Thursday, March 26, 2009

Summers misquoted -- by whom?

I've been puzzled why some people at TNA and elsewhere get so upset when I say that Summers has been misquoted.  I'm not saying Hopkins misquoted him. Probably they have both been misquoted and misrepresented by the media.

"Let's you and him fight" sells a lot of newspapers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Looks like I'll no longer be involved at TNA unless someone changes their mind.

Friday, March 20, 2009

For TNA people, my own opinion....

In haste....

By my reading, on the 'intrinsic' factor, Summers was in a very jumbled way trying to say that the evidence he'd seen suggested there might be an 'intrinsic' factor in women's INTEREST in some fields rather than other fields.  EG, kibbitzes (sp?) where in spite of all efforts, men gravitated toward the machine shop and women toward the kitchen.

The possible 'intrinsic' factor in women's  scoring on aptitude tests would be that both ends of the bell curve have more men: more dunces and more geniuses. This may be very relevant to women getting tenure at Harvard, but does NOT equate with the unfortunate meme 'girls can't do math.'

Personally, I'd attack the relevance of such tests, seeing if they are relevant to real accomplishment. Rather than some important factor causing both the test disparity and the tenure disparity, I'd look at whether the test disparity is causing the tenure disparity. And whether decreasing the importance of such tests, might increase the number of productive people of all genders.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Attn Octo: “More men can do X” does not mean “Women cannot do X”


Re abilities, I think you have the key to my issue in your phrase “at the upper end, there are more men”. Whether true or false, “More men can do X” does not mean “Women cannot do X” — as Summers’ point is frequently mis-represented.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reply to Octagalore

Octo, I don't find a link for adding my comments to the blog at
so I'll pull out some quotes from there and comment here.

Octagalore said: "as you can tell from the post, I am not attempting to refute Summers that his 50%/33% stat is persistent in testing. I am stating that his assumption that one can casually remove socialization n from being a probable key factor is completely undocumented [....]"

I agree that the difference in testing could probably be traced back to socialization, and that socialization is much more important than would appear from his talk.

Where you leave out "at the top end" you almost totally misrepresent Summers' statements. Here is one place you got it almost* right -- "believes at the upper end, there are more men for reasons to do predominantly with motivation and aptitude. His "apology" creatively didn't refute that."

His "apology" says: "I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science. As the careers of a great many distinguished women scientists make plain, the human potential to excel in science is not somehow the province of one gender or another. It is a capacity shared by girls and boys, by women and men [....]"

If there is "creatively" no contradiction between the "more men" statement and the "apology", then we should take the "apology" as the true statement on the popular level -- instead of inventing popular level statements that contradict the "apology."

But please do remember that even so, his stated purpose was to provoke refutation of the aptitude  theory!

*Almost right, because motivation is only one part of his first factor (lifestyle/high-powered job). Even with equal motivation, a woman who has children is hampered by need for childcare, difficulty in catching up after maternity leave, etc.

You say: "He’s being chastised for positing an uncorroborated theory as the second most important factor."

Summers said that aptitude/testing results as the second most important factor in disparity of tenure. You've admitted the difference in the testing results. I don't recall Summers stating any theory about the cause of the testing results (or of the difference in aptitude that the testing results presumably show).

Octogalore said...  The variance measurement is not the root cause but is the current testing result. It is not a theory, and I'm not disputing it, but it doesn't yield us any info as to its cause. The theory Summers is promulgating is that lower female innate aptitude is the second most critical reason behind the result. December 1, 2008 6:09 PM 

Summers guessed that lack of availability of high-end females, in line with the testing result, was the second most important reason behind the tenure disparity. I do not recall him offering a theory as to the cause of the testing result -- certainly not a theory including a first and second most critical reason for the testing result.

Your phrase  "lower female innate aptitude" does not occur in his "working lunch" talk. What actual quote are you basing that on?

Octagalore's blog version

Here is a hostile 'break down' of the famous "working lunch" talk.  This sheds some light on the variance issue but makes the whole sound more serious than it was, leaving out disclaimers and pleas for rebuttal.

The blog includes links to other relevant material:  [I]n the aftermath of the Summers remarks there was an interesting debate between Harvard psychology professors Elizabeth Spelke and Steven Pinker about the subject of "The Science of Gender and Science".
This is the transcript,
 and there is a streaming video (real video) of the lecture available here