Evolution produced monogamous women, but men…

The view that men are “designed by evolution” to impregnate when they can has been used to explain, if not justify, rape.  But surely its too simplistic to be true.  We are a social species and rape is destructive in too many ways.

As far as I know, we now have argument # 3 on this blog  against the hypothesis that rape is an evolutionary imperative, as opposed to simply morally adhorrent. (For the others, see here and here.)   And it’s in today’s NY Times.  The argument is qualified, but more importantly it shows the potential complexity in the situation. 

What’s the argument?  Well, if the research is correct it turns out that the scent of  a women in a fertile period actually turns off men already in relationships.  It is all done below consciousness.  Successful reproduction is helped by partners also invested in providing for their children.  Evolution has selected for men who react in ways that enhance their fidelity.**

There are more details.  It is worth a read, but I don’t have time to check out the research.  If you do, and see a problem, please let us know.  We love articles on how the press distorts science and/or on how science can get confused on gender issues.

**Pace all those who are irritated by the idea of evolution as some active quasi-deliberate force, of whom I am one.

Slurp, etc

From the Wall Street journal

Have you ever thought that Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling books were a bit on the formulaic side — from the punchy titles to the clean white covers to the mix of academic research and pop science? Check out the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator, a Web site launched yesterday that cranks out Gladwell-like book titles. Sample: “Power: How Power Powerfully Powers Power.” The Observer has a story on one of the site’s creators, who says he’s a Gladwell fan. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery?

And, of course, the Requisite Kitten Book:

Wisconsin Protests

Boing Boing has called it the Midwest Tahrir. The Wisconsin governor, a Tea Partier, is attempting to push through an enormous attack on public sector workers, the most appalling of which is the attempt to end their collective bargaining rights. But they ARE not just accepting it. The protests have been massive, and the Democratic legislators needed for a quorum have gone into hiding, refusing to return until the governor agrees to negotiate. And some think this is just the beginning.

Inspiring stuff. To thank the Democrats in hiding, go here. To clear up some misconceptions, go here. (Thanks, Kitchen-Chick!)

Happy Family Day

It’s Family Day in Canada, or at least, observed in many provinces.  It’s also President’s Day in the U.S.A., but I can’t help thinking that if one of these were to be acknowledged on FP, it should be Family.

Routledge proudly announces…

We are thrilled to announce that A Philosophy of Computer Art, by Dominic Lopes and The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy, edited by Dean Moyar, have been selected as Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2010. Below, you will find more information about these titles, and links to order a complimentary e-inspection copy or to recommend the book to your librarian


Of the thirty distinguished authors in Moyan’s book, two are women.

This not my field. Are there facts about the area that could explain this?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

So where are the women and why aren’t they prominent figures at philosophy conferences?

In many ways, this blog has been concerned with the absence of women.  We have looked at conferences, book collections and degree and employment figures, where women are entirely absence or significantly underrepresented.   A recent article by Ceci and Williams has claimed that it is elements of choice, not discrimination, that are holding women back.  Their claim has gotten some attention, including attention on this blog, here and here  In the second post Jender picks up on an article by Alison Gopnik, and I’m going to highlight a quite different part of Gopnik’s article, one that relates to recent discussion here and on other blogs.

 It is easy to get the impression that there’s an element of choice significantly operating in the absence of women.  And surely that has got to be right in some way.  Some women seem to have too many invitations and they choose to decline some.  Some women also have strong family obligations that interrupt their participation in conferences, and lead to their declining invitations.  In addition, as Ceci and Williams point out, women often do not have the resources men have, and this impacts their participation and publications.   

But Gopnik highlights another that must be taken seriously.  If one reads the vignettes that show up on Jender’s blog about being a women in philosophy, it seems an almost inevitable conclusion.  As Gopnik puts it:


Why does gender lead to unequal resources? … Women drop out in ever greater numbers as they advance along the academic pipeline that leads from graduate school to first job and beyond. They often settle in jobs at lower tier schools with fewer resources and fail to even apply for publications, grants, or the best jobs at the best universities. Perhaps these women are simply choosing to have fewer resources. …. But as Ceci and Williams admit, …[experimental ] studies show that women are subject to bias from the very start of their careers. Is it any wonder that many of them, keenly aware that their efforts are being downgraded compared to those of men, would withdraw from a competition that is systematically unfair? 

 Obviously, choices depend on alternatives, and the factors influencing women’s alternatives in philosophy raise all of the issues we have been addressing.

Gopnik on Tierney

Awesome article.

[John Tierney, in the NY Times, cited] a new paper by Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that, he claimed, contradicts the “assumption that female scientists [face] discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias.” But, in fact, the paper’s authors make a narrower argument, and some of the evidence they present suggests that female scientists almost certainly do face discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias…

Here’s what Ceci and Williams show: That women with the same resources as men are just as likely to get their papers, grants, and job applications accepted. While this might appear to mean that women scientists don’t face discrimination, in fact, it’s quite compatible with the strong experimental evidence that there is bias against women….

They found that when you factor in women’s circumstances—for example, what kinds of teaching loads they have, whether they are at research universities, whether they have young children, and so on—then the correlation between sex and success goes away. Overall, female scientists have fewer resources than male scientists, just as poor people have less access to health care. But if you compare male and female scientists with identical resources you find that the women are just as likely to be successful. Ceci and Williams put it this way in their discussion of the number of journal articles women published: “The primary factor affecting women’s productivity was structural position. When type of institution, teaching load, funding, and research assistance were factored in, the productivity gap completely disappeared (which is not to say discrimination has not influenced these factors in the real world).”…

Science reporters are supposed to understand these complexities and explain them to their readers—not claim, in spite of the evidence, that sex discrimination is a figment of the biased liberal imagination.