Friday, October 14, 2005

Why Men Earn More

Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap – and What Women Can Do About It is ingeniously packaged as a self-help book for women. Farrell’s main finding is that women make less than men because women trade work that pays less for lives that are more balanced, have more time for children, and last longer. Men – most especially married fathers -- work longer, harder, and in more difficult jobs even though that means they see less of their children and die younger. In fact, Farrell argues, when we really compare apples and apples, women earn at least the same as men, and probably more.

The pay gap could, in principle, disappear if tens of millions of women were willing to take rough jobs which required sacrificing their families. Since this is unlikely to happen short of a draconian command economy, the gap will remain. This gap in group earnings is not a bad thing if individual men and women are free to make other arrangements that serve their families as well.

Farrell offers 25 things that women could do to earn more money. For example, women could chose fields in the hard sciences as much as they did in the arts. Less educated women could earn more if they were as willing to work “in the heat and the sleet” as they are “indoors and neat.” Many women, of course, can and do choose such jobs. But it defies what we know about women and men in general to think that hundreds of millions of working men and women in this country would be equally likely to choose the same way.

The main point underlying all of the differences in work choices that Farrell cites is that parents arrange their lives to serve their kids. Women tend to arrange their work so they can be with their children more. Men tend to arrange their work so they can provide for their children (and wives) more. We know this because childless men and women tend to be nearly equal in their work, midway between the averages for mothers and fathers.

Ultimately, men as a group earn more because married fathers are more productive at work than any other group. Men earn more despite the fact that single, childless men earn less than most women.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Promiscuity is Not Androgynous

I want to start with a private exchange that I had with Annie at Ambivablog (see the link at left). She wrote:

Basically I think women are less-than-half empowered sexually and emotionally, which is a dangerous place to be. They're pretending to be tough and enjoy sex for its own sake "like men" … but it's very brittle and fragile: they are really trying to buy love with it, which is a losing proposition. I think a lot of abortions are casualties in this desperate game. Girls and women need to hold themselves in much higher regard; the sensible "no" can only follow from that naturally.

I agree with this entirely. Men and women as a group are not the same now in their desire for uncommitted sex. Some people hope that that is merely a socially constructed difference, and someday free women will be just as promiscuous and conscience-free as men are – though why anyone would think such a state of affairs would make for a better society is beyond me. Myself, I want to see men – even single young men – be caring and responsible about sex.

In any case, I think we have strong sociobiological reasons to think that men and women are quite different in their attitudes toward uncommitted sex. They always have been different, and they always will be.

Usually at this point I need to make the Sociological Concession: what I have just said is true of the group, though some individuals within each group do deviate from the norm. However, fascinating research by Syracuse University anthropologist John Townsend, reported in Steven Rhoads’ Taking Sex Differences Seriously, suggests that even women who are trying to be promiscuous without conscience “just like a man,” find it almost impossible to do. He interviewed a group of women students, both undergraduates and medical students, who were unusually pro-sex. They had lots of sex, with lots of men. They believed in their heads that sex was just a fun physical pleasure from which they should not require or expect emotional commitment. And yet, their hearts would not cooperate. They found that they couldn’t just do it like a man and think nothing of him in the morning. They tried to talk themselves out of having feelings for the men they had sex with, and especially from hoping that he had feelings for them. They were using sex to get love, as the proverb said, despite their strong commitment to an androgynous ideology. They thought they were “pro-sex” (a strange term for the belief that sex doesn’t mean anything), but were still really “pro-love.” And a good thing, too, I say.

The nymphomaniac woman is a male fantasy. Even the happy slut seems to be a male fantasy. I think that connecting sex with love is a deep and hopeful instinct. Rather than trying to stomp it out with an ideology of androgynous promiscuity, we would do better to try to curb male promiscuity by showing how much it hurts women, and children, and, ultimately, men themselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Evolution and Creation: A Centrist Proposal

The latest flap over Intelligent Design is another wrinkle in the old struggle of Creation and Evolution, which is itself but a wrinkle in the older struggle of Religion and Science, or (even worse), Faith and Reason.

I think the whole fight is a fraud. There is no conflict between faith and reason, or religion and science, or creation and evolution. Intelligent design is one possibility of the larger metaphysic of how the universe works, which is equally compatible with creation or evolution theories.

Evolution is a theory. The part of the theory which explores how living forms develop over time by adapting to their environments is well supported by the empirical record. The theory of evolution is a scientific theory. As such, it can always be tested, but can never be proven. Scientific theories are in principle always falsifiable by new empirical evidence, and can be displaced by a more comprehensive theory.

Darwin thought that one part of the mechanism of the development of new forms was random mutation. This part of evolutionary theory is much less well established than development through environmental adaptation. Mutations happen, and new forms do appear, but random mutation does not appear to happen on the scale necessary to produce all the evolution that we appear to see. The idea that new forms appear at random, and that their appearance is not part of a design, is not a scientific idea, because it cannot be falsified. It is one theory, but only one. Random mutation is essentially a theological theory.

Natural science starts with a choice of method to only make theories about what can be observed in the material world, preferably from material processes which are or can be repeated. As a methodological convention, materialism has proven a very powerful tool. It means, though, that science simply cannot say anything, one way or the other, about whether material phenomena are the only kind which exist. Science can neither prove nor disprove the claim that materialism is the true metaphysic. Some people think that the universe is only material. That is not a scientific idea, either. Materialism is essentially a theological theory, too.

I have done surveys of Presbyterian ministers, who are among the most educated and reason-oriented of Christians. If you give them a forced choice between Creation and Evolution, naturally most of them will have to choose Creation, or deny God and the Bible. If, though, you give them a middle option – God created the world and has guided evolution – most Presbyterian ministers will choose this option.

We can and should have a debate about how to understand this middle position – theistic evolution, or adaptive creation, or what have you. But we should be clear that there are many middle positions in the creation/evolution discussion.

So why do we keep having this polarized debate? Because ideologues on both sides see the world as polarized, and they have more power in the world if other people can be made to see it as polarized, too.

Refuse the false dichotomy. Choose faith and reason, God and science, creation and evolution.