Science is Broken




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wrote me with the following email. I’ve posted it with his permission; these are his words, not mine. He really needs to get a blog.

Congratulations to us, science just turned 5.

Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, argues that social climates have only recently made such research acceptable.

“When I was growing up, to say there were sex differences in the brain, you weren’t even supposed to talk about it,” said Goldstein. “I think we’re living in a time now when we can look at what some of these differences are without saying they are necessarily deterministic.”

If the differences aren’t always deterministic, why bother looking for them? Goldstein explains, besides satisfying a long curiosity about possible biological explanations for male and female behavior, the research can boost our understanding of sex-specific diseases and possible ways to cure them.

That’s a science question? What’s worse, I can’t tell if it was just from some idiot health writer, or from Miss “we are (might be) old enough to say boys and girls are different now”.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers created a maelstrom when he suggested recently that innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

He has since apologized for any misunderstanding his remarks may have caused. But is there any truth to the idea that men’s and women’s brains are, in fact, different?

Apologizing? Couched or not, since when does science issue apologies? Since when is a certain area of theory off limits? The last time things were that way, science was issuing apologies to the pope.

I had a linguistics professor once who told us that as long as a certain linguist was alive, there wasn’t going to be an ounce of progress in the field. His personality had dominated for so long that only ideas that fit in the categories he laid out were acceptable and everything else was collectively shunned.

Watching someone attempt to justify researching the differences between men an women (and so bloody delicately) made me sick, and nausea is a common affliction as science is an interest of mine. After reading your High Priests of Science tome, I thought you might be interested.

Money quote:

“Men and women are more the same than different in the brain without a question,” said Forger. “But,” she added, “little differences can go a long way.”

How profound. I suppose we should all just be grateful that it isn’t politically incorrect to study the difference between apes and humans.

–DA

see also:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/19/education/19harvard.html?oref=login

8 Comments

  1. The problem with scientists is that they are far too often elitists. Brilliant minds who have extended their academic superiority in school to an all encompassing aurora of supremecy. And naturally, they are always write, and always a beaken of light to the poor befuddled masses. It’s amazing how many people I know who are like this.

  2. Cosmic Siren says:

    I wonder if some of this acceptance is due to the fact that researchers are now realizing that men and women switch general attitudes and behaviors after active parenting is over – a gender crossover. I’ve seen it also in older people who haven’t had kids, but apparently it’s more prominent in parents.

    It’s not a total crossover, but there is a definite drift to traits of the other gender.

  3. mexigogue says:

    As a father I draw the line at breastfeeding.

    (it did feel pretty damn good though!)

  4. Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey says:

    Women, math, and iron deficiency anemia

    There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ recent speech at a conference on women and minorities in science and engineering. He said that one possible explanation for the low numbers of women

  5. A David Million says:

    Greg Focker: You can milk just about anything with nipples.
    Jack Byrnes: I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?

    (Thanks for the spelling correction Phelps, I almost got a sloppy rep.)

  6. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    Those dam scientists are at it agian.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4202199.stm

  7. Phelps says:

    That one is kind of old news to me. I already knew that finger length indicated testosterone levels, and that men scored higher on spacial reasoning. I didn’t know that someone was trying to tie the two together. I still think that testosterone levels also effect personality, but I haven’t seen any good research on that. I do know that on the iNTj list I run, it was pretty consistant that the ladies there had ring fingers that were longer than thier index fingers.

  8. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    I always thought they couldn’t park ’cause women were stupid