More on the Memo

Some academics respond to the memo, for what it's worth:
#1: The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right.

#2: I think it’s really important to discuss this topic scientifically, keeping an open mind and using informed skepticism when evaluating claims about evidence. In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong. For instance, sex differences in negative emotionality are universal across cultures; developmentally emerge across all cultures at exactly the same time; are linked to diagnosed (not just self-reported) mental health issues; appear rooted in sex differences in neurology, gene activation, and hormones; are larger in more gender egalitarian nations; and so forth (for a short review of this evidence, see here.)

But it is not clear to me how such sex differences are relevant to the Google workplace. And even if sex differences in negative emotionality were relevant to occupational performance (e.g., not being able to handle stressful assignments), the size of these negative emotion sex differences is not very large (typically, ranging between “small” to “moderate” in statistical effect size terminology; accounting for less than 10% of the variance).

#3: Among commentators who claim the memo’s empirical facts are wrong, I haven’t read a single one who understand sexual selection theory, animal behavior, and sex differences research.

#4: As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.

Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at....

Some of these ideas have been published in neuroscientific journals—despite having faulty study methodology—because they’ve been deemed socially pleasing and “progressive.” As a result, there’s so much misinformation out there now that people genuinely don’t know what to believe.
I think the last one has an interesting point: some of the misconception about what the science says comes from the fact that even scientific journals filter for results that are "pleasing and progressive." That is naturally going to distort the debate downstream. That's how you get a guy like the former Google admin quoted below who argues, essentially, 'I'm sure the author was wrong on the science, though I am not qualified to discuss the science and must defer to experts.'


Matt said...

I'm wondering how long before the scientists responding to the Google memo are dismissed as "three privileged white males and one banana" and told their Eurocentric interpretation of the data is provincial, invalid, and disempowering, or whatever.

I suspect part of the vehement opposition to the memo stems from (beyond a massive failure to understand basic concepts of population statistics among people who are sufficiently well-educated that they ought to know better) is that the old notion of everyone having the right to the pursuit of their own happiness has, over time, turned into the idea that "anyone can be anything"

Under a free-market capitalist system (and, judging from history, we've yet to figure out how to keep any other kind running on a large scale and over a long-term), the fruits of society end up distributed roughly according to ability to contribute, as judged by those receiving those contributions. In the modern age, in particular, you get the added wrinkle that occupations that can leverage telecommunications to reach huge audiences simultaneously (tech, finance, entertainment) experience a huge multiplier effect on the rewards for their labor, making them especially lucrative. While individuals generally accept that they have limitations, the idea that their entire group might face inherent limitations on their participation in the most lucrative parts of the economy compared to other groups would, therefore, seem to be an especially destabilizing one. It's similar to the backlash against Charles Murray's research on IQ that we've seen recently. The notion that all differences in participation in sectors of the economy must surely be the sole product of discrimination thus seems to have taken on aspects of Plato's concept of the "Noble Lie" -- true or not, it's a bedrock of people accepting society as it is.

Christopher B said...

It's not a 'Noble Lie', it's the fact our entire socio-economic philosophical toolbox has been reduced to carrying around the hammer of the Marxist social theory, desperately seeking the nail of oppression in every human relationship.

Eric Blair said...

To use the catch-phrase, people are getting red-pilled over this. Google messed up big, it's not going to get swept under the rug.

Texan99 said...

"treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership"--as usual, this is the key for me. None of this nonsense would be a problem if we could learn that trick. Unfortunately, affirmative action and disparate-treatment analysis prevent any effort to treat people as individuals, so you find people trying to argue simultaneously that we're all the same and that we're so different we have to be treated differently according to our victim classification.

The fired guy was saying something so obvious: if you're going to demand quotas, you have to look at statistical patterns among groups, or all your ideas about causation (in this context, causation by bias) will be rubbish. If you don't think it conduces to social justice or harmony to focus on statistical differences among groups, then give up the quota nonsense and the disparate-impact nonsense.

What a load of balderdash it all is. I thought he had some very sensible suggestions about re-thinking ideas like whether it's best for the company, or best for society, etc., to reward people who are the most type-A and the worst at career/family balance. If the value we place on those qualities is wrong, we should act like it. If it's right, we should quit whining because non-type-A people keep accumulating power and money.