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January 23, 2005

Feminists Owe Summers An Apology

This is one of the better essays I have read. Written by Dr. Ruth (yes, that Dr. Ruth) spd rdr sent it to me a few days ago, but it was subscription-only. I was fairly certain it would show up in OpinionJournal - it was that good. I've excerpted my favorite part, but you should read the whole thing:

The slogan "gender equality" reduces diversity on campus still further by pretending that all women share the same set of views. Protesting that there are currently only 85 tenured female professors at Harvard, about one-quarter of the faculty, the Women's Caucus boasts that almost all of them agree with its politics. Meanwhile, in a country that has just elected a Republican president and a Republican Congress, one could not find, among Harvard professors, a quarter of a quarter who hold conservative views. Divergent thinkers are driven out of the universities to the think tanks where intellectual initiatives are encouraged rather than suppressed. On the campus, intimidation; beyond the campus, the democratic arena where better ideas can contend and prevail.
Had he been allowed to go on speculating about gender differentiation in the academy, Mr. Summers might have taken up related issues, such as the effects of seeking parity in a marketplace of unequal resources. Given the far lower number of women in the sciences, one unacknowledged consequence of female preference in hiring may be the compensatory pressure to hire and promote women in the humanities and social sciences. The "feminization" of some branches of these "soft" disciplines has been a palpable byproduct of this strategy--feminization referring not just to the numbers but to what and how women who ostensibly share the ideological disposition of the Women's Caucus tend to teach. Does this not necessarily reshape the nature of higher learning in ways that we would be wise to scrutinize? Unfortunately, the problem Mr. Summers addressed will persist despite the attempts to silence him. No one doubts that women seeking careers in science face greater challenges than those in other academic and research fields. At a recent forum of Harvard graduate students, a succession of budding female scientists expressed their anxieties about having chosen careers that will conflict, more than most, with their no less strong desires to raise and nurture a family. More than one young woman present felt that a job with reduced pressure during her childbearing years might better suit her needs than competition at the very highest levels. The good news is that most of the young women acknowledged that their dilemma was one of choice rather than a product of discrimination against them.

The very notion of "underrepresentation," based as it is on the implicit goal of numerical parity, greatly prejudices our ability to understand why women make the choices that they do. If women gravitate to the hard sciences less than to other fields, we ought to grant them the intelligence of sentient creatures, recognizing the potential loneliness of such choices while trying to understand why groups and individuals act as they do. It is not Mr. Summers who owes women an apology; it is the complainers and agitators who owe both him and all of us an apology for trying to shut down discussion of an "inequality" that is not likely to disappear.

The spirit of scientific inquiry is not well-served when academia is ruled by a tyrannical minority who refuse to allow certain subjects to be discussed. Once medieval scientists were tried for heresy. Now, when modern scientists trangress against political correctness, they are pilloried in the press and risk losing their jobs, grants, or tenure unless they bow to peer pressure. Only a humiliating public pilgrimage through the streets in sackcloth and ashes quiets the howling crowd. That's not 'intellectual diversity' - it's an intellectual gulag.

Posted by Cassandra at January 23, 2005 08:33 AM

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It is OK to silence scientists who may or may not be proposing sound scientific principle as long as it is done in the name of the P.C. goddess, and not in the name of Christianity.

Posted by: KJ at January 23, 2005 09:24 PM

Science should be an ongoing quest for the objective "truth" of our measurable reality, and divorced from prejudice, personal beliefs, religion and all the other 'isms' that have animated much of public life in the latter 20th century and the early 21st century.
Beware of people who use "theory" when they should use "hypothesis", or project a personal philosophy which again, cannot be verified (such as the idea of "intelligent design").
Beware of people who tell you that this particular scientific question is "settled" (can you say "global warming"?). There are few, if any, questions in science that are completely "settled", meaning more knowledge would be better, and there are still a few questions to be asked (and sometimes very many questions to be asked!).
Science is not a grab bag of your own personal beliefs. Check that at the door. It is not at all infrequent for scientists to bring their beliefs into their theorizing. Einstein once opined that "God does not roll dice with the universe", which in the context that he said that, was a criticism of statistical quantum mechanics. Well, Einstein was WRONG; he brought his own prejudice to the table here. God may or may not "roll the dice with the universe", but quantum statistical mechanics does work in predictions of quantum behavior of a lot of types of matter in unusual circumstances (beyond some abilities of laboratories to experiment and measure) and predicts the behavior of types of matter that only exist theoretically (hypothetically?). It is just deucedly hard to do without a lot of computer power, and eluded Einstein's elegant view of the universe through his own Theory of General Relativity.
In science, no one should be silenced, but if they propose screwy ideas that are not supported by empirical reality (testing) and are not verifiable by others (remember cold-fusion?), they should be exposed for what they are, a silly wild-ass guess (swag).

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 24, 2005 12:08 PM

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