Ann Coulter: the problem with evolution is all them women and biologists

There are some great lines in Coulter's Godless—great lines in the sense that you can scarcely believe someone was so stupid that they'd say them. Here's one for the ladies and the life scientists here at scienceblogs.

Their grandiose self-conceptions to the contrary, the cult [the "evolution cult"] members are rarely scientists at all.

They aren't scientists? Get ready for it: here's the problem with those darned people who study evolution. They're biologists and women.

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They're almost always biologists—the "science" with the greatest preponderance of women. The distaff MIT "scientist" who fled the room in response to Larry Summers's remarks was, of course, a biologist. While I'm sure there have been groundbreaking discoveries about the internal digestive system of the earthworm, biologists are barely even scientists anymore. They're classifiers, list-makers, like librarians with their Dewey decimal system. Except librarians don't claim the Dewey decimal system holds the Rosetta Stone to the universe. There were once great biologists, but the morally vacuous ones began to promote their own at the universities. It was sort of intelligently designed devolution. Like Marxists gradually dominating the comp lit department, biologists will only be given tenure today if they foreswear any doubts about the evolution pseudoscience. Consequently, "biologist" almost always means "evolutionary biologist," which is something like an "ESP biologist."

Wow.

Seriously, you don't need to read the book—the whole thing has this tone of clueless, outraged derangement.

  • It's awfully silly to say biology isn't a science. The stamp-collecting argument is so 19th century.
  • So, ummm, who is supposed to study the evolution of life, if not the biologists? Astronomers? Civil engineers? Accountants? I think that if we drafted a physicist and put her to work on the problem of evolution, she'd have to bone up on the literature and start publishing in biology journals, and everyone would start calling her a biologist anyway.
  • Yes, lots of women are in biology, and more are joining all the time. Biology is hot—there's lots of growth and excitement in the field, we're making great strides, yadda yadda yadda. Why shouldn't women flock to a promising discipline of science?
  • So what's wrong with being a woman? They aren't all as stupid as Coulter.
  • I notice that Nancy Hopkins, the MIT scientist (she studies zebrafish molecular genetics, by the way), is still at MIT. Larry Summers is no longer at Harvard. Who was tougher?
  • Where once you might get away with calling taxonomists "list-makers," even that isn't true anymore. Systematics has gotten complex, requiring a fairly extensive set of analytical skills to do well. As for other biologists…well, I don't think Coulter has ever cracked a biology book, so what does she know?
  • I guess Coulter doesn't have much respect for librarians, either.
  • Could we get a list of the morally vacuous biologists now populating American universities? I'd like to invite them to a party and show those comp lit poseurs who the really wild degenerates are.
  • If Coulter ever gets cancer or the flu or needs surgery, I think she should insist on a doctor with no training in biology. Understanding cell biology or physiology are such useless bits of knowledge, don't you know.
  • The sneering contempt for pure research and basic biology is typical of the modern short-sighted conservative. What doesn't make her a buck right now is useless.
  • It's true that "biologist" almost always means "evolutionary biologist," in very general terms. That's because evolution is pervasively useful in every sub-discipline. We got this way not because we swore an oath, but because evolution works. The filter is for competence, not ideology…another concept a right-wing ranter wouldn't understand.

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Could we get a list of the morally vacuous biologists now populating American universities? I'd like to invite them to a party and show those comp lit poseurs who the really wild degenerates are.

We could make a short list, and it may be impossible to make a long list: Michael Behe, Dean Kenyon, Scott Minnich.

Interesting: The "morally vacuous" qualification tends to fall chiefly on the creationists. Doesn't sound like much of a party, nor a great team to field against the comp lit poseurs.

Now, if you want biologists with backbone, I can find 60,000 or 70,000 of those.

Which would you choose?

By Ed Darrell (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

I want to call Miss Coulter a "bitch," but that would be insulting all female canids living and extinct.
Has this vacuous bubble-headed boob ever hear of a nice lady named "Barbara McClintock," who happened to have won a Nobel Prize by studying the genetics of corn plants?
I mean, the more I hear of Coulter's book, the more I think that, should I be stranded on a desert island, I'd sooner use a live coconut crab as toilet paper, rather than a page from that awful book.
You think it would be a crime if one of us were to hire a hitman to bludgeon Miss Coulter to death with a portrait of Mary Anning?

Cheap whores don't have to be pretty because their customers are so desparate for any kind of gratification.

Ann Coulter doesn't have to make any sense because her readers . . . well, you get the idea.

Scott H said, "Cheap whores don't have to be pretty because their customers are so desparate for any kind of gratification."

Miss Coulter is pretty...
For a log of driftwood.

It's funny. I had always thought of the theory of evolution as the thing that made biology a coherent field and *not* just stamp collecting--hence why that argument is so 19th century.

*irony meter explodes*

By katemonster (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

May I add a boed, puckish, but sincere "fuck you" to anyone, scientists included, who continue beating the "Oh, those comp lit poseurs!" joke. Talk about beating a long-dead horse with the switch of I-don't-wanna-get-it ignorance!
The sciency types who do this sound increadibly like the creationists who bring up Nebraska Man.

Oh, and except for laughs why does this insane KKKolter-being need more than reasoned refuting if asked? Anyone willing to believe such obvious hyperbolic horseshit has already joined themselves to her worship of Hatred and Vanity.

Wow, it is a real feat to be that wrong. It's almost as if she is trying to see how far she can push the envelope of the public's credulity and still retain her pundit's chair. I mean, in 2006, calling biology a "science"? Huh??

Does she think "biology" only refers to beetle collectors? Is she not aware that the general public is just a little interested in a number of studies ongoing in bona fide biology labs, like those on...oh, I don't know...EVERY DISEASE THAT PLAGUES MANKIND?

Darwin started with a beetle collection. Beetles FTW!

By Nymphalidae (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

It's great how women are just SO BAD at science that when too many of us get into an area it stops being science.

By Nymphalidae (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

As a guy who has had the honor of training several outstanding scientists who happen to be women, I add to Barbara McClintock the name of one of the 1988 Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine, Gertrude (Trudy) Elion. Without a Ph.D, she took a lab position during WWII when all the men were dying overseas and partnered in the discoveries of no less than six anticancer drugs, some before the structure of DNA was known. She continued working at Burroughs-Wellcome and then GSK until shortly before her death, traveling the country and the world inspiring young biologists, men and women, to take up this noble pursuit.

Coulter's existence is an insult to women, lawyers, and authors world-wide. If not for the courageous women of principle and accomplishment who came before her, her bile spouting would be confined to the home (if there was indeed a man who would have her, lest she be dispatched to an insane asylum to live out her years).

This bit of Coulter's diatribe has the smell of David Berlinski.

She doesn't know what librarians do either. The modern librarian is a researcher, capable of using a vast array of paper and computer search devices. Perhaps if she had used a librarian when writing her "book" . . .

As little as I can stand Berlinski, even he is not quite this insane.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

I notice that Nancy Hopkins, the MIT scientist (she studies zebrafish molecular genetics, by the way), is still at MIT. Larry Summers is no longer at Harvard. Who was tougher?

I'm not a big fan of EvoPsych, but in that particular case, Summers was the one making an argument based on his understanding of evolution (and while one can certainly question Summers' understanding of the subject, serious EvoPsych people like Pinker have come to his defense). Of course, that point also seems to been missed by Coulter as well; you'd think she'd support someone leaving in a huff after hearing an evolutionary argument.

She doesn't know what librarians do either. The modern librarian is a researcher, capable of using a vast array of paper and computer search devices. Perhaps if she had used a librarian when writing her "book" . . .

Not to mention that she's confusing DDC and LCSH. If I produced a "list" of Dewey numbers for any item catalogued, the record would be rejected.

By Phoenician in … (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

"...discoveries about the internal digestive system of the earthworm..."

Sadly, very little work is ongoing in the field of annelid external digestion. Those internal bastards always steal the funding and the best lab space.

By TheBrummell (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

... EVERY DISEASE THAT PLAGUES MANKIND?

So biologists are studying Ann Coulter's brand of reactionary madness?
Good. The sooner it can be cured, the better.

.

.

PZ, there may be something wrong with the code for your bearded ranting nutman background - I'm seeing a 'redhat' background, which is inappropriate, and makes the text hard to read. I'm using Firefox 1.5.0.1 .

You know, it doesn't even need to be said, but replace the references to women in that exerpt with references to any minority group, and... well, no, wait. It doesn't actually get worse. It's so asshatedly stupid that even doing that classic replacement only makes it an equivalent brand of ignorance, rather than highlighting the stupidity.

On behalf of my gender, I apologize for Coulter. I'd like to say it'll never happen again, but it probably will because women are just as stupid as men.

Not to mention that she's confusing DDC and LCSH. If I produced a "list" of Dewey numbers for any item catalogued, the record would be rejected.

That, and how many libraries really use Dewey anymore anyway? But of course, since Coulter's never been near one, she'd be working on her memories of grade school when they made her go. Let's see her try to understand LC classification.

On behalf of my gender, I apologize for Coulter. I'd like to say it'll never happen again, but it probably will because women are just as stupid as men.

Hardly necessary. Ann Coulter would actually have to be a woman to have implicated your gender in her asshattery.

That, and how many libraries really use Dewey anymore anyway?

As far as I know, still the system of choice for public and school libraries - I'm not sure whether this is different for American libraries, but certainly outside the US, LCC becomes less useful (being based on what the Library of Congress actually has). LCC is more relevant to university libraries, of course.

By Phoenician in … (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

>serious EvoPsych people like Pinker have come to his >defense

I'm surprised Pinker has defended Summers, who I suspect has more in common with Coulter than he lets on in polite society. But I was more surprised how many people accused Nancy Hopkins and others of "overreacting." Summers' comments were idiotic and insulting, totally innapproriate to his position and any serious-minded discussion.

As most people realize (except perhaps Coulter or Nicholas Wade, who just wrote a moronic book about how humans have a gene "for" everything we do), the factors affecting any sociological outcome are dizzying in number and variability. But, we do know a few things:

-female students are systematically treated differently by teachers from primary school on.
-parents in our society often have different expectations for daughters than for sons.
-we know what sexist and abusive clowns young men can be. --PIs (usually white, middle-aged, male) often give the best projects to the postdocs they feel most chummy with.
-both men and women evaluating the same CV will give higher marks to the one with a male name on it.

Occam's razor, people! WHY on earth would anyone feel compelled to invoke any more causal factors for the state of women in science? Particularly ones as tenuous and unsupported as a biological basis for academic career success? Howzabout fixing the problems we KNOW exist, then see where we stand? Considering the relatively recent advances we've made from women being considered property, I'd say the odds are in favor of it being a social problem and not a genetic one.

Here's a theory: biological explanations gives a smug sense of justification to white men... how humiliating it would be to admit the only reason you win is that the game is rigged in your favor. Egos like soap bubbles--it's pathetic.

How far will bigots take these positions? I was talking to someone who said that men were naturally better at math and that's why there are virtually no women in engineering programs. As one might guess, this guy was American, and neglected the fact that in some other countries peopled by Homo sapiens (including the Asian one in which the conversation was taking place) there is much higher female enrollment in engineering, approaching parity in some disciplines. His rationale? Asians are better at math. Genetically.

I suppose this is slightly less offensive than Wade's contention that Jews are good at math because they were selected for good money-lending skills.

I'm not saying human behavior does not have a genetic component... good research suggests it's close to 50% of the variance. But extrapolating from this to social outcomes in a variety of cultural contexts is idiotic and self-serving 99% of the time. I don't understand why so many scientist get bamboozled by this.

Jeez, what did you expect? Her syllogism basically goes:

(a) I hate liberals.
(b) Liberals believe in evolution.
(c) Therefore, I hate evolution.

Y'all are throwing an awful lot of effort into treating her like she was motivated by something resembling our Earth logic.

BTW--Scott H compares Coulter to cheap whores? Cheap whores deserve an apology.

By Molly, NYC (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

Ohh, Coulter doesn't like librarians, huh? Well, as someone about to go to grad school for library and information science (and then perhaps pursue an undergrad degree in BIOLOGY), I've got news for her if she thinks her stupid crap book isn't going to need a librarian knowing the Dewey Decimal system to locate it, once she's become the obscure cosmetic surgery addict that she is sure to become.

Denigrating the entire enterprise of biology doesn't leave much room for Intelligent Design as a secular alternative. All along, we've been told that ID merely questions origins, while accepting 90% of evolutionary explanations for how things developed.

I suppose the classifiers & list-makers of the geological persuasion must have gotten the age of the Earth all wrong, too. I can only hope Ms. Coulter will tell us the actual number.

Good for you, Kristine! The world needs more reality-based informaticists.

Of course I'm biased, but I think it just doesn't get any better than the intersection of information science and biology. :)

I just want to say that Ann Coulter is an inspiration to me. As a result of reading this extract from her latest book, and seeing it rocket to no.1 in the bestsellers table, I have realised that I was making life difficult for myself. Instead of laboriously distilling and presenting the current literature and 3 years' research in my PhD thesis, I can just make it up! Hurrah!

How stupid some people are concerning librarians.

Classification of information is even more relevant today than ever before. Sure the Dewey system is old and wellknown, but it is so for a reason, its usefull, and gives easy access to information.

But where do we find librarians today? Working with the likes of google, yahoo and microsoft, helping build better serach capabilities. Inside large, and medium sized companies, cataloging ressources, enabling knowledge sharing, increasing the net worth of investments in intellectual capital.

But what good uis informations specialists in the information age - right?

The fact that there are many women who are drawn to be librarians, just makes it less "important" in misogonysts eyes - people like Coulter.

Disclaimer: And yes I am married to the most intelligent, and beutiful woman in the world, who is a librerian. Now cue Michal Jacksons tribute to the women of this profession "Librarian girl" http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/liberiangirl.html

By Soren Kongstad (not verified) on 18 Jun 2006 #permalink

I'm surprised Pinker has defended Summers, who I suspect has more in common with Coulter than he lets on in polite society. But I was more surprised how many people accused Nancy Hopkins and others of "overreacting." Summers' comments were idiotic and insulting, totally innapproriate to his position and any serious-minded discussion.

Here's an interesting interview of Pinker from shortly after the incident. While I'm myself suspicious of EvoPsych/sociobiological arguments, I think Pinker is 100% correct in asserting that most commentators completely misunderstood Summers arguments, and that the comments were in no way "inappropriate".

http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/2005_01_19_crimson.html

I'll bet a hummer from her feels great with her bassitone, masculine voice.

By jujuquisp (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

Phoenician in a time of Romans: Humourously, I've been to three universities, and the two Canadian ones used LoC, and the US one used Dewey. I don't understand ... I must say I prefer LoC, though both are broken in the areas of CS and logic ...

Molly, NYC: You're giving her too much credit. Do you really think she can reason correctly in any formal way?

From your link, Jonathan Badger..

"PINKER: Look, the truth cannot be offensive. Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is "offensive" even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don't get the concept of a university or free inquiry."

People who support the purveyors of unsupported hypotheses, or declare it legitimate without providing arguments or evidence, don't get the concept of science or research. This was thrown out by a non-scientist at a non-scientific event to a bunch of scientists, it was absolutely not the venue to go off on speculative hypotheses.

I have my doubts about Pinker's take on linguistics (I think he's ignoring research that doesn't support his view), but that's an academic disagreement.

This "defense" of Summers is something else. Another example of Pinker's "reasoning": "...in samples of gifted students who are given every conceivable encouragement to excel in science and math, far more men than women expressed an interest in pursuing science and math."

Here Pinker is using a sample with no control (children raised by wolves) to support a genetic hypothesis.

I think Pinker's lost it... he's too eager to promote Evo-Psych that he's willing to support bad arguments. The alternative explaination is much, much worse.

People who support the purveyors of unsupported hypotheses, or declare it legitimate without providing arguments or evidence, don't get the concept of science or research.

Not even to mention how much cherry-picking it takes Summers and Pinker to ignore the evidence from the various studies miko cited in favor of that unsupported hypothesis.

Then again, Summers did provide that "mommy truck, daddy truck" anecdote. I guess that's enough compelling evidence for Pinker; otherwise, he'd have to admit that he's defending the right of Summers, with his poor track record on hiring practices under his administration, to cherry-pick the available evidence in favor of his unsupported anecdotal speculations in front of a roomful of people who understand the difference.

Which is his perfect right, under the First Amendment, of course, but it's not in any way science.

"May I add a boed, puckish, but sincere "fuck you" to anyone, scientists included, who continue beating the "Oh, those comp lit poseurs!" joke. Talk about beating a long-dead horse with the switch of I-don't-wanna-get-it ignorance!"

Uh? "Comp lit"? Computer litterature? Oh, *comparative* litterature. Never heard of it. Is there comparative architechture, technology, politics as well? No? Wonder why...

(Sorry, couldn't resist. Sometimes one gets amazed by the areas people demarcate. Feel free to unload again, on me.)

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

May I add a boed, puckish, but sincere "fuck you" to anyone, scientists included, who continue beating the "Oh, those comp lit poseurs!" joke. Talk about beating a long-dead horse with the switch of I-don't-wanna-get-it ignorance!
Well, I don't mind derailing this thread since there are several others on pretty much the exact same topic already, so...

You think the field of comparative literature has improved since Sokal's day? How? Do you have any evidence?

Exactly what kind of meaningful discussion goes on in the field?

This isn't sarcasm - I would like to believe that there is something worthwhile there. I just haven't seen it yet.

Jonathan,

I think you forgot to mention that two other scientists that Summers has referenced disowned the similar conclusions he made from their work and went against Pinker.

"University of California-Davis sociologist Kimberlee A. Shauman said that Summers' remarks were "uninformed." The other researcher, University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie, said he accepted Summers' comments as "scholarly propositions," although he said his own analysis "goes against Larry's suggestion that math ability is something innate.""

"In an interview with The Crimson last night, Summers stressed that he only cited Xie and Shauman's research as evidence that females are underrepresnted among the top 5 percent of test-takers on standardized assessments. Summers said the evidence for his speculative hypothesis that biological differences may partially account for this gender gap comes instead from scholars cited in Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker's bestselling 2002 book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature."

"Summers read a substantial portion of Xie and Shauman's acclaimed 2003 book Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes, published by Harvard University Press, in preparation for Friday's conference.

"For the biological interpretation [of the gender gap] to hold, it is necessary that both of the following assumptions be true," the authors write on page 41. "[First,] the relationship between the measured aspects of brain functioning and math/science achievement is causal. [Second,] gender differences in thee aspects of brain functioning are biologically biased."

"Neither of these two assumptions is supported by the scientific evidence," Xie and Shauman conclude."

( http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=505363 )

I don't think you can take Pinker ideas as an example of accepted evolutionary research.

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

"Sometimes one gets amazed by the areas people demarcate."

And of course such amazement stems from ignorance. So I back Chris' question. Eager mind want to know more...

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

I'd like to say it'll never happen again, but it probably will because women are just as stupid as men.

Careful, you're up against some pretty stiff competition. If it comes to it, we're prepared to be competatively stupid.

Bob

BTW--Scott H compares Coulter to cheap whores? Cheap whores deserve an apology.

Molly's right. If any cheap whores are reading this, I apologize for comparing you to Ann Coulter.

I don't think you can take Pinker ideas as an example of accepted evolutionary research.

There are certainly people who study evolution who tend to disagree with Pinker (myself included), but most would agree that he is the leading figure in evolutionary psychology today. So, I find Coulter's defense of Pinker's mouthpiece Summers pretty ironic; that's my main point.

Okay, I've changed my mind about reviewing Coulter's book. The few parts of it I've seen made me realize she's talking to the 20% of the population who will, under absolutely no circumstances, change their minds about evolution and science.

40% or so of us believe the World is no more than 10,000 years old. More than half of us think we're pretty much the way God made us.

The good news is, I doubt very many people who buy the book will even read it. They can't read anyway.

After coming to understand the math in "Ancestor's Tale", I can definitely see how it works. It makes sense now. I doubt the people who buy Coulter's books could make it through one chapter of Dawkins.

Coulter's just an ignoramous. She'd never bother to debate the point about evidence for evolution (it's everywhere). She'd give it a dismissive wave and tell people they're just stupid.

I proposed that we all buy one copy and share. I take it back. I cannot read this book. And of her ilk, I don't even think she's the worst one. I think Malkin leaves Coulter in the dust.

That's not meant to be flattering.

The saddest part is that at least 20% of the population just can't reason their way past Coulter's ignorant claims.

Some of the commenters here do great injustice to PZ Myers' excellent blog with lazy-brained, bigotted and cheap shots against Coulter's lack of femininity.

Comments about how marriageable she is, comparing her to whores, what a blow job from her would be like, how "mannish" she is, etc. are sexist attacks that are typically used against women because they are women.

Shape up, folks, you do us no service by acting like idiots.

Comments about how marriageable she is, comparing her to whores, what a blow job from her would be like, how "mannish" she is, etc. are sexist attacks that are typically used against women because they are women.

One could argue that in this case, such comments are entirely appropriate, because her book is full of such sexist attacks on other women.

By Mike Crichton (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

One could argue that in this case, such comments are entirely appropriate, because her book is full of such sexist attacks on other women.

The reason I don't care for that argument is that it's the same one the right-wingers use to justify torture at Abu Ghraib. When we base our own behavioral standards on being no worse than the opponent, then we run the strong risk of being no better than them, either.

I think there are two separate propositions here--1) Ann Coulter has set herself up to deserve whatever invective she gets, no doubt about it, and 2) if I myself were to take the bait and give her what she's asking for, I would in that moment be acting as basely as she routinely does. Since I'm not interested in stooping to that, I won't engage on those terms, even though, as Mike has pointed out, she does richly deserve it.

In another allusion to the war, using such tactics results in the collateral damage to all women. That is, using sexist terms to attack a woman qua woman legitimizes judging women on their looks, marriageability, etc. Also, it is illustrative of how baseless sexual terms generally are. A woman does not have to divulge any sexual inclinations to be libeled as a slut.

PS are you the real Michael Chrichton? It would make sense if so.

Oops I meant Crichton

Also, by your own argument, since you argue for the legitimacey of sexist verbal assault on someone who uses sexist verbal assault, does that mean you yourself are a fair target for sexist verbal assault? It's a self-perpetuating cycle, if you see what I mean.

Again, I applaud PZ Myers for not taking such cheap shots and deftly disposing of her in supremely legitimate ways.

There is indeed a double standard here: how often does anyone post comments on, say, Wm. Dembski's dismal prospects in the dating scene, or what Jo. Wells's matrimonial prospects would be if he couldn't rely on the Unification Church to assign him a bride?

Otoh, there is the undeniable creepiness of the Coulter physiognomy: the cruelty of her smile compares only to that of C. Rice. Between them they leave the nastiness of the abundant other nefarious (male) grins on display these days (the W smirk, that Cheney sneer, etc) in the dust.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 19 Jun 2006 #permalink

Congratulations to SaltyC, who was smart enough and strong enough to speak up when the rest of us failed to object to the shameful and degrading comments about Ann Coulter's gender, perceived sexual inclinations, or appearance.
.
As for 'cheap whores', we would do well to recall that many (all?) are sex workers due to coercion, and often suffer terribly. They deserve our respect and our sympathy, not derision.

There is indeed a double standard here: how often does anyone post comments on, say, Wm. Dembski's dismal prospects in the dating scene

Well, I don't know. How much cleavage does he show on the cover of his books?

Even if Ann Coulter tries to use her cleavage as an argument, it is not OK (on pharyngula at least I hope) to debate in a similar vein.

Why, yes, I am absolutely the "real" Michael Crichton, it's that (*&^%$ bestselling author who's the fake. No, seriously, his real first name is "John", why I oughta sue him for identity theft...

First Pinker: the best rebuttal to Pinker/Chomsky et al arguments for innate language is made in "The Symbolic Species," by Terence Deacon, where he makes the seemingly obvious point that it is far more parsimonious to consider that languages have evolved to fit the human brain (in particular human children's particular set of learning skills) rather than vice versa.

graculus said "People who support the purveyors of unsupported hypotheses, or declare it legitimate without providing arguments or evidence, don't get the concept of science or research."

Word to that. Not all hypotheses deserve equal consideration, and Summers' deserves almost none. Historically, science has dedicated a huge amount of resources to finding innate differences among groups of humans that explain social outcomes. It's been a stunningly unsuccessful research program. Maybe there is a small amount of variance... if so, it is difficult to reproduce under different circumstances or contexts, is miniscule compared to variance within groups, and has never been demonstrated to have a genetic component. Nor have any of these differences ever been shown to affect career success. Let's face it: you don't have to be a whiz kid to be a successful academic. You're telling me a population 3-5% difference with a shaky p-value means jack shit when it comes to tenure?

This is not the data that needs following up on. A tiny and debatable amount of variance cannot shoulder the massive disparity in academic inclusion and success. Maybe we should just follow up on the promising leads: the countless incontrovertible studies on how men and women are systematically treated differently within education systems and society at large.

Summers went to a venue that was designed to address the problem of women's representation in academia. To suggest that the problem is the biology of women (for which there is, I reiterate, no good evidence) is inappropriate and stupid. It's intellectually lazy, self-serving, willfully ignorant, and demeaning. Every shitty, shallowly considered opinion does not deserve discussion under the guise of academic freedom or a spirit of open enquiry.

Historically, science has dedicated a huge amount of resources to finding innate differences among groups of humans that explain social outcomes. It's been a stunningly unsuccessful research program

Here you go too far. Behavioral genetics has hardly received a "huge amount of resources", and it certainly isn't "stunningly unsuccessful". A lot of progress has been made (granted, often in non-human animals for practical and political reasons). And most behavioral geneticists (as are academics generally) tend to be left of center, so you can't accuse them of studying the subject out of desire to oppress women or minorities or something.

Jonathan says:

"There are certainly people who study evolution who tend to disagree with Pinker (myself included), but most would agree that he is the leading figure in evolutionary psychology today."

I can't argue about that since it is entirely outside my knowledge. What I was saying is that other scientists doesn't accept Pinker's conclusion.

Perusing Wikipedia it seems evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology rooted in sociobology. Sociobiology was certainly not looked favourable on by evolutionary biologists.

From those two pieces of information it seems to me Pinkner isn't proposing "evolutionary arguments" as within evolutionary biology nor are the results accepted. Am I wrong?

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 20 Jun 2006 #permalink

Perusing Wikipedia it seems evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology rooted in sociobology. Sociobiology was certainly not looked favourable on by evolutionary biologists.

That's not really true. Quite a few well respected evolutionary biologists (Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, George Williams, and Robert Trivers to name the more famous ones) were huge supporters of sociobiology, even in regard to humans. And hardly any evolutionary biologists had a problem with sociobiology as an explanation for the behavior of ants and other social insects (where the field developed).

The famous debate in the 1970s and 1980s with Lewontin/Gould on one side and Dawkins/Wilson on the other was about the application of sociobiology to *human* behavior. The debate has died down in recent years, not so much because one side "won", but because both sides have realized that environment and genetics have important roles to play, and it isn't an either/or situation.

That being said, I (and PZ, among others), tend to give the environment a larger role than would Dawkins or Pinker.

Jonathan,

I love behavioral genetics...we do it in the lab. What I said was the extrapolation of postulated genetic differences (or innate differences of any kind) to social outcomes (a highly derived and heterogenous combination of behavior, environment, and culture) in human societies has been stunningly unsuccessful. And it's not for lack of trying.

The midsummer holiday was long and eventful, apparently so was this thread.

"The famous debate in the 1970s and 1980s with Lewontin/Gould on one side and Dawkins/Wilson on the other was about the application of sociobiology to *human* behavior."

I'm sorry, this is what Wikipedia say, and that was what I mean't in the context of this discussion.

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 01 Jul 2006 #permalink

it appears she is also guilty of plagiarism, her chapters on evolution are strikingly similar to the failed papers of the high school science student that flunked science. Proof positive, PLAGIARISM!

By richCares (not verified) on 07 Jul 2006 #permalink

Hmm, most of the retired biologists I've interview complain about how "no one is doing taxonomy anymore."

I just boggle.

The gumby is a nice touch.

unloading on Torbjörn...

Oh, *comparative* litterature. Never heard of it. Is there comparative architechture, technology, politics as well? No?

Eh... "buildings in New York are x, buildings in Chicago rather tend to be y" is a statement in comparative architecture; comparative politics is a well-known field. The "comp." in comp. lit., as far as I know, comes from the fact that there are a considerable number of languages in the world, with different literary histories. Comparison is seems a pretty good way of understanding that difference.

Think: Write: Post. In that order.

By astrongmaybe (not verified) on 27 Aug 2006 #permalink

For all of you that buy into the evolution answer for where we come from, I have the following question; How is it that science cannot demonstrate or replicate species change yet we have so many species. Please dont mention finches either. Inspite of all the documented changes, every one of them is still a bird. Chromosomes are still the same number. Although a dog could possibly mate with a cat, science knows that it is not possible for conception to occur. So I am at a loss as to how we have so many different species.

So much of the evolution evidence has been proven to be a fraud. Admittedly, some of it is not....but one can hardly adopt evolution as fact on evidence that is merely suggestive.

All documented cases that I am privvy to fail to even demonstrate how an observed change in a species appearance was an improvement on its previous form. Based on that, I feel that mutations are freak events that always produce an inferior model. Mutation don't ever produce a new species.

I am not ready to embrace evolution as science. If you do accept it as fact, then you do so on faith. Its safe to say that your religeon is evolution.

An unwillingness to even consider intelligent design is not sufficient reason to promote a theory to the level of factual science.

WTL3, I certainly hope PZ displays your post in a more blog posting. It's somewhat passive aggressive to post in a long-dead thread. Perhaps it allows you to have the last word?

Now, which form of Intelligent Design should we consider to be factual? Because you see, I have a lot of American Indian ID to consider, plus a favorite Japanese tale too.

I'd love to see a testable theory of ID, unfortunately not one exists.

"One could argue that in this case, such comments are entirely appropriate, because her book is full of such sexist attacks on other women."

The reason I don't care for that argument is that it's the same one the right-wingers use to justify torture at Abu Ghraib.

I find myself wondering what it's like to be someone putting forth such a transparently wrong claim. Even if right-wingers were justifying torturing Abu Ghraib prisoners because Abu Ghraib prisoners torture other Abu Ghraib prisoners, it still wouldn't be "the same one".

Consider if I said that I'm not sure whether it would be torture to waterboard Michael Mukasey. Of course, I'm not really not sure.

By truth machine (not verified) on 26 Dec 2007 #permalink

All documented cases that I am privvy to

Perhaps if you got a decent education in biology and read more than just AnswersInGenesis you would be "privvy" (sic) to a lot more.

By truth machine (not verified) on 26 Dec 2007 #permalink

Although a dog could possibly mate with a cat, science knows that it is not possible for conception to occur. So I am at a loss as to how we have so many different species.

since a galaxy could collide with a nebula, I'm at a total loss to explain why there are so many stars.

who is it around here that is fond of saying:

"Logic: you're doing it wrong"

WTL3: As long as you're here, would you like to take PZ's Ann Coulter challenge? "I asked any of her supporters to stand up and tell me what single paragraph [in the book Godless]they thought contained a defensible critique of evolution. I'd be willing to read it carefully and propose my counterarguments."

"Could we get a list of the morally vacuous biologists now populating American universities? I'd like to invite them to a party and show those comp lit poseurs who the really wild degenerates are."

Dude...... I'm with the band.

By The Pale Scot (not verified) on 26 Dec 2007 #permalink

Every single claim made by WTL3 has already been debunked exhaustively, in the TalkOrigins Index and elsewhere, so I'll just pick one at random:

All documented cases that I am privvy to fail to even demonstrate how an observed change in a species appearance was an improvement on its previous form. Based on that, I feel that mutations are freak events that always produce an inferior model.

This is creationist claim CB102.2, and is easily shown to be completely wrong by the simple fact that mutations have, in recent history, created organisms with new capabilities. For example, the insertion of a single nucleotide into a single gene of a bacterium created the ability to digest nylon, opening an entire new ecological niche for Flavobacterium sp. K172.

Just because one "feels" that mutations "always produce an inferior model" does not make that claim true.

As WTL3,

ALL YUR POTZ ARE BELONG TO US!

GOD RUL0X!

"So what's wrong with being a woman? They aren't all as stupid as Coulter."

Coutler is a woman?

For real?

No seriously PZ?