Gravity's Rainbow

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Are we really doing this again?


John Tierney guest stars on xkcd

John Tierney thinks that women just can’t measure up to men when it comes to math and science.  His column is infuriating, but I’ll let Female Science Professor, Dr. Isisdana at EotAW, and PZ Myers take it apart for me.

FSP summarizes the article snarkily and succinctly:

There are flawed studies that show that females and males have similar quantitative skills and better studies that show that more males than females are extremely talented at math. This is one reason why men are more successful in math, science, and engineering. If women were good at math and science, perhaps they would understand these scientific studies with all the numbers in them.

Dr. Isis does a hot little data dance in the holes in his arguments, like so:

He then continues to outline the evidence that boys tend to be the top scorers in math and science when measured via standardized aptitude tests, even if there is no difference between the means.  Yet, he clearly has ignored the fact that this phenomenon is unique to the United States.  Indeed, in countries with more gender equal cultural norms, the divide disappears.  In Iceland, girls out perform boys in math and science.  Japanese girls out perform American boys.

Dana at EotAW, my favorite philosopher feminist, points out some logic issues:

This argument apparently only works for math. If we’re talking at the level of the facts people normally pull out here, there’s some research that suggests that at the tip of the tail, the brightest men are better at math than the brightest women, and the usual argument proceeds from here to conclude that this explains why men are more likely to be PhD’s in math, etc.  But similar research shows that the best female communicators are better than their male counterparts, and that women are natural consensus builders and yet no one suggests that top literature and political science departments are and should be female-dominated, because here we can easily see that innate tendencies can be overrun by other factors.

And PZ Myers uses the same reasoning as Tierney to show that we should be using wealth to determine who gets the best jobs in science:

By the same reasoning, we can also argue that wealth differences in abilities should not be dismissed, since they tend to be perpetuated over many generations. We can just stop wasting time and money trying to educate poor children or correcting the inequities of poverty in our schools, because the data clearly says that it’s highly unlikely that any of them will succeed in science.

Since there is far too much awesomeness to copy/paste, I advise a quick visit to FSP, Dr. Isisdana at EotAW, and PZ.

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  1. Once I saw the data, several years ago, that more gender-equal societies did not have the math gender disparities, I was forced by evidence (and glad to be forced, as it were) to conclude that the sexist ramblings of barmy prats like Tierney were complete and total bollocks.

  2. I made an A- in my math class. The boy next to me consistently made 30s on tests. By this sample, girls are better. Or! At least I am.

    *smugs about for a moment*

    nice round up of responses.

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