Notre Dame refiles its HHS lawsuit

The University of Notre Dame announced yesterday that it would be refiling its lawsuit against the HHS mandate (dismissed last spring) regarding contraceptive health care coverage. University president, Rev. John Jenkins wrote:

The government’s accommodations would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the university cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission. . . The U.S. government mandate, therefore, requires Notre Dame to do precisely what its sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit — pay for, facilitate access to, and/or become entangled in the provision of objectionable products and services or else incur crippling sanctions.

How sincere those religious beliefs are remains to be seen.


Math and Philosophy Summer Camp for Women

Summer School on


LMU Munich

July 27 – August 2, 2014


The Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP) is organizing the first Summer School on Mathematical Philosophy for Female Students, which will be held from July 27 to August 2, 2014 inMunich, Germany. The summer school is open to excellent female students who want to specialize in mathematical philosophy.

Since women are significantly underrepresented in philosophy generally and in formal philosophy in particular, this summer school is aimed at encouraging women to engage with mathematical methods and apply them to philosophical problems. The summer school will provide an infrastructure for developing expertise in some of the main formal approaches used in mathematical philosophy, including theories of individual and collective decision-making, agent-based modeling, and epistemic logic. Furthermore, it offers study in an informal setting, lively debate, and a chance to strengthen mathematical self-confidence and independence for female students. Finally, being located at the MCMP, the summer school will also provide a stimulating and interdisciplinary environment for meeting like-minded philosophers.

LECTURERS: Rachael Briggs (ANU), Catrin Campbell-Moore (MCMP), Sebastian Lutz (MCMP), Conor Mayo-Wilson (MCMP), Gil Sagi (MCMP), Sonja Smets (Amsterdam), Florian Steinberger  (MCMP)

ORGANIZERS: Stephan Hartmann, Catherine Herfeld, Hannes Leitgeb, Kristina Liefke

APPLICATION: For details about the application procedure, have a look at the above-mentioned
webpage. The deadline for application is 15 February 2015.

Cordelia Fine on neurosexism

Cordelia Fine has written a stunning takedown of the much-reported latest findings about brains and gender.

To give a sense of the huge overlap in behaviour between males and females, of the twenty-six possible comparisons, eleven sex differences were either non-existent, or so small that if you were to select a boy and girl at random and compare their scores on a task, the “right” sex would be superior less than 53% of the time.

Even the much-vaunted female advantage in social cognition, and male advantage in spatial processing, was so modest that a randomly chosen boy would outscore a randomly chosen girl on social cognition – and the girl would outscore the boy on spatial processing – over 40% of the time.

As for map-reading and remembering conversations, these weren’t measured at all.

Yet the authors describe these differences as “pronounced” and as reflecting “behavioural complementarity” – scientific jargon-speak for “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. Rather than drawing on their impressively rich data-set to empirically test questions about how brain connectivity characteristics relate to behaviour, the authors instead offer untested stereotype-based speculation. Even though, with such considerable overlap in male/female distributions, biological sex is a dismal guide to psychological ability.

People are still saying this??


Scientists have drawn on nearly 1,000 brain scans to confirm what many had surely concluded long ago: that stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains.

Maps of neural circuitry showed that on average women’s brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men’s brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.

Mr Jender, who sent the link to me, writes:

Now, my very basic understanding of neuroscience is that connections are drawn through experience; so that if, say, a young child were raised to value social relationships above all, that child’s brain scans would likely show those parts associated with that trait lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. In other words, wouldn’t this study just show the effects of what we place as values for individuals throughout their lives?

It seems to me Mr Jender is likely to be right. Looking forward to the Bad Science column sure to be published on this in the same newspaper this version is from.