When atheists ape creationists: Fallacies and anti-feminism

Given that I’ve used the f-word in the title above, I’m obliged to open with the following…

Trigger warning. If you find that you are unable to respond to criticism of sexism without randomly arranging terms such as SJW, white knight, cuck, kill yourself, bitch, whore, rape, professional victims, PC gone mad, First Amendment, feminazi, and/or fuck (and other assorted expletives) into grammatically dubious and arbitrarily capitalised boilerplate then you may find the following post both intellectually and emotionally challenging. A strong and potentially damaging kneejerk response or, indeed, extreme overreaction may result.

You have been warned.

(I kicked off a previous post with an identical warning and was rather amused by the aggrieved responses I received from some over-sensitive souls.)

This month’s Physics World is a special issue on the challenges for diversity in the physics community. It features a number of timely and compellingly-argued articles that I thoroughly recommend (albeit belatedly. I meant to write this post a couple of weeks ago but the day job, including four days’ worth of 1st year lab report marking and preparation for an upcoming trip to Ethiopia (more of this in future posts), necessarily took priority). Matin Durani writes candidly about the effects of hidden bias, while Margaret Harris’ piece on the role of microagressions in normalising sexism and other biases, A Thousand Tiny Cuts, is one of the best articles on the topic I’ve read. Louise Mayor, Features Editor for Physics World (and an alumna of the Nanoscience Group here in Nottingham), highlights the depressing bigotry faced by the LGBT group at CERN – their posters have been ripped down and defaced (see photos below, taken from the Physics World article).

lgbt_cern.jpeg

That Leviticus 20:13 was tacked onto one of the posters (photo in the top right hand corner above) is hardly a big surprise: it’s the traditional, tiresomely predictable ‘riposte’ from those who use religion to bolster their bigotry. But then they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Leviticus, given that it’s jam-packed to the brim of the most hateful, spiteful, and ludicrous bile. There’s Leviticus 21:16-23, targeted at those with disabilities (“For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed“). Or how about Leviticus 20:9: “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head“? (The Book of Leviticus puts the most rabid of death penalty enthusiasts to shame — they look positively liberal in their views by comparison). And, of course, there’s the seminal sexism that is Leviticus 20:3 — “set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; for a female, set her value at thirty shekels“. (Oh, and tattoos are also verboten).

As I’ve explained at length in a couple of previous posts, I have no time at all for the excuses that are made for the innate immorality of many aspects of religious mythology, of all hues. (Moreover, I make no excuses for using the term innate in this context. As Sam Harris argues, there are many aspects of a humanist moral code that are (or should be) universal. Barbarity is barbarity, regardless of cultural and religious mores). Before I’m accused of picking an easy target with Leviticus (“No real Christian really takes Leviticus seriously — it’s the New Testament that’s important”), let’s note three things: (i) there are many Christians who indeed claim to take all of the Bible literally; (ii) moderate Christians regularly turn a blind eye to the blatant bigotry that is at the core of their faith in the 21st century; and (iii) (I apologise for repeating myself from a previous post but…) religion has too often been responsible for impeding, not accelerating, the development of women’s rights, LGBT rights, and human rights in general.

Claims that Christianity somehow, for example, drove the abolition of slavery ring hollow, as this article forcefully points out: “most churches refused to take part when offered a leading role by abolitionists. As historian John R. McKivigan explains in his book  The War Against Proslavery Religion: Abolitionism and the Northern Churches 1830-1865, “All but a few small denominations balked at a commitment to uncompromised abolitionist principles and programs. As a result, civil war and government ended slavery in 1865.”

A more topical (and, for me, rather closer-to-home) example of the Church impeding human rights is provided by this week’s centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. As highlighted in an article written by Olivia O’Leary in The Guardian on Good Friday, “Why, 100 years after the Easter Rising, are Irish women still fighting?“,

The proclamation declared an end to British rule but it also guaranteed religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens. It made a commitment to universal suffrage, extraordinary for the time, and two years before women in Britain won the vote

And what then continued to set back the cause of women in Ireland for decades? The Catholic Church. (Moreover, despite plummeting numbers of those who identify as religious in the Republic of Ireland, the Catholic Church still has a stranglehold on education in the country, with over 90% of all state schools being run by the Church.)

All in all, you might say that I’m not a big fan of religion.

And that’s why I find it so deeply dispiriting — some might even say soul-destroying — when atheists who have done a great deal of good in challenging the nonsense of religious mythology, bigotry, and division end up spouting divisive sexist vitriol based on precisely the argumentative fallacies they themselves have criticised. The Physics World articles, particularly the piece on microagressions, brought one of those atheists, a certain Philip E Mason, aka Thunderfoot — oops, sorry, Thunderf00t — to mind. Some of you may well be familiar with Mason’s anti-feminism crusades. For those of you who aren’t, a quick(-ish) precis…

Phil Mason is currently a research scientist at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague.  A brief overview of his academic career to date is here. Mason’s research interests are not a million miles away from mine, in that we’re both interested in intermolecular and interparticle interactions. I’m, however, a scanning probe microscopist and irregular synchrotron user who probes atoms and molecules in real space (with occasional forays to reciprocal space) on solid surfaces, while Mason is more focussed on interactions in aqueous solutions and their analysis via (neutron) scattering techniques. (The latter means that we both would seem to share an appreciation of the power and elegance of Fourier transforms…).

Mason, in his Thunderf00t guise, has a parallel, and very successful, online career via the YouTube videos he makes. His “Why Do People Laugh At Creationists?” series has been extremely popular, with the first video (of 44 to date) having now attracted over 2 million views. The Thunderf00t channel itself has over half a million subscribers. In addition to his derision of creationism, Mason has posted videos on a variety of intriguing science topics including, in particular, a discussion of just why potassium explodes in water. In an admirable “cross-linking” of public engagement with academic research (a topic in which I have quite some interest), Mason’s potassium-in-water video eventually led to a fascinating paper in Nature Chemistry  invoking a novel Coulomb explosion mechanism for the phenomenon.

But since 2012, and apparently seeded by a bitter dispute with Freethought Blogs and PZ Myers that year, Mason has devoted a huge amount of time and effort to attacking feminism. Repeatedly. Childishly. Spitefully*. And his vitriol has been underpinned throughout by precisely the type of argumentative fallacies for which he’s criticised creationists in the past.

The second most-viewed video for the Thunderf00t YouTube channel has got the fantastically hyperbolic title of “Why ‘feminism’ poisons everything“. (The Daily Mail — that bastion of rational, scientific, and accurate discourse — would be proud to lead with a title like that…). “Why ‘feminism’ poisons everything”  has attracted over 1.5 million views since it was uploaded towards the end of 2013. (I’ll return to this video below because Mason makes some astoundingly weak and remarkably unscientific arguments on the topic of sexual dimorphism, which he has repeated regularly in other fora.)

(Coincidentally, if, like me, you prefer to read rather than flick on the ‘Tube, you can find a transcript of the “Why ‘feminism’ poisons everything” diatribe here).

The RationalWiki page for Thunderf00t puts it, with characteristic bluntness, like this:

 Mason epitomizes the “STEMlord” atheist: a self-congratulatory, “right-thinking” individual who is a complete fuckwad in every other department.

I first ‘met’** Mason a number of years ago via something called the Magic Sandwich Show — a podcast/call-in show which involves four or five panel members discussing/debating the finer (and not-so-fine) points of religion and science. The MSS has got a strong following in what, for want of a better term, we’ll call the atheist community. I was a guest on the show back in Nov 2012 — invited by DPR Jones, who started, and hosts, the MSS (and who also has a considerable online presence) — when Mason was a regular MSS panellist. This was an amicable exchange; the topic of (anti-)feminism wasn’t broached.

I was invited back to the MSS in June last year and decided, after a chat with DPR, that a timely topic for conversation would be the Tim Hunt furore. (Rest easy, I’m not about to re-open that particular debate here. If you’re really interested, browse this blog for a number of posts which include links to many other articles/posts on the Hunt debacle and tens of thousands of words of associated comments). Mason, as Thunderf00t, also appeared on that particular episode of the MSS. I think Dr. Mason would agree that he and I did not exactly see eye to eye on the issue of diversity in science and the extent to which conscious or unconscious environmental biases, and not innate intellectual differences influence the gender balance in disciplines such as physics (and other sciences).

During the MSS discussion, Mason repeated the sexual dimorphism argument from his “Why ‘feminism’ poisons everything” video. There are many aspects of Mason’s anti-feminist tirades I could choose to dissect, including his appalling victim-blaming ‘analysis’ of rape a few years back, but many others have comprehensively rebutted those, particular, um, ‘arguments’. (I’ll note in passing that Mason of course denies that he has ever victim-blamed. However, see this forensic take-down of his “TEACH THEM NOT TO RAPE!” video (capitals not mine). TL;DR — Mason’s denials simply don’t ring true.)

I want to focus on the sexual dimorphism angle, however, because it highlights how Mason — despite being an accomplished scientist — can show a remarkable and complete disregard for scientific evidence (and the scientific method) when it comes to his YouTube appearances. Indeed, I’d go further; his reliance on an argument based on sexual dimorphism has all the hallmarks of an article of faith. In this, he’s behaving precisely like the creationists he so disparages.

Mason’s argument runs like this (and I quote):

“You see, we are part of a sexually dimorphic species, that is, males and females tend to have different physical characteristics. Look, the reason that we divide the Olympics up by sex, is not because we are inherently sexist. It’s because men and women tend to have different traits. On average, in the upper body strength, it’s almost fifty-percent difference.  Ugh, come on. Tell me again how this is really a myth.”

On that MSS episode last year, Mason again used the performance of men and women at the Olympics to attempt to explain away the gender imbalance in physics. ( As the Institute of Physics puts it, “For more than 25 years, only around 20% of students progressing on to A-level physics have been girls, despite about equal success between the genders in GCSE physics and science.“).

Let that sink in for a moment… A scientist who has spent a great deal of his life debunking logical fallacies has used the performance of males vs females at the Olympics to justify the gender imbalance in physics at A-level and at universities.

Christ on a bike.

Where’s the evidence to support this ‘hypothesis’? Where are the data which systematically and credibly show that women are either (a) less intellectually equipped for, or (b) less ‘innately’ (there’s that word again) interested in physics than men (or other STEM subjects)? Where are the peer-reviewed and credible analyses that control for the effects of environment (especially conscious and unconscious biases in that environment) and show that there’s a distinct gender-specific aspect associated with ability in STEM subjects?

Without compelling evidence (which, to the very best of my knowledge, he has yet to provide (see below)), Mason’s sexual dimorphism argument, such as it is, is nothing more than an appeal to the fallacy of personal incredulity: “Look, men and women are physically different. I simply cannot believe that this doesn’t also influence their intellectual abilities or their preference for STEM vs non-STEM subjects or their ability to secure positions at the top of a company hierarchy. We’re just wired differently”. 

Although you’d never know this from any of Dr. Mason’s contributions to YouTube, debates continue to rage about whether or not the concept of a “male” vs a “female” brain is valid. Two recent studies [1,2] both attracted a great deal of attention but came to polar opposite conclusions. The first of those papers was critiqued at length at PubPeer; for one thing, well-known artefacts related to magnetic resonance scanning were apparently not taken into consideration. The more recent paper [2] finds no evidence for a “male” vs a “female” brain. One nonetheless still has to question the extent to which environmental factors can ever fully be taken into account in any of these studies.

I’m a physicist. Our research group positions individual atoms on chunks of silicon and other inorganic samples in ultrahigh vacuum (at a pressure comparable to that found on the surface of the moon) and at 5 degrees above absolute zero. We have a huge degree of control over the environment surrounding our samples. And yet we, and other groups in our research field, still struggle immensely with the robust interpretation of data.

Disentangling/deconvolving environmental influences when it comes to the analysis and interpretation of measurements purporting to show gender differences therefore strikes me as a damn-near-impossible task. How can one ever reliably establish a credible control sample free of all environmental influence?

A series of studies and meta-analyses [see Ref. 3 for a lengthy review] have found that gender differences are minimal across a wide range of attributes. We can quibble about the statistical “power” of the research (and I will admit to being rather surprised, to put it mildly, at the extent to which many studies on gender differences/similarities are statistically underpowered) but the key thing is that sexual dimorphism effects are often at the limits of detection. Moreover, I will reiterate — just how do we robustly  differentiate between biological and sociocultural effects? How do we deconvolve these aspects?

If I couch this in the language of the physical scientist, what it means is that the “sexual dimporphism” signal-to-noise ratio is very small and very easily swamped by external interference. In physics, and if I can be excused the rather strained analogy, coupling to the very large number of degrees of freedom of the environment plays an essential role in many systems. The same is true, in spades, for any socio-cultural system. Before Mason wheels out his sexual dimorphism hypothesis yet again, it’d be helpful (and rather more scientific) if he could at least cite the literature which highlights, repeatedly, the key importance of environment. He could start with the Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. I’ll quote, at length, from p. 267:

“There are intellectual areas in which females, on average, excel and males, on average, excel. Psychological, social, and biological factors explain these differences. However, it does not seem that biology is limiting intelligence in any way because biology alone cannot explain the vast improvement of female performance on certain measures such as the increasing numbers of females scoring at the highest end of the SAT math test (Blackburn, 2004).

Data showing differences between men and women in intelligence do not support the notion of a smarter sex, nor do they imply that the differences are immutable.” [Emphasis mine].

It’s about time I brought this lengthy post to an end. Before I do, I’ve got to stress that I’m of course not the first to point out the vacuity of Mason’s “sexual dimorphism” schtick. As noted on that Rational Wiki page to which I referred above, a few months following the MSS episode on which Mason and I debated, Thunderf00t was again raising the dimorphism flag under a video posted by the social scientist Kristi Winters. Although it’s often a good idea to avoid reading/commenting below the line, it’s worth visiting that video (and reading the RationalWiki commentary) to see the extent to which Mason indulged in a series of argumentative fallacies, and then ducked out of providing the evidence for his claims that Winters requested.

I contacted Mason before I started writing this post to let him know that I was planning to upload a piece which was critical of his views on feminism. To his credit, he responded positively, and sent me a link to this article as a demonstration of what he sees as the adverse effects of feminism on science. For a change, Mason and I agree — that paper is junk. It does a big disservice to both science and feminism. I’ve made similar comments about the work of Karen Barad previously, which attempts to couch quantum mechanics in the context of feminist and queer ‘theory’. There’s a substantial “emperor’s new clothes” character to work of that type, usually written in an impenetrable style to disguise the lack of substance.

But physics and physical chemistry is not immune to having nonsense papers being published. Worse, when it came to the Bogdanov affair (as a particularly telling example), opinion was divided as to whether their papers were a hoax or real science! Similarly, this paper (and its bargain-basement photoshopping of data) was published in Nano Letters, which, as Mason will know, is not at the bottom of the hierarchy of prestige journals…

So we STEM folk shouldn’t get too far up on our high horse; there have been a variety of embarrassing papers published in our field. And just as we don’t damn an entire field of chemistry or physics when fraudulent, or simply sloppy, work is published, we can’t in turn dismiss all of social science on the basis of a few cringeworthy papers. To do so would represent yet another piece of sloppy, fallacious thinking.

In my daughter’s Year 7 classroom the following words are pinned up on the wall:

2-9-1005989307_tshirt-feminism-teaching-girls-to-be-somebodies-instead-of-somebodys.png

No, Dr. Mason. Feminism does not poison everything.


 

 

* I should stress that, as discussed in this post,  I do not agree at all with the attempt that was made to have Mason fired from his research post (on the basis of the anti-feminism tirades he posts online and the associated social media ‘dynamics’). Mason should be debated, not censored.

**I’ve not met Mason in person — I’ve spoken with him online via the MSS and exchanged a couple of e-mails.

References

  1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1316909110
  2. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/50/15468.abstract
  3.  http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115057 

 

 

 

Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...

36 thoughts on “When atheists ape creationists: Fallacies and anti-feminism”

  1. HAH, a Trigger Warning, good jesus man. It’s sad to see a hard scientist molly coddle people this way. What would Feynman think?

    I agree Mason can be a bit stupid with his words and sloppy in his points lately. But…

    “The more recent paper [2] finds no evidence for a “male” vs a “female” brain.”

    Is that strictly speaking true? I don’t think anyone would claim male and female brains are different in every way, where would you draw the line for that definition? Following the link to the abstract and just reading the Significance section shows this:

    “Here we show that, although *there are sex/gender differences in brain and behavior*, humans and human brains are comprised of unique “mosaics” of features, *some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males.*”

    That to me, sounds like a statistical difference between male and female brains, that doesn’t necessarily appear on an individual level, but is shown on a statistical level. There’s no clear category for a male brain vs a female brain sure (who would think there was?), but that doesn’t mean there’s not a difference.

    “Our study demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain.”

    So there is a difference.

    I can’t speak for Mason and I’d be surprised if he actually thinks women are physically incapable of doing Physics (though he never said that). Surely sexual dimorphism, in an open and free society, at least COULD play a strong roll in what women DECIDE to do. It’s a better suggestion than, oh, I dunno, say, Patriarchy Theory. And there are differences between the sexes on a statistical level, as the papers you pointed to themselves say.

    Why there’s such a difference between maths and physics I’m not at all sure, I don’t see any more of a push to get women into math than engineering and physics, do you? Are you keeping women out of Physics Mr.Moriarty? Didn’t think so…

    I’ve known women into maths and computers and even programming, but never met one into Physics (maybe I need to meet more women!)

    Also: RationWiki is anything but.

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    1. “HAH, a Trigger Warning, good jesus man. It’s sad to see a hard scientist molly coddle people this way. What would Feynman think?”

      You took the trigger warning literally?

      *bangs head softly on desk and sobs a little*

      You took the trigger warning literally?!

      How much more obvious could it have been that I was being ironic with the trigger warning?

      Here’s a short video that you may find helpful.

      Surely sexual dimorphism, in an open and free society, at least COULD play a strong roll [sic] in what women DECIDE to do.

      It’s tiresome having to address this point repeatedly. My response to this is absolutely clear from the blog post but given that your reading comprehension skills clearly need work (see trigger warning above), let me break it down into simple, easy-to-grasp points for you.

      1. I don’t know the balance of nature vs nurture in this system.

      2. Mason doesn’t know the balance of nature vs nurture in this sytem.

      3. You don’t know the balance of nature vs nurture in this system.

      It is therefore entirely unscientific to claim that genetic/biological effects dominate over environmental/societal influences until a series of studies convincingly demonstrate this, using a research methodology that credibly normalises out the latter. And, as I clearly point out in the post, that’s a next-to-impossible task.

      (Note that you also seem to have an issue with your caps lock key. It’s never a good idea to use capitals for emphasis. Try italics or bold type instead).

      I’ve known women into maths and computers and even programming, but never met one into Physics (maybe I need to meet more women!)

      Thank you for this wonderful example of just why the plural of anecdote is not data. Here are just a few websites to address your uninformed misconceptions re. women in physics…

      http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ppzmeg/

      https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/people/clare.burrage

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Randall

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athene_Donald

      http://space.gizmodo.com/these-17-women-changed-the-face-of-physics-1689043918

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It is therefore entirely unscientific to claim that genetic/biological effects dominate over environmental/societal influences until a series of studies convincingly demonstrate this, using a research methodology that credibly normalises out the latter.”

        By the same token, it is unscientific to claim that societal influences dominate.

        My view is that one should make sure that equal opportunity exists, which is a desirable goal even if there are statistically significant differences between populations, and then everything will take care of itself. In particular, one should not assume that every difference is due to societal bias.

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      2. role* 🙂

        Yes Phil, I know there are women in physics, I said there were none I had met, please read carefully, not just for spelling errors but for the content too, it would really help the conversations go more smoothly. 🙂

        Sorry for the delay in replying, I didn’t realise I had to sign up.

        I agree with you about not being able to make claims about nature that were definitive without testing, when I commented I wasn’t sure that Mason had done. In fact, I’m still not sure. Did he? We all slip up on how we talk, but honestly, sexual dimorphism seems on the face of it a stronger explanation (not correcter, just stronger) than Patriarchy, which was his original point in the original video he made on the subject. Not sure about your discussion with him. I mean it’s like saying that women are shorter because of patriarchy. I mean it could be true or it could not, but shouldn’t we entertain the idea that maybe there’s a biological reason behind it first? I think that’s mostly what his point was, but I can’t defend anything he said to you in super serious internet chat relay exchange.

        But Mason is a fool with language. He thought somebody saying “I will fuck you over” meant the same as “I will fuck you up” and treated it like a physical threat, it was embarrassing. Not one he took seriously mind you but a threat he thought was made in earnest, which it wasn’t. Recently he’s pissed off his own audience with the whole Brexit debacle, but I’ll assume that you actually agree with him on that one.

        “(Note that you also seem to have an issue with your caps lock key. It’s never a good idea to use capitals for emphasis. Try italics or bold type instead).”

        That’s racist!… ? No, I was trying to actually figure out how to emphasize stuff as I’m sure you worked out, and it wasn’t happening so that was a makeshift solution. Practicality and all that.

        All that said, would you like to address the questions I raised about your interpretations of the studies? Since that was my main point? I mean you criticize ThunderF00t for his childishness in your YouTube video but I thought I was being nice apart from the intro, I’ll admit. You didn’t even answer my question.

        Oh, by the way though, apart from all this nonsense, I really do appreciate when someone such as yourself is so into it and willing to have heated discussions and all. You’re definitely a credit to science. 🙂

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      3. I just realised how my post would come across so I thought I’d address it first:

        1) I don’t think women are less biologically *able* to do science, I think they *might* be less *inclined* towards it. There are thousands who don’t have a problem and are very successful and people I admire, but I think you’re misinterpreting his argument on that one point. I don’t know what he’s said, but that’s at least what I know his audience took from it, that women don’t want to do these things, and that trying to equal the gap somehow is infact actually somewhat coercive. Some people don’t want to be scientists. There’s no reason that number should match between sexes other than bullshit ideology and biology. OR it could be some weird passed-down-through-the-ages thing. He’s making this choice the one that has more data surrounding it. If he flat out said women are bad at science, then he’s obviously wrong. Did he say that?

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      4. A few points…

        A minor one concerning some of the targets of your criticism. They have used childish, exasperated, or mocking tones in the past. So have you. Judge not lest ye be judged.

        More importantly, though, I’m not sure if you’re deploying deliberately dishonest reasoning or simply failing to see the point of such references to sexual dimorphism in the first place. You see, it’s not Thunderf00t that has something to prove in this debacle, it’s you. You’re the one representing the ideology. And, on the whole, proponents of the ideology are the ones making demands of society. Demands which must necessarily be based on affirmative claims, not uncertainty, concerning nature vs. nurture.

        Consider for a moment your 1, 2, 3 list. This point almost invariably comes up as a result of demands for some affirmative action program or another. Starting from female-exclusive programs to encourage women in STEM, and ending in outright quotas. Since we don’t know how psychological differences might stack up, broad-brush interference to achieve more attractive ratios is irresponsible.

        Furthermore, regardless of the truth of the nature/nurture question, the non-discriminatory position looks preferable. Supposing that there really is no appreciable difference between men and women in scientific interest or aptitude, what is there to fix, exactly? If you observe that, since the formal barriers to education for women were dissolved, the proportion of women in STEM has increased, how exactly is it necessary to accelerate the supposed equilibration with discriminatory practices? If sexual dimorphism is relevant, however, then preferential and discriminatory practices to achieve “balance” are simply unfair.

        In short, the impulse to “fix” society with heavy-handed top-down lithography when the “problem” of the STEM discrepancy, if it is one, is so difficult to disentangle and isolate, is wasteful and unnecessary at best and harmful and unjust at worst.

        Finally, practically anyone can make a motivational poster promoting practically any ideology. In fact, there are quite a few motivational posters that exist that promote ideologies counter to your worldview. Just because an ideology spawns a poster that makes you feel good about your daughter doesn’t mean it isn’t fundamentally toxic or hasn’t ultimately ruined lives (e. g. Duluth Model).

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        1. You see, it’s not Thunderf00t that has something to prove in this debacle, it’s you. You’re the one representing the ideology. And, on the whole, proponents of the ideology are the ones making demands of society.

          First, there’s no such thing as proof in science. This is not a matter of semantics, it’s a fundamental distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning. See the articles by Geraint Lewis and Carlo Rovelli linked at the bottom of this blog post for more: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/science-proves-nothing/

          Second, I’d appreciate it if you could avoid making hyperbolic claims about intellectual dishonesty, especially when you’ve got no evidence to back up those accusations. And speaking of evidence…

          Third, could you please explain precisely which “ideology” I am representing?

          Here’s my stance on this. I’ve already explained this very clearly multiple times before (see, for example, https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/the-natural-order-of-things/), but, just for you, I’ll break it down into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks.

          I do not know the balance of nature vs nurture when it comes to the gender balance in physics.

          Neither does Mason.

          Neither do you.

          And that’s because there is no study out there that normalises out societal/environmental contributions to isolate the “sexual dimorphism” component. Therefore it is entirely unscientific to make claims in the absence of evidence. That’s the very basic point.

          Please calm down, put your clearly overwrought prejudices to one side, and read what I have written in the “The natural order of things?” post. I am simply pointing out that Mason’s claim/expectation that a determinant of the gender balance in physics is sexual dimorphism is an entirely unscientific claim to make in the absence of evidence. (And, no, performance at the Olympics is not credible evidence).

          That’s it. No evil “feminazi” plot to take over the world. No “SJWs” coming to take your children — and your children’s children; and your children’s children’s children — in the night.

          Where did I ever mention “discriminatory practices”? Please point me, specifically, to where I’ve mentioned “discriminatory practices”.

          Do try to calm down. Please do me the courtesy of reading what I’ve written before jumping to premature conclusions.

          Thank you.

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  2. That’s a good question, how does one separate innate tendencies from the influence of environment when there is no ethical and practical manner of producing that test lineage. I think one manner in which we can do this is looking at how our observations hold true to other civilisations. Of course those can also have a similar History of sexism, but the stereotypes be different.

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  3. I seem to have lost a comment with a lot of links in it. Moderation? Ican repost if necessary.

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  4. It has been four internet years since I wrote my response. So I guess there will be neither rebuttal nor acknowledgement and a year hence Moriarty will go on how bad Thunderf00t is without even considering that there are large gender differences at the tail (as opposed to mean) of the math ability distribution, and that individual differences exhibit high heritability suggesting that the large difference at the tail will also have biological components. Cant say I am surprised…

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    1. I know this may also come as a great surprise to you, but some of us have jobs and families. We don’t devote our lives to the internet. If you’d like an insight into a typical working day for me, try this: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/19/working-9-to-5-aint-no-way-in-academia/

      Some of us also have outside interests that aren’t internet-based: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/the-mud-the-frets-the-cheers-donington-2016/

      So, no need for your surprise — you will get a response in due course. In fact, the type of points you make have been made with tedious, inane, and uninformed regularity by a number of others who have attempted to answer — oh, what’s the term they use? Ah, yes… “white knight” — for Mason. I will therefore write a blog post, “The natural order of things?”, which addresses those comments (including yours).

      I should also note that if ~ 1 week is equivalent to four years’ internet time, Mason’s inability to respond for eight weeks — and then only with inane, childish comments — is over three decades in internet time.

      You, and others, will get a detailed response soon. I deal with the priorities first and then turn to the trivialities.

      [Edited for clarity]

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      1. So you will debunk the total field ofbehavioral genetics…. yeah after you do that I will submit my refutation of quantum field theory. Comprehensively, in one blog post despite having no formal education in the field. I will win the nobel prize! Or not. FYI, I dont think you will make a dent in this debate – the individual differences are settled, the causal variants are found. The only question remaining is how much it can be transfered to m/f differences, I have ideas for study designs that could find the difference (looking at expression of causal variants, which in autism allready have found a genetical f/m difference in architecture), but for now the best estimate is that of behavioral genetics- nurture lost the battle there, hard.

        Amusing that you believe this to be tedious- I cited massive and well evidence data sets in cognitive genetics that show fascinating results regarding the large influence of genes on cognitive ability. Whe I first read those papers I was simply blown away – the most significant finding of social science I ever heard of. I guess this disinterrest is explanatory in a certain way.

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  5. @coherentsheaf28

    “So you will debunk the total field of behavioral genetics…. ”

    That’s a quite remarkable assertion given that you haven’t read one word of the post! Let me remind you of the issue at the core of the exchange with Mason: the claim that the 80:20 gender balance in physics is dominated by sexual dimorphism. This is the claim I will discuss at length in the blog post. For you to make assertions about the content of the post without reading a single word is premature, irrational, and unscientific.

    You should also, like Mason (and so many others who defend him), work on your reading comprehension skills. At no point did I state that your post was tedious. In fact, your post, along with the comments of NoelPlum99 under the YouTube video, represent the best replies from those who would argue in favour of sexual dimorphism (to a greater or lesser extent).

    But then, the comments from others who support Mason set the bar really very low indeed. On that point, what I said, specifically, in my previous reply to you was the following:

    “…tedious, inane, and uninformed regularity by a number of others who have attempted to answer…”

    Please learn to parse what I’ve written without jumping to conclusions. Note that I state “by a number of others”.

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  6. Even if there are or aren’t differences in brain or culture that encourage or discourage certain behaviours and choices, should we not address how society usually over-rewards one set of options and under-compensates others?

    In a way, Thunderf00t appears to be arguing in favour of equality of outcome alone and to give up on equality of opportunity. I think we should do both.

    Ignoring the basis for Phil’s reasoning, what does he suggest we do to stop undervaluing ‘feminine’ choices and careers?

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  7. Where’s the feminist glaciology stuff, you said there would be a response to the femnist glaciologist paper!

    >[Note added to transcript: I address Mason’s comment re. that glaciology paper in the blog post to which I refer below (see e-mail sent 01/04/2016)]

    You’re very long winded but I can see no feminist glaciology stuff.

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    1. Ah, I love this “long-winded” comment! As I explained to Mr. Benjamin recently by e-mail:

      “All you SJWs do is shout into an echo chamber and block us. You’ve got no response to our criticisms. You just run and hide. We want evidence-based, rational arguments. C’mon where are they? You have no response, do you?”

      Oh, OK. Here’s a detailed response which is evidence-based, refers to not just single isolated studies but takes a broad and balanced view of the literature, cites a variety of sources, and highlights the paucity of your claims: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/the-natural-order-of-things/

      “What? You don’t expect us to read that, do you? So many words, so many syllables, so many letters. When we said we wanted rational, evidence-based arguments we meant something like this:

      I can see no feminist glaciology stuff.

      I know that there are a lot of words, and you may find this challenging, but here’s the relevant section from the blog post:

      “To his credit, he responded positively, and sent me a link to this article as a demonstration of what he sees as the adverse effects of feminism on science. For a change, Mason and I agree — that paper is junk. It does a big disservice to both science and feminism. I’ve made similar comments about the work of Karen Barad previously, which attempts to couch quantum mechanics in the context of feminist and queer ‘theory’. There’s a substantial “emperor’s new clothes” character to work of that type, usually written in an impenetrable style to disguise the lack of substance.

      But physics and physical chemistry is not immune to having nonsense papers being published. Worse, when it came to the Bogdanov affair (as a particularly telling example), opinion was divided as to whether their papers were a hoax or real science! Similarly, this paper (and its bargain-basement photoshopping of data) was published in Nano Letters, which, as Mason will know, is not at the bottom of the hierarchy of prestige journals…”

      There are links embedded in that section in the post. If you use the “Search” facility on the blog post you’ll be able to find them.

      Unlike Mason I don’t complain when someone takes the time to write a lengthy and thoughtful response (regardless of how “long-winded” it might be). This is how evidence-based, reasoned (and reasonable) discussion happens (and not via a series of garbled 140 character slurs).

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      1. Re. Feminist Glaciology: I can understand why a paper like Carey’s might be frustrating to some folk but I do think there is a defence to be made of it.

        1. Carey isn’t calling for a rejection of the kinds of research normally applied to glaciers, rather he is saying that a fuller *understanding* of glaciers (as opposed to just a physical description) requires wider and more diverse accounts. He most certainly isn’t saying that women have access to a different set of empirical facts about the natural world.

        (I mention this because a lot of ‘critiques’ of feminist epistemology seem to rely on this strawman; c.f. Luce Irigaray’s widely misinterpreted off-hand comment about e=mc2 being a ‘sexed’ equation; she mostly certainly was not saying that the speed of light was different for women or that ‘c’ could/should be replaced by a more ladylike speed.)

        2. These differing accounts might include ways of thinking and talking about glaciers which lie outwith a narrowly defined scientific discourse (hence the references to artworks and literature). These types of engagement are often undervalued but contribute significantly to understanding.

        3. These different forms of discourse (some would say ‘ways of knowing’ but I’ll avoid the kn word for now), are often gendered such that ‘hard’ science is seen as a male prerogative whilst ‘softer’ approaches (art, literature, the ‘soft’ sciences) are stereotyped as female. This both contributes to and reinforces the undervaluing of both these approaches and the gender to which they are typically assigned.

        (Aside: these different ways of knowing (dammit, couldn’t resist) aren’t entirely separate but overlap in, for example, the way that conceptual metaphors are used to frame otherwise empirical statements. Carey refers to ‘Baconian’ science as an indicator of this).

        4. (This is one of the places where I think Carey oversteps the mark). He suggests that under-representation of women in glaciology prevents the inclusion of other ways of knowing, metaphors, frames of reference, within the discourse. To me this seems a bit essentialising; his own writing is evidence that both men and women can adopt different epistemological frameworks.

        5. Carey’s article is a critique of the history and culture of glaciology, not of the science that it being carried out. He is arguing that wider representation of women might allow the field to include more diverse research within its ambit, including ‘softer’ approaches which contribute to a fuller understanding.

        I’m guessing you’ve probably seen it but Carey did an interview about the article here http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/qa-author-feminist-geology-study-reflects-sudden-place

        Cheers

        Fred

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  8. the problem with proving sexual dimorphism is it’s one giant ball of endogeneity with the vast majority of correlation pointing heavily towards women and men preferring different things

    also pause to point out the iQ gap: far more men have an IQ of 130 than women. Google sez average IQ of a physicist is 127, which means far more men are eligible period

    which by the way also takes care of the physical dimorphism part neatly.

    but the mental part is: look it’s all endogenous data – did the society cause it or did the inner heart soul and deoxyribonucleic acid engender the feeling? societally constructed or TAGC constructed? nigga i ain’t on that know shit. on the real though, monkey experiments point to one thing and as we all know humans did evolve from monkeys

    pause: as cool as it would be to NOT believe that because it’s a great way to Hoist by your own Petard, also I believe that

    or at least something really similar and I can’t be bothered to figure it out because frankly we have enough DNA from them, so does it really matter at this point?

    anyways monkeys seem to have very strong and inbuilt preferences for toys at least even when isolated from society. but short of say donald trump being an actual nazi, the conditions to conduct these experiments will not exist. and there’s an argument that, even then, a child isolated long enough from a culture to grow to a large enough age, to be worthwhile research data, is going to fail miserably in terms of providing actual data, because he will be fucked up as hell. so it’s endo all the way down

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  9. Men are attracted to females, females are attracted to men (Generally), this could be considered an interest of sorts? an interest that a lot of people are very passionate about, it isn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that a large part of our personalities is dependent on our biological makeup, and a large part of our interests are dependent on the makeup of our personalities, not only that but it makes complete sense from an Evolutionary angle for the sexes to be dived in interests and personalities, If more woman than men are entering University that makes men by default underrepresented right?, why am I not hearing anything about this?…and you are trying to tell us that physics needs more gender balancing, a subject that an under-represented gender dominates in numbers, and because of this suddenly the sky is falling down, we now need equality panels and lets “fix” the education system its failing because men like physics and women BY CHOICE are not entering that subject so it must be a problem with our society because it CANNOT have anything to do with differing interests dependent on sex that wouldn’t fit in with the PC narrative…

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    1. “Look at the complexity of the eye. Look at how detailed it is. How could you not believe that an intelligent designer is behind that? How else could that complexity have arisen?”.

      Arguments from personal (in)credulity are never the most compelling. I’ll ask you the same question i repeatedly asked Dr. Mason. Provide evidence, suitably normalised to take account of societal/environmental factors, that the gender balance in physics is determined, at whatever level, by sexual dimorphism. An argument along the lines of that you’ve presented — which is nothing more than “Men and women are different. Therefore sexual dimorphism must play a role” — is far from compelling.

      “If more woman [sic] than men are entering University that makes men by default underrepresented right?, why am I not hearing anything about this?”

      Well, if you’d taken the time to watch the videos related to Dr. Mason’s sexual dimoprhism claims (and the resulting spat) at my channel you’d have seen that I raise this precise point. It’s best to do some research before making entirely unsubstantiated claims.

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  10. You lost your credibility the very moment you decided to introduce Philip Mason as a “fuckwad”. Even if it’s a quote, Rationalwiki is hardly a reliable source, and the quote is even absent from the article at this moment. Quote from encyclopediadramatica:

    “Essentionally the RationalWiki is a SJW regressive far-left Conservapedia is rip-off where SJWs and Atheists go to have a circlejerk and talk about how oppressed they are and how bigoted everyone that doesn’t agree with them is (which is everyone else that isn’t a SJW) is.”

    And I didn’t need to read that to see what kind of article I read about Philip Mason. Portraying just one side of the story and cherry picking events is not how you make yourself credible. If you got triggered by me using encyclopediadramatica, don’t worry, it was on purpose, since you used RationalWiki.

    If you allow yourself to start with an ad hominem, what makes you think that the reader will not do the same, and just label you as a regressive ignorant before even looking at the evidence (if any)?

    Let me give you a hand, and respond with an actual Wiki article:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_intelligence
    I know I know, wikipedia isn’t a primary source. But you asked for any evidence of any dimorphism that would have anything to do with success at physics. There you go! A mountain of references to clash against your ignorance.
    Differences exist. Which generally make women better at some tasks, and men at other tasks.

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    1. No cherry picking at all.

      See this lengthy blog post: https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/the-natural-order-of-things-revisited-nature-nurture-and-nattering-with-noel/

      See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPhgc2IBj1M for a point-by-point response to Mason’s points.

      See also https://muircheartblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/the-natural-order-of-things-revisited-nature-nurture-and-nattering-with-noel/

      I am very familiar with that Wiki article. (And when did I ever say anything about Wiki not being a primary source? Please don’t jump to conclusions). None of those articles addresses the points raised in “The Natural Order of Things”. Nor in the debate with Noel Plum.

      “Differences exist. Which generally make women better at some tasks, and men at other tasks.”

      Well, who could argue with advanced, water-tight reasoning like that? “Look at the complexity of the eye. How could you not believe that wasn’t the work of an intelligent designer?” Right?

      I’ll ask you the same question I asked Mason. Point me to a study (or, better, series of studies) that normalises out environmental contributions and shows convincingly that sexual dimorphism can account for the gender balance in physics. That study must also successfully account for the strong geographical and temporal variations discussed in the “Natural order of things” post. And it goes without saying that the conclusions reached in those studies should be based on good statistical evidence, not bias about the way things “ought to be”.

      Finally, try not to be so sensitive about the RationalWiki page. It’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously, y’know! You’re being just a little precious there. Dr. Mason is the person advocating a “PEARL” approach. Why don’t you follow his example?

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  11. “I’ll ask you the same question I asked Mason. Point me to a study (or, better, series of studies) that normalises out environmental contributions and shows convincingly that sexual dimorphism can account for the gender balance in physics. That study must also successfully account for the strong geographical and temporal variations discussed in the “Natural order of things” post. And it goes without saying that the conclusions reached in those studies should be based on good statistical evidence, not bias about the way things “ought to be”.”

    How about this one?

    “Every limitation of the reason, or in general of the nature of man, rests on a delusion, an error. It is true that the human being, as an individual, can and must— herein consists his distinction from the brute— feel and recognise himself to be limited; but he can become conscious of his limits, his finiteness only because the perfection, the infinitude of his species, is perceived by him, whether as an object of feeling, of conscience, or of the thinking consciousness. If he makes his own limitations the limitations of the species, this arises from the mistake that he identifies himself immediately with the species— a mistake which is intimately connected with the individual’s love of ease, sloth, vanity, and egoism. For a limitation which I know to be merely mine humiliates, shames, and perturbs me. Hence to free myself from this feeling of shame, from this state of dissatisfaction, I convert the limits of my individuality into the limits of human nature in general. i.e. What is incomprehensible to me is incomprehensible to others; why should I trouble myself further?”

    Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity 1843, Translated by Marian Evans 1854.

    [Extract taken from page 7]

    https://libcom.org/files/The%20Essence%20of%20Christianity.pdf

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