I Get Email: 'Are Men Smarter Than Women?'

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 26, 2009 9:57 am

nefertari-and-isis.jpgDearest Isis,

Off the blogosphere we often discuss how much we enjoy emails from our readers– especially the letters written by young women pursuing science. They share stories, suggestions, and once in a while, questions appear on our blogs as we invite insight from across the internet.  That said, over the weekend, this troubling inquiry hit my inbox:

Hi Sheril,

I read with interest your article on ‘women and science’ in the Discover website. Can I ask, from your perspective, what you think of this study suggesting that men are smarter than women?  Because there are a lot of men who agreed with the study, and even some women. The truth is, while I don’t want to agree with it, I can’t help but think that men are smarter than women. Or at least, made much advances in the field of science than women. Yes, women have been kept at a disadvantage for so long, but I wonder if men also push themselves more? Maybe they want it more? I really hate feeling this way, but deep down, I kind of believe that it may be true. Have you ever heard of Camile Paguila, btw? She’s a ‘feminist’ but believes that, since most of the inventions we have in the modern world are created by men, if it were left up to women, we’d be living in grass huts.

I know that the study is old, but if you could offer your perspective, that would be great.

Thank you

Sigh… You can imagine my reaction.  And sure, I can wax poetic on the myriad of ways that social norms, cultural mores, expectations, and more have contributed to a history dominated by XY scientists–and point out exceptions. I might discuss in detail so many of the accomplishments of women from ancient history to the present–you know I’d have a field day with the ‘grass huts’ part–and go on seriously about the STEM skills of modern girls.  Perhaps even allude to present graduation rates and the fundamental changes necessary if we ever aim to achieve equal numbers in academia.  There’s so much to say…

Still, I feel like I’ve been here so many times before. Hence, rather than launch into yet another tirade on gender, I first turn this question to you…

How would you (and our readers) respond?

Sending lots of love through the series of tubes,
Sheril

ps – We already know what Zuska would do

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Comments (43)

  1. Blogger

    I get these types of questions as a minister from young girls (yeah, really).

    Stock answer: My life experience is no, and that ultimately the only answer that will matter to her, to her family, her friends and colleagues is her real life example. Work hard and smart at whatever path you’ve chosen for your life and no one will ever have any reason to think the answer is anything but no.

  2. MadScientist

    Hmm… now if that person would only ask some high ranking female military officers I’d known over the years – then again maybe not; I’m not particularly keen on cleaning up the mess. Why do people even waste time on such nonsensical studies? How can you possibly demonstrate that one gender is in general more intelligent than the other? History has also been very unfair; Marie Curie is one of the few given credit for her work. Many scientists such as Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin never received appropriate recognition for their contributions. My theory is that people who are obsessed with such useless studies are the sort of people who have a psychological need for big cars – VERY big cars.

  3. Blogger

    Sheril, I do think too much is made of the ‘gender gap’ in academia. It’s an arbitrarily set level (‘equal’ numbers) that does very little to reflect real differences between the genders and their priorities.

    No less an authority than yourself has noted that women have different priorities, especially between the ages of 21 and 36 (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/01/21/on-sacrificing-reproductive-fitness-for-career-advancement/ )

  4. I do think too much is made of the ‘gender gap’ in academia. It’s an arbitrarily set level (’equal’ numbers) that does very little to reflect real differences between the genders and their priorities.

    Equal numbers aren’t an achievable goal in the current system, but it’s necessary to address why the disparity exists–especially with regard to questions about the history and contributions of women in science.

  5. I think that I would start by dismissively saying that I’m familiar with Camille Paglia but have never heard of “Camile Paguila”.

  6. Blogger

    >>it’s necessary to address why the disparity exists<<

    Is "because the two genders are different and want different things" an acceptable answer? I'm all for 'greasing the skids' so that those who want in and want to stay in have as friction free an entrance in as possible. And yes, there are still bumps in the road that need to be ironed out.

    But I'm not for striving for what increasingly seems to be an unnatural level that exists for the sole reason of satisfying culture or gender warriors.

  7. I’d respond by noting that the researcher involved, Philippe Rushton, has been roundly and repeatedly criticized for his science; for instance, he rarely gathers his own data (if ever). Here is a quote from a review of one of his books:

    “Defending such drivel, Rushton argues at length for what he calls the ‘principle of
    aggregation’, which, in his hands, means the pious hope that by combining numerous little turds of variously tainted data, one can obtain a valuable result; but in fact, the outcome is merely a larger than average pile of shit.” – Barash D. 1995. Animal Behaviour 45: 1131-1133. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1995.0143

    (I think this is the most memorable review I’ve read.)

  8. There are always going to be things that members of one gender do better than another (even my wimpiest looking guy friends can lift more than I can), but using intelligence is not one of these things.

    As this study states, in a strict mathematical and scientific sense, the way men think and their ability to (on average) consider spatial problems more easily does give them a bit of an edge in actually processing the rudiments of a problem. However, the creative and more multi-faceted feminine approach more inherent to women gives them in edge in ingenuity.

    But when it comes to being smart, even those things don’t matter too much. The key to smarts is the drive to pursue something relentlessly until you find the solution and then be able to relay your results to someone else. Because women have often not been given the freedom to pursue the questions they seek or the opportunity to present their results, they are considered “less smart.”

    We have considerable examples of how and why that isn’t true and studies will continue to go back and forth on the issue for all time (the same way that they do for things like taking vitamins, best methods of communicating, etc.). Like beauty, “smarts” will always be in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully, we can stop comparing and just get down to the business of using our brains to make the world a better place for both genders.

  9. Technogeek

    My first response would be to point out that the Daily Mail is basically Fox News without the journalistic ethics.

    My second would probably be similar to Zen Faulkes’.

  10. And now a slightly more considered opinion: I think I’d say that even if it were true that there exist small differences between the average performance of men and women on some tests of some very specific mental aptitudes – and I think this is far from securely established – it’s not averages over populations that have careers in science or technology or discover or invent new things, but individual people. Furthermore, those people who make the most significant contributions tend to be those with interests and abilities somewhat removed from the average for the population (or of any large subset of the population) so population averages are even less relevant than they might at first seem, and simple observation suggests that for any given field there are substantial numbers of both men and women who have the requisite interests and abilities to excel. I’d then go on to talk about cultural factors affecting choice of career and progression within each career in a somewhat obvious fashion.

  11. Blogger

    Almost always Tom.

  12. Are men smarter than women? No. Is science largely still a man’s game? Emphatically yes. We have a long way to go. And Caligula seems to be one of those ignorant postmodernist types. Maybe she could shed light on the crackpot “feminist” postmodernist theory (Irigaray?) that fluid dynamics has not seen much progress because it has been driven by men with rigid penises and genitals while the field really deserves the attention of women with ‘fluid’ vaginas and genitals.

  13. Chris TMC

    “Is ‘because the two genders are different and want different things’ an acceptable answer?”

    IMO, yes… and I am OK with that.

  14. Jo

    To cite things such as glass ceilings as evidence supporting your conclusion is bull. To assume that the secondary roles given to women through history we entirely deserved, or that intelligence is the determining factor in how high you climb the corporate ladder?

    Pointing to average brain size as the cause of the discrepancy doesn’t add up either. Einstein had an average-sized brain. We know it’s not size alone that makes the difference.

    Same with the explanation that women chose men with higher IQs to pass those traits on to their children. That would be ALL of their children. Men are more more concerned with producing as many offspring as possible, so intelligence is less important. Women want high quality offspring, since they are obviously limited to those children they can themselves give birth to. Intelligence is important because it is passed on to all offspring, not just sons. The preference is sex-linked — not the trait.

    #8: Hahaha, that’s awesome!

  15. Bobette

    Personally, I love the assumption that intelligence has a direct influence on the existence of “glass ceilings.” Are they serious? I doubt there’s that strong of a correlation between accomplishment and IQ, once you get past the slightly-above-average level.

  16. AWWWWW!!!! Is that us in that picture! I could just pinch you!

    Also, ping!

  17. Your correspondent writes: “The truth is, while I don’t want to agree with it, I can’t help but think that men are smarter than women. Or at least, made much advances in the field of science than women. Yes, women have been kept at a disadvantage for so long, but I wonder if men also push themselves more?”

    I’d begin by pointing out that just in this passage, she is talking about (at least) 3 different concepts: an underlying ability (“smarter”), the level of motivation (“push themselves”), and the end-point of having demonstrable scientific accomplishments (“made much advances”).

    She is wondering if women are not as smart as men, and if that explains the differences in accomplishments. She wants to resist accepting this conclusion but is finding it difficult. However, she also seems to believe that the differences in accomplishment might be because women don’t “push themselves” as hard, which is a different sort of thing. So I’d tell her that she’s onto something with the second part, though it isn’t only about how much you push yourself — that’s part of it, but it’s also about how the world pushes back.

    Specifically, I’d point out the motivation-depleting effects of *believing* that women are not as smart as men (never mind that it’s not really true). Science is hard work, no matter how smart you are — you have to put in a lot of time and effort. If you’ve been told over and over that you cannot do something, and everybody else believes you cannot do it, and on top of all that you know that some people (like certain famous marine biologists mentioned by Sheril in a previous post) are going to make life difficult along the way, then it isn’t entirely unreasonable to realize that it might be harder for you to get and stay motivated enough to put in all that hard work.

    Fortunately, our world is moving in a direction where these toxic beliefs and other obstacles are getting less and less prevalent. But they certainly aren’t gone yet. So I’d point out to your correspondent this: she is afraid that the research somehow reveals that women aren’t as smart as men. But she should consider that it might be creating the very phenomenon it claims to explain, by undermining women’s belief that they can make scientific accomplishments by working hard. If a young person likes science and has done reasonably well in science classes so far, I’d tell them to focus their energy on working hard at it, not on trying to figure out whether they really are smart enough.

  18. kt

    I’m in math (and am female). I notice that there seem to be huge cultural differences in how women approach math. Whether you’ll do well in math as a woman depends more on whether you’re born in Romania or Mississippi than anything else, it seems. Some places have a culture that encourages mathematical and scientific achievement (Eastern Europe, China; even Argentina and Italy seem to be well-represented by mathematical women despite their numerical disadvantage compared to China). Some places don’t (the US!). For those who think that success in science/math is purely biological, I have to ask this blunt question: what in the air, water, or environment makes women born in the *USA* so much less biologically able?!

    I ask this as a woman born in the US who is apparently a biological aberration, and I hope that this rude question points out the absurdity of the biology = destiny argument here.

    For more information on the numbers, check out http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf

  19. Is that us in that picture!

    Yes! Together we’re quite the force to be reckoned with ;)

  20. Le sigh. While I can sympathize with the writer’s occasional issue of feeling insufficient when compared to a male counterpart, I do not at all agree with this study. Our society pushes for young women to settle down and have a family, instead of focusing on personal and intellectual development. So unfortunately, we lose a lot of our talented individuals to other endeavors, instead of academia and research. While I don’t think women wanting to stay home and raise their children is a bad thing, I do think it’s unfortunate that so many feel they have to make a choice between their career and family, when men don’t. These tests on intelligence are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to perform accurately. How is intelligence measured? Who is being screened and tested? How is the data being manipulated and analyzed? I’d also like to mention a similarly stupid study I heard about, where the conclusion was tall people were smarter than short people. Does this mean that there’s some sort of height-intelligence equation the mathematical community has been stifling?

  21. Wow, that is pretty much the best book review I have ever read!! I am keeping a copy of that baby for the files.

    I kind of want to say something nasty about the intelligence of the person writing that email compared to most others regardless of whether they are a man or a woman… but I guess it really is unfair. No, men are not inherently smarter than women, and any intelligent person taking ten minutes to read that “study” and even do a lazy thought experiment on the issue should be able to discern that an attempt at a truly unbiased assessment of the issue of demonstrated “accomplishments” and “advances” may be contaminated by the historical situation our culture has been in since time immemorial. Like others have implied above, given its methodology and the reputation of the “scientist” who performed it, the linked study is about as reliable as an opinion poll on the matter.

  22. The question is “not even wrong” and stinks of concern trolling. The question itself is, I suspect, unanswerable and misogynistic.

    Not even wrong: what is “intelligence”?; what is “smarter”?; what would it mean that one entire sex was smarter than another?; does that even make sense?

    Why would we even ask such a stupid question? What would it accomplish? An individual can accomplish what they can accomplish, so what use is it to ask if a particular group is “smarter” than another?

  23. FemaleScientist

    First off, I’d like to enthusiastically second many of the above statements.

    Second off, I’d like to expand on what PalMD says in #24.

    Intelligence is a nebulous quality that has no definition that leads to qualitative measurements. Sure there are IQ tests, but those were designed before the operational definition of intelligence. Some psychologists say that Intelligence is what IQ tests measure and that IQ tests measure intelligence. The most insidious feat of circular reasoning if I ever heard one.

    Third off, I’d like to rip the study to shreds.

    The reason this idiot of a research got a significant difference (and let’s look a that difference: 4 measely points!) was because he looked at ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND people. Any statistician will tell you that you can make ANYTHING look significant if you have enough data points. A statistician would also point out the magnitude of the difference. Do we care about a difference of 4 points? Should we care about such a miniscule difference? In a scale where 100 is the average, 4 points is NOTHING.

  24. PalMD is right, the question is not even wrong. There are many cognitive abilities that are separable to some degree and so could all be called “intelligences” and (in theory) measured independently. Can we measure them all? Not even close. Do they all correlate? Of course not.

    The idea on mate selection gets it wrong. The only way you can reliably judge someone’s intelligence is if you are smarter than they are. The only way that a woman could reliably pick a mate who was smarter than the average man would be if that woman were smarter than the average man herself. If there are genes for picking smart mates, many will be sex linked and maximally expressed in females.

    Even if it were true, so what? A tiny average difference is useless to inform policy.

  25. Erasmussimo

    These are the basic conclusions I draw on the matter:

    1. There is absolutely no average difference between overall cognitive ability between men and women.
    2. There are small average differences between men and women in matters of spatial reasoning and social reasoning.
    3. The best of each gender are equally competent.
    4. Our culture strongly disadvantages women. This is the single largest gender difference.
    5. Men have a larger subgroup of determined overachievers than women. This creates a small intrinsic advantage for those overachieving men — and ONLY those overachieving men.

    I think I can defend these claims, but I don’t think they need much defending.

  26. Jackstraw

    Sheesh.

    Robert Palmer answered this question definitively in 1976:

    Let us put man and woman together
    And see which one is smarter
    Some say men but I say no
    The women got the men like a puppet show

    Ain’t me, it’s the people they say
    The men are leading the women astray
    But I say, it’s the women today
    Are smarter than the men in every way

  27. Mick

    I am very firm that men are in no way smarter than women. Firstly–and most importantly–I think that men have dominated the hard sciences in the last 100 years because of the stigma and sexism associated with women in the sciences. There are a number of brilliant female scientists, and they were essentially held back by employers in academia because of their gender. The resulting lack of success has nothing to do with intelligence; rather, it has everything to do with the ignorance and bigotry of their male employers. Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock, Lisa Randall (who I met), Rita Levi-Montalcini are all brilliant scientists who have, at some point, mentioned that they were held back in their profession. Also, and somewhat personal, I am studying neurobiology, and I have a couple of female friends studying the same thing. I’d say that they are even a little bit smarter than I am, and I know for a fact that they get better grades than me! Saying that men are smarter than women is a gross oversimplification; you have to take into account that women have been treated as a minority for most of human existence, and that as humans continue to become smarter and shed off the bigotry, we will find that there is no difference in intelligence between the two sexes.

  28. The question is tough to answer, particularly in a short post. That said, I have never thought of intelligence based on gender. Would that not be the same as basing intelligence based on race? I have to go with PalMD’s comment @24, that is “The question itself is, I suspect, unanswerable and misogynistic.” or in a discussion of intelligence based on race, racist.

  29. Mick

    By the way, I forgot to mention that I am male.

  30. Sheril – a response post is here. I confess I didn’t read all the comments before I started writing, so sorry if I repeat something someone else said. :-)

    Keep the faith!

  31. D. C. Sessions

    Looks like somebody’s education missed the chapter on Procrustes and his bed.

    While we’re on the subject of epically pointless questions: are taller people smarter than shorter ones? Is there a correspondence between adult lactase persistence and intelligence [1]? Has anyone considered whether bald men are more or less intelligent than others?

    Just think of all the Nobel prizes which could be rescinded if it turned out that a full head of hair meant that the person in question couldn’t possibly be smart enough [1] for a Nobel prize!

    [1] And oh, by the way, how do we define “intelligence” so as to get the “right” answers to these questions?

  32. My general response would be that such studies are complete and utter bullshit, on a par with evolutionary psychology. Though I may come up with more than that later…

    Bobette –

    I doubt there’s that strong of a correlation between accomplishment and IQ, once you get past the slightly-above-average level.

    Actually, that depends on what you mean by accomplishment. Because if you are actually talking glass ceiling, then there is a strong correlation – people who are particularly intelligent rarely become particularly wealthy. Uberwealth is generally the purview of those with average intellects…That and IQ is a really horrible indicator of intellect.

  33. Erasmussimo

    “such studies are complete and utter bullshit, on a par with evolutionary psychology.”

    Oh dear. Them’s fightin’ words. Only my reluctance to commit felonious topic drift restrains my response.

  34. Dark Tent

    I vote we let Larry Summers settle this debate once and for all.

    After all, he’s smarter than everyone on the planet, so who better to judge intelligence?

    I hear he was also in the Harvard debate club (once).

  35. First, let me second Zen’s comment here!

    Second,

    There are so many types of intelligence!

    Intelligence as emotional intelligence
    Intelligence as capacity to adapt
    Intelligence as response ability in case of emergency
    Intelligence as capacity to sequentially describe an event
    Intelligence as wisdom
    Intelligence as observation
    Intelligence as the capacity to foresee
    Intelligence as intuition
    Intelligence as the capacity to obtain good grades in school

    In all of the above

    WOMEN ARE AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MUCH, MUCH, MORE INTELLIGENT THAN MEN!

    Yes, they have been made to believe they aren’t. But, as time passes and women get older and harder to BS, reality becomes obvious.

    MEN ARE AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN STRONGER THAN WOMEN!

    So… things are in balance! :)

  36. Men don’t listen. Women cannot read maps. That’s all there is to it really.

  37. Dark tent

    Men don’t listen. Women cannot read maps. That’s all there is to it really.

    More precisely: When men cannot read maps, they don’t listen to the suggestion of women to “ask someone for directions”.

    I know. I once drove all over Boston instead of taking my girlfriend’s advice.

    PS: It turns out I was only a couple blocks away at the start of my misadventure from where I needed to be.

    But the important thing is that I (eventually) got there without asking anyone for damned directions!

  38. Superstringy Indian

    Sophia,let’s look at your list shall we..
    Emotional intelligence-B.S.,E.Q won’t do shit unless it’s a society built by IQ…and IMO,emotions,sentiments vs hard logic=gg
    Intelligence as capacity to adapt…well,I dunno from where ya got this,but it depends on your definition of “adapt”…and men tend to be less whiny,so new surroundings=men don’t whine,case closed.
    Intelligence as response in case of emergency..Hey idiot,know who rush to fight terrorists in an emergency to save your sorry ass?Men.Know that many men sacrificed their lives in the titanic so that the women could reach safety.Your misandry is showing.
    Intelligence as capacity to sequentially describe an event…I dunno but there was an experiment where apparently guys recalled what the surroundings were like and the gist of the scene while women recalled people and small details more.Depends on what you want I guess.
    Wisdom..How would you define wisdom?Is it the capability of leading?Well surprise!Most presidents,CEOs etc. are men.
    Observation..See sequential describing.
    Foresight…Hey,both are needed y’know.If you can always evade the step just in front of you,just keep doing it,and ya got a long term plan.Seriously though,I much prefer short term thinking than high-brow foresight.
    Intuition..WHAT?You should never ever trust your gut as something reliable!
    Grades…Whoa,these are horribly low-intelligence and 95% boring work.Boys don’t like it,I don’t blame them.Want a REAL test,see the SAT.
    Your female supremacist mind is showing,and telling volumes of your despicable personality.

  39. QuickSilver

    I’m the one who wrote this e-mail and I hope that people here will not think that I’m stupid. It’s just when I hear this sort of thing often enough, and seeing both men and women agree with this..I guess it makes me feel inadequate..so does reading some of the comments here as well. It’s not that I believed this study point blank, but sometimes I do feel inadequate because I’m female. But, I discussed this with a friend, and he offered this explanation of the study:

    Rushton is a hard guy to get a handle on, because he’s not just some kook with a racial axe to grind (they almost always manage to “prove” their own race is the best, whereas he hasn’t done that), and he has published a lot of papers on altruistic behavior over the years in well-known journals, which pleny of people have cited. On the other hand, anything written by anybody that ranks races (or sexes), by whatever criterion, and claims to be doing so scientifically is basically always cr@p. Maybe honest cr@p, but cr@p nonetheless. So, just in terms of probabilty, odds are this SAT thing is wrong. Having read the article, I have some serious reservations:

    They used SAT scores and IQ scores for one, neither of which are 100% genetically determined. That right there means a lot of environmental variables have to be accounted for in order to demonstrate that this 3.6 point difference (which in itself is not that significant, given that IQ scores are known to fluctuate somewhat over time. Not a lot, but a few points isn’t unusual). Not to mention, people will not always score the same if you give them consecutive IQ tests, say like one a week for three weeks. Yeah, they try to control for this in the test design, but people just aren’t consistent like that. 3.6 points, depending on which method for computing IQ you use, could be the result of screwing up a couple questions because you’re having an off day or you spaced out for a minute during one of the timed tasks and ended up not finishing.

    SAT scores are even less reliable for detecting tiny differences like this, since they’re heavily dependent on where you went to school and how well you did while in school. The former is all environment, and the latter is heavily influenced by environment. I mean, if you have a sh!tty home life, you could be a for reals genius and do terribly in school and on the SATs because you’re depressed and don’t care enough to exert the effort, show up for tests, can’t concentrate, etc. Yeah, you try to cope with this by using large random samples, but considering how widespread cr@ppy schools are, or for that matter depressed teenagers, I’m not so sure that helps. SATs are pretty good at giving you a general idea of how well someone will cope with college work, which is what they’re designed for. They’re not tools for intelligence testing though, and anything that derives IQ scores from them is kinda dubious.

    Anyway, Rushton derived this by somehow converting the g-factor (which suffers from many of the same problems as IQ and SAT scores) into IQ differences by assigning a weight to each SAT question, presumably by more or less making a judgement call as to how much each question depended on g. That just doesn’t sound right to me. I can see how you might relate some SAT questions directly to certain kinds of IQ questions, and how in turn you might be able to assign a “g number” based on earlier research into g, but I’m not really sure how that works for every single SAT question (especially when you consider how the questions constantly change, and it appears that Rushton and pals only did this for one year’s test scores from 100,000 kids). And of course, the g-factor is itself about 15% the result of environment, so how do you know this computed IQ difference, granting that it’s even real, isn’t a result of that 15%?

    It looks to me like, at best, they’ve shown men might have better IQ scores on average than women, and that this might be heritable. But then we’re back to it being a whole 3.6 points, which is measurable, sure, given that it’s IQ, but not really significant in day to day life, or work for that matter. And this isn’t even getting into the debates about just what the hell IQ actually measures and whether there is such a thing a “general intelligence”. I mean, pretend IQ measures ability with just two specific kinds of reasoning. Well, are those 3.6 points divided equally among each kind? Entirely due to one or the other? 60-40? Now tell me how much of that is genes and how much environment. Oh, and another thing: some studies have shown that men have more variation in IQ scores, so if you’ve got an average IQ for people in general (either sex), that means you’ll have more guys scoring higher than women (but not that much higher), but also more of them scoring lower. I.e, if those studies are good, then men are both stupider and smarter than women, at least if you’re defining “smart” solely in terms of IQ scores (which in itself is actually kinda stupid).

    Basically, what it comes down to is that IQ and g are themselves averages. You’re not really measuring how well someone performs this or that cognitive/memory task, but how well on average they peform on a test which employs some of the most commonly used tasks (i.e. another average). They lump a bunch of different cognitive functions together and call it “general intelligence”. It works OK, on average, because real-world stuff like school and standardized testing, on average, tends to make demands on each type of ability. So, you see a high correlation among all these things, but it’s still not perfect correlation, meaning there’s still something else influencing things (and who knows how much of that, whatever it is, is genes and how much environment, or even just an artifact of your chosen sample or statistical methods), and it doesn’t certainly doesn’t tell you what is going on in the brain that determines how good you are at this type of reasoning versus that type, much less any sex differences involved.

    What’s interesting is that Rushton himself doesn’t seem to think his results actually make a real-world difference, except apparently when it comes to Nobel prizewinners, which seems like a really weird conclusion considering that Nobels are given in all sorts of different categories, which in turn lump together sometimes very different sub-disciplines. And yet somehow a 3.6 point average IQ difference, one which may or may not be reflective of a specific brain function, or may be divided among several, is supposed to result in as many as 10 times more men receiving a Nobel prize for whatever it is they do than women? Seriously: WTF? Does this guy really think that winning the Nobel Peace prize and, say, the physics prize are somehow equivalent in terms of the actual work involved? Not to mention the sheer luck involved in so many of the science prizes? Then you have to control for all those social factors like potentially biased hiring practices at universities and corporations doing research eligible for a Nobel (and forget trying to account for all the bias in politics around the world, which is typically where you’d go looking for potential peace prize winners) and the fact that it’s a f*cking commitee handing out the prizes, which means politics (and that’s ignoring how nominations are made, which involves yet more politics). It’s a nice quote if you’re writing a science piece, I guess, but it’s total bullsh!t (“speculation” if you’re being polite).

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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