Friday, August 16, 2013

PZ Myers is the mirror of Ben Stein

It's always sad to see a brilliant thinker leave their area of expertise and embarrass himself with ignorant statements on a subject they don't understand.

I was heartbroken when I learned Ben Stein was hosting the intelligent design documentary Expelled. I had tremendous respect for his economic and financial insight, but here he was spouting off a bunch of nonsense against the science of biology.

Now take the case of biology professor and blogger PZ Myers. It's true I never cared for Myers, but it's hard to take him seriously as an intellectual after reading his infantile and confused blog post about an economic paper from 2006 that argued menstruation-related absences were a minor factor in the gender wage gap.

Myers defends the methodology of the paper in its detection of a 28-day cycle where female workers at an Italian bank were more likely to miss a day of work. The conclusion he rejects, however, is that absenteeism is one of the factors in wages and promotions. He balks at the idea that frequently missing work is going to impact how someone is evaluated at work:

They’re going to argue that wages and promotions are set rationally, by impartial observers looking at just a few simply quantifiable characteristics, like absenteeism. Has anyone in the history of humankind ever worked at a job like that? Punch in, punch out, zoom, you’re climbing the ladder of success and no one ever looks at your work…or the color of your skin or the kind of genitals you keep in your pants…and all decisions might as well be made by a computer.

He freely admits that female employees have higher rates of absences, but shuts down when confronted with the idea that the gender wage gap could stem from anything other than discrimination. When the authors of the paper declared that they are not going to take a stand on if governments should subsidize the wages of female workers to compensate for their biologically-determined wage differences, Myers drops the ball again and goes on an irrelevant rant about biological functions like bathroom breaks and meal times.

After some vague anti-capitalist claptrap Myers ended his piece with calls for revolutionaries to "rise up," presumably against capitalism.

The cliches are almost as painful as the failed attempt at an analysis. The authors were merely stating that menstruation-based absenteeism could explain 11.8 percent of the gender wage gap on average, or about 0.59 percent of the total wage gap. What Myers wrote only makes sense if he believed the authors meant that absenteeism explains the entire gap.

Stick to underwater mating mechanics, PZ, and I'll try to keep Ben Stein out of your laboratory.

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