On 7/6/07, Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Since I don't want to overpost, let me just respond to all of this briefly.
> Phil started this thread by posting a news story in the NYT about a paper in
> Science that appears to contradict notions that women are more talkative
> than men. The news story quotes a coauthor as follows:
> --Despite flaw, says lead author, Matthias R. Mehl, University of Arizona
> psychologist, "Our paper puts to rest the idea that the female brain evolved
> to be talkative and the male brain evolved to be reticent.
> Can we be honest and admit that because of our politics we have a tendency
> to take this conclusion more seriously than if the paper had come to the
> opposite conclusion, in which case many of us would have criticized it
> mercilessly? Isn't that, in fact, why Phil posted it in the first place?
> (with no criticism of Phil, who posts greatly relevant stuff, implied.)
> Perhaps during the 60s and 70s, when there was an actual organization called
> Science for the People, we could get away with dismissing the research
> entirely as reflecting sexist biases on the part of the scientists who are
> doing it, but that just doesn't cut it anymore. This is a very active
> research field, and we can't just sit back as Jon suggests and say, "at this
> stage of knowledge, we know nothing about what those [differences] mean for
> issues of gender differences in behavior," when other researchers are
> actively pursuing just that question and coming to their own
> conclusions--just as the Science authors did, albeit to conclusions that we
> might be sympathetic with. Meanwhile, other authors who also have PhDs are
> coming to the opposite conclusion. We also can't assume that the authors of
> all research papers we disagree with are sexists, racists or the like and
> the authors of those we agree with nice progresives like us. We MUST take
> the research seriously or risk the sad consequences of leftists existing in
> some sort of parallel universe, where the overwhelming mass of research is
> published in peer-reviewed journals and we sit on the sidelines with little
> influence, little credibility, and little ability to persuade others of our
> point of view.
A single paper never puts anything "to rest."
But since the sixties feminist scientists have produced a substantial
body of literature that documents, for instance, how findings that
highlight large differences between sexes tend to get more scholarly
and general media attention than those that say there are only small
and insignificant differences. So, it's important for us to correct
Moreover, biologically speaking, "men" and "women" may be better
thought of as continuum, rather than two separate categories that are
opposite to each other in all things, as many sociobiologists have it.