Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Will Nancy Hopkins please SHUT UP

At the moment the two most emailed articles from the NYTimes are:
1. Harvard Chief Defends His Talk on Women
2. No Break In Storm Over Harvard President's Words

Lawrence H. Summers, President of Harvard University, made certain comments at an economics conference on Friday that has sparked outrage among the truly insipid and obtuse post-modern gender knuckleheads in academia. According to Nancy Hopkins, professor of biology at MIT, -as reported by the Boston Globe- she had to get up and leave in the middle of the comments for fear she would have "blacked out or thrown up" otherwise.

Exactly what Summers said isn't available but what he said isn't in dispute. What has caused this ridiculous furor was his audacity to bring up an argument being studied in academia today on women in math and science. Note, not only did Summers note that he was referring to an argument he prefaced it several times with "I am here to provoke you" and after the comments said "I hope this argument is proven to be INCORRECT." [emphasis mine]

From the NYTimes:

About 50 academics from across the nation, many of them economists, participated in the conference, "Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and their S. & E. Careers." Dr. Summers arrived after a morning session and addressed a working lunch, speaking without notes. No transcript was made because the conference was designed to be off-the-record so that participants could speak candidly without fear of public misunderstanding or disclosure later.

In his presentation, Dr. Summers addressed the question of why so few women were on math and engineering faculties at top research universities.

"I began by saying that the whole issue of gender equality was profoundly important and that we are taking major steps at Harvard to combat passive discrimination," he recalled in yesterday's interview. "Then I wanted to add some provocation to what I understand to be basically a social science discussion."

He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.

In citing a second factor, Dr. Summers cited research showing that more high school boys than girls tend to score at very high and very low levels on standardized math tests, and that it was important to consider the possibility that such differences may stem from biological differences between the sexes.

From the Harvard Crimson:

...Summers referred repeatedly to the work of University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie and his University of California-Davis colleague Kimberlee A. Shauman, whose analysis of achievement test results shows a higher degree of variance in scores among men than among women. While males and females posted similar average scores, males were more likely to fall at the higher and lower ends of the distribution. . .

Summers suggested that behavioral genetics could partially explain this phenomenon. He stressed that this hypothesis required further research, and he hoped it would turn out to be incorrect. But by that point Hopkins, who last year was inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, had left the conference room...

Where's the travesty? But according to Nancy Hopkins, "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." Denice D. Denton, the chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, questioned Dr. Summers sharply during the conference, saying she needed to "speak truth to power." [What in heaven's name is 'speak truth to power'?!]

Jonah Goldberg at NRO has done some research on Nancy Hopkins.
Hopkins made a name for herself a few years ago by whining incessantly about gender discrimination at MIT. Indeed, she complained so much that she was able to finagle the chairmanship (sorry, the chairpersonship) of a committee tasked with finding discrimination at MIT. Shockingly, Hopkins found discrimination! Her report made her a hero in the pages of the New York Times, which dubbed her a "reluctant feminist" in the headline of its gushing profile of her.

The report, which emphasized the feelings of anonymous female professors, found that discrimination manifested itself in a "stealth-like" way at MIT — which is generally PC code for "I'm not going to provide any evidence." The supposedly convincing evidence was kept secret, while the official report explained: "Discrimination consists of a pattern of powerful but unrecognized assumptions. . . Once you 'get it,' it seems almost obvious."


This is perfectly consistent with Hopkins's current schtick . . . In the past, women used to claim that vulgar language would cause them to grow ill or faint. Now feminists like Hopkins use the same tactic to silence ideologically unacceptable ideas and to intimidate the intellectually curious. That's the stereotype Hopkins is reinforcing: that feminists and the Left are pro-science and pro-scholarship as long as they already agree with the conclusions.

This is worse than much ado about nothing. This is an example of what's wrong with academia today where faculties and administratoins are overwhelmingly liberal and speech is free as long as its PC. This is intellectual intimidation at its worst.

[The Monk adds:]
Indeed, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker ripped the idiocy underlying Hopkins' antics in an interview with the Harvard Crimson:

CRIMSON: From what psychologists know, is there ample evidence to support the hypothesis that a difference in “innate ability” accounts for the under-representation of women on science faculties?

PINKER: First, let’s be clear what the hypothesis is—every one of Summers’ critics has misunderstood it. The hypothesis is, first, that the statistical distributions of men’s and women’s quantitative and spatial abilities are not identical—that the average for men may be a bit higher than the average for women, and that the variance for men might be a bit higher than the variance for women (both implying that there would be a slightly higher proportion of men at the high end of the scale). It does not mean that all men are better at quantitative abilities than all women! That’s why it would be immoral and illogical to discriminate against individual women even if it were shown that some of the statistidcal differences were innate.

Second, the hypothesis is that differences in abilities might be one out of several factors that explain differences in the statistical representation of men and women in various professions. It does not mean that it is the only factor. . .

CRIMSON: Were President Summers’ remarks within the pale of legitimate academic discourse?

PINKER: Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa.

* * *
CRIMSON: Finally, did you personally find President Summers’ remarks (or what you’ve heard/read of them) to be offensive?

PINKER: Look, the truth cannot be offensive. Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is “offensive” even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don’t get the concept of a university or free inquiry.

Recognize that last part? That's the marketplace of ideas concept, aka academic freedom in the university context, upon which free inquiry, learning and knowledge depend. Pinker's right because, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes set forth in Abrams v. U.S. (emphases added):

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

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