Vive La Difference

It’s nice to see research upholding what some of us have recognized and celebrated for so long: men and women are different after all. Unfortunately, that reality probably won’t quiet the yelling from the political fringes.

In her May 18 article, “The freedom to say ‘no’,” Elaine McArdle wrote (emphasis added),

Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women — highly qualified for the work — stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.

… if these researchers are right, then a certain amount of gender gap might be a natural artifact of a free society, where men and women finally can forge their own vocational paths.

Aside from the curious idea of a “natural artifact” — why not just say “natural consequence” or “natural outcome”? — McArdle’s article gives a nice, brief overview of the central issue that many women simply don’t want to follow the same paths as men.

Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a more in-depth treatment a couple of months ago, with the provocative title “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” In her article, Sommers noted that

Women now earn 57 percent of bachelors degrees and 59 percent of masters degrees. According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2006 was the fifth year in a row in which the majority of research Ph.D.’s awarded to U.S. citizens went to women. Women earn more Ph.D.’s than men in the humanities, social sciences, education, and life sciences. Women now serve as presidents of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and other leading research universities. But elsewhere, the figures are different. Women comprise just 19 percent of tenure-track professors in math, 11 percent in physics, 10 percent in computer science, and 10 percent in electrical engineering.

After noting an October 2007 hearing on “why women are ‘underrepresented’ in academic professorships of science and engineering,” she wrote,

As a rule, women tend to gravitate to fields such as education, English, psychology, biology, and art history, while men are much more numerous in physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Why this is so is an interesting question — and the subject of a substantial empirical literature. The research on gender and vocation is complex, vibrant, and full of reasonable disagreements; there is no single, simple answer.

Yet the hearing apparently found the simple answer: “All five expert witnesses, and all five congressmen … attributed the dearth of women in university science to a single cause: sexism.”

Sommers took a bold stand in her article, charging that the political rationale is unidirectional:

If numerical inferiority were sufficient grounds for charges of discrimination or cultural insensitivity, Congress would be holding hearings on the crisis of underrepresentation of men in higher education. After all, women earn most of the degrees—practically across the board. What about male proportionality in the humanities, social sciences, and biology? The physical sciences are the exception, not the rule.

So why are there so few women in the high echelons of academic math and in the physical sciences? In a recent survey of faculty atti*tudes on social issues, sociologists Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University asked 1,417 professors what accounts for the relative scarcity of female pro*fessors in math, science, and engineering. Just 1 percent of respondents attributed the scarcity to women’s lack of ability, 24 percent to sexist discrimination, and 74 percent to differences in what characteristically interests men and women.

It seems that some people with power to gain from controversy, or perhaps with power to gain from exercising control, have a vested interest in provoking debates where little debate is needed. In this case it’s not enough, apparently, for them to let gender differences exist and accept them: they have to explain and challenge the differences for their personal pleasure or their personal esteem.

Or maybe some folks just don’t appreciate the differences.

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Memorial Day Tribute

For Memorial Day, here’s a link to a great rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” forwarded to us by a former boss (and supporter of the “Anti-Campaign”). As the oft-forwarded message said,

If you missed hearing the US Army Band and Chorus welcome Pope Benedict XVI at the White House Rose Garden ceremony on 15 April, get a load of these high school kids. At the conclusion listen to the high notes on the trumpet … played by a high school kid! One of the fathers recorded it, added some graphic enhancements to the recording, and posted it on the web…. Be prepared … it will definitely send a few chills down your spine.

Here’s the link. Enjoy, and remember the ultimate sacrifices that paid for our freedoms.

God Bless.

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Fingers Crossed

The Phoenix Lander is scheduled to land tonight on Mars. As of last night’s report on Spaceflight Now,

NASA’s Phoenix lander closed in on Mars Saturday, healthy and on course for touchdown Sunday evening near the red planet’s northern polar cap. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., decided to forego a course-correction rocket firing late Saturday but left open the option for a final trajectory tweak Sunday eight hours before atmospheric entry.

Here’s the link to the Mission Status Center.

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New Anti-Candidate Positions Posted

The “Anti-Campaign” continues. This week positions on the environment and the economy went up in the forum; they’ll go on the web page at the end of the month.

On the environment, after noting what physicist Freeman Dyson had to say on environmentalism as a religion:

Here’s our article of belief: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24)

We are stewards. As such, we should be careful not to cause more harm than necessary as we use natural resources.

Meanwhile, thank us for our SUVs: they’re keeping the next ice age at bay. 😉

Here’s the position on the environment.

On the economy,

We’re not rich. We’d like to try it sometime, but the “tax the rich” rhetoric we hear all the time kind of cuts down on the incentive. We won’t be releasing our tax returns; we’d rather you laugh with us than at us. Finally, money is a tool; it’s always good to have more tools in your toolbox; and when you loan this tool — whether to the government or anybody else — good luck getting it back.

Be forewarned, though: if you got a subprime mortgage, don’t read the position on the economy. It’ll just make you mad.

So again, if you don’t want to vote for any of the real candidates, vote for the GrayMan! He can’t do much worse than the politicians.

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Counting Words, Backward

In an effort to apply one of the lessons I learned in Dave Wolverton’s writing workshop — and to cleanse my mental palate before biting off metaphorical chunks of my novel — I turned to a completed short story with the aim of cutting its 12000+ words down to fewer than 10000.

Primarily I stripped a tedious opening “chase” in which I revealed a lot of world-building details but not much else down to its essential elements: the world is dangerous, and the character gets caught. I also cut out two sections from a second point of view (POV), sprinkled what was really needed from those sections in a few other places, and even added an additional fight scene.

In all I think I cut 3000 words and added back 500 or so, and last night the word count stood at 9970. Now, to see if any editors like it….

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Failure of the Cliche

Walking the dog this fine morning — cool, dewy, light scent of honeysuckle still in places, the just-past-full moon bright in the pre-dawn twilight — I saw an early bird trying to get a worm.

It failed.

The worm wriggled on the sidewalk where the bird left it when we approached. The bird hopped up the hill toward the fence line, and I imagined it thought in its little bird brain the equivalent of, “I would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that meddling guy and his dog.”

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ConCarolinas Schedule

Opened my ConCarolinas schedule this morning to find that I’m assigned to a half-dozen panels, including one I specifically didn’t want to be on. So here goes:

6:00PM – Best Books You’ve Never Heard Of – NOW ACCEPTING SUGGESTIONS 😮

9:00AM – Fantastic Animals – That is, animals as characters in fiction … done well and poorly
10:00AM – The Science Panel – What’s up in the world of science, especially with respect to story potential
5:00PM – Putting the Science in your Science Fiction – A nice follow-on to the 10 a.m. panel

11:00AM – Where’s My Personal Jetpack? – In which I whine (and channel Daniel Amos*) about not having a rocket pack
3:00PM – Cover Letters – What to do and what not to do, as demonstrated by the slush pile

The con is the 30th of May through the 1st of June, in Charlotte. Visit the ConCarolinas web site for more info.

*Quick, without resorting to Google: who was Daniel Amos?

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New, just for fun, on the SWF: Space Strategists

One of the folks on Baen’s Bar posted a link to a list of the “Greatest Space Strategists In Military History,” featuring characters from some famous science fiction print and film franchises. So of course I cross-posted it in the “Space Warfare Strategy” portion of the Space Warfare Forum.

It fit right in, even though it’s 😉 just for fun.

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