"partisan liberal pieces"

From: lfreeman@mbc.edu
Date: Fri May 30 2003 - 14:01:42 EDT

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    I just submitted a paper to a peer-reviewed journal about a finding I
    made last year
    about a correlation between a marker of prenatal testosterone levels
    (finger length
    ratios) and the ability of women to recall types and placements of
    pictures in a
    grid. This is a cognitive test in which women generally outperform men. I
    predicted and found that women with more "female" hands (i.e. the pattern that
    indicates lower testosterone exposure) do better on this test. Others
    have found
    exactly the opposite relationship for men using tasks such as mental
    rotation in
    which men typically outperform women. (more masculine hands means better

    Were I describing this research for Time magazine (not that they'd be
    interested), I
    would say that I "suspect" that this result indicates that early
    testosterone "does
    something" to the developing brain and that "perhaps" the low testosterone
    environment of women makes the brain better able to procss and retainsuch
    visual such information in adulthood.

    I said much the same thing in the discussion of my journal article,
    except that I
    used more scientifically acceptable terms: "hypothesize" rather than
    "suspect" ;
    "organize" rather than "does something" and the ever-popular "is
    consistent with
    the hypothesis that..." instead of "perhaps." I offer several other
    explanations for
    this finding, but explain why I think mine is "more likely." A
    careful look at the
    graphs I provide of my data show that neither gender or hormones fully explain
    picture recall ability, (my lowest scoring subject was a woman) so the gender
    difference clearly "does not hold true for everyone." Nonetheless, I
    conclude my
    paper with the assertation that my research "may provide clues" into the
    development of cognitive sex differences in humans. I'll leave it to my peer
    reviewers to decide if the clues are "important."

    Have I just submitted a "partisan liberal piece?" My Republican student co-
    authors (one of whom is currently deployed in Iraq) didn't seem to
    think so, but
    maybe if the journal rejects the paper, I can send it to Phil Donahue.

    FWIW, the inspiration for this work was the finding that this same
    finger length ratio
    has a relationship both with the number of older brothers a man has and with
    sexual orientation in both genders. (I trained under the researcher who
    documented that relationship and published it in Nature in 2000). These studies
    have been described in popular magazines using much the same language, and
    have gotten a similar reaction from conservative Christian
    publications (it's part of
    a liberal conspiracy to foster aceptance of homosexuality.) On the
    other hand, I
    have also seen Christian publications praise other studies that
    support the notion
    of a partial biological basis for human behavioral and cogntive sex
    differences as
    fine research that reaffirms the Biblical principle of men and women
    being created
    differently, for different roles.

    So if my work actually gets published, maybe I should be more worried about it
    being described in a "partisan conservative piece." I hope not...
    I'm a Democrat!

    And to be fair, it's not only conservative Christian publications who
    try to have it
    both ways. The liberal press is quick to praise the "biological basis for
    homosexuality" as support for the view that the orientation is
    "natural" therefore
    "good" (or at least "not bad") and quick to critcize the "biological basis for
    behavioral and cognitive sex differences" as a dangerous plot by right wing
    conspirators to keep women subordinate to men.

    My point is, the theories inspiring the research and the
    methodologies by which it
    is conducted are largely the same. And one type is no more
    "partisan" and no less
    "science" than the other.


    Louise M. Freeman, PhD
    Psychology Dept
    Mary Baldwin College
    Staunton, VA 24401
    FAX 540-887-7121

    > I think you can safely conclude from ridley's, "more likely","something
    > about","that something","suspects","perhaps","would not hold true for
    > all","might
    > provide important clues,"
    > that this is a liberal partisan piece, not necessarily science.

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