Some ( including insurance companies) have claimed that young men are more likely to take risks than young women. Cordelia Fine says that ” The reported gender gap in risk-taking would almost certainly narrow if researchers’ questionnaires started to include more items like: ‘How likely is it that you would bake an impressive but difficult soufflé for an important dinner party? ”

This strongly suggests – strongly ! – that she is and always has been my sock-puppet, because how could anyone real deliberately make such a stupid comparison? Making a soufflé, vs basejumpers, guys that drive 125 miles an hour when drunk,  climb the Eiger, or flew a Spitfire against the  Luftwaffe?

It would take congenital brain damage, heavy drugs, and neurosurgery to be that dense. Possibly generations of dysgenic selection as well. I’ve know smarter goldfish.


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55 Responses to Risk-taking

  1. She was being facetious? ‘

    • Parmenion says:

      Yes, she was being facetious. Just like when she wrote Testosterone Rex. All completely facetious.

      On a more serious note, the fact that she doesn’t sees the irony of her statement contradicts the thesis of her own polemic– that there’s basically no evolutionary explanation for differences between men and women. Differences that could include something like, oh I don’t know.. sense of humour.

      Women are generally less funny than men, probably for evolved reasons (as an average looking shmuck I can improve my odds if I can make a women laugh.. though preferably not while closing the deal so to speak. Furthermore, how many top comics can you think of? How many are women?). As far as a natural sense of humour is concerned, I think you can guess which end of that general distribution she falls on.

      She couldn’t be facetious here even if she wanted to, and there’s likely an evolutionary reason why.

      • Chivalry required that I suggest the most charitable possible explanation. There are probably evolved reasons for that too.

      • RCB says:

        The thing is, the top people in almost any field are almost always men. Even cooking, interior design, hair dressers, based on my limited research, are >50% men at the top (google it) despite those activities being mostly associated with women. So, I’m not sure that male comedic dominance requires some special evolutionary explanation (though it could certainly be true). I wonder if men are just naturally more “into things” than women are, on average – as well as more ambitious – and that obsessiveness propels them to the top. Not getting pregnant in your 20s and 30s also helps!

        • Frau Katze says:

          Men usually have a lot more time. Pregnancy and kids do take time and energy.

          But I also think that men are a lot more competitive. There’s no doubt exceptions, but in general… Lots of male animals compete with each other over females.

      • anon says:

        “[Men are more funny] probably for evolved reasons (as an average looking shmuck I can improve my odds if I can make a women laugh”

        Bet you, evolutionarily, humor had way more to do with male bonding and getting other men to like/ally with you than it did in wooing women. Of course, once this increase in status bears fruit the women are game.

        Thus, they probably had selection for an attraction for funny guys– but it’s second order, with innate social potential (i.e. success in the male sphere) being the actual driver.

    • Jacob says:

      The truth is not so kind!

  2. dearieme says:

    “Cordelia Fine” is the sort of name that Evelyn Waugh might have invented.

  3. dearieme says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever attended an “important dinner party”.

    What a limited life I’ve led.

  4. Pangur says:

    It’s dumb on more than one level: good soufflés aren’t that hard to make . . . a dobos torte, on the other hand, requires nerves of steel and the hands of a surgeon.

    By the way, if you really want to know what high pressure baking is like, watch “Kings of Pastry”, a documentary about one iteration of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition.

  5. Young says:

    Go to a roller blade or skateboard park and one can see a gender difference in risk taking in about a minute. Another sign of impending mass insanity, I guess, that this could even be a question.

    • teageegeepea says:

      There’s currently a film out titled “Skate Kitchen” about teen girl skateboarders in NYC. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 89% fresh rating from 57 critics, while the documentary “Minding the Gap” about three guys growing up & skateboarding in Rockford IL has 100% from 41 critics. Not quite a controlled trial of the effect of subverting that particular gender norm on critical reception, but I figured worth noting.

  6. Frau Katze says:

    What good is a woman who takes big risks with her life? May kill herself before having any offspring. Perhaps a certain evolutionary pressure on this personality trait.

    I’d happily forgotten about Cordelia Fine. Cooking rarely comes down to life or death (although it might be dangerous if working for powerful paranoids. Hence food tasters.)

  7. Smithie says:

    I’ve known at least one fellow who wrapped his car around a telephone pole late one night. Can’t say that I’ve known any gals who did that. Of course, on the other side of it, there aren’t many women CEOs.

  8. Hesse Kassel says:

    The reported gender gap in risk-taking would almost certainly narrow if researchers’ questionnaires started to include more items like: ‘How likely is it that you would allow an obviously dodgy man to impregnate you?’

    • A good point. Or asking if she would stay with a man who is beating her up. Men will sometimes do that, but much less often.

      Cordelia is telling us that social death is very risky for women, who are dependent on standing in the tribe for resources. Seems like a sociobiological perspective that she wouldn’t endorse if you put it to her bluntly.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        An interesting point, but it seems to me the kinds of risks that men now take had pay-offs in the ancestral environment (maybe you’ll break your neck, but if not, you’ll get more than your fair share of mammoth meat), while being impregnated by a dodgy man was certainly more risky in the ancestral environment than it is now. In fact, given the current incentives in industrial societies, being impregnated by almost any man is likely to increase a woman’s fitness in the strict sense, so long as he isn’t so dodgy as to be likely to kill her or her children.

    • Airgap says:

      Depending on how exactly you worded the question, men might still outscore women

    • JMcG says:

      Ask the queers how likely they are to have unprotected sex with a complete stranger and get back to me. Many have hundreds of partners. HIV infection is still a more lethal result than pregnancy. They are probably more likely to attend important dinner parties though.

  9. mapman says:

    Education: Oxford, Cambridge, UC London. Occupation: full professor at the best university in Australia. Our “cognitive elites”. As Sailer likes to say, political correctness makes you stupid.

    • Jacob says:

      Try talking to these fucking people one on one, it’s a profound disappointment. I had a few professors like this. Just today Jon Marks called me ignorant in a shitty Facebook group.

      I don’t think that political correctness directly makes them dumb, I think it ruins opportunities for meritocracy. You don’t need the brightest people when the whole point of your department is to churn out politically correct, academically facile nonsense that young women will pay tens of thousands of dollars to sit through. The best people would actually hamper that.

      • Frau Katze says:

        I guess she really believes it. I have a theory that some dispute political correctness but don’t want to be fired or have their spouses walk out and their kids stop speaking to them.

        But there must be a hardcore of true believers. PC doesn’t make you stupid, but you have to be stupid to be a true believer.

        • Jacob says:

          I suspect that most of these people don’t believe or disbelieve anything, they just say things, and for them, that’s good enough.

        • mapman says:

          No way she really believes it. Look, her entire career is built on premise that there is no inherent biological differences between sexes. Few things are as stupid and almost nothing comes closer to denying the very obvious reality than this.

      • William Newman says:

        Jacob wrote “I don’t think that political correctness directly makes them dumb, I think it ruins opportunities for meritocracy.”

        Both processes seem important. Certaintly there is nonmeritocratic selection of poorly qualified people, in significant part that is because of political correctness. (Though not entirely because of PC, I think: note the open PC agenda doesn’t seem to explain the special focus on excluding capable East Asian and South Asians, which alone can whack more than 25 percent of the most qualified candidates.) But I also encounter people who are generally quite capable, but who seem to have become so blinkered by PC that they confidently believe surprisingly stupid talking points. If not strictly “[made] dumb”, then at least they seem to have been made deeply clueless in important areas.

        (ISTR Assistant Village Idiot writing something somewhere about how he moved away from leftism as he got tired of losing arguments to people who weren’t as smart as him. That sounds to me like a related view of the same kind of thing.)

        Decades ago, I played many games of Go with a philosophy grad student. One day he was provoked by some deplorable remark I made about the Second Amendment, and mini-lectured me about how documents are so fundamentally ambiguous that it was fundamentally wrong for me to complain about violations of the Constitution. That’s stupid, but in such a tangled way (wrong? or “not even wrong”? or weirder academic rathole?) that I just rolled my eyes and let it go. But then a few weeks later, that stupidity was revealed as one of two pillars of a worldview so flat-out ridiculous that it can be refuted easily (e.g., in tabletalk between moves of a game of Go). He made a solidly PC remark about how Reagan’s Star Wars was inconsistent with ABM-related treaties. I reminded him of how he had declared that that is wrong, because the treaty is a document and thus too ambiguous to be appealed to that way. He was apparently completely blindsided. He had the good grace to recognize the contradiction, but he must never have noticed before, because he had no prepared position on it. He was a smart and thoughtful guy, but evidently within his graduate studies, PC groupthink lulled him into a conformist mode of thought instead of an analytic one, so that what he should have easily recognized as fragile sophistry only applied selectively, seemed instead to be actual solid truth that he could use to ground an argument even outside his academic echo chamber. PC hadn’t exactly made him dumb, but evidently it had led him to believe something dumb.

        Incidentally, a similar double standard appears in the famous “wise Latina” passage in Justice Sotomayor’s Berkeley La Raza speech:

        Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

        So O’Connor can’t use the term “wise” meaningfully, because of absurd rigor, while somehow Sotomayor can, because reasons. In Sotomayor’s case I have never run across any particularly clever utterances (and no good games of Go either), so I could easily be convinced that in her case the root cause of making that inane argument was more that PC “ruins opportunities for meritocracy” than that PC “makes them dumb”.

        • Jacob says:

          You can see these people switch theories and even epistemological standards to reach the same conclusion regardless of the evidence. It can be anywhere from hilarious to infuriating. But the smart ones subjected to brainrot, like your Go partner, are still capable of intelligent contribution in some other field.

          The position that these people are both stupid and dishonest to varying degrees runs afoul of Occam’s Razor, but there is far too much evidence for both assertions to cut out either one. You bring up a brilliant example with Sotomayor- there’s just so much to unpack there.

        • biz says:

          Excellent comment thank you. It mirrors my experience in many ways.

    • They are not stupid. They come with elaborate justifications for PC.

  10. AppSocRes says:

    I’m guessing that Cordelia Fine is the descendant of women whose risk taking involved drunken couplings with dangerously stupid males, often leading to impregnation and the production of dangerously stupid offspring. This kind of risk taking seems common among certain types of women.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Nope, at her parents are respectable. Her mother is a writer too.

      I had to wade through her Wiki page. That was depressing. She’s been wildly successful. Awards and honours galore.

    • Hugh Mann says:

      She’s from a high-IQ Jewish background.

      Her book is a sort of refutation of the thesis inside it. It tells the BBC/Guardian/academia axis of evil exactly what it wants to hear, for which she’s wildly praised by them and showered with awards. She’s going along to get along, a very female trait.

      Politically incorrect female academics are like lesbians to Queen Victoria – best pretend they don’t exist, When did you last read Camille Paglia in the Guardian, let alone Leda Cosmides or Linda Gottfredson?

  11. Jim says:

    Yes it’s an incredibly stupid remark. When I first came across it some time ago I could hardly believe anybody could be that stupid. Anyway from the insurance company standpoint it doesn’t really matter what causes higher automobile accidents in young men as opposed to young men. Whatever the cause of the difference that does not affect the pricing.

  12. Greying Wanderer says:

    she doesn’t look stupid so maybe she’s poisoning the culture deliberately – were her parents Marxists?


    “Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci’s view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.”

    the cultural Marxist project has always been about destroying normalcy

    • mapman says:

      FWIW, Gramsci’s grandson lives in Russia, considers himself Russian and is under no illusions about viability of grandpa’s ideas.

  13. Cantman says:

    She is saying you should normalise out risk when measuring risk. What matters is they both take equal perceived risks, even though women perceive much safer stuff as risky. So their risk tolerance is the same. Duh.

  14. SpeedyGonzales says:

    She must be getting senile. I thought the following might be more to her taste since her last book talked about castration.


    “Seven daredevil diners in Tsuruoka city, northern Japan, are recovering from severe poisoning after eating grilled blowfish testicles on Monday night. … their internal organs contain a toxin that is said to be 10,000 times more poisonous than cyanide. … According to Kurokawa, there’s a lot of toxin in the testicles, but pickling them for up to a year will dilute the poison.”

  15. jameshigham says:

    Ordinarily I’d agree – a glance at my posts shows many along these lines but in this case, I’d have to disagree – have you ever made a soufflé, boys? Very high risk for a dinner party. My former activities like sailing from a trapeze or bobsledding are far less risky. 🙂

  16. Sebastian Junger (War) wrote that frontline combat in Afghanistan is as dangerous to US troops as being a male teenager in the US. Males are compelled to put their lives at risk. It makes sense that females would be risk averse. The loss of one male reduces the tribe’s fecundity not at all. The loss of one reproductive-age female puts a serious dent in the tribe’s birth rate (50,000 years ago).

    • Women do take enormous risks that men do not, in one area: they go off alone with men and have sex. They are at higher risk of STDs,. Pregnancy and childbirth can kill, and childcare imposes a huge cost that men can walk away from. ,

      • Hugh Mann says:

        They sometimes like dangerous men, which can be risky but which presumably had a big evolutionary payoff (they can protect you and you’ll have sons who can look after themselves too). You’re right, it’s the main area where women take big physical risks.

        One of the commenters here had an anecdote elsewhere of a confrontation in a pub in his youth and his sweet and gentle girlfriend, who witnessed it, almost eating him alive that night. Violence seems to be a turn-on if “your man” is dishing it out.

  17. blah blah says:

    or you could just realize it’s (cordelia fine) and ignore whatever she says.

  18. Pingback: Risk-taking

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