Re: Pinker vs. Spelke on gender and science

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Posted by Anthony Bucci on October 09, 2006 at 16:18:18:

In Reply to: Pinker vs. Spelke on gender and science posted by Paul Chiusano on October 07, 2006 at 19:53:37:

Tenure-track professorships are a scarce resource relative to the glut of
PhD students who want them. So, there's competition, and competitive
people will tend to get them. But that's a contingency of the system (and
our time in history), not a necessity. Even if you grant all the physical
differences Pinker brings up, you still only get that males would be
better at acquiring science positions in a competitive market, not that
males are actually better at science. I feel like Pinker is dodging the
question by talking about why males are good at getting positions in
science, whereas Spelke is closer to the actual question of whether males
are better at science. (by analogy, Microsoft is good at getting people
to use its operating system, even as other groups make better operating

The variance observation (*) seems empty to me unless there's some
argument about where the variance came from. This is a feedback system,
so even the tiniest asymmetry could be amplified. (just as random genetic
drift can lead to the extinction of a very good trait). Other than some
"boilerplate" argument about genetic factors, I didn't see anything in
Pinker's talk suggesting that the difference in variance he was pointing
out was anything more than an accident. It seems to me that you'd need to
talk about a lot more than genes and hormones to make an argument like
that stick.

Anyway, just at the level of the argument I'd say Spelke won. Hers is
better structured. Pinker's argument seems lazy to me. By the way, isn't
it ironic the thing was framed as a competition (Pinker VS. Spelke) ?


(*) that, as a group, males tend to show higher variance in certain
performance measures than females do.

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