Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Inconvenient Questions

Once upon a time, there was a president of Harvard University who gave a speech in which he pointed out that modern science had found all sorts of biological differences between men and women, some of which translated into different behaviors and capabilities between the sexes. Unfortunately, one of the women in his audience heard his words, cried foul, rallied the forces of the gender studies department, and soon the bad, misogynist university president had been banished from Harvard and all discussion of those nasty sex differences - and the hegemonic patriarchy they supported - had been silenced, and diversity and political correctness reigned unopposed again.

Fortunately, that hasn't been the end of the story. While Larry Summers was silenced, and driven from Harvard (no great loss, since his tenure was marred by other problems), scientists have continued their assault on the assumptions of modern multiculturalist/gender equity dogma. That unassailable results of that research continues to bubble forth and spill out in the inconvenient places, like today's New York Times, where John Tierney references the tribulation of Larry Summers in discussing a bit of politically correct legislation, titled "Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering, that is currently making its way through congress.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.” At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after “attitudinal surveys” and would take part in “interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias.”

Ah, yes. More workshops! That's the way American government functions today. Endless workshops where political correctness is hammered into participants and forests are sacrificed by the mega-acre for millions of pages of reports, the contents of which no one will read and aren't worth the effort in any case. The participants of these workshops are capable of creating nothing useful on their own, but with some authority and government money, they can get in the way of genuinely productive people. This is the actual purpose of the workshops.

Tierney understands this.

I’m all in favor of women fulfilling their potential in science, but I feel compelled, at the risk of being shipped off to one of these workshops, to ask a couple of questions:

1) Would it be safe during the “interactive discussions” for someone to mention the new evidence supporting Dr. Summers’s controversial hypothesis about differences in the sexes’ aptitude for math and science?

2) How could these workshops reconcile the “existence of gender bias” with careful studies that show that female scientists fare as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts in receiving academic promotions and research grants?

Oh dear. Mr. Tierney's email account is going to be full of nastiness this week. And his editor's will be full of demands he be fired.

Tierney cites a recent study by Duke researchers that examined the results of standardized tests in math and verbal abilities going back several decades. While boys outperformed girls by a very wide margin in the oldest test data, that gap narrowed significantly about twenty years ago - as efforts to engage girls in science intensified - but then stabilized and have remained constant since.

Since then, however, the math gender gap hasn’t narrowed, despite the continuing programs to encourage girls. The Duke researchers report that there are still four boys for every girl at the extreme right tail of the scores for the SAT math test. The boy-girl ratio has also remained fairly constant, at about three to one, at the right tail of the ACT tests of both math and science reasoning. Among the 19 students who got a perfect score on the ACT science test in the past two decades, 18 were boys.

Meanwhile, the seventh-grade girls outnumbered the boys at the right tail of tests measuring verbal reasoning and writing ability. The Duke researchers report in Intelligence, “Our data clearly show that there are sex differences in cognitive abilities in the extreme right tail, with some favoring males and some favoring females.”

The researchers say it’s impossible to predict how long these math and science gender gaps will last. But given the gaps’ stability for two decades, the researchers conclude, “Thus, sex differences in abilities in the extreme right tail should not be dismissed as no longer part of the explanation for the dearth of women in math-intensive fields of science.”

After adding the usual caveats, Mr. Tierney asks:

But before we accept Congress’s proclamation of bias, before we start re-educating scientists at workshops, it’s worth taking a hard look at the evidence of bias against female scientists. That will be the subject of another column.

The answer, sadly, is: No. You see, Mr. Tierney, feminists and multiculturalists and liberals in general don't want to see the evidence, because their theories are based on intentions, not facts. So they won't even look. And since they scream the loudest, politicians will give more credence to their opinions and factual data every day of the year.

So, there will be more workshops. Endless, meaningless workshops filled with useless drivel, as the country rapidly slides into bankruptcy.


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