Barres - Vol 442|13 July 2006 COMMENTARY M. GOLDWATER/ALAMY...

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argument in an online debate 2 , and an almost identical view was elaborated in a 2006 essay by Peter Lawrence entitled ‘Men, Women and Ghosts in Science’ 3 . Whereas Summers pref- aced his statements by saying he was trying to be provocative, Lawrence did not. Whereas Summers talked about “different availability of aptitude at the high end,” Lawrence talked about average aptitudes differing. Lawrence argued that, even in a utopian world free of bias, women would still be under-represented in science because they are innately different from men. Lawrence draws from the work of Simon Baron-Cohen 4 in arguing that males are ‘on average’ biologically predisposed to systematize, W hen I was 14 years old, I had an unusually talented maths teacher. One day after school, I excitedly pointed him out to my mother. To my amaze- ment, she looked at him with shock and said with disgust: “You never told me that he was black”. I looked over at my teacher and, for the first time, realized that he was an African- American. I had somehow never noticed his skin colour before, only his spectacular teach- ing ability. I would like to think that my par- ents’ sincere efforts to teach me prejudice were unsuccessful. I don’t know why this lesson takes for some and not for others. But now that I am 51, as a female-to-male transgendered person, I still wonder about it, particularly when I hear male gym teachers telling young boys “not to be like girls” in that same deroga- tory tone. Hypothesis testing Last year, Harvard University president Larry Summers suggested that differences in innate aptitude rather than discrimination were more likely to be to blame for the failure of women to advance in scientific careers 1 . Harvard pro- fessor Steven Pinker then put forth a similar to analyse and to be more forgetful of others, whereas females are ‘on average’ innately designed to empathize, to communicate and to care for others. He further argues that men are innately better equipped to aggressively compete in the ‘vicious struggle to survive’ in science. Similarly, Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield states in his new book, Manliness 5 , that women don’t like to compete, are risk adverse, less abstract and too emotional. I will refer to this view — that women are not advancing because of innate inability rather than because of bias or other factors — as the Larry Summers Hypothesis. It is a view that seems to have resonated widely with male, but not female, scientists. Here, I will argue that available scientific data do not provide credible support for the hypothesis but instead support an alternative one: that women are not advancing because of discrimination. You might call this the ‘Stephen Jay Gould Hypoth- esis’ (see left). I have no desire to make men into villains (as Henry Kissinger once said, “Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes; there’s just too much fraternizing with the enemy”). As to who the practitioners of this
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This note was uploaded on 04/24/2008 for the course SL 399 taught by Professor Kuo during the Spring '08 term at Rose-Hulman.

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Barres - Vol 442|13 July 2006 COMMENTARY M. GOLDWATER/ALAMY...

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