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Professor Richard Lynn is a brave man. He believes men are cleverer than women and has just published a paper to this decidedly sexist effect.

"The evidence is quite clear," says Lynn, who teaches at the University of Ulster and admits he has not discussed the paper with any female colleagues. "If you average out results on the three main types of IQ tests, males in America, Britain and Sweden score about four points higher than females."His starting point is the generally accepted fact that, proportionally, men have slightly larger brains than women. His unconventional leap is to claim that at least 11 recent studies have found a correlation between brain size and intelligence.

"Every book for the past 50 years says there is no difference between men's and women's intelligence but it's just not true," he says.

Lynn estimates that among the very brightest - those with an IQ over 130 - there should be twice as many men as women. "That's likely to be the reason why men get around twice as many firsts (top academic honors) proportionally at Oxford and Cambridge," he says. "People have been trying to explain this in terms of sexist examiners but it's because men are brighter."

On the same basis Lynn thinks the search for a 50-50 balance of women in top jobs is misguided.

Nor does he even grant women their widely accepted superiority at verbal skills. "Men are slightly better verbally and considerably better at spatial tasks," he insists.

So how come, according to Lynn, has every other modern psychologist got it so wrong?

For a start, Lynn argues that many IQ tests concentrate on verbal and reasoning skills where the difference between male and female is at its smallest. In addition, he maintains that psychologists have largely ignored the fact that girls mature faster than boys.

"Girls' brains stop growing by about 15, while boys' keep expanding until about 18," he says. In other words, boys may fall behind at first, but eventually overtake girls.

Not surprisingly, Lynn's ideas have provoked strong rejection.

"There is so much evidence to show that girls' academic abilities are strongly affected by the environment," says John Nicholson, author of "Men And Women, How Different Are They?"

"Girls are supposed to be weaker in maths and science, but if you put them in single sex schools or give them a bit of extra teaching they become just as good as boys."

Helen Hasty from Bath University points out that we just don't know what different brain size means. `It's like saying that bigger people are stronger when they might just be fatter."