“Is There Anything Good About Men?” and gender differences in science

Roy Baumeister’s great talk on gender differences, “Is There Anything Good About Men?” is ricocheting around the blogosphere this week. The talk makes some amazing and provocative points touching on a variety of ways in which men’s and women’s roles in society a have evolved to be different. One great point is that fact that although men and women have approximately equal average abilities by a variety of measures, the distributions are different, with more men at both extremes. Failing to account for this difference in distributions can create “all sorts of misleading conclusions and other statistical mischief.” He points out two examples of observed statistical gender differences — college grades and workplace salaries — that can be explained by the differences in statistical distributions, and suggests that the difference also explains the preponderance of men in science.

However, I think that other points in his talk have even more to say about gender differences in science, and should be emphasized. More below the jump…

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The Professoriate and the Truth

Tech Central Station is carrying the text of an interesting lecture on the state of higher education. What’s interesting about it is that it was given at a conference of educators, and it rails against the intolerance of dissent against the liberal political ideal that currently prevails in college campuses.

I, myself, am more or less liberal, but unlike many others at UT and elsewhere I feel that college campuses should be places where controversial ideas on race, sexuality, religion, etc, should be discussed openly; those who espouse unpopular and politically incorrect ideas should be welcomed to debate, not shouted down; and the purpose of tenure is to allow professors to research in controversial areas and to hold controversial opinions on any topic without fear of political reprisal against their job. Although it may be old news to some, it’s still refreshing to see a professor stand up at a meeting of professors and attack ideas that are currently held as doctrine at universities.

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