[ExI] Status as human motivator

Jones Murphy morphy at alumni.caltech.edu
Tue Apr 26 17:55:31 UTC 2011

Keith, we've been over this many times before(I'm Jonesey from
#extropy chat), and so I'm surprised to see you regurgitating this
kind of stuff once again. The enormous spread in the degree to which
women are involved in science across societies in the world today,
plus the incredible velocity with which those degrees have changed
just in the past century alone, lays waste to any sort of attempts at
evolutionary explanations. Give it up.

That list of possible jobs for scientists is hopelessly incomplete.
LOTS of scientists go onto Wall St(as I have), do MBA's and go into
business(not necessarily "industry") in general, etc etc.

On Tue, Apr 26, 2011 at 7:34 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
> Years ago, back in the nineties, I got a lot of abuse and even was
> lambasted from the bench by a federal judge over recognizing the
> importance of status seeking as a human motivator.  I noticed a
> slashdot article that pointed to something on the topic by Philip
> Greenspun.  It's a good read.
> http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science
> Why do American men (boys, actually) do it?
> Pursuing science as a career seems so irrational that one wonders why
> any young American would do it. Yet we do find some young Americans
> starting out in the sciences and they are mostly men. When the Larry
> Summers story first broke, I wrote in my Weblog:
>    A lot more men than women choose to do seemingly irrational things
> such as become petty criminals, fly homebuilt helicopters, play video
> games, and keep tropical fish as pets (98 percent of the attendees at
> the American Cichlid Association convention that I last attended were
> male). Should we be surprised that it is mostly men who spend 10 years
> banging their heads against an equation-filled blackboard in hopes of
> landing a $35,000/year post-doc job?
> Having been both a student and teacher at MIT, my personal explanation
> for men going into science is the following:
>   1. young men strive to achieve high status among their peer group
>   2. men tend to lack perspective and are unable to step back and ask
> the question "is this peer group worth impressing?"
> Consider Albert Q. Mathnerd, a math undergrad at MIT ("Course 18" we
> call it). He works hard and beats his chest to demonstrate that he is
> the best math nerd at MIT. This is important to Albert because most of
> his friends are math majors and the rest of his friends are in wimpier
> departments, impressed that Albert has even taken on such demanding
> classes. Albert never reflects on the fact that the guy who was the
> best math undergrad at MIT 20 years ago is now an entry-level public
> school teacher in Nebraska, having failed to get tenure at a 2nd tier
> university. When Albert goes to graduate school to get his PhD, his
> choice will have the same logical foundation as John Hinckley's
> attempt to impress Jodie Foster by shooting Ronald Reagan.
> ********
> Greenspun is smart enough not to make the obvious self-referential
> observation that *he* is motivated by high status, something I was
> foolish enough to have written about.  (Even though I noted that at
> the time I was not consciously aware of it.)  I included the next
> paragraph just because it is such a vivid example, especially the last
> sentence.
> He also misses the *why* young men strive to achieve high status.  The
> obvious reason from evolutionary psychology is that high status men
> got the most nooky (and wives) for millions of years, so of course we
> are selected to seek status.  It's one of the things that really are
> in our genes.
> Keith
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