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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Political correctness alert: Non-Darwinist philosopher doubts equality of women

One thing about incorrigibly independent thinkers like agnostic Australian philosopher David Stove is that they are, well, incorrigibly independent.

Not content to take on Darwin, Stove apparently had the intellectual courage, as a friend puts it, to challenge the current bloviating about the "intellectual equality of men and women". Questioning that politically correct tenet as it applies to the sciences cost Harvard honcho Larry Summers his job.

Stove's outrageous essay, "The Intellectual Capacity of Women" is apparently Chapter 5 of Cricket Versus Republicanism from Quakers Hill Press, 1995. It was originally published in Proceedings of the Russellian Society, Vol. 15, 1990.

Now, when I say the essay is outrageous, I only mean that it will outrage the politically correct, usually the same people who rush to defend Darwinism.

Stove analyzes the case for the intellectual equality of men and women in the same slow, careful way that he analyzes the case for neo-Darwinism, and dismisses it - at least so far as human beings are concerned - because the actual evidence does not support it. That is, men have consistently outperformed women in intellectual feats over history, and Stove doubts that that can be explained merely by pointing out that women have been oppressed through the ages:
What would convince me of the equal intellectual capacity of men and women is, simply, the kind of evidence which, as things are, convinces me of the opposite: that is, equal intellectual performance, over a long time, and in the widest variety of circumstances.

Stove argues that, as the burden of childrearing has fallen disproportionately to women and that childrearing does not require much intelligence, therefore women did not need to be as intelligent as men, and hence were not.

Now, not being politically correct myself, I am not just going to just jump in here and threaten to be sick, as one of Summers' female opponents did - even though, as a woman, I do have a cat in the fight.

I would say two things, however:

First, the story is a little more complex than Stove seems to want to recognize. Perhaps because he is a philosopher, he conceives of intelligence in an abstract way. In that case, if women are of equal intelligence, they should overcome male oppression and have equal achievements.

He admits that women in most societies have also been much less aggressive than men, and therefore were often pushed aside when opportunities arose, even if they would individually make a better use of those opportunities. He argues that this factor is irrelevant:
But of course not every such factor will do. Some people love just stringing together anecdotes: women were prevented from exercising their intellectual capacity by this obstacle in Periclean Athens, by that obstacle in Confucian China, by the other obstacle in seventeenth-century France, etc. But an equality-theorist must do more than this. He has to offer some definite explanation of why the intellectual capacity of women has so consistently met with obstacles it could not overcome, and his explanation must be one which is consistent with the equality-theory.

There, I disagree. Aggression is not intelligence or any proof of intelligence, and it can alter a climate to favor one party over the other without the first party having any other advantage at all. Think of all the fathers through the ages who sent stupid sons to school and kept smart daughters at home, learning to dodge the well-aimed blows ....

In general, high achievers are quite single-minded. Most women who want a traditional family life simply cannot pay that price, whether they are highly intelligent or not. (Yes, yes, there are exceptions to everything, but most of us are not exceptional, by definition.)

In Canada today, the enrollment of women in university is beginning to exceed that of men, primarily due to aggressive promotion of gender equity policies. Stove (now deceased) said he wouldn't accept such evidence as disproving his thesis, because it is the result of interference ... But what were all the complex prohibitions against women at universities and in the professions a result of? Blind nature?

Anyway, on his main point, Stove is actually right. Generally, far more men than women have been responsible for truly ground-breaking intellectual achievements, especially in the sciences. The sort of people who are responsible for such achievements ofter were oppressed but soldiered on anyway. So that particular difference cannot be entirely the result of oppression of women.

But ... far more men than women have also won "Darwin awards," for fatal stupidity that takes them out of the gene pool. And I won;t even get into the difference in the numbers of men versus women who end up on death row or in the morgue with enough alcohol in their blood to power the car ...

One way of looking at it: If you picture human achievement as a sort of bell curve, you will find that, absent serious social oppression of women, the women's achievement curve is of equal height to that of men, but fits inside it. Thus there are more male supergeniuses out there, and there are also more men in prison for essentially stupid offenses.

In the middle of the curve, women hold down normal jobs just as well as men - deliver the mail, doctor your dog, fix your teeth, et cetera. But at the outer edges on BOTH sides, it's mostly, though not entirely, a guy's world. Make sense? Anyway, Stove is fun whether you agree with him or not.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Roll on, blogs, roll on: Never be bored!

The blogroll at the side features three new never-be-bored entries.

Intelligent Sequences, featuring William Bradford, currently unpacking the Darwin legend as breathlessly reported in the faith and science media. is a student ID research site.

And also note the Portuguese blog, proudly named, pos-darwinista - presumably after Auntie Denyse. How sweet! Sniff, sniff. Sob.

(Note: All the ID interest blogs are now organized alphabetically for convenience, due to growing numbers. Also, note that you can search this blog at the top left for links to stories, and the archives at the bottom right.)

Thinkquotes of the day: Non-Darwinian evolutionary biologists

There have certainly been non-Darwinian evolutionary biologists.

Professor Pierre Grasse (who, for thirty years, held the chair for evolution at the Sorbonne without losing his Gallic wit) commented: 'Where is the gambler, however obsessed with his passion, who would be crazy enough to bet on the roulette of random evolution? The creation, by grains of dust carried by the wind, of Durer's Melancholia has a probability less infinitesimal than the construction of an eye through the mishaps which might befall the DNA molecule - mishaps which have no connection whatsoever with the future functions of the eye. Daydreaming is permissible, but science should not succumb to it.'
(Grasse P.-P., Evolution of Living Organism , Academic Press: New York NY, 1977, p.104 Emphasis in original] quoted in Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up , Picador: London, 1983, p.177)

In fact, there is a long, largely hidden history of scientific dissent from Darwinism, of which the current 600 signatories over at the Discovery Institute are only the latest examples.

(Note if you are new to the controversy: When arguing their case, Darwinists use the term "evolution" to mean "Darwin's theory of evolution." This can make reporting and discussion of the issues in the popular media confusing. To the extent that most Darwinists are materialists or churchgoing fellow travellers, they actually don't think it possible that Darwinism - the creation story of materialism - could be an incorrect understanding of the history of life. In my experience, they are less likely to actually doubt Darwinism than Christians are to doubt the resurrection of Jesus. Don't be alarmed if Darwinian evolutionists assume that you are mad, bad or stunned if you question their beliefs. Personally, I would urge a social scientist to get a grant and study Darwinism as a fascinating social phenomenon.)
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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