Steve Sailer has provided the best and most interesting insight of the Olympic games. Besides a diverse knowledge base and an understanding of economics and sport, Sailer also begins from the simple premise that groups (men versus women, blacks versus whites) are genetically different. So the reason that his insight has been most interesting is the same reason that he’s not writing for the prestige press on the subject. Compare Sailer’s starting point to Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic who, in a post titled “We thought female athletes were catching up to men, but they’re not” wrote:
Earlier this week, we set out to test our perception that women were catching up to men. We know, after all, that there are and were structural factors that prevented women from engaging in and training for athletics. Our perception was that these impediments had been getting slowly eroded. Therefore, we expected to see, at least in some sports, a path to equality that showed women’s times catching up with men’s in 2031 or some other date in the future.
Personally, I can’t understand why someone would, despite the myriad of ways in which it has been disproven (are we living to be 180 years old? are there 50 billion people on the Earth?), extrapolate linearly. If this convergence was merely just a null hypothesis, I can understand the thinking. But something tells me that Meyer and others of the blank slate mentality actually did hold out hope that men and women would converge athletically.
Meyer has two answers to the self-posed question: will women ever catch up to men? He provides the correct and simple answer – no. But his nuanced answer is this:
The second answer is that women have already caught up to men. Women today, for example, swim as fast as men did forty years ago. The women’s world record for butterfly ties Mark Spitz’s 1967 record.
Setting aside the use of performance enhancing drugs, Mark Spitz et al did not have teams of trainers and scientists working to maximize athletic performance. Today, both male and female athletes do, and the 90% performance gap which Meyer’s cites holds true. To say that the women of today caught up to the men of yesterday, and to hold that up as some sort of achievement for equality is mere pandering.
This type of research, a search for a golden ratio between men and women, also applies to strength competitions. Meyer establishes the 90% ratio for speed competitions but ignores weightlifting. My quick analysis finds a consistent 75 – 80% ratio across equal weight classes between women and men in the snatch and clean and jerk world weight lifting records. For example, the men’s world record holder at the 62 kg weight class lifted 327 kg while the 63 kg women’s world record holder recorded 245 kg.
One wonders in what ways these strength and speed gaps can apply to the gender pay gap we hear so much about. In a manufacturing economy, when speed and strength were more valuable, the gap was larger than it is today in the service/IQ economy.