Re: Twin Studies [was Re: HR25Show82099 - BS]

Elizabeth Childs (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 19:49:43 -0700

Phil Osborne said:

> > Women - not all of them, obviously, but way too many - are anti-rational
> > and
> > consistently resist science and technology.

It may be the case that the organized anti-rationalists are disproportionately female, although probably not very much so. Some statistics here would be interesting - gender breakdown of Rifkin-associated groups, for example. Based on my years in Berkeley, I suspect you'd get about 60-40 female.

But the fact that extreme anti-rationalists are disproportionately female does not necessarily imply that most women are anti-rationalist. As an analogy, most murderers are men, by a very large proportion. But most men are not murderers.

It is sometimes hard for men and women to meet intellectually, as men tend to approach an intellectual topic in a more competitive way, while women try to neutrally present their viewpoints and achieve consensus. Men and women also have tendencies to be interested in different topics.

I tend to have a very male style and to be interested in typically male topics.
I have found it difficult to build intellectual relationships with most other women as a result, and even some men who have a more feminine style. There are two mistakes that are easy to make.

The first can happen when a person with a masculine style presents his opinions forcefully. Many women will grow quiet and not respond. Now, if he were presented with a forceful argument with which he disagreed, he would put on a spirited counterargument, and enjoy every minute of it. So the woman's silence is baffling. Are they stupid? Are they cowards? They must be totally unable to mount a coherent defense of their position. What an idiot.

Well, in reality, they just don't enjoy that style of debate. It's probably an evolutionary biology thing - women don't need to compete for status as much, and they may get more internal negative feedback, on average, when they are in conflict with another person. Lots of very quiet, non-confrontational people, most of whom are women, are sitting on mighty intellects. They will let you in on it if you ask them politely what they think.

The other mistake is to assume that just because someone doesn't share your interests or opinions that they aren't capable of rational thought. I believe that there is research suggesting that women, on average, prefer to learn things when they can see what use the knowledge would ultimately be put to, while men are more willing to master something that seems to have no practical purpose, like chess.

I don't see how either preference is innately better than the other, but it will naturally tend to encourage people to pay attention to different things. So, physics students are mostly male by at least a 2-1 ratio, but medical students are a lot closer to 50-50. Both difficult, technical, "rational" topics, but the medical students are motivated to use their knowledge to help people on a day-to-day basis, while the physicists are often more enamored with the sheer beauty of the mathematics. We need both.

>> Look at how they waited until

> >
> > computers became "fashinable" to finally adopt them.

Your use of the term "they" here implies that there are no women in the metaphorical room, and they can thus be discussed in toto without concern for their response. I would appreciate it if you could refrain from making such gross generalizations until I'm out of earshot. Otherwise, I'll be forced to pound my chest, trill the distinctive tune I use to mark my territory, and start listing off my credentials as an early adopter.

Yes, women, on average, have been slower to start using computers than men, although I don't think the gap is all that great. The commercial World Wide Web started in 1995. It's four years later, and I vaguely recall reading that web usage now stands at 50-50 male to female. This isn't much of a lag time, and even in 1995 I think the ratio was something like 67-33.

In the last four years, having a personal computer has become exponentially more useful to the average person than it used to be. Before then, unless a person was interested in games, programming, pornography, spreadsheets, Compuserve, or wordprocessing, there wasn't really a lot you could do with your computer. You wouldn't have to be "irrational" to go to the computer store, decide that there's nothing in your daily life that requires any of these functions, and save several thousand dollars for something else.