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Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo – Publications – AEI

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AEI Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo The controversial “Google memo” has stirred up quite a firestorm this week of strong reactions and there are already more than 370,000 Google search results for that term, and more than 87,000 Google News search results. Here’s a link to the full text of the Google memo (with charts and hyperlinks that were missing from the first version of the memo that was published by a reporter at Gizmodo, who called it an “anti-diversity screed”). In response to the Google memo controversy, Quillette Magazine asked four scientists with expertise in the fields of social psychology, personality psychology, evolutionary psychology, and sexual neuroscience to respond, and they featured those responses in an article published this week titled

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Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo

Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo - Publications – AEI

The controversial “Google memo” has stirred up quite a firestorm this week of strong reactions and there are already more than 370,000 Google search results for that term, and more than 87,000 Google News search results. Here’s a link to the full text of the Google memo (with charts and hyperlinks that were missing from the first version of the memo that was published by a reporter at Gizmodo, who called it an “anti-diversity screed”).

In response to the Google memo controversy, Quillette Magazine asked four scientists with expertise in the fields of social psychology, personality psychology, evolutionary psychology, and sexual neuroscience to respond, and they featured those responses in an article published this week titled “The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond.” Here are some excerpts of those responses (emphasis mine).

Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico:

I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. Moreover, they are stated quite carefully and dispassionately. Its key claims about sex differences are especially well-supported by large volumes of research across species, cultures, and history. Whoever the memo’s author is, he has obviously read a fair amount about these topics. Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course.

Here, I just want to take a step back from the memo controversy, to highlight a paradox at the heart of the ‘equality and diversity’ dogma that dominates American corporate life. The memo didn’t address this paradox directly, but I think it’s implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:

  • The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
  • The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.

The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed. Let me explain. If different groups have minds that are precisely equivalent in every respect, then those minds are functionally interchangeable, and diversity would be irrelevant to corporate competitiveness. On the other hand, if demographic diversity gives a company any competitive advantages, it must be because there are important sex differences and race differences in how human minds work and interact. (See Venn diagram version above.)

Bottom Line: So, psychological interchangeability makes diversity meaningless. But psychological differences make equal outcomes impossible. Equality or diversity. You can’t have both. Weirdly, the same people who advocate for equality of outcome in every aspect of corporate life, also tend to advocate for diversity in every aspect of corporate life. They don’t even see the fundamentally irreconcilable assumptions behind this ‘equality and diversity’ dogma. American businesses also have to face the fact that the demographic differences that make diversity useful will not lead to equality of outcome in every hire or promotion. Equality or diversity: choose one.

Debra W. Soh, Toronto based science writer who has a Ph.D. in sexual neuroscience from the University of York.

As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.

Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at.

More from Debra Soh writing about the Google memo in the Globe and Mail:

Research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences, because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy.

As the memo suggests, seeking to fulfill a 50-per-cent quota of women in STEM is unrealistic. As gender equity continues to improve in developing societies, we should expect to see this gender gap widen.

Lee Jussim, professor of social psychology at Rutgers University:

The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right. Its main points are that:

  1. Neither the left nor the right gets diversity completely right;
  2. The social science evidence on implicit and explicit bias has been wildly oversold and is far weaker than most people seem to realize;
  3. Google has, perhaps unintentionally, created an authoritarian atmosphere that has stifled discussion of these issues by stigmatizing anyone who disagrees as a bigot and instituted authoritarian policies of reverse discrimination;
  4. The policies and atmosphere systematically ignore biological, cognitive, educational, and social science research on the nature and sources of individual and group differences.

I cannot speak to the atmosphere at Google, but:

  1. Given that the author gets everything else right, I am pretty confident he is right about that too;
  2. It is a painfully familiar atmosphere, one that is a lot like academia.

Bonus Chart (below). In regard to gender differences in mathematical aptitude, at least the aptitude that can accurately be measured by standardized tests, the chart below presents compelling evidence that there are gender differences in math aptitude, especially for aptitude on the higher end of the talent distribution. For perfect (and near perfect scores) on the math SAT test, high school boys outnumber high school girls by a ratio of 2-to-1. And that’s despite the fact that high schools would seem to be better prepared than boys to do well on the math SAT test: girls take more high school math classes than boys, they take more AP and honors math classes than boys, they have higher GPAs than boys overall, and are more likely than boys to graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes.

Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo - Publications – AEI

Bonus Video (below) features my AEI colleague Christina Sommers  (The Factual Feminist) about why men greatly outnumber women in the STEM fields: Science, technology, engineering, and math. Everywhere we hear about massive gender bias against women in these fields, but what if it’s just not true? The Factual Feminist explains other reasons for the discrepancy that you may not have heard in the video below titled “The Real Reason There Aren’t More Female Scientists.”

Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo
Mark Perry

Mark Perry
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.

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