Science, the Google memo, & our usual political hysteria

Summary: The Google memo shows how, as usual in America, chaos results when politics and science collide. Here are notes by James Bowman, journalists, and scientists explaining different aspects of the debate to us.

Men and Women

Contents.

  1. Bowman looks at the debate.
  2. Articles mentioned.
  3. Scientists comment on the Google memo.
  4. About James Bowman.
  5. For More Information.
  6. About honor.

 

Bowman looks at the debate about the Google memo.

From his website, 16 August 2017.
Reposted with his generous permission.

In all the fuss over Google’s firing of an engineer named James Damore (surely a corruption of “D’amore”?) for expressing an opinion about sex differences {in the Google memo}, the main focus has been upon the poor fellow’s right to freedom of speech, if any, with only secondary consideration being given to the merits, if any, which may be allowed to his point of view.

When that subject comes up, so, inevitably, does science. Or “science,” since when science is invoked to resolve a political argument it is rarely science in the strict sense. Usually it means the opinions of some scientist or group of scientists whose political views almost certainly antedate their scientific researches but, nevertheless, somehow turn out to have been confirmed by them.

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences
Available at Amazon.

At the weekend, we had a good example of this process in contrasting articles which appeared in London’s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. In the Telegraph, Zoe Strimpel writes that “Damore seems oblivious to the vigorous critique of these ideas that has been ongoing for a good twenty years or more,” mentioning in particular “such books such as Brain Gender by the Cambridge professor of psychology Melissa Hines and Columbia professor Rebecca Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences.” We infer that these books take a different view of sex differences from Mr Damore’s, though Ms Strimpel seems to suppose that their scientific credentials, reduced here to the universities where they do their research, make any rehearsal of their arguments unnecessary.

Meanwhile, over at The Sunday Times, Dominic Lawson cites “a recent article in the journal Stanford Medicine on ‘the cognitive difference between men and women’” and “a fascinating article by the academic psychologist Lee Jussim” as being equally conclusive the other way. Professor Jussim isn’t assigned to a prestigious institution of higher learning like Cambridge or Columbia (or Stanford) but if you look up his Wikipedia article you will find that his affiliation is with Rutgers University in New Jersey. You will also find that the article is “being considered for deletion” on the ostensible grounds that the professor “doesn’t appear to meet any of the notability guidelines for academics.”

Brain Gender
Available at Amazon.

I guess Mr Lawson’s and The Sunday Times’s mention doesn’t do any good for Dr Jussim’s fulfilment of Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, though one can guess at other reasons why those who regard views like his as scandalous might be as keen to get him out of Wikipedia as Sundar Pichai was to get Mr Damore out of Google.

At any rate, whenever anyone mentions “science” as an authority these days, on sex differences as on global warming, we need to bear in mind that “science” today does not exclude — as science properly so-called must exclude — efforts such as these to silence heterodox opinions. As a result, science has lost some if not all of its credibility and authority, since we can never be sure if its claims are based on the science or the politics which is now allowed to monitor it.

On the matter of sex differences, I would stipulate that they are socially constructed, as feminists claim, and then try to make the case that they are constructed in the way they traditionally have been constructed for very good reasons, since any given community with properly constructed and distinct sex roles has a better chance of survival in the struggle with other communities that has been a feature of human life for as long as human life has existed. For evidence in support of this proposition, you only have to look at the depopulation of Western countries where feminism has been most successful at breaking down sex differences and their repopulation with non-Westerners, most of whom have views of the matter that make Mr Damore’s seem positively progressive. But there the silence of science has the same purpose as the defenstration of Mr Damore and the demotion of Dr Jussim, which is to protect the progressive scientist from unpalatable realities.

———————————–

(2)  Articles mentioned.

Sexist, yes, but I sympathise with the Google whistleblower” by Zoe Strimpel (journalist, bio) in The Telegraph.

Let’s man up: males make likelier geeks” by Dominic Lawson in The Times — “A Googler has been sacked simply for telling an uncomfortable truth.”

Why Brilliant Girls Tend to Favor Non-STEM Careers” by Lee Jussim (Professor of Psychology, Rutgers; his website and Wikipedia entry) in Psychology Today, 20 July 2017 — “This essay is about bias, but not the bias you think.”

Two minds: The cognitive differences between men and women” by Bruce Goldman in Stanford Medicine, Spring 2017.

(3)  Four scientists comment on the Google memo.

I strongly recommend reading “The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond” by Quillette Magazine.

Lee Jussim (Professor of Psychology, Rutgers; his website and Wikipedia entry).

“The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right. …Here, I mainly focus on the reactions to the essay on the Gizmodo site, which indirectly and ironically validate much of the author’s analysis. Very few of the comments actually engage the arguments; they just fling insults and slurs. …

“This essay may not get everything 100% right, but it is certainly not a rant. And it stands in sharp contrast to most of the comments, which are little more than snarky modern slurs. The arrogance of most of the comments reflects exactly the type of smug self-appointed superiority that has led to widespread resentment of the left among reasonable people. To the extent that such views correspond to those at Google, they vindicate the essayist’s claims about the authoritarian and repressive atmosphere there. Even the response by Google’s new VP in charge of diversity simply ignores all of the author’s arguments, and vacuously affirms Google’s commitment to diversity. The essay is vastly more thoughtful, linked to the science, and well-reasoned than nearly all of the comments.”

David P Schmitt (Professor of Psychology at Bradley U; wikipedia entry).

“A Google employee recently shared a memo that referenced some of my scholarly research on psychological sex differences (e.g., personality traits, mate preferences, status-seeking). Alongside other evidence, the employee argued, in part, that this research indicates affirmative action policies based on biological sex are misguided. Maybe, maybe not. Let me explain. …”

Geoffrey Miller (Professor of Psychology, U of NM; Wikipedia entry).

“An anonymous male software engineer recently distributed a memo titled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber’. Within hours, this memo unleashed a firestorm of negative commentary, most of which ignored the memo’s evidence-based arguments. Among commentators who claim the memo’s empirical facts are wrong, I haven’t read a single one who understand sexual selection theory, animal behavior, and sex differences research.

“When the memo went viral, thousands of journalists and bloggers transformed themselves overnight from not understanding evolutionary psychology at all to claiming enough expertise to criticize the whole scientific literature on biological sex differences.

“For what it’s worth, I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. Moreover, they are stated quite carefully and dispassionately. Its key claims about sex differences are especially well-supported by large volumes of research across species, cultures, and history. …Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course. It is consistent with the scientific state of the art on sex differences. …

“American businesses also have to face the fact that the demographic differences that make diversity useful will not lead to equality of outcome in every hire or promotion. Equality or diversity: choose one. In my opinion, given that sex differences are so well-established, and the sexes have such intricately complementary quirks, it may often be sensible, in purely practical business terms, to aim for more equal sex ratios in many corporate teams, projects, and divisions. …”

Debra W Soh (PhD in sexual neuroscience from the University of York).

“As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership. …”

James Bowman

(4)  About James Bowman.

Bowman is a Resident Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

He has worked as a freelance journalist, serving as American editor of the Times Literary Supplement of London from 1991 to 2002, as movie critic of The American Spectator since 1990 and as media critic of The New Criterion since 1993. He has also been a weekly movie reviewer for The New York Sun since the newspaper’s re-foundation in 2002. He has also contributed to a wide range of other major papers.

Mr. Bowman is perhaps best known for his book, Honor: A History, and “The Lost Sense of Honor” in The Public Interest.

See his collected articles at his website, including his film reviews going back to 1994.

(5)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women, society, and the gender wars — and especially these…

  1. Mockingjay” shows us a Revolution in Gender Roles. What’s the next revolution?
  2. The revolution in gender roles reshapes society in ways too disturbing to see.
  3. A look ahead at the New America, after the gender wars.
  4. Guides to help us during the revolution in gender roles.
  5. Books to help us see the strange new world following the revolution in gender roles.
  6. The collapse of gender roles: an unseen revolution with unimaginable consequences.
  7. Journalists are excited about Nicola Thorp’s story of high heels, feminism, journalism, & big government.
Honor: A History
Avilable at Amazon.

(6) About James Bowman’s great book.

One of the great unremarked changes in western societies is the shift from an honor-based culture to  law-based one. Bowman’s Honor: A History discusses how than happened and its implications. From the publisher…

“The importance of honor is present in the earliest records of civilization. Today, while it may still be an essential concept in Islamic cultures, in the West, honor has been disparaged and dismissed as obsolete.

“In this lively and authoritative book, James Bowman traces the curious and fascinating history of this ideal, from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and to the killing fields of World War I and the despair of Vietnam. Bowman reminds us that the fate of honor and the fate of morality and even manners are deeply interrelated.”

10 thoughts on “Science, the Google memo, & our usual political hysteria

  1. James Damore expressed points of view which threaten the ideological foundation for power structures across the breadth of modern societies. Quiet words from a humble engineer, expressing ideas which could not be allowed exposure, lest they spread.

    Debate on dogma must be squelched at all cost, lest the underlings begin to think for themselves.

    1. I don’t see how this threathens any major power structures. The corporations side with the so-called Left, because they need to be appeased so they don’t take actions against corporate power, but the corporations themselves are not really affected by who wins these IdPol battles over gender, sex, race or whatever.

  2. I had an unproductive discussion on Facebook about this subject. My argument was that men’s preferences tend to be different from women’s preferences, and that these preferences can be roughly described as men being more thing-oriented and women being more people-oriented, and that this difference will naturally create a dearth of women in STEM fields, even in a total absence of sexism, because most women will avoid the thing-oriented STEM jobs in favor of careers that they enjoy more. The unanimous response I got from my woman friends who do work in STEM fields was that there’s a lot of sexism in these fields and that I was ignoring or downplaying its effects.

    The trouble with this response is that, even if it’s true, it doesn’t disprove my claim, because the claim and the response aren’t entirely contradictory. Google could be packed to the gills with misogynists, and women’s preferences might still be very different from men’s. Furthermore, if sexism were the main force keeping women out of tech, we probably wouldn’t see the following phenomena:

    – The lack of women in tech is visible at all levels, from corporate to college all the way down to high school. High school is hardly a haven for misogyny, but many more boys than girls sign up for AP computer classes – about 80-20 in the boys’ favor. We see this same ratio in undergraduate majors, in graduate degrees, and in filled jobs; men outnumber women by the same amount everywhere. Is Silicon Valley’s sexism so rampant that it discourages women at every level?

    – In countries that are generally considered to be less sexist than the USA, Finland being the head of the pack here, we see the same 80-20 gap in STEM fields. They’re measurably less sexist than our country, but the women there still don’t go for tech jobs. Are their tech companies somehow resistant to the feminist forces shaping the rest of these countries?

    Also, my friends made an assumption that they never properly defended: that the sexism in STEM fields is significantly worse than the sexism in other fields. There are career paths where the old gender gap is steadily shrinking (like law) or where it is already gone (like psychology). Did women flock to these fields because the lawyers and psychologists worked very hard to make them feel welcome? Did they conquer their institutional sexism while the nerds remained misogynists? Would anyone care to measure how much sexism there is in an average law firm and compare it to an average tech company?

    But none of that mattered. They ignored my points, stuck to their assumptions, made assertions without evidence, accused me of trying to discourage women from pursuing STEM careers, and complained about how stubborn I was and how exhausting it was arguing with me. I gave up, and withdrew from the discussion without writing another word.

    Sorry if this is too long or too ranty, but I’ve just been so frustrated at seeing friendly and intelligent people fail to understand what I’m saying. I thought I left these kinds of discussions behind when I stopped trying to proselytize for atheism, but here I am again. It’s just so damn frustrating.

    1. Tice with a J,

      “described as men being more thing-oriented and women being more people-oriented, a”

      Professor Jussim’s article in Psychology Today makes that exact point, in some detail (linked to in the post; also see his impressive bio).

      “High school is hardly a haven for misogyny, but many more boys than girls sign up for AP computer classes”

      Also note that there is only a small gender gap in high school advanced math classes (I don’t recall the details). But those girls tend to go to college and become teachers.

      “But none of that mattered. They ignored my points, stuck to their assumptions, made assertions without evidence, accused me of trying to discourage women from pursuing STEM careers, and complained about how stubborn I was and how exhausting it was arguing with me.”

      Scientists have proven the many ancient adages about the near-impossibility of changing people’s minds. We are built to survive on the African Veldt. Reasoning skills — openness to logic and data wasn’t a useful factor. We should rejoice that we are capable of even occasional rational thought.

    2. Have you read Scott Alexander’s posts on Slate Star Code’x? He showed me the preference gap between men and women before Damore came along, and provided more examples. For instance, in medicine, female doctors dominate people-oriented fields like pediatrics and psychiatry, while male doctors dominate thing-oriented fields like radiology and surgery.

      Also, in another post, he argued that the amount of sexism within a group does not strongly correlate with the percentage of women within that group. For example, Catholics are not known for their respect for women’s rights, while American Socialists make women’s rights a big deal, but American Socialists are mostly men, and Catholics are about 60% women. Trying to be welcoming to women won’t bring them to your door if you’re not selling anything they want to buy.

    3. Tice,

      Sounds like interesting work. I suspect that I’m not alone in disinterest in analysis of what in more rational times would be analysis of the obvious. But this is an essential part of living in what Robert Heinlein predicted long ago — the “crazy years”. See this from the timeline to his “Future History” stories, first published in the May 1941 issue of Astounding Stories of Super Science (changed in 1960 to Analog Science Fiction & Fact).

      “Considerable technological advance during this period accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation and social institutions terminating in mass psychosis in the sixth decade and the Interregnum.”

      He might prove quite accurate, although with this taking place closer to the 2060s — not the 1960s as he anticipated.

  3. Let’s see, I’m a woman with an engineering degree and have worked in technology for some years now. There’s nothing remotely offensive about what Damore said. Perhaps some of the passages could have been worded differently but their content and the citations are all perfectly reasonable.

    What the PC fascists like to call prejudice and discrimination at every corner is oftentimes simply just common sense and people making choices according to their skills, desires, interests, and abilities.

    I even had a male engineer, a sadly now common leftist mouthpiece telling me, yes, telling me that I had been discriminated against but didn’t know it.

    Among the many problems these individuals and their movement have is to reduce everyone and eveyrthing into victims and oppressors which are entirely determined by racial/sexual/gender/etc demographics.

    And here I am with the audacity to deviate from his narrative so he had to, as these people do, simply dismiss my perspective because it didn’t fit the story.

    There are no signs at tech companies or at university programs for computer science and engineering barring any capable and determined person who meets the academic (not gender!) standards from participating.

    It is exhausting to me and I oftentimes empathize with my more sane male coworkers who get bombarded with this propaganda.

    Frankly not many women would want to do what I do because I don’t have too many friends who enjoy staring at lines of code for 50 hours a week and dealing with business people who think software can make unicorns come to life, managers who think putting you oncall every weekend is perfectly normal, and executives who are considering paying someone $25 a day who lives 5000 miles away and who speak 5th grade english will have ZERO impact on quality and make for a better bottom line. You know I could save a lot of money too if I stopped having regular medical checkups, having my teeth cleaned, maintaining my car, etc…but there would be some bill waiting for me soon enough.

    Anyway It isn’t any different than recreational activities like target shooting and hunting where I’m oftentimes one of the few women….nothing is stopping other women from participating but their own desire and interest.

    These folks unfortunately want not equal opportunities but equal outcomes and I was sure we had all realized by no later than the 1960’s that that ideology was totally discredited from having been so destructive and ruining the lives of millions.

    1. Elle,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. First person evidence is always valuable.

      “I even had a male engineer, a sadly now common leftist mouthpiece telling me, yes, telling me that I had been discriminated against but didn’t know it.”

      Looks like “mansplaining” is ok when done by a good Leftist to the unenlightened!

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