One curious thing about scientific pronouncements is that they often seem to accord more with the spirit of the age than fact and reason. Thus, a Nazi researcher in 1930's Germany would analyze data from only one angle and state, "You see, this vindicates our assertion that the Aryans are the master race." Now, lest you think that such provincial thinking doesn't plague our enlightened age, I can assure you, it's alive and well -- only the ends have changed.
Many agendas exist in the world of "objective" science, but none does more violence to science's search for and relation of truth than the feminist one. And the effect of feminism goes far and deep but, needless to say, its filters are most employed in the area of sex differences.
Not too long ago feminists were deathly afraid of such study, fearing that the differences found would indicate that men were superior, thwarting their agenda and providing a justification for discrimination. So a doctrine was developed stating that the sexes were the same, except for the superficial physical differences, and that differences in behavior between them were solely the result of upbringing.
This was a fact. It was palpably obvious. It was unarguable, unassailable and undeniable. Suggesting otherwise became a third rail of American discourse, constituted sacrilege and visited upon the offender scorn, pillorying and a branding with the label "sexist"
But then came the 1990's and research demonstrating conclusively that the sexes were different in everything but their souls, from the womb to the tomb. The feminists had been wrong -- unarguably, unassailably, undeniably. Not that a collective admission of this and commensurate contrition would be forthcoming. Oh, the latter especially was most certainly in order, given the fact that child-rearing prescriptions based on their misconception had greatly contributed to the destruction of American parenting. But the feminist response would be quite different.
Seemingly without missing a beat, the feminists changed their tack. Yes, most assuredly these differences exist and surprised not are we. For, you see, they prove that women are superior! I am woman, hear me crow. In fact, it spawned a whole new, albeit obscure, branch of feminism: "Femaleism." Although, don't think I'm laying all the blame for this at the ladies' doorstep. For, this chorus of soprano voices is joined by the tenor ones of men whose psyches are clad in black rubber suits, and who seem to revel in what they fancy to be their newfound subordinate status.
The area where the feminist spin is most operational is that of brain research. I've read numerous articles on the subject over the last decade or so and, every time I do, I know I can expect two things. The first is the casting of men of men as inferior if not irrevocably flawed beings. The second is specious reasoning and tendentious conclusions that lend that claim credence.
For instance, there's a type of brain research called functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI]. A fMRI can measure brain activity by creating multidimensional images of blood flow to various parts of the brain. In other words, the device produces a map of the brain and designates different levels of blood flow with different colors. Consequently, scientists can determine what part or parts of a subject's brain are involved in the performance of a given task. If a part of the brain becomes a certain color, bingo, it's as busy as a bee.
So, one day I was reading a piece on just such research. In it was stated that when performing various tasks many areas of women's brains would be active, whereas only one area of men's brains would. The conclusion was, not surprisingly, that the female brain may be able to tackle a problem more effectively because a woman "uses more of her brain." It seems like a tenable theory. Very convincing indeed.
But some moons later it just so happened that I was reading another article on the subject and I came upon a very curious analysis. Its author spoke about fMRI research involving the task of recognizing faces and, lo and behold, it was men's brains that lit up all over the map. What struck me, though, was the conclusion: "This may mean that men's brains have to work harder to perform the task!" I wonder, pray tell, to what can we attribute such diametrically opposite conclusions when viewing the same data? Really, the equation is obvious: same phenomenon + different sex + same agenda = different conclusion. Very interesting indeed.
On yet a different occasion I was reading about the physical structures of the brain. It was on that day that I learned that the corpus callosum -- the tissue that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain -- is bigger in women than in men. This is said to create more interaction between the two halves and the writer explained its effect in this manner, "This may mean that a woman can make connections that won't occur to a man."
On the other hand, when the size factor weighs in men's favor the bigger is better argument goes the way of the dodo. For instance, men's brains are about 11 percent larger than women's. But when mention of this is made, the writer usually hastens to add that "There's no correlation between brain size and intelligence" and sometimes includes, "The largest brain ever discovered belonged to a man who was retarded."
Now, I will submit to you my own set of conclusions with the promise that they will be at least as well reasoned as, and far less contradictory than, those of these often vaunted science writers. What does it mean when numerous parts of women's brains become active while only one part of men's does when performing most tasks? Well, it seems to me that this may vindicate the old assertion that women are scatterbrained, since [with most tasks anyway] women's brains become active in a "scattered" manner. Moreover, if the norm for men is to only use the part of the brain necessary to perform the task in question and quiet parts that would conflict with its function, it's entirely possible that theirs is the more efficient way of executing the task. This would be much that same as performing a physical task and being sure to use only the necessary muscles, while keeping the opposing muscles -- which would work against the former -- relaxed.
What about the affect of having a larger corpus callosum? Well, many have observed that women often let emotion cloud their logic. And since that tissue connects what could be termed the logical and emotional halves of the brain, if its greater size means that there is in fact more interaction between the emotional and logical realms, it's not a huge leap to say that this may provide a scientific basis for that perception.
Now, can I prove these assertions? No, not anymore than the minions of feminism can prove theirs. Nor is it my intention to raise the ire of the members of the fairer sex who will imbibe these words. However, I'll pit my logic against these writers' and give them mighty good odds any day of the week. For, it makes much more sense to interpret this research in light of the wisdom born of millennia of observation by millions of individuals, than it does to simply look at brain structures and characteristics and attempt to divine what effect they should have. Why, the latter is very much like studying the brain of an elephant, noting that it dwarfs man's, ignoring what we know about the relative intelligence of the two beings and concluding that elephants must be more intelligent.
In fact, on occasion these science writers seem to agree with me. When might this be? Well, oh, perhaps when the brain structure seems to confer an advantage upon men, like the aforementioned greater brain size. It is then that the divination of effect based on anatomy is dispensed with.
Of course, sometimes the feminist bias manifests itself not in omitting half [or more] of the possible conclusions but half of the facts. For instance, it's very fashionable to bring to light men's characteristic sins and weaknesses but women's are off limits. Moreover, women's strengths are often focused on to the exclusion of men's and are sometimes even, dare I say, invented.
For example, we're so often told that boys are more likely than girls to be born retarded, but seldom is it pointed out that there are infinitely more male math geniuses than female ones [I've read the ratio is 13:1]. Or, we may hear that boys are more likely to exhibit learning disabilities, but seldom do we hear about the fact that the majority of highly gifted children are also boys. Then again, it could be the statistic informing us that men are involved in more auto accidents than women. Never, though, is that fact put in perspective. The other half of the story is that it is only the case because men drive far more on average, and that for every million miles driven women get into more crashes.
Among the journalism school retreads who generate this pap, however, both conscious and unconscious biases preclude them from providing such balance. As for the former, it's no secret that most journalists never saw a left-wing agenda they didn't like, and presenting such inconvenient facts would conflict with feminist imperatives. As for the latter, it concerns what I would call an affirmative-action mentality. If women are found lagging behind in an area, well, it's obviously because of discrimination. After all, we know they're equal, so what else could it be?
When men are found wanting the modus operandi is very different. For, this assumption of equality is suddenly conspicuously absent. The shortcoming is assumed to be the result of some inherent weakness or flaw, rendering further analysis unnecessary. All one needs to know are the tenets of left-wing dogma, and he can then park his brain at the door of the newsroom. And this from the crowd that has most vociferously decried the practice of acting based on unconscious prejudices.
Needless to say, bad science is sometimes foisted upon the public by bad scientists. Scientists are people, with emotions, aspirations, character flaws and hang-ups, and agendas abound in their world just like in any other. The first example of such an individual that comes to mind is the man who peddled fraudulent research about human sexuality, Alfred Kinsey. In all fairness, however, not all of the blame can be laid at the scientific community's doorstep.
You have to ask yourself, how is information about scientific research related to us? Obviously, we rely on the media to disseminate it, and therein lies the rub. One of the problems here is that many in the media lack the ability to read a scientific study -- usually written in scientific parlance -- and interpret it correctly. Couple that with the far greater problem of now infamous media bias and you have a recipe for egregious misinformation.
The media bias manifests itself in two ways, the first one being the simple act of distorting scientific findings -- or accepting a distorted version of them from others -- simply because they serve to further a cherished cause. A great example of this is the statistic that 150,000 women a year die from anorexia. This was debunked by author Christina Hoff Sommers in her book Who Stole Feminism?; Sommers ascertained that the actual figure was approximately -- get the digitalis, Ma -- 145. But by this time the phony statistic had already been touted as just more evidence of how this infernal patriarchal culture objectifies women and destroys their psyches.
Why were ostensibly intelligent people so willing to believe a statistic whose magnitude should have raised a red flag? Quite simply, it affirmed and accorded with their view of reality, which casts men in the role of oppressors and women as the oppressed.
A far more interesting science myth is the idea that all babies begin life in the womb as females. I'm sure that this claim pleases feminists to no end: that men are made out of women, and not the other way around like the Bible tells us. After pondering the issue, I realized that the claim was an illogical one and refuted it in a piece that I wrote some time ago. Interestingly, however, I had been under the impression that this misconception was the handiwork of philosophically inept researchers who were leading naive journalists astray. Subsequently, though, I discovered that this was not necessarily the position of the scientific community and that, according to many within it, a child at such a nascent stage of development could best be described as "intersex" [This is also a claim that I dispute, but that's grist for a different day].
Then there is the element of media bias that is so often overlooked: what the media choose to report on in the first place. Of course, as with how issues will be framed, these determinations are often driven by the misguided passions of those in the media.
But then there's the matter of fringe science. Fringe science appeals to self-serving journalists as well as self-serving scientists because its iconoclastic nature garners great attention, enabling second-rate researchers to get published and intellectually vacuous journalists to grab headlines.
A good example of this is the most untenable claim that women will overtake men in running events in the foreseeable future. The argument goes as follows: when comparing the improvement in the track and field world records of the sexes during the last forty years, one observes that the gap between the sexes has been closing steadily. In other words, the women's times have been improving at a more rapid rate than the men's. Based on this, we can project that women will surpass men by such and such year.
Now, I was well aware of the progression of such world records, but my common-sense also told me why such patterns existed. After all, while men have been deeply involved in sports for quite some time, women only started participating in them seriously three to four decades ago. Consequently, the gap in those days was greater than biology dictated it should be because it was not just a function of biology but also lifestyle differences. However, as women started participating in sports in greater numbers the lifestyle difference factor was progressively diminished, causing the gap between the sexes to shrink accordingly. But I also knew that women wouldn't even start to approach parity -- the gap would simply take on the proportions that biology alone dictates.
To test my hypothesis, I logged on to my trusty computer and started analyzing the progression of world records. It wasn't difficult; inside of fifteen minutes I was able to determine that the feminist claim was based on a very selective analysis of data from the forty year time period. You see, when I analyzed the most recent trends -- those of the last fifteen years -- I found that the gap was closing not a whit. Then, upon doing research for this article, I discovered the work of researchers who have also punctured this myth. In fact, it's now said that the women are actually getting slower relative to the men and that this is attributable to drug-testing that prevents women from benefitting from the use of synthetic male hormones [Sportscience News, May-June 1997,].
But this does beg a couple of questions: how is it that trained researchers arrived at and published faulty conclusions that I, a layman working alone, was able to put the lie to in two shakes of a lamb's tail? How is it that journalists from Sacramento to Bangor accepted fringe science at face value, completely ignoring that it was at variance with what was consensus belief in the field?
At the risk of being redundant, yes, it served to further the feminist agenda. Just as significantly, however, the writers and researchers who peddled this fringe science got their fifteen minutes of fame. This explains why the very sound and abundant research debunking the myth in question received little exposure, while the voodoo research propounding the myth could not be printed fast enough by salivating journalists.
The irony of this might be amusing if the implications weren't so grave. You see, what it means is that it's far more likely that the media will tell us about bad science than good science, which means that it's far more likely than the American people will know about bad science than good science. Think about it: every researcher in the field of exercise physiology could be saying that men will remain pre-eminent in the athletic arena, while one could claim the opposite. This presents you with a choice of two possible headlines: "Men Will Continue to Surpass Women in Sports" or, "Women Will Overtake Men in Sports." Now, which research do you think will animate the pen of the average scribe?
So, how does one separate the wheat from the chaff and avoid being played for a fool? Well, one prerequisite for identifying scientific pronouncements that are born of the spirit of the age is being familiar with that spirit. Know that ours is that of political-correctness and feminism constitutes a good part of its ectoplasm. It's an unholy spirit that endeavors to remake society by reshaping our view of reality, and it knows that nothing buttresses an agenda more than conjuring up a specious scientific basis for it. So cultivate a skeptical eye, because until this spirit is exorcised we'll continue to be barraged with science that's not worth the paper it's printed on.
Selwyn Duke lives in Westchester County, New York. He is a tennis professional, internet entrepreneur, and writer whose works have appeared on various sites on the Internet, including Intellectual Conservative and Mensnet. A large number of his works can be found at his site www.SelwynDuke.com.