Seven Short Posts Regarding Larry Summers, Civility, and Censorship

1. Larry Summers is a mirror of the lefty-basher’s soul.

For Alan Dershowitz, author of a book criticizing Israel’s critics, Summers lost his job because of his criticism of Israel’s critics. For Cathy Young, who has made a career out of blaming feminists, says feminists are to blame. Paul Geary says that Summers’ worst sin, in left-wing eyes, is patriotism.

The truthful reason Summers had to resign – his losing power struggle with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences – is a matter of record, but provides only a minor opportunity for left-bashing, and so is of no interest. Instead, each pundit stares into Summers’ resignation and sees their own favorite excuse for left-bashing staring back.

2. Summers did some good things at Harvard.

It’s not juicy meat for partisan blogging, but a lot of what Summers did – from free tuition for students from low-income families, to an increased emphasis on teaching – was admirable. David Laibson and Peter Bienart (use “alasablog” as both username and password) both have good short op-eds about the bright side of Summers.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse the many times Summers was a jerk.

3. Newsflash for Conservatives: There is no constitutional right of freedom from criticism

Larry Summers was not censored, nor did he come anywhere close to being censored. There is no right to freedom from criticism.

In particular, there is no first amendment duty for feminists to refrain from criticizing the President of Harvard because criticizing him makes him more vulnerable to faculty politics; nor, if the President’s enemies take advantage of the moment, is it fair to blame feminism.

Many conservatives seemingly want freedom from criticism. Recently, Bowdoin College Republicans passed a declaration saying no one should face “recrimination” for their views. “Recrimination” is just a fancy word for expressing a counter-opinion. No one should be free from recrimination.

Similarly, David Horowitz referred to some left-wing professors as having “totalitarian instincts.” What had the lefty profs done? They criticized Horowitz’s new book; that, in Horowitz’s mind, is enough to justify a charge of totalitarianism. Puh-leeeze.

4. Some topics should not be excluded from reasonable discussion.

* Defenders of Larry Summers often say that the mere question of if there is are biological differences in gender should not be excluded from reasonable discussion. I agree.

* Whether or not it is appropriate for the President of Harvard, who has presided over a nosedive in hires of tenure-track female faculty, to argue that women don’t want the top science jobs and are biologically less likely to be able to do the top jobs, should not be excluded from reasonable discussion.

* Calls for the President of Harvard to resign should not be excluded from reasonable discussion.

5. Unfairness and meanness can shut people up

When disagreements are routinely expressed in insulting and extreme terms, that creates a legitimate concern about a “chilling effect” on speech. This is a long way short of actual censorship, but it’s a real problem nonetheless. A lot of people – me included – tend to shut up if the likely result of expressing an opinion is to be called an idiot, a traitor, a wingnut, etc..

I don’t think that merely being meek, or quiet, or kind, means you have nothing worthwhile to say. A style of dialog that tends to cut out the meek and kind in favor of the brash and cruel is therefore problematic, because it shuts up people I’d like to hear from.

As debating technique, over-the-top condemnations are bad strategy. As the Summers case shows, such condemnations can easily be twisted by feminism’s enemies into ammunition for attacking and/or dismissing feminism. More importantly, there’s the question of accessibility. If my grandmother asks me for a good explanation of why Summers was wrong, I’m not going to send her an essay that opens by calling Summers a dick – not even when the essay goes on to make excellent points. The more our tone says “anyone who disagrees with us is loathsome,” the more in-groupy and less accessible what we say becomes.

There were certainly examples of this problem in some feminist responses to Larry Summers’ famous speech on women’s achievement in science (there were also calm, reasoned responses which have largely been ignored by conservatives).

On the other hand, it should be noted that the people who criticize leftists for creating an “intolerant atmosphere,” are frequently eager to engage in name-calling and incivility themselves: for instance, calling Summers’ critics Stalinists and witch-burners and tyrants. Unless these folks are willing to refrain from such insulting and unfair comparisons, it’s hard to take their concern for civil debate seriously.

6. Civility and calmness can shut people up

Here’s the thing that someone like me (who naturally tends towards mellowness) can easily forget: When disagreements are routinely expressed in calm and level terms, that creates a legitimate concern about a “chilling effect” on speech. This is a long way short of actual censorship, but it’s a real problem nonetheless.

I don’t think that merely being angry, or loud, or foulmouthed, means you have nothing worthwhile to say. A style of dialog that delegitimizes anger and outrage in favor of a calm, cool surface is therefore problematic, because it shuts up people I’d like to hear from.

Furthermore, privilege interacts with the “everyone should always be calm and kind” approach to dialog. It’s easier to be calm and kind when it isn’t one’s own ox being gored; a white person may have an easier time talking about racism in a “calm” and so-called “rational” manner, because they’re not being hurt by racism. Just because someone is righteously pissed off doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be listened to.

Furthermore, the style our culture understands as “calm” and “neutral” tends to be a style of discourse that matches how wealthy, white people often comport themselves. I doubt this is a coincidence.

I’m not saying that sex, race, etc, is deterministic; there are countless examples of women who argue against sexism in a calm manner, people of color who argue against racism in a calm manner, queers who argue against homophobia in a calm manner, and so forth. Similarly, it’s commonplace to see white straight men become emotional and abusive when they argue these issues. Nor am I saying that being in an oppressed group excuses being abusive.

Nonetheless, a norm of calm, level-toned discourse is going to unfairly silence some people; and there’s good reason to worry that a disproportionate number of the folks who are silenced will be people from groups (women, minorities, disabled, fat, etc) who are already marginalized too much in our society.

On the internet, I think the solution is different websites with different norms – on some websites civility is expected, others use more freewheeling standards, and the end result is that more people get to speak than would be the case if all websites held to a single common standard. But I’m not sure how, or if, that sort of solution can translate to real-world issues like the Larry Summers flap.

7. Links to criticisms of Larry Summers’ speech.

I haven’t attempted to rebut Summers’ speech about women and science in this post. If you’d like to read such rebuttals, I recommend:

Four Points on Summers’ Transcript, by Colin Danby.

Response to Laurence Summers’ Remarks on Women in Science (pdf file), by WISELI

Raise Your Hand If You’re a Woman In Science, by Virginia Valian

Sex and Science, by Sean at Preposterous Universe.

Statement of the American Sociological Association

Summers Lovin’, by Kieran at Crooked Timber.

Genetics is Only a Red Herring, by Matthew Yglesias.

Open Mouth, Insert Dick, Larry by Bitch Ph.D.

Sexist Calvinism, by PZ Myers at Pharyngula

The following links are not direct responses to Summers, but nonetheless add useful information:

Sex Differences in Intrinsic Aptitude For Mathematics and Science: A Critical Review (pdf link), by Elizabeth Spelke

Debate between Elizabeth Spelke and Stephen Pinker

The Cost of Being a Woman In Science, by PZ Myers at Pharyngula

Is the Science and Engineering Workforce Drawn from the Far Upper Tail of the Math Ability Distribution? (pdf link), by Catherine Weinberger

The discussion in this thread at Pharyngula is interesting, as well.

This entry posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Feminism, sexism, etc, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Gender and the Economy. Bookmark the permalink. 

57 Responses to Seven Short Posts Regarding Larry Summers, Civility, and Censorship

  1. Thank you so much for these links and your commentary!. I’d been looking on the web for some analyses of the Summers transcript but had only found Bitch’s.

    At the risk of seeming like a dirty, shameless blogwhore, I’ll also point out my own analysis of the Summers transcript
    here.

    I wish I’d read these other excellent links before I wrote it!

  2. Oops, I seem very bad at linking, not sure what I’m doing wrong. Here’s the link.

  3. Oops, mea culpa on the use of the “dirty blogwhore” statement. I really meant blogwhore in the sense of peddling my own stuff shamelessly– didn’t mean to malign women or sex workers or anyone.

  4. 4
    Brandon Berg says:

    What’s with the underrepresentation of women in the links section of this post?

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    What’s with the underrepresentation of women in the links section of this post?

    The distribution of good blog postings follows a normal statistical distribution for both men and women. However, there is a small difference in the standard deviation for men and women, and thus…

  6. 6
    TangoMan says:

    I’m not quite sure why you thought the statement from the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute – University of Wisconsin Madison was worthy of mention.

    The whole statement is a political manifesto and it’s a disgrace coming from scientists who should know better.

    Witness the massaging of references to convey their political point. They wrote:

    Numerous controlled studies show that women’s successes are frequently attributed to luck rather than skill and that women are more poorly evaluated than men with precisely the same experience and credentials.

    They list as their reference, this study by Deauz, K and Emswiller, T. published in 1974 Then they quote at length from this study by Rhea E. Steinpreis, Katie A. Anders, and Dawn Ritzke. In their selective quoting of the study they neglect to mention a few points.

    The first is this finding:

    In contrast, when men and women examined examined the highly competitive curriculum vitae of the real life scientist who had gotten early tenure, they were equally likely to tenure the male and female tenure candidates and there was no difference in their ratings of their teaching, research and service experience.

    What the WISELI committee did was instead focus on another aspect of the report. WISELI write the following:

    In one such study, 238 academic psychologists, 118 male and 120 female, evaluated a résumé submitted in application for an assistant professorship that was randomly assigned a male or female name. Both male and female participants gave the male applicant better evaluations for teaching and research and were more likely to hire the male applicant

    I’ll admit that this is a startling result and I’m sure that’s why it was highlighted in their manifesto. However, when you actually read the paper you notice some odd things which cast doubt on these conclusions. The researchers made note of something odd that had occurred and they didn’t give it any analysis:

    These cautionary comments include such comments as, “We would have to see her job talk,” “It is impossible to make such a judgement without teaching evaluations,” “I would need to see evidence that she had gotten these grants and publications on her own.” Such cautionary comments on the male tenure candidate’s vitae were quite rare.

    Apparently, none of these researchers has heard the old adage “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” If there is severe political pressure to increase the representation of women by instituting formal, or informal, quotas, then those who must make assessments on the basis of merit cannot overlook the phenomona of people being advanced on their utility as tokens. Therefore, they are more skeptical and seek more information on the actual quantifiable merit of each candidate. When they are satisfied that the the candidate’s accomplishments were earned through merit rather than quota mongering, the gender discrimination effect vanishes, as was seen with the early tenure decisions which gave the reviewers a lot more substantive career information to assess.

    The take away point to this study is that Affirmative Action type mandates impose a stigma on the people that they are designed to help. This stigma is rationally interpreted by people who need to assess the Affirmative Action or quota beneficiaries.

    Back to the WISELI Committee – grasping at research on gender discrimination from 1974 and poorly constructed research is a telling tactic and signals that this report is being written in furtherance of a political goal rather than as an objective criticism. Let’s continue – they write:

    Summers glosses over a vast body of research on gender differences in science and math tests, including recent studies indicating that gender differences in performance on mathematical tests are small and decreasing and that a variety of complex and as yet not fully understood factors, including expectations and stereotype threat, influence performance

    I can just imagine the committee hashing out this statement. They’re all scientists so they are fully aware of the point that Dr. Summers was making, which was that it is not the average math ability as seen in high school graduates that is relevant, but the math ability of those students who are 3 to 4 standard deviations above the mean. The recent research to which the WISELI Committe refers is referencing a slight closing of math scores and grades, with greater progress being seen on grading (the reasons for which are dubious but irrelevent to this discussion) but says nothing about the gap seen from the extreme outliers. Further, the reference research by Steele on stereotype threat and misapply the findings. Stereotype threat has since been debunked except for a very limited circusmstance, which is where Steele first noticed it. It would have been delightful to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting and witnessed the debate between the advocates for honest reporting, the true scientists, and the agenda-ists, the political liers. Obviously we know which faction won the day.

    Then the WISELI Committee begins invoking righteous indignation. We see statements that Dr. Summers’ remarks were “irresponsible and unscientific” (they weren’t) and that it is “highly unscientific to extrapolate” (oblivious to the irony that the role of scientists is to extrapolate) and the captsone comment “Our past experience with eugenics” pretty much makes drives the last nail into the coffin as scientific respectability is buried away forevermore in furtherance of a political manifesto.

    What they leave us with is that Dr. Summers great sin is that he doesn’t subscribe to their null hypothesis. Genetics must be off the table as an explanatory factor worthy of consideration so long as some unmeasurable environmental factor may be at work. They write:

    Summers’ reliance on this neoclassical economic theory also fails to recognize the fact that discriminatory treatment may be widespread across academe; that there may not be a school that does not discriminate.

    Does the WISELI Committee actually demonstrate that discrimination is widespread across academe? No, they don’t. They just assume this to be the case and that there’s been a failure to adequately measure this practice.

    Sadly, the WISELI Committee’s manifesto is par for the course as we’ve seen in this Summers fracas, in that this committee of scientists can’t actually conduct themselves as scientists but need to come forth as shrill and dulicitous critics who fear to engage the substance of an argument and instead resort to rhetorical bombast and data manipulation. For shame.

  7. 7
    Mendy says:

    Thank you for your insightful examination of this speech, and the links you posted.

    I am a woman in academics, and yes I’m in both mathematics and science. I can tell you that I have seen many women demonstrate the ability for advanced mathematics and sciences, only to hear them exclaim, “I’m an idiot with math.” or “I’ll never be able to do this.” With very few exceptions these women with some positive support do very well in mathematics and science.

    Not everyone has that “knack” for the sciences and mathematics, just like not everyone has that “knack” for the rhetorical arts, music, or writing fiction and poetry. I believe that mostly it is our society that teaches its young women that they should be better in “liberal arts” and boys that they should be better at “the sciences”.

  8. 8
    Elena says:

    Larry Summers shot his mouth off about women and science to a room full of scientists, and he was nailed for it. Anyone who is a professional knows how infuriating it can be when outsiders make broad conclusions about a field without knowing all of the nuances and contradictions, and how much worse if the broad conclusion someone is making is that you have a deficit of aptitud because of your gender.

    I’m not a scientist, but I know enough about experts to know that a real one wouldn’t spout off the “scientific evidence” without about a hundred caveats about how there could be different explanations or reasons why something is evident, or why it may not be as it appears. Summer acted like a fool at that speech a year ago, and if it contrubuted to his downfall that’s probably as it should be.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Oops, mea culpa on the use of the “dirty blogwhore” statement. I really meant blogwhore in the sense of peddling my own stuff shamelessly”“ didn’t mean to malign women or sex workers or anyone.

    Happy, please feel free to whore your blog here on “Alas” anytime you want. :-)

  10. 10
    Robert says:

    Amp is a blog-pimp, Amp is a blog-pimp!

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Tangoman, a few points. You wrote:

    They list as their reference, this study by Deauz, K and Emswiller, T. published in 1974 Then they quote at length from this study by Rhea E. Steinpreis, Katie A. Anders, and Dawn Ritzke.

    Someone reading that would get the false impression that the authors only had those two citations to support their statement. In fact, they had seven references to support the point you quoted, six of which were from the 1990s or 2000s.

    Regarding affirmative action (AA):

    * Your speculation that affirmative action causes discrimination lacks any supporting evidence. At least some evidence (Social Forces, June 1995, p1385-1414) seems to indicate that exposure to affirmative action doesn’t cause a backlash among employees exposed to AA. (Although that was a study of racial AA, not gender AA.)

    * Furthermore, since discrimination existed before affirmative action, saying that AA causes discrimination is problematic. At best, AA is one of multiple causes of discrimination, and something of a latecomer.

    * Other studies have found evidence of discrimination in fields without Affirmative Action. For example, Claudia Golden’s study of orchestra auditions found clear evidence of discrimination against female musicians, even though that’s a field without AA.

    Further, the reference research by Steele on stereotype threat and misapply the findings. Stereotype threat has since been debunked except for a very limited circusmstance, which is where Steele first noticed it.

    Citation? Evidence?

    It would have been delightful to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting and witnessed the debate between the advocates for honest reporting, the true scientists, and the agenda-ists, the political liers

    Apparently, you’re unable to get through even a simple critique without making personal attacks on the authors.

    Some of your other critiques are simply dishonest. For example, you wrote:

    We see statements that Dr. Summers’ remarks were “irresponsible and unscientific” (they weren’t) and that it is “highly unscientific to extrapolate” (oblivious to the irony that the role of scientists is to extrapolate) ….

    You use out-of-context quoting to imply that the writers said that extrapolation is unscientific – which would, indeed, be an extremely stupid thing for them to say. But here’s what they actually wrote:

    Though genetic research has indeed made incredible advances and has shown, as Summers argued, that there is a genetic component to autism, it is highly unscientific to extrapolate from such research to conclude that genetics is also responsible for women’s disproportionate representation in the higher echelons of math and science.

    What they wrote is both reasonable and correct. What you’ve failed to understand is, just because scientists extrapolate, it doesn’t follow that all extrapolations are scientific.

    (Sorry, I planned to respond to more, but I have to go to work now.)

  12. 12
    TangoMan says:

    Stereotype threat has since been debunked except for a very limited circusmstance, which is where Steele first noticed it.

    Citation? Evidence?

    You can follow the controversy here. I particularly liked the response from Sackett et. al to Steele & Aronson’s reply of their critique of stereotype threat (did you follow all those back and forths)

    They agree that it is a misinterpretation of the Steele and Aronson (1995) results to conclude that eliminating stereotype threat eliminates the African American”“White test-score gap. They agree that we have identified multiple mischaracterizations of their work in media reports, journal articles, and textbooks, which wrongly interpret their work as finding that eliminating stereotype threat did indeed eliminate the score gap. They agree that these mischaracterizations are regrettable…

    Like I noted above, stereotype threat is measurable in very tightly constrained conditions, the ones in which Steele and Aronson noted in their original report. Stereotype threat is not a generalizable phenomona, as Steele and Aronson were publicly forced to admit.

    Furthermore, since discrimination existed before affirmative action, saying that AA causes discrimination is problematic. At best, AA is one of multiple causes of discrimination, and something of a latecomer.

    Discrimination existed before Affirmative Action and since that time there has been a lot of philosophical re-examination of personal bias and most importantly institutional mandates to eliminate discrimination. What’s happened over the last decades is an institutional encouragement to seek gender parity where career advancement often is tied to maintaining gender quotas for your team or department. I’ve personally been witness to machinations that involved keeping marginal personnel on-board simply to meet management diversity targets.

    Apparently, you’re unable to get through even a simple critique without making personal attacks on the authors.

    When such an attack is deserved I feel no unease in making the attack. This committee is comprised of scientists fully conversant with statistical principles and they purposely chose to mischaracterize Dr. Summers’ statement so that they could make it seem outlandish.

    I’m sure that if I dug through your archives I could find you calling a spade a spade when Scott McClellan or Ari Fleischer stepped up to the podium and told reporters a mistruth or even a bald-faced lie simply to further the President’s agenda. No difference.

    What they wrote is both reasonable and correct. What you’ve failed to understand is, just because scientists extrapolate, it doesn’t follow that all extrapolations are scientific.

    Actually, what they wrote is not reasonable nor is their argument a fair summary of what Dr. Summers actually said. To put this into context, let’s actually look at the transcript of Dr. Summers’ remarks:

    One is socialization. Somehow little girls are all socialized towards nursing and little boys are socialized towards building bridges. No doubt there is some truth in that. I would be hesitant about assigning too much weight to that hypothesis for two reasons. First, most of what we’ve learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization. We’ve been astounded by the results of separated twins studies. The confident assertions that autism was a reflection of parental characteristics that were absolutely supported and that people knew from years of observational evidence have now been proven to be wrong. And so, the human mind has a tendency to grab to the socialization hypothesis when you can see it, and it often turns out not to be true.

    Now compare his statement to their summary. They wrote:

    it is highly unscientific to extrapolate from such research to conclude that genetics is also responsible for women’s disproportionate representation in the higher echelons of math and science

    Do you see the difference here? Summers is saying that his reasoning is probabilistic and guided by previously documented studies which demonstrate a human tendency to primarily look to socialization rather than genetics and in many instances that tendency has been shown to be wrong.

    On this probabilistic basis he thinks that the same tendency might be at work on the issue he was discussing. That’s a far, far cry from concluding that the genetic features unique to autism are also responsible for women’s underrepresentation in Physics, Math and Engineering faculty.

    For example, Claudia Golden’s study of orchestra auditions

    You mean the very same Claudia Golden that Summers referenced in his speech?

    and the work that Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz are doing will, I’m sure, over time, contribute greatly to our understanding of these issues and for all I know may prove my conjectures completely wrong.

    Also, note the precision of his language throughout his speech:

    And here, you can get a fair distance, it seems to me, looking at a relatively simple hypothesis. It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population.

    Or here:

    If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it’s not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it’s talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out.

    Or here:

    So my sense is that the unfortunate truth-I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true-is that the combination of the high-powered job hypothesis and the differing variances probably explains a fair amount of this problem.

    Or here:

    that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong,

    Any you know, the odd thing about what’s transpired since is that no one has stepped forward and proved him wrong by identifying the discriminatory factors that are holding back women from achieving succuss at the peak (Harvard) of the fields of Math, Physics and Engineering. Everyone is just assuming that there are some unmeasurable practices at work that magically are absent in the fields of Biology, Medicine, Psychology etc.

    And while I’m copying almost the entirely of Dr. Summers’ speech into this comment, I may as well point out that his comment which mirrors the one that I made about Affirmative Action and managerial responses to determine candidate quality. Summers noted:

    And how many of them are plausible compromises that aren’t unreasonable, and how many of them are what the right-wing critics of all of this suppose represent clear abandonments of quality standards. I don’t know the answer, but I think if people want to move the world on this question, they have to be willing to ask the question in ways that could face any possible answer that came out.

  13. 13
    Jarrett Holst says:

    Just curious whether or not the Bowdoin College Republicans would intend their measure to cover that recent favorite whipping boy of the right, Ward Churchill. While I disliked and disagreed with his statement about 9/11, I also thought that he was simply a victim of Fox News’ need for a good target. Would he be free from ‘recrimination’ too or does their measure apply only to conversatives?

  14. 14
    mythago says:

    The confident assertions that autism was a reflection of parental characteristics that were absolutely supported and that people knew from years of observational evidence have now been proven to be wrong.

    Y’know, this isn’t even extrapolation. It’s bullshit.

    What he thinks he’s talking about is Bruno Bettelheim’s theory that autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers”–and that theory sprang out of the heydey of Freudian psychology. It had nothing to do with nature vs. nuture or even a rudimentary grasp of biology. To hold Bettelheim’s theory up as an example of how evo-psych triumphed over all those silly nurture theories is either extremely dishonest or displays a grasp of the history of autism diagnoses about as deep as ‘I read a Newsweek headline that said…’

  15. 15
    TangoMan says:

    mythago,

    While my comments suffer from long-windedness, I fear yours suffered from brevity for I can’t discern how you reach your conclusion from the facts that you note. You wrote:

    It had nothing to do with nature vs. nuture or even a rudimentary grasp of biology.

    How do you not categorize Bettelheim’s “refrigerator mothers” and the parental behavior Bettelheim theorized as being the cause of autism as not being representative of nurture?

    Are you implying that Bettelheim’s theory was so marginal that no one paid it heed? In trying to understand your point this is the only interpretation that I can infer. Thus, if Bettelheim was really ignored by all, except cranks, and Dr. Summers is using Bettelheim’s theory as an example of a condition that was caused by nurture but in reality has a strong nature cause, then Dr. Summers’ is seriously misreading the history of autism which never had a period where autism was widely thought to be caused by nurture influences and therefore Dr. Summers is full of bullshit. Can this be right?

    See here for more information on how widely held Bettelheim’s theory was.

  16. 16
    mythago says:

    TangoMan, I’m going to assume you followed Summers’s implication, which was that just as we used to think autism was caused by bad parenting, but we now know it’s genetic, people who think that girls’ lesser math ability has to do with discrimination and cultureal factors will be shown to be wrong, and it will all be shown to be genetic.

    What you’re missing in my post is that in Bettleheim’s time, there wasn’t a “nature vs. nurture” argument of the sort you’re proposing. Bettelheim’s theory was rooted in extrapolation from Freudian psychology. There were not countervailing theories based on solid genetics and good science.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    Mythago, what difference does it make how the hypothesis was conceived in Bettleheim’s day? It was believed into our day, and the theory was that environmental conditions and upbringing (i.e., nurture) were determinative of autism. And then it was displaced, like you said, by new research. Research which indicated a “nature” explanation instead. Summers’ narrative may be foreshortened (hey, life is short) but not inaccurate.

  18. 18
    thistle says:

    I wrote a post on this too, largely responding to the arguments (made by Alan Dershowitz, among others) that there is some kind of a free speech issue at stake in Summers having to retire. My blog is at thistleflower.blogspot.com–it’s very rarely updated, alas.

  19. 19
    TangoMan says:

    Someone reading that would get the false impression that the authors only had those two citations to support their statement. In fact, they had seven references to support the point you quoted, six of which were from the 1990s or 2000s.

    Someone reading your criticism of my comment would get the false impression that I selectively chose which studies to highlight when in fact I simply addressed the two studies that the WISELI Committee decided to feature in their commentary. If they were of the opinion that the other studies presented a stronger case then they should have featured details from those studies rather than simply providing a reference absent analysis. They didn’t though, and chose the studies that I provided links for and for which I demonstrated that their polemic value outweighed their scientific value. Simply they wanted to paint a picture and selectively presented their data and selectively interpreted the data.

  20. 20
    Brandon Berg says:

    Elena:
    Did you read the speech? It actually was quite heavily laden with caveats.

  21. 21
    evil_fizz says:

    Caveats are not an exuse for poor argumentation. To my mind, what Summers is primarily guilty of is sin of freshman comp: make controversial, poorly supported claims for the sake of “inspiring discussion”. His talk is so full of caveats and provisos that all I can take from it is “Yeah, I really don’t know anything about this, and there’s still limited research, but I want to throw out some potentially inflammatory comments that won’t do a damn thing to further the discussion except make people annoyed.”

    That’s fine if you’re shooting the breeze with friends at a pub. Not so much for the President of Harvard addressing people in his professional capacity.

  22. 22
    mythago says:

    Robert, again: there was no ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate regarding autism. To portray the presentation of Freudian psychological theory as ‘nature’ analogous to feminist critique of gender-role socialization is, well, let’s be polite and call it “reductionistic.” And, again, Summers’s clear implication was that people who think girls are subjected to sexism and discrimination will turn out to be just as wrong as people who thought autism was caused by unloving mommies.

    evil_fizz summed it up correctly. Summers admitted his remarks were “to provoke”, they were sloppy and speculative, and it’s dishonest for he or his supporters to turn around and act shocked, shocked! that anyone reacted negatively.

  23. 23
    Polymath says:

    as a math person (male) and a math teacher, who sees both boys and girls learning math, this whole summers discussion has been very interesting to me.

    i think we should be careful to distinguish the claim of “there are genetic differences in mathematical and scientific ability between boys and girls” from the claim of “girls are genetitcally inferior to boys in mathematical and scientific ability”.

    summers claimed the first, and the difference he claimed (as correctly analyzed in previous comments here) was that the standard deviation was greater for boys than for girls. thus the ability level required for making it to the faculty of a top scientific institution would be maybe only 3 standard deviations for men, and 4 for women. thus a man would be more likely to qualify.

    i have not done enough research to know whether the standard deviation claim is true, but taken alone it is not inherently sexist. note that this argument also predicts that there are many more unintelligent, uneducable men than women…hardly sexist on that end. i suspect, however, that summers is not very sensitive to the (sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant) cultural pressures that also affect women’s opportunities in the sciences, and i also suspect that those pressures are substantially greater than the the statistical ones. it is inherently sexist to downplay those pressures.

    for what it’s worth, my theory is basically that sexist cultural forces sculpt an inherent difference in boys’ and girls’ brains (not one that makes either sex inherently better) into higher achievement for boys. you can find more details on my blog.

    but my experience is that the standard deviation argument doesn’t have enough effect to explain the difference in achievement. my school accepts for the most part high-achieving students, and both at the younger grades (ages 12-15) and at all grades in middle-difficulty math classes, the boys and girls perform equally well. only at the very top-level classes do the boys outnumber the girls. among the winners of math competitions, though, boys way outnumber girls (and this is true nationally, as measured by participants in national-caliber competitions). i think this results more from boys’ socialization to competition than from any inherently greater ability.

    so summers might very well be an insensitive, sexist pig…i don’t really know. but i think we have to be careful to distinguish his truly sexist arguments (discrimination contributes trivially) to theoretically non-sexist arguments (if standard deviations really are greater, then more men show high achievement).

  24. 24
    Kristjan Wager says:

    for what it’s worth, my theory is basically that sexist cultural forces sculpt an inherent difference in boys’ and girls’ brains (not one that makes either sex inherently better) into higher achievement for boys. you can find more details on my blog.

    That’s very fine, but your theory doesn’t take into consideration the fact that women have to overperform compared to men to receive the same results. A study described in Nature (“Nepotism and sexism in peer-review”, Nature | vol 387 | 22 May 1997) shows that women has to publish 2½ times as much as men to be considered equally competent.

    This is a huge barrier, and has nothing to do with any differences in the brains of women and men. And it was this barrier that Summers trivalized.

  25. 25
    Polymath says:

    kristian,

    well, there’s another cause-and-effect difficulty there like the ones mentioned in previous comments. it could be that women have to publish more just to convince their peers that they are competent and that they did not achieve their status through application of quotas.

    i don’t doubt at all, however, that once cultural forces direct more boys than girls into advanced math and science, those same cultural forces are reinforced (“look, there are more boys than girls in that math class…boys must be better!”).

    at the adult level, much of the inequity damage has already been done…my theory (nothing more than suspicions, really) is more about the origins of that inequity.

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    TangoMan wrote:

    What’s happened over the last decades is an institutional encouragement to seek gender parity where career advancement often is tied to maintaining gender quotas for your team or department. I’ve personally been witness to machinations that involved keeping marginal personnel on-board simply to meet management diversity targets.

    Anecdotal evidence is the best you’ve got, Tango Man?

    The fact is, studies show that there is discrimination in the workplace. For instance, a recent study of pay among lawyers (Social Forces, Volume 84, Number 2, December 2005) found that even after controlling for a large number of factors (school, grades, firm size, hours worked, parenthood, and so on) male lawyers were still paid 20-30% more than their female counterparts. Yet if your anecdote was typical of what happens in the job market, then just the opposite should happen – women should be paid more, after holding productivity and other factors constant, because the demand for women workers has been artificially raised.

    I already pointed out that Claudia Golden’s study of orchestra auditions showed discrimination that can’t possibly be explained by your “affirmative action backlash” theory.

    You mean the very same Claudia Golden that Summers referenced in his speech?

    Obviously the same one. This in no way disproves my point that Golden’s findings cannot be explained by AA backlash.

    Another study (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, August 1996) showed that when women and men with identical resumes apply for waiter jobs, classier restaurants (which have higher wages and tips) discriminate in favor of men, while dives (which have lower wages and tips) discriminate in favor of women. Again, this empirical evidence can’t be explained by your “affirmative action backlash” theory.

    I asked you for citations to support this statement:

    Stereotype threat has since been debunked except for a very limited circusmstance, which is where Steele first noticed it.

    In response, you cite the 2004 American Psychologist exchange between Steele and Sackitt (part one, part two, part three). The only thing “debunked” in this material is the claim that stereotype threat alone can account for 100% of the test score gap between blacks and whites. However, the Wiseli article you’re criticizing never claimed that stereotype threat alone can account for 100% of the achievement gap between women and men; they merely said that stereotype threat has been found to “influence performance.” They are entirely correct, and the so-called “debunking” you cite is entirely irrelevant.

    By the way, Sackitt et al clearly wouldn’t agree with your claim that their article “debunks” stereotype threat in any larger sense. On the contrary, they are at pains to point out that they’re only addressing the narrow question of if accounting for stereotype threat completely eliminates group differences in test scores:

    Steele and Aronson (2004) address the use of a prior SAT score as a covariate, claiming that we overworried about readers being misled by this analysis. They argue that a larger literature shows the stereotype threat effect, sometimes with the use of a prior test as a covariate and sometimes without. However, in our article, we noted clearly that we are not questioning the finding of a stereotype threat effect (i.e., the finding of a Race Diagnostic Condition interaction) in Steele and Aronson (1995). Our concern is with misinterpreting the graphical presentation of findings as suggesting that group differences can be eliminated. [Emphasis added by Amp]

    So far from “debunking” stereotype effect, the critics you cite admit it exists, and that it is found in a variety of testing conditions.

    You wrote:

    I’m sure that if I dug through your archives I could find you calling a spade a spade when Scott McClellan or Ari Fleischer stepped up to the podium and told reporters a mistruth or even a bald-faced lie simply to further the President’s agenda. No difference.

    I doubt you could find me calling McClellan or Fleisher a liar. But your tendency to think that stereotypes (I’m a lefty, therefore I must have called McClellan/Fleischer a liar) are a substitute for actual knowledge is telling.

    I consciously try to avoid calling other people liars, particularly when I’m dealing with academics rather than politicians. I’m sure I’ve slipped up now and then, but I’ve also been willing to apologize for that.

    Regarding the extrapolation issue, I notice that you have completely switched your argument. At first, you used out-of-context quoting to imply that they had said that extrapolation in general is unscientific. This argument of yours was absurd and indefensible, so rather than attempting to defend it you switch to a completely new argument.

    But your new argument – while not as entirely absurd as your previous strike-out was – isn’t very strong.

    I concede that Wiseli shouldn’t have used the word “conclude,” since Summers was careful to hedge all his claims with a lot of “maybes” and “ifs.”

    But that one poor word choice doesn’t change the fact that Wiseli was substantially correct. Summers – read fairly and in context – did in fact extrapolate from the genetic aspects of autism to bolster his claim that socialization shouldn’t be given too much weight as a cause of occupational segregation. That is, just as Wiseli claimed, a highly unscientific extrapolation.

    And by the way, the last 200 years show that people have a strong tendency to attribute occupational segregation to inherent biological differences, and that such attribution is virtually always mistaken. Just fifty years ago, people claimed the relative lack of women doctors and lawyers was due to inherent differences between the sexes; today, such a claim is obviously ridiculous.

    Someone reading that would get the false impression that the authors only had those two citations [Deaux and Emswiller, and Steinpreis, et al) to support their statement. In fact, they had seven references to support the point you quoted, six of which were from the 1990s or 2000s.

    Someone reading your criticism of my comment would get the false impression that I selectively chose which studies to highlight when in fact I simply addressed the two studies that the WISELI Committee decided to feature in their commentary.

    Someone who got that impression would be appear to be correct. Here’s the relevant passage from the Wiseli paper (a text search shows that this is the one and only mention of Deaux and Emswiller made anywhere in the paper).

    There is also a vast array of data indicating that women who do put in 80-hour weeks do not reap the same rewards as men. Numerous controlled studies show that women’s successes are frequently attributed to luck rather than skill and that women are more poorly evaluated than men with precisely the same experience and credentials (Deaux and Emswiller, Martell, Eagly and Karau, Heilman, Ridgeway, Valian). In one such study, 238 academic psychologists, 118 male and 120 female, evaluated a résumé submitted in application for an assistant professorship that was randomly assigned a male or female name. Both male and female participants gave the male applicant better evaluations for teaching and research and were more likely to hire the male applicant (Steinpreis, et al.).

    Deaux is one of a laundry list of citations, and is not given more emphasis than the others (in the text as a whole, Deaux is given considerably less emphasis than Valian). Your claim that Deaux is one of “two studies that the WISELI Committee decided to feature in their commentary” is entirely false, and your emphasis on the early date of that study – ignoring the virtually identical citation of five more recent studies – is indefensible. Admit your error and move on.

    …and for which I demonstrated that their polemic value outweighed their scientific value.

    Actually, you demonstrated no such thing. Your claim that Steinpreis, et al were merely measuring the effects of affirmative action backlash is entirely unsupported by any evidence or data; furthermore, empirical studies have found discrimination against female job seekers that can’t possibly be accounted for by AA backlash. Nor have you even attempted to refute Deaux; that a study was performed in the 1970s does not demonstrate lack of scientific value. (Quite the opposite, when more recent citations support the 1970s work, as is the case here.)

  27. 27
    TangoMan says:

    Obviously the same one. This in no way disproves my point that Golden’s findings cannot be explained by AA backlash.

    What it proves is that Dr. Summers was aware of her work and granted the possibility that it may one day entirely account for the gender discrepency. His statement would seem to undercut the notion that he was talking about a subject while being completely unaware of the literature.

    Your claim that Deaux is one of “two studies that the WISELI Committee decided to feature in their commentary” is entirely false,

    It is? Let’s review.

    Numerous controlled studies show that women’s successes are frequently attributed to luck rather than skill and that women are more poorly evaluated than men with precisely the same experience and credentials (Deaux and Emswiller, Martell, Eagly and Karau, Heilman, Ridgeway, Valian). In one such study, 238 academic psychologists, 118 male and 120 female, evaluated a résumé submitted

    The committee choses to note a study which claims that women’s successes are attributable to luck rather than skill. They made reference to numerous studies which purport to demonstrate this and then list all of the references at the end of the sentence, which would certainly give the impression that those studies all back up the same claim. This is the Deaux and Emswiller study (which I might note they didn’t include in their references at the bottom of the report.) The 2nd study they featured is the one dealing with the CV of psychologists.

    The other references that they mashed together to lend support to these two featured studies are:

    “Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders”

    Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women’s ascent up the organizational ladder.

    Sex bias at work: The effects of attentional and memory demands on
    performance ratings of men and women.

    Gender, status, and leadership.

    Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women.

    Not one of these studies references the advancement of women being attributable to luck rather than skill. That is solely claimed by the Deux and Emswiller study.

    Now perhaps you’re looking at featured statements like this to falsify my claim:

    Summers’ explanation assumes that “80-hour work weeks are a necessary condition for intellectual creativity and excellence”and that “women who do put in 80-hour weeks receive the same rewards as men.” Both assumptions, Valian argues, are faulty. According to Valian, there is no data showing that an 80- hour workweek is essential for academic excellence; “it is a folk belief still awaiting verification”

    If so, then yes this was a argument that did go into some detail, I concede, and could certainly be classified as a study that was “featured.” However, to call an “unpublished opinon piece submitted to The New York Times” a study is really stretching the definition of “study.”

    they merely said that stereotype threat has been found to “influence performance.” They are entirely correct, and the so-called “debunking” you cite is entirely irrelevant.

    A quick recap on stereotype threat seems to be in order. It was originally discovered by Steele and Aronson when they administered an achievement test for Black students. When the students were given the test they found the expected White-Black test gap. Then they informed the students that the next test would be used to evaluate the White-Black test gap and determine whether the stereotype is true. The performance of the students on this test was worse than on the control test, because the students were operating under “stereotype threat” and this added pressure negatively impacted upon their performance.

    Stereotype threat doesn’t account for the Black-White performance gap, rather it exacerbates the gap under specified conditions. So, when someone is invoking stereotype threat to account for gender differences in math evaluations, they need to show conditions where women are told beforehand that the test is being used to test whether the stereotype of women and their math abilities is valid or invalid. This added pressure will likely hinder the performance of the women and their lower than expected performance can then be attributed to stereotype threat.

    To claim that stereotype threat has been debunked is an accurate statement when the phrase is being bandied about in a fashion that seeks to explain the existing gender gap in math performance in which the intitial, and necessary, conditions of stereotype threat are not present.

    Summers – read fairly and in context – did in fact extrapolate from the genetic aspects of autism to bolster his claim that socialization shouldn’t be given too much weight as a cause of occupational segregation. That is, just as Wiseli claimed, a highly unscientific extrapolation.

    Summers – read fairly and in context – is being quite judicious and measured in his analysis. He doesn’t rest his argument solely on the extrapolation of autism research. The autism reference is an example of the phenomona under discussion (tendency to attribute to socialization factors that have genetic cause) rather than a justification for his argument. His entire argument is careful and measured and his extrapolation is appropriate. The WISELI Committee’s condemnation rests on their argument that he reached a conclusion through a unscientific process. Their word choice, whether intentional or not, is crucical. To reach a conclusion in such a fashion is unscientific. However, to advance a hypothesis, as Dr. Summers did, is completely within bounds. The upshot is that we have to judge the WISELI Committee’s statement on what they actually wrote not what we think that they meant to write. As it stands, that section of their report cannot withstand scrutiny.

    The fact is, studies show that there is discrimination in the workplace. For instance, a recent study of pay among lawyers (Social Forces, Volume 84, Number 2, December 2005) found that even after controlling for a large number of factors (school, grades, firm size, hours worked, parenthood, and so on) male lawyers were still paid 20-30% more than their female counterparts.

    Really?

    Is this the study to which you make reference?

    Sex differences in hours worked have increased over time and explain more of the sex-based earnings gap, while sex differences in job settings and years spent in private practice have declined and explain less of the gap.

    This would seem to directly contradict your claim that objective criteria were held constant. Further, this study is looking at issues like years of experience, academic achievements, etc and doesn’t include performance, big cases won or lost, clients brought into the firm, etc that we know have career impact.

    when women and men with identical resumes apply for waiter jobs, classier restaurants (which have higher wages and tips) discriminate in favor of men, while dives (which have lower wages and tips) discriminate in favor of women.

    This may in fact be rational discrimination in that the patrons of the classier restaurants prefer male waiters over females and the management is trying to maximize their profit potential. Gender parity is not a criteria that trumps every other competing interest, especially when achieving gender parity results in less wealth creation. Nevertheless, this was an interesting study and should spur on further research into the performance metrics of wait staff in classy restaurants so that we can understand “why” the gender discrepancy exists. Perhaps we can also apply such findings to better understand why women prefer seeing female OB/GYN over equally qualified male physicians.

    I consciously try to avoid calling other people liars, particularly when I’m dealing with academics rather than politicians. I’m sure I’ve slipped up now and then, but I’ve also been willing to apologize for that.

    Look, I have no problem at all apologizing for my statements if I erred through faulty research, overreaching conclusions, heat of the moment, etc, but I don’t feel that strong words need to be retracted just because they are strong words and for which there is shown to be ample justification. This is precisely why I restricted my criticism to this one article that you highlighted and have not expanded my criticism to all of the links, though many of them have some problems. I commend you on your integrity for correcting your mistakes, and I too am willing to do so, but in this case I stand pat with my argument.

  28. 28
    TangoMan says:

    Kristjan,

    Interesting paper. Sweden sure seems to be an overtly sexist society despite all their intrusive egalitarian policies and that council certainly needs to be reformed. However, there is nothing in the paper that is generalizable beyond the institution cited.

  29. 29
    Dan S. says:

    “The take away point to this study is that Affirmative Action type mandates impose a stigma on the people that they are designed to help”

    Interesting. The Washington Post article linked under #7 refers to a study with very similar results, except in a business setting (rating assistant vps of an airline company). Overall, the studies seem to show that the default setting is to automatically assume women are less competent (and/or question their accomplishments) – only when clear and impossible-to-ignore evidence of ability is provided are women and men judged equally (and in the business study, the unquestionally competent woman is then seen as “much less likable than her male counterpart, and considerably more hostile.”

    The AA hypothesis is interesting. However, given the preponderance of studies that show similar attitudes in non-AA fields (like the famous orchestra audition one, or the peer review one, or etc., etc., ), the most parsimonius explanation is that many people simply assume – possibly unconsciously – that women aren’t as good as men, unless evidence to the contrary is shoved in their face.

    Re: caveats – I’ll go and read it again, I’m not recognizing quotes and etc., maybe I saw a different copy? – as I remember, he had three main categories of caveats:
    1) Multiple caveats about his least-favored explanations (socialization, discrimination) – admitting that we can’t be sure, and it probably plays some small role. These work to downgrade the unwanted explanations.
    2) Pretend caveats – I want to think this isn’t true, I wish it wasn’t this way, etc. In other words, it *is true, etc.
    3) Endless caveats about institutional solutions. This was the only part of the speech where he suddenly dropped the air of assuredness and suchlike. After easily dismissing any likely major role for discrimination or socialization, the question of what could be done threw the poor man into a tizzy – suddenly every thing has two equally-supported sides that we must consider, , it’s all very complex, with difficult ramifications, etc., etc. This works to provide an excuse for not doing anything for women.

    Any you know, the odd thing about what’s transpired since is that no one has stepped forward and proved him wrong by identifying the discriminatory factors that are holding back women from achieving succuss at the peak (Harvard) of the fields of Math, Physics and Engineering. Everyone is just assuming that there are some unmeasurable practices at work that magically are absent in the fields of Biology, Medicine, Psychology etc.

    But you know what’s really amazing? Summer’s favored explanations (many women want to raise a family instead of working 80 hr weeks, nature makes more boy geniuses than girl geniuses) magically have the same effect on black academics – both women and men! You find very similar patterns – low numbers, a leaky pipeline, and a concentration in biology, health sciences (don’t have specific dr. info), social sciences, etc, and massive underrepresentation in engineering, physics, etc.
    Amazing!

    Re: Preferential hiring of male waiters in ritzy high-tip places, women in low-tipping crappy dives – Yes, and women showed up in the House earlier -and in far greater numbers – than in the Senate, and we still don’t have a female President – yet. Women entering an area traditionally have shown up at the lowest rungs – re: status, pay, etc. – first, often in a way (and for a duration) that could not be simply explained by normal job histories (ie, not just that women were entering a new field and therefore naturally individuals took time to climb the ladder). Alternately, specific kinds of jobs were sort of handed down to women (teaching, secretarial work) after being male-dominated, losing pay and status in the process.

    But it’s probably more complicated than just this . . .

    Over at the Happy Feminist, TangoMan said something about “Summers, and I, look upon the world from a different default hypothesis. If we see that there are no environmental factors at work to explain disparity, then we don’t, unlike you, assume that the environmental factors are still working but they’re just unmeasurable”

    What we need to do, of course, is to have TangoMan and Summers spend some time passing as women.
    Pure male privilege.

  30. 30
    Dan S. says:

    Sorry about the giant boldfaced paragraph – dunno what happened there . . .

    [Fixed! --Amp]

  31. 31
    Dan S. says:

    “[Fixed! "“Amp] ”
    Yay! Thanks.

    And the thing is, I don’t a priori think that Summers is entirely wrong. Everybody agrees on the mommy-track issue – although both Summers and many of his supporters seem to have a ridiculously simplistic – if standard – take on this (you see, women just naturally want to stay home and take care of the children – this isn’t a fact we should put our massive, throbbing, ah, brains to work exploring . . . . The men-have-higher-variability in some areas (due in part to having only one X chromosome, so any freakiness isn’t toned down by a regular gene on the other – simplified) seems reasonable, and may have decent support. One of the big problems with this second argument as an explantion, however, is that some research suggests that women are disproportionally leaking out of the physics pipeline between high school physics class and college graduation, where super-genuis isn’t a real prerequisite. The survivors seem to progress at expected rates (although to some extent they seem to doing so at lower-tier schools, where they have to actually teach and suchlike).
    From the American Institute of Physics report ‘Women in Physics and Astronomy, 2005′
    Interestingly, there are a lot more women astronomers than physicists. Go Maria Mitchell!

    Also interestingly – that old reliable of gender difference, mental rotation, is the the kind of thing one would expect to see given that stone tool technology predates our species by a good bit. So, guys are maybe on average a bit better figuring out how to hit rocks together . . . Given the minor and trivial nature of cognitive gender differences as currently understood, and our past and present social environment (for both race and gender, it’s astonished how many people simply seem to assume that major, widespread, and overwhelmingly visible discrimination ‘ended’ (was reduced) a whole generation or two ago obviously everything must be equal now.

  32. 32
    Dan S. says:

    oh, forgot to finish the post – but y’all can do that yourself . . .

  33. 33
    Elena says:

    Brandon:

    I did read the speech, and it’s true there were caveats. But, as Dan pointed out, the caveats were along the lines of ” here’s why my theory is probably true” and not “here’s the evidence, but please don’t draw hase ty conclusions because there are multiple variables here”.

    This thread is missing the typical Summers defense which I find maddening: those who say that if we think Summers said women have less aptitude then we misunderstood the speech, go read it. Then you read it and her very clearly says girls have less aptitude.

    My hypothesis about the dearth of women mathmeticians at the higher level is that it may paralell the dearth of female chefs and reknown historical artists (caveat- this is only a hypothesis from a non-scientist). A few very talented male cooks and artists got the recognition they deserved while most male cooks and artists, and all female cooks and artists had to content themselves with developing national cuisines and making artful but useful objects anonymously.

  34. 34
    TangoMan says:

    Dan S.

    But you know what’s really amazing? Summer’s favored explanations (many women want to raise a family instead of working 80 hr weeks, nature makes more boy geniuses than girl geniuses) magically have the same effect on black academics – both women and men! You find very similar patterns – low numbers, a leaky pipeline, and a concentration in biology, health sciences (don’t have specific dr. info), social sciences, etc, and massive underrepresentation in engineering, physics, etc.
    Amazing!

    I’m not really sure you should be extending your analysis in this way for it will likely hi-jack the thread, but if you think that the institutional racism of Harvard is what is the cause, please consider:

    Minority deficits in cognitive and noncognitive skills emerge early and then widen. Unequal schooling, neighborhoods, and peers may account for this differential growth in skills, but the main story in the data is not about growth rates but rather about the size of early deficits. Hispanic children start with cognitive and noncognitive deficits similar to those of black children. They also grow up in similarly disadvantaged environments and are likely to attend schools of similar quality. Hispanics complete much less schooling than blacks. Nevertheless, the ability growth by years of schooling is much higher for Hispanics than for blacks. By the time they reach adulthood, Hispanics have significantly higher test scores than do blacks. Conditional on test scores, there is no evidence of an important Hispanic-white wage gap. Our analysis of the Hispanic data illuminates the traditional study of black-white differences and casts doubt on many conventional explanations of these differences since they do not apply to Hispanics, who also suffer from many of the same disadvantages. The failure of the Hispanic-white gap to widen with schooling or age casts doubt on the claim that poor schools and bad neighborhoods are the reasons for the slow growth rate of black test scores.

    Or this report, which also speaks to the issue of the size of the candidate pool that Harvard can draw upon:

    Data from the National Assessment for Educational Progress, the nation’s report card on how American students are doing, show that black students, on average, at age 17 are reading at the level of the typical white 13 year-old. The picture is even worse in science. This is a story that crosses the lines of social class. Moreover, scores have actually dropped since 1988, for reasons no one knows. One of the most striking facts in our book is that black students from families earning over $70,000 a year are doing worse on their SATs than white students from families earning less than $10,000 per year.

    Over at the Happy Feminist, TangoMan said something about “Summers, and I, look upon the world from a different default hypothesis. If we see that there are no environmental factors at work to explain disparity, then we don’t, unlike you, assume that the environmental factors are still working but they’re just unmeasurable”

    Devastating comeback. Ouch. It’s more telling that you find this statement to be worthy of condemnation.

    What we need to do, of course, is to have TangoMan and Summers spend some time passing as women.

    Yes, and only convicted criminals should preside over court cases of people charged with crimes. Only Black doctors should treat Black patients. Only children should counsel children. Need I go on?

  35. 35
    Kristjan Wager says:

    For instance, a recent study of pay among lawyers (Social Forces, Volume 84, Number 2, December 2005) found that even after controlling for a large number of factors (school, grades, firm size, hours worked, parenthood, and so on) male lawyers were still paid 20-30% more than their female counterparts.

    Amp, is that study available online somewhere? Or could you perhaps send me a copy? (to public@kristjanwager.dk)

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    TangoMan wrote:

    What it proves is that Dr. Summers was aware of her work and granted the possibility that it may one day entirely account for the gender discrepency. His statement would seem to undercut the notion that he was talking about a subject while being completely unaware of the literature.

    Actually, the fact that almost the only research he cites was conducted by a Harvard economist doesn’t show knowledge of the literature; it just shows that he’s aware of what’s going on in the Harvard Econ department, which is unsurprising since that’s Summers’ own department. (Also, I’ve been told that Goldin and Summers are real-life friends; if so, again no surprise that he knows of her work).

    It’s notable that one of Summers few other references, to Xie and Shauman, was repudiated by Xie himself (herself?), who said that she thought her work undermined, rather than supported, Summer’s conclusions.

    Not one of these studies references the advancement of women being attributable to luck rather than skill. That is solely claimed by the Deux and Emswiller study.

    I haven’t read all the studies in question (have you)? But I read Why So Slow, which does discuss the tendency to attribute women’s achievements to luck instead of skill. So ignoring everything else, your claim that Deaux is the only source to discuss luck is wrong. (Valian does refer to Deaux when discussing luck-attribution, but Deaux isn’t her only source).

    Furthermore, you’re ignoring the part of the sentence that reads “…and that women are more poorly evaluated than men with precisely the same experience and credentials.” Insofar as any of the other studies provide any support for this claim – and I suspect that most or all of them do – then those studies are just as “featured” as Deaux’s.

    All of that is conceding your belief that referring to a study in the sentence introducing a laundry list of citations is the same thing as “featuring” it, rather than just an indication of the sort of information covered in the list of citations. I don’t concede that, however. It was just a laundry list.

    The bottom line is, you distorted the piece by claiming that the authors were unduly relying on outdated research, when in fact the piece – including the specific passage you referred to – relies mostly on citations from the 1990s and 2000s. You’d only have been correct if you had said that “part of one sentence” relied mainly on a study from the 70s, but that wouldn’t have been as impressive a claim for you to make, would it? Your increasingly desperate squirming, selective quoting and special pleading to avoid admitting your mistake makes me doubt your claim that “I have no problem at all apologizing for my statements if I erred.”

    Speaking of errors, I wrote:

    The fact is, studies show that there is discrimination in the workplace. For instance, a recent study of pay among lawyers (Social Forces, Volume 84, Number 2, December 2005) found that even after controlling for a large number of factors (school, grades, firm size, hours worked, parenthood, and so on) male lawyers were still paid 20-30% more than their female counterparts.

    I made an error here – it should have said “17% more,” not “20-30%” more. (30% of the wage gap was unaccounted for by non-discriminatory factors, which works out to men being paid 17% more after those factors were accounted for. My guess is my mind accidentally transposed the 30% and 17% when I was writing.)

    TangoMan wrote:

    Sex differences in hours worked have increased over time and explain more of the sex-based earnings gap, while sex differences in job settings and years spent in private practice have declined and explain less of the gap.

    This would seem to directly contradict your claim that objective criteria were held constant.

    No, it doesn’t contradict my claim at all. But it does establish beyond all doubt that you don’t know anything at all about how multivariate analysis works and is reported.

    The authors did a multivariate analysis controlling for many factors, including time worked, and found that there was still a substantial wage gap remaining after all those factors were controlled for; this is the “unexplained” gap. Of the “explained” gap, they found that time worked accounted for a large amount of the gap – which is what they were reporting in the passage you quoted above.

    The way they know that “sex differences in hours worked have increased over time and explain more of the sex-based earnings gap” is because they controlled for this factor; if they hadn’t controlled for it, they wouldn’t be able to report whether or not it explained any portion of the gap. The quote you cite to prove that they didn’t control for time, in fact proves they did. Anyone who knows the least bit about multivariate analysis knows that.

    Frankly, you’re like someone arguing that the volume dial on a TV proves that viewers can’t control the volume. Accordingly, I probably won’t be responding to your future posts; this is a waste of my time.

    Further, this study is looking at issues like years of experience, academic achievements, etc and doesn’t include performance, big cases won or lost, clients brought into the firm, etc that we know have career impact.

    As the study itself said:

    A second possibility is unmeasured human capital variables. Not knowing what these might be, this possibility is hard to evaluate, but any such human capital attributes would have to be of a nature that would not affect undergraduate grades, LSAT scores and law school grades. We chose to examine Michigan Law School graduates because we expected that sex differences in unmeasured characteristics, such as talents, ambitions and drive, would be small ““ given the costs of obtaining a law degree and the entry requirements of an elite law school.

    It is always possible to theorized unmeasured characteristics, because it is of course impossible for any study to cover absolutely everything imaginable. However, for your argument to be true, we’d have to suppose that there is almost no relationship between achievement in law school and achievement thereafter; it’s just a big coincidence that the people who graduate at the top of elite law schools seem more likely to go on to have elite careers. I don’t buy that.

    In any case, if you think other factors account for the gap, it’s up to you to provide some positive evidence to support your contention.

    This may in fact be rational discrimination in that the patrons of the classier restaurants prefer male waiters over females and the management is trying to maximize their profit potential.

    Actually, if that’s the case (and you’ve provided no evidence), that would merely move the site of irrational discrimination from the restaurant management to restaurant patrons; it would not make the discrimination itself rational. Nor does it magically wash away the injustice to women who earn less based on equal qualifications.

    (I note that you don’t even attempt to rebut my main point in bringing up this example, which is that there is strong evidence that discrimination exists which cannot be accounted for by your affirmative action backlash theory.)

  37. 37
    Jimmy Ho says:

    Xie himself (herself?)

    Yu Xie (Xie Yu 谢宇 in the Chinese name order) is a man.

  38. 38
    TangoMan says:

    However, for your argument to be true, we’d have to suppose that there is almost no relationship between achievement in law school and achievement thereafter; it’s just a big coincidence that the people who graduate at the top of elite law schools seem more likely to go on to have elite careers. I don’t buy that.

    The comparison isn’t about how well a graduate of Harvard Law School does against a graduate of Podunk Academy of Law, it’s about how lawyers with comparable, and objectively measurable, backgrounds fare against each other. Frankly, it’s really not that hard to understand lawyer compensation schemes. Recruiters and hiring committees are well versed in the factors that are considered. This study established a very simply construct – put in your time, check off the right boxes, and everyone should be paid the same. Left out of the analysis was consideration of productivity per unit time, successful outcome of work, degree of success in bringing in new business, etc that we know are more important factors, 15 years out than the school that a lawyer graduated from.

    that would merely move the site of irrational discrimination from the restaurant management to restaurant patrons; it would not make the discrimination itself rational. Nor does it magically wash away the injustice to women who earn less based on equal qualifications.

    Really? Tell that to male OB/GYN who have to contend with a public that irrationally prefers female OB/GYNs.

    You seem to me, perhaps I misreading you here, to be of the opinion that it is wrong for people to have individual preferences that are determined by criteria that are important to them. There is nothing wrong with people acting on their own preferences, especially if they are the one’s paying for a good or a service.

    Furthermore, you’re ignoring the part of the sentence that reads “…and that women are more poorly evaluated than men with precisely the same experience and credentials.”

    Not at all. I provided text from the very same study which read that there was no discrimination at all when the candidates had a more fleshed out CV. None. Then I speculated as to why we saw a difference between well documented candidates and sparsely documented candidates. The reviewers are the same people, so if they are evil discriminators we’d expect to see a crossover discriminatory effect at work. We didn’t. Therefore, they are rational discriminators, which is completely fine, and they determined that in a low information state, that they needed to draw on external guidelines. I posited something like the token effect might be at work.

    The committee, by highlighting only the one finding, and ignoring the other, hoped to paint a picture that irrational discrimination is pervasive under all circumstances. Such a calculated decision speaks poorly about the scientific objectivity of the committee and quite clearly demonstrates that this document is political in nature and they sought to cloak it with scientific respectability.

    But I read Why So Slow, which does discuss the tendency to attribute women’s achievements to luck instead of skill.

    Why So Slow is a book which summarizes gender research and it didn’t report on original research conducted by the authors. You can’t argue that Why So Slow should be counted as a separate source in support of the Committee’s argument when Why So Slow is drawing upon the work of Deuz and Emswiller.

    No, it doesn’t contradict my claim at all. But it does establish beyond all doubt that you don’t know anything at all about how multivariate analysis works and is reported.

    I apologize for my sloppy statement. You are correct that it doesn’t contradict your claim.

    It is always possible to theorized unmeasured characteristics, because it is of course impossible for any study to cover absolutely everything imaginable.

    That’s a shallow cop-out, for as I mentioned above, legal recruiters and those hiring lawyers are able to assess characteristics like talent, success, clients brought in, and overall performance beyond simply looking at hours worked, years of experience, etc. These are not characteristics which are “unmeasurable” and we know them to have significant impact on career success.

  39. 39
    Dan S. says:

    “Really? Tell that to male OB/GYN who have to contend with a public that irrationally prefers female OB/GYNs.”

    But Tangoman, waiters – no matter what they’ve told you – aren’t supposed to be poking around your nethers. Really.

    Given what OB/GYNs do, the fact that women would prefer to deal with female ones isn’t entirely irrational. The bit about waiters, as Amp points out, is entirely irrational, since there’s simply no objective reason to prefer male over female waitstaff. Or rather, it’s non-rational; I suspect that part of it, besides the general men mean it’s more serious and just better bit, is the appeal of “look! I’m a high-status male! Not only do females defer to me, so do lower-ranking males!”. . .

    And further up the thread, Tangoman helps confirm the high correlation between sexist bigotry and racist bigotry. Good job!

  40. 40
    TangoMan says:

    Dan S.

    What’s the definition of racist? Someone who bested a liberal in an argument.

    Look, you really debase the charge of racism when you toss it around willy-nilly, and in this case for pointing you to a study by a Nobel Laureate who was The Bell Curve’s fiercest critic a decade ago.

    Amp,

    Regarding the lawyer study – what effect do you think negotiation would have over the course of 15 years?

    In a dramatic illustration of this, the authors describe a recent study showing the starting salaries of female Carnegie Mellon MBA graduates as almost $4,000 less than male graduates of the same school.

    Why? “Only 7 percent of the female students had negotiated (their salary) but 57 percent … of the men had asked for more money.” Those who negotiated, be it men or women, increased their starting salary by just over $4,000.

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    What’s the definition of racist? Someone who bested a liberal in an argument.

    TangoMan, if you really think you’ve won any arguments here, you’re sadly mistaken. You haven’t even presented a single positive argument supported by evidence, and what arguments you’ve presented have been shown to be wrong multiple times.

    Can you please tell me the citation for the paper you were linking to (the one by by a Nobel Laureate)? I can’t get your link to work on my computer.

    Regarding negotiation:

    1) I can’t do anything with the link you provided – the only reference is a secondary source, so I don’t have the info necessary to look up the original study referred to. Even the article you cite, however, notes that “Professor Richard Shell of the Wharton School of Business has conducted studies among professionals that show little gender difference at all in parties’ negotiation styles and approaches to conflict.”

    2) What your article fails to mention is that Babcock and Laschever – the authors of the book your article cited – have also run experiments on negotiation techniques which found that men who press hard in negotiations are rewarded, but women who press equally hard are often sanctioned for it. There was a chapter about it in their book, and IIRC they’ve done a more recent study replicating the finding.

    So if women tend to negotiate less, that may be because they’re rational actors responding to a discriminatory reward structure.

    3) In any case, I doubt a study of negotiation techniques among a representative population – or, as likely as not, among undergraduates hoping to earn ten bucks – can be safely extrapolated to graduates of an elite law school.

    4) But it may well be that negotiation differences account for part of the wage gap (although that doesn’t establish that negotiation differences have nothing to do with sexism – see point 2 – but I’ll ignore that for a moment, for the sake of argument).

    So what if that’s true? It’s always been my position that the wage gap is caused by a mixture of free choice, sexism, and employer discrimination. So admitting that something other than direct employer discrimination has an effect on wages is no skin off my nose; that’s perfectly compatible with my position, because my position is pretty moderate.

    Your problem is that you are, I’m guessing, an extremist; if I’m reading you correctly, you want to argue that sexism & discrimination has no significant effect on the wage gap, and that individual differences between individual employees can explain 100% of the discrepancy. That’s as extreme, and as indefensible, a position as claiming that stereotype threat can account for 100% of all test score differences.

  42. 42
    Dan S. says:

    “Yes, and only convicted criminals should preside over court cases of people charged with crimes. Only Black doctors should treat Black patients. Only children should counsel children. Need I go on?”

    No.
    You misunderstand my claim. There are many gaps between groups of people that are hard to cross. It is one of our astonishing abilities as a species that we can get inside each others’ heads to the degree we can, and one of the tragedies of our existence that we’re not a little better at it. What is day-to-day experience like as black/white/man/woman/handicapped person/gay/straight/etc. etc. etc. Yes, obviously there are vast individual differences; the question involves the ways identifiable group membership affects one’s view of the world, and how it treats them. For example, one person might spend the day going around campus in a wheelchair, and come away with the realization that much of it is inaccessible, and that attempts to change this have been minimal. Two families may participate in a reality show which attempts to have them pass for black/white, and – well, we’ll have to wait to find out what they’ve discovered, but the show looks awful. Certainly, there are other ways beside direct experience, from narrative to scientific research. In this case, my impression was that direct experience would be most useful.

    The Ranma effect, call it. If we could just find that magic spring . . .
    (What? You want to ban abortions? We’re just going to dunk you into this puddle, and the next time you get splashed with cold water you’ll turn into a girl! Remember, no exceptions for rape or incest . . .)

    Re: racism – perhaps I misunderstood. So – do you think that the sociocultural and physical environment can explain these differences re: black achievement?

  43. 43
    Jake Squid says:

    Your problem is that you are, I’m guessing, an extremist…

    That is not valid argumentation, I believe. There is nothing inherently problematic in being an extremist (other than that the vast majority of people will oppose your views). TangoMan’s problem here is really that he has presented no evidence at all to support his position. Which is not the same problem as being an extremist in this case.

    IMHO, “extreme” does not equal “indefensible.” Something may be both, but one is not necessarily connected to the other.

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Jake – My final paragraph wasn’t meant to be an argument, but instead an analysis of how I see his and my relative positions. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

    You’re certainly correct that “you’re an extremist, therefore wrong” would not be a valid argument. Nor do I think that “extreme” always means “indefensible,” although in this particular example I think the two correspond.

    Thanks for making me clarify. Hope to see you here in Portland soon!

  45. 45
    Jake Squid says:

    Or, I suppose, I could be wrong. Being far from an expert in debate and argument, myself. But that’s what I thought, based on reading many online debates/arguments.

  46. 46
    Jake Squid says:

    Whoops. Re-respondeded before I saw your answer. PDX on Saturday! Or bust. I’m hoping to make it to Aaron’s exhibition on Sat or Sun.

    It could also be that I’m too used to seeing the “my position is moderate & yours is extreme, therefore I am correct & you are horribly, horribly wrong” argument used all the time and so assumed the connection.

  47. 47
    Sheelzebub says:

    Someone kindly explain to me how Larry Summers, an economist, is suddenly more learned about genetics and biology than geneticists and biologists?

    Just asking . . .

  48. 48
    Jimmy Ho says:

    Sheelzebub, that’s because genetic expressionism is an artistic movement, not a scientific discipline. Having the right sensibility is enough to get in. Mock that kitsch, I’d rather go back to my teen age surrealism.

  49. 49
    TangoMan says:

    Ampersand,

    Can you please tell me the citation for the paper you were linking to (the one by by a Nobel Laureate)? I can’t get your link to work on my computer.

    Here is a freely available copy of the paper, though I can’t attest to whether it is a draft or a final version that was published. Here is James Heckman’s critique of The Bell Curve from 1995:

    What little is known indicates that ability–or IQ–is not a fixed trait for the young (persons up to age 8 or so). Herrnstein noted this in IQ and the Meritocracy. Sustained high-intensity investments in the education of young children, including such parental activities as reading and responding to children, stimulate learning and further education. Good environments promote learning for young children at all levels of ability. In this sense, there is fragmentary evidence that enriched education can be a good investment even for children of low initial ability…

    Future research should focus on growth and development in measured ability prior to age 15 (the age of the youngest person in the Murray-Herrnstein sample), because existing research indicates that values are formed and cognition is developed prior to that age.

    He was so opposed to the thesis of The Bell Curve that he took on researching the topic himself. His work has been very interesting to watch over this time period. In 2003 his views had modified. He writes:

    Another continuing blind spot in the vision of most educational planners and policy makers is a preoccupation with achievement tests and measures of cognitive skill as indicators of the success of an educational intervention. By narrowly focusing on cognition, they ignore the full array of socially and economically valuable non-cognitive skills and motivation produced by schools, families and other institutions. This emphasis also critically affects the way certain early intervention programs have been evaluated. For example, while enriched early intervention programs do not substantially alter IQ, they do substantially raise the non-cognitive skills and social competence of participants.”

    An important lesson to draw from the entire literature on successful early interventions is that it is the social skills and motivation of the child that are more easily altered… not IQ. These social and emotional skills affect performance in school and in the workplace. We too often have a bias toward believing that only cognitive skills are of fundamental importance to success in life.”

    Note that:

    1. he grants that IQ is a measure of cognitive ability
    2. in fact, he uses IQ interchangeably with cognition and cognitive skill
    3. he grants that IQ is not easily altered
    4. he grants that it is important

    His new tack: raise non-cognitive abilities. A laudable goal, but not what he set out to do one decade back. Remember, he set out this research program himself as the best hope for taking on the conclusions of Murray and Herrnstein though he granted many of their specific points (e.g. “Their empirical work substantiates the role of IQ in accounting for a considerable portion of ethnic differences in socioeconomic outcomes”).

    It’s always been my position that the wage gap is caused by a mixture of free choice, sexism, and employer discrimination.

    I don’t have a problem with this, as far as it goes but you do leave other variables off of the table.

    Your problem is that you are, I’m guessing, an extremist; if I’m reading you correctly, you want to argue that sexism & discrimination has no significant effect on the wage gap, and that individual differences between individual employees can explain 100% of the discrepancy.

    First off, (not that it really matters) I didn’t find this comment offensive for by now I’m very used to this type of mischaracterization. If you can step back a bit and take a look at our debate what you’ll see is that it’s you who is the extremist, in that you are arguing that the gender issue in particular, and I assume, all social disparity in general, is 100% attributable to environmental factors.

    My position is one of the reasonable moderate, in that I willing to attribute both a biological and environmental causation to different problems and adjust the balance as the evidence warrants. Before I begin to look at biological factors I seek to address more readily apparent environmental factors for they are usually easier to identify and address. When a problem still persists and no direct environmental causal factors can be identified, then I’m prepared to start entertaining biological factors as being pertinent to the issue at hand. I give them no added significance rather I just throw them into the ring and consider them worthy of consideration. The significance of biological factors begins to increase as the issue remains intractable under environmental remedy. This post presents a more cogent analysis of the double standard at work.

    I’m completely willing to concede that environmental factors are in play but you are a priori completely unwilling to concede that biological factors should even be considered. Who is taking the extreme position?

    Look, I argue against creationists from both the Right and the Left quite frequently. What I’ve found is that those on the Right don’t want evolution taught at all and that those on the Left want it taught but taught in such a manner as though it had no influence on humans. For some reason Leftist Creationists think that evolution stopped at the neck. I’m not quite sure why they hold this opinion, but it seems to be quite common. Perhaps you can help me to understand where you stand on the the principles of evolution by placing yourself on this spectrum:

    1. Humans, like all animals, have been subject to natural selection pressures.

    2. Geographical and reproductive isolation produces intraspecies variation both because of genetic drift and because isolated groups are in different selection environments.

    3. There is a long list of physiological traits of genetic origin whose incidence differs by geographical ancestry.

    4. The brain is not a special organ which is off-limits to the effects of selection pressure and drift.

  50. 50
    TangoMan says:

    Jake Squid,

    TangoMan’s problem here is really that he has presented no evidence at all to support his position.

    On the contrary. I’ve asked for someone to point to the very specific factors that are at work in the Harvard Math, Physics and Engineering departments that are excluding women, or hindering their progress and which are not present in other departments where women are progressing admirably. No one has presented any evidence of discrimination unique to those departments. Faith that unseen and unmeasurble environmental factors are at work but only within those 3 departments is the default and assumed position. That’s not a very convincing line to take, especially for those who don’t subscribe to the proposition that there are invisible discriminatory factors that are unique to Mathematicians, Physicists, and Engineers.

  51. 51
    Mendy says:

    This is completely anecdotal, but the company I work for has about an even number of female and male industrial, mechanical, electrical, and quality engineers. And several of the upper level members of management (in the engineering department) are women.

    Where I see the “glass ceiling” effect is in general administrative management, where most of those above general foreman are men.

    I’ve metioned before that I am a woman in the sciences, and I don’t feel pressures at my university that I must perform at a greater level than my male peers. I think that of the five tenured full professors at my university (in the biology department), three are women. The number of tenured female math professors is even greater, but then again I do not go to a prestigious ivy league university either.

  52. 52
    TangoMan says:

    Jake Squid,

    TangoMan’s problem here is really that he has presented no evidence at all to support his position.

    I think it’s important to understand exactly what my position in this debate has been. All I did was point out that the WISELI committee report is a political manifesto lacking in scientific credibility. You shouldn’t be assuming that I’ve been arguing the case that Summers was making. If I was to argue his case, which I have no problem doing, my comments would have been of a different nature. Just to play along for a moment, perhaps you were expecting something along these lines?

    Sexually dimorphic gene expression in mouse brain precedes gonadal differentiation.

    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.

    I’ve argued the “Summers Case” in other forums where the audience wasn’t so heavily invested in creationism. Look, sometimes I enjoy battling nimrods in the Intelligent Design community but other than boxing them into a corner I never convince them to abandon their faith, and from what I gather the same dynamic is at work here with regards to the Left’s creationist tendencies. There’s no way that biological differences can ever be accepted by a dogmatic leftist as being the cause for disparity on social metrics. So, that’s why I haven’t been arguing the case you apparently thought I was arguing. In this forum, there’s no benefit to me of investing my time in such an effort. Further, I haven’t picked apart all of Ampersand’s links. I simply chose the most egregious example of ideology masquerading under the cloak of scientific respectability.

  53. 53
    TangoMan says:

    TangoMan, if you really think you’ve won any arguments here, you’re sadly mistaken.

    You’re right that it is difficult to win arguments when the opponents keep shifting the goal posts. For instance:

    3) In any case, I doubt a study of negotiation techniques among a representative population – or, as likely as not, among undergraduates hoping to earn ten bucks – can be safely extrapolated to graduates of an elite law school.

    Refutation of argument by simple assertion and obfuscation is a tough nut to crack. You assert that you doubt a study, then you make pull out of thin air a reason (undergraduate study sample) that isn’t mentioned in the link. Then you build on that imaginary premise to conclude that it can’t be extrapolated to a top Law School.

    What you completely dodge is that the study of lawyers was conducted at the University of Michigan (ranked #8 in 2006) and that the negotiation study was for M.B.A. graduates from a top Business School (ranked #17 in 2006) have prima facia equivalence. Further, all of your objections are covered in the quote I provided:

    In a dramatic illustration of this, the authors describe a recent study showing the starting salaries of female Carnegie Mellon MBA graduates as almost $4,000 less than male graduates of the same school.

    Why? “Only 7 percent of the female students had negotiated (their salary) but 57 percent … of the men had asked for more money.” Those who negotiated, be it men or women, increased their starting salary by just over $4,000.

    What’s reported here is that there was almost a $4,000 difference in male and female average starting salaries. By engaging in negotiation, men and women were able to increase their starting salaries by just over $4,000, yet men were 8 times more likely to engage in negotiation than were women from the same graduating class in a top rated graduate program of business administration, a field I might add, that teaches negotiation strategies and tactics as part of a core curriculum. All of these job applicants knew how to negotiate yet their willingness to do so was influenced by their gender.

    This study casts severe doubt on the Axiom of Discrimination which holds that we all consciously, or subconsciously, engage in discrimination unless checked by enlightened and coercive agencies.

    The women who negotiated raised their salaries by the same amount as men. They weren’t undergraduates. So, when 15 years out from graduating from a top law school, the report you link shows that men earn 11% more than women with the same objective characteristics you seem quick to invoke that Axiom of Discrimination rather than looking beyond the easily measurable objective factors under study in order to determine if the personal or other (not measured in the study) characteristics of job performance may be the root causes of the wage gap.

    I’ll accept that charge of discrimination when actual discrimination is shown to be occuring, however when there is a disparity I will not presume that dirty discriminators are the cause, especially absent evidence.

    BTW, thanks for the pointer to the legal study. I’m not a lawyer, but I do have some professional interest in following these “discrimination” studies and this one somehow slipped under my radar. It was a very interesting read. Consider these issues:

    However, Wood et al. (1993) included measures of moot court and law review participation in their analyses of sex-based differences in University of Michigan Law School graduates’ earnings and report that sex differences on these measures were small and explained virtually none of the sex-based gap.

    What the researchers did was to create a data set, as you’ve already pointed out, of very objective data like grades, years worked, etc and then analyzed the data. They found that when all objective criteria was controlled for that the gender wage gap amounted to 11%. Yet when they delved into more subjective data, like moot court performance and law review participation they found that there was no gender difference. This, to me, is highly suggestive that the 11% wage gap is really capturing things like personal ambition and personal competence that aren’t reflected in a “punching the time clock” type of world. Risk taking, persuasiveness, extrovertedness, etc are completely off the table in this study. Further:

    In the first year after graduation, women and men lawyers in both cohorts earn nearly equivalent salaries. For instance, in the early cohort, women earn 91% as much as men, and in the late cohort they earn 99% as much as men.

    This suggests to me that the employers, using all the data available to them during the interview process, are not discriminating. I’m willing to entertain the notion that 15 years ago there may have been some discrimination, which would partially account for women being offered 91% of the starting salary offered to their male colleages (though I’d also venture that a portion of the wage disparity was attributable to issues like negotiation) but when I see starting salaries with only a 1% discrepancy then I think we’re operating in a non-discriminatory environment. Further:

    The mean undergraduate grade point average was slightly higher for women and mean LSAT score was slightly higher for men. Both gender differences are significant. Women and men perform equally well in law school; on average, women earn a 3.06 grade point average and men earn a 3.12.

    This finding is very interesting to me. How are men able to enter law school and increase their G.P.A. performance in relation to women? Was the undergraduate environment more favorable to women? Is the law school environment more discriminatory to women? Is it the course selection preference between men and women, in both the law school and udergraduate environments, that is at work? Very interesting. This deserves more follow-up. Further:

    Women in the late cohort work fewer hours than do women in the early cohort (2100 vs. 2200 annual hours), and men work about the same number of hours in both cohorts (2500 annual hours). Thus the gender gap in hours worked has increased over time

    It appears that women’s attitudes towards killer hours are changing and thus the wage gap is going to grow over time. This speaks to Dr. Summers’ point on the “80 hour workweek” problem.

    Not a bad study at all, considering the data that they had to work with. What it doesn’t do though, is lend any support to the Axiom of Discrimination.

  54. 54
    TangoMan says:

    Correction:

    There’s no way that biological differences can ever be accepted by a dogmatic leftist as being the cause for disparity on social metrics.

    Replace “the” with “a.”

  55. 55
    Jimmy Ho says:

    I wish I had less work, so I could build a schrine to the Axiom of Discrimination in some empty drawer. I’d first have to check if my IQ (Intellectual Qapital) allows me to, though.

  56. 56
    Jimmy Ho says:

    I know it is “shrine”; no Germanitudinal “sch” here. I blame any other typo on my artistic mind (but feel free to blame it on my poor Micrasiatic brain).

  57. 57
    Dan S. says:

    Intellectual Qaptial – that’s brilliant.