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My brain is better than yours

October 25, 2007

James Watson is getting much attention for saying in an interview that he questions whether Africans have the same level of intelligence as white people. There is another debate that has been going on for quite some time about innate cognitive differences in men and women.

The issue heated up considerably in 2005 when Larry Summers questioned whether such differences accounted for why there were so few women at the top ranks of academic science departments. Summers had clearly touched a nerve with many people and eventually lost his job as president of Harvard.

Christina Hoff Sommers has been writing about the issue (and feminist issues more broadly for years). She had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week where she discussed a conference that was held on the topic of biological differences between men and women:

[UC Davis Professor Maureen] Stanton and her allies want pariah status for anyone who dares to suggest a biological basis for difference. Yet the scientific literature on why men and women enter different fields is legitimate, robust, complex and fascinating. What is appalling is that leading academic institutions would try to shut down the discussion and get away with it. Almost.

She goes on to detail research is biology, genetics, neuroscience and psychology that strongly suggests there are, as Summers said, fundamental differences in the brains of males and females, as well as the opposition such research is facing from feminist organizations who believe discrimination, not genetics is what causes the under-representation of women in traditionally “male” fields.

My favorite part of her piece might be the very last sentence, because it applies to so many things in our lives today:

The chronically appalled must not have the last word.

The thing that I found initially surprising is Watson’s comments about intelligence differences between Africans and (I am assuming) Europeans left me with a very uneasy feeling, while the male-female brain difference debate does not. I was having trouble figuring out why this was, as the topics appear to be similar. After thinking about it, I have some initial thoughts on why I feel this way, which will be presented at a later time-hopefully today or tomorrow.

(Also, if you are looking for something good to read, Christina Hoff Sommers has written some good stuff. She is not afraid to be politically incorrect and question feminist views. That many academic feminists despise her and her research is very telling.

Here is an article she wrote on why the Vagina Monologues are bad for women, and here is an article on why the American feminist establishment is not interested in helping Muslim women rise from centuries of subjugation. Both are great reads on how politicized the issue of gender has become, and in this blogger’s opinion, she does a great job of making what could be dry issues very engaging.)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. marino permalink
    October 25, 2007 3:40 pm

    Good stuff.

    “the Chronically Apalled” always get the freaking last word, and it has to stop.

    stupid feminists.

  2. October 25, 2007 4:02 pm

    I am not a racist, but I think its all with genetics. What James Watson suggested might be that Africans are more talented in physical work than in mental work when compared to the Caucasians. If the are where they live requires more brawn than brain, then they are supposed to be having lower IQ than the persons who use more brain than brawn.

  3. Ashley permalink
    October 25, 2007 5:12 pm

    Something to consider when you write your follow up article…

    Science routinely documents the physical, mental, and emotional differences between men and women. Much of this information you can gather in a seventh grade health class. The notion of differences in this case is not taboo because there is a clear distinction between ‘different’ and ‘unequal’.

    In Summers’ arguement , I don’t believe he is claiming that women are inferior to men. Sure, there may not be as many women at the top ranks of academic science departments, but what about the top ranks of a literature or arts department? Is Summers arguing that women are not as smart as men or did he just refer to the science department figure? For the most part, women think different than men; thinking vs. feeling, judging vs. perceiving (see an explanation of Myers-Briggs statistics for further details). The fact that he lost his job over women getting really emotional about this kind of futhers his point.

    As for Watson, I don’t remember going over the physical differences of races in that same seventh grade health class. I’m pretty sure that part was replaced with some kind of indirect sensitivity training that reiterated that point that we are all created equal.

    As such, when someone points out that that may not acutally be the case, people are apalled. Those people need to get over it. No one scoffs at the fact that Africans tend to have more athletic ability than white people. Why this? Because Watson, unlike Summers, argues that Africans are unequal in this sense, not just different. And THAT is taboo.

    Adam, your uneasiness is there due to decades of social sensativity programming. No matter how much you tried to fight it.

    Or I might I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m a girl.

  4. andy permalink*
    October 25, 2007 6:40 pm

    What people are different NO WAY. I didn’t know, probably because I only think with my (tiny) penis!

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