Because “bias” is in the eye of the beholder

Since SFgate reported that Judge Vaughn Walker is gay, several groups opposed to gay rights have apparently claimed that his sexual orientation constitutes a bias that should prevent him from presiding over the Federal trial over California’s Proposition 8.  Despite Walker’s long-standing reputation as an impartial judge,  Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel has said that: “Any decision favoring plaintiffs in this case will be permanently marred and universally viewed as stemming from Judge Walker’s personal biases.”

Of course, this is the same Liberty Counsel that is currently looking to hire a “religious liberty attorney” with “an unquenchable desire to be on the front lines of the culture war that is raging against America’s Christian heritage.”  Presumably, the successful candidate should also have no aspirations to a judicial career.

Just in time for the holidays

The sociobiologists have shown that women’s and men’s different “shopping styles” are rooted in our distant evolutionary past. Man-the-hunter wants to shop for specific items, quickly, and then drag his kill home. Woman-the-gatherer, by contrast, spends hours “trying to find the right outfit, present or object, because [she] had in the past spent ages trying to find the best quality and health giving foods.” The study’s lead author, Daniel Kruger, hopes that understanding each other’s shopping strategies will help men and women to avoid arguments during the Christmas rush. Helpful research, indeed! Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on how our Stone Age ancestors managed to find a good parking spot at the mall.

A (small) step in the right direction

I once attended a public talk on research examining sex differences in the brain.  An audience member (young and female) dared to ask the panelists whether they had measured the ‘degree’ of maleness and femaleness in their participants and was laughed at by the (mostly older and male) scientists.  Even if most scientists working in the area are not so dismissive, it is true that neuroscience research on sex differences takes “female” and “male” to be largely unproblematic concepts.   So I was pleased to see that a recent paper examining brain differences between women and men had correlated the changes they found with results on a test of psychological gender.  Yes, I know that the idea of “psychological gender” is far from straightforward (if even meaningful at all), but I thought that it was great to see scientists trying to think beyond the idea that “biological=innate.”  Let’s at least say that it’s out of the fire and into the frying pan.

(See also this article in Scientific American.)

The superior wife?

Carin Rubenstein’s new book “The Superior Wife Syndrome” is due to be released next week.  According to the book’s website, “this book will make it clear why wives are better than husbands in so many ways; and it will also show you the many reasons why that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.”  Although the website doesn’t hint at how to fix it, the book apparently covers that, too.  A newspaper article about the book says that Rubenstein thinks that women should use their superiority in order to retrain their husbands.  One way of doing this, it seems, is to reward him with sex.  ” ‘He’s like a two-year-old child,” [Rubenstein] says of most husbands. “You have to offer him a piece of candy. You have to work with rewards that are going to work. Sex is one of those.’ “

In praise of stay-at-home moms?

Stay-at-home mothers perusing the Wall Street Journal online will no doubt be gratified to learn that Dr. Laura has written a book in praise of them. After all, they may be so busy “finding value” by looking into their children’s eyes and wrapping their bodies around their husbands’ when they come home from work that they don’t even realize that these “incredible moments…make your life more valuable than the person who replaced you at work.”

Working mothers perusing the Wall Street Journal online should be reassured that, although Dr. Laura believes that mothers should never go back to work, she “didn’t write this book about working moms.” Still, they should also be aware that “during the first three years, the mom should be at home because all of the research shows that the person whose body you come out of and whose breast you suck at, at that stage, really needs to be the mom — unless she’s incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.” Apparently, choosing to work instead of opting to “make a house into a home,” though incompatible with being the mom, is not on its own enough to make a working mother incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial. That fact, plus knowing that Dr. Laura’s “heart hurts” for them, should console working women who will never feel “those pudgy arms around your neck” (presumably not even on evenings or weekends) and whose children will never learn their perspective on “what’s moral and of value.”

(Thanks to Alison Reiheld for circulating the link to the interview.)