Home » Intelligent Design » Political correctness alert: Non-Darwinist philosopher doubts equality of women

Political correctness alert: Non-Darwinist philosopher doubts equality of women

John Davison of our list was referred to by one of our authors as “incorrigible” (so much so that the author hastened to print his views! – a good sign).

Well, here’s another one for you.

Agnostic Australian philosopher David Stove, not content to take on Darwin, apparently had the intellectual courage, as a friend puts it, to challenge the current bloviating about the “intellectual equality of men and women”.

Questioning that politically correct tenet as it applies to the sciences cost Harvard honcho Larry Summers his job.

Stove analyzes the case for the intellectual equality of men and women in the same slow, careful way that he analyzes the case for neo-Darwinism, and dismisses it – at least so far as human beings are concerned – because the actual evidence does not support it.

That is, men have consistently outperformed women in intellectual feats over history, and Stove doubts that that can be explained merely by pointing out that women have been oppressed through the ages:

What would convince me of the equal intellectual capacity of men and women is, simply, the kind of evidence which, as things are, convinces me of the opposite: that is, equal intellectual performance, over a long time, and in the widest variety of circumstances.

He argues that, as the burden of childrearing has fallen disproportionately to women and that childrearing does not require much intelligence, therefore women did not need to be as intelligent as men, and hence were not.

Now, I am not politically correct myself, so I am not just going to just threaten to be sick, as one of Summers’ other female opponents did. I indeed have a cat in the fight, but I do not have a weak stomach.

I would say a couple of things against his thesis, however, and I do say them at the Post-Darwinist, which provides a link to his paper.

I am breaking this story at the Post-Darwinist and linking here now so that PC Darwinists can freak about something they discovered for themselves instead of using this paper to undermine Stove’s powerful critique

 of neo-Darwinism.

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12 Responses to Political correctness alert: Non-Darwinist philosopher doubts equality of women

  1. “He argues that, as the burden of childrearing has fallen disproportionately to women and that childrearing does not require much intelligence, therefore women did not need to be as intelligent as men, and hence were not.”

    Isn’t that Darwinian logic to begin with? And I would like to know how that works genetically? Are the genes for intelligence found on the X and Y chromosomes? I don’t think so.

  2. I do not think you can say with any certainty what the truth on this matter is. I have no particular reason to believe that men are more intelligent than women. On the other hand, I can’t say twithout a doubt that we are equally intelligent. I would just caution anybody that may come across a study purporting to show superior intelligence of either sex. You need to very carefully analyze the methodology of any such study. The whole concept strikes me as rather similar as attempts to show intellectual superiority among the races. Efforts spanning well over one hundred years all showed those of European descent to have superior intelligence on average. These efforts were an excellent example of what Shermer referrers to as “confirmation bias” (I know most don’t care for him and with good reason but that does not affect the validity of the notion). The researchers in each case, either through their methodology, had skewed the experiment towards their preconceived notions. This was almost always a subconcious mistake and not a malevolent attempt to manipulate the data. It was often the researcher’s proteges that originally shared the same preconceived ideas but happenned upon the flaws in methodology and were forced to reevaluate the original findings. In every case the studies were eventually debunked.

    Basically since there definitely have been serious social barriers for women’s advancement in society until very recently and there is nothing but conjectural evidence for men’s superior intelligence, I see absolutely no reason to go around saying men are smarter than women.

  3. the real bias to be concerned with on something like this is, in my opinion, a bias about the very definition of intelligence. How we define intelligence and set about measuring it is a very good indicator of what qualities we value, and little else. The female brain is wired differently, and has different capacities than the male brain (and I don’t mean ‘differently’ in the way that people use it regarding the handicapped: ‘differently abled’) The problem is, these capacities are not particularly valued by the society and therefore are not even measured for in standard intelligence tests. This has nothing to do with some lofty objective meaning of intellectual power, and everything to do with bias. In my opinion.

  4. The best thing to do is to look at results, not gender.

    Deborah and Margaret Thatcher were great leaders. Joan of Arc was a great general. If one says men always do better/are smarter than women, one is a fool.

  5. Tribune 7 wrote:

    - 0 -
    The best thing to do is to look at results, not gender.

    Deborah and Margaret Thatcher were great leaders. Joan of Arc was a great general. If one says men always do better/are smarter than women, one is a fool.
    - 0 -

    That’s precisely what Stove did. He looked at the results and did not deny that there were exceptions. You might find it of interest to read his essay.

  6. I think there is more than just the difference in spread around the mean, at least (from my educational & professional experiences) in mathematics, theoretical physics, mechanical aptitude and computer programming. Women seem to lack single-mindedness and thrill in dwelling in and exploring the non-verbal high abstraction realms. Having participated in math & physics Olympiads through high school, then spending about eight years in college & grad school (theoretical physics), and since then working in industry in R&D (combinatorics, optimization, algorithm design), I have met very few girls or woman and the few that were in these fields (I married one in physics grad school) lacked the depth of interest and understaning. The male and female brains seem to be differently wired and running very different programs in these fields. A recent article in arXiv points to the nature of differences that I observed:

    N. Goldenfeld et al.
    “Cognitive styles sex the brain, compete neurally, and quantify deficits in autism”
    q-bio.NC/0412002 http://arxiv.org/abs/q-bio.NC/0412002

    — Abstract —

    Two key dimensions of the mind are understanding and responding to
    another’s mental state (empathizing), and analysing lawful behaviour

    Methods: Two questionnaires, the Systemizing Quotient (SQ) and the
    Empathy Quotient (EQ), were administered to a normal control group
    and a group of individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS) or High-Functioning
    Autism (HFA). The multivariate correlations of the joint scores were
    analysed using principal components analysis.

    Results: The principal components were well-approximated by the sums
    and differences of the SQ and EQ scores. The differences in the scores
    corresponded to sex differences within the control group and also
    separated out the AS/HFA group, which showed stronger systemizing than
    the control group, but below-average empathy. The sums of the scores
    did not show sex differences, but did distinguish the AS/HFA group.

    Conclusions: These tests reliably sex the brain, and their correlations
    show that empathizing and systemizing are not independent, but compete
    neurally. Their combined score (EQ + SQ) quantifies the deficit in
    autism spectrum conditions.

    — end of abstract —

    Another article which also resonated with my experiences is about
    the work of Patricia Hausman (Fielding Institute, PhD thesis
    “On the Rarity of Mathematically and Mechanically Gifted Females.”

    — Quote ( http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/sm_pheve.html )

    Hausman did a “life history” analysis of two sample groups of females taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This is the mother lode of American sociological data: Some 12,000 young people aged 14-22 in 1979 were given aptitude tests, interviewed extensively and subsequently followed throughout their lives. Hausman picked out two sample groups. One – High Math, High Mechanical, or “HMHM” females – performed in the top tenth in math and mechanical aptitude tests. Group Two was a “control” set of females in the top 25 percent of general ability. Hausman explored the idea that HMHM females were in some ways biologically different from most women, with higher testosterone-to-estrogen ratios.

    Such an idea is suggested by the gap between the mathematical and spatial reasoning abilities of boys and girls (well known to both teachers and cognitive psychologists), which is not readily apparent during childhood but begins to display itself around the onset of puberty. While it is commonly asserted that societal cultural conditioning bears the “blame” for this disparity, Hausman believes hormones are the cause. Her study explored whether the HMHM girls would prove to be taller, thinner, have a later onset of menstruation. They did.

    What Hausman didn’t anticipate was the emergence of a striking finding: that the HMHM women had much higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirths than the controls. Between the ages of 19 and 27, 47 percent of those who had been pregnant reported miscarriages or stillbirths, versus 8 percent in the control group. This was astonishing for a cohort that had such high intelligence and reported none of the common risk factors for losing a pregnancy.

    — End quote —

    There is also an interesting, statistically oriented article on this
    taboo topic by “La Griffe du Lion” (which also discusses Summers affair):


  7. Mr. Darwin weighs in:

    Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness; and this holds good even with savages… Woman, owing to her maternal instincts, displays these qualities toward her infants in an eminent degree; therefore, it is likely that she would often extend them toward her fellow creatures. Man is the rival of other men; he delights in competition, and this leads to ambition which passes too easily into selfishness. These latter qualities seem to be his natural and unfortunate birthright. It is generally admitted that with woman the powers of intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly marked than in men; but some, at least, of these faculties are characteristic of the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilisation.

    The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman — whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two list were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive of both composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half a dozen names under each subject, the two lists would bear no comparison.

    [These faculties] will have been developed in man, partly through sexual selection — that is through the contest of rival males, and partly through natural selection — that is, from success in the general struggle for life… Thus man has ultimately become superior to woman. It is, indeed, fortunate that the law of equal transmission of characters to both sexes prevails with mammals; otherwise it is probable that man would have become as superior in mental endowment to woman, as the peacock is in ornamental plumage to the peahen.

    – Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871).

  8. Denyse

    OK, I’ve read it. The only real use I see for this article is as a counter-balance to enforced equality and claims of interchangable gender roles — which granted is something that is needed — but saying that “the intellectual capacity of women is on the whole inferior to that of men” is unnecessarily polemic and, considering there is over 5 billion people in which tens of millions of women are smarter than tens of millions of men, could create an incorrect understanding of reality, especially among the dumber men such as those at PT.

    A better principle would be to encourage true freedom of choice, which is much different that what occurs today namely persuading young girls to make long committments to things they may not really want to do (hard sciences, engineering) often at the expense of young boys.

    Also, Stove is quite wrong when he says “that Christianity does not have the capacity, which it claims to have, to satisfy indeflinitely the religious aspiration of all human beings”. Christianity makes no such claim. In fact, Jesus says most will reject him.

  9. thanks, Darwin. You made my point. What if “greater tenderness and less selfishness” coupled with “the powers of intuition, of rapid perception…” were more highly valued by our society than the intellectual feats of men? What if a Lamarckian mechanism is at work, and the entire human race, lead by the superior traits of women, gradually became more and more “sympathetic”, less selfish, more rapid of perception, etc.? It might be an improvement…

  10. Jehu asks:
    “Isn’t that Darwinian logic to begin with? And I would like to know how that works genetically? Are the genes for intelligence found on the X and Y chromosomes?”

    There is a lot going on between genome and intelligence. One big difference is the sex hormones. They can differentially regulate neuronal development in the embryo and newborn, and in the adult they can influence behavior. We all know from the steroid doping affairs that testosterone makes an idividual, male or female, more aggressive.

    This does not mean that I am subscribing to the notion that the two sexes differ in their intelligence, except perhaps in testosterone shaping the lower branch of the bell curve as outlined by Denyse in the Post-Darwinist.

  11. Since I can’t see any reason that I have suddenly been added to a moderation list I presume that I made some error in submitting my last comment, and so will try again.
    If my comment was rejected for some reason forgive this second posting of it.

    Speaking of the bell curve, here is the co-author of The Bell Curve, Charles Murray on the subject of gender differences.

    The Inequality Taboo

    While the paper is full of evidence regarding group differences the main point is more about the taboo against discussing (or even acknowledging) those differences. This is especially what I want to highlight here.

    The Lawrence Summers affair last January made me rethink my silence. The president of Harvard University offered a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics, and was treated by Harvard’s faculty as if he were a crank. The typical news story portrayed the idea of innate sex differences as a renegade position that reputable scholars rejected.

    It was depressingly familiar. In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as The Bell Curve ‘s scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience. At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience.

    The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media’s fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public’s misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

    The points above remind me of the reactions we’ve seen to ID and its proponents – ostracism, loss of income/career opportunity, accusations of crankery and pseudoscience, disinformation, etc.

    But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

    One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups.

    Elites throughout the West are living a lie, basing the futures of their societies on the assumption that all groups of people are equal in all respects. Lie is a strong word, but justified.

    We enable ourselves to continue to live the lie by establishing a taboo against discussion of group differences.

    The taboo arises from an admirable idealism about human equality. If it did no harm, or if the harm it did were minor, there would be no need to write about it. But taboos have consequences.

    It would be helpful to know the answers, but we will not so long as the taboo against talking about group difference prevails.

    How much damage has the taboo done to the education of children? Christina Hoff Sommers has argued that willed blindness to the different developmental patterns of boys and girls has led many educators to see boys as aberrational and girls as the norm, with pervasive damage to the way our elementary and secondary schools are run.[78] Is she right?

    Talking about group differences does not require any of us to change our politics.

    [81] But if we do not need to change our politics, talking about group differences obligates all of us to renew our commitment to the ideal of equality that Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote as a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. Steven Pinker put that ideal in today’s language in The Blank Slate, writing that “Equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchangeable; it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group.”[82] …
    The intentions of their designers notwithstanding, today’s policies are perfectly fashioned to create separation, condescension, and resentment–and so they have done.

    Murray can be summed up here:

    The differences I discuss involve means and distributions. In all cases, the variation within groups is greater than the variation between groups. On psychological and cognitive dimensions, some members of both sexes and all races fall everywhere along the range. One implication of this is that genius does not come in one color or sex, and neither does any other human ability. Another is that a few minutes of conversation with individuals you meet will tell you much more about them than their group membership does.

    My favourite line from the essay was this:

    But this is just one more of the ways in which science is demonstrating that men and women are really and truly different, a fact so obvious that only intellectuals could ever have thought otherwise.

  12. Considering all the disparaging, condescending comments Darwin himself made about women (have another read of his Descent of Man), I’m a bit surprised that Davison’s ideas aren’t a bit more prevalent among the NDE crowd.

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