Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bad Science

Another excellent post from Mark Liberman over on Language Log, looking at problems in another piece of research that claims to prove that that boys' brains work differently than girls and so therefore we need to have separate schools for boys and girls:

This is my favorite part -- it comes near the end, after Liberman had worked through all of Sax's many errors:

Now, there are probably group differences by sex and age in emotional processing. And Sax might be right to argue that single-sex education is a good idea. But in presenting this narrative of males as emotional children, Sax is not telling us about the established conclusions of scientific research, despite his display of powerful authority-symbols ("her associates at Harvard", "sophisticated MRI imaging"). He's projecting his own prejudices onto a small and limited experiment with equivocal results, which disagree in part with other experiments (like the one I surveyed in my earlier post).

Leonard Sax should be ashamed of himself for trying to use such spectacularly overinterpreted science to advance his social agenda. Professors like me should be ashamed for not educating more of our public intellectuals to be able to evaluate such advocacy in a sensible and responsible way -- I'm sorry to say that Sax is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where I teach.

I'm sorry to say most of the public won't read the Language Log. Won't read the blogs. Won't read anything but Ann Coulter and Time Magazine -- if that -- and will get their data from their local news and from Bill O'Reilly and Rush and will continue to believe that boys and girls "really do" think differently and the welfare mothers "really are" having babies just to get bigger checks and that PETA "really is" a terrorist organization and and the ACLU "really does" hate God and hate America and the feminists "really do" hate men and all the rest of it.

Sorry. I watched Good Night, and Good Luck last night. It depressed me unduly.

If you haven't watched it yet, you should, even though it will probably depress you too.

1 comment:

Ramblings said...

Saw your Jack Black comment. I guess my love of Jack Black gives hope against the diatribe of generalizations/assumptions. We'll win out, one person at a time over the uninformed.