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Let me quote someone who has said it much better than I can:

"But it is crucial to distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex — which I take to be the core of feminism — and the empirical claim that males and females are biologically indistinguishable. They are not the same thing. Indeed, distinguishing them is essential to protecting the core of feminism. Anyone who takes an honest interest in science has to be prepared for the facts on a given issue to come out either way. And that makes it essential that we not hold the ideals of feminism hostage to the latest findings from the lab or field. Otherwise, if the findings come out as showing a sex difference, one would either have to say, "I guess sex discrimination wasn't so bad after all," or else furiously suppress or distort the findings so as to preserve the ideal. The truth cannot be sexist. Whatever the facts turn out to be, they should not be taken to compromise the core of feminism.

[..]

The nature and source of sex differences are also of practical importance. Most of us agree that there are aspects of the world, including gender disparities, that we want to change. But if we want to change the world we must first understand it, and that includes understanding the sources of sex differences. "

-- Steven Pinker, The Pinker/Spelke Debate https://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.htm...

EDIT: formatting




Have you read Adam Grant's piece on linkedin? I think you'd like it. Basically the argument is that biological differences exist but are small or mostly isolated to a few (mostly physical) domains. And that those domains have little to do with computer science, the reason google has less women than men is mostly a cultural problem.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/differences-between-men-women...


It is indeed an interesting piece.

And have you read Alexander Scott's piece on how mistaken Grant is about the actual state of science? http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger... Basically the argument is that Grant has failed to actually read the science he cites, because it the actual results from that science don't say what Grant say they says, especially as it relates to Damore's memo's worldview.

And then you can read Grant's reply to Alexander, and Alexander's reply to Grant. http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger... All pretty interesting.

And the outcome of all that, for me, is a strong reinforcement of the Pinker quote that mpweiher quoted: feminism must not be held hostage to the science, because otherwise many scientists will see things that will require them to become non-feminists.


But is it Google's culture that is the problem? I mean if there are only 1:5 female to male graduates in engineering/cs, then it stands to reason that if Google has more than that ratio, they are probably fine, in terms of their own distribution model. (Not sure what the actual ratios are in either case).

I'm more disturbed by the visceral reaction to a memo that was meant to be internal, made enough effort to stay somewhat centrist and isn't really calling out any individual, but mostly calling for a re-evaluation of their processes based on empirical data. Even if his thesis may be in error, or may have said things that bother some.


If Google has a disproportionate share of females coming through the hiring pipelines, then other companies are only going to be even more lopsided.

The problem must be fixed before Google gets into the equation, not at the Google level.


> If Google has a disproportionate share of females coming through the hiring pipelines, then other companies are only going to be even more lopsided.

Not if Google attracts women that would not otherwise be applying at other tech firms.


>The nature and source of sex differences are also of practical importance. Most of us agree that there are aspects of the world, including gender disparities, that we want to change. But if we want to change the world we must first understand it, and that includes understanding the sources of sex differences. "

completely agree with Pinker's sentiment but it is very important to note that for him understanding nature is emancipatory.

For him understanding our natural limitations is a means to figure out how to overcome them. For people preoccupied in this debate scientific discovery about differences seems to be used in the way some mad 19th century eugenistics used it, as a quasi religious justification of the status quo.

This is exactly the wrong way to approach the topic, and precisely how the googler attempted to portray the existing evidence. This produced the outlash.


Except that the author of the memo used it exactly in the Pinker sense:

"We want more diversity. I want more diversity"

"What we're doing, it's not working"

"Maybe we're doing it wrong. Maybe we're missing something"

"Here are things [well-supported by the science] that we might be missing"

"Here's how we might use this knowledge to make things better"


If that truly was or is his intention I don't think he has found the best way to express this. Pointing towards female neuroticism, criticising 'politically correctness' and vague allusions to 'Marxism', he managed to make himself sound like a real jerk with exactly the agenda in mind women do not want to experience any more.

If you want to have a cool-headed discussion don't style yourself as a martyr and accuse other people of silencing you. This is not the way to have that discussion.


> female neuroticism

While he used the technically correct term, its use without explaining the term was definitely unwise. I explain here: http://blog.metaobject.com/2017/08/the-science-behind-manife...

> accuse other people of silencing you

Considering they fired him, not exactly a baseless accusation.


This is a fascinating thought about the emancipatory aspect to this, but I also recognize it presupposes obstacles at the current boundaries that are capable of being pushed as opposed to some fixed upper limit constraint. I think the area where we could all benefit from much thought is just what sort of effort would be involved in this boundary enlarging in order to weigh the cost of such an endeavor. I think its always fair to presume yielding boundaries and is probably my optimism that speaks, but it seems to me a lot of the outrage spans from someone declaring ultimate constraints and fixed boundaries. More thought should go to harnessing the potential energy if you will for doing work in a certain force field to draw a physical analogy and understanding the friction experienced in the motions of both bodies. If one presents less effort, that is a key fact to consider.




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