Battlepanda: Mike the Smart Biologist


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mike the Smart Biologist

What does the distribution of seaweed specie diversity have to do with the laffer curve? Find out...

(Incidentally, and this part of the post won't make sense until you click on the link and read Mike first already...this sort of thing is exactly what I dislike about evolutionary psychology/biology when it is being used to explain away things like...say...gender disparities in Maths SAT scores. I have no ability to prove or disprove absolutely whether that hypothesis is correct at this moment...but I do know that the same hypothesis probably could have been used (and perhaps less sophisticated versions have been used) a few decades ago to explain away the gender disparity between numbers of male and female college students, or the high number of male versus female doctors. Both assumptions have been busted. However, because of the very vagueness of the theory and the fact that it probably contains a kernel of truth, the theory itself retains credibility while goalposts are moved around it. Doctoring (especially at the general practitioner level) is now seen as a skill well-suited to feminine traits such as empathy and attention to detail as the number of women practitioner rises. And as girls are threatening to overtake boys, the ability to achieve in high school and consequently go to college is increasingly devalued as merely the ability to sit still and parrot what the teacher is saying. Now that might well have been true all along, but what I find distrubing is the way our regard for an achievement seem to fall in inverse proportion to the ability of our women to attain it.

Is there any doubt that if girls continue to close the gender gap in SAT maths, proponents of the Larry Summers "Girls are just naturally bad at Maths" school would not change their minds, but instead find some other measure where girls are still behind to buttress their theory?

I have no problem entertaining the possibility that innate factors would predispose women to be less apt at quantitative skills than men on average, let's call the magnitude of that gap x. What I do have a problem with is people looking at the specific gender gaps in specific industries or achievement tests or whatever and concluding that x is precisely equal to the magnitude of those gaps. In the same way, I have no problem agreeing with the fact that there is a laffer curve (where 0% taxation and 100% taxation both result in $0 revenue), but I don't believe in proscribing policy based on the laffer curve if nobody can plot the graph in non-speculative ways beyond the two agreed-upon points at 0% and 100% taxation.

OK, this is getting way too long for a parenthetical statement. But what can I say. when I blog I type first and think later.)