Really not sure this argument works

I have since read Damore’s memo, which runs to ten pages, and that, too, was an education. Who knew, for instance, that you can simply read your own biased assumptions as “evidence’’? Who knew you could boldly say “men and women biologically differ in many ways’’, followed by “these differences aren’t just socially constructed because they are universal across human cultures’’, without feeling the need to qualify either statement?

Who knew you could simply ignore, for instance, Cordelia Fine’s brilliant work on “neurosexism’’ or the work of Margaret Mead, who spent time in Papua New Guinea with the Tchambuli tribe, where the men adorn themselves and gossip all day while the women do all the heavy-lifting?

Really not sure that using Margaret Mead as science really works these days, does it?

44 comments on “Really not sure this argument works

  1. Who knew you could simply ignore, for instance, Cordelia Fine’s brilliant work on “neurosexism’’

    [Feminist author Cordelia Fine] argued that neuroscientists should be schooled in the theory of intersectionality — “the principle that important social identities like gender, ethnicity, and social class mutually constitute, reinforce, and naturalise one another.” At first glance, this is a peculiar demand… To practise intersectionality, one must privilege the voices of black women over white women, and the voices of women over men, for example. The least privileged deserve the most sympathy; the straight white male deserves the least. The relevance for neuroscience is unclear at best. But its utility as an ideological weapon has made it popular among academics hoping to politicise scholarship and silence their enemies.

    Claire Lehmann on Cordelia Fine’s dogmatism and its literally poisonous effects.

  2. Ugh not that utter nonsense of intersectionality again. It’s pretty much a giant red warning light telling you that it’s not good science.

  3. “Who knew, for instance, that you can simply read your own biased assumptions as “evidence’’? “

    Anyone who’s read ‘An Inconvenient Truth’..?

  4. Who knew, for instance, that you can simply read your own biased assumptions as “evidence’’?

    Mind what you’re doing with that projection, you’ll have someone’s eye out.

  5. “Ugh not that utter nonsense of intersectionality again. It’s pretty much a giant red warning light telling you that it’s not good science.”

    Howsabout correcting that to “…telling you that it’s not science”.

    Ignoring the corpus of repeatable observational research in neuroscience and behavioural psychology based on some pomo feminist opinion-stating-as-objective-fact requires some chutzpah.

  6. I wonder if she’s read the Google/Gizmodo version of the memo. You know, the one with the references and graphs stripped out.

  7. So the guy’s unsurprisingly suing Google. I hope that Gismodo is preparing itself for a defamation suit too, since they clearly deserve one.

  8. Who knew you could boldly say “men and women biologically differ in many ways’’ ..

    Execrable indeed. In English it would read ‘men and women differ biologically in many ways’.

  9. @David Thompson,

    Unfortunately that article is absolutely riddled with sensationalist bullshit ( I was going to call it inaccuracy, or nonsense).

    Just a few:

    The FDA is actually totally obsessed by demographic subgroups.

    Thalidomide slipped through the net because of inadequate pre-clinical development, not because of inadequate human studies. The scandal is what kick-started the safety procedures in place and under constant refinement today.

    Among those safety procedures, something every pharma company has to do, forever, is the collection of adverse event reports from the marketed product. And those events are taken seriously, they do end up in product labelling. It is very easy to demonstrate, at least to the satisfaction of the regulators, that a drug does cause previously unknown adverse effects, once it is on the market.

    People who take sleeping pills are at a higher risk of death because, compared to people who don’t take sleeping pills, they have more underlying health problems. There have been several essentially bogus studies of this sort, and the increased risk of death is the same order of magnitude, irrespective of the pill you look at. The extrapolated half a million annual US deaths is completely implausible (that’s roughly 1 in 6 of all deaths), especially with the implication that they are all due to “falls, overdoses, and car crashes). The consistency between these studies is not suggestive of drug-related deaths. All sleeping aids include warnings against driving or operating heavy machinery.

    Of the last 10 drugs removed from the market, the actual number from which women will have suffered “severe” (actually that should read “serious”) adverse reactions is 10, not 8. As will be the case for men – a number the author for some reason forgot to mention.

    “Most subjects are young healthy men” … conveniently omitting that that applies only to the earliest stages of (Phase I) research – even then the prohibition on females is not universal. At which point most drugs are tossed anyway. Anything that makes it past then, the pharmas will get their hands on as many patients as they can. The only other studies (of hundreds I have worked on) that I have seen confined to one sex were (for equally obvious reasons) oral contraceptives.

    Animal studies in drug development include male animals, female animals and (because Thalidomide), pregnant female animals. Academics claiming they have never seen a female animal need to explain where their male animals come from.

    I could go on but it’s getting boring.

  10. “…without feeling the need to qualify either statement?”

    I read the memo and it is full of footnotes with references to outside sources.

  11. The claim that males and females are equal can get some traction when schoolgirls start selecting courses they know will enable them to support their husbands and family.

    When we see a news report of some lad’s girlfriend take a bullet to save his life (as per the Batman cinema shootings), when trouble breaks out and she gets between him and it.

    Not seen anything like that then? But men looking after women is invisible (writer claims it doesn’t happen, we’re equal after all). Best stop doing it then, repeat the old mantra; careful what you wish for…

  12. Even if Damore’s memo was provably wrong, the right response by Google would have been to argue with the specific points he made. Not firing him for ‘wrongthink’, especially as he was bending over backwards (or as it turns out, forwards) to provide supporting evidence and generally be sensitive to the Google worldview.

  13. “Who knew you could simply ignore, for instance, Cordelia Fine’s brilliant work on “neurosexism’’ or the work of Margaret Mead, who spent time in Papua New Guinea with the Tchambuli tribe, where the men adorn themselves and gossip all day while the women do all the heavy-lifting?”

    Two points:
    1 / Is some one at the Graun complaining about cherry picking evidence to support an opinion? [I]Really?[/I] That’s what I call brass neck.
    2 / Tell me more about this tribe, and more importantly the immigration laws for whichever country they reside.

  14. Who knew you could simply ignore, for instance, Cordelia Fine’s brilliant work on “neurosexism’’ or the work of Margaret Mead

    Cultural Marxism infecting The Times too.

  15. I think ignoring the work of Margaret Mead might be done by the author (or at least ignoring the reception of the work done by Margaret Mead, since she wrote the presumably relevant book in the 1930s…). In a nutshell, the current consensus is that men do not exercise dominance if there is no great value attached to male roles (hunting and fighting) due to plentiful food and lack of conflict. This requires in a primitive society there to be low population density within the community and its neighbours (warfare being a bit of a nieghbourly occupation…). In such situations (as with any primitive ruling class) the default situation is for men to actually do very little, whilst women work as hard.

    The odd thing here is that a study which observed clear (if apparently atypical) gender roles in a society is being cited to support an argument against a memo suggesting their is a gender bias in a particular role. But then again, there is no gender bias I have ever noticed in stupidity.

  16. “in Papua New Guinea with the Tchambuli tribe, where the men adorn themselves and gossip all day while the women do all the heavy-lifting”

    And look at the Economic and Cultural powerhouse that Papua New Guinea is today

  17. It reminds me of the old T-shirt slogan.

    “Once upon a time there were no taxes and women did all the work. Then the White man came and improved things.”

  18. I have since read Damore’s memo…

    … but not properly, because she is a slapdash halfwit who likes to vomit her ignorance and prejudice right off the cuff.

    I do wonder whether she is referencing Fine and Mead because she thinks they are real scientists or because they suit her argument.

  19. @John Square,

    But, but, your immigrating there would be an act of Cultural Appropriation, quite possibly even Colonialist Imperialism. And even visiting would be an act of Tourism, which is now also under scrutiny at the Graun.

  20. In related news:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-40887393

    The link on the ‘England news’ refers to this as a ‘gripe’, which is a peculiarly judgemental word to use.

    Anyway, the BBC shows whose side it is on with lavish quotes criticising it. My favourite was that it “is against the spirit of equalities legislation”. Imagine the Doublethink required to hold that view!

    Still, using their own weapons against them. In a civilised society I would look down on this sort of complaint as being a bit petty and vindictive but fuck it, go for it – it’s a molehill compared to the mountain of SJW spite.

  21. (Adopts stern yet sorrowful face) Ladies only swimming is against a fine and just law, and there are no differences between men and women, so this policy cannot be justified.

  22. Been looking to recall the right terminology to address a particular point in that quote, and finally found it

    ‘Who knew, for instance, that you can simply read your own biased assumptions as “evidence’’’

    That is pretty much the foundation of the Critical Theory that enables so much of this SJW bullsh!t we see, especially in academia and the humanities in particular.

    When you see the unintelligible jargon-soup (‘intersectionality’ being a favourite of mine) or bizarrely contradictory snowflake PC viewpoints, it’s usually some twisted rationale derived via this theory that is used to justify it.

    Basically, the idea is that all scientific truth is relative, and all knowledge is biased by the observer, their place in society and ideology etc.

    So instead of trying to understand and explain the world through the social sciences, the objective is to shape the world as it ‘ought’ to be through critiquing it according to your own value system.

    It’s practically the definition of that original quote. And the origin of that Margaret Mead nonsense.

    It’s the most thorough anti-scientific boll@£ks that has ever existed, but whole university departments get funding and grants based on this (I’m looking at you, UEA).

    Infects a lot of education, social work and healthcare philosophy too, which is one reason those professions are so poisoned by strange thinking.

    Worth a an hour long Google session if you want to feel some intellectual rage.

  23. I do wonder whether she is referencing Fine and Mead because she thinks they are real scientists or because they suit her argument.

    Most likely because they were the top entries on her Google search.

  24. Yes

    Who knew, for instance, that you can simply read your own biased assumptions as “evidence’’

    Everyone at the Guardian?

  25. I’m fairly sure I covered my opinion on the “simply read your own biased assumptions” yesterday by posting a link to a copy that includes the sources. Motherboard, like every major media outlet, has a history of omitting important facts. A good journalist would find those facts when doing research for their article. Therefore any article that makes a claim about a lack of citations is written by a bad journalist.

  26. “Who knew you could boldly say “men and women biologically differ in many ways’’ – I thought everyone knew this – the whole X and Y thing in genetics? or is that now classed as a lie too??

  27. Isn’t the main problem with “the critical theory” thay it ia so unintelligible that no one without 2 PhDs in “the critical theory ” is even in a position to criticise it?

    And if you have 2 PhDs in It, you’re not exactly likely to criticise it.

  28. BiG,

    Ref you’re long and interesting post.

    I was listening to some researchers recently who reckoned that some drugs are chromosome sensitive and men and women may need different doses. This wasn’t the wilder sides of the Internet, I don’t go there, but is there much evidence of that or is it just hypothesis at this stage?

  29. Men and women might be different?

    Let’s just say I concluded that the reccomended alcohol intake was complete bollocks when it was adjusted to be equal for men and women.
    And whenever my GP mentioned alcohol I replied that we have no useful metrics as the limits are obviously hijacked by politicks….. (short delay…) next topic!

  30. @BinND
    A medical statistician colleague tells me that several treatments (inc some drugs) have very different effects on men and women and must be prescribed carefully. This can also cause problems with biological males presenting as female and vice versa.

  31. Clovis,

    That was in part the context of the discussion. I bet you’re colleagues tread very carefully when bringing up the subject.

  32. 4 units of alcohol knocks me out. I am male. Therefore, the legal limit for alcohol consumption for men must be set at 4 units.

  33. Yeah, thanks jgh, it makes so much more sense to me now…

    … so the dickless wonder setting alcohol limits is drunk under the table by his female keeper,

    I’m embarrassed, should have figured that out for myself

  34. @BiND,

    You can generally assume that men and women will metabolise drugs differently. Women are (I trust I don’t have to caveat every time it’s obvious I am talking about averages and every time I am talking about individuals) smaller so the same dose will (usually) reach a higher peak concentration. The also have smaller livers so at least drugs that undergo hepatic metabolization may persist for longer. I don’t know (off top of head) about differences in excretion between men and women, I think that is less of an issue.

    This can also work the other way around as some drugs (example off top of head: loratadine) have to undergo hepatic metaoblism before they are active.

    So drug metabolism is definitely different, but as with most differences between men and women (or any sides of a demographic split), the populations overlap significantly in terms of body weight, blood volume, metabolism, and the various other things that influence how the body processes a drug.

    The overlap is of an extent that it’s difficult to draw a useful generalization. Drug doses, as you have noticed, are usually a round number, that’s hoped to be close enough to an optimal dose for everyone, while not being a perfect dose for (almost) anyone.

    With most drugs, the therapeutic window is wide enough, and the potential for harm low enough, that sub-optimal dosing can be ignored. You stop delivering the drug before individual (or sex) differences in metabolism start to become a problem. However, with drugs for chronic administration, especially lifelong things such as insulin or VKAs, the doses have to be titrated for effect. Same with steroids, which have dreadful side effects long-term. It’s essential with that kind of thing to achieve a personalised optimal dose. This is the main reason diabetes is expensive to treat.

    So not only does drug metabolism differ, but individual response to the drug – in terms of what dose works how well, while minimising the risk of safety effects (general dogma is that is as low a dose as possible) has to be considered. You can see that sex is just one semi-useful variable in a massively complicated system.

    The authorities would love everything to move on to a personal optimized dose, but there are a lot of barriers. For one, we don’t know all the factors in any one person that contribute to metabolism, let alone at which dose someone is likely to have an adverse reaction. Dosing is always a trade-off between getting the effect you want (and not too much of it) without poisoning the patient. And we simply don’t have the personnel to cut your aspirin dose by 5% for your migraine. Or the manufacturing techniques to produce stepless dosage forms.

  35. @BinND
    My colleague is quite careful but I am still raising the issue with University management as a possible “academic freedom” case (as in “you WILL be utterly supportive, won’t you when the bien pensant come after her).

    @BinG
    That’s very comprehensive and interesting. Personalised medicine sound great but personalisation always comes with a bespoke sort of cost!

  36. In clinical trials it’s increasingly common for patients to be asked their “sex at birth”.

    Doubtless the taking of disproportionate and vicarious offence industry will catch up soon enough.

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