A snapshot of the problem
This is recent discussion on a Facebook post to which I replied, which demonstrates some of what we’re up against when talking about biological differences between people:
- [Lady #1]: If you ever want to really depress yourself, look up the male vs. female student ratios of any graduate department of history. (Or, you know, mostly any other field that’s not nursing or social work.) Get your act together, America.
[A bunch of back and forth posts by other people in between]
- [Me]: Is there anything saying that any academic department needs to have a 50-50 gender balance?
- [Lady #1]: I don’t see any need for a perfect balance, and I think it’s certainly possible to have a perfectly good department that swings one way or the other. The problem is when it’s almost unheard of to find anything approaching gender equity nationwide. When we’re still at a point in our national timeline where history, the social sciences, and STEM fields in particular show a heavy lean in one direction, we are not doing enough as a society to get women into those fields and then to promote them once they’re through the door.
- [Lady #1]: And again, I will argue that in the humanities and social sciences, there is a particular intellectual imperative to diversify the pool in as many respects as possible. Having the historical voice dominated by upper-class East Coast European males serves no one well.
- [Me]: “The problem is when it’s almost unheard of to find anything approaching gender equity nationwide. When we’re still at a point in our national timeline where history, the social sciences, and STEM fields in particular show a heavy lean in one direction” – Why is that necessarily a problem?
- [Lady #1]: You really don’t think it would be preferable to have more parity? Why not?
- [Me]: Not necessarily. It’s better to let the ones best suited to the job and most inclined to the job do the job. Sometimes that will be more males, sometimes that will be more females (e.g., early childhood ed, secretarial work, nurses, many fields in the social sciences, particularly psychology, many over 95% female). Interesting fact: gender disparities *rise* in academic fields and in the workplace as you go to countries that are more free and more democratic from those that are less so.
- [Lady #1]: Can you explain why you seem to imply that men are better suited than women in these fields? What makes that so? Also, are you aware that the fields you cite as female-dominated are among the most underpaid historically? Do you still find that acceptable?
- [Lady #1]: Also, while it’s true that about 70% of recent psychology PhDs are female, it is also true that the percentage going into research and tier-1 professorial positions plummets. Most women earning psychology PhDs are going into outpatient practice and not earning a whole lot more than social workers.
- [Lady #2]: From my perspective, as a STEM graduate, the problem is that cultural biases — and our own blinders as people immersed in them — obscure who the ones best suited to the job really are. It’s all too easy to end up in post hoc reasoning — “the fact that people didn’t end up in a particular career path means they weren’t really good at it or weren’t really interested” — but that doesn’t make it true; people can have tons of aptitude, and may have had initial interest or the capacity for tons of interest in other circumstances. And if cultural factors disproportionately prevent certain people from attempting certain fields, or gaining enough proficiency to know if they have real aptitude or passion, how can we possibly be sure we’re getting the best suited people? It seems at least as likely that we are *missing* the best minds, from people who never entered in the first place. [Classic HBD-denial reasoning par excellence] There’s a really good book, Unlocking the Clubhouse, about the experience of prospective, actual, and dropped-out women CS majors at Carnegie Mellon in the late 1990s, and it chronicles the ways that factors that have nothing to do with aptitude or interest can keep people out of the field. (As someone who went to a different engineering school in the late 90s, and never considered majoring in CS because of cultural factors [about those cultural factors, see my third point about group cohension in the blog post linked below] and despite pretty clear aptitude, I found that just about every sentence of it rang true.) So if we lived in the hypothetical perfectly-equal universe, where people had equal access to fields of study and endeavour regardless of their gender or race or class or what-have-you? It’s quite possible that even there, we’d find fields whose ratios were nothing like 50/50. But the fact that they aren’t 50/50 here is not evidence that they wouldn’t be there.
- [Me]: Check this out here. Please read it through to end to get what my thoughts are exactly on the matter:
The Leaks in the Pipeline Found? | jaymans.wordpress.com
- [Lady #1]: Also, do you really believe it’s simply an issue of willingness and inclination to do the job? You don’t think there are social factors at play that make male success in these fields more viable? Be aware that I have the whole evening to continue [plucking] your argument apart. 🙂
- [Me]: As well, as you have all evening, you may be interesting in watching this (really, the whole series) to get an in-depth discussion of the issue: (Harald Eia’s Brainwash series)
- [Me]: Starting here:
- [Lady #1]: Lady #2, your last paragraph said what I have to say so much better than I have been, I think. 🙂 I’m perfectly willing to entertain the idea that, all things equal, women may not be as interested in these fields as men. But it’s ridiculous to think we’re anywhere near the point of having the social luxury of knowing for sure, and there’s enough empirical evidence of the glass ceiling to make arguing against its existence pretty ridiculous.
- [Lady #1]: JayMan, you’re really going to let a widely debunked comedian’s “documentary” make your argument for you? [ad hominen invoked] I expect better from you. 🙂 Still awaiting your reasoning as to why men are more naturally-equipped to study any of these fields, especially the more intuitive ones. [Though I’ve already supplied my blog post and the Brainwash series]
- [Me]: There actually *isn’t* a lot of evidence for a “glass ceiling” (there is some, as you see in my blog). But, that’s not the point. People use gender disparities, by themselves, as evidence *for* these glass ceilings and hidden discrimination. You can’t do that — by themselves, gender disparities mean nothing. Equality of opportunity doesn’t imply equality of outcome, and hence, *inequality* in outcomes doesn’t imply (nor does it disprove) inequality in *opportunity*.
- [Me]: Lady #1, please read my blog and watch the videos. 🙂 The *argumentum ad hominem* isn’t really a fair way to seek truth in any situation…
- [Lady #2]: 1) I was a math major. I took probability. I understand the argument Summers was making, and I did not pillory him for it at the time, precisely because most of the people who were did not appear to understand probability [and still don’t], and there are subtleties that are worth taking into account, or at least not dismissing out of hand. I also think that his argument overstates the importance of IQ.1a) And *even if* Summers’ argument is dead-on correct (and I’m willing to entertain that possibility), letting our cultures be conditioned too heavily on the group rather than the individual odds will shut out individuals who ought to be at any given table, as you note in your point about cultural homogeneity.2) The argument I’m making is not really about sex discrimination. Yes, that can be a part of it, but it also doesn’t have to be.3) I’m a mom. I could rant all day about the points with children. Yes, there’s an inescapable biological asymmetry there, and yes, availability of childcare is enormously important. But I will question the hell out of the implied assumption that childcare is a woman’s problem (yes, it is in practice, and that’s a huge problem, and again, anything that proceeds from it cannot possibly be taken as evidence for aptitude or interest in the ideal society). And I will also question the hell out of the assumption that being a mom has to wreck your career. Yes, I know about the earnings potential thing that happens — though that rests, again, on the myriad and subtle (as well as the really big) ways that childcare remains, even in egalitarian households, primarily the woman’s problem. But I’ve also had the experience personally of being dramatically *better* at my career — more organized, more ambitious, and enormously more successful on every possible scale — since having a kid. And those employers who assume that I’ll just have a kid and turn out lame can well and truly suck it. [demonstrating the psychology of women discussed by me in this post featured by Steve Sailer—my thanks to him] 4) But really it all comes down to the comment I said before.
- [Lady #1]: JayMan, I’ve seen the videos before. They’re pretty infamous. As for your post…to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out where to even begin.
- [Me]: Lady #2, as always, the best solution to the problem is to try to judge people as individuals as much as possible, regardless of gender or race. There are some inescapable complications (children for one — but, I’ve argued for more and more robust maternity leave, but, that can only partially ameliorate the problem, not completely eliminate it), but I think that’s probably the best bet in the vast majority of circumstances.
- [Me]: Lady #1: Take your time. I’ll be around. 🙂
- [Lady #1]: Also, if there’s anything I’ve taken from your post so far, it’s that nothing I say will matter anyway, what with me being a feminist and all. 😉 Gotta admit, I don’t often see that as a pejorative outside of Drudge.
- [Me]: I’m not anti-feminist in the slightest. Just anti-falsehood. Modern feminists do spread a lot of empirically false stuff (though they are not alone in this aspect by any means).
- [Lady #2]: I’m a fan of your argument for more robust maternity leave, though I’d be a bigger fan were it an argument for more robust *parental* leave — framing it as maternity leave sort of underscores the problem, yes?
- [Me]: We could do that too. Politically speaking that’d likely be a bridge too far, but I’m cool with it. 🙂
- [Lady #1]: So I was going to write a lengthy review of your post — in a word: precious — but then I read Dysgenic Fertility Among Blacks? Apparently, Yes | jaymans.wordpress.com, [and then alarm bells sounded, emotions flared up, and all logical reasoning was overridden] and now I have to spend my evening lighting things on fire. Seriously, if you’re going to use your blog to argue your case for you instead of replying to direct questions, you’re going to have to hide things like that from me first in order for me to attempt to take you seriously.
- [Me]: I don’t walk away from anything on my blog (I would hope not, I wrote it). The facts are the facts. I would recommend reading this post however since you’ve touched on that topic: How Much Hard Evidence Do You Need? | jaymans.wordpress.com
- [Lady #1]: I trust you’ll understand that I don’t have it in me to click on anything else after that last exposure.
- [Me]: Why not?
- [Me]: And no, I don’t understand.
[Though in reality, as I’ve just noted, I understand, all too well.]
- [Me]: Lady #1, I will say that this demonstrates how intellectual discourse gets shuts down and how the nonsense of the type that Fox News peddles gets spread: when you see a claim you don’t like, it’s probably best to see what the claim is, then analyze and show why it is wrong with facts and reasoned arguments. It serves no one any good to shut down all rational discourse. There’s no way we’ll ever find what’s really the truth, whatever that may be, that way…
As of this writing, still no response from “Lady #1”, by the way. Interesting that, in this instance, the fact that I am a person of color talking about HBD didn’t seem to make one bit of difference…
Half Sigma’s recent words come to mind on this one.