I’m watching the ball game. Manny Ramirez comes in to score from second. The Rockies throw to their catcher who tags Ramirez as he crosses the plate. It’s a photo finish, but Ramirez is called out, correctly. The two announcers dispute the call. One says, “so why did the umpire wait so long to make the call?” Z, sitting next to me, says “because he was waiting to see if the ball was in the glove, idiot.” Then I hear Joe Buck, the other announcer, saying, “because he was waiting to see if the ball was in the glove [idiot].” The point? Z called it, and I couldn’t ever, in a million years of watching baseball, have called it, I couldn’t have.
I understand baseball better than I understand any other sport. I get lots of its little intricacies. I have an intuitive sense of the game. I also watch basketball (which has a far greater aesthetic reach) and hockey (which is Canadian). I more or less get these sports too. I can get sports. But not as well as Z can.
This is spurring a series of thoughts I’ve had for a while. Remember how Larry Summers
got fired had to resign for saying that men might be better at hard sciences than women? I never thought he deserved it. Because here’s what I think.
I think women are by and large smarter than men. Everyone knows that on average little girls are quicker on the uptake than little boys. Received wisdom says that boys eventually catch up. But what if they don’t? Personally I don’t see much evidence that they do, and adding up my whole life – where I’ve known lots of smart and dumb men, lots of smart and dumb women, and thought a lot about the ways in which I myself am smart and dumb, because everyone’s split — adding it all up, I tend to think that women as a group are measurably further up the intelligence line than men as a group. But, if this is the case, couldn’t it also be true that men’s intelligence is strung out more thinly and farther on the line, particularly when it comes to piddly little things like the ball in a glove or Fermat’s Theorem? If I’m right, why can’t Summers be right too? Or at least allowed to throw it out there.
As often when I post on big questions, I’m aware that there’s relevant literature. I’ve read a number of feminists on this issue, most relevantly Gilligan. I’m not making any claims that distinguish innate characteristics from socialization. I’m not writing to situate myself in the discourse, and I’m not using all the theory at my disposal. I’m providing a few raw thoughts. Meanwhile my estimate of little boys’ intelligence has gone up in proportion to how difficult I find it is to transform Plasma Blast Bumblebee into a Camaro. Read: I bought myself a toy the other day, a Transformer, one that some 4 year old boys have no trouble with, and I’m having a little trouble with it.