A follow-up to the follow-up

In my recent post I discussed  Alessandro Strumia’s CERN talk, where he provided statistical evidence for discrimination in favor of women in Physics (except in China, where women are, apparently, discriminated against). Curiously, the very next day more anecdotal support came for Strumia’s thesis. The Nobel Prizes in Physics were announced, and this year they were awarded 1/2 to Arthur Ashkin and 1/2 to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland, the third woman in history to receive the award. It was immediately noted that Strickland was, at the time of the award (though obviously not for much longer) an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo Physics department. There was immediate wailing, gnashing of teeth, and talk of glass ceilings.

However, the truth is, in a way, much worse. The standard metric in the hard sciences (less so in pure mathematics, which is a much smaller field) is the h-index. The h-index of a researcher equals N if he has N papers each of which has at least N citations (so, notice that the number of citations thus counted is equal to the square of N). Typically, prominent scientists (in physics and chemistry) have h-index in the forties and above. This year, Ashkin has an h-index of 52 (a little low, but then, but he is an industrial physicist), Mourou has an h-index of 110. Other relatively recent Nobel prize winners have h-index at least in the sixties. Dr. Strickland has an h-index of 15 (all numbers according to the Web of Science), which is consistent with still being an associate professor in a decent department. I have no expertise in photonics, so I don’t know the extent of Strickland’s contribution to her joint work with Mourou, but recent comments by the Nobel  Prize committee about the insufficient number of female Nobelists cannot help but come to mind.

Remark: Of course, the citation numbers in Mathematics (while less relevant) are also interesting: most recent Fields medalists have h-index around 16. The two notable exceptions are the late Maryam Mirzakhani (9) and C. Birkar (suspected by some as a political medal, being a refugee from the middle east) (also 9) [note, this is according to MathSciNet, since the Web of Science makes a mess of mathematics journals). Make of this what you will.

Fatwas-r-us

After what seemed to be a civil exchange of opinions on Lior Pachter’s blog post concerning Ted Hill’s paper (OK, Pachter was not civil, but I tried to be as civil as possible), I was amused (and a little shocked) to find that a fatwa was proclaimed against your humble author. And not only me, but all those who have anything to do with me. In other words, some people who I actually respected (at least as mathematicians) have decided to excommunicate me and the journals I was editorializing for (in perpetuity – even employing me once is deemed a mortal sin). Enjoy, but ponder that this is what we have come to.

 

andyputain

A follow-up to Hill’s paper or – is free speech dead in the West?

Things seem to come in bunches, and just (under) three weeks after Ted Hill’s Quillette.com article, and much discussion in the various blogs (Tao’s, Gowers’ and others) an even bigger fight has broken out.  Alessandro Strumia, a theoretical physicist at University of Pisa gave a talk at a “gender equality” conference at CERN where he cast doubt on gender equality in physics.  The result was that he was instantly booted out of CERN, and the Rector of the University of Pisa announced a disciplinary proceeding against him. The reader can read the slides (which, by the way, were immediately removed from the CERN repository, in a misguided attempt to send this work down a memory hole – that trick never works these days where information travels with blinding speed) above (click on “talk”), and decide whether or not Strumia is actually Hitler.  The reader can also make up her own mind as to whether she (or he) agrees with Strumia’s analysis. This writer would be doing the reader a disservice if he tried to make the reader’s mind up for her/him.

Progress creeps on

The (generally quite lefty) Chronicle of Higher Ed has come out with a generally sane article on the intellectual fascism in the academia, with political correctness requiring equality of outcomes and identify politics, as well as the self-righteousness of seeing “our side” (the left) as being on the side of the angels, and the other side as evil. Of course, this last is the last stage before an actual shooting civil war (since the other people are evil, it is OK to kill them), but in the meantime leads to a complete breakdown of communication – just as in the (ongoing, as of this writing) Kavanaugh circus, the left’s allegations are primarily not credible because of their avowed “by any means necessary” attitude (these points are not simply philosophical – Blasey Ford came to Dianne Feinstein, not the Committee; Feinstein did not communicate with her colleague or the nominee (which would have given plenty of time for a non-public investigation and, if any truth were found, quiet withdrawal); the  democratic party is NOT perturbed by the extensively documented allegations against their own – Keith Ellison. I could go on).

Getting back to the Chronicle of Higher Ed piece, I was amused to see that the authors still need to sacrifice at the altar of political correctness:

 

Examples of this include the 2017 decisions of two mathematics journals to backtrack after initially accepting a paper on the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis, which asserts that men are overrepresented both among geniuses and among people of very low intelligence.

We emphasize that we are not advocates of the hypothesis; we believe that the distribution of genius is uncorrelated with gender (or race, etc.).

 

(boldface mine). In addition to the well-documented GMVH, there is plenty of completely uncontroversial data on race and gender differences in intelligence (both in the general levels and, particularly important for gender differences, differences in aptitudes for different kinds of skills). The authors (the second of whom is a sociologist) know better, but they are afraid of being pilloried. Sort of like all the “conservative” pundits, who say:

I would never watch Alex Jones. And if I did watch him, I would find him horrible. But still, it is a shame about his deplatforming.

 

The preamble is necessary to stop the listener/reader/watcher from thinking that the author is the kind of a, how to say,… oh, yes – Deplorable person who might watch Alex.

 

So, we are still pretty deep in the woods, and a complete breakdown seems likely, but there are some rays of sunlight shining through the dense PC canopy – more on this in the next post.

A remark on Hill’s work on the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis

Many of us are now familiar with the sad tale of Ted Hill’s encounter with censorship. The article has has caused a furore, and has been discussed at some length in a number of blogs, among them Terry Tao’s, (Sir) Tim Gowers’ in Mathematics, and also in some blogs by self-proclaimed experts in evolutionary biology, among them Reed Cartwright’s and Lior Pachter’s. Cartwright proclaimed the paper “hot garbage”, and Pachter could not wait to agree, and produced several pages of “debunking” of the paper, while also spewing pages of absurd accusations against Igor Rivin (the handling editor of the paper) [to his credit, Pachter stopped short of claiming that Rivin was actually Hitler].

While there is much to be said about the wisdom of trying to justify the unpublishing of a paper peer-reviewed in the accepted way and accepted, this is not the goal of this short post. Instead,  this writer was troubled by the question of whether the paper was, in fact, “hot garbage”. A short session with Dr Google revealed the Heterodox Academy post of a year or so ago (the post was occasioned by the famous Damore memo). While the Heterodox Academy article is very interesting in and of itself (it is mostly concerned with the data supporting the GMVH), what was most interesting was the comment by Rosalind Arden (a researcher at the London School of Economics), which I am taking the liberty of giving in its entirety here (I hope Dr Arden looks kindly upon this pilferage):

Rosalind

What is interesting about this post is that Dr Arden states that the explanation Hill proposes is, indeed, the front-runner in the evolutionary biology community. I then looked at the paper by Rowe and Houle, which, in the framework of the Life History Theory, develops the biological underpinnings in some depth. The paper, as Dr Arden mentions, is in under the rubric of the Lek Paradox. The Lek paradox is the following: in many species, males put on group “plays” (“lek” means play in Swedish) and the more spectacular males get to mate with the ladies, but mate is pretty much all they do, and do not participate in the raising of the offspring. The paradox is that the traits responsible for their good performance should, one might think, become more and more exaggerated (reducing variability), but they do not. Instead, variability increases. The short explanation (in this context) for the lek paradox is that these traits are actually a burden on the animal in other ways, so going too far would actually impede the survival prospects of the animal involved. Variability, however, is just the ticket. In any case, the paper is very interesting, once one gets past the jargon,  and seems to be the culmination of a long search by the authors and other researchers in the field.

In any case, the conclusion is that far from being “hot garbage”, Hill’s model is very sensible (indeed, more than just sensible) from the evolutionary biology perspective, and since the biologists did not actually state an explicit mathematical model, is clearly a contribution to the field, though, perhaps not quite as great a contribution as Hill thought, given that the mechanism is not new. I think that the hot garbage (or at least the egg) is covering the faces of Professors Cartwright and Pachter, who really should be ashamed of themselves.