November 6, 2007

"The Difference Myth"

From the Boston Globe:

The difference myth

We shouldn't believe the increasingly popular claims that boys and girls think differently, learn differently, and need to be treated differently

Here's my favorite line in the article:

Scientists have turned up some intriguing findings of anatomical differences between the sexes.

Who would have imagined it? It's amazing what science can accomplish!

Here's my favorite comment from Boston Globe reader Aging Cynic:

Anyone who goes within a mile of this subject in Boston is toast. Ask Larry Summers. If the "progressive" echo chamber wants me to nod my head, they can make me do it. (They can't make me like it, however). This issue is so over. I understand when people won't take "no" for an answer. Why won't they now take "yes"? Do I need to be REEEALLY sincere?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Why is the average person disinterested in science? Because he can't get any.

A cursory knowledge of psychometric sex differences unveils this entire article as a glib fraud. A total lack of knowledge, but an average BS detector, finds all of this to be cloudy nonsense.

Some folks may argue that even if this article is shoddily constructed, to put it mildly, it's a relief that the matter of sex differences in intelligence was at least brought up. I beg to differ. The man who knows nothing about psychometrics might find everything argued here to be dubious, but he has no hard evidence to counteract it.

What this means is that the sciences of the mind are obscured from the general public. It's not because the issues aren't brought up, but because they are obscured.

mnuez said...

Scientists have turned up some intriguing findings of anatomical differences between the sexes.

I looked it up IN CONTEXT and........ that's exactly what it says. It's WONDERFUL!

And your average person still sees articles "in the paper!" as somehow being delivered from on-high rather than being the shit-blot efforts of fellow mortals like himself.

It's only a matter of time before the corrupting influence of MONEY = VOICE will turn the internet into some sort of similar bullshit whereby certain sites are considered to be gospel-truth (or near-to) and anyone else still writing is considered a "lone wacko". Happened for press and radio - gotta happen to us too sooner or later...

Anyhow, I'm not going to read the article so I won't be commenting on it but I think that the quote you selected is so great that I WILL be saving the article just for that.



Anonymous said...

Milk-thru-the-nose moment, the final two doublespeak paragraphs of the article:

As science becomes more central to our public and political conversations, it's perhaps not surprising that neurological factoids are being used to "prove" ideas on both sides of a debate. But science shouldn't be enlisted as an excuse for believing what we want to believe. Rather, it should be seen as part of a long series of steps that can lead to fresh understandings of the world.

What we can hope is that eventually, good science drives out bad, and that facts, by their sheer heft, ultimately crush the factoids. But we have to pay attention to make sure this happens. Otherwise, we will end up trusting our kids' futures to ideas and programs that - ironically - rely on science to shore up some of society's most unscientific prejudices.

Your authors:

C. Barnett, senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis (translation: a psychologist studying work and family social issues)

Caryl Rivers, journalism professor at Boston University (translation: an expert on the Kennedy family)

No wonder they didn’t understand the fundamental concept that identical means do not mean identical distributions - especially as seen and documented at the tails for boys and girls in things like math and science. Poor things.

Anonymous said...

"...intriguing findings of anatomical differences..." Yes its very funny,but more than that it is enraging that such stupidity is demanded of the "thinking classess",i.e. the scientists and the guys who report on them. Its literally a confederacy of (deliberate) dunces. And I wonder,since people decide that,gosh,theres no differences between men and women(least none that favor the men,o'course),is it fair to speculate on differences between "masculine" women and "feminine" women? Or between lesbians and staright women. I think you'll find the "manly" girls tend to come out on top...

Anonymous said...

This might sound stupid, but seriously, gender-distinct material like "a history of axes" or "a history of dresses" might act as relatively strong learning-enablers for ensuing years, for ten-year olds, as they approach more "adult" history, for instance. It would at least give them some loose and interconnected map of history that made sense to them. "The broad sword weighed about 18 pounds and could cleave straight through human bone..." would be my favorite class. They outsourced the "art teacher," why not the fashion/warfare teachers? "Well, Timmy, that's just how they killed each other, back then." Cut to liberal neo-schoolmarm...not gonna happen, but still.

This would be part of a much larger movement acknowledging learning curricula are totally messed up. The majority of the material looks absolutely sterile to most students, boys and girls, and unless you have the innate chops to get fascinated -- and even then it takes a heroic effort, with the probable mediocrity of your instructor -- the best you can do is rotely memorize meaningless data later forgotten: what the vast majority of students do throughout their school-life, and even into college, to the extent they just take it for granted.

To get the most out of students, shouldn't you begin with what's innately most-easily understood and retained and go from there, lest you risk it all looking like an endless, boring and irrelevant stream of gibbering to be despised (which some students, like the vast majority, might conclude)?

Anonymous said...

What in the world are these "anatomical differences between the sexes?"

Please... somebody help me here.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry too much about the article.

With the live male birth ratio going down, pretty soon most of the US will have a male-female ration like that on college campuses.

Anonymous said...

I think that Boston Globe article gets nicely at the issue you have covered often actually, of the friction between statistical truths about groups versus variation among individuals. Beyond all their ‘tenuous science’ denial of group differences, the author’s main contention is that using group membership as a sorting mechanism for children is not useful. That in fact is the little summary they put at the top.

And certainly, for any given sort of group difference and criteria needing selection, that may be true, though they don’t make their case very articulately. For predicting the extremes, they seem more useful –predicting the sex and race/ ethnicity of who will win the marathon? Useful. Determining the marathon time and best training regime for any given runner? Not particularly useful ( I watched the last Marine Corps marathon in DC, and lots of old white ladies ran faster than lots of young black men). Betting on the sex of the next Nobel in Math? Useful. Determining if any given man or woman is well served by and worthy of admission to MIT? Their sex is a LOT less useful than a host of available measures that are vastly finer grained.

So maybe sorting between who gets what type of classroom environment is best done with a battery of tests and assessments, or maybe its best done with ‘boys over here’ and ‘girls over there’, or maybe the differences are real and non-trivial but the optimal system is still one method for all. I don’t know. I do know that reducing the argument to either “Boys and Girls are different” and so should therefore be educated separately, or “Boys and Girls are the same” and so should be co-educated, is a level of logical fallacy, over simplification, symbolic thinking, and seeking Platonic neatness in lieu of statistical reality that I would think you would shy away from implicitly endorsing.

Shouldn’t you analyze this and its like to show its valid points as well as its dumb ones, to encourage overall improved thinking about how to handle group differences? Admitting that yes, boys are taller than girls, and also that yes, Sally is taller than Joe, Steve, and Bob, seems to be only the beginning of where the interesting bits begin. I think we must watch out for pushing against one error so hard that we replicate its mirror image.

Anonymous said...

Regular Joe, that was a great comment. Do you mind if I steal it?

Antioco Dascalon said...

To: Shouting Thomas
From: Kindergarten Cop
Re: anatomical differences

"Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina!"

It is sad when fictional kindergarteners know more about biology than so-called experts writing for a major US publication.

Anonymous said...

In this article: An Economist goes to a Bar they say:

Two wrinkles on this: We found no evidence of the stereotype of a white male preference for East Asian women. However, we also found that East Asian women did not discriminate against white men (only against black and Hispanic men). As a result, the white man-Asian woman pairing was the most common form of interracial dating—but because of the women's neutrality, not the men's pronounced preference. We also found that regional differences mattered. Daters of both sexes from south of the Mason-Dixon Line revealed much stronger same-race preferences than Northern daters.

An alternative explanation for the discrimination they find is that east Asian women are discriminating on IQ. Indeed, they could be so finely tuned into IQ ...

Anonymous said...

"Scientists have turned up some intriguing findings of anatomical differences between the sexes."

Sounds like the next Onion headline.