Friday, December 01, 2006

Just the facts ma'am: men are smarter than women. O RLY? RLY.

The Independent (UK) gives us a few interesting factiods:
  • on average, men are 5 IQ points smarter than women.
  • There are twice as many men than women with IQs of 120 or more.
  • there are 30 times as many men than women with IQs of 170 or more.
This is from 22 surveys sampling 20,000 university students. Hard to argue with that.

I do not simply gloat, the article fails to mention that there are more men than women on the low ends of the IQ spectrum as well. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it must mean that there are more women than men of average intelligence, although the difference need only be quite small to compensate by the small fraction of the population found in the wings of the distributions. I'd be curious to see the numbers.

But most interestingly, it means that diversity in intelligence is greater in men than in women. Anyone with half a clue about evolution knows that diversity is the key. Without it, evolution stalls and the creature dies when its environment changes. 'Strikes me that this is reason to value the male of the species, not just for his smarts, but for his promise for the future. Of course, you could always resent them for it.

Inevitably, the Independent has to have the usual ass-covering: "The results of both studies were a shock to me. I find prejudice abhorrent." To me, that's a non-sequiteur. Good science is not prejudiced. He goes on: "There has to be some female compensating factor" because the facts don't match his prejudices. What? Yes, he has prejudices, but can't see them. His prejudice is that men and women are equal in all things, and now he finds they aren't. He argues women have better communication skills, which may be, they are known to talk more, but then he says "women work harder than men and are more conscientious so they do things technically correctly. Men are often quite original but deficient in what is technically demanded." When it comes to keeping the house clean, it's possible he has a point, but, for example in the machine shop, where precision and skill are paramount, men hold the ground. Surely there's a reason for that.

At least he finishes with a note of reason:
"People should have equal opportunities but if you want a society where everyone feels satisfied you're not going to find men and women doing the same things in the same proportions. It would help if we recognised that."
Wow. Men and women are different. Who'd've thunk it?



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5 comments:

Hawa said...

IQ may not be an appropriate measure of how well a person applies knowledge, or how well that person contributes to personal and professional goals.

The main point I want to make is... getting past the need to even determine who's smarter seems more important.

Who cares who can wave more Mensa flags? Isn't it more important that we're respecting our roles at work and at home?

All women aren't the same. All men aren't either. The battle of the sexes is more like the collateral damage of individual heartaches with people of the opposite sex. It's unfair to both sides. In an effort to "win," we're all losing.

John Doe said...

Dear Hawa,

Thank you for commenting.

Indeed, you're quite right. I am really just interested in the differences and the possible consequences for the human animal as a species. However, I also feel it appropriate to cast male advantages in a positive light rather than as something to resent or even hide in embarrassment as I find to be too often the case.

No matter what the statistics say, it has to be recognized that when talking about an individual and their skills or lack thereof, all bets are off. In a truly egalitarian society everyone is considered in terms of their own merits and failings, not some generic idea driven by their gender, color, religion or association with a particular political ideology.

Personally, I know many exceptionally intelligent women along with many exceptionally intelligent men, I am very fortunate in this regard. I would be equally appalled if any of them were judged on anything but their own abilities.

John Doe said...

Martha (apparently a man's name) I did not approve your comment with its link to your blog because it is irredeemably misogynistic and that is not what my blog is about. Plus, claiming to be a priest in Afghanistan is pretty low. Go somewhere else, please.

invisibledad said...

Re: "I do not simply gloat, the article fails to mention that there are more men than women on the low ends of the IQ spectrum as well."

The Bell Curve is a normal distribution defined by two things: the mean (the position of its center) and the standard deviation (how wide it is).

The article mentioned a "mean difference of about five points"--i.e., the center of the alleged male distribution being shifted five points to the right, but the article said nothing about any differences in standard deviation (i.e., one bell curve being wider than the other); without such information, it's impossible to talk about greater diversity.

Also, since there's a directly proportional correspondence between IQ points and standard deviation, it doesn't make sense to talk about a "difference in points" unless the male points and female points are on the same scale (the width of the two bell curves are the same).

If points on the male scale and points on the female scale were different, it would be analogous to having one curve measured in centimeters, another curve measured in inches and then saying one curve is "5 units" to the right of the other. The obvious question then is: "Whaddya mean, units?" Unless the points are the same, the alleged difference of five points makes no sense.

John Doe said...

According to the Wikipedia, the standard deviation of the IQ distribution (which is only approximately normal) is 15, occasionally 16. I assumed that the researcher in the Independent was using these standard units, with the mean, of course, at 100. Personally, I'm surprised the SD is so small, as this makes the claimed 5 point difference all the more significant.

The Wikipedia article also says that the mean IQ is the same for men and women thus confusing the issue, and that male scores show a greater variance, bearing out my assertion that men show greater diversity (because the width, standard deviation or variance of the distribution are, by definition, diversity in this context).