Three Quick Shots

1. If you like outlandish academic papers, how about "An examination of Rushton’s theory of differences in penis length and circumference and r-K life history theory in 113 populations" by Richard Lynn? Here's the abstract:
Rushton’s (1985, 2000) r-K life history theory that Mongoloids are the most K evolved, Caucasoids somewhat less K evolved, and Negroids the least K evolved is examined and extended in an analysis of data for erect penis length and circumference in three new data sets. These new data extend Rushton’s theory by presenting disaggregated data for penis size for European and North African/South Asian Caucasoids; for East Asian and Southeast Asian Mongoloids; for Inuit and Amerindians and Mestizos, and for thirteen mixed race samples. The results generally confirm and extend Rushton’s r-K life history theory.
Seriously, though, this paper is pretty uninformative for the same reason that most research on sex differences is pretty uninformative: It uses nonrepresentative samples.

2. A NY Times comment by Thomas Edsall (via) discusses disagreements about economic inequality. Basically, economists seem to have different opinions on whether consumption inequality is more important than income inequality, and if so, which consumption counts and how it should be measured. This illustrates a pervasive point about the inequality debate in both academic circles and society in general. Few people care about economic inequality per se; what they really mean is human well-being. But the psychological theory that would tell you how inequality translates into well-being is, basically, absent, and people work with implicit assumptions all the time. For example, if you think that consumption inequality is the only kind that matters, you are implying (whether or not you're aware of it) that nobody's ever suffered because his colleague down the hall earned ten percent more. Speaking of which, the concept of the reference group is old, but, unless I've missed something, social scientists have yet to come to a conclusion on what the relevant reference group for a person is. I suspect that has nothing to do with social scientists' laziness and a lot with reality not lending itself to a general answer.

3. Via Steve Sailer, here are some results from a study of the representation of women among authors of academic papers (the dots represent subfields within a discipline, such as "socilology of the family"):
You could explain the differences in representation between economics and sociology as a consequence of economics being much more mathematical than sociology, combined with the fact that women tend to be underrepresented where maths features heavily. Unfortunately, this theory runs into the immediate problem of women being underrepresented in economics even relative to probability and statistics. However, both observations are consistent with a two-step selection model. In a first step a person either does or does not go into a social science field, and in a second step, the more specific discipline is selected. This is basically the same explanation I've offered for why there are no romantic comedies for men. Well, sort of.

1 comment:

Scott McGreal said...

Regarding Lynn's dodgy paper, not only are the samples nonrepresentative, his prime data source is an anonymous website that includes made-up numbers and a number of non-existent references. His other data source is a book on penises by fellow race realist Donald Templer who is not a urologist and therefore has no special expertise on the subject. The Lynn paper is a joke, but not a very funny one. I've written a critique here.