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.
So, the “article” referred to is an old Daily Mail piece reporting that
“It is research that is guaranteed to delight men – and infuriate the women in their lives. A controversial new study has claimed that men really are more intelligent than women.
The study – carried out by a man – concluded that men’s IQs are almost four points higher than women’s.
British-born researcher John Philippe Rushton, who previously created a furore by suggesting intelligence is influenced by race, says the finding could explain why so few women make it to the top in the workplace.”
Oh gawd. Again? I think I blogged about this article back in 2006. Why won’t this psudoscience crap die?
Sheril, also tired of this lame argument that really should have been laid to rest by now, invites readers to weigh in, and Isis is gearing up for a response of her own. In the meantime, let me share a couple of brief thoughts. I will try to be civil.
I would start by point out to Sheril’s reader that the IQ test was originally designed as a test for *children,* that something as complex as adult intelligence (and, actually, children’s intelligence too) can clearly not be accurately nor precisely represented by a single number, that science that pruports to measure said intelligence with said number is bullshit, and to read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.
Then I would ask the reader (and the “researcher,” actually), IF we somehow believed that IQ represented intelligence (which it doesn’t, right? it’s bullshit, already said that), how big the statistical effect size was of the study? I would then point them to Janet Hyde’s paper on the Gender Similarities Hypothesis (pdf) which is so critical the APA doesn’t have it hiding behind a firewall. Hyde argues that calculating effect sizes (i.e. how different the means are between two sets of data) is way more important than the fact that the means are different particularly because simply using very large data sets can bias the means to be statistically significantly different. She does a meta-analysis of many studies done over decades to point out that, for most of the studies, the effect size is nil, and for only a couple is the effect size not zero but they are still small. So research that looks at gender with big ns without looking at effect sizes is essentially crap science. Clearly the “researcher” of said study could benefit from some something we call “learning” from past science in the context of a good statistics course. It could have saved him all that work.
THEN I would tell the reader to stop reading such poorly done science reporting (let alone science) which plays on our socialized beliefs that “there must be BIG differences between women and men, right? After all, we’re from different planets..” Instead, read this PhD comic. Or any of the other ones. They’re all funny. And better written.
Finally, I would reassure the reader that, IF you could measure intelligence by IQ and IF the means were “really there” and not just an effect of a large sample size, and IF there was somehow a big effect size, that doesn’t mean that a random individual man is smarter than a random individual woman. This is not an individual-level study — it’s a study about groups. So this doesn’t say anything about individual relationships — therefore one’s dumb male inlaw/colleague/partner/etc. can still be dumber than you.
Not that you needed a study to know that.