Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Men, Women and IQs

This is what I have written on my other blog.

There is much brouhaha over the fact that, on an average, men scored slightly more than women on SAT (formerly called the Scholastic Achievement/Aptitude/Assessment Test according to Wikipedia) in a given survey sample, therefore, a conclusion is being reached that men are smarter than women.
For those who are not aware of the SAT, the test is an entrance exam for admission to an undergraduate college degree program in the US. It tests verbal and mathematical ability among certain other things.
By this logic, the passing percentage of girls is higher than boys for the SSC/HSC exams in many places in India. So, does that really mean girls are smarter than boys? Similarly, does it mean that a boy who gets into an IIT is necessarily more intelligent than a boy who misses admission by a few points? I think it is a very naive conclusion.
As for the argument that there are more men Nobel Laureates than women, the number of women who opt for high-powered research-oriented careers in science, economics and other fields is very low as compared to men. Naturally, the number of women Nobel Laureates is bound to be lower. There are several reasons for this. Research-oriented careers take up a lot of one's time and energy and for women with kids who do not have a supportive husband and family, this can be extremely difficult.
I had read a very touching, insightful book on the web.
This talks about the lives and struggles of various female Nobel Prize winners, starting with one of the most famous scientists of our time, Marie Curie. If you read the biogaphies of some of the women, then you will know that even in the 19th century, even in some so-called developed Western countries, women were not allowed to attend university.

The following URL (in which the above URL is a link) has a lot of books talking about women scientists:
U.S. News and World Report recently had an article about whether the people credited with important discoveries were actually the first to unravel them. One of those stories involved Rosalind Franklin, a female scientist who died prematurely and who contributed to the discovery of the DNA.

Watson and Crick ultimately got credit for it, but the entire story is very intriguing. This can also be found at the first link in this chapter.

There may be several such unsung heroines, people with talent, but those who dropped out due to family responsibilities or the unfriendly system.

Secondly, if you look at Nobels in science, we see very few people from Africa or Asia or Latin America, for that matter. Does that mean white people are smarter? Hell, no. This is what many women are arguing and I perfectly agree.

If we were to make a statement that one race is probably more intelligent than the other, then all hell would break loose. But, it seems perfectly okay to argue that one gender is superior to the other, without even verifying how authoritative the study is.

There is an interesting discussion at:

Please do go through it if you have the time, especially the comments. There are a lot of sensible arguments out there.

Funnily, many men do not accept that this survey by itself proves intellectual superiority of one gender over the other. The site and the commenters are mostly Westerners. However, reading the comments on this article on, one surprisingly overwhelmingly encounters opinions such as "men are definitely smarter" from guys.
And, this shows that brain size does not always indicate IQ. So, those harping that men have bigger brains and, therefore, a higher IQ, should stop trumpeting.

The bottomline is, statistics alone do not explain everything. In order to deduce anything useful from a survey, one has to study the underlying causes and several other factors. If you conducted the same survey in different countries, for example, you might get different results. Who knows, girls might score higher in some countries!

And, it would be completely ridiculous to say, that just because the number of men in the upper IQ range is higher,the average Ramu/Shyamu is more intelligent than a Marie Curie. Remember, the survey only talks about some men scoring higher tahn some women. It does not and cannot be applied on an individual-to-individual basis.

The views expressed here, although my own, have been expressed by others on the Web and elsewhere, so their influence on me, cannot be negated. They are, therefore, not unique to me.

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