And in the Telegraph.
And the Independent.
And the Guardian.
And the Vile.
And the Standard.*
Nigel does not think this is wholly fair. To some extent he's right - it's not hard to pick very large holes in any of these articles - though at the same time I'm not entirely sympathetic.
This is mostly because I am a bad person. However it may also be attributable to Nigel's habit of making his arguments in such a way as to invite an absence of sympathy, the present instance not being an exception.
As you will have gathered, Nigel's case is that men's brains are different to women's, that the sexes are "hardwired" differently and that this is the fundamental reason why men outperform women at chess.
OK. That's a case which he is entitled to make if he thinks the science stands up. (The Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging here seems to think it doesn't. Nor does Dr Burnett of the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences.) But with a scientific case, though, you have to make it seriously. Not seriously in the sense of po-faced, but seriously in the sense of properly. Because science is serious and the issue under discussion is also serious. So make your case seriously.
Here's how Nigel made his case. There are a few things to say about it.
...an excellent article by the Australian Richard Howard...Who is Richard Howard, sorry? I spent ages looking for a Chessbase article by a Richard Howard.
Turns out he's called Robert Howard.
It's not life or death, and we all make mistakes, but at the same time it's not exactly evidence of a rigorous approach, is it? Not sufficiently rigorous for anybody to check the piece before going to press, anyway.
THING ONE. If you're attempting to make a serious scientific point, try and get basic details right.
...on the chessbase.com website...Where, exactly? Could you give us a URL, a title, a date?
THING TWO. If you're attempting to cite scientific evidence, do it so that your readers can look at it themselves and don't have to take your secondhand account of what it says.
...absurd theory...only a bunch of academics could come up with such a preposterous conclusion...flies in the face of observation...Bilalic, Smallbone, McLeod and Gobet, who between them know rather more about the subject than, say, Nigel and I between us, didn't just come out with the first load of old nonsense that came into their heads. They produced rigorous work, referring to and based on previous rigorous research, and then went (I assume) through a process of peer-review before having their work accepted for Proceedings of the Royal Society.
This doesn't make them infallibly right until the end of time. That's not how science works. What it means is that it stands up as research. It is not "preposterous" or "absurd". Writing for scientific journals isn't like writing for New In Chess: you can't just write any old tosh you want and it gets in because of who you are.
I don't have the science (or the maths) to make judgements in the case of Bilalic et al in Proceedings of the Royal Society versus Howard in Personality and Individual Differences. I would be interested to hear from people who do. I am less interested in hearing from people who think you can dispose of research you don't like by referring to "a bunch of academics". That's not science, that's being a jerk.
THING THREE. If you're going to talk about science, have some respect for science and some understanding of what science is.
Well, we've seen this one before. In fact quite a lot of people have seen it over the few days and they're not universally impressed.
THING FOUR. If you're going to put yourself forward as a scientist, don't be telling us anecdotes about women drivers. All you do is come over as an ignorant and boorish old sexist.
But we knew that already, didn't we?
[*if I've missed any, do post them in comments]
[Nigel Short index]