In this context...indignation that only one in ten science professors is female doesn't seem all that bad. It also goes some way to explaining why, in almost 110 years of Nobel Prize history, only two women have ever won the Prize for physics, only four have won the Prize for chemistry and why no women at all have ever won the coveted Fields Medal for mathematics in eight decades of trying.Making this argument is pretty much exactly as ludicrous as saying the fact that no women were recorded to have voted in federal elections before 1920 shows us that women are, on average, less politically inclined than men. And Lynn's article is chock full of such gems.
When I expressed my horror on twitter, a friend wrote back saying "It's the Daily Mail! And it's Richard Lynn!" In other words, don't waste your time. Yes, this is Richard Lynn, staunch advocate of The Bell Curve, eugenics, and other racist pseudo-science. And yes, the Daily Mail isn't exactly the Wall Street Journal. But, sorry, I just can't bring myself to sit this one out. Because the fact that Richard Lynn can still call himself a scientist, and his theories and the evidence he provides to back them up can be thought of as scientific, is an embarassment to every real scientist out there, and to those of us working our tails off to put the letters P, H, and D after our names.
Jezebel rightly points out that people make arguments such as "X group is just naturally better at A, B or C" to avoid addressing social inequalities that would be painful to remove. But the fact that those social inequalities exist make it impossible to answer a question about whether men or women are naturally more or less intelligent. Characteristics such as sex and race are immutable, and inseperable from their underlying genetic identifiers, meaning there's no way to observe the effect of having a "female" or "black" genotype without having the accompanying socialization that people with those characteristics experience. (Yes, there are phenomena such as "passing", race is socially constructed, people can choose to associate with one race or the other, and individuals can choose a different gender than the one their sex characteristics assign, or, for that matter, be born intersex. But, by and large, individuals with female sexual characteristics will be treated as female, at least for certain formative years, and people with black skin will be treated as black.) So if, for example, female children are encouraged to play with dolls and not fire, on average, we cannot separate the effect of this female socialization from the genetic makeup of femaleness. Because of this, no scientific data can answer the question Lynn claims he knows the answer to. If you had an unlimited budget to run a randomized experiment, you could not design one that would separate the impact of genetics on intelligence versus the impact of society's reaction to the observable pieces of those genetics. Lynn's "scientific hypothesis" is really a Fundamentally Unidentified Question. In other words, FUQed.
When the Harvard law racist email scandal broke, Jesse Taylor over at Pandagon noted that the fact that people were always asking whether black individuals are genetically less intelligent than white individuals, but never the reverse, revealed that their true motivation was racism, not scientific inquiry. But I'd go one step further: Anyone who asks any question of the form "Is X group more [socially constructed characteristics] than Y" is not doing so out of intellectual curiosity. It doesn't matter if we're asking "Are black individuals smarter than white individuals" or the opposite--it's still a bad question, and it's still not science. Not just for the reason above, but also because the concept of intelligence is itself socially defined, and according to a standard which was designed by the very white males who seem to somehow score the highest on it! [Can you imagine a scientist claiming to have definitive proof a certain race was more beautiful than another? It's nonsense--beauty is a socially defined concept, and can't be tested through scientific inquiry.] So even if we remove the genetic piece of it, and just ask, "are men or women, given their genetics and how society treats them, more intelligent?" We can really only answer "more intelligent according to a specific test being administered in a certain way." Lynn claims that because fewer women score in the upper echelon of IQ tests, this means they should be underrepresented at high levels of academia. But is this the case? How do we know the skills measured by IQ tests are the same ones that make a great scientist? So, when we boil it down, the only real scientific question we can answer, given Lynn's data, is "Do men or women score better on a test designed by white men?" I guess that doesn't make as good of a headline.
Scientists ask questions that can be answered through data. Ideologues ask questions that fulfill a social agenda. I have no doubt that there are genetic differences between men and women, between people with European, Asian, and African ancestry, between lefties and righties. But when we call these genetic differences something socially constructed, like intelligence, and, worse, try to answer them with data that cannot separate genetic and social differences, we remove this inquiry from the realm of science. Next time Mr. Lynn wants to ask, are adult men or women, raised under current gender norms, better able to answer a specific set of math questions in a specific context, I'll be right there. Maybe he could join the groundbreaking work of Vesterlund and Niederle, who have shown women who are equally able as men choose to compete less often, and sacrifice their overall payoff as a result. Until then, let's all stop calling him a scientist.