First, I confess angry feminists and frightened effeminates are grammatical tautologies on the order of unmarried bachelor, but I plead artistic license. These words, while logically flawed, are more arresting.
Second, here’s what happened (a summary from Quillette). This poor schlub named Theodore P. Hill and another named Sergei Tabachnikov made the mistake of noticing the same thing Charles Darwin noticed. Which is that males in many species, including the human species, evince more variability in behavior and physical attributes than females.
While this difference, blatant and obvious to even the meanest student of biology, may be fine to remark upon in naked mole rats, or whatever, acknowledging the difference in humans is tantamount to a hate crime. This is because the male-female difference is a hate fact. There is a refinement to this: it is fine to notice proportionally more males are idiots or prison inmates, but it is hateful to notice proportionally more males are geniuses or saints.
It is thus obvious that this hate fact and hate crime is political, and boils down to nothing but a fight over spoils and their unequal distribution. For the love of money is the root of all evil.
Back to Hill. He noticed not only the differences, but also noted no good cause for them had yet been discovered, for all things must have a cause or reason for being. Incidentally, it is well to highlight here the Lack Of Theory fallacy, which says that because a theory for an observed fact does not yet exist, or is flawed or substandard, that the fact therefore does not exist or is not important. We need never know or agree on why males and females are different, but this lack of agreement in no way erases, by even one jot, the many and persistent and ineradicable differences in the sexes we see. Nor are they any less important because we do not (yet?) grasp their origins.
Anyway, Hill, and at the time Tabachnikov, wrote a paper with a mathematical theory which they claim explains some of the differences, not only in humans, but any species that reproduces sexually. They submitted it to Mathematical Intelligencer. It was accepted by editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal (a human female), who said “I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one.”
The paper “was scheduled to appear in the international journal’s first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation.” An evidently proud Tabachnikov posted the paper on his website.
That’s when the trouble started.
“On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women.”
Hate facts cause mathematical ability to witer in females? This has the direction of cause backward.
A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”
What you did. Hell hath no fury than a feminist told some women are less than some men.
That’s when the NSF insisted their name be removed as funders. Seems one female and one effeminate wrote NSF and said the “paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.”
Then Senechal axed the paper, saying there was a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” (I note that this right-wing blog is read internationally.)
Senechal said “she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit.”
The story doesn’t end here! Another journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, reviewed, accepted, and posted it online. And then unposted it after the same agitated women and weakly menfolk rediscovered it and threatened to cause another stink.
Steinberger [editor of NYJM] replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.”
How did Hill come to tell his tale, when it is clear his naming names and refusing to apologize amounts to academic suicide? Well, he is now retired and is a “Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger.” Both male-heavy occupations, n’est c’est pas?
The (now single-authored—poor Tabachnikov!) paper is still available. Arxiv has it: for now. It will be of great interest to see if the same harassing harridans harry its editors into memory-holing it. (I kept a copy, just in case.)
BONUS CRITIQUE OF “An Evolutionary Theory for the Variability Hypothesis”
For citations of what everybody always knew to be true of the greater variability of human males over females, see Hill’s Appendix.
Here is his theory (his emphasis):
SELECTIVITY-VARIABILITY PRINCIPLE. In a species with two sexes A and B, both of which are needed for reproduction, suppose that sex A is relatively selective, i.e., will mate only with a top tier (less than half) of B candidates. Then from one generation to the next, among subpopulations of B with comparable average attributes, those with greater variability will tend to prevail over those with lesser variability. Conversely, if A is relatively non-selective, accepting all but a bottom fraction (less than half) of the opposite sex, then subpopulations of B with lesser variability will tend to prevail over those with comparable means and greater variability.
There is a misnomer here. I, a human male who has reproduced and who soars over six feet and is simultaneously strikingly handsome and brilliant and boastful, am not “highly variable”. I am just unusually tall, smart, and verbal. I do not possess variability, just terrific, mate-worthy characteristics. Neither do I possess a probability, nor a probability distribution. Neither do you, even if you have not reproduced.
Now to details. Hill acknowledges the crude nature of his model. But he plunges ahead by quantifying desirability on men as a single number, which of course is variable. He supposes two scenarios, picky and unpicky women, choosing men from two (and usually equal-sized) groups, B_1 and B_2.
He supposes the uncertainty in desirability of the men from both groups is characterized by the same symmetric-about-the-median probability distribution, with identical medians, but where B_1 is everywhere more variable than B_2. B_1’s distribution has “fatter tails”. All statisticians will understand what this means.
If women are selective, it’s obvious enough (without math: Hill’s is fine) that more men from B_1 will make the grade, because there is a larger chance B_1 men are more desirable. Thus, after mating the subsequent generation will have more B_1 men’s genes.
Hill builds on this and says, eventually, B_2 men in future generations disappear. And that, at first, seems plausible. But a difficulty emerges, and here is where I part company with Hill.
After the first mating, the second generation of males is no longer B_1 nor B_2 men. The are conditional men. The genes of that generation all mostly came from desirable men, whether B_1 or B__2. B_1 men do not possess high variability, nor do B_2 men possess low variability. The men at the bottom of the pre-mating pool, whether B_1 or B_2, mostly did not reproduce. The B_2 that did reproduce were just as desirable as the B_1 men; it’s only that the number of men in this mating was mostly B_1 men.
That means whatever it was that made a man less-than-desirable, to the extent this was genetic, is mostly gone after the first mating (it’s only “mostly” because this is all probability, and sometimes women will mate with less desirable men). Yes, B_2 men had many more low desirables, but whatever genetic combination that caused this low desirability is lost, because these low desirables did not mate (mostly).
Indeed, after the first mating, how do we tell B_1 men from B_2 men? There has to be something else genetic that indicates B-ness, and which is not desirability, because by definition the fathers were all (mostly) desirable. It’s true that whatever it is that indicates B-ness in the genes will be seen in the progeny, and that the brood will have more B_1-ness than B_2-ness (all this obviously ignores the contribution from the women). But as long as women are not selecting on B-ness, but only on desirability which is presumed independent of B-ness, then B_2 children (probably) won’t disappear.
Even more: after a generation or two, because of mixing, the probability distribution used to characterize uncertainty in desirability will become (nearly) identical in all aspects for B_1 and B_2, and mixed B, males.
Think of it this way: here is a pool of men, some are B_1 and some B_2, and they vary in desirability. If you grab out only the top desirable men, your selections will have more B_1 men, but all your choices, even the B_2s, will be top desirable men.
B_2 men do not pass on variability, because they do not possess variability, though they are presumed to pass on desirability, because they actually do possess desirability. The second generation of B_2 men thus won’t be (much) more variable than the second generation of B_1 men. Eventually, except for B-ness, it wouldn’t be possible to tell men apart in desirability distribution.
So I don’t believe Hill’s model. Also, in homogeneous societies, it’s just men with variable desirability, and not B_1 or B_2 men, and in heterogeneous societies, B-ness is very related to desirability. So again I don’t believe Hill’s model.
I do believe, though, that it was worthy of publication. For the very reason of this critique.
Thanks to those who alerted us to this story, including Pouncer and Ken Steele.