Thursday, September 22, 2005

Are Men Innately Better than Women at Mathematics?

No, argues Elizabeth Spelke. In the linked paper (which isn't yet peer reviewed) she looks at a great wealth of published data and comes to the conclusion that the differences can all be explained by socialisation. There's also an old debate between Spelke and Pinker over at Edge.

3 comments:

Steve Sailer said...

One highlight of the Spelke-Pinker debate:

SPELKE: "In science, the judgments are subjective, every step of the way. Who's really talented? Who deserves bigger lab space? Who should get the next fellowship? Who should get promoted to tenure? These decisions are not based on clear and objective criteria. These are the cases where you see discrimination persisting..."

PINKER: "But that makes the wrong prediction: the harder the science, the greater the participation of women! We find exactly the opposite: it's the most subjective fields within academia — the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions — that have the greatest representation of women. This follows exactly from the choices that women express in what gives them satisfaction in life. But it goes in the opposite direction to the prediction you made about the role of objective criteria in bringing about gender equity. Surely it's physics, and not, say, sociology, that has the more objective criteria for success."

Unable to come up with a reply, Spelke changed the subject.

As I wrote last winter in The American Conservative:

"The more meritocratic the field, the more feminists accuse it of discriminating against women. In mathematics, new proofs either quickly fail or are accepted forever. In contrast, women flourish most in notoriously faddish, cliquish domains like the humanities. In Harvard's English department, 20 out of 51 professors are women, and at less exclusive colleges, they often comprise a majority."

Areg said...

I want to commend the person who commented before me (Steve Sailor). It truly irks me that our society has to actively find proof that men aren't innately better than women at even a SINGLE task. Oh please, anyone with a single iota of common sense can tell you that there are some tasks that men are more suited to than women (likewise women are better suited to some tasks than men) regardless of socialization. This cross-cultural nonsense that has become so popular in recent years is a final and desperate attempt to blur fact with fiction. Call me a sexist or a bigot or whatever new term the political-correctness gestapo has devised but it's unethical to subscribe to an idea just because it is intellectually fashionable at the moment.

Anonymous said...

" It truly irks me that our society has to actively find proof that men aren't innately better than women at even a SINGLE task. "

Isn't that what science is all about? Verifying the "obvious"? The three law of physics, the notion of negative numbers (and even complex ones!), the existence of elements and molecules - they all seem counter-intuitive. We have progressed as a society when we checked facts that seemed obvious. And in spite of many many years of research (from both sides), there has not yet been any proof that men are better at any task than women, when social conditioning is taken into account as a possible explanatory factor.

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