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Gender and Science:

A reader kindly pointed me to a couple of interesting items on a matter related to something we touched on a few weeks ago: whether there are material biological cognitive factors that lead men and women to be disproportionately represented in certain fields. (Note that the question isn't whether these are the only factors, or where any particular woman or man falls within the distribution of certain cognitive skills.) The posts on this blog were about law, where matters may be quite different from science. Still, the debate about gender and science is interesting in its own right, and likely overlaps in some measure (though of course not entirely, given that much of the scientific debate is about mathematical aptitude, something that lawyers of both genders are infamous for not having) with similar debates about law.

The reader's two sources were:

1. Edge.org has a debate between Harvard psychology professors Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke.

2. Nature has an article by Stanford neurobiology Prof. Ben Barres, taking the view (as best I can tell) that there are no such material biological differences, and that the entirety of the disparity between men and women in the sciences comes from societal factors. (This is not completely clear, since his introduction frames the issue as being between the "Larry Summers Hypothesis" "that women are not advancing because of innate inability rather than because of bias or other factors," and the rival hypothesis that "women are not advancing because of discrimination." But since Larry Summers' point was that part of the reason for the disparate representation of women is biological cognitive differences, I take Barres' rejection of the "Larry Summers Hypothesis," and specific criticism of Summers, to mean that he's saying that biological differences are no part or perhaps next to no part of the matter.)

I'll have a bit to say shortly about details in the Barres source, but for now I just wanted to post the links.

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