Saturday, January 22, 2005

Freedom is on the march

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

Abu Ghraib is our most recent example of this axiom.

As a result, Donald Rumsfield & his top deputy Stephen Cambone cannot travel to Germany where they will be arrested for war crimes.

What goes around, comes around.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Not Everyone Agrees with Lizard Brain (Lawrence Summers)

The Boston Globe weighs in on Lawrence Summer's 20th century faux pas remarks:

Harvard women's group rips Summers

In his talk Friday at a conference on women and minorities in science and engineering, held at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Summers listed three possible explanations for the small number of women who excel at elite levels of science and engineering. He said he was deliberately being provocative, as he was asked to do by the organizers, and relying on the scholarship that was assembled for the conference rather than offering his own conclusions.

His first point was that women with children are often unwilling or unable to work 80-hour weeks. His second point was that in math and science tests, more males earn the very top scores, as well as the very bottom scores. He said that while no one knew why, "research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people attributed to socialization" might actually have a biological basis -- and that the issue needed to be studied further.

Several participants said that in making his second point, Summers suggested that women might not have the same "innate ability" or "natural ability" as men.

Summers' third point was about discrimination, and he said it was not clear that discrimination played a significant role in the shortage of women teaching science and engineering at top universities. However, he concluded by emphasizing that Harvard was taking many steps to boost diversity.

Summers' remarks were taped, but he has denied requests for a copy, saying it was a private, off-the-record meeting.

Perhaps it's gender block by Eileen McNamara

Personally, I blame PMS. Between the bloating and the foul mood, it was just easier to curl up with a heating pad and read romance novels than to measure the hypotenuse of a triangle.

I offer this possible explanation for the "F" I got in geometry in 10th grade, not in my official capacity as a columnist at The Boston Globe, but as a freelance provocateur. If unsubstantiated speculation about behavioral genetics is good enough for the president of Harvard, it's good enough for me.

I make no claim to the intellectual rigor that President Lawrence H. Summers brought to his unscripted remarks at a luncheon of the National Bureau of Economic Research the other day. I pulled my theory of female ineptitude out of thin air. Summers, on the other hand, characterizes as a "purely academic exploration of hypotheses" his idea that female scientists might be underrepresented in the academy and the professions because of innate differences between men and women.

To the untrained ear, that might sound like making it up out of whole cloth, but Larry Summers is the president of Harvard University, so let's just say his theory needs further study. Not that "anatomy is destiny" is exactly an original idea. Women have been hearing for eons that their lack of achievement, in the arts as well as the sciences, is the result of, variously, their weaker constitutions, their smaller brains, their delicate uteruses, and/or their unruly hormones.

Summers's sense

ARE WOMEN and science like oil and water? Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, says no, and in a statement Monday he described his deep commitment to the advancement of women in science.

But outrage flared last week when Summers spoke at a conference on women and minorities in the sciences and engineering. He raised questions about whether innate gender differences account for the low numbers of women in the sciences, the impact of long work weeks, socialization versus genes, and a possible dampening of discrimination.


Are men and women innately different? It's a moot point, since women have already shown they can be first-class scientists.

Summers's tortured logic

HARVARD President Lawrence Summers had impeccable timing for his slip of the tongue. It was the beginning of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Summers spoke at a conference titled, "Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities and their S. and E. careers." The conference came 44 years after King said: "If we are to implement the American dream we must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races."

Four and a half decades later, Summers took to the podium to wonder why women struggle in those highly technical fields. He said perhaps one reason was because women with children were not willing or were unable to work 80-hour weeks. Then he noted, according to newspaper reports, how more boys than girls in late high school had superior test scores in science and math.

He wondered if "innate differences," "innate ability," or "natural ability" could be involved.


Summers's mind was fixed on a target as stale as a decade ago when Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein tried to revive notions of racial inferiority in their best-selling book "The Bell Curve." The authors cited IQ scores as fixed facts that should make us abandon the American dream.


Summers of course would say he meant nothing so crude. But every time a privileged white guy blurts out something verging on the Cro-Magnon (instead of, for instance, decrying 80-hour work weeks and demanding that fathers better share the parenting), it puts the discussion of what really holds back women and people of color into a holding pattern. That means further discouragement for the young and silent destruction of careers for the groups that do not share such privilege.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

No Comment

Why women are poor at science, by Harvard president

The president of Harvard University has provoked a furore by arguing that men outperform women in maths and sciences because of biological difference, and discrimination is no longer a career barrier for female academics.

Lawrence Summers, a career economist who served as treasury secretary under President Clinton, has a reputation for outspokenness. His tenure at Harvard has been marked by clashes with African-American staff and leftwing intellectuals, and complaints about a fall in the hiring of women.

He made his remarks at a private conference on the position of women and minorities in science and engineering, hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In a lengthy address delivered without notes, Dr Summers offered three explanations for the shortage of women in senior posts in science and engineering, starting with their reluctance to work long hours because of childcare responsibilities.

He went on to argue that boys outperform girls on high school science and maths scores because of genetic difference. "Research in behavioural genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialisation weren't due to socialisation after all," he told the Boston Globe yesterday.

As an example, Dr Summers told the conference about giving his daughter two trucks. She treated them like dolls, and named them mummy and daddy trucks, he said.

Oh, so THAT'S the scientific basis for this bullshit theory. Ok, just so my tiny female brain can understand the rigorously developed scientific basis for this crap.

Dr Summers also played down the impact of sex bias in appointments to academic institutions.

He said: "The real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination."

At least half of his audience comprised women, several said they found the remarks offensive and one walked out.

"It was really shocking to hear the president of Harvard make statements like that," said Denice Denton, who is about to become president of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Others said Dr Summers's comments were depressingly familiar. "I have heard men make comments like this my entire life and quite honestly if I had listened to them I would never have done anything," said Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma.

A Harvard spokeswoman declined to comment yesterday, or to release the transcript of Dr Summers's remarks. Richard Freeman, who invited the Harvard president to speak at the conference, said Dr Summers's comments were intended to provoke debate, and some women over-reacted.

"Some people took offence because they were very sensitive," said Dr Freeman, an economist at Harvard and the London School of Economics. "It does not seem to me insane to think that men and women have biological differences."

During Dr Summers's presidency, the number of tenured jobs offered to women has fallen from 36% to 13%. Last year, only four of 32 tenured job openings were offered to women.

I guess the "pool" of qualified women dropped by two-thirds in the three years this lizard brain has been at Harvard? Or is my tiny biologically-impaired brain not understanding this really hard math thing?


I've dealt with pigs like this guy all my life & I'm sick to death of it. He's the Al Campanis of our decade. Remember poor old Al Campanis saying on national TV that blacks didn't "have the necessaries" to be major league baseball managers? He was out on his keaster the next day. Lawrence Summers should be removed from his job immediately. Does Harvard have any integrity? Probably not. All alumni should withhold all contributions until this asshole has a new job. I'm sure the Bush Administration could find a place for this neanderthal.

I'm with Nancy Hopkins on this one:

Harvard Chief Defends His Talk on Women

Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who once led an investigation of sex discrimination there that led to changes in hiring and promotion, walked out midway through Dr. Summers's remarks.

"When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill," Dr. Hopkins said. "Let's not forget that people used to say that women couldn't drive an automobile."