Slate Star Codex on the ‘gender gap’

I briefly snarked about Leslie et al (2015) [“Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines”] last week, but I should probably snark at it more rigorously and at greater length.

This is the paper that concludes that “women are underrepresented in fields whose practitioners believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for success because women are stereotyped as not possessing that talent.” They find that some survey questions intended to capture whether people believe a field requires innate talent correlate with percent women in that field at a fairly impressive level of r = -0.60.

The media, science blogosphere, et cetera has taken this result and run with it…

Okay. Imagine a study with the following methodology. You survey a bunch of people to get their perceptions of who is a smoker (“97% of his close friends agree Bob smokes”). Then you correlate those numbers with who gets lung cancer. Your statistics program lights up like a Christmas tree with a bunch of super-strong correlations. You conclude “Perception of being a smoker causes lung cancer”, and make up a theory about how negative stereotypes of smokers cause stress which depresses the immune system. The media reports that as “Smoking Doesn’t Cause Cancer, Stereotypes Do”.

This is the basic principle behind Leslie et al (2015)…

This is ultimate taboo in the modern West: that the sexes (and even race groups) are not identical in their innate abilities.  There is a huge pile of evidence for it, but it is so freighted with political incorrectness that while I have not heard of anyone actually being incarcerated over it, it has caused some to lose jobs and turned individuals into shunned “non-persons.”

No wonder the status of scientists and their credibility has taken a hit.

h/t HBD Chick