September 25, 2017

Diary of August 16, 2017

In all the fuss over Google’s firing of an engineer named James Damore (surely a corruption of "D’amore"?) for expressing an opinion about sex differences, the main focus has been upon the poor fellow’s right to freedom of speech, if any, with only secondary consideration being given to the merits, if any, which may be allowed to his point of view. When that subject comes up, so, inevitably, does science. Or "science," since when science is invoked to resolve a political argument it is rarely science in the strict sense. Usually it means the opinions of some scientist or group of scientists whose political views almost certainly antedate their scientific researches but, nevertheless, somehow turn out to have been confirmed by them.

At the weekend, we had a good example of this process in contrasing articles which appeared in London’s Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. In the Telegraph, Zoe Strimpel writes that "Damore seems oblivious to the vigorous critique of these ideas that has been ongoing for a good twenty years or more," mentioning in particular "such books such as Brain Gender by the Cambridge professor of psychology Melissa Hines and Columbia professor Rebecca Jordan- Young’s Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences." We infer that these books take a different view of sex differences from Mr Damore’s, though Ms Strimpel seems to suppose that their scientific credentials, reduced here to the universities where they do their research, make any rehearsal of their arguments unnecessary.

Meanwhile, over at The Sunday Times, Dominic Lawson cites "a recent article in the journal Stanford Medicine on ‘the cognitive difference between men and women’" and "a fascinating article by the academic psychologist Lee Jussim" as being equally conclusive the other way. Professor Jussim isn’t assigned to a prestigious institution of higher learning like Cambridge or Columbia (or Stanford) but if you look up his Wikipedia article you will find that his affiliation is with Rutgers University in New Jersey. You will also find that the article is "being considered for deletion" on the ostensible grounds that the professor "doesn't appear to meet any of the notability guidelines for academics."

I guess Mr Lawson’s and The Sunday Times’s mention doesn’t do any good for Dr Jussim’s fulfilment of Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, though one can guess at other reasons why those who regard views like his as scandalous might be as keen to get him out of Wikipedia as Sundar Pichai was to get Mr Damore out of Google. At any rate, whenever anyone mentions "science" as an authority these days, on sex differences as on global warming, we need to bear in mind that "science" today does not exclude — as science properly so-called must exclude — efforts such as these to silence heterodox opinions. As a result, science has lost some if not all of its credibility and authority, since we can never be sure if its claims are based on the science or the politics which is now allowed to monitor it .

On the matter of sex differences, I would stipulate that they are socially constructed, as feminists claim, and then try to make the case that they are constructed in the way they traditionally have been constructed for very good reasons, since any given community with properly constructed and distinct sex roles has a better chance of survival in the struggle with other communities that has been a feature of human life for as long as human life has existed. For evidence in support of this proposition, you only have to look at the depopulation of Western countries where feminism has been most successful at breaking down sex differences and their repopulation with non-Westerners, most of whom have views of the matter that make Mr Damore’s seem positively progressive. But there the silence of science has the same purpose as the defenstration of Mr Damore and the demotion of Dr Jussim, which is to protect the progressive scientist from unpalatable realities.

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