Not bad. Could be better.

There’s a new interview with Suzanne Sadedin, a feminist biologist. She’s about a million times more sensible than Cordelia Fine, when it comes to differences between the sexes in humans. After all, such differences are extremely common in other species, so an evolutionary biologist expects them, and doesn’t automatically ascribe them to culture. Sadedin is conservative about what she knows best.

But there’s an important fact she hasn’t fully taken into account. Scientists lie, especially if the result reinforces what they want to be true. Contemporary scientists strongly trend in
a certain ideological direction, and so there’s a blizzard of false results pointing in that direction. The replication crisis produces correlated noise.

Sadedin refers to Daphna Joel’s results on male and female brains, but that’s bullshit. She says that “Sex-specific differences in certain abilities tend to show up in studies [5] [ true], but can often be eliminated by avoiding certain biasing cues [6] [ more bullshit! ] . She repeats a recent meme – ” Diversity in decision-making roles leads to better decisions for groups, organizations and societies [21].” Again, just bullshit. There’s no evidence for it. Since ‘diversity’ generally means adding individuals from low-IQ groups to the mix, what little evidence we do have is negative.

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36 Responses to Not bad. Could be better.

  1. MawBTS says:

    Most of it seems reasonable. It’s not an interview, someone asked a question on Quora and she wrote this as an answer.

    Her description of patriarchy societies reminds me of how the “manosphere” talks about alpha males monopolizing sex. Except her description is sensible, while the manosphere considers high-paid MBA grads to be “beta” and gross surfer dudes “alpha” (and also that they’re still carrying emotional baggage from being bullied in high school). I’ve always thought that second wave feminists would be better MRAs than actual MRAs.

    Males are slightly more promiscuously inclined on average

    “Slightly.” I get a different impression from reading Craigslist. Reminds me of when they launched Playgirl magazine. Finally the empowered modern woman had a chance to ogle hot guys, and turn the tables on men! Grrrrrl power!

    The magazine quickly attained a loyal readership…of gay men.

    Sex-specific differences in certain abilities tend to show up in studies [5], but can often be eliminated by avoiding certain biasing cues [6].

    Eliminated? The word she’s looking for is “hidden”. You can make a study conceal differences if that is your goal, but nothing about reality has changed. The differences still exist.

  2. j says:

    Since evolution made humans the most egalitarians among the apes, I assume she is right and it must be good for us. Yet all social experiments to establish total gender equality, like in Soviet Union and in Israeli kibbutzim, were discontinued. The women did not like night guard duty, daylong tractor driving or free sex.

    • Ursiform says:

      Are we more egalitarian than bonobos?

      The Soviet Union hardly tried to establish total gender equality, except in propaganda claims.

      • Jim says:

        Do you happen to know what was the highest position in the Soviet power hierarchy that was attained by a woman?

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        Yeah they did – right after the revolution – it was a disaster. Stalin stopped it.

        • Darin says:

          How many women in Lenin’s politburo? How many women in Cheka, how many women commanders and officers in Red Army?

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            right – most “gender equality” is really either

            sexual libertinism in disguise
            a minority of women who put career > kids

            the sexual libertinism part was the disaster, hence it being stopped after c. 10 years or so leading to the irony of the ex communist bloc being more socially conservative

            • Greying Wanderer says:

              nb i’m not against that minority of women being able to put career > kids if they want – just how they’ve tried to make it the norm

      • st says:

        They could not afford to lose a war. Apart from everything military related, they tried -for example there were gender quotas in every discipline in universities to make sure males and females were equaly represented. Math, medicine and physics included. But…they just could not afford to lose a war and there were plenty of wars and they had to be real there. Same could happen to the US some day – I mean, no to be able to afford losing a particular war. Just watch what would happen to feminist societal agenda at that time. Untill then – suffer it and hope to outlive it with less damage (societal, technological and scientific). War is a teacher. It teaches all disciplines quickly, evolutionary biology and gender studies included.

    • Darin says:

      As if the men enjoyed night guard duty and tractor driving. As if anyone in USSR was ever asked whether he or she likes something he or she was told to do.
      Do not be ridiculous.

  3. TWS says:

    So we have to wait for them all to die for science to advance? When men and women who have never held needle and thread reliably use different methods to thread a needle something is going on.

    Our grandmothers knew that there were basic hardwired differences (although of course they did not use that term). So we’ve entirely unlearned the last several thousand years of human wisdom and observation. Great.

  4. pyrrhus says:

    As Camille Paglia wrote, “if men disappeared we’d be living in grass huts within a month.” Scientists who can’t even look around them and notice that literally everything of value was built by men are really pretty worthless……As to personality differences, if you have taught a lot of young children of both sexes, you will understand that there are large differences. I have talked to mothers and observed that young girls probably talk about five times more than boys, on average. They agree…

  5. albatross says:

    Some scientists lie in their work. But there are also a lot of ways that you can bias your results toward what you expect them to be. Most people are really bad at “reasoning into a headwind” toward a result they don’t want. The usual experiences in school reenforce this tendency–very often in school, you know the right answer but the question on the test demands that you demonstrate and justify that answer. This is why they have double-blind studies in medicine, right? We don’t have to worry that the doctors in the study are going to bias their results because of a political commitment to the idea that this new drug successfully treats liver cancer, but we do have to worry that even letting them know whether their patients are getting the real drug or the placebo will change something in ways that will mess up the study.

    Further, there’s a huge filtering problem here. Research that re-enforces the narrative favored by the owners of the megaphones tends to get a lot of news coverage and so is heard of by people outside the field. Research that supports politically-favorable policies (free preschool for all!) is more relevant than research that doesn’t, and that makes it both more publishable and more worthwhile from the perspective of grants and such.

  6. albatross says:

    One thing a lot of people seem to miss w.r.t. science and more generally the marketplace of ideas: incentives matter.

    If some areas of research are a little less likely to end up working out well for your career (getting published, graduating, getting a tenure-track job), then they will be under-studied. If some topics of discussion are somewhat radioactive, so that by discussing them in public you have some added chance of having some kind of bad consequences (people at your workplace get mad at you, lots of random idiots on Twitter call you names, etc.), those topics will be discussed less often, and when discussed, most of the mental energy of the participants will go into avoiding those consequences rather than thinking through the issue at hand.

    This is true, even when the consequences aren’t that bad, and the issue is very important. Thousands of people each reacting to a smallish incentive in a fairly small way can sum up to a huge impact. Maybe the societal consequences of not being able to have a sensible discussion of policing, crime, and race are a couple hundred people needlessly shot by the cops per year, and an extra thousand murders per year due to the cops retreating to the donut shop. And maybe the personal consequences of having that sensible discussion are some pained looks and a very small chance of losing out on some promotion at work. That may still be enough to prevent those sensible discussions.

    PR and propaganda types know this really well. You can (and people do) shape a lot of news coverage by getting a reputation for raising a stink when someone talks about some topic you don’t want them talking about. Mainstream US discussions about foreign policy, crime, abortion, foreign aid, Israel, immigration–all are shaped by people doing exactly this.

  7. dain says:

    Biggest factor for group success is (surprise) average IQ of the group.

    • dain says:

      Contrary to prediction, individual IQ accounted for around 80% of group-IQ differences. Hypotheses that group-IQ increases with number of women in the group and with turn-taking were not supported.

      The experiments instead showed that higher individual IQ enhances group performance such that individual IQ determined 100% of latent group-IQ.

  8. Still, not entirely bullshit if you give her a little bit of credit-

    “Diversity in decision-making roles leads to better decisions for groups, organizations and societies”

    Obviously not true- you still want your standard high-T males with the final say- but I understand that there has been benefits shown from having diverse personality profiles involved in the groups that discuss different options up until the final decision. In this case, one would expect including women, with their wildly different cognitive profiles to contribute to at least some decisions, right?

    • gcochran9 says:

      No benefit shown. On the other hand, I can imagine some form of cognitive diversity paying off. In the Persian empire, their custom was to discuss a decision when sober and when drunk. Evil Overlords are advised to let a five-year-old child check out their plans.

      Actually, I really do wonder if you couldn’t make something like this work. I’m not talking about about a panel where one’s dressed like an Indian, one like a cop, one like a construction worker, and all are gay.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Our own government used to have a lot less disfunction when democrats and republicans hung out in Washington over the weekend and got drunk together. Now that they don’t they hate each other all the time. People bond when they get shitfaced together, it is a tried and true means of making better connections all over the world. It is still big in Asia, but not so much in the United States anymore. Strange but true. If we passed a law that congressmen and senators have to get piss drunk once a week with members of the opposite party than they would bond and actually work together.

      • Bob says:

        Well, she cites a source with data showing benefits. So how would you refute it?

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “how would you refute it”

          England, Holland, Germany etc up to c. 1900
          America up to c. 1965
          Japan, China, Korea c. now

      • Deckin says:

        The funny thing about this Persian practice, at least if Herodotus is to be believed, is that the normal order of things was to discuss important things drunk, and then reconsider when sober. What was unusual was to have the occasion to discuss important things sober; the check on that practice was to make sure that they were reconsidered when the default drunkenness was restored.

  9. The decisions might be “better” in the sense that more people in the organisation like them. “Better” in the sense of “accomplishes the stated goal” might be a little different.

    I agree with albatross that things that people should know (and how can they not friggin’ see…) are not the same thing as what they do know. Conscious lying is nowhere near as common as being simply wrong and refusing to acknowledge it, or more subtly, refusing to look in certain places because they are Just Sure there’s no answer to be had there. You can define that as lying, I suppose, but I think that would be a minority, almost idiosyncratic opinion. I have watched you shoot down your own theories here when you’ve seen better data, Greg. You don’t get how rare that is. People’s brains recalculate their position as quickly as a GPS.

    • albatross says:

      This is one reason that it’s such a disaster when we have true things that the in-the-know types understand, but which may never be spoken in public. Stuff like the black/white IQ or crime rate difference, or gender differences in interests or physical abilities. Stuff like what our wars look like on the ground, or war crimes committed by US soldiers and spies, or what blowback means. And so on.

      It’s easy to be ignorant of stuff you’ve never studied. It’s easy to come to believe the stuff all the respectable people in your society are saying, even when it seems unintuitive. Lots of unintuitive stuff is true, after all. (Wait, you mean to tell me that making something go really fast will slow down its clock? Do I look like I was born yesterday?)

      Powerful people are mostly reasonably bright (usually more verbally than quantitatively bright) folks who have spent the last two or three decades focusing on getting and keeping power, making connections, kissing important ass, and climbing to the top of the greased pole. Even if they had the inclination to spend a lot of time learning about behavioral genetics or psychometrics or nuclear weapons design or the history of that middle eastern country they just decided to bomb, they don’t have the time. If we’re lucky, they have picked up a basically coherent picture of reality by reading Thomas Friedman / Malcolm Gladwell type books, watching moderately highbrow TV news, reading newspapers, etc. (If we’re unlucky, it’s Fox and Friends or Rachel Maddow.) Maybe the really smart ones will read an occasional popular science or social science book, though they probably won’t be able to distinguish Pinker from Gladwell.

      Even when the powerful have a relatively coherent picture of the world, they’re constrained by what the voters and journalists and donors believe. When the voters have a cartoon-physics view of the world (usually), politicians have to pretend to share that worldview, even when they know better.

      The only hope for powerful people to make decent decisions is for a good, coherent picture of the world to be commonplace. No hidden knowledge that “everyone knows” but that isn’t ever stated out loud for fear of offending the normies. No uncomfortable truths that are kept tucked safely away in academic disciplines while the newspaper and schoolteachers and politicians all try to convince the world of the opposite.

      • I agree strongly enough with your assessment that I hate to dash your hopes by disagreeing with your solution. “The only hope for powerful people to make decent decisions is for a good, coherent picture of the world to be commonplace.” That is never going to happen. There is no historical evidence for it. European intellectuals in the 20th C were deeply and repeatedly wrong about nearly everything important socially and politically. I am very much a secular Calvinist believing in the depravity of humankind (and fairly Calvinist religiously as well – though that’s another story). If there is hope, it lies in the few, and the few must be both wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

        And perhaps not even there.

        • albatross says:

          It’s not reasonable to expect the decisionmakers to know stuff that isn’t known even by experts in their own fields. To the extent that the psychologists or economists or physicists or biologists are just wrong, we can’t expect the decisonmakers to know more. And decisionmakers are human, so they’ll have plenty of wishful thinking and motivated reasoning, as well as plenty of honest ignorance.

          But the situation we’re talking about here is a bit different. There is a bunch of stuff that the experts know in their field, but where journalists and schoolteachers and pop science writers mostly teach their audience stuff that’s 180 degrees flipped from what the experts know. And the result is that the decisionmakers and their aides and supporters and donors and campaign organizers and pollsters and such all absorb the 180-degrees-wrong version of reality from those sources, and end up making obviously dumb decisions as a result.

          Maybe some of that is inevitable–there are constantly new things being discovered that are upsetting in one way or another. But I think it’s possible to have a lot less of that than we have in our world now. Just as it’s possible to talk about evolution without being attacked as an obvious crazy person or Communist (because professional biologists know about evolution but journalists and schoolteachers and pop science writers all tell their audiences that it’s an atheistic hoax), it should be possible to talk about heritability of IQ and personality.

          • Jim says:

            Extremely few schoolteachers or journalists in the US are telling people that evolution is an atheistic hoax. Not very many pop science writers either. Who are you talking about?

            • albatross says:

              We’re a lot better off because school teachers, journalists, and pop science writers are mostly doing their best to convey more-or-less the best picture of reality available, w.r.t. evolution. The result is that federal judges and midlevel bureaucrats and senators and such have overwhelmingly been exposed to the ideas behind evolution, and even if they don’t believe in it, they know that pretty-much all biologists do, and that the theory of evolution isn’t some kind of fringe hateful theory pushed by a conspiracy of atheists. That means that an evolutionary argument or analogy doesn’t get you shouted down or shunned, and that powerful people won’t automatically tune it out.

              By contrast, look what happens w.r.t. IQ or behavioral genetics or black/white crime rates or whether “race is only a social construct” or even whether “gender is only a social construct.” Those are areas where the intermediaries–teachers and journalists and pop science writers–are mostly conveying a very different picture of reality than the one that most practitioners in the relevant fields have. And very often, the middle-of-the-road view among behavioral genetics or psychometrics gets portrayed by those intermediaries as some kind of hate-filled far-right racist pseudoscience. The result is that federal judges and midlevel bureaucrats and senators often have the idea that IQ is racist pseudoscience–debunked by science, only trotted out by racists for evil goals, etc. That’s what they’ve heard from the respectable intermediary voices in their society, so that’s what they assume is true. It’s what the New York Times and Stephen J Gould told them.

              I know we aren’t always going to get great decisions even in the best case, but I’d like to have the main mechanisms for spreading information in our society stop massively lying and misleading the hell out of everyone.

      • Jim says:

        Yes, you are correct that the official ideology will determine policy even if most of the elite are aware in their own minds that much of the official ideology is totally wrong.

  10. Laura Jack says:

    Harvard Business Review published an article 3/30/17 about team problem solving and cognitive (as opposed to skin color) diversity. The results were exactly what you’d expect.
    The question of whether diversity improves outcomes depends on both the problem and the type of diversity. Sex diversity on a parenting team sure improves child rearing outcomes.

  11. Researchers whose studies reliably produce the results the grant-givers are paying for, would be psychomeretricians, I guess.

  12. Pingback: Some Notes about Psychology and Intelligence | POLITICS & PROSPERITY

  13. Pingback: Quotes « Econstudentlog

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