Male Professors, Riding on the Backs of Other Men

In a previous post, I wrote about personal experiences of abuse at the hands of male professors, during my years as a PhD student. Among other things, male faculty and administrators were predominantly the ones who decided to prevent me from graduating.

Far from demonstrating concern on behalf of male students, many male professors today are busy trying to impress females with their supposedly enlightened beliefs. Consider, in particular, Terry Burnham of Chapman University. Burnham is the author of a paper titled “Gender, Punishment, and Cooperation: Men hurt others to advance their interests.” Not men of a certain type; not men influenced by certain inducements. Just men, period. Obviously, with that title, Burnham is not signaling concern about the growing female majority and the hostility toward men on American college campuses.

As is typical of corrupt men in positions of dominance, forming real harems or psychological imitations thereof, Burnham’s title communicates an eagerness to find fault with males across the board, consistent with these words from his website: “Men fill the world’s prisons, commit most murders, and have started all major wars. . . . Men are willing to destroy their group in order to move up in the hierarchy.” The question arises immediately: what’s it like to be a student in one of this guy’s classes? How much bias does he show in favor of his female students, and against his male students?

Let us not rest on title-based first impressions. A look at Burnham’s article quickly establishes a brutish indifference to nuance. Burnham evinces no interest, that is, in providing an informed and accurate representation of what men are actually like. That behavior, in itself, is consistent with the impression that, in such “research,” diligent attention to the facts often takes second place to the effort to send the right signals. Burnham accomplished that much with his title. To his perceived audience, as we shall see momentarily, his evidence in support of that title was not important.

In the real world, behaviors of men or of women often vary according to age, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, and other factors. None of that is present in Burnham’s paper. It would be understandable if he did not want to get distracted by a discussion of such variations. But he didn’t even report the raw data. He did not say, for instance, whether perhaps men displayed a greater range in their behaviors, with some actually being less likely than women (in the words of his title) to “hurt others to advance their interests.” His paper speaks as if men and women were simply monolithic blocs, with all members of each group behaving the same.

That, in social science, is absurd. And, plainly, Burnham knows better. He started out as a high flyer: Harvard PhD, former Goldman Sachs employee. Burnham is capable of intelligent analysis. But now, pushing 60, he is an associate professor at Chapman University, which is not listed among universities with a U.S. News national ranking. Forbes ranks it as No. 238 among U.S. colleges. Not to knock that, if he was just looking for an easy gig to coast into retirement with. Chapman is in Southern California, which can certainly be pleasant, and Burnham has a million bucks in the bank — in a checking account, mostly uninsured by FDIC and potentially vulnerable to hacking, which may seem a bit brainless, for a Harvard-trained economist.

Or at least he used to have that money in the bank. Burnham made national headlines when he withdrew that million dollars in 2014, predicting an imminent financial collapse. As he admitted in January 2017, he was “an idiot”: contrary to his prediction, the stock market and the economy continued to do well. Not to fault him for making a bad bet: it happens to the best of us. But he stuck with that position long after it was proved incorrect. In 2016, Burnham was still proclaiming, “Coming soon: the monetary bubble to end all bubbles.” And just a few days after his January 2017 admission of error, he tried another prediction: “The stock market hates Trump’s economic policies.” On that day, just after Trump’s inauguration, the S&P 500 closed at 2,278. One year later, it was at 2,824, for a 24% rise. Wrong again!

Let us not assume, in other words, that Harvard economists necessarily know what they’re talking about, or even know how to learn from their mistakes. When Burnham writes that “his discipline” (i.e., economics) is “lost and confused,” that may be true — or it may just be him.

The impression, overall, is that Burnham is slowly but inexorably coming down in the world — from Harvard to Chapman, from Goldman to obscurity. That’s OK — the rest of us are ready to accept him as an equal, when he stops assuming his own superiority.

In that project, he could start by trying to write something competent on this subject of male and female behavior. For one thing, it was not terribly impressive when his article cited page after page of previous studies: the vast majority were at least ten years old. He seems to have been drawing on ideas he borrowed from his professors and from articles published when he was in grad school, not bothering to catch up with current research. This, again, from a former Harvard research scientist.

Burnham’s paper has multiple basic problems. For instance, he used a small sample, which would be less likely to convey a representative sense of the population studied. The sample was selected by convenience rather than randomly, which made it useless for representing that population in any case. The population in question consisted of undergraduate students at Chapman University, a private school, which is not remotely representative of Americans generally — who, in turn, are not representative of people worldwide. Using this study as the basis for a generic assertion about “men” was either incompetent or malicious.

It appears to have been malicious. As explored in another post, the reality is not that men as a whole “hurt others to advance their interests,” as Burnham alleges. The reality is that men like Burnham use any leverage (in his case, the Harvard degree and his university position) to do exactly what he accuses other men of doing: hurting others to advance their own interests.

Burnham’s website features this image from Highlander:

The implication is that this is how men think. But you don’t have to watch the movie to realize that, for every man vying to be king, there are a thousand, if not a million, who are just trying to get through the daily battle. What such images represent is the viewpoint, not of the generic male, but rather of predatory men who see personal advantages in disparaging and driving away males who refuse to serve them.

Amusingly, Burnham seems to have a blind spot here: he does not seem to realize that he has depicted himself. That is remarkable. Surely he has heard of recent research finding that economists are particularly inclined toward immoral behavior. But, just to make sure everyone gets it (except him), Burnham’s webpage follows various unflattering depictions of men with a #MeToo image, to let us know that — to use the classic male line — he’s “not like all the others”:

But, in fact, he *is* like the others. Worse than most, in fact, because he’s falsely presenting himself as a big supporter of women — definitely the trendy thing to do on campus these days — when a look at his bio establishes that his interest is not in gender equality, nor in support of women, but rather in economics, biology, and evolution, whether women are involved or not. For example, in his Mean Genes book — apparently his most significant publication — only one chapter, of 12, focused specifically on gender issues.

As one might have predicted, Burnham’s fake research and preening worked. As observed in a prior post, Science Daily seems to make a point of prioritizing misandristic research over more important and better-done studies. In this case, Science Daily publicized Burnham’s unsupported claims as if they were Truth. This is, unfortunately, the sort of thing that vast numbers of readers see, in Science Daily and elsewhere, day after day. Readers don’t have the time, knowledge, and training to sort out such claims. They take it as gospel; they share it with one another as if it were established fact. It happens over and over again, article after article, day after day, year after year. It has a cumulative, corrosive impact on how men are treated and how they see themselves.

In this writeup, I have not attempted a thorough analysis of Burnham’s study. But, as a rule of thumb, authors usually try to publish their work in the most prestigious journal willing to publish it. In this case, Burnham’s paper was published in Socius, a journal that was just started in 2016 and that is funded, in part, through fees paid by authors. In other words, Burnham apparently had to pay someone to publish this crap. This is the sort of research that Science Daily considers important. And so, once again, feminists eager to disparage ordinary men serve the agenda of predatory men — loud men, often ridiculous men — who continue to dominate the news.


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