"Men Have Emerged As The More Intelligent Sex:" And Other Stupid Arguments

Yet another supposed expert has taken to a national forum today to announce that women are dumb. But arguments like his aren't just harmless flame-bait: they're an excuse for perpetuating inequality.

What sets Prof. Richard Lynn's piece in (of course) the Daily Mail apart from, say, Larry Summers's notorious comments is the sheer broadness of his argument. Lynn isn't just saying, as Summers did, that men and women may have genetic differences in math and science ability — rather, he claims that "on average, men are more intelligent than women." And not only are women less fit than men to be scientists and engineers (an all-too-common view, despite Lynn's claim to be stating an unpopular opinion), but "a clear and rather startling imbalance emerges between the sexes at the high levels of intelligence that the most demanding jobs require." That's right — women suck not just at, say, astrophysics, but at "demanding jobs" in general.

Lynn notes that girls' educational achievements would seem to belie this notion, but explains "the blame lies with our exam system, with its emphasis on coursework, which rewards diligence more than it does intelligence." Of course, the "diligence" argument has long been used to explain away the performance of immigrants and people of color, but Lynn doesn't seem particularly concerned with problematic history of the testing of intelligence as it relates to race and gender. He does, however, love him some prehistory. He explains,

We must look to the field of evolutionary psychology for an explanation of why men have emerged as the more intelligent sex. [ed. Bingo!] As the hunter part of a hunter-gatherer society, men were faced with complex, life-threatening problems that needed solving on a daily basis. For example, how to kill that elusive deer? The hunters that used all their mental capabilities to come up with the answers, successfully killing animals day after day, were clearly the most intelligent. They were the high-status males of their day and - provocative as it is to say so - must have possessed far sharper minds than those of women engaged in the relatively simple tasks of gathering berries and raising children.

Basically, hunting is hard, and raising kids is easy, which is why dudes got so much smarter. Lynn does note that "when it comes to verbal intelligence, women match men because, in our hunter-gatherer past, women needed verbal abilities to negotiate their relationships with both men and women and to teach and socialise their children." But since "verbal abilities" are a girl thing, they're a sidebar to the real intelligence that forms the basis of Lynn's argument. Which reaches his crux when he writes, "why should society struggle so hard - and so expensively - to try to engineer a perfect balance between the sexes? By all means, take steps to ensure that boys and girls get the same opportunities in education, but let's also accept that those same opportunities will not produce the same outcomes." All mockery aside (tempting as it is to poke fun at Lynn's comparison of his own contentions to "Galileo's theory that Earth revolved around the Sun"), we're still so far from equal opportunity that we can't yet make any predictions about outcome. And this is why the assertion that we need to accept women's lesser intelligence always seems so bizarre — when social inequalities are, at least to this "outraged feminist," so obvious and pressing, why go looking for evo-psych explanations? The answer: because those explanations mean we don't have to change anything, and we can just tell women to accept their (lesser) lot and like it.

Image via Dan Bannister/Shutterstock.com.

Sorry, Men ARE More Brainy Than Women (And More Stupid Too!) It's A Simple Scientific Fact, Says One Of Britain's Top Dons [Daily Mail]