Thursday Throughput

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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Pinky says:

    ThTh5 – Yeah, I can’t get to it either, I do want to reply to your description of it. You make reference to a possible difference between the sexes in temperament. The argument typically is bigger than that. There appears to be a difference between the sexes in IQ variance. Men are more likely to be extremely smart or extremely stupid.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Pinky says:

      The variance hypothesis is a popular one and I do think it plays a role. But:

      1) Most people in the sciences aren’t THAT far along the bell curve. The difference shouldn’t be quite so dramatic.

      2) That hypothesis is under a lot of fire lately as the data supporting it is thin.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        Well, this is frustrating. I got to the MacDonald article, and it’s based on this point that I just raised, that you somewhat agreed with, but that you chose not to include in your write-up. Instead you said that the article argues “…something”, that dismissing sexism is absurd, and that the article is hot garbage. That’s not a fair way to represent an article that a lot of people might not be able to get to.

        Men do dominate elite Scrabble. There are no female barriers to entry or advancement. It is reasonable to use this as evidence against the idea that greater male achievement is simply a product of institutional bias.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

          There is institutional bias, but that bias isn’t functioning all by itself, there are most certainly other factors at play, and certainly some of them are related to gender differences (see also the gap in societies that work hardest to eliminate institutional bias).

          The focus should be on removing bias and other barriers to entry/opportunity, not on trying to get the gender numbers to be equal.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I agree. But testing fairness by measuring results is intuitive. And it’s not a bad indicator, usually. Results are far more measurable than opportunity, or motivation.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

              It’s a good indicator right up until it isn’t. Once it isn’t, you need to pivot your metrics to something else, not just stand around trying to bend reality to your whims.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Agreed. A lot of our politics in the US these days revolves around whether we’ve passed the point where outcome is a good measure of discrimination.

                I always watched Law and Order and thought, there’s no way a DA could keep hiring women who looked like Jill Hennessy and Angie Harmon without getting sued. Every one of them was hot. All but one of them were brunette. Most of them were petite. The guy had a type. That’s where our national conversation is. We’re trapped between “outcome isn’t a proof of discrimination” and “oh, come on, look at them”.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Pinky says:

          Pinky: Men do dominate elite Scrabble. There are no female barriers to entry or advancement.

          Are you sure there are no such barriers to entry or advancement by women? I’m thinking, I could really like and be good at a game, but if the upper echelons are a viper’s nest of sexual harassment against me, I’m just not going to bother entering the top tournaments or devoting the energy to the level of skill needed to rise through them. My mental health isn’t worth it.

          So, if that turns out to be the case when it comes to top tier Scrabbe, is that a barrier to entry for women or not?Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    The thing about competitive Scrabble is that it isn’t actually about interesting esoteric knowledge, such as obscure words. It is about memorizing strings of characters. That they notionally are English words is irrelevant. The really serious players don’t waste precious brain space with unnecessary stuff like knowing how to use these character strings as English words. This realization is why I pretty much lost interest in the game. So stipulating to group differences in top-level competitive Scrabble, this is a difference in willingness to devote the time and attention to acquire this otherwise useless and uninteresting knowledge base, in pursuit of competitive advantage in a hobby. I would be cautious about deriving broader conclusions from this.Report

    • Note that the prominently displayed word “biten” in the picture is not included in the current official US-English Scrabble dictionary.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      You and Michael both refer to a difference in willingness to devote time and attention to being a top-level Scrabble player. I cannot help but wonder 1) Why would there be a difference between genders and 2) Could it have any relation to women being less prevalent in the sciences.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Reformed Republican says:

        I’ll admit I did not know there was such a thing as a elite Scrabble competitions until this study came out, so it wouldn’t have occurred to me, despite my interest and aptitude in science, to pursue becoming a top-level player. I do know plenty of women who are very good at other sorts of trivia games, having devoted time and attention to those. So I’m not sure why Scrabble has a gender disparity, but the pool one uses for studies is relevant and I honestly wonder how many people know elite Scrabble is even a thing.

        And maybe that has some relevance to the number of women in the sciences, in that for a very long time (and even now in a lot of places) girls simply were not encouraged to pursue science as an interest. The directions we’re pointed in, especially during our early years, do have an influence.

        Honestly, though, I doubt competitive Scrabble would have interested me, despite the fact that I love science and have a terminal degree in engineering. If there is a male/female difference there, I think it has less to do with relative participation in STEM and more to do with relative tendency memorize baseball statistics – something I find profoundly boring, even though I quite enjoyed my graduate classes in applied statistics. In fact, speaking of statistical analysis, if the claim is being made that excelling at Scrabble has some correlation to excelling in science, did this study actually look at the number of elite Scrabble players who have advanced degrees in STEM fields? That strikes me a relevant piece of data to look at here.Report

  3. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    ThTh8: I second the recommendation of the book. What struck me was the total breakdown of corporate governance. The Board of Directors are supposed to represent the interests of the investors and generally be the adults in the room. But the one director who had enough technical knowledge to spot the problem was eased off the board because he was a troublemaker. This isn’t even evil capitalists doing bad things to make money. They lost money off of this. This rather is incompetent capitalists, beguiled by a charismatic founder who looks good in a turtleneck. Then it gets worse. Later rounds of investors looked at the board, saw a bunch of aged-out Republican statesmen and concluded this must be a solid operation. No further due diligence was necessary. It because an affinity scam for rich people. Then there was Safeway and Walgreens, where the people who actually knew about this stuff were saying this didn’t work, much to the annoyance of their superiors. Carreyrou doesn’t push the “failure of modern capitalism” angle, but I wouldn’t expect this from a Wall Street Journal guy. I am impressed at how little beneath the surface he buried it.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I wouldn’t call it a failure of modern capitalism. I would call it a failure of modern capitalists who ignore their own proven best practices in favor of… what, exactly? Charisma, a well fit sweater, echoes of Steve Jobs?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I think it’s a failure of people to understand the difference between confidence and naivete. If someone has never been allowed to fail in her life then of course she’s going to come across as though failure is impossible for her.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      What’s interesting is watching Carreyrou walk the line of criticising Holmes’s boyfriend without inviting calls of racism. Anyone from England would be nodding along saying “yep, yep, yep, that’s what happens, that’s what bloody happens“, though.Report

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