Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Bryant (
22 Aug 1996 13:40:34 -0600

In article <4vab6k$>, Susan <>
> (Bryant) wrote:

>>My trouble started, I think, when I
>>suggested that demanding evidence and testing predictions allows one to
>>better approximate the nature of an object/subject of study than other
>>ways of knowing.
>I think you're right. Words like "better" are just the kind of thing I'm
>talking about. It is definitely better if you're already operating in a
>scientific frame. But if you're not, then assuming that scientific
>evidence is better is just sending up a red flag to those who do not
>automatically assume a scientific stance.

I'm sure you're bored to death with this topic, but I'd like to ask for
some clarification, because this really confuses me. If I state that my
criteria for "better" ways of learning about the world include
predictability, and then assert that hypothesis testing generates more
predictive models than ESP or biblical literalism or postmodern
deconstructionism (three widely divergent non-hypothesis testing ways of
looking at the world), I don't see why any red flags should go up at all.

>>I find that kind of anecdotal evidence "suspect," not "frustraiting." I
>>may have the impression that hispanic males are very aggressive fellows,
>>but when I ran 120-odd subjects through the wringer and got their
>>fighting history and all, I found that there are no racial differences to
>>aggressiveness in UNM's students except one: blacks are less prone to
>>pick fights.
>Interesting-- is this published anywhere?

We just finished up the main paper from that (we'll submit it this coming
week. It's on developmental stability and psychometric intelligence, a
critique of some aspects of the hereditarian school of IQ study). I'd be
happy to send you a copy of that, if you're interested. It's pretty short.

So, next week, we'll start with the aggression paper. My hunch (described
above) isn't the topic of the paper, but we do mention racial effects,
because that's standard for psych journals. Kinda funny that we didn't
just fail to support Rushton's take (that blacks are inherently more
violent), but that we found contradicting evidence (blacks in our study
had less fighting history than other guys).

>The problem with anecdotal evidence is that experience is a very powerful
>thing. It is very difficult to convince someone that what they
>experienced is somehow flawed, particularly if they have some emotional
>energy invested in it.

Very true. Even folks who should "know better" than to trust their
impressions as data do it. Our brains are built to, I guess. I can do
all the studies I want, show that black college students are less
aggressive than others, etc. But the kid who was jumped by a black kid
ten years ago won't be convinced.

>There is a facinating literature on created
>memories about this. People who believe they remember something
>typically only become more convinced they are right in the face of
>challenges to the accuracy of those memories.

Fascinating! 'Didn't know that. An editor I know caught a lot of
flack for publishing articles critical of recovered memory therapy in a
psychology magazine. A lot of unfair assumptions were made about her
motives--another thing our human brains seem geared to do.

>how this would happen. On top of that, people tend to interpret
>experience within the framework of what they already believe about the
>world. So if people do believe that some groups are more agressive, they
>are much more likely to intrepret their behavior as agressive, which
>confirm what they already beileve.

Interesting anecdote: my mentor and I are writing a paper on stress and
human behavior. We were looking through the psychological literature on
father absence and adolescent behavior. Male aggressiveness seems to be
higher in boys with fathers absent. The finding seems sound, with
different measures finding the same thing. But we noted with amusement
that one study asked elementary school teachers about their male students'
aggressive behaviors. The teachers, of course, reported greater
aggressiveness in the kids whose fathers were not living at home. But,
they only reported this about the boys who the teachers *knew* had no
father. Other kids who grew up in father-absent homes weren't reported to
be particularly aggressive!

>>Yes, scientists have shown that female orgasm "upsucks" sperm. Sperm
>>motility is still a predictor of success in sperm competition, however.
>My understanding is that the egg also undergoes chemical changes which
>facilitate sperm entry.

I think that's right. A chemical gradient is followed by the sperm, I

>And the point I was trying to make is which is
>the more important-- sperm motility or egg facilitation?? Seems to me
>you need both.

Agreed. Female reproductive strategies are much more complex than they'd
been credited with being in the past. The female reproductive tract is
*not* simply a sperm recepticle!

Male bias has played an unfortunate role in the retardation of research
paths in biology and psychology for a long time. Many laughed at Darwin's
notion of female mate choice being responsible for the evolution of ornate
plumage and song, because his thinking required that "fickle" females
exert steady selection pressure on males over a number of generations.

A prof I know was literally laughed at when he suggested cryptic female
choice in insects. What I've meant to say is that I don't think that
these kinds of bias inevitably taint theory. Bias (I think) does more to
direct where research effort goes than to shaping test results.

>>Your assumptions above (that scientists call sperm "bullets" and the
>>like) sound to me (no offense intended) more like something out of a
>>Women's Study text than a biology text or biology dept. conversation.
>Two responses-- (1) I wasn't assuming the terminology, I have seen
>it myself in everything from kids' sex manuals to Planned Parenthood
>leaflets; I also have a reference at home (I'll try to remember to
>bring it in) which cites numerous biology textbooks which use this

Mia culpa. I guess I illustrated the tendency we discussed above, to
assume our personal experience has wider applicability!

>and (2) don't assume (!) that "Women's Studies" texts are
>inherently flawed because they explicitly consider alternative points of
>view. I would argue that those who challenge the status quo are not
>inherently more biased than those who seek to defend it. There are
>strident and moderate voices on both sides.

To be fair, I've only read a few such books. One, which I'd love to track
back down, was explicitely about a feminist view of behavioral biology.
If you have any titles to recommend, I'd be interested in reading 'em.

>>everywhere, a generation of scientists is coming of age which finds ol'
>>boy sexism truly objectionable.

>My position would be that while women have
>certainly made great strides, "everything" is far from equal. But when
>he said that, there was general agreement that this was true.

That's unfortunate. I think that academic feminism's more oft quoted
representatives have done a lot of harm in this regard. Simple "equity"
feminism would probably get a lot of support, at least in academia. But
the folks who say that all men are rapists, etc., doom their ideas because
men can introspect honestly, and a good number of them can come away
saying "nope, I'm not into sexual coercion." (For example.)

>>Life scientists worry about describing stuff, while social
>>scientists fret about how that information might be abused.
>And therein lies the problem for some social scientists (as I said
>above), and some of whom see it as less than honest to not be concerned
>about how their information can be abused. It's a tough issue, and one
>that everyone has to address in their own framework.

Agreed. That said, I think that Dobzshansky (sp?!) was a fine example of
a life scientist (a Nobel winning geneticist) who was quick to publically
denounce abuses of his research by the politically motivated. Science
simply cannot become about making folks feel good. It's got to be as
objective an effort as possible, or it will become little more than an
adventure in dialectics.

>Ouch! Another big difference-- my husband, who studies parasite
>microbiology, is fond of saying "if you need more than a T test, you
>should repeat the experiment." His brother, who is a statistically
>oriented sociologist, just loves it when he says that!

:) I know of two types of ecology profs: ones that use grad slaves to do
sophisticated stats for them, and ones that set up all experiments so that
a chi-square test will do the trick.