a 2012 paper written at Yale that "goes a long way toward providing hard evidence" of anti-women "bias" in science. If the admission committee gets the same documents about men and women, they're more likely to pick the male candidate and/or pay him some extra $4,000 in salary."

Speaking of Standard Deviations, the standard deviations of female applicants salaries were about 20% and 60% higher for male and female faculties respectively. And the salaries were in steps of 5,000. And being a lab manager won't land you a faculty position, if that wasn't clear from the 30k salary.


reader Leïla said...

Even if women could not be geniuses, they could be genuinely curious and applying scientific methods. This may make you waste your time, and that's your problem, but what the point of blogging about something you don't want to discuss about then ?


reader Luboš Motl said...

I do want to discuss it - just not with uninformed, uneducated, brainwashed, incompetent, ideologically driven, and intellectually deaf people.


reader Eugene S said...

Dear Leila,

Of course women can be geniuses, too. I don't think anyone here would deny that. If we look only at the field of physics, there have been several. On a previous TRF article (don't remember which one unfortunately) our host linked to a picture of a grad student with a worshipful expression on his face kissing a wall-mounted photograph of Emmy Noether (look her up on Wikipedia). Noether has been mentioned on TRF enough times to drive home the point that she belongs in the pantheon of the 20th-century greats (even though she was a mathematician not a physicist).

But there have been consistently fewer women than men in the rarefied uppermost reaches of physics and mathematics, the Everestian altitudes where the advances are made that add to and rewrite the textbooks. This is so throughout the decades, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, legislation, or any other factor. By now, only the most strident feminists continue to claim so-called gender discrimination as the cause; unfortunately they have powerful allies in the media.

The provisional hypothesis has to be that differential anatomy and female choice both play important roles. Our host mentioned a few anatomical differences, but there are others. One that I remember reading about was that good mathematicians are often born of mothers who experienced a large testosterone boost at some time during their pregnancies. However, such testosterone boosts occur much more often with male than with female embryos.

And we must accept that some young women with a gift for math and science decide against a career in research because it's arduous and uncertain compared to going into medicine, law, or teaching, let alone being a stay-at-home mom if that's who they want to be.

None of that is a justification for a blanket dismissal of women as incapable of doing top-flight research. But no one here would argue such a stupid thing. But based on the (provisional) knowledge that we currently have, there is no reason to expect that equal numbers of women and men will make it to the leading edge of science and math. Therefore, all effort should be expended on making sure that there is equal opportunity, that no talent goes unnoticed, and that any discrimination still found to exist be rooted out.

But equal opportunity need not mean equal outcomes. To demand equal outcomes is not smart, it is ideologically driven stupidity, a waste of intellectual resources in the service of a fetish of equality, and a recipe for disaster.

If even a not very smart person like me can understand this, you should be able, too.


reader lucretius said...

I would add to this the observation that in the whole history of chess there has been only one woman (Judit Polgar) who comes near deserving to be called "a genius", while the number of girls who learn to play chess is comparable to the number of boys.


reader Eugene S said...

"Judit -- dangerous to others and herself." -- G. Kasparov


Few super-grandmasters (ELO rating > 2700) play attacking chess with the gusto of J. Polgar. This makes her games so exciting to replay at home. Compare this to her equally high-ranked compatriot Peter Leko, who is much more cautious and suffers fewer spectacular defeats but also is more boring.


I'm afraid that since chess-playing software surpassed the top grandmasters about a quarter-century ago, we can no longer call any chessplayer a genius. I view them as sportsmen and women, part of the global entertainment industry, similar to Messi and Ronaldo in soccer or Usain Bolt in track. A machine could run 100 meters faster and play soccer better than humans (imagine being at the receiving end of a sliding tackle from a two hundred pound robot -- ouch!) but we prefer watching humans compete.


reader lucretius said...

So "genius computers" now make human genius, at least in chess, no longer viable?

" But just then Ulrich suddenly read somewhere, like a premonitory breath of-ripening summer, the expression "the racehorse of genius." It stood in the report of a sensational racing success, and the author was probably not aware of the full magnitude of the inspiration his pen owed to the communal spirit. But Ulrich instantly grasped the fateful connection between his entire career and this genius among racehorses. For the horse has, of course, always been sacred to the cavalry, and as a youth Ulrich had hardly ever heard talk in barracks of anything but horses and women. He had fled from this to become a great man,only to find that when as the result of his varied exertions he perhaps could have felt within reach of his goal, the horse had beaten him to it."


reader Leïla said...

I disagree with your notion of a debate. A person stating things states those ones for a good reason for me, and then would be the right one to provide me some useful references - this can be a good starting point for looking for the right answers and impartial conclusions.

Your pre-conception about the fact that I don't want to hear the truth are just not compatible with the fact that I am asking for exactly what you provided : serious literature to examine. In such a controversial field, it is not always easy to find "non biased" articles. For me, if you are willing to talk about this subject, you are willing to inform as well.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Leila, I didn't want to allow you to comment on this blog because I expected that you would turn out to be exactly the same prejudiced and obnoxious troll as many others.


At any rate, I didn't resist the temptation and answered your question about the brain differences between men and women, giving you a half-dozen of major differences that would lead a curious person to find and read dozens of papers with scientific research.


You have completely ignored all of this - it's literally throwing pearls to the swines - and you continued with these idiotic prejudiced propagandistic proclamations.


It's been enough, you're on the black list now. I just can't stand dishonest, science-hating ideologues like you.


reader Ann said...

Hi Eugene! Disqus keeps crashing on me - thanks for the link! I need to read her book. Maybe she would be amused by premise of Blind Tasting.


reader Eugene S said...

Make sure you have the "Allow third-party cookies" exception set for Disqus in your browser. This guy obviously read Blind Tasting but as a hardcore minimalist, he dispensed with the dog, the bluetooth and the eyeglasses and settled just for the shoe :)


reader Micheline Drebert said...

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