Friday, January 28, 2005

Shameless Rant

[Spoiler: If you would rather read how a talented professional approaches this topic, read Harvard Hysterics]

Last week Dr. Larry Summers, HDWIC* of Harvard, had the shocking temerity to suggest that just maybe there might, potentially, possibly, be a chance that fewer women than men pursue careers in science and engineering because woman and men just maybe might, potentially, possibly, be, you know, well, different.


One female scientist in the audience, apparently wholly unaware of either irony or the vapors, claimed she had to leave before blacking out or throwing up.

Today, NPR devoted an entire segment to investigating whether "scientific evidence" supports Dr. Summers reckless assertion. Conclusion? The Studies (third person omnipotence demands capital letters) just maybe might, potentially, possibly show there is such a difference.

Except that they do not, they cannot, because Culture, which exists entirely outside of context, and which has absolutely nothing to do with the humans inhabiting said culture, is responsible for everything. Including the ruthless suppression of all those budding female scientists and engineers. So all Right Thinking Progressives have to do is Fix the Culture.

In assessing arguments, it is helpful to look for the implicit assertions. Every argument has them; otherwise, we would run out of time just describing the territory. However, some implicit assertions are more de facto justified than others.

Among those that do not belong in the "more" category is NPR's implicit assumption that The Studies are the only means to discern reality. The great unwashed We cannot, will not, must not, draw any conclusions from living that thing called life.

But since I somehow forgot to succumb to last fall's pledge drive, I am not a dues paying member of the NPR elite. So I shall break some rules, and use The Study called Life to make some observations:

  • Inclination and ability are two different things. An infinite amount of the latter vanishes in the paucity of the former.
  • There is no such thing as an ubermensch. Strengths in some areas are always balanced by weaknesses in others. For just one example, being very analytical and emotionally intuitive are mutually exclusive.
  • Common mode phenomena are real. By that I mean that to the degree a behavior pattern is independent of culture, it is unaffected by culture. In a small, little known book entitled "Women's Place in Language," the linguist Karla Labov started off showing how the very structure of English uniquely worked to oppress women. Clearly, in posing such a hypothesis, a counterexample is of inestimable value. Sadly for her hypothesis, she discovered there isn't one. Every recorded language oppresses women. That is a common mode factoring culture out of the equation, meaning language structure betrays an underlying reality.
  • Evolution is real, and affects every element of our being. Men and women are so physically different, and face such divergent challenges, that suggesting such differences can go unreflected in our brains demands considerable proof. Oddly, the demographic most inclined to put credence in the Theory of Evolution is the most likely to deny its effects on humans. And, just as oddly, the reverse is true.
  • Equality of opportunity does not guarantee equality of results.

To which I will add some personal experience. In a previous life, I was an instructor pilot for both the Air Force and the Navy, and was able to instruct both male and female student pilots. Now I know this does not qualify as A Study, but certain patterns were very hard to ignore. Such as:

  • Male and female graduation rates were essentially the same.
  • Women were significantly underrepresented in the top half.
  • In the flight regimes requiring a certain degree of physical courage (close formation flying, aerobatics), virtually all women were less aggressive than virtually all men.
  • Of the relatively few women placing high enough in their classes to have a choice, virtually none selected fighter aircraft.

Do you see where I am going with this? Life is itself A Study. It shows that there might, potentially, possibly, be a chance systemic differences between male and female inclinations and abilities lead women to be a very small portion of fighter pilots.

Just as maybe there might, potentially, possibly, be a chance differences in inclinations and abilities lead few women to become engineers and scientists.

To arbitrarily conclude otherwise is to be antihuman and dismissive of reality.

*HDWIC: Head Dude-person What's In Charge


Blogger Duck said...

But it is amazing when the Studies confirm what people already know, eliciting a collective "Duh!" or "So we're paying tax dollars so they can study that?".

Actually it isn't always a waste. Common perceptions of reality don't always line up with Reality, and it is good to test our assumptions every now and then. While women don't collectively excel at being engineers, mainly because they don't collectively desire to be engineers, they excel at or even exceed men at professions formerly thought to be male domains (which used to include just about everything that men actually enjoyed doing). One example is the medical profession. Once women were relegated to being nurses and medical assistants, now they are increasingly taking over the role of doctors.

"With women becoming doctors in ever-increasing numbers, medicine is generally becoming more patient friendly, treatment is improving and malpractice suits may become less common, experts say.

But, they add, the feminization of medicine is helping to lower physician salaries, encourage part-time doctoring and exacerbate a looming shortage of physicians.

The change in the medical field has been swift and dramatic. Since 1975 the percentage of female doctors has nearly tripled, from 9 percent to 25 percent. And the wave is far from cresting: 38 percent of doctors under age 44 are women, and half the students in U.S. medical schools are women, a change that is expected to intensify.

Already, women have taken over some specialties, such as pediatrics, and they are swarming into internal medicine, primary care, psychiatry, dermatology, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Here is a case where the innate difference between women and men favors women. The medical profession, built by men as scientific practicioners using the scientific method to understand the human body and the diseases that afflict it, is evolving as women succeed in re-aligning the focus towards more compassionate care-giving:

"The changes are setting in motion dramatic new trends that already are affecting both patient care and the profession of doctoring.

One result is a patient-doctor relationship that is more empathetic, compassionate and nurturing. Many women go into medicine because they feel rewarded helping people, said Jorge Girotti, associate dean for admissions at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School, where 54 percent of the 300 entering students are female.

"If you bring that attitude in, you're more likely to see the overall patient as a whole rather than just a disease," he said. "Knowing what may be going on with a particular patient may require a broader interest rather than just the one symptom they tell you about."
So you can't have it both ways, ladies ( or should I say, Uber-feminists). You shouldn't expect women to penetrate deeply into professions where women's innate natures and desires are a disadvantage, but at the same time you can count the success of women in professions where their innate natures and desires puts them at par or at an advantage to men as a boon to women and to society. Isn't that better than trying to enforce an artificial system of quotas that will ensure that we have a large number of sub-standard and poorly motivated women engineers and fighter pilots, and a lot of arrogant, impersonal and error prone male doctors?

January 29, 2005 7:43 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Unfortunately, the Left sees society as nothing more than an impediment to their preconceived notions.

Removing all non-merit based barriers to entry will reveal the underlying reality, whether it is that women frequently do in fact make better doctors (although possibly better GPs than surgeons...). Or that women would rather remain in lower paying "pink collar" ghettos, such as primary school teaching, than work at higher paid construction jobs.

We don't need Studies to validate such things. And to the extent such divergent outcomes exist, that is because humans are what they are.

Which, if acknowledged, holes the Left's ship below the waterline.

January 30, 2005 11:19 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home