photo blog_head_zpsfscr4tie.jpg
More adventurous than the average bear

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Links - 31st January 2018 (2)

Cordelia Fine's "Testosterone Rex" — A Review - "A 2016 meta-analysis—a systematic research review—confirmed the idea that, across the animal kingdom, sexual selection is generally stronger for males. Perhaps this review appeared too late for Fine to cite, but it does rather puncture her picture of “a state of turmoil” in the science of sexual selection. On the contrary, Bateman’s theories seem to hold up pretty well... [Fine does] a fairly outrageous quote mine of Schmitt... Fine sheepishly alludes to Schmitt’s full argument in an endnote referenced three pages after the original partial quotation. This fits into a pattern: evidence contrary to Fine’s position is often cited, but it’s not mentioned in the text, instead being relegated to endnotes where it can’t cause too much trouble. Witness, for instance, Fine’s mention of “stereotype threat”, where a single supporting study is discussed in the text but a contrary meta-analysis is only mentioned in the endnote. Or her discussion of a 2015 paper on how males’ and females’ brains aren’t essentially different, but are a mosaic of features: you wouldn’t know that four strong scientific critiques of the study had been published (with a response) unless you flick to the back of the book. This allows Fine to use the main text to critique only the most overblown claims about sex differences, and avoid having to deal at length with more reasonable arguments... for all her stinging critiques of “Testosterone Rex” research, Fine is far more magnanimous—often completely silent—about the weaknesses of the research that supports her view. For instance, in response to self-reported studies of numbers of sexual partners, which are subject to expectancy bias (they might over-report male promiscuity), Fine cites an interview study of 50 men who frequent prostitutes, apparently not realising that such qualitative research is far more vulnerable to the same kind of bias. The final chapter speculates heavily about the idea that “gendered” toys (blue versus pink; cars versus dolls) have effects on girls’ career choices, uncritically citing weak studies (for instance this one, which included only 62 children). The harshest Fine gets about a sympathetic paper is when she discusses a ropey-looking social-priming study on men’s “threatened masculinity”, finishing with the bland statement that “we have to be careful that findings like these are robust and replicable”."
I thought this book looked better than her previous book Delusions of Gender, but more and more critiques are coming out. And reading about her arguments (as cited by positive reviews) it seems she misses out (whether on purpose or not, I don't know) many relevant parts of the literature. For example she claims that toy studies show children's gendered toy preferences because of socialisation, apparently ignoring research that shows that wild animals also show gendered toy preferences (or that fetal androgen exposure shapes toy preferences). She also claims that differences in gender acceptance to casual sex are due to safety concerns - ignoring multiple studies which correct for that and still find women are less receptive. No wonder she choses to write popular books rather than publish peer-reviewed research

The controversial biology of sexual selection - "In her zeal to challenge evolutionary determinists, however, Ms Fine takes a swipe at some straw men. Few serious theorists argue that male and female brains are categorically different, or that individuals are not influenced by environmental pressures. Parents who have both boys and girls may cock an eyebrow at the way she largely ignores studies of actual sex differences, preferring to blame much of gendered behaviour on socialisation. As for testosterone, only the most reductive observer would claim that absolute levels of the hormone “cause” behaviour, so it is not surprising when Ms Fine explains that its effects on brains and bodies is more nuanced. She also offers evidence that seems to undermine her point that testosterone does not necessarily make men more risky or competitive: apparently the testosterone levels of Wall Street traders go up as they make more money (a phenomenon known as the “winner effect”), which seems to spur them to take more risks."
To say nothing of how women with more testosterone are more likely to choose risky career paths or how men and women with low testosterone have no gender difference in risk aversion

Born This Way? Gender-Based Toy Preferences in Primates - "Next, in a brief paper published in 2010, Sonya Kahlenberg of Bates College and Richard Wrangham of Harvard University presented the first evidence of wild male and female primates, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the Kanyawara chimpanzee community of Kibale National Park, Uganda, interacting differently with play objects. Over a 14 year period, Kahlenberg and Wrangham observed that juvenile Kanyawara chimpanzees tended to carry sticks in a manner suggestive of rudimentary doll play and that the behavior was more common in females than in males"

Early Androgens Are Related to Childhood Sex-Typed Toy Preferences - "Girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) who were exposed to high levels of androgen in the prenatal and early postnatal periods showed increased play with boys” toys and reduced play with girls' toys compared with their unexposed female relatives at ages 3 to 8. Boys with CAH did not differ from their male relatives in play with boys' or girls' toys. These results suggest that early hormone exposure in females has a masculinizing effect on sex-typed toy preferences."

Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone - "Women are generally more risk averse than men. We investigated whether between- and within-gender variation in financial risk aversion was accounted for by variation in salivary concentrations of testosterone and in markers of prenatal testosterone exposure in a sample of >500 MBA students. Higher levels of circulating testosterone were associated with lower risk aversion among women, but not among men. At comparably low concentrations of salivary testosterone, however, the gender difference in risk aversion disappeared, suggesting that testosterone has nonlinear effects on risk aversion regardless of gender. A similar relationship between risk aversion and testosterone was also found using markers of prenatal testosterone exposure. Finally, both testosterone levels and risk aversion predicted career choices after graduation: Individuals high in testosterone and low in risk aversion were more likely to choose risky careers in finance. These results suggest that testosterone has both organizational and activational effects on risk-sensitive financial decisions and long-term career choices"

Why Sexual Selection Matters and Why Cordelia Fine is Wrong - "Since this runs pretty much contrary to the broadly held consensus in evolutionary biology the choice has naturally elicited criticism from both biologists and evolutionary psychologists... in large parts of academia, any biological explanation will always be disregarded, at least as long as there is an alternative way to explain the data... Pretty much all of Cordelia Fine’s writings are exercises in creating these so called ad hoc hypotheses. Testosterone Rex has already been critically reviewed by Jerry Coyne, Gregory Cochran, Stuart Ritchie and Robert King. But in light of the recent award by The Royal Society I felt that a thorough review of sexual selection and its biological underpinnings might be in place, just to highlight what kind of book the world’s oldest existing science academy nowadays considers worthy of a scientific award... After being administered testosterone trans men also show an increase in violent and criminal behavior, there are similar effects in animals... genetic males with complete androgen insensitivity are so behaviorally similar to most other women their condition is very seldom discovered before puberty and sometimes not until long into adulthood... more attractive men have more casual sex partners but no such correlation is found with women indicates that a lot of men really would like to have more sex partners... In her book she wonders whether the reported sex differences [in risk aversion] would remain if the questionnaires included questions such as “How likely is it that you would bake an impressive but difficult soufflé for an important dinner party?” (yes, this is a direct quote)"
Is there any example of feminist "science" that is not tainted?

The Rhetorical Trap at the Heart of the "Neurosexism" Debate - "In 2005, the British philosopher Nicholas Shackel proposed the term “Motte and Bailey Doctrine” for this type of argumentative style. Taking the name of the castle fortification, the “motte” is strong and is built high on an elevated patch of land and is easy to defend. By contrast, the “bailey” is built on lower, more exposed ground, and is much more difficult to defend from attacks. Shackel used this metaphor to describe a common rhetorical trap used by postmodern academics, where a controversial proposition is put forward (a “bailey”) but is then switched for an uncontroversial one (a “motte”) when faced with criticism... the science of sex influences had progressed slowly and this had been partly due to scientists’ fear of being called “sexist”. Unfortunately for women, this slow progress has meant that women are at much higher risk of experiencing adverse reactions to drugs than men, due to the lack of research specifically teasing out sex differences. In a feature article one of us wrote for Commentary, Cordelia Fine was identified as one of the academics who had contributed to a precarious political climate... Fine, Jordan-Young and Rippon called on neuroscientists to become familiar with Intersectionality Theory, a theory which derives from Critical Race Studies in the U.S., and which has little in the way of scientific validity (“validity” is scientific jargon-speak for the ability of a construct, model or concept to make predictions about the real world)"

Evolutionary Functions of Social Play: Life Histories, Sex Differences, and Emotion Regulation - "The gender segregation and sex differences in play parenting and rough-and-tumble play observed in many primates are also evident in children. Vigorous social-play benefits all children physically by developing strong bones and muscles, by promoting cardiovascular fitness, and by encouraging exercise habits that help prevent obesity. Unsupervised play also helps hone the skills of communication, perspective taking, and emotion regulation. For boys especially, rough-and-tumble play in early childhood provides a scaffold for learning emotion-regulation skills related to managing anger and aggression."

Infants show a preference for toys that ‘match’ their gender before they know what gender is

When ideology trumps biology « Why Evolution Is True - "when people ignore such inconvenient truths, it not only makes their cause look bad, but can produce palpable harm. Case in point: the damage that the Russian charlatan-agronomist Lysenko did to Soviet agriculture under Stalin. Rejecting both natural selection and modern genetics, Lysenko made all sorts of wild promises about improving Soviet agriculture based on bogus treatment of plants that would supposedly change their genetics. It not only didn’t work, failing to relieve Russia of its chronic famines, but Lyesnko’s Stalin-supported resistance to modern (“Western”) genetics led to the imprisonment and even the execution of really good geneticists and agronomists like Niklolia Vavilov. The ideological embrace of an unevidenced but politically amenable view of science set back Russian genetics for decades... Such is the invidious result of having a non-scientist judge a scientific argument; and yes, the Times screwed up big time. But someone who should know better is the evolutionary biologist and blogger P. Z. Myers, who bought into Fine’s bogus argument and fallacious mathematics in a post called “Cordelia Fine is doing the math.” Myers accepts Fine’s contention that promiscuous males don’t really have more offspring than do choosy human females—females who are prevented from getting fertilized when they’re pregnant. Her arguments are wrong—for one thing, she sets unrealistic error limits for promiscuous males to outdo monogamous ones—but Myers has always rejected biology that is ideologically unpalatable to him. In a rare occurrence at his site, the commenters, usually a choir of osculatory praise, gave him pushback. In fact one, “Charly”, did the math correctly and showed that males in relationships with multiple females (bigamous or polygamous) have the potential to have more offspring than do monogamous males, supporting the ideas that men are selected to compete for women. (Duh!) Charly ended his calculations with this statement: “But maybe my reasoning and math is wrong, I am sure someone will point flaws out.” In the next comment, Myers admitted that Charly’s math was actually right—math that invalidates Fine’s argument—but then he said this:
Your math is fine. It's your humanity that is broken.
And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: an admission that the biology is right, at least in theory, but the person who did the calculations is immoral. What better example can we find of someone who opposes the truth because it’s ideologically repugnant? Even Myers’s regular commenters couldn’t live with that pronouncement, with one even asking if he was all right."

Risk and Reward Are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress - "stress amplifies gender differences in strategies used during risky decisions, as males take more risk and females take less risk under stress"

Melbourne University advertises female-only jobs in bid to remedy gender imbalance in maths - "It is believed to be the first time it has limited applications to women only for permanent academic positions... She said there were many reasons for the low percentages, but a key cause was unconscious bias which sees men promoted more often than women"
How come no one advertises female-only garbageman posts? This was before the reports on gender blind hiring decreasing the hiring of women, but I doubt that has changed the narrative (or would've changed it, if it'd been known)

Rotherham grooming: Woman abused as a child goes public - "Some of the men who groomed and raped girls are now behind bars, including her abuser Arshid Hussain. She now wants action taken against the professionals who failed to help her. "I think now it's time that professionals are held accountable," she said... "I was always treated as his equal by the authorities - and not as his victim.""

Textile Industry Blog | Charles Parsons Interiors Blog - A colourful history - Purple - "The purple is used by the snail as part of predatory and defensive behaviour – the secretion can be extracting by poking and antagonizing the snail, and the resulting goo would gradually become purple on exposure to sunlight. ‘Milking the snail’ was a renewable resource, but so labour-intensive that usually the snails were crushed completely to extract the colour. Mountains of snail shells have been found at the ancient sites of Sidon and Tyre – they were harvested to such extremes that for a long time, the Murex snail was considered extinct... third-century emperor Aurelian famously wouldn’t allow his wife to buy a Tyrian purple shawl, as it literally cost its weight in gold! It was highly prized for its colourfastness – unlike other dyes that faded in the sunlight, Tyrian Purple would become darker. Even in modern times, Tyrian Purple is expensive to extract. When the German chemist Paul Friedander recreated the colour in 2008, he needed 12,000 snails to create 1.4 ounces of dye – enough to colour a single handkerchief! In 2000, a gram of Tyrian purple made from 10,000 mollusks costs two thousand euro."

Good science communication means never calling them “retard” – even if you’re Nassim Taleb - "Communicating science to people who aren’t scientists is very hard to do well. Nassim Taleb should be very good at it, based on his enormous book sales and even more enormous opinion of his own skills. But we all have our demons, and Taleb has succumbed to his. Rather than encouraging a healthy discussion about science, he’s picked a side and declared all-out war on the people who disagree with him. Taleb even admits that his strategy is to prevent conversations from happening by abusing and insulting people who question him, and encouraging his followers to join in. What’s the point of that strategy? It doesn’t help communicate science, resolve legitimate questions about the facts, or even address the supposedly evil motives of his critics. All it really does is feel good. Nassim Taleb has chosen self-gratification over real engagement. Let’s talk about why that’s unproductive and unethical... Taleb loathes Folta because Folta, chair of the Horticultural Sciences department at the University of Florida, used $25,000 of Monsanto’s money to fund outreach talking about his research. Note that Monsanto didn’t pay for any of his research, and overall the money was less than half a percent of his lab’s budget. The funds were publicly disclosed, not passed under the table in greasy paper bags. But to Taleb, using Monsanto money to fund outreach is a crime beyond all reason. (Just don’t ask him who funds his own travel budget)... He’s not just refusing to engage opposing opinions himself, he’s encouraging his readers and followers to do it too... demonizing the other side prevents you from seriously considering their perspective. That’s true not only because it keeps you from really understanding the points they’re trying to make, but also because it builds a wall around your own beliefs. It’s very difficult to ever decide that you’ve been wrong about something if you’ve been spitting on the people who disagree with you; changing your own mind would mean admitting they might have been right all along. So the more contempt you have for the other side, the less likely it is you’ll ever reconsider your own beliefs"

Why Tech Support Is (Purposely) Unbearable - The New York Times - "According to a survey conducted last year by the industry group International Customer Management Institute, or ICMI, 92 percent of customer service managers said their agents could be more effective and 74 percent said their company procedures prevented agents from providing satisfactory experiences. Moreover, 73 percent said the complexity of tech support calls is increasing as customers have become more technologically sophisticated and can resolve simpler issues on their own. Many organizations are running a cost-per-contact model, which limits the time agents can be on the phone with you, hence the agony of round-robin transfers and continually being placed on hold... “Don’t think companies haven’t studied how far they can take things in providing the minimal level of service,” Mr. Robbins said. “Some organizations have even monetized it by intentionally engineering it so you have to wait an hour at least to speak to someone in support, and while you are on hold, you’re hearing messages like, ‘If you’d like premium support, call this number and for a fee, we will get to you immediately.’” The most egregious offenders are companies like cable and mobile service providers, which typically have little competition and whose customers are bound by contracts or would be considerably inconvenienced if they canceled their service. Not surprisingly, cable and mobile service providers are consistently ranked by consumers as providing the worst customer support... Especially frustrating when talking to tech support is not being understood because you are trying to communicate with machines or people who have been trained to talk like machines, either for perceived quality control or because they don’t speak English well enough to go off-script... "when you say something back to me that makes no sense, now I see that all these words I spoke have had no effect whatsoever on what’s happening here.” When things don’t make sense and feel out of control, mental health experts say, humans instinctively feel threatened... be aware that your words are being recorded and might be printed on posters in the call center... apps like Lucy Phone and Fast Customer will wait on hold for you and call you when an actual person picks up. No need to stoke your rage listening to grating hold music."
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes