Men are extremists.
Men are better at chess than women.
Men also far, far more likely to exhibit
This isn't to suggest that women do not commit heinous crimes any more
than it suggests that the Polgár sisters are aberrations. And it doesn't
examine any possible explanations. But facts are facts.
A well publicized story in recent months concerned the ramifications
from certain remarks made by Dr. Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard
University during a conference on diversity in the Sciences. In
putting forth possible reasons why men so outnumber women in certain
fields, Summers stated, "In the special case of science and engineering
there are issues of intrinsic aptitude. " He continued to explain that
this "intrinsic aptitude" may possibly be more relevant than the more
commonly held opinion that women are victims "socialization and continuing
discrimination." In other words, he was simply saying that one
possible explanation for the unbalance might be the innate differences
between men and women and as a possibility, the idea warrants examination.
Having one foot in the quagmire of
on first reading I found Summers remarks a bit irksome. Having my other
foot planted on terra firma, I tried to apply some common sense.
Some newspapers related the reaction of
MIT biologist, Nancy Hopkins, who walked out during the conference and was
quoted as saying that if she hadn't left, "I would've either blacked
out or thrown up." - possibly and inadvertently adding some credence to Summers'
As mentioned, Summers was subsequently
raked over the coals by the knee-jerk reactions of over-sensitive groups
who chose to not only misinterpret his remarks but to summarily dismiss
them as if they alone possessed only possible truths - a particularly odd
and disturbing sentiment from the academic arena where minds have
traditionally been open and accepting to diverse ideas with the
understandings that lies and untruths wither in the light of day and that
they can only be discredited if confronted.
Many of the news articles gave hints of
"studies" concerning the differences in the intelligences between the
genders. I tried to locate some of these studies to see what was what and
what I stumbled upon were some interesting and surprising findings that do, in
fact, support Dr. Summers' suggestion that the biological and genetic
aspects should be looked into.
first study was in the difference in the physical characteristics of
the brains of women and men. Men's brains contain more gray matter, while
women's brains contain more white matter. Not only that, but the
distribution or placement of each sex's white and gray matter differs
greatly. In addition, the female brain is smaller than the male brain, but
in compensation contains more folding and has greater density. The really
strange part is that with all these physical differences there is
seemingly little discrepancy in the general IQ's between men and women.
From a summary of other studies, I found
"There appear to be no substantial differences between men and women in
average IQ. But the distribution of IQ scores is slightly different for
men than for women. Men tend to be more heavily represented at the
extremes of the IQ distribution. Men are affected by mental retardation
more frequently than are women, and they also outnumber women at very
high levels of measured intelligence. Women’s scores are more closely
clustered around the mean."
And herein lies my interest.
Whether these last studies are true or
not, or whether the causes are innate or post-natal (and by post-natal, I
don't necessarily mean environmental. I have also seen studies that
indicate that habitual, repetitive behavior actually makes minute changes
to the brain - something along the line of thought that the neurons,
traveling along the same path over and over, make a rut for themselves
that's eventually hard to get around, making habits hard to break.) is secondary to me. But the concept
seems to help explain a lot things. It offers one more reason why women
can play (at least at this moment in time) excellent chess up to a certain
level but beyond that point, men almost exclusively take over. It also
offers one more reason why so many men are violently criminal compared to
so few women. This doesn't exclude other reasons - environmental, social
or cultural - but buttresses them.
It also in part exonerates Dr. Lawrence
Summers, at least in my mind.