Print Story That's no moon
By TheophileEscargot (Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 02:08:01 PM EST) Reading, Politics, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Delusions of Gender". Vague thoughts on politics. Links.

What I'm Reading
Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine. Interesting book by a science journalist pointing out that research suggesting innate brain differences between the sexes has been heavily exaggerated, especially in the popular press. It doesn't mean that no differences exists, but the certainty and scale of them seems to have been heavily exaggerated; and social differences tend to be interpreted as innate brain differences. She calls the association of this with traditional stereotyping "neurosexism"

In the first part of the book, Fine points out some problems in the studies. For example, if you ask people to fill in questionnaires about how empathic they are, women report that they are much better at reading emotions and thoughts than men. But Fine points out that there are other studies that try to test this directly, by secretly videorecording two participants, getting them to report on what they were thinking and feeling, then getting them to guess what the other participant thought and felt. Despite women's self-reported greater empathy, they don't seem to actually exhibit it.

Fine also reports on how before taking gender-differentiating tests, (for instance, men are better able to mentally rotate objects), the subjects can be primed with information on which sex is supposed to do better. When men are told that object-rotation is associated with greater ability at fashion design and interior decoration, their object-rotation ability declines. When women are told they are expected to do worse, their performances gets worse; when better, they do better. When a reward of $2 per correct answer is offered, both sexes start to do better at their weaker tests.

These corrections don't necessarily wipe out all the gender-related differences. But when you consider that a lifetime of practice and social conditioning is also involved, the differences seem less significant.

In the later half of the book, Fine goes through the research and many books on male and female brains, pointing out that the assertions are generally exaggerated, and sometimes completely false or self-contradictory. I found this section less interesting, as it seems a bit like shooting fish in a barrel at times. But I've read Love of Shopping is Not a Gene (diary) The Myth of Mars and Venus and (diary) so this is fairly familiar territory.

Towards the end there's a bit more interesting content as Fine investigates how even young children are subject to social influences on gender, subject to peer pressure; and well aware of gender roles even when their parents think they have been neutral. She also points out that supposed male-female differenced vary between cultures. She points out that despite the theory of "greater male variability" that more males lie at the extremes and therefore more men will be very good at maths, in some cultures women do very well even in the Maths Olympiad.

The book's copiously footnoted with plenty of references. The actual content is only 239 pages, so the hardback's not great value: might be better waiting for the paperback.

Overall, interesting content, decently written, worth reading.

Guardian, Socimages, NY Times, Washington Post reviews. Interview. Author site. Excerpt.

Vague thoughts on politics
Saw an interesting phrase in this US article "the libertarian nihilist hates government so much that he'd rather see it malfunction than work as well as it possibly can."

That brought to mind the Vodafone tax write-off. After cutting the numbers and the budget of tax-collectors, the government seems to be losing large amounts of tax revenue.

George Monbiot suspect that this may be deliberate. David Cameron wants to redefine what fairness means. To him, the rich are virtuous and the poor are scroungers, so true fairness means making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Or "giving people what they deserve"

However there's probably little appetite in the UK for blatant tax cuts for the rich right now. So, slashing away the tax-collectors might be a good Libertarian Nihilist way of achieving the same end. By rendering the government less capable of collecting taxes from the rich, he can achieve the same end of reducing their taxes, without having to justify it to the voters.

At the other end of the scale, there is the much-hyped crackdown on the "habit of worklessness". Chris Dillow has done a bit of number crunching on how many people with this habit there really are. He points out that before the recession, there were 108,000 people claiming Job-Seekers Allowance for over a year, which is an upper limit on the number of supposed workshy scroungers1. Now, that's still under 7% of the number of people, so at least 93% of people claiming are just doing it temporarily.

In other words, the vast majority of JSA claimants are using the system as intended. But Cameron and Osborne don't want people to think of them as fellow citizens using a safety net they've helped pay for to get them through a rough patch; but an underclass of scroungers, and making a fuss helps cement that impression.

Politics Footnote 1
That doesn't mean there are definitely that many deliberate scroungers. Some of the 108,000 will have been genuinely looking for work for more than a year. Some of them will be unemployable under any circumstances: out of the UK's population of 61 million, I wouldn't be surprised if close to 100,000 were just too stupid, unstable or addicted to hold down a job.

Video. Useful dog tricks. Hey kids, we're going to Disney! Urban Morris Dancing. Evolution of Line Rider. How to talk like Michael Caine. Casteller human pyramids.

Socioeconomics. Zombies symbolize bourgeois fear of the working class. Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?

Random. Brand recognition quiz (I got 13/25).

Pics. Russian city outskirts. Moon.

Sci/Tech. Gamma ray bubbles, via.

Update [2010-11-10 22:6:26 by TheophileEscargot]:
Attention Breaker Infidel
When discussing the daft charges levelled at UAF official Weyman Bennett after the Bolton protest in March I said:

You like predictions, so here's one from me: either the charge against Weyman Bennett will be dropped, or he will be found innocent. I expect to be judged on this, and will apologize if I'm wrong.
Just heard:
The police have dropped all charges against leading UAF members Weyman Bennett and Rhetta Moran arising from the demonstration against the racist English Defence League in March.
< Broken Briton | (almost) For None now live who remember it. >
That's no moon | 31 comments (31 topical, 0 hidden)
My sister is a tax collector by Herring (4.00 / 2) #1 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 02:22:41 PM EST
She's currently trying to get £26m out of a particular company. Every time HMRC turn up for a meeting, they are faced with massed ranks of tax accountants and lawyers. They just don't have the resources to pursue it properly.

Can't find the numbers, but I am assured that tax fraud costs us (the taxpayers) far more than benefit fraud. For some reason, not paying tax is "sticking it to the man" but claiming benefits is "scrounging".

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

Tax gap and benefits gap by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #2 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 02:32:55 PM EST
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
libertarian nihilism by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 02:41:54 PM EST
this describes, to some degree, the modern republica party.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
To some degree by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 04:29:19 PM EST
on the other hand, there are those like Ron Paul who are more like confederates. Alleged "constitutionalists" whose goals is to remove all power from the federal government and hand unlimited power to the states (boolean "or to the people").

This is widely favored by anyone who thinks that the US congress is too transparent, that member's voting is too widely known, and that it requires bribes and "contributions" that are too high.


[ Parent ]
one of the more bizarre political developments by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 06:47:54 PM EST
of the last year has been the surgence of calls for the abolition of the 17th amendment.

i mean: lets' have state legislators elect senators! awesome! that's a great way to make politics more transparent.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
17th amendment by Alan Crowe (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 03:27:20 PM EST
Sex differences by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 04:03:33 PM EST
That argument is only half the issue.  The other half is that there is no way of knowing that observed differences are actually "innate".  (I.e. genetically determined.)  Cross-gender heritability tests are essentially impossible as only an idiot would argue that men and women don't face fundamentally different environments growing up.

In other words, even if you show that men can mentally rotate objects better than women to a statistically significantly level, you can't say whether this is because of a difference between the X and Y chromosomes or because boys are more likely to get Lego and girls more likely to get dolls.

Having raised a young child, it is pretty obvious that any attempt to raise a child "gender neutral" is utterly doomed to failure.  Grandma buys the Lego and the other kids in class say "pink is for girls"
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Innate by ni (4.00 / 2) #12 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 09:26:37 PM EST
Although I almost entirely agree with you, I have to quibble a touch: if it's impossible, it's at least not inherently so. You just need a mechanism of testing the intelligence of children immediately post-birth. More dubiously, we can imagine child-in-a-box type experiments.

This wouldn't satisfy any maternal effect steeped biologist, but it would get you pretty far toward showing that innate differences were present.

This isn't to say that I think your objection isn't sound -- it's just to say that it is, in some sense, a practical problem.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
This only seems off-topic ... by BlueOregon (4.00 / 2) #13 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 11:08:16 PM EST
More dubiously, we can imagine child-in-a-box type experiments.

The following is from the beginning of chapter 5 in our 1st year German textbook, Kontakte:

"Jutta repairs her brother" vs. "Jutta repairs the radio for her brother." My students are 'learning' (for some idiosyncratic definition of learning) the dative case and about indirect objects. One student's initial reaction, upon seeing the picture but not yet reading the text, was "Is she ripping his head off?"

Someday 'repairing the brother' may only be a 'practical problem.'

[ Parent ]
Sidebar: by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #18 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 04:31:51 AM EST
That is my most-hated feminine German vorname and you should feel bad for posting it.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
ROFL by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #25 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 11:34:22 AM EST
Anecdotal I know by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 04:45:04 PM EST
But yes, in my work the very long-term unemployed (and there aren't actually that many of them) I meet are so badly socialised or unstable that they just cannot hold down a job. There is an answer to this, but it involves a generation of care to make sure the next generation breaks the cycle rather than just stopping their money.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Well by Herring (4.00 / 3) #7 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 05:04:50 PM EST
Taking away their money, homes and food will solve the problem.

Unless they figure out how to steal.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Being devil's advocate a bit by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #10 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 08:20:05 PM EST
Is that incompatible with what IDS is proposing here? That by (re-)introducing the parents to the rhythm of work, even if on the government payroll, you give the kids a better chance of understanding what it means?

I don't care for the idea of the deserving rich, and think it's especially farcical somewhere like the UK, but work-for-the-dole programs have had some success elsewhere. The two can be separated.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Could work by Merekat (4.00 / 4) #19 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 05:12:29 AM EST
But probably won't work.

If people work-for-benefits, they should be getting at least the legal minimum wage for it, otherwise it is exploitation and there is an incentive for govt. to get cheap labour that way. This 1 pound extra thing is just nasty.

Also, the assessment of who is fit to work must not be done by outsourced unaccountable private agencies who are paid according to targets of how many people they say are fit for work. Like it is now.

[ Parent ]
Maybe I have too much of a fascist streak by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 09:19:17 PM EST
But you are already paying a welfare recipient $x for no work. That's a pretty good rate. So long as the work-for-dole element is significantly less than a full week, that rate is going to stay pretty high. You can't set an additional rate at the actual minimum wage because then there is no reason for people to move on. Encouraging people into work is supposed to be a big reason for establishing work-for-dole or workfare or whatever you are calling the system.

The caveat is I haven't crunched the numbers - I just had a glance around at the policy document and the numbers aren't foregrounded - so there might well be some nastiness hidden in this proposal I don't realise. Underinformed commentary on the internet, what are the odds, but there are other countries with similar systems.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
reason to move on by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #28 Fri Nov 12, 2010 at 09:15:34 AM EST
I assume the actual work-for-dole jobs are not just cheap but actually not pleasant or there would be people who would actually do them for min wage (given what I saw people actually doing for that). That aspect should enourage people to move on and if they don't, well something useful will still be being done with taxpayer money e.g. public facilities cleaned/maintained.

Like I said, I think the concept could work but I wouldn't trust either the current or previous UK government to get it right.

[ Parent ]
Maybe by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #30 Sat Nov 13, 2010 at 12:39:04 AM EST
The projects I have seen are more like public works projects that require unskilled labour. Eg there is a boardwalk through mangroves in a national park nearby that was built as a work for the dole project. Without a boardwalk either the area would be either trashed or inaccessible.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
I have doubts as to whether it will happen by Herring (2.00 / 0) #31 Sat Nov 13, 2010 at 05:57:04 AM EST
Seems more like grandstanding for the media. The logistics would be difficult.

Of course, they might just pay Group 4 or someone to run it for £12 trillion and hope they don't kill too many.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
What Merekat said by nebbish (4.00 / 2) #22 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 06:32:57 AM EST
In principle though, yes it could possibly work, you're right. I think it'd need to be done with a lot of delicacy.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Brand recognition: by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #8 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 05:13:10 PM EST
I've recently watched the documentary film Helvetica and if you've seen it, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Haven't seen it by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #15 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 02:17:05 AM EST
I'm not that into typefaces. With Times New Roman for business use and Comic Sans MS for personal, who needs more?
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Comic Sans is the pinnacle of western typography. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #17 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 04:20:35 AM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
You will take my Wing Dings by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #24 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 07:37:42 AM EST
From my cold, dead keyboard!

[ Parent ]
Counter links by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 08:27:12 PM EST
A few related ideas on the same topics I've seen lately:

Really liked the Moscow pastoral. Moscow and other communist cities develop like circus tents.

Zombies symbolize the banality of American mass evil stomping into the world.

Iambic Web Certified

Circus tents by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #14 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 01:59:06 AM EST
Very interesting. Without strong property rights I would have expected the opposite, city centre buildings regularly bulldozed for the latest prestige project.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I recall some of Moscow getting that treatment by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #16 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 03:54:11 AM EST
There was a famous cathedral demolished for a bridge and then rebuilt post-USSR. Not as much as with the market, I guess. I've only been a tourist there.

The situation with the Beijing hutongs seems to be a nasty combination of both - a functioning property market, but where property rights can still be stomped by the government if they so please.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Mon Dieu! by darkbrown (4.00 / 1) #20 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 05:25:07 AM EST
The Mon Biot link has broken somehow, should be

WIPO by Phage (4.00 / 1) #21 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 06:09:43 AM EST
Incomprehensible ?
Opaque ?

Curiously by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #23 Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 07:37:15 AM EST
I cannot find a MSM article on Weymann Bennett's charges being dropped.  Or the reasons why the coppers dropped the charges.  Is this an agenda, or oversight?  Plenty of the MSM websites carried news of the arrest, though.

But still, you were right, and you win 2.6 internets.

Gender and etc by duxup (4.00 / 1) #29 Fri Nov 12, 2010 at 02:37:50 PM EST

With our boy we don't go out of our way to do any gender neutral stuff, but at the same time I admit I don't pick pink toys out for him, and stuff I do with him like wrestling is likely more emphasized than say if he was a girl.   It is pretty darned hard to really stick to anything close to being neutral with that stuff.

As for "we're going to Disney".  What is up with Frodo Baggins there?

I only got 7 of the logos.  :(


That's no moon | 31 comments (31 topical, 0 hidden)