May 28, 2007

"They will be snuffling in the dust, squeaking with metaphysical neediness and kissing the lovely pink feet..."

Here's a comment on the new Bloggingheads, by mnbr:
This has to be the all time best Bloggingheads.tv diavlog, no?

It's part of Bob Wright's ordinary cleverness to find smart interlocutors who dig talking to each other ... and then to let them have a ball! Having tried Ann and Annie out once before, Bob must have smacked his head, realizing what a gold mine he'd found, having these two beautiful, smart, quirky, ultra-independent, totally charming women go at it ... WOW!

Can I please just prostrate and grovel in awe at this splendid display of the female mind? Please? Surely one could hand over most of one's net worth to secure Ann and (possibly) Annie as second and third Islamic wives?

The rolling riffs here are amazing - trial by blow job, GOP slime moulds, Dems as amoeba, Western varmints, Fatboy Gore, "nature is trying to kill us ... We ovulate more often now... more bumps here and lumps there", comments on the Sopranos twisating [sic] rapidly into thoughts about whether the human soul is constructed artifice or "merely" a chemical imbalance - can you imagine any two men coming up up with this brilliant, fast-moving, intensly [sic] pointed stuff? Noooo ... we smelly, dull buffoons? .. not even close!

Sure, we're the only ones who're going to figure out some obscure outer reaches of the Reimann Hypothesis ... but, who cares? ... all the mathematicians who could do that stuff will have put away their sticks of chalk, they will be snuffling in the dust, squeaking with metaphysical neediness and kissing the lovely pink feet of these mercurial goddesses ... yes, no?
This amused me -- partly because praise is cool, but also because it's a little weird and because it stirs up memories of the old Larry Summers controversy that seized the national imagination back in 2005:
Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, suggested the other day that innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers....

By some accounts, Summers referred to "innate ability" or "natural ability" as a possible explanation for the sex difference in high-school test scores....

What's the evidence on Summers' side? Start with the symptom: the gender gap in test scores. Next, consider biology. Sex is easily the biggest physical difference within a species. Men and women, unlike blacks and whites, have different organs and body designs. The inferable difference in genomes between two people of visibly different races is one-hundredth of 1 percent. The gap between the sexes vastly exceeds that. A year and a half ago, after completing a study of the Y chromosome, MIT biologist David Page calculated that male and female human genomes differed by 1 percent to 2 percent—"the same as the difference between a man and a male chimpanzee or between a woman and a female chimpanzee," according to a paraphrase in the New York Times. "We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome." Another geneticist pointed out that in some species 15 percent of genes were more active in one sex than in the other.

You'd expect some of these differences to show up in the brain, and they do. A study of mice published a year ago in Molecular Brain Research found that just 10 days after conception, at least 50 genes were more active in the developing brain of one sex than in the other. Comparing the findings to research on humans, the Los Angeles Times observed that "the corpus callosum, which carries communications between the two brain hemispheres, is generally larger in women's brains [than in men's]. Female brains also tend to be more symmetrical. … Men and women, on average, also possess documented differences in certain thinking tasks and in behaviors such as aggression."...

Already Summers is being forced to apologize, in the style of a Communist show trial, for sending "an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women." But the best signal to send to talented girls and boys is that science isn't about respecting sensitivities. It's about respecting facts....
So, men are also overrepresented among political policy geeks. But political policy commentary, more so than the physical sciences, can be done different ways....

26 comments:

vet66 said...

Pesky facts and inconvenient truths are the eternal bane of those with an agenda to serve.

I was disappointed in Larry Summers handling of the Harvard 'vapours' imbroglio. He should have gone to the mat rubbing the faculty face in it's disregard for scientific inquiry and legetimate questions.

In fact, I believe it is no coincidence that shortly after that fiasco the newly emboldened Duke faculty flexed their bias regarding the white lacrosse players. Their voices are as annoying as squeaky chalk on the their collective blackboards.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Sure, we're the only ones who're going to figure out some obscure outer reaches of the Reimann Hypothesis ... but, who cares?

It's the Riemann hypothesis in case anyone cares.

If you want more information, I recommend the book The Music of the Primes by Marcus du Sautoy.

Freder Frederson said...

He should have gone to the mat rubbing the faculty face in it's disregard for scientific inquiry and legetimate questions.

Except when he made the statement, he wasn't basing it on any objective knowledge or personal familiarity with the studies, he was just pulling wild assertions out of his ass. And the forum he chose was hardly the arena for initiating the discussion.

Just because a stopped clock displays the correct time twice a day, doesn't mean it is accurate.

Mike Lief said...

[H]e wasn't basing it on any objective knowledge or personal familiarity with the studies, he was just pulling wild assertions out of his ass. And the forum he chose was hardly the arena for initiating the discussion.

Interesting. An academic forum is not the place for discussing theories or ideas -- or even just possible explanations, only "objective knowledge."

Sounds like your rigorous standards would shut down darn near every academic gabfest.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vnjagvet said...

I am afraid, Mike, that Freder knows no more about what Summers had read or studied before he made that statement than the man in the moon.

Typical knee jerk reaction (no pun intended).

vet66 said...

Mike Lief;

That is exactly what happened and Summers lost his job!

Freder: wild assertions? That is comical. When speaking of rectal archives try to avoid coming off so constipated! You might consider a colonoscopy to discover the blockage that is affecting your fact retrieval abilities.

Maxine Weiss said...

But where's the antagonism, the amused contempt, the charming combat ???

That's what makes for a riveting give-and-take.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

I'm not sure it's praise -- satire often means the opposite of what it appears to be saying -- but it amused me, too.

In the gender debate, I'm made as uneasy by those who overemphasize the differences as by those who try to deny them. Either way, there is always a political agenda. Beware of the pendulum swinging too far either way.

Besides, it turns out that there's more to the making of an organism than gene expression. New experiments (undertaken in the hope of growing human organs in sheep) show that a sheep can have as much as 15% human cells (from adult human bone marrow stem cells injected into the sheep fetus) and still be apparently indistinguishable from any other sheep. The human stem cells obey signals older than species boundaries to become heart or liver or whatever tissue they lodge in in the sheep's body.

amba said...

Theo -- maybe the reason people seem to be enjoying our diavlogs is that it's a little bit of a cool break from the heat of antagonism in the blogosphere. An oasis of whimsy, a demonstration that something other than combat can be at least mildly entertaining.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: I agree that it may be satire in the sense that he actually completely hated it. And even if he liked it and kind of means it, it's full of sexism. Interesting either way, and he did take some trouble writing it, and listened closely enough to find a lot of details (though not closely enough to the first one, which he said he watched, not to realize that it wasn't Bob's idea).

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Theo: Thanks. I appreciate the encouragement! These are really fun to do, by the way. It's nice to see how you can take material you've already blogged about and get a conversation going. We actually had a lot more material than we used... and we went 30% overtime.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freder Frederson said...

Freder: wild assertions? That is comical. When speaking of rectal archives try to avoid coming off so constipated! You might consider a colonoscopy to discover the blockage that is affecting your fact retrieval abilities.

Larry Summers is an economist. He is not a geneticist, a biologist, a psychologist, a anthropologist or any other discipline that even approaches being a hard science. Being the president of Harvard doesn't give him the right or privilege to pontificate about things way outside his field of expertise, especially in such a sensitive subject, without expecting a backlash.

Heck, I know this from personal experience. Every time I make the least little slip up around here, practically every one jumps all over me.

dbp said...

What was entertaining, in a kind of watching a traffic accident sort of way, about the whole Larry S. thing was that he only pointed out what is obvious to any biologist.

There are a lot of genes on the X chromosome and men get only one copy, while women have two. If a man lucks out and gets a combination of genes which puts him in the top 1%--one man in a hundred is so lucky. A woman needs to get a top 1% X chromosome twice since an average copy will dilute the really good copy. So her chances of such luck is 100 x 100 or 1 in 10,000.

Men and women have the same average intellegence, but men have a larger standard deviation than women--more really smart and more really dumb men. Of course, it is the very unusually smart who make contributions in math and the hard sciences.

Larry Summer's mistake was in accidentally pointing out the obvious in an acedemic setting.

dbp

Cedarford said...

Freder - Larry Summers is an economist. He is not a geneticist, a biologist, a psychologist, a anthropologist or any other discipline that even approaches being a hard science. Being the president of Harvard doesn't give him the right or privilege to pontificate about things way outside his field of expertise, especially in such a sensitive subject, without expecting a backlash.

Heck, I know this from personal experience. Every time I make the least little slip up around here, practically every one jumps all over me.


Freder, the reason people jump on you, besides your love of terrorist rights, is you normally speak with your brain disengaged.

You claim that a University President is limited to matters only within the academic sphere of the personal degrees they may hold - and not lead, decide, or even discuss other matters - personnel issues, budget, vision, BOT matters - related to being a University President.

Such an insipid perspective on executive management is hard to find, unless it is by a person utterly unfamiliar with the duties and role of the leader of any institution.

Summers was mau-mau'd by faculty. Worse, like Imus, and millions of victims of the Soviets - he went down like a lamb, apologizing the whole way, seeking mercy -- rather than spit in the faces of his executioners.

Freder Frederson said...

Such an insipid perspective on executive management is hard to find, unless it is by a person utterly unfamiliar with the duties and role of the leader of any institution.

Perhaps its telling that I get pounced on for every little error or misstatement I make. Yet you get away with your anti-semitic and racist ravings. You advocate torture and don't seem to believe in any of the rights guaranteed by the constitution. You even advocate vigilante justice and the lynching of people like me.

Summers was not discussing university matters, you moron, he was discussing matters of an extremely controversial scientific nature that was well outside his area of expertise.

amba said...

(Repeating myself here, but) I would never have expected to agree so thoroughly with anything said by Charles Murray, but to me he had the last word on the subject matter of the Summers flap:

We may find that innate differences give men, as a group, an edge over women, as a group, in producing, say, terrific mathematicians. But knowing that fact about the group difference will not change another fact: that some women are terrific mathematicians. The proportions of men and women mathematicians may never be equal, but who cares? What's important is that all women with the potential to become terrific mathematicians have full opportunity to do so.

Of course, new knowledge will not be without costs. Perhaps knowing that there is a group difference will discourage some women from even trying to become mathematicians or engineers or circus clowns. We - scientists, parents, educators, employers - must do everything we can to prevent such unwarranted reactions. And the best way to do that is to put the individual's abilities, not group membership, at the center of our attention.

Fen said...

Already Summers is being forced to apologize, in the style of a Communist show trial, for sending "an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women."

The irony is that Summers was asked to bring up the issue to encourage discussion. No good deed...

Fen said...

Freder: Being the president of Harvard doesn't give him the right or privilege to pontificate about things way outside his field of expertise, especially in such a sensitive subject, without expecting a backlash.

Again Freder, you have no idea what your talking about. Summers was asked to raise the question of gender differences, to stimulate discussion re why they're weren't more women entering the science fields. You have no idea what he really thinks.

Besides, we just discovered Al Queda's torture manual - shouldn't you be busily composing your 12 page condemnation of it?

Fen said...

Freder: You advocate torture and don't seem to believe in any of the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Hold on there tiger - you've already admitted you support torture in "special"* circumstances. You're not allowed to use that weapon anymore.

[* special: when its his life, his family, his city at risk]

Fen said...

"We all recite the mantra that we are 99 percent identical and take political comfort in it," Page said. "But the reality is that the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome."

[Tongue in cheek] Ask your favorite feminist: if men & women are so equal, how did men manage to dominate them for so many thousands of years? It wasn't until the 19th century that you broke free. What took you so long?

Cedarford said...

Freder - Perhaps its telling that I get pounced on for every little error or misstatement I make. Yet you get away with your anti-semitic and racist ravings. You advocate torture and don't seem to believe in any of the rights guaranteed by the constitution. You even advocate vigilante justice and the lynching of people like me.

Well, another reason, besides the facts of you being stupid and anti-American, is you are also pounced on for regularly accusing other posters of things they did not say, throwing out your normal "racist, Islamophobic, white supremacist" Lefty labels - and for being wholly inconsistent in what you say.
You have a massive credibility problem.
A recent example is your defense of Islamoids as not nearly as dangerous and deadly as the "evil Christian militias", inc. one you claimed you knew. When posters said you should turn them in, you then did a 180 and maintained they weren't dangerous...
Sheer mendacity.

And no one is talking of a possible day in the future when seditious people like you are literally lynched.

The Civil War Copperheads were mostly immune from Lincoln's round-ups during the war, but their sedition hurt their careers and political aspirations enormously after the war. An ex-Rebel was held in higher respect than a Copperhead. Same after WWII with America Nazis and Communists. They had hard times getting jobs, were barred from most government or state teaching positions.

The issue of sedition and Lefties that seek America's defeat is fairly buried right now in a larger disaffection with the corrupt, inept Bushies, but Bush will be gone soon and the Islamoids will still be trying to destroy us. In later years, it is very possible blame may not accrue to Bush and others like him for fighting the Islamoids, but for those Americans that saw them as de facto anti-West, anti-American allies they gave aid and comfort to.

dbp said...

Hey! What are all you grownups talking about? Bioligy?