Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness


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Few months ago, I came across an article from a random blog – “Are boys smarter than girls in maths?”  Reading from the title alone, I immediately knew that the answer will be a big NO and the author will go on to emphasize equality in both genders. That’s because I know the blog’s author is a very careful person and tend to be politically-correct when it comes to his writing.

After skimming through the essay, his conclusion was indeed a no.

In my opinion, any safe, non-controversial, political correct writings which tend to seek reader’s nod in acceptance are maybe good for conveying knowledge and information, but it will not necessary help people to think critically. Sure, everyone will be happy when you tell them that genders are equal. But again, does appealing to sense of comfort equates to truth?

Now, back to the topic – Are boys really smarter than girls in maths? Below is one of the author’s reference to his essay:

In a new study published recently in Science, Professor Janet Hyde and colleagues may have spotted the first signs of change. They used data from around 7 million US children in 10 US states from grade 2 through to grade 11, routinely gathered as part of a national assessment exercise. They wanted to find out if boys are still performing better than girls at maths.
What they found was that in marked contrast to earlier research, there was little or no difference in maths performance between girls and boys in all of the 10 states. In some states girls performed fractionally better, on average, than boys, and in other states this trend was reversed

Before my refutation, I will first give an analogy. In a 100 meters sprint race, I would dare to say that 50% of the young people in this world could easily finish the race within 30 seconds. But on the other hand, how many people in the world could actually run as fast as Usain Bolt, who just set a world record at 9.69 seconds?

I say, not many.

Same goes for ability in maths. The research is done with grade 2 to grade 11 kids, which in other words, the level of maths is somewhat between basic to intermediate level of maths. Is this level of maths so difficult where boys and girls will show disparity in abilities? We need to know that when it comes to something that involves learning curves, there’s always the diminishing factor – which means a subject gets harder and harder to learn as you go to a higher level.

For example, it is not difficult to improve your running time from 30 seconds to 20 seconds in 100m sprint but to improve the timing from 10 seconds to 9.7 seconds, it is not something everyone can do. And this is what the diminishing factor is all about.

By ignoring the advanced or higher level of maths (in university and scientific world level), this research only gave Prof. Janet Hyde the answer that she wanted – that boys and girls are equal in maths. Or perhaps, she intended to give an ambiguous answer to gender equality by only highlighting “boys and girls” but ignoring “men and women”. Whatever it is, this does not give a complete answer anything pertaining to reality.

And I’m extremely aware that there are many of these half-hearted (or half-minded) experiments around which just give the answer the researches seek rather than finding the truth.

Another instance – the correlation between red wine and the heart. Basically, one research concluded that people who have the habit of drinking red wine tend to have lesser heart problems. So, yes, people who drink red wine do have better heart, but does correlation imply causation? Is red wine indeed a magical potion for your heart?

Or perhaps, people who could afford buying red wine tend to be better off who could also afford proper health care and diet, hence better heart? If so, red wine would just be a symbol of wealth or capability and not a causation.

Any research method which are technically over-simplistic will bound to have flaws or incompleteness. Considering these are funded researches, I’m surprised the research method is not thoroughly investigated and thought out properly. It goes no where when the researcher interpret the result based on his/her own subjective bias rather than judging objectively.


Written by elan85

September 26, 2008 at 4:03 am

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