The Daily Bork

August 16, 2005

Bad science 2

After the fuss of Bush allegedly promoting the intelligent design farce it was interesting to come across something similar from the opposite side, so to speak. Not long ago Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, gave a speech in which he said that due to biological factors in the brain it was less likely that women reach the pinnacles of research in the "hard" sciences. As if to prove his point, one woman (I forger her name) had to leave during the speech due to the nausea this induced in her, seemingly unaware of the irony. It all nearly cost Summers his job, before he backed down and made amends with those howling for his blood. Anyway, Simon Baron-Cohen takes this up again in the NY Times. He is an evolutionary psychologist.
So was Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, right when he remarked that women were innately less suited than men to be top-level scientists? Judging from current research, he was and he wasn't. It's true that scientists have documented psychological and physiological differences between male and female brains. But Mr. Summers was wrong to imply that these differences render any individual woman less capable than any individual man of becoming a top-level scientist.
A complete misrepresentation of what Summers said. He never implied anything that resembled the opinion that the innate differences rendered any particular woman less able than any given man and Baron-Cohen must know it. Why did he even bring it up in an article about autism?

The rest of the article is acknowledging the well known differences in brain structure between males and females to build an idea on the causes of autism.

So what was the point of using the Summers case? There was none, it is totally unrelated to the topic of autism. It was purely political assassination of a man who spoke about well known ideas backed by well known brain studies but was gunned down by the establishment because they were politically inconvenient.

Now if I was of a mind to write an article I could start talking about a "sinister left-wing political agenda" or the millenialism of the PC movement, but I won't. Just pointing out that the sort of things that work up various commentators about education is not restricted to debates on intelligent design.
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