Charles Murray: No, I don’t think women are genetically inferior
A few weeks ago, I asked people who accuse me of thinking blacks are genetically inferior to give me a direct quote of anything I have written, and I would be happy to respond in detail.
There have been no takers. But the Huffington Post has given a direct quote of something I have written to prove that Charles Murray thinks women are genetically inferior:
“No woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions,” he wrote. “Women have produced a smaller number of important visual artists, and none that is clearly in the first rank. No female composer is even close to the first rank. Social restrictions undoubtedly damped down women’s contributions in all of the arts, but the pattern of accomplishment that did break through is strikingly consistent with what we know about the respective strengths of male and female cognitive repertoires.”
Maybe this is a teachable moment. I could give you the link to the full article from which the quote is taken, and leave it at that, but few people are going to plow all the way through that lengthy essay (7,527 words plus 7,716 words in the endnotes). So please bear with me while I give you an example of the nonsense I have to put up with.
Suppose the Huffington Post writer, Laura Bassett, had simply added the very next sentence in my article, which reads:
Women have their own cognitive advantages over men, many of them involving verbal fluency and interpersonal skills. If this were a comprehensive survey, detailing those advantages would take up as much space as I have devoted to a particular male advantage.
That doesn’t really sound male-supremacist, does it?
But let’s not stop there. Here’s what comes next:
But, sticking with my restricted topic, I will move to another aspect of male-female differences that bears on accomplishment at the highest levels of the arts and sciences: motherhood.
Regarding women, men, and babies, the technical literature is as unambiguous as everyday experience would lead one to suppose. As a rule, the experience of parenthood is more profoundly life-altering for women than for men. Nor is there anything unique about humans in this regard. Mammalian reproduction generally involves much higher levels of maternal than paternal investment in the raising of children. Among humans, extensive empirical study has demonstrated that women are more attracted to children than are men, respond to them more intensely on an emotional level, and get more and different kinds of satisfactions from nurturing them. Many of these behavioral differences have been linked with biochemical differences between men and women.
Thus, for reasons embedded in the biochemistry and neurophysiology of being female, many women with the cognitive skills for achievement at the highest level also have something else they want to do in life: have a baby. In the arts and sciences, forty is the mean age at which peak accomplishment occurs, preceded by years of intense effort mastering the discipline in question. These are precisely the years during which most women must bear children if they are to bear them at all.
Among women who have become mothers, the possibilities for high-level accomplishment in the arts and sciences shrink because, for innate reasons, the distractions of parenthood are greater. To put it in a way that most readers with children will recognize, a father can go to work and forget about his children for the whole day. Hardly any mother can do this, no matter how good her day-care arrangement or full-time nanny may be. My point is not that women must choose between a career and children, but that accomplishment at the extremes commonly comes from a single-minded focus that leaves no room for anything but the task at hand. We should not be surprised or dismayed to find that motherhood reduces the proportion of highly talented young women who are willing to make that tradeoff.
I submit that no fair-minded person can read that passage (which had several long endnotes documenting my assertions) and think I’m hell-bent on proving women are inferior to men. Did Laura Bassett just stop reading where her quotation of me ends? Is she saying to herself now, “Damn, I should have kept reading; I’ve really been unfair to that guy”?
I doubt it. And because a lot of people read the Huffington Post, I’m probably going to have to put up with “Why do you think women are inferior?” in the Q&A for every lecture I give in the next few months. It’s irritating.
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