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10/08/2006

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Tim Lambert

What is puzzling is your refusal to consider the possibility that the Gates foundation might know what they are doing. If you done some research into the history of the fight against malaria you would know that India has been using DDT against malaria for six decades without managing to eradicate it. They do use it less than they used to, but that is because DDT resistance by mosquitoes is widespread. And India is a much more favourable place for DDT since it has much better infrastructure than Africa.

To even hold the line against malaria will require the development of new insecicides and drugs because the mosquitoes and malaria parasites keep developing resistance agaisnt the ones we have. The Gates Foundation is quite properly working on these as well.

Your ill-informed criticism is most unfair.

Haris

I originally suggested that the absence of women could be path dependent, in the sense that we have few women in science now because we had few women in science in the past. Judge Posner, and many others, correctly pointed out that even though no women were present in law and medicine, for example, they are there now. I realize this myself; what I was getting at is that no one adequately explains why women are so successful in other fields but not in science or engineering.

Brian Ferguson

I find it interesting, in the women in science debate, that no-one seems to regard medicine as a science.

Corey

"simply because only women who were better than men could overleap the discrimination hurdle."

You answered your own question by thinking of discrimination as a "hurdle.' That is, something that operates only as a barrier to entry.

In fact, discrimination is better modeled as a weight attached to the leg of its subject. It does not go away once she gains access to a field, but merely relocates and changes form.

Women must do better than their male peers to get the same credentials, and they have to be better than their male peers to get the same assignments, mentoring, and responsibility once they start work.

Because discrimination affects both the proces of getting credentials and the process of doing the job, you cannot isolate discrimination by comparing performance in school to job performance.

Bruce G Charlton

POSNER: "Since men outperform women in science rather than vice versa, the inference is that there is discrimination in favor of women."

Exactly so! Of course this is no secret, since the desirability of appointing a woman to a post or promotion is frequently and openly asserted.

LAMBERT: "... no one adequately explains why women are so successful in other fields but not in science or engineering."

I have seen it explained fairly often - for example by ex-Harvard President Larry Summers, but also by evolutionary psychologists.

1. There is a specifically mathemetical aptitude difference between men and women which explains why there have been no female mathematicians of genius (or classical music composers, for that matter). The differential ability gets larger with increasing aptitude - rather like the way that the height differential between men and women gets greater with increasing height (there are just a few-fold more men than women at the average height for a man; but thousands-fold more men than women at - say - two standard deviations above male average height).

2. There is another difference in terms of single-minded status-seeking (due to sexual selection, probably) being on average stronger in men - which leads to men being found more frequently in _any_ job which requires single-minded status-seeking and sacrifice of other goods (such as family, leisure, comfort etc). This has been very well studied by Kingsley R Browne of Wayne State University law school.

Steve Sailer

The Shalala committee of female academics is riddled with obvious financial conflicts of interest that make their report useless as science. Indeed, monetary corruption is a rampant theme among powerful academic feminists, as the Denton-Greenwood scandal in the University of California shows:

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/061001_diversity.htm

Bruce G Charlton

Sailer's comment reminds me of the quote from Steven Pinker (of MIT) in a debate posted on Edge.org "...the harder the science, the greater the participation of women! ... it's the most subjective fields within academia — the social sciences, the humanities, the helping professions — that have the greatest representation of women."

In other words, the pattern of male-female representation by academic subject confirms the statistical evidence of academic discrimination in favour of women mentioned by Posner (ie. higher perfomance in men at equivalent positions).

The particular domination of men in mathematical subjects (physics, engineering, hard-economics etc.) is then potentially explicable by the fact that since these are the most objective sciences, they are the subjects in which it is most difficult to implement the prevailing pattern of discrimination in favour of women.

A. Zarkov

It’s not surprising to find men dominate in academic fields that are cognitively demanding such as mathematics. While it’s commonly believed that men and women have the same average IQ, recent research shows that’s only true until age 16. After that men gain an average advantage of about 5.5 points over women (Colom and Lynn 2004). The most plausible explanation is a difference in brain size. Modern measurements using MRI scans (Vernon 2000) show a correlation between IQ and brain size of 0.44 (after making a correction for IQ test reliability). Men have brains that average 100 grams more mass (Ankney 1992) than women (after correcting for body size). Using this correlation and a brain size difference (0.78 in standard deviation units) gives a differential IQ of 5.1 points well within sampling variation of the observed difference of 5.5. This difference will not show up on IQ tests that have a high verbal component as this creates a sex bias in the measurement of general g.

This small shift in mean implies a large ratio of the upper tail area of the IQ distributions for men and women. For example, if we assume IQ is normally distributed, and set a threshold level 4 standard deviations above the male mean, we get a ratio of about 5. This means we have 5 times more men than women with really high IQs. Male IQs also show greater dispersion. A single point increase in the standard deviation for men bumps the ratio up to almost 18 when combined with the shift in mean. Thus it’s not at all surprising that we would find far more men than women in the hard sciences.

Charlton says, “… there have been no female mathematicians of genius….” This is not correct from a historical perspective. Emily Noether was a female mathematician of the genius level. In 1918 she proved Noether’s theorem, which shows the connection between the fundamental laws of physics and symmetry. General relativity falls out as a special case. The famous mathematician David Hilbert recognized her genius and got her admitted to the mathematical institute at Göttingen.

Colom and Lynn: Personal and Individual Differences, 36,75-82

Vernon: Handbook of Intelligence, Cambridge Press, R. J. Sternberg Ed.

Ankley: Intellegence 16, 329-336

joan

"Since men outperform women in science"

How do you know that. Since performance in science is rated by peer review this result may be the result of bias by male peers. Even small biases matter. Studies have show that having a last name starting with A, B, C improves your "performance" in science because you are first author on joint papers. You distrust a committee composed primarily of women, but you trust peer review in science when the peers are primarily men. You might question your own biases also.

muxec

"One comment states that the underrepresentation of women in science may be a result of path dependency (where you start may determine where you end up)--the fewness of women in science in past times. This is not persuasive, because there were virtually no women in academic law when I was a law student in the 1950s, but now about half of all law professors are women.

I guess it is the responce to my comment. Looks like my point is not clear enough. I said that the lack of female physicists in the past makes it hard for "scientific advertisiment" to target young females. While the "advertising" of science in popular culture is often focused on the image of famous great scientist, not necessuary rich. The advertisment of law as profession is focused on nameless rich lawyer. Also not that the most popular heroes of crime fiction books are both males and females. Take Miss Marple for example.

I say, that the targeting of "advertisement" of different professions to children in families and popular culture is uneven.

Bruce G Charlton

Thanks to Zarkov for the suggestion (above) of Emily Noether as a possible female mathematical genius.

From what - very little - I could find about Noether on a Google Search (she has no page in Wikipedia, and about 400 Google hits - fewer than I do myself - compared with hundreds of thousands for Gauss, Hilbert and the like) she certainly sounds like she did very important work.

But she is certainly _not_ one of the major recognized first-rate mathematicians.

shiva

there is an obvious mechanism that we know happens that calls into question posner's inference about discrimination against women in science:

while many women in science do indeed face discrimination, a few (particularly in highly-visible positions) nonetheless benefit from some preferential treatment as an ad-hoc solution to the inequity, or as a false committment to equity for public consumption.

A. Zarkov

She does have a page in Wikipedia, look under “Emmy Noether.” When I google “emmy noether,” I get 344,000 hits. I’m sorry I initially gave the less common spelling of her first name. If you read Wikipedia and the other hits you will see she did significant work in mathematics. Moreover she did face career barriers on account of her sex. Of course it didn’t help to be Jewish and a socialist in Germany in the early 20th Century. Tragically her brother (also a socialist and a mathematician) went to the Soviet Union where he ended up getting shot. She also had her career cut short by an untimely death from natural causes or botched surgery. While Noether does not have the stature of a Hilbert, Poincare, Von Neumann, Hardy, or Kolmogorov, she certainly was a genius, and I personally would put her in the top 100 mathematicians of the 20th Century. Of course some people go a little to far in Noether worship. The mathematics library at UC Berkeley (Evans Hall) used to have a pantheon of posters of great mathematicians posted across the wall. A few years ago I saw that the library saw fit to rip all of them down except Noether’s.

Anonymous

Overpopulation is solved by industrial capitalism. That the "intellectuals" have not realized this as the most obvious fact of human affairs is beyond me.

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