Friday, August 14, 2009

Links ...

  1. Lani Guinier and Susan Sturm in Forbes: America's Best Colleges: Merit By The Numbers [via The Situationist Blog].

    The preoccupation with backwards-looking statistical criteria also severs the tie between admissions and mission. The testing regime deflects the college's responsibility away from, for example, producing a diverse and dynamic learning environment that actually builds capacity among the students to become the leaders, thinkers and entrepreneurs of the next generation. Reputation based on numerical ranking assumes greater importance than reputation based on the development of innovative ideas and publicly spirited graduates. The primary function of admission becomes status and prestige enhancement for the institution itself and for those who enroll.

  2. Jyoti Punwani in The Hoot: Caste Matters (covering something that I noted a few days ago):

    The Times’ recent report isn’t unusual; the paper has been consistently running down the performance of reserved category IIT aspirants and students. Journalists can end up perpetuating stereotypes that stigmatize an entire community.

  3. Sharon Begley in Newsweek: Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?

    These have not been easy days for evolutionary psychology. For years the loudest critics have been social scientists, feminists and liberals offended by the argument that humans are preprogrammed to rape, to kill unfaithful girlfriends and the like. (This was a reprise of the bitter sociobiology debates of the 1970s and 1980s. When Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson proposed that there exists a biologically based human nature, and that it included such traits as militarism and male domination of women, left-wing activists—including eminent biologists in his own department—assailed it as an attempt "to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race, or sex" analogous to the scientific justification for Nazi eugenics.) [...]

    That is changing. Evo psych took its first big hit in 2005, when NIU's Buller exposed flaw after fatal flaw in key studies underlying its claims, as he laid out in his book Adapting Minds. Anthropological studies such as Hill's on the Ache, shooting down the programmed-to-rape idea, have been accumulating. And brain scientists have pointed out that there is no evidence our gray matter is organized the way evo psych claims, with hundreds of specialized, preprogrammed modules. Neuroscientist Roger Bingham of the University of California, San Diego, who describes himself as a once devout "member of the Church of Evolutionary Psychology" (in 1996 he created and hosted a multimillion-dollar PBS series praising the field), has come out foursquare against it, accusing some of its adherents of an "evangelical" fervor. Says evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci of Stony Brook University, "Evolutionary stories of human behavior make for a good narrative, but not good science."