Archive for January 26th, 2005

Evolutionary Biology Explains All

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The
Boston Globe
weighed in yesterday (yes, our "real" job
is starting to interfere with our blogging) with their own article on
the science behind Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ comments on women
in the stratosphere of science. It is actually much more soundly
reasoned and unspun than the previous day’s article in sister publication
New York Times.

The Globe article offers the first logical explanation we have heard,
from an evolutionary point of view, of the male dominance at the highest
levels
of science.  It comes from Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, a proponent
of evolutionary biology. We have long been a fan of evolutionary biology
as an overarching context for understanding and explaining human behavior.
The
basic idea
is that
all living organisms tend to behave in ways designed to maximize the chances
of their genes to survive and propagate in future generations.

It obviously doesn’t hold true in every case in the short run (how else
to explain guys who collect comic books and live with their mothers into
their
30’s)
but
remember this is an extemely long-term effect. Over the long haul these
Oedipal onanists will inevitably become extinct.

According to Pinker, the male half of our species not only contains more
geniuses, but also more morons, painfully obvious to anyone who has spent
time in an all-male dormitory or on the professional wrestling circuit. The
explanation for this, according to evolutionary biology, lies in the fact
that high performing men can have hundreds of children, while
even the most brilliant and successful women can only have a dozen or so
kids.

Now, the species benefits if the most talented and genetically endowed
members win the reproductive sweepstakes and have more kids than the dweebs
and dummies.  This is why money and power are aphrodisiacs. Since men
can have so many kids, nature allows them to fall into a wider range of ability
parameters. So what if some of them are incompetent boobs, there will be
plenty at the other end of the extreme to get all the girls and propagate
future generations.  Women reproduce fewer times, so we can’t waste
them, genetically, and need to keep them closer to the mean. Nature tends to play a little more genetic roulette with the males.

At least this is how we understand the theory. It is fascinating to speculate
on how a short term social phenomena – the relative lack of female tenured
professors
in he
physical
sciences
at universities like Harvard – can be connected to the extremely long-term functioning
of evolutionary imperatives.

Once you accept the importance of genetic propagation as a behavioral
motivator, however, much becomes clear. High performing women in the sciences
face a double whammy which significantly lowers their potential to produce,
protect and insure the success of their offspring. First, by devoting the
time to work that is required of a Nobel-worthy scientist, they will be
shortchanging their families, especially their kids if they have them.  Now,
we know that men, especially high-preforming Alpha-type men, have no problem
ignoring their offspring, even denying their existence, and many top male
scientists
are
so engrossed
in their
work
they tend to forget
they even are married and have kids, if they ever remembered to get married
or have kids in the first place. The whole process of procreating is a bit
more complicated and time consuming for women than for men, who really
have to pay attention for only about 90 seconds.

Secondly, due to deeply ingrained psycho-social habits, brainy, successful
women are not seen as desirable for procreative purposes as reasonably
smart but domestically oriented bundles of femininity  The reason
behind this is that basically, the male ego is so fragile that most guys
feel threatened
by women they think are smarter than them. This produces the absurd phenomena
of smart women trying to appear dumber than they really are, and stupid
men trying to appear smart. In terms of evolutionary biology, women can do
more to insure the propagation of their genes by playing dumb and attracting
a rich or smart or physically endowed mate than by going for the golden ring
of scientific stardom.

To the Dowbrigade, all of this stuff is fascinating, and deserves to be
discussed. Unfortunately, the past history of sexual oppression and 5,000
years of patriarchal social dominance make it impossible to consider
these themes impartially or unemotionally. Personally, we don’t see what
everyone is getting so worked up about. So what if most Nobel-level scientists
and Harvard science professors are men?
Most
of
them are neurotic,
driven, obsessed and deeply unhappy individuals with tattered personal
lives and
often perilous personal,
financial
and professional insecurities. Sure, there are a few happy-go-lucky, non-conformist
geniuses, but none of them are on the Harvard faculty either. Be careful
what you wish for ladies, are you sure this is the kind of club you
want to join?

from the Boston Globe

Metro-sexual Newsstand Incest

1

The increasing centralization of media outlets in the
United States is nowhere more apparent than in the traditional powerhouse
of
American Journalism, the daily newspapers. Whereas most major cities
once had 4 or 5 independent dailies, now most are luck to have two papers,
which probably belong to corporate chains. Between them, the Gannett
Co., Knight-Ridder and Rupert Murdock own thousands of papers.

This drama is being played out on a local stage in the ongoing soap
opera in which longtime East Coast old-media heavyweights
and eternal
rivals the Boston Globe and
the New
York Times
, a sort of journalistic
Red Sox – Yankees, buried the hatchet and arrived at an incestuous marriage
of
convenience.
Basically,
the
Times bought the Globe from the Taylor family, finally closing
the corporate door behind what had been the last of the privately held,
family-owned major media outlets. While the corporate suits swore complete
editorial autonomy for the Globe, and the article in the posting above proves the
subsidiary product can occasionally surpass that of the home office,
we all knew the Boston Globe was the Gray Lady’s bitch from that point
on.

Now the New York Times syndicate wants to expand the happy family by
adopting idiot bastard son "The Metro", a daily
tabloid-style paper distributed free on the subway. The Metro, unfortunately,
is a real newspaper, part of a chain which claims 14 million readers
every day in 40 cities in 16 countries worldwide, supported completely
by advertising.
Some of the writing is actually decent, and a lot of it is locally produced, although
the whole idea of boiling the
world
down to an entertaining 15-minute read is somehow intellectually insulting, like getting
an intelligence briefing from Paris Hilton. The Times
proposes buying 49 %
of the local operation, a move made marginally
more difficult by the reportedly liberal
use of racial slurs including the "N" word by Metro executives
at
European conferences, which may play in Prague but doesn’t tend to go
over big in the People’s Republic
by the Charles. There is even a porno
angle
.

Meanwhile, cross-town rival the Boston
Herald
has written the justice
department a whiny letter in protest and the Feds are "investigating". The Herald has
been flagging lately, and has been offering itself at half-price, trying
to simultaneously compete with the Globe on the upper end and the Metro
on the lower.  The idea that their competition are joining forces
has them shitting bricks.

Actually, almost all daily newspapers are supported chiefly by advertising. Our
students are always dumbfounded the first time we go through a copy
of the Globe and we ask them how much they think it costs to produce
and distribute each copy of the paper. Guesses range from ten cents
to 45 cents (considering they get back 50 cents). The actual figure is about
$1.85. When I ask them straight out how a company can produce something
for $1.85 and sell it for $.50, the light usually goes on in at least one kid’s
head and he or she shouts out "Advertising!".

So this media conglomerate has effectively cornering the highbrow
market and the subterranean levels of news distribution in
Metro Boston, leaving the middle ground to the Boston
Herald
and the
near majority of the population who don’t even read a paper daily, get
their news from some other source, or simply don’t give a shit.

Where is our free choice of newspaper POV?  Where is our journalistic smorgasbord?
Where is good old fashioned reporting rivalry, digging for the scoop,
columnists with distinctive voices carping back and forth? Where is the
balls-on prose and the thought-provoking opinion? Where is the vital heart of American journalism today?

We all know the answer
to that one, don’t we?