August 21, 2008

NYT catches up, 11 years later

Gina Kolata writes in the NYT:

Men, Women and Speed. 2 Words: Got Testosterone

BEIJING — No matter what happens in the men’s marathon here Sunday, one thing is all but certain. The winner will run the 26.2-mile course faster than the winner of the women’s marathon last Sunday.

The woman who won, Constantina Tomescu of Romania, was fast, of course, finishing the race in 2 hours 26 minutes 44 seconds — more than a minute ahead of the second-place finisher. But for a variety of intrinsic biological reasons, the best women can never run as fast as the best men, exercise researchers say.

Women are slower than men in running, in swimming, in cycling. Whether it is a 100-meter race on the track or a marathon, a 200-meter butterfly swim or a 10-kilometer marathon swim, the pattern holds.

And even though some scientists once predicted that women would eventually close the gender gap in elite performances — it was proposed that all they needed was more experience, better training and stronger coaching — that idea is now largely discredited, at least for Olympic events. Researchers say there is no one physiological reason for the gap, although there is a common biological thread.

“To a large extent, it’s a matter of testosterone,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “That’s why systematic doping of women is even more effective than systematic doping of men. That’s why the East German women were so much more successful than the East German men.”

This line of analysis was put forward by sports physiologist Stephen Seiler and myself in the 12/31/97 issue of National Review in our article Track & Battlefield:

Everybody knows that the "gender gap" in physical performance between male and female athletes is rapidly narrowing. Moreover, in an opinion poll just before the 1996 Olympics, 66% claimed "the day is coming when top female athletes will beat top males at the highest competitive levels." The most publicized scientific study supporting this belief appeared in Nature in 1992: "Will Women Soon Outrun Men?" Physiologists Susan Ward and Brian Whipp pointed out that since the Twenties women's world records in running had been falling faster than men's. Assuming these trends continued, men's and women's marathon records would equalize by 1998, and during the early 21st Century for the shorter races.


This is not sports trivia. Whether the gender gap in athletic performance stems from biological differences between men and women, or is simply a social construct imposed by the Male Power Structure, is highly relevant both to fundamental debates about the malleability of human nature, as well as to current political controversies such as the role of women in the military.


... Despite all the hype about 1996 being the "Women's Olympics," in the Atlanta Games' central events -- the footraces -- female medalists performed worse relative to male medalists than in any Olympics since 1972. In the 1988 Games the gender gap for medalists was 10.9%, but it grew to 12.2% in 1996. Even stranger is the trend in absolute times. Track fans expect slow but steady progress; thus, nobody is surprised that male medalists became 0.5% faster from the 1988 to the 1996 Olympics. Remarkably, though, women medalists became 0.6% slower over the same period. ...


From 1970-1989, white women from communist countries accounted for 71 of the 84 records set at 100m-1500m. In contrast, white men from communist countries accounted for exactly zero of the 23 male records. Those memorable East German frauleins alone set records 49 times in just the sprints and relays (100m-400m). This was especially bizarre because men of West African descent have utterly dominated white men in sprinting. Another oddity of that era is that communist women set only seven (and East Germans none) of the 48 female records in the 5k, 10k, and the marathon.


The crash of women's running was brought about by two seemingly irrelevant events in the late Eighties: Ben Johnson got caught, and the Berlin Wall fell. ...

The communists were almost completely stumped at producing male champions because the benefits of a given amount of steroids are much greater for women than men. Since men average 10 times more natural testosterone than women, they need dangerously large, Ben Johnson-sized doses to make huge improvements, while women can bulk-up significantly on smaller, less-easily detected amounts.

The primitive testing at the 1988 Olympics did succeed in catching Benoid; yet the female star of those Games, America's Florence Griffith-Joyner, passed every urinalysis she ever faced. The naturally lissome Flo-Jo may have been the world's fastest clean 200 meter woman from 1984-1987, but she kept finishing second in big races to suspiciously brawny women. She then asked Ben Johnson for training advice, and emerged from a winter in the weight room looking like a Saturday morning cartoon superheroine. She made a magnificent joke out of women's track in 1988, setting records in the 100m and 200m that few had expected to see before the middle of the 21st Century. Then, she retired before random drug testing began in 1989, having passed every drug test she ever took.


Kolata has to remind NY Times readers that there is this thing called an "average" and you can't disprove that averages differ by citing exceptions:
"It is not that every man is inherently better than every woman"

Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

41 comments:

testing99 said...

Yes, NYT readers are that dumb. They majored in humanities, and work in advertising, fashion, or other "creative" industries. Math is not their strong point.

Freddie said...

Here, I think, your desire to tweak liberals gets the better of you: who, on God's green earth, is arguing the opposite? Not even the most rabid feminist claims otherwise. You can't ridicule a position that nobody holds.

jody said...

i wonder if we'll ever have a serious track & field discussion where west africans dominate the field, and not just white men, who are somehow singled out every time as THE inferior athletes.

if only white men were as good as south asians are sports. these white guys, they just can't play sports at a high level like short fat mestizos or arab superhumans.

one day, there might be a white guy who is good enough to play in the NFL or NBA. but for now, they'll have to leave sports to the real athletes - east asians.

Garland said...

"Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?"

I know some New York Times subscribers. The answer is no.

rast said...

"Stephen Seiler"? Really, I think you could have come up with a better fake name than that.

grizzlieantagonist said...

*****Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?*****


Why should they? As a rule, the New York Times isn't going to help them do so.

Once in a while, in competition that is less elite than Olympic competition, a female competitor actually WILL outshine the men.

And when that happens, newspapers, such as the NYT trumpet, these events as examples of what ALL women could do, if they just put their minds to it or if we could just rid ourselves of the last vestiges of "male oppression".

These days, it's only MEN whose destiny is supposed to be limited by their anatomy, but the potential of women is supposed to be limitless.

Women have actually won ultramarathons, such as Badwater, where the number of competitors is much smaller than in a typical marathon, and where it's more likely that an elite woman will be running against a field of less- than-elite men.

BUT the kicker is that the best men are about 10 percent faster than the best women at the "ultra" level -- roughly the same gap that exists in the lesser-distance competitions -- it's just in any given ultramarathon race, the small number of competitors overall will sometimes stagger the competition in favor of the best women.

Even in the fighting arts, a female will occasionally outshine her male competitors, especially at younger ages and lower weight classes -- such as high school wrestling tournaments -- where the gap in brute strength isn't as great.

The news media will trumpet those incidents, but they allow to remain hidden the dozens of female competitors who got their silly necks broken by trying to compete with the guys who must exist for every female champion.

The news media doesn't discuss those incidents. It also doesn't discuss the large number of female marathon competitors (for every female champion) who -- in the name of developing their "limitless
potential" -- develop (or hasten the onset of) menstrual irregularities and osteoporosis by engaging in activities that unnaturally deplete body fat to dangerously low levels.

grizzlieantagonist said...

***** Here, I think, your desire to tweak liberals gets the better of you: who, on God's green earth, is arguing the opposite? Not even the most rabid feminist claims otherwise. You can't ridicule a position that nobody holds.*****


Where do you get the idea that "nobody" holds this position?

Apparently, many people hold this position since the article says that in 1996, 66% of those polled agreed that "the day is coming when top female athletes will beat top males at the highest competitive levels."

The article doesn't say who took this poll or what the methodology of the poll-takers was or who exactly was polled -- but the notion that large numbers of people believe this doesn't surprise me and shouldn't astound you.

There is a great deal of misinformation that passes for fact. The Internet has only hastened the process of Gresham's Law as it applies to the flow of information. Bad information largely drives out good information.

headache said...

"exercise researchers say."
You don't say! How about having your own opinion?

Argent Paladin said...

To support Grizzlieantagonist's point:
Girls are more likely to suffer chronic knee pain as well as shinsplints and stress fractures. Some research indicates that they are more prone to ankle sprains, as well as hip and back pain. And for all the justifiable attention paid to concussions among football players, females appear to be more prone to them in sports that the sexes play in common. A study last year by researchers at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported that high-school girls who play basketball suffer concussions at three times the rate of boys, and that the rate for high-school girls who play soccer is about 1.5 times the rate for boys. According to the N.C.A.A. statistics, women who play soccer suffer concussions at nearly identical rates as male football players. (The research indicates that it takes less force to cause a concussion in girls and young women, perhaps because they have smaller heads and weaker necks.)

This, from the New York Times, no less.
So, yes, we get to prove that girls can play sports. But we also permanently disable a generation of women. Doesn't really sound like a good deal.

Anonymous said...

Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?

That's the crux of the biscuit, isn't it? Most people just don't have the intellectual sophistication to understand what the word "average" implies.

Mary Pat said...

What I usually have to do about these situations is give some real life examples that no one will deny.

Look, I say = men are on average taller than women, are they not? Very noticeably so? The average height for men is some inches taller than the average height for women.

And yet my sisters-in-law are both 6 feet tall, and well over the average male height.

However, if you gathered together all the 6-foot-and-up people in one arena, the men would vastly outnumber the women.

It's harder for me to explain to the innumerate about the effect of having the same average but different standard deviations. I usually have to draw graphs at that point. But they can understand that just because the averages are different doesn't mean that all men are taller than all women or even that all women are shorter than the average male height.

These are broad statistics, that do have an effect on what you're going to see at different levels. It is not stating anything about any particular individual, just about how populations compare.

They act like it's some great moral judgment or something. Feh.

jay said...

So women risk injury in the pursuit of athletic glory. I can't be arsed to care about that, as this trade-off has always existed for anyone who seeks to distinguish themselves athletically.

Seriously playing, winning,& being good at a sport can be an incredible, exhilarating experience, a source of real pride & accomplishment, and every athlete knows the pleasure of meeting & surpassing what you thought were your limits. And that goes double for those who want to be champions & compete at elite levels. Women are not exempt from this lure, which is pretty universal.

If female athletes feel that risking injury in pursuit of athletic prowess, success, fame, love of the sport, the thrill, whatever, is worth it, who cares? No guts, no glory, no pain no gain is an attitude most of us can appreciate.

I ski frequently and over the past few years, I've been surprised at the large increase in young female snowboarders I see out here pushing to successfully perform the riskier, more physically dangerous moves practiced at the sport's elite levels. Most have broken a bone at some point, often more than once or otherwise seriously hurt themselves. But you take one look at that expression of sheer glee on their faces when they get back out on the slopes and successfully complete that move, and it makes sense why they do it. Stats on concussions and other physical risks don't mean much in the face of that feeling.

Anonymous said...

It would be interestng to know if the best women's times of recent years are better than the best men's times in the early days of the Olympics.

- Maxwell

anony-mouse said...

Actually there is a sports physiologist named Stephen Seiler who is not Steve Sailer (associate prof at a University in Norway).

And talking about stats, what are the odds of a Steve Sailer and a Stephen Seiler writing a joint article?

Anonymous said...

who, on God's green earth, is arguing the opposite? Not even the most rabid feminist claims otherwise.

The meme from Hollywood is that 110 pound women are able to dispatch 200 pound men with a single punch to the face.

--Senor Doug

Concerned said...

freddie,

In fairness to Steve, there were a lot of rabid feminists who were claiming exactly that - women would eventually match men in speed.

But really, Steve, this is getting to be a bit much. Those loonies are mostly irrelevant now. Vive la difference is the order of the day.

I love watching the women sprinters. I think they are amazing.

W Baker said...

Steve,

Apparently androgenic steroids helped the East German women's libidos as well. Funny, interesting article on sex at the Games from the London Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article4582421.ece

Robert said...

Now you know why I never read the New York Times. I put more trust in what is printed in the Weekly Reader then that rag!

Concerned said...

Freddie,

Did you read the article?

"And even though some scientists once predicted that women would eventually close the gender gap in elite performances....that idea is now largely discredited, at least for Olympic events"

tommy shanks said...

>>who, on God's green earth, is arguing the opposite? Not even the most rabid feminist claims otherwise.

Freddie, spend five minutes on pandagon.net, and Amanda Marcotte and her co-bloggers will disabuse you of that notion.

Quercus said...

Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?

It'll happen around the same time as a certain type of iSteve reader realizes not all blacks are criminals with 85 IQs.

Anonymous said...

It's a sign of the NYT's intellectual corruption that its writers can take on this sort of subject only with the most careful tiptoeing around the truth.

John Mansfield said...

This reminds me of something I wrote a couple years back defending the notion that I prefer to send men to fight in combat:

It's not just a matter of war or emergency. It's also a matter of who provides for the family through daily hazardous labor. In 2002, 5,524 people were killed on the job in America. Guess how many of them were men? 3,000? 4,000? The count was 5,083, or 23 out of every 25 deaths. If workplace hazard were shouldered equally by men and women, then women would die on the job twelve times more often than they do now. From 1991 through 1999, an average of 93 people a year were killed and 21,351 were injured in mining accidents. When twelve people died in the Sago Mine in West Virginia in January [2206] and one was rescued and when five miners died in Kentucky in May, all those people were men. Their sex wasn't even noticeable because that's just the way it is. Contrast with how much more shocking and undesirable it would be for twelve women to die on the job together.


Source: http://money.msn.com/content/invest/extra/P63405.asp

Anonymous said...

One of the sad, unmentioned aspects of women competing and altering their hormone levels either synthetically or by strategic training/dieting is that extra testosterone ages the skin, eventually causes baldness, induces more acne (and bacne), can cause facial hair (hirsutism), and interfere with the menstral cycle, and induce more body odor. "Big T" really wasn't meant for females.


I imagine 10 years down the line, some of these women will be suprised that their faces dont age so well, and they'll get that "hard" look former anorexics usually have with the loss of that adorable layer of adipose tissue. See pictures of the young Courtney Cox on "Family Ties" and compare them with her "Friends"-era visage. She was actually quite a baby doll once.



These things dont show up immediately-------one has to wait ten years or so.

albertosaurus said...

Steve -

Congradulations your crusade to enlighten the mainstream media has now ended at least for gender differences.

In modern culture it takes about ten to twenty years for a new idea to be assimilated. For example, as is well known by those who care to read about it, the earth has not had any global warming in a decade. The global cooling hysteria of the seventies died out about a decade after the temperature trend had reversed.

Race realism seems to take a bit longer yet. I was sure in the sixties that the overwhelming evidence of racial IQ differences would be widely accepted by the seventies. To my surprise I continue to read the same arguments forty years later as if these were all new and original.

I think however that these Olympics may move the discussion along. As I watch the track events on my ten foot Home Theater screen - I see only black faces. Last week during the swimming I saw only white faces. In the gymnastic events and diving I saw a lot of asian faces.

When the face is four feet high and in High Definition these differences are pretty apparent. Yet Bob Costas doesn't seem to have noticed. Maybe he has a small monitor?

Enjoy the next decade of being the leading observer of racial correlations with sporting acheivement. After that however everyone will be in the know and you will have to get an honest job.

Or you could focus on race differences in intellectual acheivement. That battle will probably endure long enough to see your kids (grand kids?) through college.

dearieme said...

"..understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?": do you suppose he was reminding his female readers?

agnostic said...

I'd be satisfied if we became sophisticated enough to not reflexively dismiss statistics with "well, that's just statistics, and everyone knows you can lie and make them fit whatever bias you want."

As though this didn't happen, probably more frequently, with non-statistical math models (like the economists' "assume a can opener" models), verbal models, or verbal impressions of reality.

SFG said...

As Albertosaurus says, this is a milestone; the NYT has admitted gender differences. It'll take a while, though. But the new generation believes in genetics and I think the Durkheim-1968 consensus will occasionally fall.

What I usually have to do about these situations is give some real life examples that no one will deny.
Look, I say = men are on average taller than women, are they not? Very noticeably so? The average height for men is some inches taller than the average height for women.

You know, that's the exact same example I always use...

PatrickH said...

A book was published not that long ago by Colette Dowling, arguing that women would be surpassing or equalling men's athletic achievements in whole areas of sport. The book was by no means badly received. I was part of the seventies running boom, and into the eighties it was conventional wisdom that women would eventually beat men at the highest levels of ultra-running, then eventually the marathon. Stuff and nonsense of course. On a par with the urban legend about women having higher pain tolerance than men. But it really was the consensus belief, at least about endurance sports.

Feminism can be interpreted from one angle as the attempt to deny the relative physical and emotional fragility of women, and to ignore the consequences of that fragility in social terms. Consider the controversy over the NYT mag article not too long ago about relatively high injury rates among female athletes.

So that taboo is alive and well, pace the freddies of the world.

And Steve, it must be said once again, it must be both amusing and frustrating to be right so often so early, and then have consensus journalists come around and not even give you a smidgen of credit.

Still, I'm thinking you may have Gina Kolata as a reader at the NYT, not just (closeted) David Brooks and (out) Nick Wade. The Sailersphere is spreading. Now let's start getting Steve some royalties.

grizzlieantagonist said...

The quality that Jay looks for in a woman:

Sweaty virility.

Lawful Neutral said...

Of course, most NYT readers understand perfectly well what average means, but as long as it's in their interest to do so, they'll pretend not to.

It's just too easy an argument to make. Suppose I say, "Women, on average, aren't as strong as men." Several people will immediately jump in with a smug, "Oh really, so I suppose you can lift more than those female Olympic weightlifters, eh?" It doesn't really mean anything, but it sounds like an impressive rejoinder if you're not paying attention. Any reply I make to that is going to sound pedantic and defensive, while they sound clever and broad-minded; it doesn't matter how stupid it is when you think about it, because arguments are not conducted according the rules of formal forensics.

Anonymous said...

The NR article says: "Since men average 10 times more natural testosterone than women..."

I am pretty sure that figure has been revised upward now that we have more accurate and sensitive scientific instruments, with the figure (on average) being that an adult male produces about forty to sixty times more testosterone than an adult female body, not ten times.

grizzlieantagonist said...

*****It's just too easy an argument to make. Suppose I say, "Women, on average, aren't as strong as men." Several people will immediately jump in with a smug, "Oh really, so I suppose you can lift more than those female Olympic weightlifters, eh?" It doesn't really mean anything, but it sounds like an impressive rejoinder if you're not paying attention. Any reply I make to that is going to sound pedantic and defensive, while they sound clever and broad-minded; it doesn't matter how stupid it is when you think about it, because arguments are not conducted according the rules of formal forensics.*****


Correct, so you hit back with the same tactic.

After making the endurance comparison between men and women (as groups), I was once asked if I could complete the Race Across America -- which a handful of women have done.

I responded, "Could you or she (the woman in question who had completed RAAM) represent a major medical provider at an arbitration hearing and get a $300,000 award on their behalf?"

In other words, I simply responded to a ridiculous example with one of my own by moving the topic to that of accomplishment in my own professional sphere.

Since the vast majority of isteve readers, I am sure, are accomplished professionals, I imagine that you could adopt the same tactic.

Anonymous said...

"It would be interestng to know if the best women's times of recent years are better than the best men's times in the early days of the Olympics."

Not sure about that but I can tell you the U.S. women's World Cup squad with Mia Hamm aboard lost a game to a high-school age boys team and, IIRC, it was fairly lopsided score. This was in the late nineties but I don't think female soccer players have gotten any faster, from what I can see.

Anonymous said...

Lawful Neutral:

It doesn't really mean anything, but it sounds like an impressive rejoinder if you're not paying attention. Any reply I make to that is going to sound pedantic and defensive, while they sound clever and broad-minded; it doesn't matter how stupid it is when you think about it, because arguments are not conducted according the rules of formal forensics.

I like to think that some people are paying attention. That eventually some of these arguments are won by a gradual drip drip of logic.

In a real face to face conversation these emotive tactics are harder to beat - rehearse your arguments folks! - on-line its pretty clear who is actually winning on a point by point basis. God I hope so!

We've all seen on-line liberals huffily saying they refuse to debate with a racist/whatever (they lost!). That they dont want to drag the argument down to the sewer (they lost again!), appeal to moderators to remove comments (they lost again!)

We have to show ten examples to their emotive anecdote. We cannot esort to abuse even though these tactics are allowed for them.

But maybe, one small step at a time, the battles may be won.

anony-mouse said...

Small world alert: Gina Kolata is the sister of the late Judi Bari, the envirowacko/bomb victim.

I suppose we might now hear about 'networks', but my understanding is that the two had nothing much to do with each other as adults.

miss marple said...

"I imagine 10 years down the line, some of these women will be suprised that their faces dont age so well, and they'll get that "hard" look former anorexics usually have with the loss of that adorable layer of adipose tissue."

Your reasoning is spurious. Sun damage ages the face. And, even the faces of women who have maintained normal nutrition will tend to become more defined with age - this may either result in more delicate features or gauntness (if the person has high cheekbones). Athletic females often delay the onset of menstruation but catch up once their intense training ends. I don't know what effect continuing to train intensely has on the female body after age 30 but I don't think you do either. Also, ex-anorexics become more, not less, efficient at storing fat as a consequence of starving themselves. You should probably seek pictures of how the mothers and grandmothers of these women aged before asserting that diet/exercise is the culprit.

As for diet increasing testosterone levels, I think you give too much credit to adipose tissue for being a source of estrogen. Estrogen should come from the ovaries, from adipose or even from abnormalities in menstruation (technically, estrogen dominance) it can wreak havoc on fertility just as can excess testosterone.

I'm tired of lay people writing about anatomy and physiology as if they were MDs. When making seemingly factual statements about women's bodies and hormone levels, be warned that enough women have delayed childbirth to the point they've had to become amateur fertility specialists. Know what you are talking about and be prepared to back it up with evidence rather than speculation.

PatrickH said...

Lawful neutral (hey! That's a hard alignment to play well):

Any reply I make to that is going to sound pedantic and defensive, while they sound clever and broad-minded.

What some of the other folk said, and...

Simply take the logic AND content of the example (weightlifting) and put it right back on their plate:

So, you [female] think you can lift as much as a male Olympic weightlifter?"

Follow it through when they bleat in protest, that you are using exactly the same illogic as they are. That might work.

Sigh. It won't, of course. I am assuming a moderate level of intellectual integrity in the questioner. People who smirk out that kind of nonsense "question" don't have any intellectual integrity in the first place.

Martin said...

"agnostic said...

I'd be satisfied if we became sophisticated enough to not reflexively dismiss statistics with "well, that's just statistics, and everyone knows you can lie and make them fit whatever bias you want.""

Yes, I've often heard that tired old saw: "statistics lie".

But of course, they don't. Statistics don't lie, although people may lie with statistics. People also lie using words with well defined meanings (example: Yesterday, I walked on the moon.) The fact that the sentence they are employed in is a lie, does not invalidate the words themselves, or their meanings.

teacher.paris said...

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/08/21/painted_ladies_of_the_pool_are.html
For the Atlanta Games in 1996, the French synchronised swimming team prepared a routine based on the Holocaust. They were to goose-step toward the pool, before diving in and re-enacting the arrival of female Jews at the concentration camps, their abuse by Nazi doctors and their last march to the gas chambers. It would be set to music from Schindler's List. Alas, reminding us why politicians should never meddle in sport, they were ordered to abandon the enterprise by the then French sports minister, despite their protestations that it had "great emotional value".

Damn the French sports minister for sabotaging what would have been the single greatest moment in sporting history ever.

none of the above said...

patrickh:

This is the practical meaning of "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." When you're saying something I don't want to hear, all the objections I or anyone else may raise to it seem compelling and sensible, even when they're obvious nonsense. And all the arguments you raise for it seem flawed and shaky, even when they're rock solid. It takes a hell of a lot of work to overcome that. Most people avoid that work, often by just not exposing themselves to ideas they don't agree with except in "look how dumb/evil those folks are" mode.

There's a more sensible meaning of that phrase, having to do with strength of priors and amount of evidence needed to overcome them. But I think the meaning I gave above is a better description of how people mostly deal with "extraordinary claims."