Skepchick Quickies 12.1


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

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  1. That’s “Edmund Scientifics”, not “Edward Scientifics”.

    When I was young, about 40 years ago, the Edmund Scientific (as it was then known) mail order catalog was one of my favorites.

    1. Ending a sentence with a preposition? Like when a prisoner leaves jail and says “I’m out!”?

      On the Edmund thing, I’m glad they saw the error of their ways. I have no problem with having kits that might have different sales figures with respect to girls and boys (and while perfume creation might be more in the realm of technology than science as such, it relies on discoveries made with the methods of science). The problem was the ghettoization caused by their classification system, and now they’ve changed that.

  2. I was way more bothered by the sorting of toys into gendered groups than by individual toys being gendered. For individual toys, I’ll put on my market-forces economist hat: if science kits in pink boxes sell well, then Edmund is smart to market science kits in pink boxes.

    (I’m not claiming that individual toys can never be problematic, I just have more of an innocent-until-proven-guilty and let-the-kids-pick-what-they-want bias on individual toys.)

    For the boy / girl grouping on the web site, however, I’ll put on my feminist hat – The girls kits looked like they were segregated off into the Girly Ghetto. The boys kits looked like they were sold in the exclusive cool-kids-only club-house with the crudely-lettered sign hanging on the door saying “No Girls Allowed,” and I’m annoyed that there’s no way to type the s backwards.

    Glad they fixed it promptly and with a we-get-it message free of lame excuses, and glad that a lot of people took the time to post messages thanking them (graciously and not condescendingly) for fixing it.

  3. Re Measuring Skulls – a great thread.

    Particularly heartrending was the comment (#93) by an Indian girl with IQ 180 regarding all the ridiculous presumptions and prejudices surrounding high IQ.

    Also: are we forever doomed to keep searching the same old blind alleys of science and pseudoscience to find justification for discrimination and hatred based on race and gender?

    I have just finished reading “The Master Plan”, a book about Himmler’s Annenerbe racial research unit.

    Despite heroic efforts there was NEVER any reliable way to determine who was Jewish and who was not.

    The plan was to gather more data for greater statistical power by killing one thousand people and making the requisite measurements.

    Tragically, the murders were carried out before the resources were available to process the bodies.

    A horrible story, I know. Glad to see that similar denial of reality persists today – NOT!

  4. Amanda,

    Well I’m glad they have a single non gender specific science kit, but since boys and girls often like different things, would it really be so bad if they had one for boys and one for girls in addition to the gender neutral one?

    1. What constitutes a “boy’s” science kit vs. “girl’s” science kit? Chemistry, astronomy, geology, microscopy, should all be the same no matter who is doing them, and there are both boys and girls who are interested in each or even all of these things. Why not just sell good science kits, and let individual kids pick the ones that interest them without assignin different version of the kits to each gender?

      The last time I recall this issue coming up, the pink telescopes and microscopes had less magnification than the non-pink ones. Is that what you want?

  5. Amanda,

    I’m not really surprised that there’s a church that won’t allow interracial couples to attend. Racism hasn’t exactly gone away, despite the fact that we’ve come far enough that a black man can get elected president, in what is still a majority white nation. However, maybe we could bring up this church when discussing gay marriage with people who oppose it, based on their religious convictions.

    1. Whenever someone says that legalizing gay marriage will force churches to perform sacraments that are against their religion, I point out that churches are already allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, and of course religion. Just for the record though, can anyone here confirm that churches are in fact exempt from laws limiting racial discrimination?

      Howver, if a church can exclude members based on race, then it would seem to follow the excluded persons couldn’t become pastors or sunday school teachers either, which implies that racial discrimination in employment is allowed. Anyone have the legal straight dope?

  6. Actually, if the California prop 8 ever makes it to the Supreme Court they should call this guy to testify about the dangers of allowing some groups to have special rights. It would be interesting to see of Thomas would have any questions for him.

    1. Daedalus2u,

      Prop 8 was already overturned, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was not eager to take it to the Supreme court, so it going to the Supreme Court is highly unlikely at this point.

  7. Marcotte’s “deconstruction” of Andrew Sullivan’s position is an exercise in building a strawman. His position is that 1) there is probably a genetic or heritable component to whatever it is that is measured by IQ tests, 2) human populations can be distinguished with accuracy on the basis of certain inherited genes, and 3) when these are compared, statistical differences may be seen.

    He does not make any claims as to 1) what IQ actually measures or 2) whether genetically distinct populations are contiguous with historical race categories. He in fact contends that (2) here is very unlikely.

    He also makes the point that if a correlation were to be sufficiently established, actually attempting to explain why such a thing existed would be completely toxic as a research project.

    Obviously one does have to question the motives of anyone who is trying to establish such a correlation through sufficiently broad genetic and IQ testing, but he does write (contra Marcotte’s accusations) that such differences may well exist among smaller population groups (her Irish vs Welsh example), or one supposes, in sufficiently small and isolated populations, from one town to the next.

    I bristle when arguments are misrepresented, especially in a context like this where ideology is in play and we as skeptics are eager to distance ourselves from bad science, pseudoscience, or the historical misuse and abuse of science. Especially /because/ we might not be inclined to agree with someone like Andrew Sullivan, it’s especially important to represent his claims fairly when critiquing them.

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