Monday, June 22, 2015

Nigel Short: Men are Just Better At Chess And Driving.

Nigel Short is a chess champion.  That makes him an expert in most everything, certainly the person to argue that there are so few women in professional chess because men are simply better at chess.

An example of his arguments:

In April, Mr Short, originally from Leigh, near Wigan, but now living in Greece, told the magazine New in Chess that men were simply better at things like chess and driving, while acknowledging that his wife had “a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do”.

Ah, so sweet.  When Short makes equal allegations about chess and driving as things men simply do better he fails to look at the statistics on car accidents.  If I was as lazy about research as Nigel seems to be I'd point out that the only fair condensed interpretation of those statistics is that women are better drivers than men.

But because I'm not that lazy,  I'd have to point out that we need to control for lots of stuff when comparing female and male drivers, including the average number of miles driven per various time units and so on.

Short doesn't do any of that thinking for driving (where he ignores the actual evidence and goes by his prejudice) or for playing chess (where he ignores all the myriad reasons  which exist to explain why fewer women than men play chess or why fewer women than men play professional chess, except for the one that men might simply be innately better at chess).

Short wrote those opinions last April and various critical responses followed.  Now he has come back with a lot of anger about how awful feminists have been to him in those critical responses:

One of Britain’s greatest ever chess players, Nigel Short, has complained he has been turned into a “misogynist pantomine villain” by “shrill and tyrannical” feminists.
This has made my day.  I'm a shrill and tyrannical person!*  Me, the kindest and gentlest of all goddesses that ever existed.  Me, with power only over some imaginary snakes!  I can't even fucking play chess!  But I can tyrannize poor little Nigel.

To go into more serious aspects of what Short is saying now:

“The simple fact of the matter is that men play better chess than women,” he said.
“A quick glance at the top 100 reveals that only two of them are female (an historical high, incidentally).
“The point is not that women are incapable of playing good chess – because clearly some of them can – rather that they are less likely to do so, on average.
“The feminist lobby has become so tyrannical in its shrill orthodoxy. Nevertheless, whether one likes it or not, numerous studies show that men, on average, consistently outperform women in spatial tasks.”
Tsk, tsk.  Ten years ago a quick glance of US presidents wouldn't have shown a single man who wasn't of all-white inheritance.  Are we now at the historical high in racial diversity of presidents?  Can we never have a female president?

Then there's the evidence of spatial tasks.  The results on those depend a lot on what we mean by a spacial task.  If it's three-dimensional mental rotation men, on average, indeed do better than women, on average. But is that test directly relevant for chess?

I'm not sure.  But one spacial test, the object location memory test, certainly seems to be, and that is the test in which the gender differences are also consistent and favor women.

Ah, why spend a lovely summer day writing about one Mr. Nigel Short?  Perhaps because someone must stay very shrill, if for no other reason than to point out that it's hard to take anyone's objectivity seriously when they call their critics shrill.

 * Well, he isn't talking about me, because I don't seem to have written anything about Mr. Short's opinions (I had to check!).  But given the current fashion of regarding everyone who believes in the goal of gender equality as
just an indistinguishable part of the totalitarian hive-mind of those frightening feminazis, I'm going to use that flawed thinking in reverse in this post.