I’ve been getting two kinds of arguments from the people who support the Google Manifesto creep.
I keep getting told that James Damore loves diversity. It’s the first thing he says in his manifesto.
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.
Did you know that Ken Ham loves science?
Answers in Genesis (like other creationist groups) affirms and supports the teaching and use of scientific methodology, and we believe this supports the biblical account of origins.
So does Kent Hovind.
I, for one, love science and the thousands of advancements it has brought us.
I wonder if these people who keep trying to present Damore as some kind of champion of honest assessment of equality and diversity ever bother to think beyond the superficial claim that he makes as an opening gambit to consider what he actually writes? These are the kinds of people who read Lolita and think Humbert Humbert is the hero.
The other line of argumentation is that it is Science. Science is used as the magic incantation; you can’t argue with Science! Unfortunately for them, yes, you can, and in fact argument is central to science — there is not a miraculous science machine that plops out unquestionable Facts somewhere that are then Done and allow no further discussion. Everything in science is a hard-earned interpretation that was built by constant questioning and evaluation by swarms of disagreeable people.
And often science gets it wrong. It’s remarkable how often science has been used as a rationalizing engine for social biases. We have centuries of bad science used to justify slavery, the inferiority of women, the greediness of Jews, the laziness of Africans, the devious cunning of the wicked Oriental, and the shiftless, heritable criminality of the Poor. We have moved on from claiming scientific ‘proof’ of those stereotypes (I wish), but we didn’t get there by deciding that because Galton published something, it must be true.
I actually had someone state that because Debra Soh cited the scientific literature in her awful article, she must be right. It’s hopelessly naive: here’s a contentious subject with a lot of conflicting results in the literature, and mentioning one or a few articles that back up her position means that she “wins”. Never mind that anyone with a broader perspective on the volume of papers knows that, by the testimony of the range of contradictions and special cases, consensus has not been reached on any one detail, and that any difference is likely to be subtle and weak. Do I even need to mention that publishing, especially in fields like psychology, is hopelessly poisoned by the need to find a p value that shows a statistical difference, and that papers that find no significant difference are difficult to publish? Just the fact that differences are so elusive despite all that bias tells you something.
Simply put, Damore’s conclusions are not backed up by the scientific consensus.
Throughout his memo, Damore linked to many Wikipedia pages as justification for his claims – but neither news media organisations nor scientists accept Wikipedia as a credible source of information, especially when used in policy recommendations.
To back up the “people over things” hypothesis, Damore cited a study published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass in 2010; however, that work never suggests that the gender differences it lists have a proven biological basis.
In fact, the study says the opposite: “Although most biologic scientists accept that sexual selection has led to sex differences in physical traits such as height, musculature, and fat distributions, many social scientists are sceptical about the role of sexual selection in generating psychological gender differences.”
A 2000 review of 10 studies related to gender differences in empathy also suggests men and women don’t have innate differences in this area. The researchers found that such distinctions were only present in situations where the subjects were “aware that they are being evaluated on an empathy-relevant dimension” or in which “empathy-relevant gender-role expectations or obligations are made salient.”
Rather than citing Wikipedia, though, talk to an actual evolutionary biologist, who will tell you that his arguments are “despicable trash” Suzanne Sadedin dissects his manifesto, and summarizes the deep flaws.
Yes, men and women are biologically different — which doesn’t mean what the author thinks it does. The article perniciously misrepresents the nature and significance of known sex differences to advance what appears to be a covert alt-right agenda. More specifically, it:
- argues for biologically determined sex differences in personality based on extremely weak evidence
- completely fails to understand the current state of research on sex differences, which is based in neuroscience, epigenetics and developmental biology
- argues that cognitive sex differences influence performance in software engineering, but presents no supporting evidence. Available evidence does not support the claim.
- fails to acknowledge ways in which sex differences violate the narrative of female inferiority; this shows intellectual dishonesty
- assumes effective meritocracy in its argument, ignoring both a mountain of conflicting scientific literature and its own caveats (which I can only assume were introduced to placate readers, since their incompatibility with the core thesis is never resolved)
- makes repugnant attacks on compassion and empathy
- distorts and misuses moral foundations theory for rhetorical purposes
- contains hints of racism
- paradoxically insists that authoritarianism be treated as a valid moral dimension, whilst firmly rejecting any diversity-motivated strategy that might remotely approach it.
- ultimately advocates rejecting all morality insofar as it might compromise the interests of a group.
There is a lot of good stuff in that article. Honestly, any time anyone brings up the nature/nurture dichotomy as an implicit part of their thesis, you know it’s trash.
His implicit model is that cognitive traits must be either biological (i.e. innate, natural, and unchangeable) or non-biological (i.e., learned by a blank slate). This nature versus nurture dichotomy is completely outdated and nobody in the field takes it seriously. Rather, modern research is based on the much more biologically reasonable view that neurological traits develop over time under the simultaneous influence of epigenetic, genetic and environmental influences. Everything about humans involves both nature and nurture.
I also endorse this criticism and plan.
As mentioned before, this likely evolved because males are biologically disposable and because women are generally more cooperative and agreeable than men.
Talking about males being biologically disposable is nonsense. The mean fitness of males and females is equal; every individual has a father and a mother. What you might mean is that low-status men have historically been used for cannon fodder and other dangerous roles because powerful men regard them as disposable. That’s about sociopolitical structures, not evolution. There’s no reason to think we can’t correct it culturally — our ancestors maintained egalitarian societies in most places for countless millennia, until the invention of farming allowed them to concentrate resources across generations and thus reinvent chimp-like hierarchies. In fact, this correction is a project I think feminism should adopt; I call it destroying the patriarchy.
We shouldn’t even have to make these arguments anymore. Damore has already destroyed his credibility with some ghastly stupid choices after his firing.
Who’s the first person he ran to for an interview? Stefan Fucking Molyneux. Who’s the second? Jordan Goddamn Peterson. It’s an admission that he can only find support among MRAs, racists, and demented ideologues. Weak, dude.
RE: “These are the kinds of people who read LOLITA and think Humbert Humbert is the hero.”
Well, who do YOU think is the hero in LOLITA?
(The actual hero is the American rural/small-town/highway landscape. And, the English language.)
Debra Soh writes about the science of human sexuality and holds a PhD in sexual neuroscience from York University.
I don’t normally read the G&M but I thought it was a bit better than that but I suppose the editors don’t have any scientific background to understand what Soh is doing.
And just to be snotty, this helps confirm my opinion of York (evil grin).
Actually there is a time when the brain is a “blank slate”. That would be at the time of conception, while there are still zero brain cells in the brain. Can’t get much “blanker” than “zero brain cells”.
At birth, when there are ~ 10^11 brain cells, and 10^15 connections between those cells, the brain is far from blank.
It should be noted that the data in the genetic code, ~6.5×10^9 base pairs, is woefully inadequate to specify those cells and connections. That “data” must come from somewhere, it must come from the environment, little bits from the in utero environment, most of it likely from the stochastic noise of Brownian motion affecting the “details” of differential transcription in each cell at the level of “noise”.
I can’t tell if people really believe those transparently disingenuous caveats, or if they are consciously bullshitting – Kellyanne style.
There’s a famous Paul Elam screed where he advocates violently attacking women. He received criticism, declared IT WAS SATIRE, then a short while later gleefully defended an NFL player who literally did what he was advocating for in his SATIRE piece.
I was arguing with someone about a related subject, and he was like, “Don’t you get it, he said it was satire.” Right, I know he said that. He was lying. He was throwing out an absurd excuse to avoid the consequences of his malicious ideas. He’s a liar.
No, no, no, it was SATIRE.
Especially in the “skeptic” community (Good lord, has any moniker so thoroughly debased itself in the last decade?), people should be attuned to glib hucksters. Trump is a liar. Elam is a liar. Ham is a liar. Google Bro is a liar. They are obviously lying. Either that or they sincerely think ideas constructed on the model of “I’m not a racist, but…” are effective.
I find it baffling.
PZ Myers says
What they really need to do is some post-modernist textual analysis.
Maybe part of their problem is that the modern skeptic movement recoils at the idea of any kind of in-depth effort to understand what is actually said, preferring to rely only on the the most superficial interpretation.
The literal interpretation, to chuck them in the same boat with Ken Ham.
don’t say that you’ll make the dudebros self-immolate and that would be terrible
I deplore pretty much everything James Damore wrote, but I wish he hadn’t been fired as that will simply make him a martyr instead of an asshat.
As an alternative to firing his sorry, useless ass, maybe Google should have required Damore to attend sensitivity and diversity training? I’m sure he would have totally understood and changed his attitude.
Or maybe he’s always been and always will be an asshat, and a martyr only to reality-adverse dudebros.
And this is one of 439854 things that disappoint me about that “movement.”
One essential element of skepticism – the branch that goes from Houdini through Randi – was seeing through the tactics of Flim-Flam men. All of those hucksters – snake oil salesmen, the mediums and anthroposophical people, psychic surgeons, Uri Gellar, astrology, Barnum statements….they all depend on people accepting superficial presentations.
Like, if you can see that a guy with a bent stick isn’t magically finding water – or, at least, understanding that you should put those claims through legitimate tests – you should be attuned to people trying to pull one over on you.
But all means justify the ends of putting women in their place…
Artor, No. 8, no, the alternative I would have suggested is that he be completely ignored. That particular sub-species of asshat thrives on attention and publicity. It’s the type of individual for whom the cliche that there is no such thing as bad press was invented. Shutting off their publicity is shutting off their oxygen. That’s the practical problem with firing him, plus it does no real good anyway.
Plus I have reservations about firing people for their political, religious or social views. I think one of the great things about living in a more or less free society is that people are allowed to make choices and hold views that other people find appalling, and that cuts in both directions.
@thirdmill: He wasn’t fired for having sexist views, he was fired for inflicting them on his colleagues. I work in tech and we have to do annual training telling us not to do this kind of thing. This training also covers the distinction between talking about religious views if people are interested and proselytising
So it’s a virtual certainty circulating this memo violated company policies, even though he tried to frame it as “I’m not sexist, the science is.”.
Mr. Myers, your description of scientists as “swarms of disagreeable people” is just delicious! Kudos.
I pointed this out to some sneering assweasel in the last thread about the google manifesto; learning and socialization are neurological processes that have a profound effect on the brain. Just because I don’t think that every last bit of human behavior has to be hard-coded into the brain by genes doesn’t mean that I’m denying biology. In fact, one of the major themes that the university course I took on evolutionary biology was that both genotype and environment shape the phenotype of an organism, and that it’s difficult to determine how much of a trait is due to one or the other. Damore and a lot of evolutionary psychologists seem to think that only the former matters when discussing the human brain.
One really easy thing you can do to see that socialization has an effect on success in technical fields for women and minorities is to type “stereotype threat” into Google Scholar and read some of the results.
Just yesterday I wrote an article on Medium (https://goo.gl/hDM9o3) about my own experiences as a gay, autistic, mentally ill software engineer at Google (2008-2015) and why the guy was fired. (Hint to awful people: has nothing to do with leftist ideology or groupthink, everything to do with HR’s fundamental role of preserving the status quo.) I also *briefly* tear into the self-contradictions in Manifesto Guy’s argument.
(I could have kept going. For instance, Manifesto Guy says both that people should be treated the same as one another *and* that people should be treated as individuals i.e. differently from one another. Like… dude, did you even pay attention to what you were writing?)
Specialfrog, No. 11, that’s a distinction I had overlooked and you’re probably right.
I also appreciate that Suzanne Sadedin’s article calls Damore out for acting like progressives are the only ones who are violent or intimidate people. This in spite of all of the right wingers who have attacked or harassed people in the past few months since Trump got elected. You have that guy who attacked democrats with a machete because he blamed them for him flunking out of college. You have those two guys who beat up a homeless Hispanic man. You have that white supremacist who stabbed a black man to death. You have numerous incidents of Trump supporters punching or tackling people who don’t agree with them. You have the gigantic torrent of hate crimes committed by right-wingers in the wake of the election. Hell, you have Trumpkins assaulting progressive protestors at Trump rallies. That’s not even all of the cases of right wingers being violent assholes in the past few months.
The closer you look, the more you see boilerplate alt-Reich talking points hinted at in Damore’s screed.
Or he might be talking about human sex ratios being skewed in a male direction at birth and male age-adjusted death rates being greater than those of females pretty much across all age groups and in both developed and developing countries. Men may not be totally biologically disposable but apparently they’re more biologically disposable than women.
It’s remarkable how often science has been used as a rationalizing engine for social biases. We have centuries of bad science used to justify slavery, the inferiority of women, the greediness of Jews, the laziness of Africans, the devious cunning of the wicked Oriental, and the shiftless, heritable criminality of the Poor. We have moved on from claiming scientific ‘proof’ of those stereotypes (I wish), but we didn’t get there by deciding that because Galton published something, it must be true.
PZ. Not for the first time am I cribbing your observations for future use against the assholish arguments I encounter regarding the racism, sexism, gender fixity and tribalism in which I was raised. Thank you.
@chris61: What about these statistics suggests biological causation?
you just can’t look at this firing out of the context of all the complaints and the scrutiny Google is under for just the same problem the manifesto illustrates.
the dude had no hope once he posted his screed. He in a sense volunteered as scapegoat. The company had to let him go as a message to the rest of their employees and the market in general that they were not fooling around and do intend to “clean up their act” so take heed, there more important things than arguments over questionable data and trivial opinions.
You’re assuming that men dying more than women is supposed to happen in a healthy, functioning human population. What if men dying in larger numbers than women has a negative effect on society as a whole?
Because they’re valid across the globe. From Iceland (considered one of the most gender equal societies) to Yemen (one of the most gender unequal societies) and places in between.
@chris61: a) That doesn’t imply biological causation. The most gender equal societies are still not gender equal.
b) I don’t think your claim is actually true. Just looking at the WHO database and picking a couple of countries (Yemen wasn’t in database so I picked Iceland and Seychelles) it appears that male mortality is not actually higher for all age groups for either country.
He quoted from Wikipedia??? And this guy has a degree????? Jesus wept.
Mike Smith says
He wasn’t fired for his views. He was fired for making it impossible for women and to a lesser extent people of color to be able to work with him.
I’m not going to play nice with someone who thinks I’m biologically primed to be bad at my job.
There are just certain things you can’t discuss in a professional setting. Like, look, I don’t like or trust straight people. I’m not going to post a screed at work why that is. I’m going to put my head down and do my job.
I can’t open your link but whether the claim is true across all age groups probably depends upon how you group them. In any case life expectancies for men are shorter than for women across all countries although the difference is larger in some than in others. I just picked gender equality as one parameter by which societies differ. You can also look at life expectancies in very poor versus very rich countries. Or in totalitarian versus democrat countries.
@chris61: So how does any of that support your initial claim that “[men are] more biologically disposable than women.”
good point. WTF is “more biologically disposable” even supposed to mean. Humans have shorter life expectancies than sperm whales, which in turn have shorter life expectancies than giant sequoias. Does that mean humans are “more biologically disposable” than sperm whales, which in turn are more biologically disposable than giant sequoias?
chigau (違う) says
Men are more biologically disposable because once they have impregnated a woman, their (evolutionary) job is done.
@27 special frog
chigau has it. In any species (including humans) in which the female of the species gestates the offspring males are more biologically disposable than females. Females make a larger investment in their children (biologically speaking) than males do. Hence I found it hilarious that an evolutionary biologist would call the notion that men are biologically disposable nonsense just because everyone has a father and a mother.
chigau: That only makes sense if you assume their continued survival has absolutely no bearing on the reproductive chances of their offspring. Given that humans evolved as a social species this seems to be a somewhat suspect assumption.
By the same logic, women have done their evolutionary job once they have given birth and so become “disposable” nine months after men do.
chigau (違う) says
Wfat the fuck are you talking about?
chigau (違う) says
I forgot the /sarcasm tag in my #29.
chigau (違う) says
We should probably keep the women until the baby is weaned.
The kid should be OK on their own after that.
chigau: I wasn’t entirely sure you were being serious but clearly my response to your sarcastic comment was also a valid response to chris61’s serious one. :)
CaitieCat, Harridan of Social Justice says
If my reading is correct, a wolf pack will adopt the child as their own, so it’s all good.
@31 special frog
Of course humans require care after birth but that care can be provided by a person or persons of either sex. In saying that continued male involvement affects the reproductive chances of offspring, I’ll assume that you don’t intend to imply that only heterosexual couples can effectively raise children.
chigau (違う) says
Now you are just trolling.
@chris61: I’m inclined to agree with chigau that you are trolling. Either that or you don’t understand your own argument and / or how natural selection works, which is I assume what you think is the “biological” reason for higher male mortality.
Never, ever underestimate the mediocrity of the Damore/chris61 types.
No, no one was implying that. Females are indisposable for a fraction of the time spent raising a child. Keep in mind that humans raise children for 18 years or so, and you’re acting like men are more disposable because women are indisposable for 9 months of gestation plus around a year of nursing. After that point gender is irrelevant. This “men are disposable” thing also seems like it assumes that a mating pair is only going to reproduce once. The male’s “evolutionary job” isn’t done after insemination if he’s going to impregnate the female again in the future.
YOB - Ye Olde Blacksmith says
Kinda removes the sex based selction pressure there, don’t it?
A good data compilation for male vs female births is this: Figure 3
It shows the male/female ratio at birth for whites, and African Americans for many years.
I think this shows the effects of stress in utero, where male fetuses are selectively aborted due to high stress, and especially for African Americans during Jim Crow. If you notice, the ratio gets better during the 1960’s, during the civil rights era.
There is still a ways to go, and the ratio for whites is going the other way.
My interpretation is that prenatal stress against African Americans is getting better, but stress against all women is getting worse.
I’m asserting that there is higher male mortality and given that it extends across different countries and cultures that its basis is likely biological. If you are asserting that its basis is cultural rather than biological I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says
Who cares what you “assert”. That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. (Christopher Hitches, et al) What can you back up third party evidence?
That has been you Achilles heel in the past.
David Dobson says
I’m not sure that’s correct. Firstly, they offer physical protection to the woman during (especially) the latter stages of pregnancy, when her own physical abilities will often be sub-optimal.
Secondly, they provide food and physical protection for the woman and child(ren) following birth. That timeframe may be from hours to years.
chigau (違う) says
David Dobson #47
What are your sources for the protecting and food-providing scenarios described in your #47?
David Dobson says
chigau, firstly I should have made clear that I was advancing along the lines indicated by your use of the word “evolutionary”, and so no speaking specifically about the need for men post-coitum in “modern” societies.
Having said that try these:
On the opposite side of the argument there is this, although the cheap anti-male potshot at the end is unnecessary:
David Dobson says
I missed out the second link:
@chris61: Nerd of redhead summed up my position reasonably. Although it is worth considering that there is some data to suggest that for mammals, larger members of a species have slightly lower life expectancy than smaller members of the same species. So maybe it is larger individuals who are “biologically disposable” (if anyone is).
Rowan vet-tech says
Sooo… in modern times cis men have slightly lower life expectancies than women, but in ye olden times barring war, cis gendered men outlived cis women and trans men because childbearing is very wearing on the body (a parakeet, for example, will die many years sooner if they lay multiple clutches of eggs).
If we take away modern health care and contraceptives, people with uteruses will have shorter average lifespans than people with penises. So, how exactly does this make ‘men’ biologically disposable?
Or are you simply thinking of the fact that it only takes one individual with functional sperm to impregnate many people with a functional uterus?
I didn’t say men were biologically disposable, I said they were more biologically disposable than women. Take away modern health care and contraceptives or improve them even further and population growth will still depend on female fertility.
Kaitain Jones says
I believe that the “biologically disposable” may refer simply to the fact that in certain species (let’s take humans as our case in point), if you have only one male and a hundred females, the group can probably maintain its numbers into the next generation. Genetic diversity will be a little on the low side and raising the kids will be a tough job, but it can be done. However, if you have only one female and a hundred males, the group cannot possibly maintain its numbers into the next generation. In this sense, females are always and everywhere a more important resource to the group than males (so long as males are not completely eradicated), and males are thus more disposable.
So, “men are more biologically disposable than women” seems to come down to:
1) Women get pregnant and lactate, and men don’t.
2) Under modern conditions, women have slightly greater life expectancy than men.
I think we likely all knew (1), and most of us probably knew (2). No evidence has been produced for any causal connection between (1) and (2). So, what’s the point of the term, except to suggest that its user is all intellectual and sciency?
Oh, sorry, I forgot:
(3) A man could, theoretically, have hundreds or even thousands or millions of chldren. A woman can’t.
I think most of us probably knew this, too. Again, no evidence of a connection with (2).
@55 & 56 KG
(1) (2) and (3) don’t need to be causal connected – they can all be considered arguments for men being more biologically disposable than women.
chigau (違う) says
Your first link is to the blog of a microbiologist writing about animal behaviour and evolutionary psychology. Not very sensibly.
I don’t know what your second link is supposed to mean.
The value of this thread is limited by a meaningful definition of ‘biologically disposable’. The best definition I can come up with, which is similar to the line of thinking in this thread, is ‘demographically variable’. This may be what Mr. Damores was getting at. This distinction does lead to differences in the behaviour of males and females in many animals. The argument goes like this:
In species where males invest very little in the production (conception) or care (post conception) of offspring compared to females, then reproductive success of males is determined primarily by access to females. For females, reproductive success is determined by longevity and access to resources to produce and care for offspring. Males therefore compete against each other for direct access to females or for the resources they need to produce offspring. This competition can cause males to take risks that might increase their access to females, but also reduce their longevity, leading to shortened lifespan compared to females. Because males vary in their ability to compete for females, reproductive success is often skewed among males: a few males will produce many offspring while many produce none.
The statement that males and females have equal fitness because all offspring have a mother and father is wrong (what of the males and females that didn’t reproduce?) and, more importantly, irrelevant ( evolution is only meaningful in the context of individuals, not genders).
One point I think is key to the larger discussion about gender equality, and I believe is the main point that MR. Demers was trying to make, albeit with questionable examples and references to research, is this: why should the goal of a society without gender discrimination or barriers (i.e. bias), be equal numbers of men and women in all aspects of society? Just because there are two genders why should ratios be equal? I think there are many reasons why men and women may choose different careers leading to a ratio different from 1:1. If so, then when the unbiased ratio is higher for men, they will be discriminated against, when the bias is higher for women, they will experience discrimination. This does not strike me as a very democratic society.
The answer why we expect a 1:1 ratio is because society needs something against which to evaluate whether there is discrimination or not, but the focus is mostly towards women. If the proportion of women in any particular group is 50% or greater, then everything is operating as it should.
Ideally, we would have some way of knowing what the unbiased ratio is. For example, if universities accepted students without knowing their gender, we may find that the ratio of male to female applicants is 7:3. If we knew that this was unbiased (and we don’t, gender-based discrimination can occur at any time after birth) then this should be the ratio of men and women employed in that particular profession.
Is there a way around the problem of managing toward an unknown (and unknowable) unbiased ratio? None that I can think of, short of achieving the ideal society where everyone is treated as an individual.