24 December 2008

Math Gender Gap Persists Everywhere

Two recent publications (Science 320, 1164 (2008), and Science 321, 494 (2008)) have celebrated the purported "absence of a gender gap" in math ability. These 'findings' were celebrated by feminist academics, politicians, and journalists. But most informed observers immediately found the papers suspect, in that they contradicted a huge body of scientific evidence. Now perennial fact-checker and ne-er do well, La Griffe du Lion, takes a look at the two studies and declares them wanting in logic, reason, and hard facts.
In brief, we have seen tonight that the gender gap in mathematics has been stable for at least half a century; that sex differences in ability-distribution means and variance ratio are independent of race, culture and geography; that female math performance is closest to that of males in high-IQ countries; that culture plays a role in math performance, albeit small; and that the theory of Everyone accounts for all of the above. If these results are unsettling, take comfort knowing that no presentation of fact, regardless how compelling, will keep the gap buster from her noble calling. _LaGriffeduLion via Dennis Mangan
To follow the reasoning that leads to LGdL's conclusions, you will need to read his article at the link above. It is accompanied by a large array of graphs which aid an intuitive grasp of the statistics involved.

The gender gap is ubiquitous geographically and culturally, and is persistent over time. The gap is somewhat narrower in societies with higher average IQs, such as Europe, North America, East Asia, and Oceania, but still quite undeniably present and persistent.

The continuing effort of feminists in academia and journalism to deny what is obvious to anyone who looks at the issue scientifically, undermines the credibility of feminists on a wide range of issues which straddle both the scientific and political spheres.

See Dennis Mangan and Half Sigma for other observations on du Lion's recent article.

The simple and obvious mistake that feminists make when trying to deny the math gender gap, is to make comparisons between boys and girls up to puberty, and ignoring any differences that develop after that point. Since the brain development and maturation of youth continues throughout puberty and into young adulthood to the age of 25 or 30, such premature halting of data collection and comparison appears suspiciously political in motivation. Particularly since the "math behaviour" differences that are pertinent in the discussion, are those differences that occur in career preparation and performance in adulthood.

The same absurd faux comparisons were made by Liz Spelke in her famous debate with Steven Pinker. Boys and girls are not yet men and women. The dynamic process that converts the brain of the young child to the quite different brain of the mature adult should not be neglected in any serious analysis of adult differences in math aptitude.

Parenthetically, James Flynn makes very much the same mistake in his own analyses of IQ score gaps between population groups. Such infestation of science by politics is unlikely to be rooted out for generations. The most we can hope for is that the underlying research continues and the results preserved for a more rational era.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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