Skepchick Quickies 2.11


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. Fits in well with the Conservative xtain meme of victimhood about everything that doesn’t go their way.

  2. Favorite comment from the Regretsy douche link:

    I’m sorry, there is no way I’m buying a bag of parsley and cat hair douche from a stranger on the internet. Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t even buy food on Etsy, much less hillbilly bajingo wash.


  3. So, weird question: The love article mentioned rating things on a seven point scale. Why use that? Five to ten points are pretty standard… why use a seven?

  4. @Mark Hall: 7 point scales are used fairly frequently – Think of all the surveys that give you a range of “strongly disagree, disagree, somewhat disagree, neutral, somewhat agree, agree, strongly agree”

  5. I think the reason for the lack of conservatives in academia is pretty simple. Simply getting more education tends to turn people more liberal. The people who get enough degrees to become a professor would mostly be liberal, even if they started out conservative.

  6. OMG!!

    I was laughing so hard at the douche comments that my boss heard me (I was on a break) and just when I thought I was about to be fired she forwarded a link to just about everyone in the office. I am now hearing gasps and uncontrolled laughter in the distance.

    And Regretsy. I have a new favorite site, sorry Skepchick.org.


  7. I have to agree with those who point out the greater education tends to make one more liberal (and less religious), because, in my opinion, it strips away dogma.

    Also, I now need a hamster-powered robot.

  8. The definition of conservative is important. There’s no shortage of gray-haired traditionalists in academia (albeit mostly secular and likely to vote for the ostensibly progressive party), particularly in the sciences as women well know. Or anyone who has heard fellows like James Watson speak freely.

    There’s also no shortage of economic conservatives in academia either, again tending to concentrate in science and technology as well as economics disciplines.

    As to the effects of education, I think it certainly tends to move people away from traditionalist spiritual orthodoxies, but many nevertheless graduate to embrace various political orthodoxies – from statist to anarchist – instead (Go Keynes! Go Hayek! Go Marx!).

  9. Re diversity:

    Where is this professor getting his info.
    40 % are conservative and 20% liberal?
    FoxNews poll? This country is left of center despite what the right wing constantly spouts.


  10. Identifying people as right or left wing must be difficult. I think of myself as conservative, and agree with some right wing ideas, while disagreeing with some left wing ideas. But given that I would deem the US to be overwhelmingly more right wing than I am, I occasionally wonder if most people would decide I am actually an extreme radical left-winger.

  11. @mrmisconception:

    Yeah, I wondered about that statistic too. I’m pretty sure there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, although I realize that doesn’t perfectly reflect liberal and conservative.

  12. Massimo Pigliucci does a take down of this article from the New York Times which.

    “Which” what? I’m on tenterhooks wondering … “which does”, “which does not”, “which is in East Texas”, “which is full of tentacular cephalopods and their keepers”, etc. :)

    @Mark Hall:

    Seven point scales, or any odd-numbered scale of 5 and up is more accurate than one that does not offer a neutral option, and 7 tends to be better for allowing a useful range or variety of options than a more limted 5, yet without getting overly busy or complicated as with 9 and beyond.

  13. Massimo Pugliucci’s take down is not a take down, but a rather hypocritical piece full of lies partial truths. He claims:
    “A serious social scientist doesn’t go around crying out discrimination just on the basis of unequal numbers. If that were the case, the NBA would be sued for discriminating against short people, dance companies against people without spatial coordination, and newspapers against dyslexics”

    But in fact unequal outcomes are sufficient to prove discrimination by the law. Disparate impact and four fifths rule [a title VII violation?] can be applied in case the disadvantaged group is a protected minority. He happens to not list any protected minorities, nevertheless his claim is clearly purposefully misleading. What’s more, not even proper testing can be used as justification for unequal outcomes [see FDNY lawsuits, Vulcan society….].
    Clearly, if conservatives were e.g. women, they could sue any university for disparate impact and would most certainly win. Besides a serious social scientist would certainly not do such thing [as crying discrimination for any kind of unequal results], but most people who study discrimination are not serious scientists.

    “We claim that women and minorities are discriminated against in their access to certain jobs because we can investigate and demonstrate the discriminating practices that result in those numbers”
    Well, there might be some studies that actually do that, nevertheless most studies infer discrimination from disproportional results, and then try to come up with some explanation, like institutional racism/sexism or stereotype threat and so on. Most of these discriminating practices are such, that they are really hard to directly observe, so they are inferred from the outcomes. If women can be intimidated by male normative conditions at certain environments, why would it be different for conservatives. [and no, i do not think that’s the reason for the lack of conservatives. In both cases these are mostly bullshit arguments.]

    ” Haidt hasn’t done any such thing. He simply got numbers and then ran wild with speculation about closeted libertarians”
    Haidt really did not look for direct discrimination against conservatives. But Haidt followed the standard procedure of the “discrimination industry”. It is hypocritical to expect more rigorous standards from the other side only.

  14. @Nador: Serious social scientists don’t cry “discrimination” based on law either. That science and scientists aren’t perfect isn’t an argument for less scientific rigor.

  15. @Nador
    Yes, I can see how disagreeing with you makes Mr. Pigliucci a hypocrite, especially when he takes on the protected minority of disadvantaged conservatives.

    Lots of bullshit passes muster in the courtroom that is unscientific or just plain wrong. As has been pointed out here, conservative are less likely to pursue a carreer in acedemia and if they do the education will tend to make them less conservative. That is not discrimination, that is self selection.

  16. @Bjornar: But expecting for scientific rigour only from the other side is hypocrisy. He does not seem to have any problem with unscientific laws regarding discrimination, neither unscientific studies regarding protected minorities. He only objects in case of a study that shows discrimination against conservatives. And that study happens to use the de facto standard methods of its field [which methods are by the way unscientific].

  17. @mrmisconception:
    As has been pointed out here, conservative are less likely to pursue a carreer in acedemia and if they do the education will tend to make them less conservative. That is not discrimination, that is self selection.
    Sure, i agree [well, mostly]. But as i mentioned to bjornar, Pugliucci’s hypocrisy is expecting scientific rigour from the other side in a field which is de facto not scientific, nevertheless, usually cheered by liberals. Please note: Haidt used the standard methods of this unscientific field.

  18. @catgirl: @DataJack: That, and this.
    “Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”
    — Robert Anton Wilson

  19. was it just me, or was the original article trying to simultaneously claim it’s okay to discriminate against women (cause they bad at numbers, and should be home scrubbing anyways…), but we need to make sure the proportions of conservatives (regardless of whether or not their views are logically sound) in whatever discipline should equal whatever 1/2-assed poll some conservative hack dredges up?


    didn’t look at the testosterone one, but it sounds like the typical ‘hey look, them women folk really are dumb’ study that surfaces occasionally.

    reading a good book now that does a pretty good job of discrediting these sorts of things, as well as those popular books lately ‘the female brain’, ‘the male brain’, etc. it’s titled ‘Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine. pretty good info, easy to read, and pretty thoroughly end-noted. I highly recommend it. (for whatever that’s worth…)

  20. @ryk: Actually, I’m pretty sure that the point of the hormone story was that men are unempathetic jerks and prone to autism because they are all testoserony (the real San Francisco treat according to Chandler Bing), but since only 16 subjects were tested it is, while perhaps interesting and worthy of further study, fairly useless.

    As far as the conservative under-representation in academia; it is, I feel, yet another case of the poor persecuted privileged playing the martyr. Add it to the list next to other rarely-existing “problems” as reverse discrimination, the war on Christmas, and excess taxes on the wealthy as excuses to feel downtrodden when you are anything but.

  21. Regarding the testosterone study and Cordelia Fine’s book. It makes me wonder if there was any blinding in the testosterone study because Fine references much research that shows that ‘mind reading’ ability is very open to suggestion and priming. So if the women knew they were getting testosterone or that they were getting something that might change their ability that would be enough to create the change seen.
    Has anyone managed to find proper information on this? It costs to download the full text, and the mainstream press is just regurgitating the press release (and quoting each other) without any thought (as per usual).

  22. @mrmisconception: yeah, I should of clarified what I meant, all to often people set up this sex-based dichotomy of abilities, with women being good at empathy (and thus baby-raising), and men being good at math/spatial reasoning (and thus logic, science, business, and whatever else has pay and/or status associated with it).

    That book I’ve been reading (Delusions of Gender) has been talking about testosterone levels related to empathy, math, reasoning, ‘systemizing ability’, and mental rotation. Overall, it sounds pretty inconclusive. there is the odd study that has some sort of correlation, but it almost always has a small sample size, and often poor experimental design, and is usually contradicted by some other study, so…

  23. @ryk
    That seems too be what is going on here, I just saw it more from the male perspective (I’m a male so I guess I would), they were using a small sample size and tried to show that giving testosterone to the women studied made them less empathic, in this case being able to “read” the emotion of a person in a picture, then without the hormones and they threw in the ring/pointer finger length ratio thing for good measure. While it may be interesting that the women who were given the testosterone appeared to be less empathic, and that the women with finger length ratios that were more “manlike” were more effected, the fact that only 16 women were tested makes the study nearly useless.

    More study would seem to be indicated, there may be something there, but this study can’t prove that.

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