Interesting Stuff About Larry Summers
"'Pity that those professors had no fortitude to undertake similar discussions again. Call it the Larry Summers Syndrome! So how does it bode for us all, when the high priests of higher education do so cravenly cast away their torch and flee the sanctuary of their temple? Clearly, the mantle of their priesthood now devolves upon us library lizards, us cultured barbarians, us rough-and-tumble, self-educated street intellectuals -- we of the intellectual proletariat, we of the "Abraham Lincoln brigade", we who have no station, no standing, or in a word, no tenure. And therefore nothing to lose'!
"How true. Sometimes it's hard to imagine how an intellect can survive at all once it's become institutionalized.
"For those scantly aware of the Larry Summers scandal, in January 2005, Summers suggested, at a Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the possibility that many factors outside of socialization could explain why there were more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions. He suggested one such possible reason could be men's higher variance in relevant innate abilities or innate preference. An attendee made Summers' remarks public, and an intense response followed in the national news media and on Harvard's campus.
"The full story is here:
"Nonetheless, the esteemed Steven Pinker
was among the minority of intellects who did come to Larry Summers defense.
"PSYCHOANALYSIS Q-and-A: Steven Pinker
Published On Wednesday, January 19, 2005 12:00 AM
NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED
"In an e-mail exchange with The Crimson yesterday, Johnstone Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker, who teaches the popular spring core class “The Human Mind,” opined on the latest flap over President Summers’ comments on women in science.
"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 statistical 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. Still, if it is one factor, we cannot reflexively assume that different statistical representation of men and women in science and engineering is itself proof of discrimination. Incidentally, another sign that we are dealing with a taboo is that when it comes to this issue, ordinarily intelligent scientists suddenly lose their ability to think quantitatively and warp statistical hypotheses into crude dichotomies.
"As far as the evidence is concerned, I’m not sure what “ample” means, but there is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously.
"For example, quantitative and spatial skills vary within a gender according to levels of sex hormones. And in samples of gifted students who are given every conceivable encouragement to excel in science and math, far more men than women expressed an interest in pursuing science and math.
"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: Would it be normal to hear a similar set of hypotheses presented and considered at a conference of psychologists?
"PINKER: Some psychologists are still offended by such hypotheses, but yes, they could certainly be considered at most major conferences in scientific psychology.
"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."
Hmmm.....yes! Steven Pinker, by all accounts, is a man to be reckoned with! And yet, I have seen him bend over backwards with elaborate rhetorical concessions meant to assure his readers or listeners that he thinks oh-so-highly of feminism! For despite having so much to say which is inherently "dangerous" to feminism, he tap-dances very carefully around the entire subject.
Another esteemed thinker of magisterial rank who is dangerous to feminism yet coy about it, is the philosopher Ken Wilber. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I would recommend A Brief History of Everything as a first read.