Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Sexist math paradigm falls

Schoolgirls now at parity with boys in math – what next?

Female Bach or Einstein still unlikely, but huge economic advantage in view for PC ruled countries

Will human race double its resourcefulness in science and even art?

veil.jpgGirls are as good at math as boys, according to a huge new study from Berkeley and Wisconsin that seems to seal the finding beyond question. One of male mankind’s oldest and most universal beliefs has been toppled forever:

Girls no longer left behind in math, study shows

Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, July 24, 2008

(07-24) 11:04 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — A new study comparing the math scores of 7 million students across the country shows what the five female university researchers already knew: Girls are just as good as boys at math.

The research seems to settle a long-running debate over the existence of a math gene that gives boys an edge over girls in advanced coursework and ultimately in the workforce.

“Today we do know that women can do math,” said Marcia Linn, UC Berkeley education professor and co-author of the report, published in Friday’s issue of “Science.”

The study found no difference between boys and girls in performance on math tests given in grades two through 11.

Decades ago, that wasn’t the case. Girls took fewer advanced math and science courses and those who did posted lower scores.

Concerted efforts over the last 20 years to encourage girls to pursue math seem to have paid off. By 2000, high school girls were taking calculus at the same rate as their male peers, which could be interpreted as showing they no longer felt shut out of the most demanding math courses.

“Equalization of math enrollment has led equalization of performance,” Linn said.

Those gender gaps, however, still exist in performance on science assessment and in the workplace, Linn said.

Previous studies have shown that girls are just as capable at math as boys, but the new research was the first to look at such a massive sample of students across the country – taking advantage of the standardized test scores now required by No Child Left Behind.

The research team compared the average performance of all students on the tests, the scores of the most gifted children and the ability of students to solve complex math problems.

“In all cases, girls measured up to boys,” the authors said.

Statistical information from 10 states was included in the study, including California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming.

E-mail Jill Tucker at jtucker@sfchronicle.com.

So Larry Summers has got his wish and science has spoken on the issue. Given that research was all he asked for, it seems unfair that he should have had to resign as Harvard’s President in 2006. Let us all who think for ourselves in these PC hot areas be glad that at least most Harvard students thought he should stay. But Alas, he is stll being misreported for stating a conclusion and not a question, as per the San Francisco Business Times today:

In January 2005, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers sparked controversy when he said that innate differences between men and woman caused fewer women to be successful in science and math fields. Summers said he was only trying to provoke debate.

His comments earned him the ire of the feminist community, with the National Organization for Women demanding he step down. One professor left his speech saying that if she had stayed, “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” In 2006, Summers resigned as president, a move students opposed 57 percent to 19 percent.

Doubling human brain power

Evidently we can now be sure that the brain is an organ whose powers are ruled in both sexes by social and psychological factors, an organ of great potential which is highly adaptable in youth and indeed all through life. Motivated exercise builds our neurons just as it builds muscle, even in our senior years, when it appears to prolong life. Encouragement from teachers, parents and peers is a major influence for all, with criticism, disapproval and negative expectations all powerful brakes.

Presumably the same kind of study will eventually have the same result in art and science, toppling the age old belief that women are handicapped in those areas by brain structure or function. Or will it? One waits to see if a female Beethoven will ever emerge in music. World chess champions remain male, even though there are very strong female players.

Ah yes, now we see that the study also showed that boys are still much more variable than girls, who tend to crowd the middle portion of the distribution. Girls may be remain much less competitive at the extremes:

Boys’ Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows:
More boys scored extremely well — or extremely poorly — than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.

One measure of a top score is achieving the “99th percentile” — scoring in the top 1% of all students. Boys were significantly more likely to hit this goal than girls.

In Minnesota, for example, 1.85% of white boys in the 11th grade hit the 99th percentile, compared with 0.9% of girls — meaning there were more than twice as many boys among the top scorers than girls.


Boys’ Math Scores Hit Highs and Lows
By KEITH J. WINSTEIN
July 25, 2008; Page A2

Girls and boys have roughly the same average scores on state math tests, but boys more often excelled or failed, researchers reported.

The fresh research adds to the debate about gender difference in aptitude for mathematics, including efforts to explain the relative scarcity of women among professors of science, math and engineering.

In the 1970s and 1980s, studies regularly found that high- school boys tended to outperform girls. But a number of recent studies have found little difference.

The latest study, in this week’s journal Science, examined scores from seven million students who took statewide mathematics tests from grades two through 11 in 10 states between 2005 and 2007.

The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, didn’t find a significant overall difference between girls’ and boys’ scores. But the study also found that boys’ scores were more variable than those of girls. More boys scored extremely well — or extremely poorly — than girls, who were more likely to earn scores closer to the average for all students.

One measure of a top score is achieving the “99th percentile” — scoring in the top 1% of all students. Boys were significantly more likely to hit this goal than girls.

In Minnesota, for example, 1.85% of white boys in the 11th grade hit the 99th percentile, compared with 0.9% of girls — meaning there were more than twice as many boys among the top scorers than girls.

The reason for the difference isn’t known, and the results may not apply to all ethnic groups.

The study found that boys are consistently more variable than girls, in every grade and in every state studied. That difference has “been a concern over the years,” said Marcia C. Linn, a Berkeley education professor and one of the study’s authors. “People didn’t pay attention to it at first when there was a big difference” in average scores, she said. But now that girls and boys score similarly on average, researchers are taking notice, she said.

Write to Keith J. Winstein at keith.winstein@wsj.com Regardless of the details the vast question raised once again by the study is just how much the human race has lost by burdening and restricting the potential of half of its members. Islamic fundamentalist countries such as Saudi Arabia are not only flouting fundamental human rights but shooting themselves in the rear end with their restrictions on the freedom of their women to exercise their full abilities.

saudiwomencar.jpgAt the moment, women are still not officially allowed to drive in that life-denying country, but so many are doing so that it is expected that that particular fence will fall soon:

(From Could the ban on women drivers be lifted? – Hamida Ghafour in The National July 19 2008 )

“I worked for an insurance company and quit last month, but they told me when they had meetings with officials they were told women will be allowed [to drive] this year. So we are waiting.”

Yet another indication came at a press conference on July 13, when the director general of the Saudi traffic department announced that new laws to curb dangerous driving were not gender specific. Previously, the rules referred to men, but now “the new law speaks only about the driver of the vehicle and there is no specification of either man or woman”, he told reporters…..

“I think we will drive by the end of the year,” says Wajeha al Huwaider, 46, who caused a sensation in March when she posted a video of herself on YouTube driving around her company’s compound……

“Can you imagine a girl driving? She will be followed home by seven guys. Guys follow a girl home even if she is in a car with her family. If you allow them to drive, you need to change the whole social atmosphere.”

chinaapple.jpgSince America is one of the most liberated societies in this regard, or so it pretends, it will retain a strong economic and cultural advantage as long as the gap lasts. But will it? Looking at photos of Chinese youth gathered round the toys being shown off in the new Apple store in Beijing, it is easy to imagine that the new generation in Asia may be quite liberated after all.

(Click to enlarge) On the other hand, while the girl looks equally thoughtful she does seem a little pushed out of the way by the boys… hard to say. We need a study.

In fact, the US economy is sloughing off women in the workforce unusually rapidly as hard times gather, according to the the Times story on Tuesday (Jul 22), Poor Economy Slams Brakes on Women’s Workplace Progress, a story on the falling percentage of women at work, a reversal of seven earlier recoveries since 1960 which ended with more women at work than before.

Anyhow, one of the grandest global paradigms, the assumption that girls are inherently less able to learn math skills than boys, is now defunct, and an eventual doubling of human capacity in this and other arenas seems in view.

See also Girls catch boys in math says Cal, Wisconsin study – San Francisco Business Times
Girls catch boys in math says Cal, Wisconsin study – San Francisco Business Times – by Elizabeth Rauber

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, says that girls now perform as well as boys on standardized math tests.

The study also said that girls take the same number and level of math courses as boys in elementary and high schools.

The results differ from studies done 20 years ago, which suggested that girls matched boys in elementary school but fell behind by high school.

UC Berkeley education professor Marcia Linn, an author of the study, said, “Now that enrollment in advanced math courses is equalized in high school, we don’t see gender differences in performance.”

On July 16, Linn testified before the Congressional Science Technology Engineering & Math Education caucus, calling for efforts to boost the number of women in science courses, where they are underrepresented.

Linn told the San Francisco Business Times “that one of the really important things we’ve noticed is that people are surprised by these findings, which shows there are still stereotypes out there. An important implication (of the study) is that parents and teachers need to encourage both men and women.”

“When we looked closely at these new tests, they are not as challenging, they focus more on recall than on problem solving,” Linn said. “We need to make sure tests that we use require the kind of reasoning that the business world would like and that we all need.”

Janet Hyde, a psychology professor at UW Madison, blamed cultural stereotypes for the lack of female mathematicians, engineers and physicists. “If your mom or your teacher thinks you (girls) can’t do math, that can have a big impact on your math self-concept,” said Hyde, another author of the study.

In January 2005, Harvard University President Lawrence Summers sparked controversy when he said that innate differences between men and woman caused fewer women to be successful in science and math fields. Summers said he was only trying to provoke debate.

His comments earned him the ire of the feminist community, with the National Organization for Women demanding he step down. One professor left his speech saying that if she had stayed, “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” In 2006, Summers resigned as president, a move students opposed 57 percent to 19 percent.

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