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Aug 05 2012

Female Privilege and Scientific Qualifications

It’s always so much fun to see how others see me. A little over a year ago, I had a post published in the Scientific American guest blog called “The Politics of the Null Hypothesis“. It discussed the tendency to default to genetic explanations of differences in IQ and the resistance that is shown to any research findings that demonstrate environmental or transient influences on IQ scores. I also noted in this post how odd this tendency is when all of the direct evidence we have is for environmental or transient influences and the replicated evidence for a genetic influence comes from studies that aren’t well-designed to distinguish between environmental and genetic influences.

As you could probably guess, this post didn’t go over well with everyone. In particular, Bryan Pesta, who has a long history of suggesting I shouldn’t talk about IQ and a brief history of studying racial differences in IQ, took it as another opportunity to tell me I should shut up. He tried to credit me with several statements I hadn’t made, attacked a bunch of irrelevancies, and went with the “How can you question decades of science?!” stance.

That’s become a favorite tactic of Pesta’s since then. “Who are you to question how things are done?” “Ooh, better get that into a peer-review journal right away so you can set the entire scientific world straight!” [I paraphrase.]

Recently, he took this one step further.

I do not consider you qualified to comment on many things scientific. I bet lots that if you were male, there’s no way in hell Scientific American would post your thoughts as written there (nice privilege, btw). These are my opinions only.

Opinions are nifty things and all, but they should generally be influenced by the outside world. We have a word for judgments made before the evidence is reviewed.

Perhaps Pesta should review the comments of one of the researchers I critiqued in the post, who called it “thought-provoking”. Did Paul Thompson take time out of his busy research schedule to pat me on the head just because I’m female?

Perhaps he should alert the organizers of the SkepTech conference, where I will be speaking on this topic in April. I’m sure they’d be embarrassed that their rush to have women speakers, they included someone so naive and obviously unqualified.

Or perhaps Pesta should just ask Bora, who edits the SciAm guest blog. I did.

Hey, @, did you know you only published my guest posts because I'm female? http://t.co/56atKg7M
@szvan
Stephanie Zvan
@ oh, really? And I am the last to know this?
@BoraZ
Bora Zivkovic
@ Maybe you need your IQ boosted? ;)
@szvan
Stephanie Zvan
@ yup, that must be it :-)
@BoraZ
Bora Zivkovic

Huh, turns out that maybe this is just Pesta’s prejudice after all.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Keith Peterson

    Wow, this Pesta guy sounds like his head is a bit too far up his own colon.

  2. 2
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    And there’s the rimshot.

  3. 3
    daenyx

    Oooooh, I wonder if I can use my “female privilege” to get a high-impact paper or three… (Add in being queer, and that should definitely be worth a Nature article, right? Right???) I mean, we know female privilege is a thing in science because someone full of himself said so. I’m sure I just imagined that more than half the female speakers at the last conference I went to got stuck at the end of the program, at which point many of the attendees had already left, or that all the plenary speakers were white men.

    *goes back to sobbing quietly over experiments that aren’t behaving and imagining a pep talk from Zombie Marie Curie*

  4. 4
    subbie

    keithpeterson, I beg to differ. Since he’s apparently still getting enough oxygen to sustain at least a minimal level of activity, I’d say his head isn’t quite far enough up his colon.

  5. 5
    John McKay

    “I bet lots?” Ooooo. He is an intellectual giant.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    Dr. Bryan Pesta. He often posts under just “Bryan”. I want to make damn sure his real name, under which he posts occasionally, is associated with ALL his internet forays.

  7. 7
    Bryan

    But, but….I post as Bryan, and I’m not Bryan Pesta. Quit stealing my name and using it for evil “Dr.” Pesta!

  8. 8
    Eristae

    No, no, no! Don’t you understand, Stephanie? BoraZ only thinks that you aren’t being given guest posts solely based on your sex because he is UNAWARE of his own deliberate and conscious efforts to include unqualified people because of their sex. After all, he may have a formal quota that he is legally obligated to fill, and one that he does dutifully fill so as to not be fired, but that doesn’t mean he has to KNOW about the quota.

    These are just basic facts of the world we live in!

  9. 9
    tajparis

    I happen to be a student at the university where Dr. Pesta is a professor. I haven’t had the… opportunity to interact with him in any capacity, but from reading many comments of his on various blogs I don’t consider myself deprived. I’m a bio major and he is safely sequestered over in the business college, teaching future cubicle farmers.

    He was the faculty advisor to the school’s (now defunct) atheist student org. I didn’t participate in the group (I felt too out-of-place, age wise), so never encountered him there either. So I can’t speak to his character, but I can say that his online persona is not very endearing. This latest doesn’t do anything to improve that at all.

  10. 10
    Bryan

    Taj

    I’m in BU-439. Stop by anytime (email first, as I don’t like to be on campus unless I must be); we should chat.

    Really, give me 10 minutes of your time, and report back here. Apparently, Stephanie’s life will not be complete until she destroys mine with her privileged bully pulpit.

    But, “Cubicle farmers” seems like a low blow, especially given how many students with “meaningful” undergraduate majors come back for their MBAs in the hopes of actually paying their bills.

    216-687-4749. I post this for JT, who somehow thinks I am hiding my identity by sometimes using my first name only here.

    B

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Adamo

    keithpeterson: It’s got a scientific name: “rectal blindness.” As noted, it does refer to insertion only to the point of covering the eyes, not any breathing apparatus.

    Steph:I thought you knew: only ugly chicks are allowed to be smart. You don’t qualify, sorry.

    There is a subset of men (insert your opinion of size of subset here) who are entrenched in their belief that one needs male genitalia in order to have a brain. This is because that is where their brains are located.

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