Saturday, August 18, 2007

Even More Problems With Psychology Posted by olvlzl.

Many years ago, at a land grant university in New England, a callow young Freshman (not me, a friend) got into quite a bit of hot water by asking his Introductory Psych. teacher, in class, how a “study” which consisted of Yale students, back then all males in their late teens and early twenties, presumably unrepresentatively rich and white and weighted to those brought up in an upper class culture, could give us any relevant information about the population at large, as was implied by the supplemental reading. It immediately became clear that the student was not going to be getting an A in that class. Most of the “studies” in the class material used the men of the elite, single-sex universities of the time as subjects.

From the frontiers of the brave new psychology comes news of another “study” that correlates hand conformation with a lot more than what kind of winter gloves to buy.

In the August issue of British Journal of Psychology, a team of researchers led by psychologist Mark Brosnan of the University of Bath, England, have published findings that suggest women who are good at science and math have longer ring fingers than index fingers, which indicates a relatively high level of prenatal exposure to the male hormone testosterone. Conversely, longer index fingers indicate higher levels of the female hormone estrogen, according to the study, and a corresponding aptitude for verbal communication.

As Jody Kolodzey points out this is in keeping with an earlier study by another psychologist in California named Marc Breedlove correlating hands to sexual orientation.

Breedlove looked at relative finger length because it is influenced by androgen levels in the womb and thus is an approximate measure of fetal androgen levels.

"... this suggests that at least some lesbians were exposed to greater levels of fetal androgen than heterosexual women," Breedlove and his colleagues wrote.

And what were the rigorous methods that they used in these studies?

The study used standardized test scores of 75 British seven-year-old boys and girls and compared them to photocopies of the youngsters’ hands.

A gloriously generous sample of 75 photo copies of seven-year-olds' hands correlated with, perhaps, the first standardized test of its kind that they ever took. I wonder if they might have considered that if a few of the children out of the 75 had their performance inhibited by test anxiety their reliance on this test as an indication of life-long achievement could be, well, useless. It would also be interesting to know how good their teachers were and how many these seven-year-olds had benefited from. Did they all have the same teacher? My first grade math instruction was abysmal. I’d imagine we’d all have graded quite low on a standardized test given at age 7, even those of us who did well later in school.

Just on the sample size, the age of those whose well-ripened academic achievement is being correlated to photocopies of their hands and the possibility that an effective percentage of the children could have been sufficiently uncomfortable taking the standardized test in the first place, how many of you would take this seriously? As science? Which, I will guarantee you, will be taught in psychology classes as “science”. It’s clear that the media, including FOX was delighted to report this “science” breakthrough.

The earlier California study had a larger sample but, well, judge the data collection for yourself.

The Berkeley researchers based their conclusions on the hands of 720 volunteers they recruited at street fairs in San Francisco, volunteers who agreed to have their fingers measured and to answer a questionnaire about their birth order and sexual preferences, in exchange for a $1 lottery ticket.

Science, at a San Francisco street fair, with volunteers who were willing to trade their time for a lottery ticket. Just for starts, I wonder if a percentage of fair goers might have lied on the questionnaire for a lark. It was a carnival atmosphere, after all. Would you take science done under those conditions seriously? Just to come totally clean, I’ve got a real problem with self-reporting by volunteer subjects in science, just to start with.

How long will these be taken as seriously as the studies of Yalies mentioned in the beginning of this post? You can be certain that they will be taught as if they were science. That earlier study did figure in the reference material for at least one advanced psychology course as I discovered quite by accident last night. Just by chance, while researching this post, I browsed the Breedlove effort online and found it used in the supplementary course materials for Psychology 463 as taught by Kevin MacDonald Department of Psychology CSU-Long Beach Long Beach. As it happens, I’m familiar with MacDonald through reading about the infamous David Irving trial.*

You might want to think of the conclusions that might be reached about seeing the world through the lense of the Men of Yale or the neo-palmistry of seven-year-olds and consider the legs that this kind of “science” has in the media and in Psych. Courses around the world. Consider how it might be used. For it will be put to use. Either they should tighten their standards and throw out the junk or they should lose the prestige that comes with the title of "science". It has real life consequences.

* MacDonald was the major witness Irving (who, I should remind you conducted his own case) called on his behalf in the action he so infamously brought against Deborah Lipstadt. MacDonald tried to explain his motive in testifying for the Holocaust denier on the tired old saw of freedom to publish. Considering Irving’s ill-advised action clearly would have had the effect of suppressing Lipstadt’s book, "Denying the Holocaust", it’s hollow. In wondering about some other possible motives he might have been thought useful to Irving, you might want to think about MacDonald’s publications about the Jewish People which are widely regarded as anti-Semitic, his association with far-right racist groups.

You might want to read about the rather bizarre, even hysterical attempt to belatedly throw him out of the world of evolutionary psychology - including blaming him on just about every prominent opponent of that ideology - though MacDonald seems to be well entrenched in those circles. He's certainly published enough in the field. You can find him well represented on Wikipedia and on the web. I chose not to link to him

Friday, August 17, 2007

What I Did During My Summer Vacation, by Echidne

I have no idea for the rest of the essay yet, as my summer vacation begins approximately now. I will be back on Friday evening, in a week's time. In the meantime, you will be taken care of by olvlzl and perhaps some other guest bloggers. I might also put up some "Best of Echidne" reruns, the kinds that make you run screaming out of the room. We'll see.

In any case, I hope that you have a vacation, too, this year. Vacations are very important. Mwah.

How Green Was My Valley

The bad news from the Utah mine collapse continue. The owner of the mine, Bob Murray, has been the public face of much of the commentary, but no more:

Bob Murray, the outspoken owner of the Crandall Canyon Mine, did not appear at a news conference today to discuss the deaths of three rescue workers and the injuries of six others.


He has also been combative, sparring with seismologists over earthquakes and mine collapses, denouncing global warming, promoting the benefits of coal energy, blasting union "lackeys" and even calling out news reporters he said wrote or broadcast inaccurate statements. Since Thursday night's fatal cave-in, Murray has reportedly not left the Crandall Canyon Mine.

It is not for me to say what caused the mine collapse and the later blast which killed three rescue workers. But I doubt that Bob Murray is a neutral voice in these matters. He has an interest in the outcome of any investigation, for one thing. It is odd that he has been allowed to introduce union-bashing into the conversation and even odder that his earthquake theories are not subjected to greater scrutiny. I understand that the kind of mining that was carried on in this mine is very dangerous, because it removes the support structures as the miners retreat. Surely this is relevant, even if an earthquake was the original cause of the first collapse.

Friday Nature Blogging

The first three pictures are by Doug. The top one is a dove's nest inside a cactus:

This one is a mandala, created by opening cactus flowers:

And this one is pure beauty:

To finish off the series, here is FeralLiberal's Pippin exploring nature:

On Wall Street

So the Fed cut the rate and the markets are rallying. One of the first rules of government welfare and such is that when it helps the well-off it's not a problem. We shall see how all this affects the people whose mortgages are defaulting.

The embroidery is my view of Wall Street. Or of human follies. You can click on it to see the pencil markings and scruffy stitches.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Not Writing About Iraq

A funny thing happened to me today. I Googled the word "Iraq" looking for an old post of mine and found that I have that word in 523 posts on this blog. Yet quite a few of them mention that I don't write about Iraq very much because it's a horrible, horrible mess. What would writing about it a little more have looked like?

The other funny thing is that I seem to have had better predictive abilities when it comes to Iraq than the powers that be in the American government. Either that, or they wanted the actual outcome while pretending to aim at something quite different. Note that the word "funny" here is not used in the funny-ha-ha sense. I feel terrible about the suffering of the Iraqi people and also terrible about the new Iraq the women are likely to have to live in from now on. It's going to be an Islamic theocracy, at least outside the Kurdish areas.

The third funny thing I realized is that I used to have really good post titles. Interesting and silly and full of eccentric literary allusions. All gone now. Must spend more attention on the headlines.

Meanwhile, in Iraq

The emergency political summit president Jalal Talabani called has failed. The Sunnis are still outside the government. As Kevin Drum points out:

It's not exactly news or anything, just further confirmation of the obvious: the eventual fate of Iraq (outside the Kurdish north) is the establishment of a Shia theocracy closely aligned with Iran. As far as I can tell, no one has even a colorable argument that things are moving in any other direction, and equally, no colorable argument that there's anything we can do to stop it.

I wrote pretty much the same in my salad days as a blogger in 2004 when we were told how good the invasion was for the rights of Iraqi women. Even Dick Cheney in the 1990s knew that invading Iraq would lead to its destruction as a secular state:

Is the surge in Iraq succeeding? This discussion sometimes sounds like listening to a bad radio which picks up two stations at the same time. Mostly we hear the experts pontificating on the tactics and the definitions of words such as "surge", but in the background, faintly, we hear another program asking what the ultimate point of the exercise might be. What would a successful Iraq look like? Does it look like a theocracy? Or an American client-state with civil war somehow kept under wraps? And what is the price to be paid for such a success if it somehow could be achieved?

Cross-posted on TAPPED.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garden of Hate

I promised this post so that the blog can become a proper hate site.

The Garden of Hate

Today I walk around with a frozen burst of anger, like a cold rock, in the pit of my stomach. This is one of the costs of civilization: that anger must sometimes be swallowed rather than acted on. It is not comfortable, though, and may even harm me in the long-run. So I turn to my garden for help. Anger is good fuel for wood chopping, digging or raking leaves; and all these chores use it up nicely. Unfortunately, the garden doesn't currently require any of these. It just sits there, being beautiful.

Beautiful gardens are therapeutic against many human ills, but not against anger or rage, unless destroying plants by stomping on them, sawing down all the trees and scrawling obscene graffiti on the stone paths would effect a cure (I haven't tried this yet).

Or perhaps gardens could be used for the alleviation of anger without wrecking them. All that is needed is to create a Garden of Hate, and to invite all your favorite enemies to visit it. (Only in your mind, of course!) There would be a place by the garden gate where they would leave their shoes. A sharp gravel path would then lead them past skunk cabbages and marigolds (for scent), stinging nettles and poison ivy (for touch) to a garden seat erected on a bed of quicksand.

While your enemies, seated uncomfortably on rough splintery wood, slowly sink into oblivion, their eyes can feast on all the menacing topiary one can coax out of tortured suburban yews, and their ears on the whine of hungry mosquitoes and the buzz of angry hornets. Perfect.

If I could create such a garden and rent it out a few weekends each year the proceeds would let me observe it the rest of the year in effortless leisure.

Children and Careers

The test I link to in the post below contains a question about whether women should put children ahead of their careers. The question is intended to find out whether you, my dear reader, are a social conservative. But it's a loaded question, naturally, because there is no follow-up question about whether men should put children ahead of their careers. That question is never asked. Then there is the loading caused by the word "career" which refers to the uppity educated women who shouldn't really have jobs. These questions never ask whether people in general should have both jobs and families. Or even both careers and children!

Some time ago the Washington Post had an article about Congresswomen with small children. The fetching headline was: "Mom's in the House, With Kids at Home", and the article discussed the many ways in which "balancing" mothering with being a Congresswoman is hard. The only reference to Congressmen with young children was this:

While plenty of male lawmakers have small children, the pressures and responsibilities don't seem to weigh on them the way they do on women.

"Men have this fixture called a wife that's going to take care of the children," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics. "We hear very often from women who are running or elected that they wish they had a wife, someone to deal with the children, have fresh food in the house, pick up the dry cleaning."

Men running for office get kudos from voters for raising young children, but women are often penalized for it, said Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who has tracked voter attitudes on the topic for the past 20 years.

"For male candidates, people think having young children is a total plus -- people think, 'Oh, this is great, he's going to be concerned about family issues, he'll be more future-oriented,' " she said. "A male with young kids, everyone likes it -- men, women, seniors." For women, it's a different story.

The article tells us that there are ten women in Congress with children under 13. The article does not tell us how many men in Congress have children under 13, because it doesn't matter. Those men are not assumed to be in charge of the children, and mostly an absent father is not viewed as a major problem. But surely not seeing your father for several days a week can be as much of a problem as not seeing your mother?

The treatment of fathers in these stories is paradoxical. In one sense they get all the benefits of having children with none of the problems. In another sense they are deemed as totally unnecessary for their children except as providers of money to the family. They can be sent to Iraq to die and mostly that is not a cause for some great outrage. They can also go and pursue a career whole-heartedly, and that is not a cause for concern, either. Mothers, on the other hand...

I know that articles like the one I linked to must address the world as it is and not the way some feminazi goddess might like it to be. I also know that many of the readers are struggling with the same issues and want to read about the costs and benefits to these women. But the issue is always framed as having to do with mothers alone. Not the society, not the fathers, not the way we structure work. Just mothers are to bear the total burden on their shoulders. Even if it means that there will be no women of child-bearing age in Congress.

Political Compass

I've posted about this test before on the blog, but that was some years ago. You can click on the Political Compass site, answer some questions and find where you stand politically in comparison to such famous people as Hitler or Gandhi. Sinfonian provides a link to an exercise where the current U.S. presidential candidates are also rated using the same coordinate system. This means that you can find out where you stand in comparison to them, too.

I always find myself next to Gandhi in these tests, but then I lie a lot. Or Gandhi did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blogger arrested near UCLA child care center

NTodd noticed that headline in a CNN news story:

A man who blogs about his attraction to young girls but says he doesn't touch them was arrested Monday near a university child care facility with a camera, police said.

It's hard to interpret the headline as not indicating that bloggers are somehow an unsavory bunch of people on the whole.

Today's Bad Poetry

Or "kids, get off my lawn" poems:

Summer Days

June gallops past in light green shoes,
the days hardly born
when they turn to the blues.
Where are the first brave berries?
All I can find are plastic cherries.

July will enter, humid and ripe.
The days linger on
like stains I can't wipe.
Where is the lettuce I loved as a child?
All I can find is an echo too mild.

August is hardest, brown and hot.
The days are wounded
with sweet-smelling rot.
Where is the moon with August eyes?
All I can find is jetsmoke in skies.

Who took the summer
and made it so flat?
Give me the winter.
I can understand that.

An Ode for August

August is the foulest month of all.
He pretends to rest before
the coming of the fall.
As he totters on his last legs
and smells of sweat and rotten eggs.
Like a party overlong
August has a smell too strong.

And the men who are wild at fifty
glance around with eyes too shifty.

Heh. I don't like the summer weather very much.

The Hack Gap

This is Matthew Yglesias' term for something which the civility-supporters in political debate rarely address: The pundits of the right and the right blogosphere are much more eager and willing to grab on to any scandal on the other side and to milk it for months afterwards. No, even for years afterwards. I still get e-mails about the Clinton scandals of the early 1990s and the anger in them is as fresh as newly-spilled blood.

The pundits of the left (the few that exist) and the left blogosphere are, however, the ones who are mostly accused of incivility and of using bad language. But the left tends not to focus on the scandal-mongering. Remember the Republican married senator who admitted to using escort services while at the same time advocating abstinence outside the marriage? Fascinating rumors were floating around about the requests he made to the escorts he hired, but mostly liberal and progressive blogs did not write about that stuff. Neither have we milked dry Rush Limbaugh's addiction problems or the Congressional peers scandal. Or the many, many, many financial scandals infecting the Republican party.

Yet, as pointed by Mark Kleiman, something that Kos said a few years ago is still discussed in the wingnut blogs. Kleiman mentioned this in the context of the very limited attention given to a recent right-wing column by Stu Bykofsky which advocated a new 9/11 massacre as a way of getting Americans temporarily united again. As a way to stop the bickering, and most likely as a way to make Americans line up behind George Bush in our march towards the chasm again. Of course, Bykofsky did not volunteer to be one of the victims of this new massacre. It's always someone else's pile of dead bodies that we need for unity.

Where are all the lefty hacks to bring this up, again and again? Where are all the lefty hacks to imply that all wingnuts think like Bykofsky? I can't do all that work alone.

More seriously, it's interesting to place this whole idea into the generally accepted conclusion that only conservative Americans have Values and Principles. Liberals have dildoes, I guess.

Nah. It's just that liberal values are almost completely ignored because our public debate takes place within the conservative frame where only conservative values are seen as values.

At The Truckstop

David Brooks' most recent column is about the "other America", the place where the honest, dignified and hard-working people live in. Brooks views this place as Republicana, which you must remember when reading his observations.

The story he tells this time is about stopping at a truckstop and about a conversation he had there with a trucker. Some excerpts:

Last Saturday evening, I found myself at the counter of a truck stop diner in Caroline County, Va. I was sitting next to a weathered trucker whose accent betrayed an East Texas upbringing and a lifetime devoted to tobacco products. We quickly established that we were both celebrating birthdays. He was 68.

He'd been trucking for 46 years, away from home for nine months a year for most of them. He'd run through five marriages and now traveled with a little dog.


I don't know what came first, the mystique of trucking or the country music songs that defined the mystique, but this trucker had been captured by the ethos early on and had never let it go. He wore the right boots and clothes. He had a flat, never-surprised way of talking. He didn't smile or try to ingratiate.

He has one of those hard jobs, like mining and steel-working, that comes with its own masculine mythology and way of being in the world. Jobs performed in front of a keyboard don't supply a code of dignity, which explains the spiritual anxiety that plagues the service economy.


People in other classes may define the social structure by educational attainment, income levels and job prestige, but these men are more likely to understand the social hierarchy on the basis of who can look out for themselves, who has the courage to be a fireman, a soldier or a cop, who has the discipline to put bread on the table every night despite difficulties

My condensed version of the column lets you home straight into its inner core. This is all about a masculine mystique, as applied by Brooks to a blue collar worker. The story is deceptive because of phrases such as "people in other classes", but Brooks writes about men only. Women enter as past divorces or as something that exists outside of the occupation of trucking, to be fed and protected.

The message one is supposed to take home from the column is that the Democratic Party doesn't fit these manly truckers, because the truckers don't care about money or income inequality or any of that fluffy crap. They care about something else, some sort of a masculine mystique, I guess.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Morale Dilemma

Is the morale among U.S. military in Iraq low or high? Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack argued for the latter case in their July New York Times op-ed piece:
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

So does Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican from Georgia, who recently wrote about his Iraq trip:

Two nights ago, I sat down in one of the base mess halls with several Georgia soldiers stationed in Iraq. Over dinner, these soldiers discussed the pride that they have in the job they are doing in Iraq. Their positive morale was a welcome change from the negativity that I hear every day in Washington. While they made it clear that they missed their families, they stressed that now was not the time to pull them out of Iraq.

I'm glad to hear that the soldiers feel so confident and cheerful. But the U.K. Observer has a very different story to tell about the morale among the American military in Iraq:

Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with these men by untenable ideas -- bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda -- these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.

They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'

The first soldier starts in again. 'My husband was injured here. He hit an improvised explosive device. He already had a spinal injury. The blast shook out the plates. He's home now and has serious issues adapting. But I'm not allowed to go back home to see him. If I wanted to see him I'd have to take leave time (two weeks). And the army counts it.'

A week later, in the northern city of Mosul, an officer talks privately. 'We're plodding through this,' he says after another patrol and another ambush in the city centre. 'I don't know how much more plodding we've got left in us.'

When the soldiers talk like this there is resignation. There is a corrosive anger, too, that bubbles out, like the words pouring unbidden from a chaplain's assistant who has come to bless a patrol. 'Why don't you tell the truth? Why don't you journalists write that this army is exhausted?'

Perhaps the military is at the same time bone-weary and in good spirits, both eager to stay and eager to come home? That's unlikely. But what is the truth about troop morale?

Cross-posted at TAPPED.

Conservative Free Markets Explained

Via Daily Kos, we get this statement about lead in toys and cheap prices from Erin Burnett of CNBC:

A lot of people like to say, scaremonger about China, right? A lot of politicians and I know you talk about that issue all the time. I think people should be careful what they wish for on China -- you know, if China were to revalue its currency, or China is to start making, say, toys that don't have lead in them, or food that isn't poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up. And that means prices at Walmart, here in the United States, are going to go up too. So, I would say China is our greatest friend right now.They're keeping prices low, and they're keeping prices for mortgages low too.

You know what? She is right, in a very perverted manner. When the price wars in the international "free" markets rage the only way someone can underbid is by substituting, say, a dangerous substance for a safe substance if it cuts the production costs by a quarter of a cent per million objects. That would of course only be the case in the kinds of markets where there are no rules at all. It's like a poker game with no rules. If you start losing you will cheat or pull your gun out and shoot all the other players.

A properly organized market has ground rules. They include stuff like not selling people toothpaste more cheaply by using an ingredient that kills. They include stuff like not using slaves to make the products. Rules. Just like in a poker game.

But the Chinese system right now doesn't have the same rules as the American system.

But of course what Burnett said was outrageous as an ethical statement. That this probably is the summary of the ethical views of many who support "free" trade is the really outrageous bit.

How To Build A Career

Imagine yourself in Erin Burnett's shoes. (Burnett anchors CNBC's Squawk on the Street and Street Signs.) You are discussing the financial markets with Chris Matthews, giving thoughtful comments and information on television. You are a professional, someone who has worked hard to get where you are now (I assume she has worked hard), and this is what happens on teebee:

BURNETT: -- and all those creative types of mortgages. And you could say that's a good thing, but, you know, Chris, I guess just to throw it out there and, you know, be provocative, but also ask a fair question -- you know, maybe not everybody is able to own a home. We like to think of owning a home as a right in this country.


BURNETT: It might not be.

MATTHEWS: Could you get a little closer to the camera?

BURNETT: My -- what is it? Is it zooming in strangely?

MATTHEWS: Come on in closer. No, come in -- come in further -- come in closer. Really close.

BURNETT: What are you -- what are you doing?

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! You look great! Anyway, thanks. Erin, it's great to -- look at that look. You're great.

Now isn't that the sweetest putdown in all history? How cleverly her feet were swept off from under her! How instantly she becomes nothing but yet another pretty face! Well done, Tweety! Where's Sylvester when you need him?

P.S. And yes, I know that Burnett says very stupid things, as described in the post above this. But Tweety was playing the cute-little-thing-and-it-talks! card against her and some of us goddesses have had the same card played against us. It stinks.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dick Cheney on Iraq, Then

This YouTube interview was found by a Kos diarist. Enjoy.

from "MoreJust So Stories"

Posted by olvlzl.
Gina Kolata of the New York Times New Service began a recent piece in the usual way, with an explanation steeped in the current fashion for explaining everything as being an expression of an ancient and adaptive genetic heritage:

Everyone knows men are promiscuous by nature. It's part of the genetic strategy that evolved to help men spread their genes far and wide. The strategy is different for a woman, who must go through so much just to have a baby and then nurture it. She is genetically programmed to want just one man who will stick with her and help raise their children.

Surveys bear this out. In study after study and in country after country, men report more, often many more, sexual partners than women.

Which is an odd way to start when you go on to read the rest of the article which is about the surveys which show that heterosexual men, on average have had about three to four more sexual partners than heterosexual women. You might have seen similar “scientifically conducted” polls bandied about on the blogs, on TV and perhaps even mentioned as yet another prop for biological determinism of gender roles.

However, there is a huge mystery about all this. Who are the extra women these men are having sex with and why are they apparently keeping silent about it. Otherwise, it just couldn’t figure.

- It's about time for mathematicians to set the record straight, said Dr. David Gale, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Surveys and studies to the contrary notwithstanding, the conclusion that men have substantially more sex partners than women is not and cannot be true, for purely logical reasons," Gale said.

Dr. Gale goes on to give a simple demonstration with equation anyone with fourth grade math could master. But not most of those in the media and even on some "Scienceblogs".

Despite all the confident assertions that the reported disparities are “proof” of a genetically programmed difference between mens’ and women’s brains apparently the original reporters of those illogical numbers know that what they’re reporting is bogus.

"I have heard this question before," said Cheryl D. Fryar, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and a lead author of the new federal report "Drug Use and Sexual Behaviors Reported by Adults: United States, 1999-2002," which found that men had a median of seven partners and women four.

But when it comes to an explanation, she added, "I have no idea."

"This is what is reported," Fryar said. "The reason why they report it I do not know."

While they’re noticing these seldom mentioned lacunae in today's common received wisdom perhaps they might want to notice something else.

Despite the reservations I’ve expressed here about polling and, even more so, the reporting of polls and surveys I do know one thing with absolute certainty. The methods of polling today are much, much more reliable than those of the Pleistocene period, the period about which the stories like the one at the top of this piece, are told with such confidence by biological determinists. We have no idea at all if our early ancestors were swingers, none. If men today, most of whom seem to be able to count, at least on their hands, are unsure about how many women they have had sex with, why would men at the dawn of humanity be more credible? Maybe cavemen were liars and it is the propensity to lie about such things to people like pollsters (and other interviewers) which is the actual heritage we have from them. At least we know with some confidence that the lie is real.

In the end of Ms. Kolata’s article is this:

Ronald Graham, a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California, San Diego, agreed with Gale. After all, on average, men would have to have three more partners than women, raising the question of where all those extra partners might be.

"Some might be imaginary," Graham said. "Maybe two are in the man's mind and one really exists."

Maybe the stories of evolutionary psychology need to be subjected to similar levels of scrutiny.