'No they aren't', say 76% (correction: 84%, no 88%)

8/9/2005 – Recently we reported on an article about science and chess attracting more men than women, and the possibility that this might be due to a difference in the general intelligence level of the genders. The questionnaire attached to the article brought an overwhelming result: neither gender is smarter. Interesting how the 50 personalities are ranked.

PARADE is a magazine that is distributed as a Sunday supplement in hundreds of newspapers in the United States. In one of the latest issues staff writer Marilyn vos Savant asked what readers thought: are men smarter then women? Savant herself is reputed to have an astronomical 228 IQ (in the Guinness Book of World Records) but is a somewhat controversial public figure. Her article on male and female intelligence did, however, hit a nerve.

Savant set up a questionnaire to ask readers specifically: Are men smarter than women? Or are women more intelligent than men? The options you could vote for were:

  • I think men are smarter than women
  • I think women are smarter than men
  • I agree with Marilyn, neither gender is smarter
  • I don't know

The result was a resounding 76% vote for equality of the genders with regard to intelligence. Only 10% thought men were smarter, but on the other hand 8% thought women had the upper hand.

Addendum: After this article appeared we received a letter from Tim Spanton, who is a writer for The Sun in London, England (and an avid chess player who goes to Linares not to watch but to play in the open). Tim draws attention to the fact that our headline "No they aren't say 76%" is in fact wrong. It isn't 76% who think men are not smarter, but 84%. "The maths is quite simple: 76% who reckoned they are equal plus 8% who reckoned women are smarter = 84%." He adds the following note: "I guess your report was written by one of the not-smarter men." Ouch, yes. Memo to self: must get more female assistance for our news page.

Addendum 2: Vincent Gagliano of Fort Lauderdale, USA thinks there are still two flaws to this
story. 1. A total of 88% of the people asked do not state that men are smarter. They think neither gender is, that women are or they are not sure. Only 10% say clearly that they think men are smarter. 2. The pie only adds up to 98 percent – where did the other two percent go? "Tim got my grey matter flowing," Vincent writes, "Auf wiedersen and continue to chug out great products and news!"

After that Savant gave a list with 50 names, of which readers had to pick the five they thought were smartest. The top five were the following:

Gates between Einstein, Curie and Hawking? Well, if they say so. But let us take a look at the full list of the 50 smartest.

1 Albert Einstein
2 Bill Gates
3 Marie Curie
4 Stephen Hawking
5 Condoleezza Rice
6 Bill Clinton
7 Sandra Day O'Connor
8 Oprah Winfrey
9 Warren Buffett
10 Jane Goodall
11 Steven Spielberg
12 Dalai Lama
13 Sally Ride
14 George S. Patton Jr.
15 Jon Stewart
16 J.K. Rowling
17 Dr. Phil (McGraw)

18 Ben Carson
19 Susan Polgar
20 Pablo Picasso
21 Rosalyn Yalow
22 Linda Buck
23 Yo-Yo Ma
24 Johnny Carson
25 Georgia O'Keeffe
26 Katharine Graham
27 Mary Matalin
28 James Carville
29 Meryl Streep
30 Sergey Brin
31 Toni Morrison
32 Dr. Ruth (Westheimer)
33 Jackie Chan
34 Quincy Jones

35 Hayao Miyazaki
36 Maya Lin
37 Meg Whitman
38 Edward Albee
39 Pat Summitt
40 Wynton Marsalis
41 Mikhail Baryshnikov
42 Martha Graham
43 Ralph Lauren
44 Bette Davis
45 Antonia Novello
46 Allison Fisher
47 Frank Gehry
48 Mike Nichols
49 Annie Duke
50 Annika Sorenstam

We note that there are five women in the top ten, eight in the top 20. But, and that is what we were coming to, there is a chess player amongst them. At number 19, one ahead of Pablo Picasso, we find Susan Polgar. This is astonishing, since the questionnaire was assumedly answered exclusively by US Americans, where chess is not the big national pastime. We recently heard, but did not note the exact details, that a poll about the most admired personalities in Holland did not see Euwe and Timman in the top 50. Which makes the inclusion of a chess player high up in the above list all the more remarkable.

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