Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Why Sexual Selection Matters and Why Cordelia Fine is Wrong

Last week The Royal Society awarded the polemical writer Cordelia Fine their Science Book of the Year award for Testosterone Rex. The central thesis of the book is that behavioral differences between men and women are better explained by culture than by testosterone and that the theoretical framework that evolutionary scientists regard as the root cause of several of the robust cross-cultural sex differences we see, namely Bateman’s principle and sexual selection, have been largely debunked, at least when it comes to humans. Since this runs contrary to the broadly held consensus in evolutionary biology the choice has naturally elicited criticism from both biologists and evolutionary psychologists.

Ad Hoc Hypotheses and Occam’s Razor

In her quest to deny that biology is responsible for sex differences in behavior, Cordelia Fine has a huge advantage: she benefits from that fact (which the award has made clear) that there are certain areas of research where science doesn’t work as usual. With the academia being overwhelmingly liberal and leftist there is a clear tendency to favor certain hypotheses over others regarding the causes of human behavior. Nowhere is this more clear than when it comes to race or sex differences. That there are genetic differences between different populations or the sexes that could explain the different outcomes that we see on a societal level is simply indigestible to many academics.

To some degree this is understandable. There is no dearth of misogynist and racist Alt-Right trolls who, instead of acknowledging that huge individual variation should mean that nobody deserves to be discriminated against on the basis of gender or race, seek to end women’s suffrage and reinstate Jim Crow. One has to spend 5 minutes reading certain PUA and Alt-Right blogs to understand where reluctance to approach these topics comes from. But it would also be a mistake to give the Alt-Right a monopoly over these questions. It is better to acknowledge them and emphasize that variation within groups means no individual deserves to be discriminated against on the basis of group averages. The shock of Trump winning the presidency appears to have reinforced this already severe taboo even further. Therefore, in large parts of the academia, any biological explanation will be disregarded, at least as long as there is an alternative way to explain the data.

The problem is of course that it is easy for anyone with a little imagination to come up with alternative theories; in fact, no matter what scientific question you look at, be it climate change, evolution contra intelligent design or Einstein’s theory of relativity there is always an alternative theory that purports to explain the data. Occam’s Razor is a good principle to rely on when choosing between them. This is the idea that among competing theories the one with the fewest assumptions and ad hoc hypotheses is likely the correct one. When fossils of archaic humans are discovered creationists can always invent a rationalization (they were simply suffering from some rare deformity, or sinners punished by God or whatever) to circumvent the fact that such findings severely compromise their grand idea of Intelligent Design (which erroneously predicted that no such fossils would be found in the first place). As the wild assumptions and ad hoc hypotheses pile up to fit the incoming data it is usually discarded and the few people who still cling to the theory are ignored.

Gender blank slatism is an exception to this rule. No matter how many wild assumptions, unsupported claims or ad hoc hypotheses are needed to explain away new data and why the annoying sex differences are so stubbornly and universally persistent, the social constructionist theory still reigns supreme in the humanities and most of the social sciences. As Geoffrey Miller has observed, no gender feminist he’s ever met has been able to coherently answer the question “What empirical findings would convince you that psychological sex differences evolved?”, because no matter the finding there is always a rationalization, however unlikely, that will ensure that gender blank slatism remains unscathed. And there is nobody more prolific than Cordelia Fine when it comes to producing these rationalizations.

Most Fine’s writings are exercises in creating these so called ad hoc hypotheses. Testosterone Rex has already been critically reviewed by Jerry Coyne, Gregory Cochran, Stuart Ritchie  and Robert King, but in light of the recent award by The Royal Society I felt a thorough review of sexual selection and its biological underpinnings might be called for, just to shed light on what kind of book the world’s oldest existing science academy considers worthy of prestige.

The Role of Testosterone

It would be a lie to say the influence of testosterone on humans and other mammals is thoroughly understood. There are several complicating factors. Humans produce several hormones and there seems to be interaction between them. In addition, there are lot of bad studies with small samples and unreliable measures that Cordelia Fine, with some justice, loves to pick apart. Other confounding factors include context, individual genes and androgen sensitivity. Some men become bald because of testosterone while others do not. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any clearly detectable patterns, especially related to the large surges that occur during certain crucial life stages such as in puberty and prenatally. Therefore, it would also be a lie to say nothing about testosterone is known. Nobody except the most deluded gender studies professor would deny, for example, that it develops muscles, deepens the voice and causes facial hair to grow. A shower of testosterone during early gestation is also responsible for shaping the reproductive organ into a penis. There is a broad consensus among biologists and neuroscientists that there are also both organizational and direct effects of testosterone on the brain, which like other human organs has androgen receptors. Since males produce much more testosterone already in utero there is also a general agreement that the hormone is involved in the development of some of the cross-cultural sex differences we see among humans.


The Black Family Is Struggling, and It’s Not Because of Slavery

Walter E. Williams

That the problems of today’s black Americans are a result of a legacy of slavery, racial discrimination, and poverty has achieved an axiomatic status, thought to be self-evident and beyond question.

This is what academics and the civil rights establishment have taught. But as with so much of what’s claimed by leftists, there is little evidence to support it.

The No. 1 problem among blacks is the effects stemming from a very weak family structure.

Children from fatherless homes are likelier to drop out of high school, die by suicide, have behavioral disorders, join gangs, commit crimes, and end up in prison. They are also likelier to live in poverty-stricken households.

But is the weak black family a legacy of slavery?

In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families. Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families.

Here’s my question: Was the increase in single-parent black families after 1960 a legacy of slavery, or might it be a legacy of the welfare state ushered in by the War on Poverty?

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.

Is that supposed to be a delayed response to the legacy of slavery?

The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today roughly 30 percent of blacks are poor.

However, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent.

The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

The black family structure is not the only retrogression suffered by blacks in the age of racial enlightenment.

In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment.

As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites. Today it’s about 30 percent longer.

Would anyone suggest that during earlier periods, there was less racial discrimination?

What goes a long way toward an explanation of yesteryear and today are the various labor laws and regulations promoted by liberals and their union allies that cut off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and encourage racial discrimination.

Labor unions have a long history of discrimination against blacks. Frederick Douglass wrote about this in his 1874 essay titled “The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” and Booker T. Washington did so in his 1913 essay titled “The Negro and the Labor Unions.”

To the detriment of their constituents, most of today’s black politicians give unquestioning support to labor laws pushed by unions and white liberal organizations.

Then there’s education. Many black 12th-graders deal with scientific problems at the level of whites in the sixth grade. They write and do math about as well as white seventh- and eighth-graders.

All of this means that an employer hiring or a college admitting the typical black high school graduate is in effect hiring or admitting an eighth-grader. Thus, one should not be surprised by the outcomes.

The most damage done to black Americans is inflicted by those politicians, civil rights leaders, and academics who assert that every problem confronting blacks is a result of a legacy of slavery and discrimination. That’s a vision that guarantees perpetuity for the problems.


Women-only gym hours are a step backwards

The University of Winnipeg in Canada is rolling out a pilot policy this year to try out women- and non-binary-only gym hours. Officially titled the ‘UWSA Inclusive Gym Initiative’, the project is the creation of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) board of directors (similar to students’ unions in the UK).

The policy is being introduced on the back of analyses of surveys and gym attendance records which showed women were not using the gym as much as ‘we would expect’. One survey carried out by the UWSA board of directors found that women and non-binary people were more than twice as likely as men to feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘uncomfortable’ in the gym. Yet, strangely, the survey results do not include any explanation as to why certain students might feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘uncomfortable’.

The UWSA’s pilot policy suggests women and non-binary students’ level of comfort with gym use is solely dependent on men’s presence. And yet this sentiment was not expressed by the students themselves.

This policy demonstrates a patronising view towards women and non-binary students, as it is predicated on the idea that men need to be removed from a physical space in order for women or non-binary individuals to be autonomous.

Moreover, UWSA’s solution of segregated gym-hours has distinctly Victorian overtones, the suggestion being that women and non-binary students must be protected from men, and are incapable of participating in public life in the same way as men. This is a form of paternalism that old orders of feminism sought to eliminate.

Women and non-binary individuals are perfectly fine being fully immersed in public life – and that includes using the gym along with men. Yet this policy is an encouragement to retreat from that. And while UWSA’s ‘inclusive’ policy is, no doubt, an attempt at being progressive, ironically, the policy explicitly excludes people.

Opposition to the scheme has already been expressed by some women and non-binary students. In the interest of our autonomy and to show that we don’t need to be governed, we should all kick back against this childish policy and the paternalistic attitude that spawned it.


Australia: 'Just pretend to back Yes': What a Labor senator was told when she told her boss that she didn't believe in same-sex marriage

Leftist trust in lies again

A Labor senator has revealed she was urged to 'pretend to back' the yes campaign so as to align with her party's stance.

Tasmanian MP Helen Polley, who chose to vote no in the $122 million same-sex marriage survey, said senior staff members told her to change her public position, according to The Australian.

While she would not name the people responsible, Senator Polley said she was told her view could cost Labor votes in the next election.

'I’ve been told that I could be responsible for losing the next federal election,' she said.

Senator Polley, who was voting a a 'conscience vote' based on her Christian belief, said she had received pressure from friends, colleagues and Labor MPs. 'I’ve had all sorts of propositions put to me... But I have to be true to the people who elected me,' she said.

The Labor MP also added that she agreed with her party's stance that a postal plebiscite should not have occurred and that it was fraught with problems.

It comes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attended a rally in support of the 'yes' vote in Melbourne on Sunday, urging supporters not to be disheartened.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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