Spot the logical fallacy– sex and sports edition

Hmmm, apparently my media consumption has pushed me into center-left culture warrior mode as I get back into blogging.  But, my goodness that has to be literally one of the worst piece I’ve ever read in the Atlantic.  It should be taught in philosophy or critical thinking classes for “spot the logical fallacy” (and, no, I won’t point out many because any reader with good critical thinking skills will catch them). “Separating Sports by Sex Doesn’t Make Sense”

This quote has led to a lot of attention on twitter (Yglesias’ take):

Like, hello, boys are, on average, inherently bigger, faster, and stronger and what complete sophistry and intellectual dishonesty to pretend that all the science on this isn’t “on average.” This is a terrific thread on this fact.  Basically, elite women’s sports simply would not exist (and HS sports teams would only have a few extraordinary females) if we didn’t have sex division.  

Rather than admitting this, much of the author’s contentions are shaped by this:

Sari van Anders, the research chair in social neuroendocrinology at Queen’s University, in Ontario, told me by email. She said that this complexity means it doesn’t make sense to separate sports by sex in order to protect women athletes from getting hurt. 

I don’t want a separate girls soccer and basketball team at my local high school so that girls don’t get hurt.  I want separate teams so that girls can play HS basketball and soccer.  Girls and women’s sports are great and I’m a fan, but to pretend that males don’t (on average!) have huge biological advantages in most sports, or that the science isn’t settled on this, is just pure anti-science.  I also can’t let this line go:

And though sex differences in sports show advantages for men, researchers today still don’t know how much of this to attribute to biological difference versus the lack of support provided to women athletes to reach their highest potential. 

This tweet is the appropriate response (though, I wouldn’t blame “journalists”)

Anyway, I’m actually entirely open to fair-minded discussion of how we think about the role of sex in sports– and youth sports in particular.  There’s surely room for improvement.  For one, we should let girls play football and wrestle, etc., if they are good enough and not worry about them “getting hurt.”  But any discussion that starts from a gender-ideology, anti-science premise that there’s no meaningful biological sex differences in athletics and that all such sex differences are just socially constructed is not a discussion that gets us to actual improvements.  

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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