Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Unfortunate Typo

This one:

  • A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 16 cases of cute kidney injury associated with synthetic marijuana use in 6 states last year.
For the want of an "a"...

Today's Important Prediction

The  next Pope will be a man.

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Universal Pre-School in the US

President Obama's universal pre-school program suggestion has provoked much discussion.  The impact of pre-school on later success in life is a research field I have not followed, but this article suggests that there are proven benefits for lower-income children:

The Perry Preschool Study has one of the furthest-reaching data sets on this. In the early '60s, the experimenters placed 123 poor black students in Chicago into either a preschool program or no preschool. They have been tracking this group for more than 40 years.
In striking ways, the achievements of those in the preschool program exceeded those who did not attend.

Another, much larger 25-year study showed similar findings. In a group of 1,400 low-income children, those who had been exposed to preschool at age 3 were 9 percent more likely to have graduated from high school and were 22 percent less likely to have been arrested by age 28.
Preschool has also been shown to enhance IQ in disadvantaged children by 4 points or more.
The article points out that the benefits are unlikely to be equally large for children who come from higher-income families, at least if we define benefits the way that study did.  One might be able to make a case that some of the benefits could be societal in ways which are hard to capture in concrete numbers.

A different argument for pre-k universality has to do with the possibility that it benefits parents:

  • I'm not sure what research has or has not been done on this topic, but here are some fascinating things. A 2011 report from UC Berkeley's Labor Center on the "Economic Impacts of Early Care and Education in California" highlighted some important points. Having access to a dedicated, high-quality preschool can reduce absenteeism and turnover for working parents. Child care arrangements often break down, usually on short notice, which causes work absences as well as other problems. Headaches over child care issues can reduce productivity.
 Both of those benefits would truly only work if pre-school is more than a few hours a day, by the way.  I haven't looked at Obama's proposal to see what it prescribes.

Then we can also step in the hornet's nest of asking how the right would respond to such proposals.  My guess is that they would be very opposed.   We are not supposed to depend on the government. Mothers are supposed to home-school children and fathers are supposed to pay for that. 

What's fascinating about that is that it conflicts with their demands for greater fertility (at least by white American women).  France, for instance, started early schooling in part to provide women the kind of help which would allow them to have more children.

These are disjointed musings.  My apologies for that.  I think universal pre-school is a much better use of funds than unending wars, in any case.

Worth Reading Today

This is a hilarious example of the kind of stuff one usually read on the MRA sites.

It mixes cocktail-party evolutionary psychology (men are hard-wired to be good at tech, women not, without any evidence provided on that hard-wiring), language from the pickup guys (beta males don't get the women*) and the idea that masculinity means telling women to f**k off when they ask for fairer representation or whatever.  If you don't have the guts to dominate women you are not a real man!

And the reason these "beta males" do all this is to get laid.  But Real Women want a rough alpha male so the strategy will not work.

So it's useful to read that to see the arguments the opposition uses, sorta.  But it's also useful to note that if one is like this author and believes that women are just not hard-wired for tech, then that person would probably not treat men and women equally as individuals when applying for tech jobs.  He (or she) would add a bit of weight to the guy's application.

Of such circles are these questions about discrimination manufactured!

The piece also does the usual He-Woman thing:  The very few exceptional women need no help because they are so obviously good enough.  The rest?  Meh.  How those few exceptional women got the wrong hard-wiring is not explained, either.

To counteract that story,  have a look at this survey:

Science savvy female teens in Asia, east and south Europe and the Middle East represent their gender well. These ladies, on average, outperform their male counterparts on science tests for comprehension. In the United States, however, women still lag behind men in science achievement. Only Colombia and Liechtenstein exhibit a higher gap between the genders than the U.S., where boys performed 2.7 percent higher than girls, the New York Times shows (with an interactive plot).
Sixty-five developed countries took part in the test, which was given to 15-year-old students. In the majority of countries, girls dominated. The U.S., plus a handful of countries mostly in west north Europe and the Americas, showed the opposite trend.
Now something like this could, I guess, go with only men "hard-wired" for tech.  But that explanation would require all sorts of accusations that the natural superiority of men is suppressed by feminazi activity.  Including in the Middle East, the feminist paradise.

Finally a study (which I have not read) suggests that it matters whether parents praise children for what they do or for what they are.  The latter leads to less self-confidence when facing challenges later.  Girls are more often praised for what they are, rather than for what they do:

Researchers in this study videotaped more than fifty 1- to 3-year-olds and their parents during everyday interactions at home (the families represented a variety of races, ethnicities, and income levels). Each family was taped three times, when children were 1, 2, and 3. From the tapes, researchers identified instances in which parents praised their children and classified that praise as process praise (emphasizing effort, strategies, or actions, such as "You're doing a good job"), person praise (implying that children have fixed, positive qualities, such as "You're so smart"), or all other types of praise.
The researchers followed up with the children five years later when they were 7- to 8-year-olds, and gauged whether the children preferred challenging versus easy tasks, could figure out how to overcome setbacks, and believed that intelligence and personality traits can be developed (as opposed to being fixed).
When parents used more process praise while interacting with their children at home, children reported more positive approaches to challenges five years later, could think of more strategies to overcome setbacks, and believed that their traits could improve with effort. The other two types of praise (person praise and other praise) were not related to children's responses, the study found, nor was the total amount of praise.
Moreover, although boys and girls received the same amount of praise overall, boys got significantly more process praise than girls. And five years later, boys were more likely to have positive attitudes about academic challenges than girls and to believe that intelligence could be improved, according to the study.

Correlation is not necessarily causation, of course.

What these three stories share is the question of fixed characteristics.  The first rant argues that men are innately superior in tech, the second story offers some evidence which contradicts that and the third study offers one hypothesis how children may start believing that their abilities are fixed quantities.
*The term beta males comes from wolves.  But actual wolf packs in the wild are largely family units and the alpha male is the granddad or dad of most of the pack.

The Gender Gap In Wages Grows. Your Fault, Girls.

The gross gender gap in earnings between women and men working full-time increased in 2012, I read:

As the Obama administration puts increased focus on paycheck fairness this week, news that the gender pay gap has widened over the past 12 months hits us doubly hard. According to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 full-time employed women earned just 80.9% of the salaries their male counterparts did, down more than a full percentage point from 2011 when the number hovered over 82%.
To put the dip in perspective, this means the pay gap now is as wide as it has been since 2005, meaning six years of progress have arguably been decimated in one afternoon’s data release.  But coming in the heels of the recent State of the Union Address, it just might be good news.

I'm not sure that it is good news, and  I'm not sure why the gender gap increased after decreasing, and need to do more research on that.  But what angered me about this piece was the quoted comment by Sabrina Schaeffer, one of the ladies from the Independent Women's Forum which is financed by wingnut guys:

Once again President Obama uses the State of the Union to try to mislead women about their prospects in the workforce and to try to expand government in ways that will make jobs even more scarce.  The President uses a statistic that every honest analyst knows is misleading to attempt to convince women that our workplace is inherently sexist and that women are all victims.  This isn’t good for women, and it’s certainly not appropriate for a serious policy debate.
Making the disparity appear the greatest, the White House uses a distorted snapshot to compare the earnings of the median full-time working man and woman, ignoring the many factors that we know influence how much someone earns.
Throughout life women and men make different life decisions about what college major to select, what line of work they desire, and how much they want to work, which drives differences in earnings—not discrimination.

Why my anger?  Not because Schaeffer points out that the gross earnings gap between genders is not a good measure of discrimination.  She is quite correct in that.  The proper measure can be found after controlling for all those other factors she mentions (though it is often very hard to know what things are "choices" and what things are "constraints"), and that would be the net gender gap in earnings or the part of the gap that cannot be explained by women's choices or women's greater parenting duties or whatever.

But, and this is where my anger comes from:  Once all those other things have been controlled for, properly designed studies still find an unexplained earnings difference between men and women who work full-time.  And yes, that measure has taken into account whether men work more hours per week and differences in work experience and education and so on, and there are studies which look at only one occupational category which holds constant the possibility that women pick occupations which pay less than men, on average.

So saying that

Throughout life women and men make different life decisions about what college major to select, what line of work they desire, and how much they want to work, which drives differences in earnings—not discrimination.
is the same as lying.   Not even to mention the fact that the career I "choose" could be very much affected by hearing that there is a lot of harassment against women in it or that I will end up being the token woman in a roomful of men forevermore and so on.  In other words, "discrimination" (which has been shown to exist in several studies) can work in forms other than direct face-to-face labor market discrimination.

What's odd about my anger is that it's not based on Schaeffer wanting nothing ever done that might benefit women (and their families) but that she misuses research to make an argument.   Or implies that the conclusions are up to one's political views, not the large amounts of economic research actually done.

If you want to learn more about all this, read my three-part gender gap series on the website I link to at the top of this page.  The study I look at there is a bit outdated but the principles of how economists do the stuff remain good.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Some suitable poetry for this day:

Like the very gods in my sight is he who 
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
          murmur in love and

laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit; 
underneath my breast all the heart is shaken. 
Let me only glance where you are, the voice dies,
          I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, under-
neath my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are
          muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me, fever
Shakes my body, paler I turn than grass is;
I can feel that I have been changed, I feel that
          death has come near me.


The Feminine Mystique

The book by Betty Friedan, important in American feminism, turns fifty.  Menopausal, it is!

I wasn't going to write about the book but decided to do so because of the conversations elsewhere, here and here, and in particular here.

I read The Feminine Mystique a long time ago, right around the same time I read all the books about feminism I could get hold of, including The Second Sex, The Female Eunuch, The Sceptical Feminist, Words and Women,  Women: The Longest Revolution, On Women & Revolution,  Sexual Politics etcetera etcetera. 

Some of those are still worth reading, some have perhaps passed into the annals of history.  Later I supplemented those books with works such as In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Feminist Theory:  From Margin to Center, The Backlash, The Beauty Myth and so on and so on.

Those titles are picked because I can see them on my shelves from the desk.  Others are behind my back and  my older books about women are in a different room but those certainly include The Book of the City of Ladies, A Vindication of the Rights of Women and The Subjection of Women as well as my collection of misogynist writings through history. 

Why list all those books?  To point out that no one book should be treated as the midwife of feminism and neither should any one book be held to such impossibly high standards. 

But this is what I see done, to some extent, with The Feminine Mystique.  It is criticized for what it omitted, for the terms it used, for its homophobia and for the fact that it covers only the lives of highly educated, white, middle- and upper-class American housewives.   

All of these are valid criticisms, true, and the only reason I worry about them is this:  I've come to believe that feminist writings are held to higher standards than almost any other types of writings.  They are so thoroughly chopped and ground and analyzed that at the end of it I feel as if all that's left is a soggy pile of shredded paper, and I'm growing weary of that, weary of the way the criticisms from anti-feminists and from feminists interact to erase whatever pertinent messages a book might contain.

Perhaps the reason for that weariness is that the yardstick in this game seems the same perfection that is used for motherhood in the US.   But if only a perfect book is good enough, how many of us dare to try?

If I remember correctly, none of the second wave classics exactly matched my own situation or the reasons I turned to feminism.  The Feminine Mystique, for example, felt alien to me in that I knew very few housewives and none with higher education, and most of it applied to a foreign culture then.  The Second Sex, likewise, applied to a very different world than mine.  But I learned things from all of those books and many others.  Over time what I learned was used in building my own theories, then later books made me rebuild some parts of the structure, and I expect to go on redesigning this domicile in the future, too.  That's what is delicious about learning and about books.

What I learned from The Feminine Mystique was the Power of Naming.  That was the take-home message for me, not the rest of the book, even though Friedan's exposition of the way the 1950s media was complicit in the creation of the mystique is very well done and demonstrates sound research.

Indeed, it is the Naming which matters in many of the books I listed.  It's almost a diagnosis:  You begin with inchoate aches, a feeling that something is wrong.  You take your temperature, you wonder about what you have eaten, whether you might have the flu or a stomach bug.  You visit your doctor and get a diagnosis.  And once you have the diagnosis, you can attend to the illness.

It's not possible before the ailment is Named.  Friedan Named one part of the dilemmas American women faced, and others could then address the problem.  Naming other parts of the dilemmas was left for later authors.  But slowly, over time, we are developing a clearer picture of the whole spectrum of these dilemmas.  This allows us to address them.  In hopeful theory, at least.

And of course much of what Friedan wrote fifty years ago is now outdated.  Isn't that wonderful?!
We no longer get advertisements where Betty next door has whiter laundry than Ann in this house,  and Ann is full of jealousy until she goes out and buys some stupid detergent, and we no longer get advertisements where Joe spanks Carol after coming home because Carol had brewed bad coffee.  Those were not unheard-of things before Friedan's book.

I'd like to return to the Power of Naming and apply it to this review of Friedan's book.  The review itself is well done and interesting.  It ends like this:

Feminism opened a million new doors, but our cultural anxiety about and animosity toward women swept right in to create new wormholes of dread just beyond them. We have gained so much, and yet we struggle mightily with all the guilt and pressure that have come with every one of those victories. Five full decades after Friedan sent out the rallying cry for us to be seen as more than just wives and mothers, our president refers to “our wives, mothers and daughters” when addressing the nation as if, when he speaks to the American people, he’s not speaking to wives, mothers and daughters. It’s been 50 years of hard-won battles and gains for women, 50 years of fighting to write for ourselves our place in American culture. So how much has changed since Friedan sent out a flare called “The Feminine Mystique”? Everything. And nothing. And our definition of what it means to be a woman didn’t get easier — it just got impossibly broader.
Cultural anxiety about the proper role of women:  Yes.  Animosity towards women:  Oh my, yes and yes and yes!  Guilt and pressure:  Sure.

But see how that paragraph is screaming for Naming.  There it is, that inchoate ache, that high temperature, that feverish brow, and the biggest hint is in the very last words:  Our definition of what it means to be a woman just got impossibly broader.

I'm not clever enough to Name this problem but it certainly has much to do with the fact that the new definitions of womanhood have not faded away the old definitions of womanhood.  Both are in use, and a woman will fail if she tries to satisfy both definitions.  If she chooses to honor only one of those definitions, she will be criticized on the basis of the other definition by at least some people among her acquaintances.  So the game is rigged on the level of values.

On a more realistic level, the traditionally female tasks in this world are still seen as traditionally female tasks, whereas many traditionally male tasks are now seen as non-gendered tasks.  That's the expansion the linked article might mean when it speaks about broadened definitions of what it means to be a woman. 

In practice this is about the second shift, the lack of changes in who does most of the household chores but it is also about the way the public and the private spheres are still kept apart.  Anyone who ventures into the latter full-time receives no help for a return trip.  Anyone who sticks to the former pays a high price in the loss of non-work related valuable aspects of life.  And anyone who tries to dance on the top of the fence separating the two is always at risk of falling off.

These may very well be the problems that only privileged women can think about.  But the second shift affects non-privileged women more, and the poorer the woman is the harder the fence-dancing becomes.  Child-care costs money, staying at home without a partner who earns enough is impossible.  The real solutions cannot be based on individual acts because we no longer live in large kinship groups where help is at least sometimes available.   But the societal action we need will not be forthcoming as long as the old and new definitions of what-it-means-to-be-a-woman are both valid currency.

That's the new mystique that has taken the place of Friedan's feminine mystique, I think.  And yes,  my homeboys, there is a corresponding Masculine Mystique but I leave writing about that to you guys.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wrestling. Or A Post About Something Else.

Meaning something I don't usually write about, such as sports.  I've never wrestled myself but I have worked on strategies against an opponent when on the ground, and I respect what the sport requires.  Now the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympic games.

The decision has caused the usual uproar of any sport that is removed, of course, but in this case the sport to be removed is one which was included in the ancient Greek Olympics.

The reasons given?  Low television appeal and therefore money, and a need to modernize the games.

Opponents point out that the other sports at risk had friends in the IOC whereas wrestling did not.

The question what sports to have in the games is one I haven't pondered a lot, but if it's the crowding of that two-week period in the Summer Games, why not move some of the indoor events to the Winter Games?  Gymnastics, for instance, is usually done indoors and is not dependent on the presence of hot weather etc.

Then to the hilarious comments about the removal of wrestling.  I think this one earns the gold medal on those:
According to, Vladimir Uruimagov, who has coached two Russian Olympic champions in Greco-Roman wrestling, claims that homosexual activists bent on world domination are to blame.
“If they expel wrestling now, that means that gays will soon run the whole world,” Uruimagov told the R-Sport Agency. “It turns out this committee is headed by representatives of these minorities.”

 “It is necessary for millions around the world to understand that this is a man’s sport and to understand the need to continue the human race to go out and explain their position to the Olympic Committee. We should prove and explain that in any other case there is no future.”

No comments necessary, really.

But this one is of some interest, too:
There’s a handful of other sports whose inclusion is just as hard to justify. A few are the exclusive province of the rich, such as equestrian and sailing, and others are just downright silly, such as synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. Like wrestling, even fans of those sports don’t know all the rules and the scoring is hard to follow. But the same could be said about figure skating, for that matter. Apparently all of them, save wrestling, have enough friends in high places.
Downright silly, hmm.  Actually, if you think about it, wrestling is downright silly, also, and so are countless other sports.  In any case, what is silly is in the eye of the beholder.  The beholder I link to finds women's sports silly, by the way.

I'm not a fan of synchronized swimming, mostly because of the outfits and the underlying assumptions on why those are needed, but it's not too hard to see that the sport requires great skills, although not of the same type as, say, wrestling. 

And rhythmic gymnastic is the only Olympic sport which is at least partly about great flexibility.  I don't see why that is any sillier than having events about great speed or great strength.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We All Descend From Winning Guys But Not From Winning Gals

I've spent an interesting hour or two chasing for one particular quote on Roy Baumeister's ode-to-men, also known as his speech about what so stinks in women, and the quote is this one:

The first big, basic difference has to do with what I consider to be the most underappreciated fact about gender. Consider this question: What percent of our ancestors were women?
It’s not a trick question, and it’s not 50%. True, about half the people who ever lived were women, but that’s not the question. We’re asking about all the people who ever lived who have a descendant living today. Or, put another way, yes,every baby has both a mother and a father, but some of those parents had multiple children.
            Recent research using DNA analysis answered this question about two years ago.
I think this difference is the single most underappreciated fact about gender. To get that kind of difference, you had to have something like, throughout the entire history of the human race, maybe 80% of women but only 40% of men reproduced.
            Right now our field is having a lively debate about how much behavior can be explained by evolutionary theory. But if evolution explains anything at all, it explains things related to reproduction, because reproduction is at the heart of natural selection. Basically, the traits that were most effective for reproduction would be at the center of evolutionary psychology.It would be shocking if these vastly different reproductive odds for men and women failed to produce some personality differences.

 Guess what this means, in our Roy's mind?  That only the successful men were able to breed, whereas almost all women, however poorly equipped, got to breed.  The corollary to this is that men are smarter, more adventurous, better at three-dimensional mental rotation and in general the lords of the creation.

Of course that argument ignores the question why these characteristics would not have been inherited by the daughters of those successful men and not just their sons.  Our  lack of the required genetic knowledge means that Baumeister wouldn't be able to answer that question.  Or rather, that the characteristics of intelligence etc would be passed from father to son alone and the characteristics of mediocrity from mother to daughter alone deserves a little bit more than silence about the possible genetic paths for that

Never mind that one.  I looked for the reference to twice as many foremothers as forefathers, and found it after some work.   It plunged me into evolutionary molecular biology in which I have the skills of a baby, but the study Baumeister probably used as his source is this:  Genetic Evidence for Unequal Effective Population Sizes of Human Females and Males by Jason A. Wilder, Zahra Mobasher, and Michael F. Hammer, 2004. The study is based on genetic data from 73 unrelated men: 25 African Khoisan, 24 Mongolian Khalks and 24 Papua New Guineans. These three samples are viewed as coming from three separate populations.
The introduction to the study states:
Our knowledge of patterns of genetic variation in the human genome is disproportionately shaped by two loci, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome (NRY). Despite this, relatively few studies have directly compared patterns of DNA sequence variation between these two genomic compartments within human populations. In part, this is because the human NRY has extraordinarily low levels of sequence diversity (Malaspina et al. 1990; Dorit, Akashi, and Gilbert 1995; Hammer 1995; Whitfield, Sulston, and Goodfellow 1995; Jaruzelska, Zietkiewicz, and Labuda 1999; Shen et al. 2000; Sachidanandam et al. 2001), which has made characterization of variation difficult and labor intensive, even at global scales (Underhill et al. 1997). In contrast, mtDNA has proved to be a prolific source of DNA variation, even among very local populations (e.g., Vigilant et al. 1991). The primary cause for these disparate patterns is variation in the spontaneous mutation rate, with base substitutions in mtDNA accumulating approximately an order of magnitude faster than in the NRY (Ingman et al. 2000; Thomson et al. 2000). However, once this difference in mutation rate is taken into account, mtDNA and the NRY should reveal similar evolutionary histories, assuming they are evolving neutrally in a panmictic population with an equal breeding sex ratio. The degree to which these conditions are satisfied, and the extent to which evolutionary forces equally influence mtDNA and the NRY, remain open questions in human evolutionary genetics.

One of the most intriguing observations regarding the evolutionary histories of human mtDNA and Y chromosomes is that they are estimated to have very different times to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA), with that of mtDNA estimated at 171.5 to 238 thousand years ago (kya) Ingman et al. 2000; Tang et al. 2002) and estimates for the NRY ranging between 46 and 109 kya in recent studies (Pritchard et al. 1999; Thomson et al. 2000; Hammer and Zegura 2002; Tang et al. 2002). Because the TMRCA of a selectively neutral locus is influenced primarily by its effective population size (Ne), the observed disparity between mtDNA and the NRY is somewhat unexpected. These loci are typically assumed to have equal Ne values in neutral evolutionary models and are, therefore, also expected to have similar TMRCAs. Taken alone, however, it is difficult to determine whether the observed difference between mtDNA and the NRY reflects anything more than simple stochasticity in the coalescent process (e.g., Hudson and Turelli 2003). Multilocus comparisons with other portions of the genome, however, indicate that the NRY has significantly less diversity (and, thus, a shorter genealogy) than expected under a standard neutral model (Shen et al. 2000). Although the reasons for this reduction in variation remain unclear, these findings suggest that mtDNA and the NRY may be influenced differently by natural selection or sex-specific demographic processes.

Got it?  The idea is to employ various models, assumptions and statistical programs to try to figure out how far back one needs to go to find a common male ancestor in each of the three studied populations (by using the NRY) and how far back one needs to go to find a common female ancestor in each of the three studied populations.

I'm not qualified to discuss whether those processes an assumptions are valid, so keep that in mind.  What the study found was that the time to the most recent common male ancestor was roughly half of that to the most recent common female ancestor.

This is the finding which Baumeister translates as the effects of more intense sexual selection on men than on women and the assumption that twice as many women as men have passed their genes on.   Because that shared grandpa is so much more recent than that shared grandma,  humans have more grandmas than grandpas and the grandpas were the winners. Rather than being the winners of the genetic race,  us women are instead viewed as not having evolved very much at all. Sniff.

And it could be the case that more intense sexual competition meant that fewer men than women passed their genes on, especially if those ancient tribal units practiced some amount of polygyny (one man with more than one woman) though that doesn't prove, in itself, that the men who succeeded in passing their genes on were all those wonderful things Baumeister dreams about.  But there are, in fact, alternative theories for the findings.

It may not be sexual selection which caused that difference (assuming the difference remains verified in future studies) but simply natural selection:
    A leading hypothesis to explain the comparatively recent ancestry of the human NRY is that positive directional selection has played a strong role in shaping nucleotide diversity in this compartment of the genome (Malaspina et al. 1990; Dorit, Akashi, and Gilbert 1995; Whitfield, Sulston, and Goodfellow 1995; Jaruzelska, Zietkiewicz, and Labuda 1999; Pritchard et al. 1999). Because it is non- recombining and haploid, the NRY acts as a single locus that may be particularly prone to periodic diversity-reducing selective sweeps (e.g., Maynard Smith and Haigh 1974; Begun and Aquadro 1992).

      Luca Cavalli Sforza and Marcus Feldman proposed that explanation in 2003 (The Application of Molecular Genetic Approaches to Human Evolution)

      Or it could be stochastic, as Rosalind Harding and Gil McVean proposed in 2003 (A structured ancestral population for the evolution of modern humans)
      Other theories I came across (assuming they are not just sub-examples of those already cited) include the longer generation length of men and the idea that men may have suffered from higher mortality (perhaps in early childhood?) than women so that the sizes of the breeding populations might not have been equal for the two sexes. In short, there may have been fewer fertile men than fertile women, in which case the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) would be miscalculated.

      Finally, the effect could also be caused by patrilocal "marriage" customs which have been the most common form. This means that it is women who move when entering "marriage" (or whatever long-term mate contracts were called), not men. Over time the population will show much more variety in the mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited solely from the mother) than in NRY (which men inherit only from their fathers) because the population builds itself on the basis of related males and unrelated females who came from outside the group. This differential variety would produce the same apparent time to the most recent common ancestor results.

      I hope I got some of that right! The point is that a statement I recently saw somewhere stating that it is definitely proved that twice as many women as men have passed their genes on (DNA!) isn't quite so definite inside evolutionary molecular biology than it is inside the evolutionary psychology amateurs' understanding.

      It's hard for me to know if the studies I found give the most recent views. But that's not really what my task here has been. It has been to show that it always pays to ask how someone knows what they say they know. Always verify!

      Monday, February 11, 2013

      The Unintended Incentives Of Tying Health Insurance to Employment

      We should talk more about incentives in politics and in policies.  For example, the US system of tying health insurance to employment creates some very bad incentives.  Like these:

      As part of his state’s new budget, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his administration are trying to force potentially tens of thousands of public sector employees in the state to work fewer hours so that the government can avoid providing them health care.
      It's in the interest of an organization to do that, and it's more in the interest of profit-focused private firms than the public sector, though McDonnell demonstrates that even the latter will join the cost-cutting train.

      The bad incentives here have to do with manipulating hours of work to avoid paying for health insurance.  Other bad incentives of the employment-tied US health insurance system abound.  The latest of them is that religious thing about employers trying to have a say over what type of health care the insurance policies should cover, to avoid funding contraceptives.  Thus, health insurance becomes something affecting working conditions and also something other people's ethical values determine, in a fairly non-democratic way.

      If health insurance was not tied to employment we wouldn't have so many things to argue about or the kinds of manipulations we are witnessing here, and firms wouldn't be so reluctant to hire older workers with potentially higher health care costs.

      Concealed Carry Laws

      Something fun happened in OregonFirst the Nazgül governor of Oregon, Scott Walker,  pushed for a law which allowed people to enter the Oregon state capitol armed.  My bad, Scott Walker is not the governor of Oregon but of Wisconsin.  Who can keep all those states apart in her divine mind, hmh?  The current governor of Oregon is a Democrat, John Kitzhaber.  (He could be a Nazgül or a Hobbit, I haven't checked.)

      But anyway,  a few pro-gun demonstrators entered the Oregon Capitol building brandishing assault rifles:
      A few hundred pro-gun demonstrators rallied outside the Oregon state Capitol on Friday to protest efforts to enact gun safety laws. A handful of protesters also entered the Capitol building itself and brandished assault rifles and other guns in the Capitol rotunda:
      The Wild, Wild West.  But wait, there's more!  In Arkansas, some churches may soon allow concealed carry in churches which agree to it:

      • In Arkansas, CNN reports, a measure permitting concealed carry of guns in churches has passed the state House of Representatives, and it seems likely to become law. The revision to the statute declares a state of emergency and notes that “a person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security.”
      • This seems about right. If I have one complaint when I go to church, it is that it is not nearly enough like the Wild West. You’d better keep that sermon under 10 minutes. “Please do not shoot the piano player,” read Oscar Wilde’s favorite sign in a Western saloon. “He is doing his best.” No doubt some variant of this will be required.
      • In fact, I can think of some other changes that need to be made to the churches to accommodate the guns. “Thou shalt not kill” should go. Replace it with “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Just as catchy, and more relevant to the situation at hand.

      The medieval churches of Finland had weapon rooms where people left their weapons before entering, which makes me feel weird about the idea of people having guns inside the church today.

      At this rate there is a market for shower holsters for guns.  If nowhere is safe then everywhere one must be armed, right?

      To Be Happy, We Must Admit Women And Men Aren't Equal

      Yesterday I had the weirdest Internet day:  Venturing into places where I'm the Antichrist and mostly by accident!  Two of the sites had to do with Neo-Hitlerites (my term for racists who kinda like Hitler or think he was just misunderstood and who also hate Jews, blacks and women).  I was somewhat surprised by the fact that these guys are not only obsessed with race and the establishment of a White Homeland and all sorts of very, very nasty stuff.  They are also utterly into the oppression of women and telling us our proper role!

      This makes sense, of course.  If you want to create a mega-country with only white people in it you need to get white women to start breeding to the maximum.  Women are the cannons and babies are the cannon balls and the soldiers operating the cannons must be these race-separatist men.  And cannons don't go to college or steal jobs from men.

      One site told me, quite seriously, that feminism is a Jewish plot to make all non-Jews go extinct.  Its purpose is the destruction of the family which results in low birth rates, single mothers who cannot cope and so on.  The solution, it seems, is for men to man-up, grab women by the next and grind their faces into the dirt.  She likes it.  She really does, because evolution made woman interested in only two things:  pleasing the man and having as many babies as possible.  Men, on the other hand, are created Leaders by evolution!  All white men, that is. -- Don't you just love the various theories of our evolution people feel free to present, these days?

      Anyway, this site told me that women should be at home caring for children because that's what evolution created women for.  Because women are so emotional, men should make all decisions except those about children.   I find it hilarious when we get a whole story how all unequal arrangements are to benefit the children and then men would leave that most precious cause for existence to be decided over by the terribly emotional women!

      While scrubbing my eyes with steel wool in the shower I contemplated the fact that the story that site told about women is identical to the story extreme Islamists tell about women which is identical to the story fundamentalist Christians tell about women.  But in some ways this site seems more honest because the writer doesn't even pretend that any of this is for the benefit of women.  Cannons.

      So after disinfecting myself thoroughly and repeating the mantra "only a few rotten apples", I strayed onto a very similar but smarter site from a YouTube video of this Superbowl ad, because the site sent a commando unit of misogynists to take over the comments thread.  They really do hate us!  Especially feminists because feminism stands in the way of the Dominant Alpha Wolf Getting His Way.  Which is pretty funny, given that alpha wolves don't seem to exist in the wild.   They are family guys.

      Anyway, these asshats were so nasty and dehumanizing that I wanted to see who their daddy is.  He's a Nationalist, he tells us, meaning that he is not racist but just wants all races to have their own countries and besides, Hitler was badly misunderstood.  He wants to abolish the Nineteenth Amendment because he believes that women's suffrage destroyed the White Family though he admits that it most likely won't get abolished. 

      He also wants to ban women from becoming physicians (I was too tired to find out why but suspect it's too high a role for women).  And he is opposed to abortion, thinks homosexuality is a disease caused by early childhood homosexual abuse and so on.  Interestingly, he seems to have joined the misogynists openly not because he would feel strongly about the perfidy of women as a sex but because his plan for a White Homeland requires taking away women's human rights.  Cannons, again.

      And no, I'm not linking to either site.  And yes, I had to do the steel wool operation again.

      There's something very wrong about me because the third piece I read was on the Fox News website, titled "To Be Happy, We Must Admit Women And Men Aren't "Equal.""  Suzanne Venker's piece  has snippets such as this

      • It’s time to say what no one else will: Feminism didn’t result in equality between the sexes – it resulted in mass confusion. Today, men and women have no idea who’s supposed to do what.

      • Prior to the 1970s, people viewed gender roles as as equally valuable. Many would argue women had the better end of the deal! It’s hard to claim women were oppressed in a nation in which men were expected to stand up when a lady enters the room or to lay down their lives to spare women life. When the Titanic went down in 1912, its sinking took 1,450 lives. Only 103 were women. One-hundred three.

      • Compare that with last year’s wrecked cruise line, the Costa Concordia. It resulted in fewer deaths, but there was another significant difference. “There was no ‘women and children first’ policy. There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats. It was disgusting,” said passenger Sandra Rogers, 62.

      • The captain of the ship agrees. In USA Today, Francesco Schettino was asked about his New Year’s resolution. He responded, “Bone up on the parts about ‘women and children first’ and ‘the captain goes down with his ship.’
      Mmm.  Thousands of years of unequal laws were all worth it because men stood up when a woman arrived in the room and because in one shipwreck most of those who drowned were men. *
      The idea here is that chivalry was a far-ranging social force which women received in exchange for carefully prescribed traditional gender roles and subjugation.  But if that had been the truth nobody in those golden pre-feminist years would have been raped, no woman would have been beaten, no woman would have been treated badly at her job, say.  And none of those early writers would have written these sorts of things about women if people truly valued women and men and the traditional male and female roles equally. 

      I won't veer to the other extreme from Venker, however.  There were both men and women in the past who didn't criticize or dislike women but worked for more rights for women.  Still,  donning the traditional gender female role of the past certainly did not save women from being hated by some or from having less rights and respect.  Even today, many of the MRA sites criticize women in the labor force for taking away men's jobs and women at home for not working.  You really cannot win those battles, my sweet Suzanne.

      But of course Suzanne isn't interested in any of that.  She's interested in selling books which she shouldn't be interested in, given her own game rules.  She should be immersed in her home and that's it.  After all, the traditional gender roles assigned all public sphere stuff to men.

      What about those gulf-like gender differences which we must admit to before we can be "happy?"  Are women really from Venus and men from Mars, and if so, how can I get my return ticket to Venus?  
      Funnily enough, I also came across this article, having to do with a study which measured various personality traits of men and women, using physical strength of the comparison:
      Dating book authors and policymakers alike often claim that scientific research proves men and women are vastly different. But a team of researchers analyzed data from thousands of people across many different studies, and found that lots of traits we tend to think of as deeply gendered really aren't.
      Study authors Bobbi Carothers and Harry Reis used both their own questionnaires and research by others to look at the characteristics of 13,301 men and women. Specifically, they wanted to find out whether traits like assertiveness broke down neatly by gender or were more evenly distributed, with some men and some women reporting high levels of assertiveness. Other traits they looked at included physical strength, caring for others, and being comfortable with casual sex.
      I haven't read the study.  But with that reservation (and remembering that we are comparing this Suzanne Venker's Private Opinions), here are two graphs which show the distributions of physical strength and assertiveness of men and women in the study:

      What those graphs demonstrate is that assertiveness is much, much more equally distributed between men and women than physical strength (probably upper-body strength).

      Here's the problem with Venker's arguments:  She posits a Happy Past when it wasn't especially happy and probably less happy than the present.  She then gives two examples of male chivalry as the reward for female subjugation, and one is simply hot air, the other one the only example always given at the MRA sites about how women were better off in the past, at least if they traveled on the Titanic. 
      Now, most of us will never experience a situation like the Titanic, which makes its mythical importance in the MRA circles so very odd.  What those men did many decades ago is supposed to justify all sorts of goodies to today's men, even if they never gave up their lives for a woman. But if we used the same logic, the gang rapes of women in Bosnia should bear equally heavily on all men living today, and they should be used as examples of the lack of chivalry on men's part.  I'm pretty sure that the Bosnian women weren't hairy feminazis so feminism cannot be blamed for those atrocities. --  But that's where we go when we start positing that all men are the same with each other and all women the same with each other, and either taking credit for our sex or blaming the other in toto.
      That, and the assumption of innate  gulf-like gender differences between men and women is the biggest unsupported assertion Venker makes, together with the assertion (also given without any proof) that one will find happiness by following her recommendations.  
      In some ways that last part is the bit I feel worst about because she will never be held responsible for any unhappiness her advice causes.  Yet she is engineering human relationships, without telling us that if we follow her advice the next generation will continue reading stuff about women's intellectual inferiority, about the gold-digging aspect of women at home (what do they DO all day?  And no, that's not my question but something that was common in those pre-feminist days in cartoons and such) and about the importance of letting men be men equaling letting men be the bosses.  She's making more work for the feminists of the future, and believe me that they will exist because, my sweetings, feminism is an evolutionary adaptation!  So I have decided.
      There!  I went all shrill in this one and boy doesn't it feel good!  The reason was that I first waded in turds, then received a prettily wrapped box with a pink bow on it, opened it and found:  A turd.
      *One site on the Titanic has slightly different death figures.  It looks like her female death figures were for passengers only but the total figures were for passengers and crew.  The crew was predominantly male.  But so were the passengers in that my link shows 776 adult male passengers and 896 male staff and crew.  The adult female figures were:  412 passengers and 22 crew.  The death rates were considerably higher for men than women but they were also higher for second class passengers than first class passengers and highest all for those traveling in steerage.

      The valor of many men on the Titanic is not something I debate.  The point is that if we pick one example of behavior as the justification for traditional gender roles why this particular example?