Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Greatness of Women

Christopher Hitchens insisted that God is not great. It’s not so clear that God got the message.

Now, Melvin Konner insists that women are Great. In his view women are better than men at just about everything.

Blinded by the light Konner believes that with the ascendance of Woman, the glorification of women, the empowerment of women, we will all be entering a new era. Let’s call it the Age of Aquarius.

Konner appears to be a scientist. He teaches anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. This allows him to gussy up his ideological predispositions with scientific terminology. This used to be called scientism, and I see no reason why we should not continue to call it thus.

Those who begin with a preconceived idea tend to cherry picks the facts that will sustain their argument. They are the idealists and ideologues.

Real scientists begin by observing facts and collecting data. They formulate hypotheses and test them against experiments. They scrupulously report their findings and remain skeptical of the conclusions.

Konner begins with an encomium to women. It is not a scientific fact. It is not a hypothesis. Saying that women are better at everything, that they are the embodiment of goodness while men are the source of all human evil is not science. It is ideology masquerading as science.

Worse yet, it is moral judgment. Everyone who has read David Hume knows that ethics and science do not mix. The latter is about what is, the former is about what should.

In Konner’s words:

I mean that women are fundamentally pragmatic as well as caring, cooperative as well as competitive, skilled in getting their own egos out of the way, deft in managing people without putting them on the defensive, builders not destroyers. Above all, I mean that women can carry on the business of a complex world in ways that are more focused, efficient, deliberate, and constructive than men’s because women are not frequently distracted by impulses and moods that, sometimes indirectly, lead to sex and violence. Women are more reluctant participants in both. And if they are drawn into wars, these will be wars of necessity, not of choice, founded on rational considerations, not on a clash of egos escalating out of control.

And also:

In addition to women’s superiority in judgment, their trustworthiness, reliability, fairness, working and playing well with others, relative freedom from distracting sexual impulses, and lower levels of prejudice, bigotry, and violence, they live longer, have lower mortality at all ages, are more resistant to most categories of disease, and are much less likely to suffer brain disorders that lead to disruptive and even destructive behavior. And, of course, they can produce new life from their own bodies, to which men add only the tiniest biological contribution — and one that soon could be done without.

If you need more:

Contrary to all received wisdom, women are more logical and less emotional than men. Women do cry more easily, and that, too, is partly biological. But life on this planet isn’t threatened by women’s tears; nor does that brimming salty fluid cause poverty, drain public coffers, ruin reputations, impose forced intimacies, slay children, torture helpless people, or reduce cities to rubble. These disasters are literally man-made. They result from men’s emotions, which are a constant distraction to them.

Does Konner really believe that nothing distracts women from their work in the marketplace? While he worries about men being distracted by the presence of comely women, he fails to notice that women are very often distracted by child-care responsibilities.

Konner glories in the fact that women can produce new life from their bodies, but he fails to consider that most women also undertake to raise those children, to function as mothers to those children. He ignores the fact that parenting concerns often distract from work tasks.

A woman who takes her role as mother seriously will likely spend less time on the job and will be less apt to work as hard. These distractions do not comprise all of a woman’s work life, but they comprise a significant amount of it.

You do not have to be a scientist to see this. You need to blind yourself willfully in order not to see it.

And let’s imagine that women are empowered to the point that they are in charge, that they run everything. Or better that they share authority and power equally with men. 

In places where it has come to pass, places like America’s inner cities, the results are not very encouraging.

What happens when men lose their power and authority and position to constitutionally weaker beings? Do you really imagine that they simply become housewives?

As it happens, Konner does not have a great deal of real world evidence to prove his assertion. He does, however, observe that the reality of human history contradicts his beliefs.

Apparently, his mind has fallen prey to the contemporary religion of worshipping the Mother Goddess.

Konner gives lip service to men’s accomplishments, accomplishments like liberal democracy, the Industrial Revolution, science, technology, modern medicine and great art.

Why have women not accomplished as much? Konner can only explain it by evoking a conspiracy:

But — another objection goes — men have accomplished great things! Yes, although given that men have blocked women’s paths to greatness in all fields for thousands of years, it is hardly a fair comparison. So let us concede: Most men are not destructive, and not all women are cooperative and nurturing; women have their own means of creating conflict and oppressing others. But in science we ask whether generalizations are possible, and in the domain of sex differences in brain and behavior, they are not only possible but also fully justified by the evidence.

For all their greatness and their inherent superiority in all things, women have apparently allowed themselves to be oppressed for thousands of years. Doesn’t this count as something of a flaw?

Having no concrete evidence to prove his point, Konner conjures up a vast conspiracy that has oppressed women because it fears their greatness and success.

Men do it because they are sick. They have been poisoned by an excess of androgen or testosterone. They suffer from oxytocin deficiency:

The main mechanism is androgen poisoning. I call it the X-chromosome deficiency syndrome, and a stunning 49 percent of the human species is affected.

It is also called maleness.

Konner does not consider the possibility that women’s testosterone deficiency makes them less apt to compete successfully or even to want to do so. In a competitive world and a competitive marketplace this might well be a natural male advantage.

Konner disagrees:

Brawn mattered for those centuries, but in spite of their greater strength, men had to make laws to suppress women because on a truly level playing field, women were destined to compete successfully and very often win.

Which sport is Konner thinking of: basketball, baseball or football? Does he believe that women are better at fighting wars? If he does, he needs to show some evidence. Does he believe that women are better at high technology? If he does, he should show us the record of the Silicon Valley high tech firms.

As for the brave new world where women will have more opportunities to show off their superiority, Konner sees it this way:

As women gain in influence, all else being equal, the world will become more democratic, more socially compassionate, more equal, less discriminatory, less sexually casual, and less pornographic.

Now, Konner believes, with Hanna Rosin, that this new world is currently dawning. He sees women taking more positions of leadership in business and government.

Does he really think that, in this new world, there is less pornography?


Lindsay Harold said...

Men and women have different strengths, and I'm tired of people acting like women have all the best features and men are just defective women. It's simply not true

The Strengths of Men:

Dennis said...

Here is one take charge woman: http://nypost.com/2015/04/28/mom-smacks-drags-son-from-baltimore-violence/

Nicely stated Lindsay Harold. GOD, or whatever one wants to attribute the idea of human paring created two sexes with differing capabilities to have a synergy that improves the survival of the human race.
When we try to extol the attributes of either sex as better we are only weakening the survival of all.

Suffice it to say that we need each other in ways most people have not begun to understand.

Dennis said...

Lindsay H,

I have missed your commentary in many issues I would think you are a strong advocate.

Sam L. said...

Women are more moral and work together better. Hasn't heard of or observed middle-school girl cliques, somehow. Or high-school ones, either.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Yes, Melvin... let's clear out all the men and see what happens. Why delay the fantasy?

Let's create concentration camps for men, featuring endless intramural sports, video games, ESPN, pornograohy and beer. Then let's observe what happens to the world outside the camps. Will it be better, or worse, or "just different"???

Here's one of the problems with Melvin's argument: he is a man. Like any liberal quack, he will seek a personal exemption from the consequences of his foolish ideas. Why? Because Melvin is a "special man." After all, his mommy taught him that!

I am growing tired of this juvenile distinction that peace is the absence of war. True peace is rare, and men hold no monopoly on the varieties of violence. Women can be vicious to one another... and often demonstrate a peculiar, savage form of cruelty.

Deifying woman is weird. It omits the human dimension that haunts us all. Once again, I suspect silly articles like this are vain attempts to get laid. Melvin got action while he was in college by pandering to the women's studies crowd, and he thinks it still works.

Dennis said...


Have to admit that was the first thing that came to mind when I started reading this drivel. Another "pajama boy" looking to con a gullible woman into bed. Just in time for Hillary.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

I think it was anthropologist Ashley Montegu who started the trouble with his 1953 book "The Natural Superiority of Women"

I read it 20 years ago, and can't quite remember, but it seems like his exaggerated stance want meant more to be provocative rather than a final truth.

And George Carlin had his sincere joke, surely popular with the ladies:
“Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”

But more seriously an interesting statistic is that there are more male geniuses and more male idiots, so there's something more vulnerable in the nature of maleness, and evolution seems willing to "throw away" more men than women.

Similarly its said men's brains are more specialized and less redundant, so when injury or illness strikes, men will be more negatively affected.

I can wonder if Melvin Konner's perspective is similar to Montegu, but his conclusion "Women are superior in most ways that matter now." might again show a cultural disadvantage to the success of individual men to have skills that are needed.

This paragraph seems to be particularly not credible "In addition to women’s superiority in judgment, their trustworthiness, reliability, fairness, working and playing well with others, relative freedom from distracting sexual impulses, and lower levels of prejudice, bigotry, and violence..."

My thought is that when to compare an average woman to below average man, these seem very credible assertions, but "playing well with others"? There seems to be plenty of research that shows women express just as much aggression as men, just do it in more subtle ways that defy accountability or repremand.

It is interesting to look at men and women's sports for instance, and running specifically as my sport, and women's loyalties seem much more tribal, while the top male runners will recognize all of their close competitors, it seems much more frequent that women runners will use contempt for other women runners to motivate them. So competition is "personal", and losing is personal.

So I don't know if this is social or genetic or both, but the social aspect might related to being taught that cooperation is good, so they project unkindness on their competitors on the smallest slights, and then justify her own poor sportsmanship on past interpretations.

On the other hand, perhaps women in competitive situations are "different" than other women, and perhaps have a higher relative testosterone than other women, so they have the same vulnerabilities to listening to their reptilian brain's "facts" as men?

And a final big question is leadership, like can a woman be as a good of a president as a man? And again, it’s a trick question if we remember men are "more extreme", and the "most talented men" might be more capable than the most talented women.

So we might find 25% of men hold "Strong leadership potential" and only 10% of women, and those 10% of women might have behaviors society will judge as "masculine", including the ability to not take things personally which is vital for anyone who wants to lead anything.

There are lots of interesting ways to compare things, and if you believe in evolution, you accept there's survival advantages both to the differentiated sexes AND the diversities within each sex (including homosexuals).

Dennis said...

Another woman of substance and more in line with what greatness should include. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl7Q36V9pg4

Leo G said...

Stuart, very interesting article in Aeon, about the reasons for the marriage collapse amongst most sectors in American society, based upon gender ratios.


Leo G said...

IAC, to see what it would be lke if men and women divided, here is Duckman's version -


David Foster said...

I have to wonder if it is possible for young men to get fair treatment in the professor's classes. I guess it is *theoretically* possible, if he is really able to put his biases away when teaching.