Friday, June 05, 2009

Evolutionary Psychology takes another hit - why are the facts so PC?

Back a few years ago, Lawrence Summers was president of Harvard and was in the news for saying that females had lesser math & science abilities than men did for reasons of biology. Steven Pinker was also at Harvard and was best known for his evolutionary psychology manifesto "The Blank Slate." It immediately occurred to me that Summers got everything he knew about female genetic inferiority from Pinker. And as I expected, Pinker was one of Summers's biggest champions.

I got into an email exchange with Pinker about it at the time. Evolutionary psychologists are big on citing male-female test scores in math/science as proof that females are innately inferior in those areas. (Although most of them refuse to do the same to explain white vs non-white differences, to the frustration of Steven Sailer and American Renaissance.)

I asked Pinker what would happen if the gap started to close in less than an evolutionary time-frame. Would he claim that culture was helping females to triumph over their innate inferiority? It would be odd if he did, because if the power of culture was strong enough to perform such a miracle, why couldn't culture also have prevented females from achieving their full potential? Even evolutionary psychologists do not completely discount the power of sexism.

Pinker never answered my question. But now it's more than academic. According to the NYTimes:
The Wisconsin researchers, Janet S. Hyde and Janet E. Mertz, studied data from 10 states collected in tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind legislation as well as data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal testing program. Differences between girls’ and boys’ performance in the 10 states were “close to zero in all grades,” they said, even in high schools were gaps existed earlier. In the national assessment, they said, differences between girls’ and boys’ performance were “trivial.”

more here

I expected this - but I didn't expect it so soon. I thought we had at least another five years to go.

But I expect it will be much longer than that before Pinker admits that he is wrong.

For an excellent review of The Blank Slate, see Louis Menand's "What Comes Naturally" in the New Yorker.