Take _that_, social constructionism!
February 8, 2005 3:27 PM   Subscribe

The psychology of taboo. Commenting on the Harvard hullabaloo that took place a few weeks ago, linguist/cognitive scientist Steven Pinker offers his opinion, using ideas he previously presented in The Blank Slate (via AL Daily)
posted by greatgefilte (63 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Today, in my own field, the study of language development in children, a majority of the scientists are women.

There's a sexist joke in there somewhere.
posted by delmoi at 3:32 PM on February 8, 2005


Are linguists considered scientists? Outside the study of language development in the very young, are there more women then men linguists? The president did not say women could not do science. If there is a joke in what happened it was when the lady professor stormed out of the room and muttered she was about to vomit....would a guy have acted that way?
posted by Postroad at 3:43 PM on February 8, 2005


Postroad: I think that if a white man had said blacks might not be so good at math, a black man might have same reaction.

I'm not saying that what the economist said was as bad as that, I'm just saying hysteria in reaction to taboo thoughts is not exclusive to women.
posted by delmoi at 3:49 PM on February 8, 2005


Oh man, here we go again. All I have to say is this:

Pinker is right to be unhappy with simplistic reactions to Summers' comments. But he is wrong to efface the fact that Summers' comments were themselves simplistic, as here, from the Boston Globe:

He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them "daddy truck" and "baby truck," as if they were dolls.

Or, from Pinker's own article:

The analysis should have been unexceptionable. Anyone who has fled a cluster of men at a party debating the fine points of flat-screen televisions can appreciate that fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers.

The point is that to connect casual observations like this to the very big, complicated, and sensitive idea of innate differences in ability between men and women is not very rigorous either. You don't have to be falling victim to 'taboo psychology' to take exception to them. In fact, it is exactly this kind of response--which substitutes one single simplistic explanation for a discussion that should result in the pinpointing of many explanations--that so many people found objectionable in what Summers said.

I don't disagree with the fact that lots of folks caricatured Summers' statements, and that that was irresponsible. But that fact doesn't erase the basic silliness of the comments themselves. Coming from the president of Harvard they were blithe, irresponsible, and disappointing. even if the comments of his detractors were also, occasionally, disappointing too.
posted by josh at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2005


Anyone who has fled a cluster of men at a party debating the fine points of flat-screen televisions can appreciate that fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers.

Ultimate proof that Pinker is as much of an asshole as Summers. Unsurprising, as they are good friends.

Interestingly enough, Pinker also puts on stage make-up before giving lectures, so perhaps this explains why he is in a female-dominated academic discipline.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:09 PM on February 8, 2005


Ultimate proof that Pinker is as much of an asshole as Summers. Unsurprising, as they are good friends.

While I don't like that particular example, I think the point Pinker's trying to make (and that Summers was perhaps trying to get across as well) is that if critics of innate gender differences took a minute to leave the ivory tower and look at everyday life, they'd probably find that males and females can be different in predictable, and perhaps stereotypical, ways. Not every man, not every woman -- merely on average.

Interestingly enough, Pinker also puts on stage make-up before giving lectures, so perhaps this explains why he is in a female-dominated academic discipline.

Way to go with the ad hominems.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:20 PM on February 8, 2005


The point is that to connect casual observations like this to the very big, complicated, and sensitive idea of innate differences in ability between men and women is not very rigorous either. You don't have to be falling victim to 'taboo psychology' to take exception to them.

Thank you, josh; this seems to be the crux of the issue, and it seems that most observers missed it. In this context, it's easy to sympathize with Hopkins' frustration at Summers' comments. She has spent the last decade gathering quantitative, independantly verifiable, empirical evidence on obstacles to the progress of women in academic careers. Summers responded with an anecdote about his daughter's toys. It would have pissed me off, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2005


if critics of innate gender differences took a minute to leave the ivory tower and look at everyday life, they'd probably find that males and females can be different in predictable, and perhaps stereotypical, ways

O.K., fine, but why does this constitute proof of innate difference any more than it does, say, of cultural patterns? This is hardly a legitimate foundation for an argument in support of biological imperatives.

Way to go with the ad hominems.

Sure, why not? I don't like the guy for plenty of legitimate intellectual reasons, but the fact that he considers himself an academic superstar is thoroughly irritating, and the fact that he is defending Summers on the basis of 'academic freedom' somewhat disingenuous. Summers know that he is the president of a University, and that his suggestions will be held up to close scrutiny- the unwritten rules of academic administration are not the same as those applying to regular faculty. Summers knows this, but can't seem to keep his mouth shut. Pinker also knows this, despite his defense.

It has been my experience that the criticism of Summers PALES before the voices of support. Contrary to the defensive claims of those wrapping themselves in 'academic freedom,' most criitique on college campuses has taken place in a reasoned and open context- this is certainly true for Harvard, which has now had a number of open conferences exploring the role of women in science. Isn't this precisely the type of discourse Summers and his ilk have been calling for, but suggest are not occuring?
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2005


Summers responded with an anecdote about his daughter's toys. It would have pissed me off, too

In this regard, Pinker's comments are equally patronizing. His television example is the intellectual equivalent of a dismissive pat-on-the-bottom.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:47 PM on February 8, 2005


I think the point Pinker's trying to make (and that Summers was perhaps trying to get across as well) is that if critics of innate gender differences took a minute to leave the ivory tower and look at everyday life...

I love the idea of the President of Harvard University and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University telling people to get down from their ivory tower.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:31 PM on February 8, 2005


O.K., fine, but why does this constitute proof of innate difference any more than it does, say, of cultural patterns? This is hardly a legitimate foundation for an argument in support of biological imperatives.

You're right, the TV anecdote certainly doesn't support one account or the other, but I don't think either Summers or Pinker are claiming that anecdotal observations are proof of innateness-- there are studies aplenty for that. The gist of Pinker's comment is, I think, is to point out that you don't _have_ to be a scientist to see the differences between the sexes -- "everyone knows" that men and women act differently, so why not at least entertain the notion that they are, in fact, different? Thus, a few sentences later, "to what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa."


Sure, why not? I don't like the guy for plenty of legitimate intellectual reasons, but the fact that he considers himself an academic superstar is thoroughly irritating,

...agreed...

and the fact that he is defending Summers on the basis of 'academic freedom' somewhat disingenuous.

I don't think this has much to do with academic freedom as much as 'educated people taking severe offense at a perfectly reasonable idea.' Summers certainly has a responsibility to not be outlandish in his remarks, the question is, why did so many perceive what he said as being outlandish?
posted by greatgefilte at 5:57 PM on February 8, 2005


Pinker also puts on stage make-up before giving lectures

Really? Where'd you hear this from? If it's true, that's hilarious! Just normal class lectures, or invited talks?
posted by painquale at 6:02 PM on February 8, 2005


Are linguists considered scientists?

Amazingly enough, the answer is yes, at least according to the National Science Foundation. When I was wondering how to pay for grad school and the advisor suggested an NSF grant, I said "But linguistics isn't a science!" She looked it up, and there it was. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2005


In this context, it's easy to sympathize with Hopkins' frustration at Summers' comments. She has spent the last decade gathering quantitative, independantly verifiable, empirical evidence on obstacles to the progress of women in academic careers. Summers responded with an anecdote about his daughter's toys. It would have pissed me off, too.

Hang on, you've turned 'innate differences may have something (not everything) to do with the dearth of women in the sciences, and by way of personal experience, here's a little story' into 'your research is worthless, let me tell you about my daugther.' Is there any evidence to show that Summers was trying to be dismissive of or exclude Hopkins' and others' ideas and research?

*sigh* I wish they'd just released a transcript or a tape of the damned thing.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:06 PM on February 8, 2005


Are linguists considered scientists?

What languagehat said although Steve Pinker is technically a psycholinguist (a psychologist who studies language processing). Which, for some people, might be a double whammy because the question Are psychologists considered scientists? tends to come up with some frequency.

That being said, Steve Pinker is a psycholinguist who sometimes plays fast and lose with the data (other people's data of course).
posted by bluesky43 at 6:28 PM on February 8, 2005


Where'd you hear this from

First-hand: he had to leave a conversation with me in order to put it on. This was a public lecture before the university- I certainly hope he doesn't do it before his smaller classes.

to what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa

Agreed, but frankly I don't see the Fatwa. What I see is a bunch of people bending over backwards to defend the possibility of innateness using profoundly facile anecdotal accounts. Science indeed.

Greatgefilte, I know a few people who were at the talk. The thing was insultuing. Women walked out. The rate of female faculty hires has dropped precipitously on his watch, and I would (frankly) not be surprised if his comments were a little more than a rationalization for this trend, rather than the result of a deeply held conviction. I certainly can't believe that he didn't expect his comments to result in a shitstorm.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 6:37 PM on February 8, 2005


greatgefilte, how can you sully Metafilter with this disgusting apologetic for Summers's unforgivable crime against women? I feel dirty just having seen the link, and I'm just glad that I didn't further befoul myself by actually reading the linked article by "Dr." Pinker.

You should be ashamed of yourself for posting this.

Some ideas we intrinsically know are wrong. Even merely considering those ideas infects us with wrongness, and spreading those ideas, as you did, is further wrongness. Suggesting that women aren't behaviorally exactly the same as men is one of those ideas that is simply and obviously wrong, and all right-thinking people inherently know that.

We don't need to be told it's wrong, anymore than someone has to tell us that dropping the consecrated host at Communion, or allowing menstruating women to be around men, or touching objects imbued with mana are not only wrong to do but that it is wrong even to question why it's wrong.

And pretending that you linked to this so-called "article" because it's really about the psychology and social usefulness of taboo and not about Summers's transgressions doesn't cut it. Because I think we all know very well that in the modern, pro-feminist, secular humanist academe, there are no such things superstitious beliefs or taboo subjects.

This is just shameful to see on Metafiler and I hope you'll do some penace for it.
posted by orthogonality at 6:52 PM on February 8, 2005


I don't particularly care for Pinker, but...

What I see is a bunch of people bending over backwards to defend the possibility of innateness using profoundly facile anecdotal accounts. Science indeed.

I don't see that at all; when Pinker generalizes about gender differences (like "men are, on average, better at mental rotation and mathematical word problems; women are better at remembering locations and at mathematical calculation") he refers back to his latest book which is jam-packed full of footnotes citing the studies he uses as justification. A science of anecdotes this ain't.

And I do think Pinker's right about certain subjects being the equivalent of a taboo. I don't think it would have mattered how Summers phrased his comments, the reaction would have been similar; this is simply not a topic which can be discussed without devolving into a shouting match, and that's sad.
posted by ubernostrum at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2005


Really? Given that the whole first part of the article is about Summers' comments, I think it is entirely relevant. If you want to really post about taboo, make it its own thread, you sarcastic ass.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2005


Curiously, as I was writing that this subject invariably devolves into shouting matches, orthogonality felt the need to engage in some over-generalized name-calling.

QED.
posted by ubernostrum at 7:04 PM on February 8, 2005


LOOK. WE are discussing it. WE are interrogating whether or not we think it is a taboo. Guess what- if we can interrogate it here, and IN FACT people are interrogating it on college campuses, it is NOT a taboo. NSF fuunds it, people research it, Summers can precipitate a shitstorm by commenting about it. Last I heard Pinker is still popular- his books certainly sell rather well- and Summers is still the fucking president (and in no danger of being fired, really). Where's the freakin' taboo? Where's the juggernaut of political correctness I keep hearing about from the Pinker/Summers apologists?

As to his status as a scientist, his comments in the first part of this article do not pass the spell test, unless you got your degree from clown college. He is a legitimate scientist, but he doesn't always write like one or sound like one. Surely you must admit that?
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:09 PM on February 8, 2005


spell=smell. The spelling was fine. He is an excellent speller.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:11 PM on February 8, 2005


"to what degree these and other differences originate in biology must be determined by research, not fatwa"

Agreed, but frankly I don't see the Fatwa. What I see is a bunch of people bending over backwards to defend the possibility of innateness using profoundly facile anecdotal accounts. Science indeed.

I just finished reading Pinker's book last month. As a science-type by vocation, I really had no idea that so many people found it so hard to believe that behaviour could be influenced by genetic variation. He quotes Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug as calling the idea 'poppycock' and 'anti-American crazy thinking.' And just look at what Professor Hopkins actually said in response to Summers: "innate differences in aptitude between men and women...this kind of bias makes me physically ill." That, and the NOW calling on Summers to resign, and all the other bits of fallout. On preview, what ubernostrum said, it probably wouldn't have mattered how Summers phrased it...

Greatgefilte, I know a few people who were at the talk. The thing was insultuing. Women walked out.

Yeah, I guess it's pretty easy to duke it out here in the blue without actually having heard said offensive lecture. And the fact that they won't release a tape or transcript makes me fear for the worst, so I'll default to your acquaintances' reports.
posted by greatgefilte at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2005


ubernostrum: True, but really the whole argument here, which I think has split people, is about, among other things, the validity of the kind of science Pinker is relying upon in the first place--or rather the degree to which that science supports claims of innate difference.

Pinker, and other scientists, find that "men are, on average, better at mental rotation and mathematical word problems; women are better at remembering locations and at mathematical calculation"--but that doesn't really say anything at all about innate biological difference to lots of people. These specific skills, which are taught in schools, for example, and, more importantly, performed by human beings, with all of the subjective factors that entails, say very little necessarily about the actual 'biological' abilities of male and female brains. They say more, to many people, about the behavior of acculturated men and acculturated women.

In the last thread about this I linked to this NYT article which provides the most intelligent survey of these issues I've seen, at any rate. The main thing is that these assessments of, say, mathematical ability vary from place to place in a way that weakens pretty drastically claims of innateness. Meanwhile, there is very strong evidence of societal influence, no matter what Summers may say. My position is basically summed up in this quote:

Dr. Urry cited a 1983 study in which 360 people - half men, half women - rated mathematics papers on a five-point scale. On average, the men rated them a full point higher when the author was "John T. McKay" than when the author was "Joan T. McKay." There was a similar, but smaller disparity in the scores the women gave.

Dr. Spelke, of Harvard, said, "It's hard for me to get excited about small differences in biology when the evidence shows that women in science are still discriminated against every stage of the way."


To put it differently, the social and cultural element in this issue is undeniable. The behavioral-genetic element, meanwhile, is pretty weak and unsubstantiated, and behavioral-genetic evidence will more or less never be meaningful until cultural factors are accounted for. If it were the case that culture really were gender-neutral, then this experimental evidence would have more weight. Meanwhile, when women are scoring other women lower than other men solely on the basis of gender, it's hard to see lower math assessment scores as indicative of anything other than culture.

Another way to put this: there may be biological differences between the brains of men and the brains of women, sure. But what that has to do with the lower numbers of tenured women in universities in 2005--an outcome that is based upon way, way more than the hard-to-detect innate ability of each individual--I don't know, and Summers does not even try to explain. It's a case of a very blunt scientific approach trying to explain a very, very complicated issue. Of course it was incredibly frustrating to those who are trying to think about the problem in a nuanced way. It's not that I, anyway, disagree with the idea that behavior is, to some extent, biology; but it's a two way street, which is what we learn from anthropology, for example. The problem Summers is talking about is one where culture cannot be explained away by biology.
posted by josh at 7:25 PM on February 8, 2005


A second possibility is that gender disparities can arise in the absence of discrimination as long as men and women differ, on average, in their mixture of talents, temperaments, and interests--whether this difference is the result of biology, socialization, or an interaction of the two.

So, men and women are different on average and tend to prefer different things. I agree.

However, the above statement rings false to me when it comes to my field, computer science. I think the best way to look at this is through a 1993 study called the "Incredible Shrinking Pipeline". It shows a parity between males and females studying computer science in high school and a gradual reduction in the proportion of females until women make up only 5.7% of full professors. It's not that women aren't taking an interest in computer science, but it's that there is something causing them to lose interest.

So, that's one one paper and its ten years old. The problem is that nothing has really changed in the past decade. Computer Science still has terrible retention of women. I can only speculate on the reasons, but it's not ability or interest, especially after one has a bachelor's degree.

So little of being an academic has to do with being truly brilliant in a subject area. It doesn't hurt, but after a certain point the ability to communicate those ideas is so much more important. I would think this would favor women.
posted by Alison at 7:25 PM on February 8, 2005


No taboo? Suppose Summers had noted that female dolphins behaved differently from male ones. Would he have been required to issue an apology? Even if he had been dead wrong on the the subject? The fact is, any discussion of sex or race differences in humans is greeted with an immense amount of scorn and rage. Pinker noted that NOW demanded his resignation and that alumni threatened to withhold donations. That sounds like a taboo to me.

We're not that far from the time when a botched circumcision led to the removal of a boy's penis and his subsequent upbringing as a girl, thanks to the now-discredited belief that sexual identity is a cultural construction. We still have far to go in figuring out the nature of sex differences between men and women, and I'd prefer it if people were able to discuss it -- even jocularly -- without having their head bitten off.
posted by QuietDesperation at 7:27 PM on February 8, 2005


You'll note that the Tribune editorial is yet another in support ofSummers, interestingly enough.

Fortunately, calling for someone's resignation is not the same as getting it. Right now, many women at he college want to see him pay a little more attention to equitable hiring, and are willing to use this as a means to get it.

I would think that the explanation for people's concerns over the genetic foundation of intellectual difference would be obvious. In case people have forgotten, an awful lot of unpleasant political behavior has been done with precisely this rationale. Surely it's not too much of a leap to speculate that if this became pradigmatic science, there would be less incentive to try to place women in mathematically-based science programs? I am not suggesting that this is what either Summers or Pinker want, or necessarily believe. They are, after all, only calling for more research and speculating on the idea. But this can explain why someone like Steinem might want to call this unamerican. It is certainly unmeritocratic (by definition), to the extent to which it holds true.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:30 PM on February 8, 2005


cf. Katha Pollitt @ The Nation.
posted by xowie at 7:33 PM on February 8, 2005


innate differences in aptitude between men and women...this kind of bias makes me physically ill.

It would make me physically ill too. Summers stood up before some of the most educated, intelligent women and the world, said, "I'm going to provoke you," and then suggested that they are the outliers--they should think about just accepting the fact that women are not as good at science as men. For example, Summers said:

that if discrimination was the main factor limiting the advancement of women in science and engineering, then a school that does not discriminate would gain an advantage by hiring away the top women who were discriminated against elsewhere. . . . Because that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon, Summers said, 'the real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination."

Combined with his earlier comment that 'Research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialization weren't" due to socialization after all, the message is pretty clear in terms of what he's getting at. If you want to put it in black and white terms, it would be that, in science and math, women are dumber than men. Yet, importantly, this simply does not follow from what he's saying, because there is no proof that Harvard, say, does not discriminate. In fact, there is a ton of evidence that discrimination still exists and has a huge influence.
posted by josh at 7:35 PM on February 8, 2005


xowie's link says it way better than I have.
posted by josh at 7:37 PM on February 8, 2005


Wait, how does controversy=taboo, Mr. Desperation? Dolphins are not people. As far as I can tell (Douglas Adams notwithstanding) they lack politicial systems, complex culture, a history of discrimination based on overt sexism, and institutional sexism to this day. These are the type of things which made Summers' statements controversial. Perhaps if Summers had a better hiring record, the criticism from within the college might have been tempered some. But certainly NOW's call for his resignation doesn't make it a taboo, does it? To reiterate, I see a lot of people actively discussing it, even if it is in a heated fashion
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:39 PM on February 8, 2005


I appreciate what Delmoi said that if Summers had made similar comments about African Americans, there would have been no controversy; it would have been widely condemned. But there is something self-defeating in the strong reaction against Summers. When I read "' I had to leave, or I would've either blacked out or thrown up," or hear that he has been compared to white supremicists, I shake my head.

Reacting to strongly to poor scholarship and controversial opinions not only vilifies scholars, it gives them an odd kind of power. I used to get a lot more upset about homophobia, but I think my indignation actually validated the perceptions of homophobes. Now I prefer detached ridicule. And I actually don't care as much. Laugh, argue, criticize, or ignore Summers. THat's fine. But by being so wounded gives him an odd power over the situation.

Sex differences are interesting, because they are so controversial. Most parents, teachers, and linguists are puzzled by sex characterists, because there are so many observable trends, and so many exceptions. Thus it is not actually that abnormal to explore sex differences in science or the humanities. It less acceptable, however, to draw conclusions from anecdotes (positivism).

This whole hulabaloo is much more interesting than any talk. When did being simplistic become so interesting, so dangerous? Why do you need to flee from bad scholarship? I think it would have served everyone better if he had been challenged instead of condemned.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:47 PM on February 8, 2005


Dr_ Johnson, you said it.

It is times like these that I miss Stephen Jay Gould. He would have handed Pinker his ass, again.
posted by Cassford at 7:55 PM on February 8, 2005


When did being simplistic become so interesting, so dangerous?

When the neocons took over and starting cutting NSF and NIH funding.

Why do you need to flee from bad scholarship?

See above.

I take the point that the reaction has been thoroughly counterproductive on the side of academics. It is far better to suggest that Summer's comments display poor scholarship or profound naivete (since sex difference is certainly not his field- not even close), and to smirk at them than to express physical revulsion, but in all honesty most of the comments on the side of academia have been relatively temperate. The few that have been less so are immediately picked up by the popular press as instances of the desire to stifle free discussion, which is why they are so prominently displayed.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:55 PM on February 8, 2005


I would think that the explanation for people's concerns over the genetic foundation of intellectual difference would be obvious. In case people have forgotten, an awful lot of unpleasant political behavior has been done with precisely this rationale.

That's exactly the point that Pinker takes up in the book -- that even if differences are there, it doesn't give us the right to discriminate based on them, first, because any law of averages doesn't tell you much about the individual standing in front of you, and second, because no one's saying that genetics alone is sufficient and necessary to explain intelligence and ability, only that it's one (albeit probably important) factor.

To clarify: if what Summers said or implied was that _the_ reason why there aren't more women in science is because they're not as good as men, I'd join the chorus of the physically ill too. However, I think that in trying to explain why the pool of science talent is smaller for women than for men, there's room to introduce innate difference as one of many contributions.

On preview: Doc Johnson, it's all fine and good that we're discussing the issue here, and evo-psychologists are doing the same in their workplaces, but would social scientists and gender studies folk have the same easy time of it? I don't know...
posted by greatgefilte at 8:00 PM on February 8, 2005


(from the Pinker article) Many sex differences are universal across cultures

Um, no, actually. That is factually wrong.

"Sex differences" are often used synonomously with "gender roles." That is, what we observe to be differences in gender roles (interest in televisions, desire to play with dolls) is assumed to relate in some direct way with differences in innate sex. Gender roles differ wildly around the world. Although Pinker is right that there is no "reverse society" where male is female and female is male (as we define them here), there is enough variation to cast serious doubt on a simple relationship between biological sex and gender.

Meanwhile there are stacks of evidence--good, well thought out investigations with reliable results--that women face a number of barriers that are socially constructed and leave them at a disadvantage to men. This evidence, I feel the need to point out, does not suggest a conspiracy of men against women. It also tends to be aware of ways in which men in different positions (race, social class) can be disadvantaged by the same or related barriers. It is socially suspect for someone versed in this body of evidence to claim that biological imperitives are so significant as to render these factors irrelevent to women's success.

(All my references are academic and off-line, although many are quite accessible. If anyone is interested I will be happy to provide, otherwise I'll just leave it.)

On preview: greatgefilte, I'm a social scientist, and I don't have any trouble discussing the issue (neither do the other social scientists I know). I'm currently researching intersexuality, which is very interesting in terms of sex differences. I believe that there are biologically-based sex differences between men and women, however, I do not accept a) that those differences can be easily mapped to gendered behaviour or b) that the fact that differences in gendered behaviour may have some biological foundation is a reason to disregard evidence that systematic social barriers exist and discriminate based on gender (as well as race, social class etc).
posted by carmen at 8:39 PM on February 8, 2005


Greatgefilte, here is something to ponder: Larry Summers will continue as President of Harvard. Ward Churchill is about to get canned at CU. Who has more power? Whose words have more impact? How is it that we don't see folks who are up in arms about the "p.c." reaction to Summers' comments saying that Churchill was just breaking "taboos" and should be given an academic gold star?
posted by Cassford at 8:45 PM on February 8, 2005


Doc Johnson, controversy equals taboo if people are genuinely afraid to join the controversy for fear of reprisal. I'm not suggesting that Summers is the best exponent of the idea, but there is a case to be made that discrimination is not the only reason why women are not 50% of the scientific population (which is not suggesting that any woman should be discriminated against if that be true). How frank are people going to be discussing this matter if merely hinting at a difference puts ones job in jeopardy?
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:00 PM on February 8, 2005


Dr_Johnson counters, "Guess what- if we can interrogate it here, and IN FACT people are interrogating it on college campuses, it is NOT a taboo."

Taboos subjects aren't necessarily not talked about at all -- it's more that their discussion is considered beyond the pale of proper society.

And transgressors of taboos are talked about, talked about considerably, because castigating serves to enforce the taboo and to reinforce it by warning others away from transgressing. Transgressing is considered a perversion, and the "perverts" are held up to ridicule by "decent folk".

Take, for example, your (Dr_Johnson's) comments in this thread:
Pinker is as much of an asshole as Summers. Unsurprising, as they are good friends.

Interestingly enough, Pinker also puts on stage make-up before giving lectures, so perhaps this explains why he is in a female-dominated academic discipline.
Ok, so loosely translating your remarks here, transgressors -- perverts -- hang together, and one transgressor does things that are stereotypically female, and maybe he picked his profession in order to facilitate his effeminacy.

Ironically, to protest Dr. Pinker's views that behavioral differences between men and women are possibly real and intrinsic, Dr_Johnson implies that Pinker isn't quite a "real man".
but the fact that [Pinker] considers himself an academic superstar is thoroughly irritating, and... he is ... somewhat disingenuous....

...Summers and his ilk....
Implication:: one transgressor is a flamboyant and sneaky liar. And the other transgressor hangs out with his own "type or kind" using a word, "ilk", that is almost always used pejoratively.
[Pinker's] example is the intellectual equivalent of a dismissive pat-on-the-bottom.
Implication: Pinker's words are like a patronizing form of sexual harassment.
What I see is a bunch of people bending over backwards to defend the possibility of innateness using profoundly facile anecdotal accounts.
Implication: like other perverts, the sneaky transgressor will do anything, even bend over, to achieve his agenda.
the explanation for people's concerns over the genetic foundation of intellectual difference [should be] obvious. In case people have forgotten, an awful lot of unpleasant political behavior has been done with precisely this rationale.... But this can explain why someone like Steinem might want to call this unamerican.[sic]
Implication: what Pinker is saying has in the past lead to racism, forced sterilizations, and even genocide -- that is to say, it's destroyed entire societies. And it's contrary to -- transgresses -- our American values.

So to sum up: Dr_Johnson has told us tonight that transgressors of the taboo are: Now what other group of transgressors of social norms, what "perverts" who do things that some in society still roundly condemn, is similarly complained about?

Let's just hope that we're never forced to shower with Pinker. He puts on make-up, he metaphorically pats asses, he has an "agenda", who knows what he might do if we dropped the soap.

Now I'm sure that Dr_Johnson will protest that his remarks have been misconstrued, and perhaps I've done that. I've certainly given him an intentionally unsympathetic reading. On the other hand, why did Dr_Johnson bring up Pinker's use of make-up, and why was that just about the first thing Dr_Johnson had to tell us about Pinker? Why did the ad hominem implication that Pinker is a nancy-boy who makes his living in a female-dominated profession come before Dr_Johnson made any attempt to address Pinker's arguments. Was it because Dr_Johnson was simply revulsed by Pinker's kind?

So it seemed curious to me that Dr_Johnson's language -- or at least his implications therein -- is so similar to the language used, by people not at all like Dr_Johnson, to castigate transgressions of taboos -- or "perversions" --so dissimilar to Pinker's transgression, but to them equally revolting. Does everything that a man does that disgusts us provoke questioning of his manhood? Perhaps the casual way that the epithets "pussy" or "that's so gay" are slung around is a clue.

If the language used, and thus the images constructed to castigate transgressions of taboo, are so similar across very different subcultures -- the progressive academe and the anti-homosexual right and in schoolyard insults -- one has to wonder if perhaps this revulsion against taboo-breakers (remember that Dr. Hopkins wasn't didn't just disagree with Summers, she wasn't just angered, she was disgusted to the point of physical illness) is not socially constructed but is a product of in-built psychological processes. Perhaps it is even evidence for Dr. Pinker's evolutionary psychology?
posted by orthogonality at 9:25 PM on February 8, 2005


Where's the juggernaut of political correctness I keep hearing about from the Pinker/Summers apologists?

I'm not an apologist and I didn't mention the phrase "political correctness", but the shitstorm which ensued after Summers' comments would seem to me to indicate that a lot of people got their underwear in a bunch over the topic.

These specific skills, which are taught in schools, for example, and, more importantly, performed by human beings, with all of the subjective factors that entails, say very little necessarily about the actual 'biological' abilities of male and female brains. They say more, to many people, about the behavior of acculturated men and acculturated women.

josh: Pinker, to me, seems to be arguing against the idea that all differences in behavior or aptituce between men and women can be attributed to socialization. He claims that in many social scientists' minds, a preference for 'nurture' as the exclusive answer to the 'nature/nurture' problem has become so axiomatic that it is now taboo to seriously question it, and that this is wrong because there are some behaviors and tendencies with demonstrable biological roots. He may be right, he may be wrong. But that's what he's arguing.

"Sex differences" are often used synonomously with "gender roles."

carmen: Pinker has at times made a good case for the theory that certain apparent differences between men and women have some of their roots in our biology, and that that biology is explainable as the result of selection pressures over the history of our evolution. It is in this context that Pinker's arguments must be assessed, and in this context "sex differences" and "gender roles" are not necessarily synonymous.

As to the rest of your comment, I have to say I'm still in awe at the amount of analysis of Summers' comments people have managed to do when, as far as I know, a transcript of Summers' comments are not available anywhere. It may well be that he encouraged listeners to disregard evidence of social barriers, but I don't honestly know and the way in which many people who are operating solely on hearsay have jumped to that conclusion does, to me, lend some credence to Pinker's taboo argument.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:39 PM on February 8, 2005


carmen:

"Many sex differences are universal across cultures"

Um, no, actually. That is factually wrong. "Sex differences" are often used synonomously with "gender roles."

I think what Pinker's talking about when he says 'sex differences' are things like tendencies toward aggression, stealing, violence, seduction and rape. So he says in his book, quoting Brown's "Human Universals."

Meanwhile there are stacks of evidence--good, well thought out investigations with reliable results--that women face a number of barriers that are socially constructed and leave them at a disadvantage to men. ... It is socially suspect for someone versed in this body of evidence to claim that biological imperitives are so significant as to render these factors irrelevent to women's success.

Granted, of course, but who in this discussion is claiming that the social factors are irrelevant? Not Pinker, though I'm not quite sure about Summers anymore.

I believe that there are biologically-based sex differences between men and women, however, I do not accept a) that those differences can be easily mapped to gendered behaviour

I don't think anyone's arguing that all gendered behaviour has a biological basis, just that there are components of gendered behaviour that can be mapped to biological influence. If you can't accept that, I think we'll just have to leave it there, for I take the other side. :)

or b) that the fact that differences in gendered behaviour may have some biological foundation is a reason to disregard evidence that systematic social barriers exist and discriminate based on gender (as well as race, social class etc).

I'm with you on that 100%, and I suspect that no evolutionary psychologist worth his/her Ph.D. would disagree.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:40 PM on February 8, 2005


OK, naysayers, here's a gedanken for you:

A colleague of mine is studying mice with a genetic mutation that makes them more likely to take risks in order to receive a reward. Now, if I theoretically went and checked the corresponding gene in humans (it exists), and I found that, men, on average, had one version of the gene, and women, on average, had another version of the gene, and that the 'man' version corresponded with increased risk-taking and the 'woman' version corresponded with decreased risk-taking, would you still say that men are more likely to take risks because they're socially conditioned to do so?

(Yeah, I know the genetics are a little more complicated than that in real life, but this is my thought experiment. ha.)
posted by greatgefilte at 9:46 PM on February 8, 2005


Here we go AGAIN.

People are not angry at Summers because he brought up a subject that is "taboo" in psychological research circles. In fact, this is a well-researched and well-funded area of investigation.

People are angry at Summers because he's a condescending ass who was pretty obviously trying to justify the fact that the number of women hires have dropped astonishingly during his administration. And since every reputable paper on the subject I have ever read has pretty much indicated that the biopsychological differences between men and women are far too minor to account for the kinds of social effects he's talking about, his attempt to give his prejudices a veneer of scientific validity is laughable, especially since the points he was trying to make had already been mentioned and soundly rebutted at the very same conference by people with far more knowledge of the field than he had. And rather than even attempting to back up his ideas with misinterpreted data the way a more intelligent jerk might, he brought up a meaningless anecdote about toy trucks to a roomful of academics, some of whom were experts in the area he was inanely babbling about.

So, yes, there are, in fact, biological differences between men and women. But Summers is also an ass, who was talking about things he knew nothing about, and came to a stupid, incorrect, and, considering the context, offensive conclusion.
posted by kyrademon at 11:11 PM on February 8, 2005


Here's my idea of a taboo: if you're going to intentionally provoke some of the most prominent female scholars in economics, at an elite, invitation-only event on the very subject of their representation in the sciences, and lack the sack to supply the fucking transcript of your comments, all the while presiding over the most significant decline in tenuring women in your institution's modern history, you and your friends are permanently disbarred from using the terms "academic freedom" to defend yourselves.

(on preview: aye aye, kyrademon.)
posted by melissa may at 11:44 PM on February 8, 2005


sneaky, lying,
effeminate
and flamboyant assholes,
(metaphorically) sexual harassers,
who hang out with their "ilk"
and will do anything to put over their agenda on right-thinking people
and might even undermine our way of life.


Are you kidding me? I certainly HOPE you are kidding because this is so far beyond the pale of rational argument to barely deserve direct response.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:27 AM on February 9, 2005


Also, I hate to whip out the OED, but here it goes, since it has been asked for.

A. adj. (chiefly in predicate). a. As originally used in Polynesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, etc.: Set apart for or consecrated to a special use or purpose; restricted to the use of a god, a king, priests, or chiefs, while forbidden to general use; prohibited to a particular class (esp. to women)[!!!], or to a particular person or persons; inviolable, sacred; forbidden, unlawful; also said of persons under a perpetual or temporary prohibition from certain actions, from food, or from contact with others.

Inviolable, sacred, forbidden, unlawful.

Ask yourself:

1. Does this apply to Summers' comments? Has there been the sort of ritualized expiation which Durkheim argues follows the violation of a taboo?
2. Does this apply to Pinker? Has he suffered any academic consequences (other than disagreement) for broaching this 'sacred' topic?

Within the social sciences, at least, taboos are still reserved for phenomena which elicit society-wide, often violent reactions against the transgressor. They are (thankfully) rare, but perhaps better applied to phenomena in our society like child molestation or incest than to comments made at a conference?
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:43 AM on February 9, 2005


What are we to make of the breakdown of standards of intellectual discourse in this affair--the statistical innumeracy, the confusion of fairness with sameness, the refusal to glance at the scientific literature? It is not a disease of tenured radicals; comparable lapses can be found among the political right (just look at its treatment of evolution). Instead, we may be seeing the operation of a fascinating bit of human psychology.

This paragraph sums up the problem with Pinkers apologetics, which fail because they attempt to paint Summers' comments as intellectually respectable and rigorous. Summers, in point of fact, made condescending comments from a position of power which not only downplayed the problems of discrimination over which he has at least partial control, but also made a mockery of the very kinds of research that Pinker wants to claim to support. Anecdote about daughter=/=science in any way.

Gefilte-You should perhaps check out either SJ Gould, or better yet, Richard Lewontin. His book Biology as Ideology, as well as the earlier Not In Our Genes, does a good job of explaining why the kinds of simplistic genetics you espouse in your thought experiment are inappropriate (at best) and pernicious (at worst) when applied to humans. Lewontin also has a named chair, at Harvard, in Evolutionary Genetics.
posted by OmieWise at 6:42 AM on February 9, 2005


As did Gould, in evolutionary biology, before he died.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 7:02 AM on February 9, 2005


FWIW, Summers has announced a new Task Force to address this issue.

Why is it whenever I think of a "Task Force" I think of General Hawk or Snake-Eyes and never Lady Jane or Scarlette? On the plus side, the task force is staffed by women. On the minus, apparently women need a task force to give them a leg up.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:12 AM on February 9, 2005


Gefilte-You should perhaps check out either SJ Gould, or better yet, Richard Lewontin. His book Biology as Ideology, as well as the earlier Not In Our Genes, does a good job of explaining why the kinds of simplistic genetics you espouse in your thought experiment are inappropriate (at best) and pernicious (at worst) when applied to humans.

I shall, but before I go searching the library, can you at least outline for me why it is that proposing a genetic variation that might influence a particular human behaviour is inappropriate/pernicious? There's an X-chromosome gene linked with aggression in males, that interestingly, manifests itself in a way that's dependent on said males' upbringing. Why shouldn't other aspects of human behaviour work in the same sex- and environment-dependent way?
posted by greatgefilte at 7:27 AM on February 9, 2005


gefelte: I think what Pinker's talking about when he says 'sex differences' are things like tendencies toward aggression, stealing, violence, seduction and rape. So he says in his book, quoting Brown's "Human Universals."

I kind of went off on a side track with the sex differences/gender roles thing because I'm more familliar with it. I tried to find an article I have so I could point to the evoloutionary psychiatrist who did cross-cultural studies to "prove" that women choose men for money/power and men choose women for youth/beauty (I'm over simplifying). That person found that it was true in most cases except where it wasn't. It wasn't in a place where men had no access to income and women did. In this case, men chose wives based on money/power. To me that suggests if there is a biological impetus for behaviour, it does not have the ability to override the context in which a person lives.

As far as the behaviours that you've mentioned, there is as much argument against as there is for. And, frankly, I find the argument against more compelling. For the case of primates (which Pinker mentions) Fedigan demonstrates how primate studies of aggression, sex difference, and behaviour have been misused and misconstrued (for instance, in a species where males hit more frequently but females are more likely to keep hitting after the subject has passed out, males are claimed to be 'more aggressive.' It's true that the behaviours are different, but the quantification is pretty much meaningless.)

Meanwhile there are stacks of evidence... It is socially suspect for someone versed in this body of evidence to claim that biological imperitives are so significant as to render these factors irrelevent to women's success.

Granted, of course, but who in this discussion is claiming that the social factors are irrelevant? Not Pinker, though I'm not quite sure about Summers anymore.


I think that given the number of social barriers women face and the rigour of their documentation, that we are not a stage when we can seriously suggest that biological differences have anything to do with observable social trends. It's not to say that biological differences aren't worth studying, but suggesting a causal relationship is tantamount to suggesting that there's nothing we can do about social inequity.

I don't think anyone's arguing that all gendered behaviour has a biological basis, just that there are components of gendered behaviour that can be mapped to biological influence. If you can't accept that, I think we'll just have to leave it there, for I take the other side. :)

I put to you an evolutionary question. Without a doubt, the major factor driving our evolution has been our ability to learn. Through learning, we created tools, language, culture. Through culture, we have adapted to climates and situations that would be imposible otherwise. We have warm clothes for winter; glasses, hearing aids, and wheel chairs for those who need them; we have agriculture to support far more people than could ever be supported by hunting and gathering. Does it make sense, from an evolutionary perspective, that our behaviour and ability to learn would be seriously constrained by biology? Does it make sense that half of our species would be less able to learn something, when our evolution has relied on our ability to learn? It does make sense that we might approach problems differently, since that might give more variety, but does it really make sense that we would be unable to change our behaviour in different contexts or be unable to learn what our group members have learned that might help us adapt further?

I'm with you on that 100%, and I suspect that no evolutionary psychologist worth his/her Ph.D. would disagree.

Of course, that's not to say that no evolutionary psychologist *with* a PhD would disagree ;)


On preview: can you at least outline for me why it is that proposing a genetic variation that might influence a particular human behaviour is inappropriate/pernicious?

The big difference is between saying "influence" and saying "cause."
posted by carmen at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2005


Gould was widely considered to be a popularizer of Lewontin's science.

The issue is two-fold: does the science justify forming conclusions about genetic pre-dispositions for social and psychological traits; and what does it mean when we form such conclusions when the science may not be all that it's cracked up to be.

Lewontin addresses both of these issues. He makes it very clear that current genetic theory as to pre-disposition etc is not nearly as sophisticated as it likes to suggest. His basic premise, backed up with science, is that genetics and environment form such a complex system that conclusions about what comes first are tenuous at best. Even in the link you provided, it is clear that 'maltreatment' is a necessary precursor to what the study discovered, raising at least the possibility that other factors play a role as well. Since we know that chromosonal expression is affected by environment, the study really tells us nothing about what genes mean, while telling us quite a bit about what environment means. To put it another way, how did they control for level of 'mistreatment' in order to rule environmental factors out etc?

Let me also point out that your 'might' caveat in your most recent post was not present in your thought experiment.

As to the problems with a simplistic approach to genetics, they fall into at least three areas:

1) When genetics is assumed to be the cause of human problems, other things get overlooked and bad science results. Lewontin does a good job of outlining these kinds of results, but we can see the problem in reference to Summers' remarks, where discrimination if dismissed by him (see the Pollit link) in favor of inborn differences. This is surely a policy problem for a University President under whom fewer and fewer women have been granted tenure.

2) This is perhaps a subset of number one, but another thing that happens is that people with control over the environment are left off the hook for the problems that they may be causing. This is very visible in the current push toward finding the genetic causes of cancers. Why worry about a fouled environment when genes are to blame. Why worry about problems with poverty, lack of resources, chronic violence and drug addicition, when genetics explains why people living in the inner city are the way they are? Cancer clusters and expecations of livable communties be damned, genetics explains the problems.

3) Finally, as Lewontin makes clear in Biology as Ideology, the idea that genetics is the true explanation of humanity is almost never ideologically neutral. The Bell Curve by Charles Murray is a great example, but certainly not alone. Conservative social policies, racial and gender hate, etc etc, all trace many of their justifications back to biological explanations for human behavior. This is, after all, the reason for the great debates about evolution out of Harvard. Summers' use of biology falls in the same vein.

I'm not suggesting that your comments go down that road, gefilte, but I think that the implications are there in general. Murray wrote a NYT defense of Summers for christ sake. I think what was most useful about reading Lewontin is that he does a great job of debunking the science of the other side. Not in Our Genes is an old book, but it's take on twin studies, and study methodolgy in general is eye opening. To cite just one small example, relevant to my field of mental health and to your Telegraph link, Lewontin shows that the study parameters rarely correspond to the accepted (though controversial) diagnostic criteria for mental health. In other words, the studies frequently arbitrarily assign people to diagnostic categories they have made up, and then, when writing the results, publish as if those criteria were accepted across the board. In the study cited in the Telegraph, for instance, how do they define anti-social behavior, and is the same as the DSM. If it isn't, then the study is junk. Not because I think the DSM is necessarily correct, but because the results imply that they are consistent with it.
posted by OmieWise at 8:30 AM on February 9, 2005


Reading the Harvard Task Force link reminded me of the really successful research and program redesign that Carnegie Melon did. I read about it a couple of years ago, and couldn't find the article again, but this one has a similar summary.
posted by carmen at 8:41 AM on February 9, 2005


(oops, that would be "computer science program redesign")
posted by carmen at 8:43 AM on February 9, 2005


carmen:

I put to you an evolutionary question. ... Does it make sense, from an evolutionary perspective, that our behaviour and ability to learn would be seriously constrained by biology? Does it make sense that half of our species would be less able to learn something, when our evolution has relied on our ability to learn?

Unfortunately, it doesn't need to make sense to be empirically true. Sexual reproduction as it has evolved in our corner of the universe inherently requires a division of labour -- one member (no pun intended) to be able to spread seed cheaply and without much investment (hence, the zillions of sperm cells produced by males), and one to have a limited supply of reproductive resources (i.e. eggs). Taking that as a necessary starting point, it would make sense, theoretically, for males and females to be equipped with sets of skills that might differ in some degree from each other.

The big difference is between saying "influence" and saying "cause."

Not to mention the different degrees of causation. This is where things really have to be sorted out and clarified, and I need to get back to work!
posted by greatgefilte at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2005


Pinker shows what a dishonest ass he is when he writes:
"As one female social scientist noted in Science Magazine, 'Reinventing the curriculum will not make me more interested in learning how my dishwasher works.'"

The woman he quotes is Patricia Hausman. She said it in this brief article. He knows she is a tool, making a name for herself as a right-wing contrarian instead of actually practicing science.

Her only publications that could be even considered marginally scientific are her books on nutrition, which have a pseudoscientific flair as well..
posted by Cassford at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2005


I say he must know who she is because he also quotes her in his book Blank Slate.
posted by Cassford at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2005


greatgefilte: I don't mean this in a rude way, just to get a grasp on where you are coming from: have you studied human evolution? In the interest of being clear: I studied both human evlolution and modern primate studies, although not at the graduate level.

The model you propose is the social biology model and it has been widely discredited (as far as I can tell) using examples from (biological) human evolution (Gould is a good example), in primate studies (Fedigan), and in cross-cultural studies (for instance, see most forager studies on child care and sexuality to see that women's choices can contrain men's ability to "spred their seed" and that men often invest considerable time and effort into few children).

How we reproduce or even how we select mates does not change the fact that our primary adaptive advantage is the ability to learn. Given the importance of learning in human society and evolution, it is unlikely that males or females who were unable to learn had a reproductive advantage over those who did. It's perfectly conceivable that some behaviours may be affected by gender but it's highly unlikely that our key adaptive trait is going to significantly constrained by gender. Male ungulates might develop giant horns as a result of sexual selection, but they don't lose the ability to digest grass.
posted by carmen at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2005


carmen:

greatgefilte: I don't mean this in a rude way, just to get a grasp on where you are coming from: have you studied human evolution? In the interest of being clear: I studied both human evlolution and modern primate studies, although not at the graduate level.

What is human evolution in this context? Biological? Cultural? I've studied evolution as a biological mechanism, not really in regard to any one species in general.

The model you propose is the social biology model and it has been widely discredited (as far as I can tell) using examples from (biological) human evolution (Gould is a good example), in primate studies (Fedigan), and in cross-cultural studies (for instance, see most forager studies on child care and sexuality to see that women's choices can contrain men's ability to "spred their seed" and that men often invest considerable time and effort into few children).

Er, I'm not talking about humans here, but rather the nature of sexual reproduction in general, from plants to fungi to animals. There's always a species member that has cheap seed to give away (arbitrarily designated 'male') and one that has limited resources (arbitrarily designated 'female'). A flower might have only a few ovaries, but millions of pollen grains. A fungus releases millions of 'male' spores. And so on... That being said, I don't think it's a far stretch to propose that just as 'males' and 'females' have structural adaptations to facilitate each one's unique part in reproduction, so too they might have behavioural adaptations.

It's perfectly conceivable that some behaviours may be affected by gender but it's highly unlikely that our key adaptive trait is going to significantly constrained by gender. Male ungulates might develop giant horns as a result of sexual selection, but they don't lose the ability to digest grass.

Again, I don't think anyone's claiming that learning is 'significantly constrained' by gender. (I hope not, anyway.) But you're treating learning as something monolithic, something you either can or can't do, when it reality it seems to me that there are different kinds of learning, or at least, different aspects to it, and theoretically, it might make adaptive sense to have different members of the species specialized in some areas, but not others.

I'm getting a bit out of my league at this point, so I think I'll conclude with 'more study required.' :)
posted by greatgefilte at 12:11 PM on February 9, 2005


greatgefilte: I hope I didn't make you feel out of your league. I really only meant to say what the limits of my knowledge are, because it seems that we're approaching things differently. It's been a fun day of procrastination with ya :)
posted by carmen at 2:20 PM on February 9, 2005


carmen: I'll drink to that! Good thing the boss is away this week. ;)

One last link, which I include only because I just found out about it... Men think faster than women?
posted by greatgefilte at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2005


Steve Pinker wears makeup?
posted by mowglisambo at 9:42 PM on February 9, 2005


Wouldn't you?
posted by Cassford at 8:06 AM on February 11, 2005


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