Bush Was Re-elected Plus Girls And Math

Ok, I've got a ton of work to do, which means...I've got to update this biznotch. For some reason, whenever I have the most work to do I'm at my most independently creative. For me it kind of functions as a reason to never quite have all my work done. Then again, another result of never having your work done is that you're slightly pre-occupied all the time, which is unavoidable no matter how flippant an attitude you may have.

Ok, most importantly, the results of the election. Bush was marginally elected by a very divided electorate. Which is fine. Compromise is what makes democracy work. Although on an intellectual level I like the idea of a multi-party parliamentary system better. However I don't have enough political knowledge back that up with substantive arguments, other than that it ensures the government more closely represents the will of the people. But in America it's winner take all. So when Kerry called Bush to formally concede the presidency and congratulate him, he made a point of mentioning how divided the country was, and how he thought that was a bad thing, which I think we all can agree on. And I think Bush agreed, which is good.
So then Bush goes and releases this 6 point plan for his domestic agenda:
  • Continuing to raise accountability standards in public schools.
  • Upholding "our deepest values and family and faith.”
  • Halving the record $413 billion deficit.
  • Expanding health care coverage.
  • Seeking a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
  • Moving “this goodhearted nation toward a culture of life,” a reference to the abortion issue.
Ok, well the first point calls a giant federal program, something liberals can relate to. And I honestly don't know the liberal / conservative breakdown on supporting the "No Child Left Behind" program. I do know that it's generally recognized to be a big failure, one reason being that it is massively underfunded, and I can't imagine liberals feeling feeling any differently. And what does the second point mean? Not even in policy terms, but as a statement? How do you uphold family (other than issuing a constitutional ammendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which is already covered by point 5)? Then there's the last two points which address the two most divisive domestic issues. I honestly am surprised that the consitutional ban on gay marriage is in there again. I really thought it was intended to energize the base for the election and was not a heartfelt policy. I do like halving the deficit though because of how lofty and ambitious it is.
So this does seem like a hard agenda to unify people on but we'll see.
The second thing I've been thinking about is girls and math. Nothing lewd or anything. Specifically, you know the common wisdom that girls are not as good at math as boys. Well there are two issues, whether that's fundamentally true, and then if so, why it's true. On the first point, I tend to believe that to the extent that being good at math equates with performing in math, girls are not as good, but in the sense of raw potential, I don't think there's a difference. It think the first point is undebatable, that girls' performance is not as high. There are many reasons put forth to explain this. Some have it that this is a social phenomenon. This argument has it that girls are just not encouraged to be good at math, so few become good at it. This may explain why some girls who are good at math are just as good as boys who are good at math, but the overall distribution is shifted much more toward the not good end. Some allege it has something to do with visual-spatial skills. The predicates of this argument have merit: men do have superior visual-spatial abilities. There's an evolutionary reason for this. If you buy into the story that long ago men were hunters who navigated and traveled and women were gatherers who traveled shorter distances, it makes sense that men would be selected for spatial and directional abilities, and that if these traits are in fact sex-linked, they would be propogated along to their male ancestors. The problem I see with this argument is that the assumed link between spatial abilities and math not clear. For instance, does it take spatial ability to understand algebra or calculus? The answer isn't clear to me. Granted that many of math's most useful applications are physical, but men could just be more drawn to physical things which seems an easier and more direct answer than they somehow use their spatial inclinations to be good at math. According to the simpler is more likely to be correct law, I support the former view.
This is slightly off-topic, but there's a fascinating theory for why more often men show exceptionally high ability in things like math that demand a high IQ. According to the general theory, some of the alleles that are important for intelligence are X-linked, meaning that they only appear on the X chromosome. For those who need brushing up on their biology, males have both an X and a Y chromosome, and females have two X chromosomes. Therefore male descendents of males get their Y chromosome from their father and their X from their mother, and female descendants get an X chromosome from each parent.
There is a strong and a weak version of this theory. The strong version of an X-linked intelligence trait theory would have it that genes encoding for high intelligence only occur on the X chromosome, meaning that they are only transmitted to a male through the mother, which can be considered disproved since if it were true, pedigrees of smart families would show a clear X-linked pattern, which would be quite evident and vindicate the theory conclusively. But there is a weaker form of the X-linked theory that makes more sense. Imagine if X chromosome alleles had proportionally more importance in determining intelligence. Then any mutation or natural variation that should happen to occur in the single X chromosome of a male would automatically be manifested. Of course the probability of a single fluke occurence is greater than the probability of two coincident fluke occurences, so for this reason there would be more variability in male intelligence than in female intelligence, where the actual expression of the X chromosome trait is somehow a combination of two inherited X alleles. The prediction of greater variability is exactly consistent with the established observation that there are more male mentally retarded people, and more male creative geniuses, but the mean intellectual ability for the sexes is the same. From an evolutionary perspective, if intelligence is assumed to be an adaptive trait, then it makes sense why the most transparent variability of the trait occurs in the more easily "selected" sex. (Whereas the man can be selected at the tip of a hat, thousands of times over in the course of a year, a female can, theoretically, only be selected once every nine months or so.)
Of course this doesn't seem to offer explanation for the higher apparent mean math ability in men. But I have a personal view, although it might be mundane compared to the alternatives. Men like competition, especially the type where if someone wins someone else loses. It just goes along with our competitive nature, which can also probably be explained as some sort of evolutionary thing. The thing that distinguishes math and, to a slightly lesser extent, science from other forms of intellectual discourse is that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. English is self-evidently vague and, to me, relativistic. Even with something like language, in which women are purported to be more adept, there isn't one correct way to say something, there are multiple ways of saying it, within the constraints of proper grammar. Math dovetails nicely with guys' desire to be right about stuff. To be the one person who gets the solution to a problem while everyone else is in sheepish ingorance is kind of appealing for dominance-loving creatures, though admittedly this isn't an admirable trait. One corollary of this theory would be you'd find more guys interested in things like trivia. And it's true that there are more guys on shows like Jeopardy than girls.
All right, now that I've got that out of my system maybe I'll get something done...

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