January 23, 2005


Here is a Sunday NYT Week in Review piece about Harvard President Larry Summers and his recent statements about sex difference and science aptitude. And here's an op-ed by American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray on the subject. And here's another op-ed on the subject by the evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson. Judson describes sex differences in elephants, zebra finches, and spoon worms and asks "Is it ridiculous to suppose that the hypothesis [that males and females are alike] might not be true for humans either?" She answers her own question:
No. But it is not fashionable - as Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, discovered when he suggested this month that greater intrinsic ability might be one reason that men are overrepresented at the top levels of fields involving math, science and engineering.

If the word "discovered" is accurate here, Summers is unfit to be president of the university. He would be woefully oblivious if he hadn't noticed the ideology in the academic culture he's working in. Those who are committed to science ought to be scientific enough to observe and analyze their own surroundings. There is value in the scientific exploration of biological sex difference, but I think there is even more value -- especially if you're a university president -- in understanding how the people around you behave, why they do what they do, what good and harm is done by their acting upon the beliefs that they have, and how you might play an effective role in changing this culture of ideas for the better.

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