The Nadir of Reading Comprehension

"Against Discrimination", Nature (hat tip /u/PellegoIllud2 and /u/TheCid):

[Difference between groups is] also a blunt instrument of pseudoscience, and one used to justify actions and policies that condense claimed group differences into tools of prejudice and discrimination against individuals—witness last weekend’s violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the controversy over a Google employee's memo on biological differences in the tastes and abilities of the sexes.

But if you actually read it, the Google employee's memo agrees completely (emphasis mine):

I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there's significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

The distressing thing about this whole affair (and others like it—I am old enough to remember the L. Summers imbroglio back in 'aught-five) is the extent to which the vast majority of the outrage over Damore's document fails to engage with what he actually said. Damore is very explicit about how he's making an argument about distributions. (I liked Diana Fleischman's take.) Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments and whether you approve or disapprove of his being fired, one would hope for people to be damned for the content of what they actually said, rather than a perceived tribal aura of sexism or anti-sexism. (One wonders exactly what hypothesized value of Cohen's d separates good people's hypotheses from bad people's hypotheses.)

It would be one thing if it were just the middlebrow, the Twitter mobs and Gizmodos of the world getting this wrong. But Nature! (Lest I too risk failing at reading comprehension, it's possible the intent of the reference to "the controversy over" is just to tie the anti-discrimination stance of the editorial to current events, without meaning to put words in Damore's mouth. But I'm not optimistic.)

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