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hard science

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 21, 2007

Unrelated stories from unrelated sources from which a single moral can be drawn: in the first, William Saletan in Slate tip-toes around the explosive issue of heredity vs. environment in accounting for the racial disparity in measured intelligence.

The current favorite alternative to a genetic explanation is that black kids grow up in a less intellectually supportive culture. This is a testament to how far the race discussion has shifted to the right. Twenty years ago, conservatives were blaming culture, while liberals blamed racism and poverty. Now liberals are blaming culture because the emerging alternative, genetics, is even more repellent.

Note the giveaway terms "favorite alternative" and "even more repellent." The subject purports to be science, but the language is the language of desire.

Now let's switch to the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on the findings of a social psychologist:

Laurie Rudman of Rutgers University had found in earlier research that negative stereotypes of feminists -- that they're unattractive, man-hating lesbians, in a nutshell -- cause young adults to distance themselves from the "F-word" and tone down their demands for equality.

A majority of college-age respondents agreed with such statements as "Most men would probably not want to date a feminist" and "Romance depends, in part, on men being allowed to be in charge."

This was alarming to Rudman, who is old enough to remember the heyday of the women's rights movement in the 1970s. Continued efforts to achieve gender equality could be seriously hurt, she reasoned, if women (and men) think it comes at the expense of love.

So, with the help of graduate student Julie Phelan, she set about trying to determine if there was any truth to the notion that feminists are more likely than traditional women to have crummy relationships.

"This was alarming to Rudman" -- who styles herself a scientist, remember -- so "she set about trying to determine if there was any truth to the notion" that distressed her. Any guesses as to what startling conclusion her dispassionate, objective, reproducible, and peer-reviewed research came up with? No fair peeking.

The moral? A huge amount of the stuff that's fed to us as the "findings" of science -- especially, but not exclusively, social science -- is simply personal desire in search of facts that flatter and support it, and nothing more substantial. Perhaps most of us are already skeptical about any scientific claims that come to us via the mass media, but it's rare that journalists are so candid in explaining how researchers deal themselves the aces face-up.

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 26, 2007 6:35 AM ET USA

    On to victory with feminist cheerleader squads! What an edge we'll have! You take the Notre, I'll take the feminist.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2007 7:06 PM ET USA

    "Feminist" has no one definitiion. Show me a woman who asserts she's NOT a feminist and I'll show you a woman who would never go back to the days when she couldn't vote; couldn't get a credit card or make a plane reservation in her own name; couldn't get equal pay for equal work - and so forth. Not so long ago, the women who fought for such freedoms WERE the "feminists," but now every stay-at-home Mom with 9 kids is very happy to claim these freedoms. Then there is the OTHER kind of feminist.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2007 12:56 PM ET USA

    The headline is Feminists make the best WIVES! But the focus of the study and its conclusion is that Feminists make the most desirable and satisfying sexual PARTNERS! There is a difference. Most women (in most cultures!) know that men may prefer the uninhibited, open-to-novelty, sexual freedom of a "feminist" when it comes to "romance" (duh!), but for some reason it doesn't seem to be what they want for their WIFE and mother of their children! Unfair as it is - it has always been thus!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2007 12:24 PM ET USA

    Self-reporting is such a reliable gauge of reality, isn't it? "Are you a feminist?" Yes. "Are you attractive to the opposite sex?" Phht...YEAH! Maybe they should have interviewed the opposite sex about what they thought of the feminists' attractiveness.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2007 12:11 PM ET USA

    People who spout this nonsense as science forget that all scientific findings must able to be duplicated within reason. Even within the wide margins allowed in science these days (down to 30% probabity of repeating in some cases), most of this is assumed fact without even looking at the data and the conclusions were arrived.

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