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Margaret McGhee
March 31st, 2006, 03:50 PM
Larry Summers listed three possible reasons why women don't reach the top positions in science:

a) Fewer women than men are willing to put in those eighty-hour weeks in order to get ahead.

b) Less variability in range of IQ spread means fewer women of exceptionally high cognitive ability in the pool.

c) Unintentional bias in promotion

For the record, I think Summers told the truth and lost his position for politics. I feel bad for what happened to him.

But, I'd like to focus on the first of those reasons he stated, agree with it and suggest a theory for why it may be true and the most significant of the three - why fewer women than men may be willing to give up so much of their personal lives with their familes for money and fame.

It has to do with sexual selection - a favorite topic of Evolutionary Biologists. It also relates back to something I mentioned yesterday - the tendency of some men to confuse social exaltation with worth. Here's how I think this all works.

At around the age of puberty our disposition to adopt sexual selection behavior kicks into gear and will remain a large part of our motivation throughout our lives. There is no gene for boys to have cool cars or for girls to wear lipstick. Instead, the task of our genes is to assure that we are highly motivated to engage in whatever sexual selection behavior we are provided by our culture.

Gratuitous comment removed from here.

We don't have much choice but to spend countless hours and much personal energy in our lives expressing those behaviors that we have attached. Even if we don't like cars or lipstick, if we don't go along we greatly reduce our chances for mating success - so we learn to like those things. This fact has not been lost on companies that want to market their goods and services. By expertly shaping our environment (with advanced marketing techniques) they can use our powerful sexual selection drive to make billions.

I remember an intro marketing course I took in the mid-sixties that blew my mind. They were just starting then to realize the power of psychology and marketing. From the time I was young the power and effectiveness of marketers to attach their products to our sex drive has increased by orders of magnitude.

In the process, we have become parasitized and the successful parasite - corporatism, has grown many times over. The number of material things a person needs to own these days, and the amount of income they must generate to get them and maintain their position in the middle class, is many times greater than when I was a child.

Men have a strong inherent disposition for active competition. Although women can be pretty competitive, female competition is usually more passive. Whatever the reasons, men have proven very willing to devote more and more of their lives to increase their buying power. The most competitive men now willingly give their whole lives over only to activities that increase their earning power or their status in the work environment.

Perhaps, this is all for the best. Millions of wealthy Americans now have wide-screen plazma TV's, multiple cars and a motorhome in the driveway of their McMansions - and the two wage-earner incomes to buy them.

But, I see a more insidious effect than the broken homes that are so often left in the wake - a withering cynicism that degrades much of our public and personal lives. When I was a little girl our movie heroes were brave fighters like the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, Penny (on Sky King) or Wonder Woman. They always did the right things for the right reasons. The message was unmistakable; the bad guys were crooks and bullies who took advantage of the powerless. The good guys, our heroes, were there to protect us - and they did that starting every weekday evening at 5:00 on the radio.

I must wonder what message kids get these days when the news is all about lying politicians and mega scandals. Every evening they watch the progress in our latest war of choice - just like my generation listened in to the Lone Ranger.

Forty years ago we had no doubt that policemen were our friends. Police today are commonly in the news for clubbing or sodomizing shackled prisoners and for using tasers on political protesters. Our military now tortures POWs and unashamedly kills civilians. Our sports heroes use enhancement drugs and are indicted for gambling on the games they play.

Granted that there were always some over-ambitious cheaters in the past - but they were the exceptions - and they were disgraced and despised by society. But even then, the ones who were most willing to violate the rules to get the wealth that corporate America said was so important to their sexual esteem - were men.

I am sad that things have changed so much and that our lives have become so unfulfilling. I can blame clever marketing to the male competitive spirit over the last forty years for these changes. I can also blame the men who seem so willing to chase their fame and fortune to the bitter end - even if they have to give up the time more properly spent with their wives and children to get it. And maybe I can also blame the women who admire and marry men who are so committed to chasing those material rewards. I could say that we are all at fault for allowing our values to be so easily sold for such a cheap price.

But then, some would say that we never had those values. Perhaps this is what happens - when a culture that fetishises male competition and sees unrestrained capitalism and winning at any cost as a basic moral good - finally develops the tools to carry those values to their ultimate conclusion.

Larry Summers was right. Many more men than women are willing to put in those eighty-hour weeks. Unlike James Brody, I'd say this is not a sign of exceptional male dedication or brilliance.

Margaret

Margaret McGhee
April 1st, 2006, 10:31 AM
Re-reading the above post this morning this Note jumped out at me as being gratuitous - as in unnecessary to my argument. So I removed it.

But I'll repeat it here . . Note that I believe this is the missing link in explanations of human behavior, not emergent networks. i.e. Genetics gives us the same kinds of motivations and dispositions that other mammals are born with. Unlike other mammals whose behavior repertoires are mostly instinctive, we get ours from our cultures through some attachment process. Understand that attachment process whereby we develop "beliefs" about appropriate behavior - and human behavior becomes comprehensible. Meanwhile, Evolutionary Psychologists futily search along the strands of our human DNA for justifications for whatever behavior they've been made to feel guilty about - as belied by their consuming distaste for the politically correct.

. . because it is relevant to the anger that is often expressed in this forum - and I think it deserves an airing. That last sentence in the Note belies a growing (but not solidified) belief on my part that EP is a branch of psychology the purpose of which is to scientifically justify the beliefs af angry white males. I didn't believe this at first. I read The Moral Animal and several other books that discussed human nature in terms of hereditary influence on behavior. I got from those that these speculations were not actual determinants of behavior as much as dispositions that may influence us - in complicated ways along with our environnment. It first seemed that EP was an attempt to add the long missing genetic component to the discussion that was now supported by better evidence - and old hippies like me love revolutions. But, after being in this forum for a while and reading more about EP from both sides I see someting different.

I'm still not sure if my view is correct because a lot of what I read is ideology hidden in scientific terms - from both sides. But now it seems to me that there are EPists who hold an open mind and are looking for clues in an area of science where the physical reality is being peeled back by neuro-biology. That part of EP is sure to yield many interesting clues about human nature and behavior in the years ahead. IMO these folks are correct in suggesting that postmodernism has influenced the study of human behavior and pushed it too far in the nurture direction for unscientific reasons.

But, it also seems that there is a strong ideological movement within EP that seems unduly focussed on scientifically justifying genetic differences between human sub-groups as determinants of behavior and accomplishment. This ideology seems especially strong when those differences can be used to show the superiority of white European males. Based on many statements by the moderatior of this group and the consistent focus of thread topics he intitiates, it appears to me that this forum is a locus of such sentiments.

So why am here? Is it to expose the hypocracy that I supposedly see and be a warrior for the forces of post-modernism? No, I'm drawn to this site in order to test my pov - and his. I'm sure there are other forums where everyone believes much as I do about these things. But I would not learn much from those people. In the weeks I have been here I have already read several books and papers that I never would have known about otherwise.

I'll admit that I occasionally get carried away with my own bias and I make statements that are unnecessary - like the one above. But I try to correct that when that happens. Even though I don't want to believe that JimB is right about human behavior and innate ability and I am wrong - I accept the fact that it could go either way. Whatever science is able to verify in this area - like most other areas - it probably will come down to some combination of the two views (and probably some totally new stuff) and both sides will need to adjust.

But, science is a long way from deciding the issue and it's really fun to participate in a discussion about this with intelligent people - even more so when I disagree with them. Even if, when I'm writing I sometimes get carried away with the disagreement part. :rolleyes:

Like I said before - I think it's OK to have an ideological bias as long as we're up front about it and make amends when we allow it to enter into the discussion in a negative way. That's why this post.

Margaret

Margaret McGhee
May 6th, 2006, 10:37 AM
I just read an article in the Slate archives that changes my opinion somewhat about my previous qualified exoneration of Larry Summers in the post above.

I think I have failed to notice that Slate articles these days seem to be pretty well written. I had come to see Slate in the past as a liberal leaning website trying to find an authentic voice. But this kind of writing could inspire a change in opinion. Perhaps it's the change in ownership. (Bill Gates to WaPo?)

Anyway, it's at Don't Let Summers Off the Hook (http://www.slate.com/id/2112799/)


Another well written Meghan O'Rourke article from the Slate archives that hits squarely in the EP bullseye is Desperate Feminist Wives (http://www.slate.com/id/2137537/).

Margaret

Carey N
May 7th, 2006, 11:58 AM
At around the age of puberty our disposition to adopt sexual selection behavior kicks into gear and will remain a large part of our motivation throughout our lives.
There is such a thing as "sexually selected behavior", but not "sexual selection behavior", the latter of which is akin to writing: "that vine lizard's gentle waving motion is a natural selection behavior". I know this point seems pedantic, but to me, your improper structural use of "sexual selection" indicates that you've probably taken a cursory knowledge of this subject and applied it to a pre-existing conviction.


Men have a strong inherent disposition for active competition. Although women can be pretty competitive, female competition is usually more passive. Whatever the reasons, men have proven very willing to devote more and more of their lives to increase their buying power. The most competitive men now willingly give their whole lives over only to activities that increase their earning power or their status in the work environment.
I would agree that men tend to be more inclined toward competitive games, which provide a medium for overtly signalling their physical or intellectual vigor (that's how they earn reproductive opportunities). But your comment about passive female aggression seems odd to me - yes, in my experience, women are slightly less obsessed with aggressive sports, but they are incredibly more viscious and brutal when it comes to social competition . . . to the point where it becomes warfare. The "competitive spirit" is very much present in women, just as it is within every living thing, but it is manifested differently.


I can blame clever marketing to the male competitive spirit over the last forty years for these changes. I can also blame the men . . . blah blah blah
What about marketing to womens' insatiable desire to know about what all the celebrities were wearing yesterday? What about all the millions of tonnes of vacuous Vogue magazines that women consume instead of going outside and doing something interesting [added for clarity: men also waste their time with unnecessary products instead of going outside and doing something interesting]? How does it feel to read a sweeping generalization that blindly dismisses the other side of the coin? Also, how do you justify ignoring the other two points made by Summers (innate differences, and employment bias)? Or is it just that you don't want him to be right on those two counts . . .


Lastly, you may enjoy this book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520246799/sr=8-1/qid=1147020003/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-4429271-4476022?%5Fencoding=UTF8)

Margaret McGhee
May 7th, 2006, 01:56 PM
Carey said, There is such a thing as "sexually selected behavior", but not "sexual selection behavior", You are right. Bad choice of words on my part. That does reveal my lack of formal education on these topics. However, when you say, I know this point seems pedantic, but to me, your improper structural use of "sexual selection" indicates that you've probably taken a cursory knowledge of this subject and applied it to a pre-existing conviction. If you are seeking emotional satisfaction because you sense that I have violated your ideology then insults are a fast way to get there. Much easier than actually showing some error in reasoning (based on the more accurate terms that you provided) - which I notice that you did not do.

I did take the (correct) meaning of those words however, and use them to help make my point. That's called an essay. ;)

You said, . . yes, in my experience, women are slightly less obsessed with aggressive sports, but they are incredibly more viscious and brutal when it comes to social competition

I acknowledged women's competitiveness. But look at western society. Where do women compete institutionally anywhere nearly as much as men do? Even absurd female competition like the Miss Whatever Pageants are organized by males and used to market the products of predominantly male owned companies.

Do girls gather together after school in sandlots to organize bathing suit competitions among themselves? My point was that male competitive emotions are generally far more arousable than females' - and that this has been used to drive a marketing oriented society that is debasing our lives.

Females do compete to attract men but in a fundamentally different way than men do to attract women. Passive usually, but crossing the line cautiously into active competition at times. Cautiously, because to be caught at it is a tacit admission that you are not attractive enough without cheating a bit. Men are rewarded by society for how brazenly they actively compete for women - and are considered wimps when they do it passively. There seems to be valid EP pathways for this difference in behavior.

Your last para reveals some strong emotions on this topic as well as some obvious misogyny.

Addressing a non-emotional point you made, you said, Also, how do you justify ignoring the other two points made by Summers (innate differences, and employment bias)? Or is it just that you don't want him to be right on those two counts . . . If you read the post that I started this thread with (the one you responded to) I started off by both acknowledging those points and agreeing with them - but said I wanted to focus on the question of why Fewer women than men are willing to put in those eighty-hour weeks in order to get ahead. Even here I was not disagreeing with Summers. I was offering an explanation for it.

The male competitive drive is the source of almost all the acrimony in these discussions. I think in this case your need to be right about your ideological view of male competition and prove me wrong overpowers your intellect - otherwise you would have made some effort to understand my initial post. I'm guessing from your response you feel that competition should drive western society and be glorified and fetishised further. If I'm wrong then try explaining just what your ideology is - rather than mount a fight on its behalf surreptitiously.

It's OK to have an ideology if you're upfront about it. Ideologies can be perfectly valid. They can provide the strong emotions that are sometimes necessary for the behavior that the ideology requires - like when we needed to win WWII. It was useful, even necessary, to believe that the Germans and Japanese were power-hungry inhuman tyrants who were out to destroy everything that was decent in the world. That ideology helped us win.

The truth of course, is that they were just like us but their society was at a different place in the renaissance / reformation cycle. They had taken male competiton to its inevitable conclusion in that cycle before us in this case. That's the point where competitive males start killing each other - an occurence well established throughout the human evolutionary record.

This thread was an attempt to be upfront about one of my ideologies. I welcome your rational criticism. If I seem overly dismissive, I hate being forced to compete when I don't choose to. I enjoy discussiing ideas. I don't enjoy trying to prove I'm right and you are wrong - or vice versa - or that I am smart and you are not, or that I know some scientific terms that you don't, etc.

PS - Evolution's Rainbow has been on my shelf for some time now. It's one of my favorites. Thanks

Margaret

Carey N
May 7th, 2006, 03:32 PM
Much easier than actually showing some error in reasoning (based on the more accurate terms that you provided) - which I notice that you did not do.
I agreed with your point that male behavior is sexually selected . . . i.e. that men are strongly inclined to take opportunities to show off in one way or another for the sake of attracting mates. Using this plain fact to make an ethical point that the degradation of modern society is the fault of men, on the other hand, is not appropriate . . . hence the rest of my response.


Females do compete to attract men but in a fundamentally different way than men do to attract women. Passive usually, but crossing the line cautiously into active competition at times.
Yes, but you must admit that an equal proportion of the marketing that currently degrades our society is targeted at women . . . perfume, clothes, bags, etc. Thus, females' interests have driven this debasement just as much as males'. Ironically I think I'm the feminist here, for I consider men and women as ethically equal - both deserving the same rights and privileges - and both responsible for the foibles of modern society. You, on the other hand, seem quite clearly to be a misandrist.


I think in this case your need to be right about your ideological view of male competition and prove me wrong overpowers your intellect - otherwise you would have made some effort to understand my initial post. I'm guessing from your response you feel that competition should drive western society and be glorified and fetishised further. If I'm wrong then try explaining just what your ideology is - rather than mount a fight on its behalf surreptitiously.
I find it interesting that you are willing to insult my intelligence, while I have only criticized your argument for its bias. First: I am just as viscerally disgusted with modern society as you. Second: my comment regarding Vogue magazines was meant to illustrate (in conjunction with your point that men obsess over competition) that both men and women have sensory biases, that both men and women do dumb things, and that both men and women are driving forces for the current competitive marketing culture that dominates the West. I also explicitly said that my comment about women and magazines was a sweeping generalization, in an attempt to show you what it's like to read that kind of statement (unpleasant, isn't it?). You didn't address this in your response, however.


If you read the post that I started this thread with (the one you responded to) I started off by both acknowledging those points and agreeing with them - but said I wanted to focus on the question of why Fewer women than men are willing to put in those eighty-hour weeks in order to get ahead. Even here I was not disagreeing with Summers. I was offering an explanation for it.
Actually, I did read your first post pretty carefully, and it seems fairly clear that in only addressing the differential willingness of men and women to invest long hours, you were trying to invalidate the other two (but one in particular) points that Summers made about differences in male/female presence in the academic community. I think the point you make about males' willingness to compete is a good one, but at the end of the post you imply that your argument has demonstrated that innate differences in mathematical ability are no longer part of the explanation, when in fact they may well be. In that sense, you dismissed Summer's point (the one that drove everyone nuts).

Regarding my ideology - my only interest in these last two posts is to make you see the rather strong bias in your own thought process, and encourage you to confront it. However, I seem to have failed pretty badly.

Margaret McGhee
May 7th, 2006, 05:54 PM
When you start a post with . . . There is such a thing as "sexually selected behavior", but not "sexual selection behavior", the latter of which is akin to writing: "that vine lizard's gentle waving motion is a natural selection behavior". I know this point seems pedantic, but to me, your improper structural use of "sexual selection" indicates that you've probably taken a cursory knowledge of this subject and applied it to a pre-existing conviction. . . . a snarky criticism of my use of terms rather than addressing my meaning - then that kind of sets the tone for the rest of the post.

I didn't mean "sexually selected behavior". I meant behavior that makes one sexually attractive, like becoming a rock star, for example. "Sexual selection behavior" may not be the right technical term but I think it was close enough to convey my meaning.

I suggest we start over - as I don't see much value in going back over that spoiled ground.

It's not that important to me whether men or women are more susceptible to competition frenzy. I didn't need to make that point so strongly, perhaps. It was a rant and admittedly not well thought out.

What is important to me is that our whole economy has become completely dependent upon using that reliably strong and easily incited emotion to make us buy their products. The continuous exposure to billions of dollars worth of advertising that uses powerful psychological messages encourages blind and senseless competiton in all things it seems. If doing something doesn't give us the opportunity to (buy products) to appear to be better than someone else, then it has little value in our minds. This perverse value system is what we teach our children. And it is the reason that many of them will lead unhappy lives - chasing the dragon of material wealth but never really catching it.

One example is the wildly popular TV show "American Idol". I may be wrong but I assume you are a Brit. The British Isles have one of the most glorious personal music traditions. It was not so long ago that most people in both of our countries at least sang. Many played an instrument or did both. It was part of life and still is in Ireland, at least.

In the best of worlds music should be for doing - not just for watching incredibly talented and rich professionals do it to you. This insipid TV show perpetuates the view that only the most talented should ever try to sing or play music in front of others, otherwise society would be right in ridiculing and degrading you mercilessly.

That's the draw of that show BTW. Most people fear that they would be terrible at it so when some really good singer gets insulted and ridiculed in front of millions - viewers get that vicarious thrill as in watching a public hanging. Instead, we're encouraged to safely experience music second-hand by purchasing it from large corporations. I had a chance to see the show for the first (and last) time a week ago. My son's wife loves it :rolleyes: Check this out American Idol TV Show (http://www.variety.com/VR1117942693.html)

I find that whole thing maddening and debasing, but worse, I suspect that the mindset behind such senseless competition - when it so completely pervades a culture - can ultimately lead to wars of imperialism like the one our respective nations are currently engaged in. But domestically, when only the best of the best are worthy - then the other 99 percent have plenty of reasons to feel like crap basically, and in need of various commercial products to correct that condition. And I'm sure women are just as susceptible as men to this.

I'm not sure it's really worth debating this. I'm sure I can not provide much validation. You can think of it as my own unsupported and possibly flawed ideology. </rant>

Margaret

Margaret McGhee
May 7th, 2006, 07:35 PM
In my last post I said, You can think of it as my own unsupported and possibly flawed ideology.

I should have said probably flawed ideology - based on my observation that most ideology is flawed. If an idea is objectively valid it won't need strong emotions to remain in circulation - a sort of memetic proof.

However, I do have a deep understanding of neural science. It is all based on Norm's Buffalo Theory and sound evolutionary principles. In case you haven't heard of Norm's Buffalo Theory it goes like this:

A buffalo herd only moves as fast as the slowest buffalo. So those are the buffaloes that get picked off by wolves and mountaion lions and other predators. Of course, this is good for the buffalo herd which continuously improves their speed and fitness - by contunuously trimming off the bottom of the bell curve.

It is also well known that alcohol destroys brain cells - and that a brain can only think as fast as the slowest brain cells in it. Therefore, consuming alcohol is good for the brain as the slowest brain cells will get destroyed selectively, before the faster healthier cells - thereby improving brain performance overall for the consumer.

And that's why one always feels quite as bit smarter after consuming several beers.

Norm was the mailman on Cheers. ;)

Margaret

Carey N
May 7th, 2006, 08:43 PM
Dear Margaret,

Yes, my opening comment was not well-advised (I admitted that it was pedantic), but I don't like it when people attempt to forward an idea about subject matter A by associating it with a well-established and well-researched subject matter B which is tangentially related. Yes, males are obsessed with competition and showing off . . . and their behavior in that respect is a result of sexual selection, as you noted . . . but that doesn't support the notion that society's problems are due to male infatuation with competition. In fact, society's problems are due to a multitude of factors, for which both men and women are responsible. That is my opinion, yes, but I think an honest exploration of the facts would suggest that this view is quite a bit more fair.


I suggest we start over - as I don't see much value in going back over that spoiled ground.
Cool


What is important to me is that our whole economy has become completely dependent upon using that reliably strong and easily incited emotion to make us buy their products. The continuous exposure to billions of dollars worth of advertising that uses powerful psychological messages encourages blind and senseless competiton in all things it seems. If doing something doesn't give us the opportunity to (buy products) to appear to be better than someone else, then it has little value in our minds. This perverse value system is what we teach our children. And it is the reason that many of them will lead unhappy lives - chasing the dragon of material wealth but never really catching it.
I'm pretty much on board with you here . . . but I really didn't like your implication that it's the fault of men that our current cultural situation is in the dumps. It's everyone's fault. I hate it, too, but I think we all created it - men and women alike - and we all have to live with it (and try to fix it), rather than pointing fingers. You can understand my nasty reaction to your initial post . . . it was a bit offensive to the guys. I can't help but notice that you've eased off your stance that male competition-seaking (alone) drives this problem . . . maybe my thoughts have had an impression?


I may be wrong but I assume you are a Brit. The British Isles have one of the most glorious personal music traditions. It was not so long ago that most people in both of our countries at least sang.
I'm from New York and very much American, but I go to school in the UK, and after several years of exposure to their spelling system, I sometimes forget that behaviour shouldn't really have a "u". So, your assumption makes plenty of sense. I actually know relatively little about British traditions, except drinking (hahaha). I also know that if someone offers you a "meat pie", the best response is "no" (there's a reason why they don't further specify "meat"). The Brits are brilliant scientists, but their cooking . . . well, it leaves one or two things to be desired.


That's the draw of that show BTW. Most people fear that they would be terrible at it so when some really good singer gets insulted and ridiculed in front of millions - viewers get that vicarious thrill as in watching a public hanging. Instead, we're encouraged to safely experience music second-hand by purchasing it from large corporations.
I think this it the key to the whole issue: most people find themselves easily addicted to social extremes of rejection or exaltation. If the decay of modern culture can be pinned on one thing, it's probably televsion, which provides a medium through which our greatest sensory biases - those for vicarious living and escape from the mundane - can be readily exploited. This is an interesting (and depressing) phenomenon, from many perspectives (though perhaps slightly divergent from Evol Psych). It is also why the marketing culture can thrive . . . and why it didn't flourish so drastically until the mid-20th century.

In an airport I once saw the head judge guy on American Idol, walking into the first-class lounge like he owned the place. If it weren't for the legal consequences, I'd have gone up and kicked him right in the nuts.


You can think of it as my own unsupported and possibly flawed ideology
Well . . . your ideology seems to have dramatically changed since the first post, in which men were the villains of our current social downfall. Now the villains are not one sex but the weaknesses that characterize men and women alike.

My understanding of the word "ideology" is thus: "a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture", from the Webster's Dictionary. I may well possess ideologies of which I am not aware, but the only one I know and love is that of scientific investigation. Now, I'm subject to bias just as much as the next person, but my goal is to reveal such thought asymmetries whenever possible. That is what I tried to do in this thread. I may just be patting myself on the back, but it seems like it worked a little bit.

Margaret McGhee
May 7th, 2006, 09:55 PM
Carey, you said, . . but that doesn't support the notion that society's problems are due to male infatuation with competition. In fact, society's problems are due to a multitude of factors, for which both men and women are responsible. That is my opinion, yes, but I think an honest exploration of the facts would suggest that this view is quite a bit more fair.

I agree. I was off base.

I use ideology a bit more pejoratively - as an idea that has emotional appeal rather than factual validity. You said, I may well possess ideologies of which I am not aware, but the only one I know and love is that of scientific investigation. That's the only one worth having in my opinion - the rest of mine are just rants.

You said, Now, I'm subject to bias just as much as the next person, but my goal is to reveal such thought asymmetries whenever possible. That is what I tried to do in this thread. I may just be patting myself on the back, but it seems like it worked a little bit.

My thought assymetries lie revealed and well shredded - good job. ;)

Margaret

Carey N
May 8th, 2006, 04:27 AM
That last sentence in the Note belies a growing (but not solidified) belief on my part that EP is a branch of psychology the purpose of which is to scientifically justify the beliefs af angry white males. I didn't believe this at first. I read The Moral Animal and several other books that discussed human nature in terms of hereditary influence on behavior.
I can understand your inclination to believe that some evolutionary psychologists are devoted to the white male supremacy idea, but I don't agree with it. Perhaps this is because I'm a white male of European descent, but I still think your worrying about a thread of racism and misogyny running through EP is unnecessary.

It may be worth noting that Leda Cosmides, one of several founding (and still very active) authors of evolutionary psychology, is a woman. (here's their book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195101073/sr=8-1/qid=1147075662/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-4429271-4476022?%5Fencoding=UTF8))


. . . it also seems that there is a strong ideological movement within EP that seems unduly focussed on scientifically justifying genetic differences between human sub-groups as determinants of behavior and accomplishment. This ideology seems especially strong when those differences can be used to show the superiority of white European males. Based on many statements by the moderatior of this group and the consistent focus of thread topics he intitiates, it appears to me that this forum is a locus of such sentiments.
I don't think most people focus on identifying genetic differences between sub-groups . . . at least not with respect to sensitive subjects like intelligence. Evol Psych primarily aims to test evolutionary hypotheses about human brains and behavior - e.g. the prediction that humans have specialized, highly developed processing centers for dealing with social interaction. In effect, Evol Psych usually examines the features that all humans have in common. I believe JB considers this to be a weakness of the field, and has pointed out to us that systematic differences may also be important for our consideration.

To that end, JB has described research that infers a distinction between ethnic sub-groups. But he has never, ever used such posts to claim that white males are better than everyone else (in fact, if I recall, the typical finding is that people of Asian descent tend to perform best on whatever tests are used to quantify intelligence, perhaps slightly behind Ashkenazi jews). None of these results imply anything about superiority or inferiority . . . just difference. And the point is important for Evol Psych, not because it promotes a KKK ideology (it doesn't, though racists and bigots may try to put that slant on it), but because such differences, if valid, may well be the result of phylogenetic history in divergent selective environments (i.e., the stuff of evolution by natural selection)

The most important message is that biological differences have nothing to do with ethics . . . to make that leap would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy. It's neither fair nor correct to infer from JB's posts about human differences that he's a pseudo-nazi. One must let go the present cultural extreme of political correctness; otherwise, it's pretty hard to think straight about the science of human beings.

Margaret McGhee
May 8th, 2006, 01:29 PM
Carey, Your post bravely addresses some important questions. I will reluctantly go out onto the ice to try to respond. Rather than go back into justfying previous positions and statements and questioning those of others here - as I prefer, I will try to clarify my present position on these things.

I grew up in the fifties in Texas where blacks were called niggers and Mexicans were called wetbacks by everyone I knew. I had no idea those were derogatory terms because I never heard them called anything else. My 8 yo brain registered the "Colored" and "White" signs on the drinking fountains in the dept. stores downtown and the "Coloreds Must Sit Behind This Sign" on the city buses - so I knew there was a more official way to label those people - while still putting them in their proper place in society. All of this never seemed quite right to me - I was a transplant from the north - but I was a kid and grownups always knew best.

I quickly learned to pick up the southern drawl and mannersisms so as not to get ridiculed or beaten up as a Damned Yankee by the other kids - as I frequently was at first. I eventually learned that the coloreds lived in a place called Niggertown. I went there once with my Dad to pick up our black maid and noticed the slummy neighborhood - dirt streets, wrecked cars all around, chickens on the porch. By High School guys with cars would joke about going down to Niggertown on Saturday nite to "bop some niggers" with a two by four out the window. I had my boss (after school job) tell me once that he knew a guy in Niggertown who would send his young daughter out to your car if you pulled up to his house with $5 in your hand.

I'm sure these were just the Southern version of urban myths, but looking back, I have to wonder what was actually in their minds for them to enjoy these stories so much as part of their culture. Now that I understand human nature a little better I realize that I was living in a "Bully Culture". One's worth in such a case is determined by how many people you can claim to crap on in life vs. the number who crap on you. Those stories and the terms one uses to describe others is how you advertise your place above others in that society. Skin color and the myths surrounding that marker were the perfect ideas to form your culture around. Even the poorest white would have plenty of people to crap on.

The term political correctness, is itself a framed political construct. It is usually used to denigrate a practice more properly termed, social politeness. It means something quite innocent. It means that if it is possible to act in a way that doesn't offend others, then that's a good way to act - in the sense of reducing overall social tensions and hatefulness in the society we inhabit. It's kind of like driving the speed-limit or not drinking and driving - other practices I find that those so infuriated by political correctness tend to despise - as somehow infringing on their human nature. The term political correctness is more properly used in a political context - as when considering laws that say our government should act in a way that doesn't offend its citizens, if possible.

In any case, I have to wonder why anyone would object to either version of that - and if they did, what their motives might be. You and others here have made negative comments about the idea of political correctness. When I hear someone complain or say something sarcastic about political correctness my bully radar starts beeping. If I suspect someone of being a bully you can believe that I will confront them - usually after giving them a chance to clarify their position.

Perhaps you can explain to me what these terms mean to JB (or you) and why I should not be concerned when my repeated gentle requests for clarification have been ridiculed as evidence of my liberal and socialistic tendencies.

Margaret

ToddStark
May 8th, 2006, 01:47 PM
Norm was the mailman on Cheers. ;)

I loved that show. I think Cliffie was the gregarious postal worker with more interests and good intentions than smarts ... and Norm was the wide-bodied accountant who always got the big salute when he entered.

T.

Margaret McGhee
May 8th, 2006, 01:57 PM
Oh yeah, you are right about Cliffie and Norm.

That was a cool show.

Margaret

Carey N
May 8th, 2006, 02:46 PM
[The phrase 'political correctness'] is usually used to denigrate [did you really mean to use this word?] a practice more properly termed, social politeness. It means something quite innocent. It means that if it is possible to act in a way that doesn't offend others, then that's a good way to act - in the sense of reducing overall social tensions and hatefulness in the society we inhabit.
I agree in principle with the notion of social politeness, but our current culture has taken it way too far . . . We now celebrate mediocrity everywhere, for fear of hurting peoples' feelings (By the way, a great film exploring this theme is "The Incredibles"). I strongly promote the ideal of social equality - everyone, regardless of race, sex, or religion, deserves the same civil rights and privileges. That is NOT the same thing as hiding information about human variation, just because it might make some people feel bad about themselves. Everyone has the same privileges, but it's okay to talk about individual differences in a rigorous manner (rather than one motivated by racism). Hence, my stress in the previous post that scientific research revealing systematic differences between people does not have any bearing on the ethics of society . . .

To state my overall point in (pseudo-)brief: the plain fact that humans vary widely in all kinds of abilities does not preclude the possibility of executing the ideal of equal civil rights for all. Most people assume that what is reflects what ought to be (the naturalistic fallacy), and think that any evidence revealing systematic differences automatically undermines the ideal of equal rights. That is nonsense. It may well be that racist bastards will try to justify their hatred with research demonstrating systematic differences, but does that mean we should stop investigating the way human variation is distributed, and all that it might tell us about our evolutionary history? I don't think so . . . the problem is not the biology, but the bigots. Perhaps one or two of the biologists are also bigots, but it's not fair to make that assumption, just because their research examines divergence between human sub-groups.

I dont see the connection between resenting extreme political correctness and condoning drunk drivers. DUI is a lot like taking a loaded gun, putting on a blindfold, walking out into the street, and shooting in random directions. Such behavior should yield prison sentences, without exception. I don't care if you're alcoholic and genetically susceptible to addiction - you killed someone's kid (or could have), so you go to jail for a long time.


my bully radar starts beeping
Please don't liken me to the racists of your childhood, to whom you also referred as bullies. That's below the belt.

Margaret McGhee
May 8th, 2006, 02:59 PM
Just a quick response to Please don't liken me to the racist idiots of your childhood, to whom you also referred as bullies. That's below the belt.

My purpose in my post was to explain why I have reason to be cautious. I wouldn't be discussing this with you in this way if I thought you were actually a racist idiot.

I need to think carefully about the rest of your post before responding. I know you will be quick to point out any thinking asymmetries in my reponse. ;)

Margaret

Carey N
May 8th, 2006, 03:02 PM
Okay - my bad on that one; I am admittedly reactionary.

Margaret McGhee
May 8th, 2006, 06:56 PM
Carey, You say To state my overall point in (pseudo-)brief: the plain fact that humans vary widely in all kinds of abilities does not preclude the possibility of executing the ideal of equal civil rights for all.

When I deconstruct that sentence I run into several problems understanding it.

Are you saying that - even though everyone does not now enjoy equality of civil rights, the fact that they have different abilities is not what is preventing us from correcting that?

Do you mean that in the sense that those who would deny equal civil rights to some groups are using the purported "different abilities" of those groups to justify that - but that society is currently demonstrating the ability to disregard those justifications - so we don't need to worry? See why I'm having trouble?

Responding with my best guess of where you might be going with this . .

It seems to me that even the white supremacy groups are careful not to say that blacks are inferior, ' . . . they're just different, and therefore they should live with their own kind - and not with us. It is human nature to want to live with our own kind. We don't really have anything against blacks - we're are just really proud of being white. And what's wrong with that?'

I think people who organize into groups that are really serious about discriminating politically against minorities are very aware of the politically acceptable ways to do that - they make a science of it. They are the last who would justify their discrimination on the basis of lower IQ. They might greatly enjoy the scientific discussion of racial IQ differences and any other racial differences. But they justify their discrimination using loftier means, like freedom of association and freedom of thought.

Have you ever visited www.vdare.com ? Steve Sailer is a very smart person who, I believe, has broken new ground in this area. By stressing the "scientifically" based differences between whites, esp. white males and other groups he has attracted several prominent scientists to his private online discussion group - who I am sure are not racists but who wish to appear open to various views - as well as others who may have more sinister reasons for being there.

Here's a more specific article by Sailer The White Guy Gap (http://www.vdare.com/sailer/050313_gap.htm)

Before I get going in that general direction, I think if I tried to answer you properly at this time I would be guessing wrong at your precise meaning. I'm sure you are posing an important premise but could you restate it more succintly for my old brain?

Margaret

Carey N
May 9th, 2006, 07:51 AM
Just so you know - I'm thinking of a better way to describe my previous post, but might not be able to take time to write it for a while.

-Carey

Fred H.
May 9th, 2006, 09:48 AM
Carey:
To state my overall point in (pseudo-)brief: the plain fact that humans vary widely in all kinds of abilities does not preclude the possibility of executing the ideal of equal civil rights for all.

MM:
When I deconstruct that sentence I run into several problems understanding it….

Do you mean that in the sense that those who would deny equal civil rights to some groups are using the purported "different abilities" of those groups to justify that - but that society is curently demonstrating the ability to disregard those justifications - so we don't need to worry? See why I'm having trouble….

Before I get going in that general direction, I think if I tried to answer you properly at this time I would be guessing wrong at your precise meaning. I'm sure you are posing an important premise but could you restate it more succintly for my old brain?

Carey:
I'm thinking of a better way to describe my previous post, but might not be able to take time to write it for the next few days.

Face it Carey, Margaret’s sanctimonious notions here are obvious. And you’ve pretty much already lost this one—Margaret is arguing moral properties, her conviction of what ought to be, while you’re arguing natural properties (and subjective “ideals”)—and as you’ve already more or less suggested, Margaret doesn’t seem to recognize or allow naturalistic fallacies to get in the way of her “reasoning” and/or beliefs

Everyone being created equal is perhaps a useful illusion, but apparently not reality. The best we can shoot for is to accept the moral truth that sane adults are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”

But for those convinced that the Creator is also an illusion, and that also refuse or are unable to acknowledge naturalistic and/or “ought to be” fallacies, well, they’ll just pull “morality” out of their ass all day long.

Carey N
May 10th, 2006, 05:26 AM
Everyone being created equal is perhaps a useful illusion, but apparently not reality. The best we can shoot for is to accept the moral truth that sane adults are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”
Yes, this is essentially my point . . . except the government and social collective are responsible for granting "unalienable rights". This hasn't yet been reached in practice, and probably never will, but the goal itself has nothing to do with biological differences and should not be affected by them. It's meant to be an agreement that everyone receives the same rights and privileges despite the fact that we are born with different native abilities.