Nigel Short is an amiable Lancashire lad, who once came close to winning the world chess championship.
Well, it wasn’t really close, considering that his opponent in the final was Kasparov, arguably the greatest wood-pusher in history. Let’s just say Nigel got closer than any other Brit has ever come to claiming the top prize in the game.
Unlike many top players, who by and large tend to be dysfunctional nerds with bifocal glasses and socks of different colours, Nigel comes across as a well-balanced man with middleclass sensibilities, a good sense of humour and a gift of the gab.
It’s this latter quality that has got him into a spot of trouble. For Nigel committed two deadly sins (Mark II) in one short statement. Women, he said, are innately not as good at chess as men are. And “rather than fretting about inequality, we should just get on with it.”
SIN 1 (general): Belief that any group of people, defined by their sex, race, nationality, religion or any other characteristic, can be biologically different from any other group. Hence some groups may be better than others at certain things.
This belief is verifiably true, which makes it even more subversive. What it subverts is the vulgar Enlightenment fallacy on which modern thinking on such subjects is based: that we all start out as equal and, if we demonstrably don’t end up as equal, it’s society’s fault.
This belief isn’t rational-empirical but fideistic-political, which means it’s impervious to any refuting evidence, no matter how exhaustive or unimpeachable. Whatever evidence to the contrary is presented, the response will be the same in essence, with only minor variations.
Men commit more violent crimes than women? It’s all social conditioning.
Straight men, on average, aren’t as good as women or homosexuals at interior decoration? Ditto.
Blacks generally tend to be better than whites at basketball but apparently not as good at nuclear physics? Ditto.
People with higher IQs tend to be more successful, and IQ is the most reliable predictor of practical success? Ditto.
In Britain, Pakistanis and Jamaican blacks tend to be more violent than Indians and African blacks? Ditto.
Moreover, whoever dares speak out against this neo-orthodoxy is asking for a stiff rebuke, ostracism or even criminal prosecution. This regardless of how many reams of statistical evidence he can dredge up in support of his neo-heterodoxy.
SIN 2 (specific): Belief that there are biological differences between men and women that go beyond the undeniable physical characteristics. Hence men may be better at certain things than women, and vice versa.
Objections to this belief would be less violent if one were to point out activities at which women are demonstrably better than men, such as learning languages. Similarly, it would be just about tolerable to observe that blacks are better runners and jumpers than whites.
But mention the fact that blacks are not quite so good at swimming or philosophy, and be ready to duck the slings and arrows. Similarly it’s off limits to point out the equally obvious fact that women aren’t as good as men at analytical thinking, even if they are better at the intuitive kind.
Hence, though some of the greatest modern poets and performing musicians are women, one can’t name too many great female mathematicians or composers. And, the odd Hildegarde de Bingen notwithstanding, women seem to make better, and more plentiful, saints than theologians. Also, a woman is more likely to be a money-spinning manager of a computer firm than an inventor of new computer technology.
This brings us closer to chess, which is perhaps the most analytical of life’s useless pastimes. And for a few early years of my life I was indeed close to chess.
Like Nigel Short I misspent my youth playing the game competitively. Alas, I wasn’t nearly as talented as he is, which is why I sometimes competed against girls who were as good as me or better.
However, I never competed against a single one who was – or went on to become – as good as Nigel Short.
The social conditioning argument doesn’t quite work here: the girls went through exactly the same training as the boys, from as early an age. They had the same coaches and the same pushy parents, they read the same books, scrutinised the same games, played in the same tournaments.
And yet the entire history of chess has produced, in round numbers, one woman, Judith Polgar, who could compete at the highest level of the men’s game – though there have been quite a few women who could wipe the board with a hacker like me.
Professional neuroscientists can explain this with the benefit of recondite terminology, but it’s reasonably clear even to an observant rank amateur that women’s brains function, and are wired, differently from men’s. That doesn’t make either group more or less intelligent – it’s just that their intelligence is different.
God clearly created us to perform not only different physiological tasks, but also different intellectual ones. Rather than trying to deny this obvious fact, we should rejoice in it, or at least “just get on with it”, as Nigel Short put it.
Hence I’m happy to observe that my wife is more intelligent (not to mention more talented) than I am in some areas, just as she readily accepts, over my perfunctory objections, that I may be more intelligent in some others. This is how it is and how it should be: men and women aren’t identical; they are complementary.
Denying this obvious fact, especially doing so with mouth-frothing vehemence, is worse than silly. It’s vulgar.
Contrary to Oscar Wilde’s quip, not all crimes are vulgar. But he was right in saying that all vulgarity is a crime.
That makes militant feminism criminal but, in our modern world, defined as it is by vulgarity of every conceivable kind, it’s those who dare voice an opposition who are cast in the role of criminals.
One just hopes that Nigel Short doesn’t suffer a fate any worse than finding himself at the receiving end of some idiotic articles, such as the one in The Times the other day. In a few years ‘sexism’ may graduate from being a social faux pas to becoming a felony, and then he’ll really have to watch his step.