January 23, 2005


Summers Storm (Ruth Marcus, January 22, 2005, Washington Post)

Larry Summers, the Harvard University president and former Treasury secretary, has never been mistaken for a diplomat. So when you combine someone of Summers's compulsively impolitic instincts with a topic as volatile as gender differences, the ensuing explosion doesn't come as a huge surprise. [...]

Is it so heretical, though, so irredeemably oafish, to consider whether gender differences also play some role? As the daughter of two scientists and the mother of two daughters, I think not. After all, scientists are reporting day by day about their breakthroughs in understanding the genetic basis of diseases or personality traits. Brain studies of men and women show that the two genders use different parts of their brain to process language. (Men tend to be left-siders, women both-lobers.)

Summers drew fire for relating the story of how he bought a set of trucks for his daughter, only to find her naming them "Daddy Truck" and "Baby Truck." A clumsy and ill-advised anecdote perhaps, but one that resonated with legions of would-be gender-neutral parents of girls. I, for one, have a basement full of Brio train tracks, as pristine as they were pricey. We use the train table to fold our laundry.

Biology may not be destiny, but as we Brio-buyers and truck-swaddlers have discovered, its effects also can't be discounted.

The curmudgeonly savor the irony that the same week schools were being forced to remove stickers, for which they were ridiculed as rubes, pointing out that biological determinism is just a theory, the academic, political, and media elites were metaphorically pasting such stickers on Mr. Summers.

Intelligence In Men And Women Is A Gray And White Matter (Science Daily, January 20, 2005)

While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence.

The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance. -...=

In general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of – or connections between – these processing centers.

This, according to Rex Jung, a UNM neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility.

-Sex Ed at Harvard: Why pretend that men and women are the same? (CHARLES MURRAY, 1/23/05, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 9:57 AM

Summers made it through the Cornel West battle relatively unscathed, as well as through his call for higher grading standards at Harvard. But the latest appears to have used up all of his Clinton-connection immunization from suffering any serious critcism by the left. He's on his own now, unless he can get Bill and/or Hillary to put in a good word for his at a public forum sometime soon and give him a PR booster shot.

Posted by: John at January 23, 2005 11:11 AM

Summers is demonstrably wrong if recent evidence matters. Over 60% of people entering the actuarial profession today are women and about 2/3 of all graduating veterinarians are women. It would seem to be that those two professions require a fair amount of math and science ability.

Now, if you want to make an argument that the anti-male propaganda that has permeated our schools for the last few decades has chased boys out of the system so that we are losing a lot of our good potential male engineers, vets, actuaries etc, that is a different, a more interesting and a more defensible argument.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 1:22 PM

No they don't.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 1:28 PM

Really? And your knowledge of those professions is based on what?

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 1:39 PM

News reports. Actuaries use computers. The takeover of veterinarianism by women has led to no one availabler to treat real aniimals--it's all just giving shots to dogs and cats.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 1:58 PM

OJ, you are correct about the computer invasion. I consider myself the world's worst programmer and view them as a necessary evil. You are also correct when you imply that the over-emphasis on computers does detract from a serious understanding of the mathematics involved. Advancement in the profession, however, requires an examination-based demonstration of real mathematical and financial knowledge. The exam gauntlet has a pretty low pass rate and the people who make it through can pretty much walk onto any math or finance faculty in the US without so much as a second look.

My vet, a woman, seems ok and my doctor is a woman(MD-King Charles Univ of Prague) now as well. It's not as if the dog can tell you what's wrong so I guess prescriptions are overused.

If you were to look at graduate school enrollment in the sciences, engineering and math by Americans, as distinguished from the overwhelmingly male populations from East Asia, South Asia and Eastern Europe that come here to study, you would find that the number of women getting advanced degrees outnumbers men in the techie fields.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 2:08 PM

And that their standardized test scores don't measure up.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 2:11 PM

My daughter is in a selective math/science program at Northwestern University. When she was Freshman, she was one of seven girls, there were 27 boys. She is a sophmore, there are now about 19 boys and three girls.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 24, 2005 2:35 PM

Aviation is reasonably technical, and requires a decent combination of three-dimensional thinking, hand-eye coordination, cool under pressure.

During my experience in military pilot training, female graduation rates were the same as male, give or take.

But women were very under represented above the mean. And, with rare exceptions, welcomed close formation flying just a little less than getting pitched into a cage with a hungry tiger.

As a result, very few women did well enough to select fighters as their operational aircraft. And of those who could, virtually none did.

The pertinent observation is that women can make good, competent, pilots.

But if you want fighter pilots, in general, men do that better.

Thank goodness I'll never be famous enough to get in trouble for stating the obvious.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at January 24, 2005 9:52 PM

And have different standards because able to withstand less g's and such.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2005 5:49 AM


No, the standards remain the same. But don't be so obtuse as to expect equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome.

But, that is quibbling, and I take your point.

However, while I am quibbling, women have some physical advantages when it comes to withstanding g-loads; the M-F difference isn't as large as you might think.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at January 25, 2005 10:13 PM

But enough that women can't meet them.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2005 10:40 PM
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