Friday, 28 June 2013

Bizarre reasoning

Paul Seabright in the Times Literary Supplement on Alison Wolf's The XX Factor:

"The take-home message [apparent from various statistics] is clear: hold on to your virginity at least till after you leave school. In the twenty-first century, you may no longer owe it to your religion or your future husband to be sexually responsible, but you certainly owe it to your career."

But, he adds, "Nothing in the correlation justifies such a conclusion. ... A woman who concludes that being sexually choosier than she naturally wants to be will improve her chances of making the alpha track is making the same statistical error as a man who thinks that drinking more dry martinis will make him richer."

Hang on a minute. Having sex, by and large, increases your chances of having a baby. Having a baby before you leave school, by and large, hinders your pursuit of a successful career. No one is making a statistical errors by thinking along these lines.


  1. " being sexually choosier than she naturally wants to be". A strange idea: would one "naturally" read a book with pages missing when there was the option of a complete one, or eat a mouldy strawberry from a dish of fresh ones? Is having no taste now a sign of the emancipated woman?

  2. Quite. What is "natural"?

    I suppose the reasoning is meant go like this.

    1. Men have always been emancipated.
    2. You can therefore see what is "natural" behaviour for emancipated people by looking at male behaviour.
    3. Men have no taste and are not at all choosy when it comes to women. They happily eat mouldy strawberries (or at least will do so when there aren't any fresh ones on the dish).
    4. Therefore, a choosy woman is not acting naturally.

    But even if we grant 1 for the sake of argument, I don't think either 2 or 3 is self-evident.