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Credentials and Interdisciplinary Work:

A commenter on an earlier thread faults me for citing Prof. Browne's work as a counterpoint to Prof. Barres':

ev loses significant credibility with me when he attempts to "balance" an article about a scientific subject, written by an expert in the field and published in nature, with an article by a law professor with no scientific expertise in a (presumably student-edited) law review. granted, the nature article was not peer-reviewed either, but the author at least had the credentials and experience to know what he was talking about.

This highlights, I think, an important and oft-forgotten point: While laypeople understandably care about experts' credentials — we lack the talent, time, or both to evaluate the underlying data ourselves — it helps to scrutinize credentials with some care, especially since scholars often cross disciplinary boundaries.

Prof. Browne, for instance, is a law professor who has been trained as a lawyer; but his legal interests have led him to the interdisciplinary field of law and evolutionary biology. Besides law review articles, he has also written two books published by university presses, Divided Labours: An Evolutionary View of Women at Work, in Yale University Press's Darwinism Today series, and Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality, in Rutgers University Press's Series in Human Evolution. I haven't read the books — I've only looked at Prof. Browne's shorter work — but my sense is that writing such books (1) is not at all outside the competence of an intelligent law professor with a job that permits him to do interdisciplinary work, and (2) will give even someone who doesn't have a Ph.D. in psychology or biology, and who doesn't have an appointment in the psychology or biology department, a pretty broad and deep knowledge of the experimental literature. I'd take quite seriously what Judge Posner has to say about economics, though he's trained as a lawyer rather than an economist; I'm sure many economists disagree with much of what he says, but his opinions are nonetheless worth considering despite his academic background. Likewise with Prof. Browne.

Prof. Barres is indeed trained as a neurobiologist, and is a Professor of Neurobiology. He has written extensively on neuorobiology, and neurobiologists are likely to find work on genetics and cognitive psychology to be quite accessible. On the other hand, Prof. Barres' list of publications does not seem to include any scholarly work on gender differences, unless I've missed some, and setting aside any pieces too recent to include (such as his Nature essay).

It is possible that Prof. Barres has read as deeply and broadly as Prof. Browne on the subject, or even more deeply and broadly. It is possible that he has read less. Whether or not Prof. Barres has studied this field more than Prof. Browne has, Prof. Browne's books on the subject suggest that Prof. Browne has read enough to be taken seriously. In any event, I would not casually dismiss either Prof. Barres' opinion or Prof. Browne's, regardless of the departments in which they teach, the degrees that they have, or the nature of the journal in which they published their shorter work.

Lev:

This highlights, I think, an important and oft-forgotten point: While laypeople understandably care about experts' credentials — we lack the talent, time, or both to evaluate the underlying data ourselves — it helps to scrutinize credentials with some care, especially since scholars often cross disciplinary boundaries.


Yet, we are right to be suspicious of, or at least right to question, the conclusions an expert draws in his own field, as fields have fads and Refvealed TRVTH the same as religions do, and...people make mistakes, blunders even, in their own fields. And they accept things as true that have been believed to be true without having been proved to be true, in their own fields.

How much deference should be given an expert in a field opining or coming to conclusions in a different field? I say about zero, on average. Such a person might, because of his personal characteristics that lead him to be an expert in his own field, be a person with an independent viewpoint to ask really good questions probing the Conventional Wisdom in some other field because he is not immersed in that other field.

The "experts" who believe that because they are well versed in one field they are well versed in another are legion.
7.26.2006 7:57pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Lev: I agree that we should give little deference to "an expert in a field opining or coming to conclusions in a different field"; but we should also recognize that someone who is an expert in one field may become an expert in another (and his publications in that other field may be evidence of that). As best I can tell, Prof. Browne fits that description.
7.26.2006 8:02pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Ahh, credentialism... as any sensible person knows, the Wright brothers didn't invent the airplane, because neither of them had an engineering degree. And George Washington was hopelessly unfitted to be President. No degree in political science, no degree in anything; zero, zip, nada. Why, even Jimmy Carter had some kind of degree!
7.26.2006 8:11pm
frankcross (mail):
While I agree that arguments should be evaluated on their strengths and not on the credentials of their proponents, from what I read in the paper there is no actual evidence of a genetic basis. The author lays out the known differentials in sex achievement. The closest thing to a genetic claim is that they are common around the globe. That's not much evidence. Not long ago I suspect it was common around the globe for women not to be lawyers, but it wasn't because of a genetic defect in lawyering. Moreover, it's not exactly universal, as he has to scramble to try to explain away Iceland.

You can't just ascribe observable societal differences to genetics.
7.26.2006 8:39pm
ray_g:
In my experience, credentials are over rated. And even if I am wrong, to dismiss someone's arguments because they do not have a certain credential is just another form of ad homminem attack, or perhaps a twisted version of appeal to authority.
7.26.2006 8:47pm
Kingsley Browne (mail):
For those who prefer peer-reviewed fare, I would refer you to Browne, K.R. (2006). Evolved Sex Differences and Occupational Segregation, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27:143-162.
7.26.2006 9:36pm
DJB (mail):
That's not much evidence. Not long ago I suspect it was common around the globe for women not to be lawyers, but it wasn't because of a genetic defect in lawyering

Can you prove that, or are you just assuming it is true?

Moreover, it's not exactly universal, as he has to scramble to try to explain away Iceland.

Icelanders are descended from a small pool of original settlers who have been largely genetically isolated for many generations. It is not unusual for such populations to differ from the main body; it is a well-known evolutionary phenomenon called the founder effect.

You can't just ascribe observable societal differences to genetics.

Yet for some reason ascribing them entirely to culture, without evidence that culture is the sole cause, is acceptable.

It is an observed fact that the brains of men and women are physically different, that the intelligence distributions of men and women are different, and that newborn infants exhibit statistically significant differences in behavior that correlate to their gender. It is, furthermore, a fact that most animals -- even ones that don't socialize and have no "culture" -- exhibit gender-based mental differences. It is also a fact that no amount of controlling for culture has even been able to entirely eliminate all mental gender differences.

Has it been proven that genetics are at work? No. Maybe human minds are mysteriously immune to biology and evolution in a way that no other animal minds are; maybe those pesky, uneradicatable mental differences are due to invisible, undetectable cultural biases that even affect presapient human infants. Maybe it really IS all just culture. But there's no evidence for that.
7.26.2006 9:56pm
frankcross (mail):
DJB, it's not just Iceland, the new data show the same effect for Finland and Tunisia(?)

I ascribe them to culture because that is what the evidence suggests. For example, if you look at the number of women PhDs and professors in these fields, they have shown a steady increase over the past three decades, with women's rights. This is consistent with a cultural reason, not with a genetic one, which would imply stability over time.

Also, the PISA results on science show a huge range of gender differences. From women on top in a couple of countries, to a near tie in some others, to a moderate advantage for men, to a huge advantage for men. That sort of variation over different cultures is consistent with culture but not genetic differences.

Plus, the evidence that the differences don't show up before adolescence.

Those are three pieces of evidence consistent with a cultural explanation. What's your evidence for a genetic explanation?
7.26.2006 10:00pm
Lev:
Gene:


we should also recognize that someone who is an expert in one field may become an expert in another (and his publications in that other field may be evidence of that).


Sure. With the caveat, of course, that to become an expert in the other field and have his publications published, whether in peer reviewed journals or not, he must show evidence of "competence" which means competence in and acceptance of the then current Revealed TRVTH in that field.

I think one of the most interesting, yet anecdotal, pieces of evidence about the cultural effect being huge in the women in science issue is shown in the recent stories about the mathematician? who had a sex change operation from female to male, and found that his work got more respect than her work.

Yet, "scientific studies" have shown that men and women have different data processsing aptitudes that appear to be wired into the brains.

I rather expect the correct answer is similar to the one that Murray et al. came up with in The Bell Curve. As they concluded, intelligence is, as demonstrated by "proxies" in the "scientific literature" somewhere between 40-60% genetic, with the remainder being environment. Within that 40-60% genetic there may be variations from group to group, just as men and women are different. Yet, environment makes a huge contribution.
7.26.2006 10:51pm
Alex F:
"Prof. Browne's books on the subject suggest that Prof. Browne has read enough to be taken seriously"

1) You haven't read the books, so how can you have any idea what they suggest? Does the mere fact that he wrote two books make him someone worth taking seriously? Or do you know more about him than you are mentioning here?

2) One can read a lot of perfectly reasonable material on a subject and still form kooky opinions, and then string these opinions together in a book. Like the guy who was trying to teach his class that the US Gov't was behind 9/11. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he'd read a TON about terrorism, 9/11, Al-Qaeda, US history, etc. I'm not saying Browne is like that, I am just making the point that while "well-read on topic" is required for credibility, it is not very strong evidence of credibility in and of itself. In fact, many of the people who spend the most time reading &writing about super-controversial topics are the ones with the biggest personal agendas, and the most biases.

That being said, I think every individual has to decide for themselves when they will practice "credentialism." Avoiding it completely is impractical. You can't educate yourself about EVERYthing, and most fields have their experts, even when they don't come to agreement, they usually map out the bounds of reasonable debate in that field. That being said, when asked your opinion, you should be honest and qualify it: "I think ______, but mostly just because the experts think so and I don't have time and/or care enough to investigate further."
7.26.2006 11:57pm
Toby:
Anybody who beleives that the last 3 decades of primary, secondary, and college education in the USA have not been support the female, drug the male, opposite if an unbiased (ande certainly not pro-male biased) has inhaled to deeply of cant, or theory, or burning herbs - something. And yet the best he can come up with is "less anti-female bias recently"

I entered college in 1976, the year my top 25 state university went 60% female in the freshman class. No competive puublic school, except one based largely around engineering has been less than 2/3 female in the meantime. And yet, people still working out their adolescent issues with their parents moan about "pro-male bias"
7.27.2006 12:53am
Reader55:
I ascribe them to culture because that is what the evidence suggests. For example, if you look at the number of women PhDs and professors in these fields, they have shown a steady increase over the past three decades, with women's rights. This is consistent with a cultural reason, not with a genetic one, which would imply stability over time.

Or perhaps you have both cultural and genetic effects, rather than absolutely one or the other. If both are significant then it might be reasonable to expect that even as the cultural factor fades away (decreased bias leads to more women professors) the genetic factors remain (despite the increased number a majority of the field remains male). That seems pretty close to the actual situation to me.

What's more, the cultural argument has a hole in it. Women make up a majority of the grad student/professor population in any number of other subjects. If cultural biases have faded to such an extent that this is possible in the biological sciences then what makes math and physics different? Are physicists more biased than their counterparts in other scientific disciplines?

Finally, remember that we're not talking about average ability being higher among men than women. We're talking about the distribution of ability across a population.
7.27.2006 8:18am
noahpraetorius (mail):
The culture has become feminized. This is a big turn-off for heterosexual men. That is my explanation for declining male interest in higher education. Its for wussies!
7.27.2006 10:11am
frankcross (mail):
55, that is very possible. But I'm just saying we have evidence for the cultural component. This would be about the fifth time I've asked on these threads for evidence of the genetic component.

And that is not a hole in the cultural argument. The cultural argument says that women are discouraged from math oriented fields early in their education, for which there is considerable anecdotal evidence at least.
7.27.2006 10:52am
Houston Lawyer:
Anyone who believes that there is no genetic bias in brain function between the sexes has never raised children.

There are a lot of credentialed idiots out there. When I was a teenager, we called them book smart.
7.27.2006 10:59am
Dan Hamilton:
Frankcross:

You can't really be serious, lack of "evidence of the genetic component". Women girls are BETTER at language, reading, etc. It isn't even a "the distribution of ability across a population" we are talking "about average ability being higher among women than men". Does ANYBODY here dispute this? It has been known for ages and it is NOT cultural. It isn't even questioned in schools.

So PLEASE stop asking about proof of a genetic component. They exist. It is just a question of WHAT they are.
7.27.2006 11:53am
Colin (mail):
DJB,

Yet for some reason ascribing them entirely to culture, without evidence that culture is the sole cause, is acceptable.

But that's not what's actually happening. It's not that there is evidence that culture is the sole cause, it's that there is evidence that culture is a cause - but none (at least that people here, as frankcross says, have been able to show) that there is a significant biological component.

Instead, we get Houston Lawyer and Dan Hamilton saying, "Hey, we don't need your liberal science. we just know." Well, I don't share your confidence. I'd like actual evidence.
7.27.2006 12:41pm
Houston Lawyer:
Colin

Your post is the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Please cite me the evidence disproving my empirical observations that young boys act differently than young girls on their own initiative.
7.27.2006 2:15pm
Dan Hamilton:
Colin - Instead, we get Houston Lawyer and Dan Hamilton saying, "Hey, we don't need your liberal science. we just know." Well, I don't share your confidence. I'd like actual evidence

I said nothing about liberal science. I believe in science. It is the liberals who want to say you can't study that because we KNOW that there are NO differences between men and women. I say it is obvious that there are significant biological components. Language being one of them. I would like science to study this and other differences. Liberals DO NOT want science to study such differences or even say that they may exist. Which is all Sommers said that there may be a difference in math ability at the high end.

Do you really disagree with what I said? That on average women are better at language then men. If you do what world have you been living in?
7.27.2006 2:54pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
"No competive puublic school, except one based largely around engineering has been less than 2/3 female in the meantime."

How are you defining "competitive public school"? Eighty-five percent of the University of Virginia's entering Class of 2009 were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and 56% were female. Does that level of top 10% students not constitute "competitive," or is 56% actually 2/3? And this is a recent trend; the overall undergraduate student body is 54% women, 46% men. Or is a university known for its undergraduate schools of business and liberal arts (and that has schools of nursing and education that are female-dominated), competing with a polytechnical college (Virginia Tech), actually "based largely around engineering" ?

We may not be sure on facts about how genes and socialization operate, but I'm pretty sure that Toby is just making stuff up.
7.27.2006 3:43pm
Colin (mail):
Please cite me the evidence disproving my empirical observations that young boys act differently than young girls on their own initiative.

Again, you completely misunderstand. The question is not whether there are differences. The question is whether there are differences that have the effect that is being ascribed to them. The fact that "young boys act differently than young girls" is not evidence that mathematical and scientific talent is differently distributed or expressed less often among women. But that point is often -- virtually exclusively, in fact -- made and supported with nothing more than irrelevant anecdotes.

See, for instance, "I say it is obvious that there are significant biological components. Language being one of them. I would like science to study this and other differences. Liberals DO NOT want science to study such differences or even say that they may exist."

Which is complete malarky. I haven't seen anyone name a single research project that was shut down, or research defunded, or any other concrete example of science not done because of some hypothetical pogrom. What we get instead is rhetoric like,

"Do you really disagree with what I said? That on average women are better at language then men. If you do what world have you been living in?"

I must have missed the part where this is shown to be a factor in the tenure process. Perhaps there's some research on the point? Some sort of study, with numbers and maybe even a peer review?
7.27.2006 3:51pm
Reader55:
55, that is very possible. But I'm just saying we have evidence for the cultural component. This would be about the fifth time I've asked on these threads for evidence of the genetic component.

It's not my field, but my understanding is that greater variance in male testing results is widely accepted as true. Steven Pinker in the Edge debate linked earlier refers to two specific studies: a Science paper by Novell and Hodges and a study which involved the entire population of Scotland.

And that is not a hole in the cultural argument. The cultural argument says that women are discouraged from math oriented fields early in their education, for which there is considerable anecdotal evidence at least.

In other words women are discouraged from scientific fields involving math but they're not discouraged from other hard scientific fields that don't involve math?
7.27.2006 4:14pm
JimmyB (mail):
frankcross,

In case you missed it, I reprint DJB's "evidence of the genetic component."

"It is an observed fact that the brains of men and women are physically different, that the intelligence distributions of men and women are different, and that newborn infants exhibit statistically significant differences in behavior that correlate to their gender. It is, furthermore, a fact that most animals — even ones that don't socialize and have no "culture" — exhibit gender-based mental differences. It is also a fact that no amount of controlling for culture has even been able to entirely eliminate all mental gender differences."

This may not be convincing evidence to you, but it is at least as compelling as your examples of the number of women PhDs and professors in scientific fields around the world (to me at least).

Nobody has claimed, as far as I have read, that social pressures have no effect on the number of female math professors at Harvard. Why, with the evidence DJB listed above, is it seemingly inconceivable that genetics play some role? Is the brain the only organ that is, on average, identical in men and women?
7.27.2006 4:32pm
TangoMan (www):
I think Frank Cross is looking for very specific genetic evidence for his null hypothesis favors cultural variables over genetic variables, or he has operationalized the belief that evolutionary processes stop at the neck.

Even Barres notes in this opinion piece that his spatial abilities increased as a result of hormonal treatment. This is no surprise. However, even sex reassignment surgury cannot duplicate gender-based gene expression. Perhaps Mr. Cross is holding out for more evidence along this line:


The classic view of brain sexual differentiation and behavior is that gonadal steroid hormones act directly to promote sex differences in neural and behavioral development. In particular, the actions of testosterone and its metabolites induce a masculine pattern of brain development, while inhibiting feminine neural and behavioral patterns of differentiation. However, recent evidence indicates that gonadal hormones may not solely be responsible for sex differences in brain development and behavior between males and females. Here we examine an alternative hypothesis that genes, by directly inducing sexually dimorphic patterns of neural development, can influence the sexual differences between male and female brains. Using microarrays and RT-PCR, we have detected over 50 candidate genes for differential sex expression, and confirmed at least seven murine genes which show differential expression between the developing brains of male and female mice at stage 10.5 days post coitum (dpc), before any gonadal hormone influence. The identification of genes differentially expressed between male and female brains prior to gonadal formation suggests that genetic factors may have roles in influencing brain sexual differentiation.
7.27.2006 5:26pm
TangoMan (mail) (www):
Which is complete malarky. I haven't seen anyone name a single research project that was shut down, or research defunded, or any other concrete example of science not done because of some hypothetical pogrom. What we get instead is rhetoric like,

Check out the history of the Human Genome Diversity Project which was stripped of funding and shut down precisely because of Leftist opposition.

Check out the sanctions faced by respected Danish pyschometrician Helmuth Nyborg, Dirctor of the International Research Center for Psycho-Neuroendocrinology, University of Aarhus, Denmark after he presented his work on gender IQ characteristics at an International conference of Intelligence researchers. He was subjected to having his work vetted by committee, his files confiscated, his lab shut down.

Check out the Hate Crime investigation that Tatu Vanhanen, father of the Finnish Prime Minister, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland was subjected to for publishing a book which which examined the relationship between a country's GDP and it's IQ characteristics.

Tell these respected professors that there is no pogrom in place.
7.27.2006 5:39pm
ray_g:
"Tell these respected professors that there is no pogrom in place."

I would add that you should also try to tell Larry Summers. The gross over reaction to and malicious misrepresentation of what he said lends weight to the pogrom hypothesis.
7.27.2006 7:08pm
Colin (mail):
I would add that you should also try to tell Larry Summers. The gross over reaction to and malicious misrepresentation of what he said lends weight to the pogrom hypothesis.

Please. I'm unfamiliar with TangoMan's examples (but will read up on them, and thanks for adding actual data to the conversation), but I'm aware of the Summers brouhaha. The man, heading an institution dealing with a dearth of tenured women and laboring under a perception that the university was institutionalizing gender bias, opined to a conference dedicated to diversity in science and engineering that women are underrepresented as tenured faculty because of their own biology. He offered no science, no research, no evidence whatsoever, and if I recall correctly some of the audience had earlier presented evidence of the impact of cultural factors---which he also failed to address. Again, we're back to the underlying dispute: it's clear that there are cultural factors, and not clear at all that biology makes a difference in this instance. But rather than dealing with the lack of evidence, the cultural right leaps valiantly to drastic conclusions.

Summers made a goofy, insulting, and unsubstantiated statement that implied that he wasn't taking a serious problem seriously. That's a problem for anyone, but for a university president already dealing with charges of poor faculty-administration relations, it was just dumb. He wasn't attacked by torch-wielding villagers, he made a serious professional faux-pas. But the context of his statements, and their total lack of scientific basis, are almost always elided from the breathless charges that eeeeeevil liberal know-nothings hounded him out for being honest. It's the new political correctness: Larry Summers is a martyr, and we'd have evidence to support his brave hypothesis if it weren't for those darned book-burning liberals.
7.27.2006 7:39pm
TangoMan (www):
Colin,

I'm saddened that I've arrived so late to this blog's debate on the issue. If your specific charge had been a little broader, meaning beyond having funding cut I could have rattled off many more professors who had funding denied so projects never got off the ground, tenure denied, personal attacks against their person, personal threats against their person, and had to engage in either "squid ink" tactics or for sake of career simply avoided doing research that would get the pitchfork crowd agitated. Even scientists of such stature as Stanford's David Botstein, when discussing the research for genetic factors associated with violence, has noted:


"I think there's more scientifically to that one, a greater likelihood of finding it, more than IQ. But it's COMPLETELY unacceptable at the moment. You can't even talk about it. Go to any university, research center, no one -- NO ONE -- will talk to you about this. Why? Simple. Because of the fear that there will be a racial correlation. And there could be. . .


But the context of his statements, and their total lack of scientific basis,

Not quite so. Summers had ample grounds on which to pose his conjecture. The issue comes down to differing interpretations of whether he had sufficient grounds. For instance, there is the finding of gender differentials on the grey-matter &white-matter composition in the human brain. See the graphical representation in this blog post:


The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill....

In general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of -- or connections between -- these processing centers.

This, according to Rex Jung, a UNM neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility....

"The study also identified regional differences with intelligence. For example, 84 percent of gray-matter regions and 86 percent of white-matter regions involved with intellectual performance in women were found in the brain's frontal lobes, compared to 45 percent and zero percent for males, respectively. The gray matter driving male intellectual performance is distributed throughout more of the brain.


Considering that I'm a narrow issue blogger, and human biodiversity is the topic I focus on, I've seen this debate play out repeatedly. What is likely to unfold is the demand for granular levels of proof (Which specific gene is responsible for effect A, and exactly how powerful is the influence) yet the same level of proof is not demanded from the proponents of environmental causation. The magical "Axiom of Discrimination" is operationalized so that even unrecognized, and unmeasurable, effects are granted to exist and thus explain differential outcomes while more plausible biological factors are rejected:


the extreme position (that culture is everything) is so often seen as moderate, and the moderate position is seen as extreme" is that those with extreme environmental biases can make any unsubstantiated claim they want, stated in the most factual of ways, with total impunity and with full preservation of their reputations, while scientists exploring/discussing genetic possibilities like Jensen and Herrnstein who carefully qualify their statements with agnostic and probabilistic language find themselves beleaguered and tarnished erroneously for these misconducts anyways.


I often debate the Creationists of the Right on the issue of evolution, and they forthrightly declare their bias against evolution. When I debate the Creationists of the Left, they pay false worship to evolution, and adhere to it more as a cultural badge, rather than being intellectually true to it's implication. To outright reject evolutionary priniciples would be a declaration of anti-intellectualism, however to posture in belief, but to covertly work to suppress the idea that evolution has worked on humans and that the brain is not immune to selection pressure can be done in the name of a more enlightened ideal.

Some scientists thought that they were ideally positioned to tackle controversial genetic research, in that they were non-white, immigrants from East Asia, and thus immune to the charge of white supremacy, etc. For instance, University of Chicago's Bruce Lahn, from China, published two groundbreaking papers in Science dealing with two alleles associated with brain size, and possibly cognition, that arose 37,000 and 5,500 years ago and have differential expression in populations. The low incidence of fixation in populations behind barriers (Sahara, Bering Straight, etc) still shows effects today. See here for detailed discussion of his work. Now, how do you think his work was received? See here for the outcome and his change in research direction:


Pilar Ossorio, a professor of law and medical ethics at the University of Wisconsin, criticizes Dr. Lahn for implying a conclusion similar to "The Bell Curve," a controversial 1994 bestseller by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The book argued that the lower average performance by African-Americans on IQ tests had a genetic component and wasn't solely the result of social factors. Referring to Dr. Lahn and his co-authors, Prof. Ossorio says: "It's exactly what they were getting at. There was a lot of hallway talk. People said he's doing damage to the whole field of genetics."


How many scientists want to be contend with the charge that they are damaging the whole field of genetics? Scientists like to work with other scientists, they like to be successful in their grant applications, etc. The Leftists Creationist ethos is quite strong within Academia, even though the Leftist Creationists don't loudly proclaim their belief that evolution stopped at the neck, by some unknown mechanism.
7.27.2006 9:07pm
Yangon (mail):
Frankcross: When counting higher female means documented by OECD's PISA science study in the cases of Iceland, Finland, and Tunisia as evidence contrary to a partial genetic explanation, recall that the issue is variance, not merely means. In all three cases the male variance is greater. In Iceland and Finland the percent scoring above 600 is the same for males and females while minimally ahead for males in Tunisia. Only in Indonesia and Macau, out of the forty nations studied, is female variance equal or greater, a blip which may be explained by differences in sampling since the ranking of nations on male-female ratios is quite unstable between the 2000 and 2003 studies.
7.28.2006 6:24am
lyarbrou (mail):
Several have expressed desire for scientific data regarding the distribution of ability between men and women at the high end of the ability spectrum and whether there are innate differences in brain function between males and females. Some relevant references are below.

Benbow and Lubinski have studied mathematically precocious youth for over 20 years. Those participating were selected before age 13 for their outstanding ability in math or verbal ability as measured by SAT scores. One cohort had estimated IQs over 180. In the high math cohort, males outnumbered females approximately 10 to 1. In the high verbal cohort, females predominated.
Nowell, and Hedges in a paper published in Science in 1995 (Differences in Test Scores, Variability and Numbers of High-Scoring Individuals) expressed concerns similar to Summers about the greater prevalence of males at the very high end of the math ability distribution. They noted "Sex differences in variance and mean lead to substantially fewer females than males who score in the upper tails of the mathematics and science ability distribution and hence are poised to succeed in the sciences. The achievement of fair representation of women in science will be much more difficult if there are only one-half to one-seventh as many women as men who excel in the relevant abilities".

I seriously doubt that any scientist familiar with the literature would argue that the differences in distribution of math abiilty at the high end,the documented differences in brain functioning between male and female, and differences in career orientation are the only explanations for the dearth of females in science at our top research institutions. Having been married to a woman scientist for 20 years, I saw first-hand the discrimination which a woman may sometime face. I have also seen the tremendous support that outstanding university leaders can provide to their women scientists as well as their male scientists. However, it seems to me that the argument that the distribution of talent at the high end and male-female differences in career orientation (willingness to work very long hours) make no contribution, that the lack of women in science and math at our top academic institutions is all cultural is untenable.

lyarbrou



Lubinski etal (2006). Tracking Exceptional Human Capital over Two Decades. Psych. Science 17, 194-199.

Benbow et al. (2000). Sex Differences in Mathematical Reasoning Ability at Age 13: Their Status 20 years later.

Hedges, L. V. and Nowell, A. (1995). Sex Differences in Mental Test Scores, Variability, and Numbers of High Scoring Individuals. Science 269, 41-45.

Lubinski et al (2001). Top 1 in 10,000: a 10-year Follow-Up of the Profoundly Gifted. J. Appl. Psych. 86, 718-729.

Astur et al (1998). A Characterization of Performance by Men and Women in a Virtual Morris Water Task: a large and reliable sex difference. Behavioural Brain Res. 93, 185-190.

Gron et al. (2000). Brain Activation During Human Navigation: gender-different neural networks as Substrate of Performance. Nature Neuroscience 3, 404-408.

Johnson, W. and Bouchard, T. J. (2006) Sex Differences in Mental Abilities: g Masks the Dimensions on Which they Lie. Intelligence XX, XXX-XXX, available on-line at WWW. Sciencedirect. Com)

Zechner et al (2001). (Opinion piece) A High Density of X-linked genes for General Cognitive Ability: a run-away process shaping human evolution. Trends in genetics 17, 697-701).
Note that males have a single copy of the X-chromosome whereas females have two. Data show that, compared with autosomes, the X-chromosome contains a significantly higher number of genes that, when mutated, cause mental impairment, i.e. they appear to be involved in cognition.


Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study (The Performance of Canada's Youth in Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Problem Solving: 2003. First Findings for Canadians Aged 15)

Appendix B1.8 (page 74)
Males in most countries score significantly higher than female

Gender differences for provinces and counrties: Reading
Appendix B2.4 (page 81)
Females in most countries score significanlty higher than males
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