Via Mick Hartley comes news from the University of California:

“After a group of UC Davis women faculty began circulating a petition, UC regents rescinded an invitation to Larry Summers, the controversial former president of Harvard University, to speak at a board dinner Wednesday night in Sacramento. Summers gained notoriety for saying that innate differences between men and women could be a reason for under-representation of women in science, math and engineering.

UCD professor Maureen Stanton, one of the petition organisers, was delighted by news of the change, saying it's ‘a move in the right direction’. ‘UC has an enormous historical commitment to diversity within its faculty ranks, but still has a long way to go before our faculty adequately represent the diversity of our constituency, the people of California,’ said Stanton.

When Stanton heard about the initial invitation to Summers, she was ‘stunned’. ‘I was appalled that someone articulating that point of view would be invited,’ she said. ‘This is a symbolic invitation and a symbolic measure that I believe sends the wrong message about the University of California and its cultural principles.’ ‘None of us go looking for a fight,’ Stanton said. ‘We were just deeply offended.’”

Yes, diversity in all things. Except, of course, in thought. Presumably, Professor Stanton is also “stunned”, “appalled” and “deeply offended” by the over-representation of, say, gay people in the spheres of arts and drama, or of women in the caring professions, or of Indian employees in Indian restaurants. Perhaps some recalibration of those industries is also in order, to ensure suitable diversity.

Meanwhile, in Ohio:

“The Office of University Housing at Ohio State, a public university, maintains a Diversity Statement that severely restricts what students in Ohio State’s residence halls can and cannot say. Students are instructed: ‘Do not joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, etc. When in doubt about the impact of your words and actions, simply ask.’”

It’s interesting to note that the University’s Diversity Statement aims to foster learning “from a wide array of human similarities and differences in an increasingly diverse world” and plans to achieve this blossoming of awareness by inhibiting any careless reference to those same differences. 

Related. (H/T. Stephen Hicks.)


Horace Dunn

-- the University’s Diversity Statement aims to foster learning “from a wide array of human similarities and differences in an increasingly diverse world”

What do the authors of the University's Diversity Statement mean by "an increasingly diverse world"? How are they measuring this? Of course, if the world's diversity is, indeed, increasing, it means that people who operate in the field of "diversity" will be more in demand by employers, but it would be cynical to suggest that their contention has anything to do with that. So what could they possibly mean?



I’m still struggling to comprehend the Diversity Statement’s prohibition of “words, actions, and behaviours that… threaten infliction of… emotional harm.” Whatever unspeakable things that might conceivably cover, they’re definitely not permitted. But then I’m also having difficulty with the belief, implied by Professor Stanton, that there are ratios of women and men that “ought” to be found in any given sphere of employment.

Horace Dunn


Yet it's intriguing, isn't it? The idea that there's somehow an ideal social make-up within each office, department, factory etc. X percent women, y percent this ethnic group, z percent that ethnic group etc etc. It must really irk these diversity-heads that so many institutions currently fall short of that perfect mix. But still, they have a dream...

Mind you, if the world is becoming "increasingly diverse" as they plainly state, this must be a bit of a headache for HR departments. I mean, once you establish a department with the perfect socio-cultural mix, the outside world will get just that bit more diverse and your department will again be falling short of the ideal. Time to start drafting those job advertisements again...

anon person

They have a dream...



I am baffled by just how readily and often this “diversity” schtick is taken to absurd lengths. Provided suitably qualified women are able to apply for maths and engineering positions on an equal footing with comparably qualified men, I see no reason to feel that there “ought” to be more female mathematicians or engineers. On what basis does one determine that there “ought” to be a particular ratio of male and female mathematicians? At what point and on what basis does one determine that a particular gender is sufficiently “represented” in a given vocation? Perhaps Professor Stanton would favour boosting the numbers of conservative academics within the humanities in order to accurately “represent” the political spectrum of the general population?

And Stanton’s censorious horror at the suggestion that biology and disposition could possibly play a role in which occupations a person seeks out says a great deal about her own modish prejudices, and their unsound footing. Not that any of this has prevented others from claiming, rather worryingly, that, “no one is better at teaching students how to think critically” and that, “she exemplifies the very best in higher education.”

Chris Allen

"Diversity" (n)
1. The manipulation of an institutions' selection process by left wing idealogues to prevent merit being used as a selection criterion.
2. The institution of a system of political cronyism disguised as "fairness"
3. Revenge against groups that the left hates esp. white men and right-wingers.
4. A way of frightening opponents of socialism into silence by redefining words so that any opposition to socialist policies appears morally evil.

nobody important

To ask some more unaswerable questions: Exactly how IS the world becoming more diverse? Are there new ethnic or racial groups emerging spontaneously? Are there new genders (not people with mental disorders) evolving?


I find it interesting that political conservatives in the United States are complaining about a lack of diversity of the political support on university campuses. (Have I detected an echo of that here from time to time?) But, as has been pointed out here, the concern is only with some departments and not others. See:

The world isn't becoming more diverse. It has always been diverse. But we are all closer to each other as information flows more rapidly and in exponentially increasing amounts. One can be culture-shocked living in a cave these days, so long as one has access to the Internet.

Now, as for Mr. Summers, must I invite him to supper at the risk of losing my well-deserved reputation for open-mindedness? Why not spend a little time on this far more significant case:

But, all this being said, I find speech codes to be stultifying, if well-intended. I asked the firs'-years in my Anthro section this term simply to show respect for each other--but let everyone know that they would be discussing controversial issues of the day. Surely that should be enough.


"lack of diversity of the political support"

Sorry: I meant "of the political sort." Freudian slip of some kind?

The Thin Man

"lack of diversity of the political support on university campuses"

Dr Dawg,


"Faculty members from Harvard University led the way in overall political contributions -- $266,044 -- with 81 percent of those gifts going to Democrats so far in 2007, according to the report".

This is the kind of "diversity" we are talking about. The drive to be diverse is leading to this kind of skewing of the political landscape of colleges (and the media "Journalists give to Democrats 9-1").

I find such stats frightening. It seems to me that "diversity" is actually leading to anything but diversity by closing down speech and effectively barring anyone with dissenting views.

The Thin Man

Discussing "controversial issues" is not enough.

However hard you try, your political views will be a part of that discussion and without teachers with different views to balance the curriculum, your students will be propagandised - not educated.


Dr Dawg,

“As for Mr. Summers, must I invite him to supper at the risk of losing my well-deserved reputation for open-mindedness?”

No-one suggested you should. That’s not the point. Stanton’s preposterous gasping at the very suggestion is nearer the issue, as is her tacit assumption of male to female ratios that “ought” to exist in, for instance, mathematics and engineering.


Being someone who can't see much of a difference--and certainly not a radical difference--between Democrats and Republicans, these stats (and I do wonder how they were obtained) don't worry me much. Perhaps we should demand that corporate boardrooms include more Democrats, given that that's where the real power lies. Here's a reasonable deal, seems to me: "You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want."



"However hard you try, your political views will be a part of that discussion and without teachers with different views to balance the curriculum, your students will be propagandised - not educated."

I suggest before judging the quality of my pedagogy, you inquire a little further. I actually say very little--just ask questions now and then.The point is to get people of quite diverse views talking to each other, not listening to me drone on. Maybe that's why my attendance seems to be good and stable.


To clarify my previous comment…

As far as I’m aware, universities can invite (or not invite) pretty much whomever they wish. I was hoping to draw attention to the improbable *reason* for the uproar. From what I’ve read, Summers’ “offensive” comment was hardly controversial or ill-intended. Indeed, given the gasping and indignation that followed, it’s the prosaic nature of his suggestion that’s noteworthy. What I find hilarious is Stanton’s alarm at the suggestion that biology and disposition could possibly play a role in which occupations a person seeks out. I suspect Stanton’s feelings on the issue are, unfortunately, far from uncommon, at least among her peers. But dismissing Summers’ comment as somehow placing him beyond the pale isn’t exactly a sign of confidence in the veracity of her own position.



Not being a fan, to put it mildly, of sociobiology, I think Summer's comments were pretty out-of-whack in this day and age. I wouldn't expect geographers to invite flat-earthers to speak at their dinners either. Occam's Razor tells me (if razors can speak) that plain old sexist assumptions and systemic discrimination have been keeping women out of "male" disciplines. In Canada, I am happy to report that enrollment in engineering is now approaching gender parity--so much for women's "innate" inabilities.

Didn't Mr. Summers allow his name to be connected to this statement when he was an economist at the World Bank?

"The measurement of the costs of health-impairing pollution depends on the forgone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."


Dr Dawg,

“I think Summer’s comments were pretty out-of-whack in this day and age. I wouldn't expect geographers to invite flat-earthers to speak at their dinners either.”

To equate the suggestion of possible biological and dispositional factors in employment choices with ‘flat-earthers’ is disingenuous. (You’re better than that.) No-one here has disputed the possibility of sexist assumptions or tradition or whatever. Yet Stanton and her associates seem unwilling even to entertain the *possibility* of other, biological variables. And, so far as I’m aware, Summers’ views on waste disposal were not the stated reason for Stanton’s implausible outrage.

Naturally, I find your sneering at the idea of (choke) “innate” abilities deeply offensive. I’m outraged and oppressed. Outraged, I say. “Unclean! Unclean!”



Maybe I'm *not* better than that. :) Summers, if his reported comment about women is accurate, is intellectually lazy at best.

I don't have a problem with the notion of "innate ability," only with the idea that's it's unequally distributed by gender and "race." Such allegations have often been made, inevitably on the right of the political spectrum, but I do not find them supported by much evidence.


Dr Dawg,

“I don't have a problem with the notion of ‘innate ability,’ only with the idea that's it's unequally distributed by gender and ‘race’.”

I don’t recall Summers mentioning race at all, or suggesting that women are generally deficient in relation to men. Again, that isn’t the stated reason for Stanton’s petition and her subsequent fainting spell. Yet it seems entirely plausible that, statistically, men and women have differing psychologies, possibly for evolutionary reasons (say with regard to social influence), and differing areas of (statistical) expertise. Things like gender differences in large and small-scale spatial acuity come to mind, which might have bearing on preferred jobs.

The Thin Man

"Perhaps we should demand that corporate boardrooms include more Democrats, given that that's where the real power lies"

Then buy some shares and you'll get to vote on who is the board. The difference with education is that being state funded, I am being forced to "buy shares" and then given no voice...quite aside from the fact that business is not in the business of indoctrinating young people (most businesses are actually about doing business).

"You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court..."

The idea that Govt departments, bound by precisely the diversity crap that we are discussing, are somehow biased to the right is patent nonsense. There is certainly not an 81% bias of politocal donations to the republicans. My understanding is that the Supreme court is 5/4 right/left and has rotated more or less around that ratio for sveral decades.

The institutions you name DO NOT have the kind of bias that most universities have. They also DO NOT have hiring policies designed to ACTIVELY PREVENT leftards from getting jobs in the way that the ethos that Stanton and her ilk espouse actively prevents academics who do not subscribe to her groupthink.

This is precisely what we are arguing, Stantons "offence" is exactly the kind of tactic that would put off people with different views from applying, nevermind getting through the selection proceedure. How "welcoming" do you think UC looks to anyone whos views might differ from Stanton?

However much you try to keep your politics out of the classroom, the fact that 80% of the faculty are liberal produces an echo chamber of group think. Just as it would if the faculty were 80% conservative.


The Larry Summers situation, and the OSU's attempt at enforcing speech-codes in dorms are the sort of things that happen when one side doesn't call the other side's bluff. Everybody on both sides knows full well that OSU's Diversity Statement is *not* intended to clamp down on, say, Women's Studies students' conversations about men, or propensities to rape, nor to censor campus activists' statements about the hegemony of white males; it's a demand by one side that they be allowed to assume the mount position.

That the justification for the demand is based on the self-reporting of emotional injury suggests there's can never be any possible resolution, only...chafing.

Dawg, in the interests of a possible future non-redirection of issues, let me ask you a -- completely -- non-rhetorical question. I ask because I am unable to even partially glean from your comments what your answer might be. The question: Do you believe that there are no innate differences in aptitudes and capabilities in, say, math or spacial ability, between men and women?

I understand that any particular woman is as likely, statistically, to be good in these areas as the guy sitting beside her; I'm asking, really, about the issue as it pertains to Larry Summers' apparently emotionally-wounding comments: Do you think it's possible that there might be a different distribution of men and women in the top one-tenth of one percent?

I am possessed of a near-certain belief that you won't claim to be emotionally injured by the question. /:>)>


"How "welcoming" do you think UC looks to anyone whos views might differ from Stanton?"

Well, I dunno. About as welcoming as the University of Western Ontario, which houses racialist Phillippe Rushton? About as welcoming as Carleton University, home of one of Canada's most prominent global warming deniers?

My point being that we're dealing with *universities* here. Does Stanton not a have a right to state her beliefs openly? We're talking a *dinner* here, for goodness sake, nothing more.


Summers said nothing about "race." I was merely noting that differing degrees of success are too often attributed to innate characteristics, not of individuals, but of non-dominant groups, by those who don't want to face up to the simpler hypothesis that discrimination is the likely culprit. Summers made a lazy and indefensible claim about women and certain "hard" disciplines. He included engineering. Women's enrollment in engineering is busy belying his hypothesis as the same time as he makes it. Back in the 1960s, the psychologist Donald Hebb at McGill stated that women were rare in university faculties because "McGill is a research-oriented university." That fellow, God rest his soul, is now asleep with the mastodons, but Summers is around to let us know that this sort of thinking is far from dead.



I hadn't realized I had been OT. I'll try to be a little more careful.

"The question: Do you believe that there are no innate differences in aptitudes and capabilities in, say, math or spacial ability, between men and women?"

The answer: I don't know. I'll start from the default position--that there are none--and wait for the evidence to the contrary to pour in. So far I haven't seen much, but if it's there, I'll look at it dispassionately. And no, such questions aren't emotionally wounding to me. They might be emotionally wounding to a young female student if uttered by the Chair of her math department, though.


Sorry, Dawg, while I was typing with my elbow, you had already answered the question. You said: "I don't have a problem with the notion of 'innate ability,' only with the idea that it's unequally distributed by gender."

Is the ability to bench press 550 lbs, or the ability to run 100m in 9.78 equally distributed between the sexes? Assuming that you do acknowledge such tangible physiological differences, doesn't it seem improbable that there wouldn't be *some* differences in other, non-athletic realms?


Dr Dawg,

“Summers made a lazy and indefensible claim about women and certain ‘hard’ disciplines.”

But it’s not “indefensible” and you’ve yet to show that it is. Instead, you’ve aired Summers’ view on international waste disposal.

There are gender differences in the distribution of visual receptors, in colour and spatial discrimination, in memory performance, speech acquisition, favoured types of reasoning, types of stress tolerance, tactile sensitivity, susceptibility to disease, etc. Some of these differences are, again, statistical, and often very small indeed or may vary with age; but I see no reason to feel that gender asymmetry of statistical skills and disposition “ought” not to exist, or is implausibly unobvious, or somehow wicked.

Obviously, none of this is to suggest that some women aren’t – or could be - excellent mathematicians and engineers, etc. Nor is it to imply that cultural and institutional obstacles don’t exist. But it may – may – have bearing on the *numbers* of women who will consider a given occupation, irrespective of whatever cultural and institutional barriers are removed. And, again, it’s the readiness with which Stanton recoiled in horror from this possibility that is telling.


I didn't mean to suggest that you went off-topic -- I don't think you did -- just that you tend to steer considerations away from the considerations that those who disagree with you are -- dammit -- trying to focus on.

I would like to reserve that tactic for those who agree with me; personally, I would never do that.


"[D]oesn't it seem improbable that there wouldn't be *some* differences in other, non-athletic realms?"

But instead of this fairly abstract question, why not get down to specifics, EBD? What precisely are those differences? How do they keep women out of engineering? How do we explain that women are now enrolled in engineering in huge numbers? Are they being traitors to their biology?


Whatever differences exist, if they do, they are less likely than simple attitudes to be responsible for under-representatuion of women in the hard sciences, mathematics and engineering. I was wrong about approaching parity in engineering, by the way--the enrollment has actually dropped from an earlier peak. But the fact is that women are enrolling in larger numbers in all of these formerly male preserves:

No, they are not at 50%. But when I first went to university, at McGill, the engineering department had a grand total of ONE woman enrolled.



"[P]ersonally, I would never do that." Damn, I wish I were as virtuous as you, but I fear I'm incorrigible. :)


Dr Dawg,

“Whatever differences exist, if they do, they are less likely than simple attitudes to be responsible for under-representation of women in the hard sciences, mathematics and engineering.”

They do exist, and I find it odd that you would so readily assume they don’t, or ought not to. Again, no-one here has suggested that traditions and social attitudes don’t play a role, possibly the larger role in some cases; but that’s not the issue we’re debating. (Though one might ask why some of those traditions arose, and if there might be a biological component to consider.) No-one here is denying those possibilities, and nor, of course, did Summers. The same cannot be said of the righteous Professor Stanton, who denied other obvious considerations, then took pretentious umbrage, apparently for ideological reasons.


It’s getting late and my hammock is calling, but I thought I’d add this while I remember.

Regarding “under-representation”, I wonder how Stanton knows that numerical gender parity is a ‘natural’ or desirable outcome in engineering and mathematics (and, presumably, in other spheres too). On what basis is she so sure that men and women “ought” to be roughly equal in number in any given profession? Or that they would be if all cultural obstacles are removed? Surely what matters is that women who *do* wish to become engineers or mathematicians, and who are suitably capable, can compete as fairly as possible. Whether that leads to a roughly 50/50 gender split in engineering or mathematics, or in any other profession, seems entirely beside the point.

And it seems to me that there’s a polarised ‘hair-trigger’ aspect to this subject, whereby it’s often assumed (as by Stanton) that a fairly unremarkable statement, even a simple question, automatically implies incorrigible caveman leanings or some nefarious unspoken agenda. Oddly enough, I really don’t care what sex my plumber is, and I’m not about to start campaigning for female engineers to be sent on corrective embroidery courses. But I’m not inclined to look kindly on pretentious educators like Stanton whose political ideology results in fits of passive-aggressive pantomime.

Maybe it’s just my nature.


Summers' original observation in his Harvard lecture, which started his official persecution by the inquisition (though there is a political history that is less than irrelevant) was that on at least some measures, there is evidence to suggest that the distribution of male behaviour has longer tails at both ends. For example, as a statistical whole, there is evidence to suggest that it is reasonable to conjecture that the smartest and the stupidest subsets of humans have more males (for some values of intelligence).

However, this does not mean that the smartest or the stupidest human is male, that's not how distribution tails work. Also, the number of individuals in the extreme ends of the tails is very low (approaching zero, by definition), so generalizations do not apply either from the tail subsets to the average individual, or the other way.

I have certainly seen many examples of the above sort in my years of interactions with mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. The ones who are actually best at it don't care about various non-causal aspects of their colleagues behaviours, such as gender subsetting, or whether lager is better than ale, they care about individual *merit*. (As as aside, I think it is probably the case that the smartest person I've every been acquainted with was a female mathematician -- but that could be just because I don't know so many musicians.)

There *are* brain-structure correlations to merit in various fields, for example, Aspergers is highly correlated to engineering success. And it is highly correlated to males. There is a proviso though: that correlation applies to back-office engineers, that is, the gear-heads. We (;-) tend to lack easy social skills though, so we find the front-office engineers (the glad-handers ;-) to be invaluable if we are to bring our work to real-world production. One of the advantages of the increase in females in the field in the increase in the quality of our front-office operations, and that's a good thing -- if, and only if, merit does not suffer simply because of political correctness.

(Another aside, my two favourite engineers these days each have one foot planted in the front office, and one in the back, and one is female, and one is male.)

In cases like the (purportedly visceral, probably drama-queen) objections to the consideration of these sorts of ideas, it is my conjecture that those who are doing the most complaining are those who see their identity as subordinate to their subset(s), thus they see subset differences as attacks on their subset, and so on their identity. Those whose identity is based on their self simply shrug, say "Not me", and go back to work to prove it.

This produces an interesting feedback cycle. While the groupists are howling and whining, they are expending resources that are then no longer available for them to work on improving their individual ability, thus they slide back against the accomplishments of those who are working toward the latter. This reinforces their conjectures (in their broken world model), which provides positive feedback to their errors, and so the situation worsens until the strength of the subset vessel is breached by the pressure of the groupist stupidity, and the whole thing just explodes.

That's when you want to be behind the fan.



It’s not clear to me whether Stanton is particularly interested in merit and ability, wherever it may lie, as opposed to gender quotas and theatrical gasping. And I won’t linger on the puzzle of a Vagina Warrior whose feelings are so easily hurt. “The things he said… they just weren’t true…!” [ sob, choke ]

“It is my conjecture that those who are doing the most complaining are those who see their identity as subordinate to their subset(s), thus they see subset differences as attacks on their subset, and so on their identity.”

Perhaps it’s the flipside of presuming to speak for all womanhood. It’s interesting to note how advocates of identity politics often regard gender, skin colour or sexuality in rather cartoonish ways. For instance, Duke professor Wahneema Lubiano seems to view “being black” as some kind of profession, as does the Guardian’s Joseph Harker, and in both cases factual challenges to their claims were hastily dismissed as racist persecution.


Understood. I have, indeed, read (I think) all of Prof. Johnson's postings at DIW, and, probably, about 80% of the comments at least since the DNA disaster now almost a year ago. (Remember the Polansky guy? Sheesh!) Never let it be said that the human species is incapable of delusional individual or subset behaviour, or at least, not if we want to avoid them. What's that I hear, Sun Tzu whistling in the background?


Well, one more kick at this moldy cat. Today there was a news story confirming what is already generally well-known: girls are outperforming boys in high school, are more likely to go to and graduate from university, and do better on standardized reading tests.

Faced with this, the "innatists" go all nurturist on us, attributing this to feminist ideologizing, the "feminizing" of education, and (in the case of the Statistics Canada researchers about whose study we read this morning), it's single-parent families headed by mothers, the Pygmalion effect, and a decline in the number of male teachers.

Innate abilities, in other words, go out the window when girls start to do better than boys. It must be discrimination. It must be the baleful influence of feminism. It must be the prominence of female authority figures. Anything but innate gender differences.

In response to this glaring inconsistency of approach, I have but one question. Suppose for the sake of argument that all this stuff about the reasons for girls' success is true. Why is it so unlikely, then, given all of this apparent plasticity, that male dominance and privilege might have been responsible for (and in some areas might still be responsible for) the exclusion of girls and women from traditionally "male" occupations?


If you allow my two cents (In the discussion between Dr Dawg and David).

As far as I recall, the differences between the sexes in general g (IQ) are small and insignificant when looking at the mean of the statistical (normal) distribution.
However, the SHAPES of the distributions are different. The "female" "bell curve" is more "evenly distributed" (has smaller deviation) around the mean, and the male has larger deviation. Hence, if we assume similar sized populations of females and males, one would expect to find more very bright (And BTW more very stupid) among the males.
To me it does not seem very unlikely to assume that this observation should have some importance for the distribution of sexes in posisions where high intellectual capacity is a prerequisite.

In Cod we trust


Dr Dawg,

“Faced with this, the ‘innatists’ go all nurturist on us, attributing this to feminist ideologizing,”

But I don’t recall anyone here doing that, and I’m not about to defend assertions I haven’t actually made. I wouldn’t regard myself as an “innatist”, nor would that describe most of the comments made by others in this thread. My point was Stanton’s implausible indignation at the suggestion that biology and disposition may have a role to play and her apparent assumption that numerical gender parity would emerge if certain social influences were removed. I’ve elaborated on this point at some length.

“Why is it so unlikely, then, given all of this apparent plasticity, that male dominance and privilege might have been responsible for (and in some areas might still be responsible for) the exclusion of girls and women from traditionally ‘male’ occupations?”

If memory serves, no-one here has denied the possible influence of tradition, social expectation, etc. Or “male dominance”, as you so colourfully put it. Again, you’re attacking positions that I haven’t advanced and don’t in fact hold. I refer you to my comments from yesterday, 21:44 and 22:39.



I did not intend a personal attack--I was referring to positions generally held by those who argue for innate gender differences as an explanation for women being under-represented in certain "male" professions (e.g., mathematics, engineering). I can dig up a plethora of references if need be, but we both know that this sort of thing is in the air. I suggest, in fact, that this is precisely what has fuelled, at least in part, Professor Stanton's indignation.

Even if one accepts differences is visual-spatial ability and so on, I have yet to see a clear line between this and women's relative unsuccess in the hard sciences. That line has not been drawn here, certainly. I believe that you are simply holding open the possibility that biology plays into these unequal outcomes, rather than being declarative, but without more than correlation I think that such speculation on the part of male authority figures (I mean Summers in this instance, not you :) ) plays into a social debate in harmful ways. For example, what if Summers had openly mused about the unsuccess of Blacks being due to a fixed and irremediable difference in IQ? In both instances, I see science being enlisted, wittingly or not, in the on-going gender wars, but more in the way of scientism than science.


Sorry: I meant "on-going culture wars." The notion of racial IQ differences has nothing to do with gender, obviously.


Dr Dawg,

“I believe that you are simply holding open the possibility that biology plays into these unequal outcomes, rather than being declarative…”

Exactly. I did, however, get the impression that you thought my position was much more adamant and polarised than it actually is, despite my repeated attempts to make it clear. I have no firm and comprehensive idea how these variables might actually play out; I’m simply saying that to dismiss these possibilities as outrageous and inadmissible, as Stanton and co did, is a sign of closed thinking and gross ideological bias.

“What if Summers had openly mused about the unsuccess of Blacks being due to a fixed and irremediable difference in IQ?”

But he didn’t. The faux indignation and real censoriousness was prompted by something much less provocative and carefully qualified, even rather prosaic. That it met with such preposterous disapproval speaks volumes about those making the noise.

“I think that such speculation on the part of male authority figures… plays into a social debate in harmful ways.”

I don’t. And I’m pretty sure that Stanton’s pretentious adamance, and that of her equally “offended” associates, is much more sinister and harmful to debate. They too are “authority figures” and are entrusted with young minds.


I think that such speculation on the part of male authority figures ... plays into a social debate in harmful ways.

Let me get this clear.

We can't entertain certain uncomfortable ideas, because whether they are true or false, they will harm society.

Some people might say that your speculations harm society. Would you be happy if they attempted to ban you?



This was simply a dinner. I am sure that invitations have not been extended to me for all sorts of reasons. I am certainly choosy about whom I invite into my home.

I don't like the banning of ideas. But ideas don't just float around in space--they always have a context. A university president suggesting in public that women are innately less capable in the hard sciences is different from (say) raising the issue here at David's place. A professor pushing the notion of Black racial inferiority, lending his or her professional authority to spurious and harmful pseudo-science, is different from a Usenet discussion group.

So I can understand the unwillingness to rule biological notions of ability out of court. But I think it is important to understand that, in certain contexts, the indignation expressed by some about such notions is actually part of the debate as well.


I know that Summers didn't argue racial IQ differences. But what if he had? Would you take the view that indignation in such a (hypothetical)case is justified, or not?


But a university ought to be the place where unorthodox and indeed uncomfortable ideas are tested.

Who do you think harmed the reputation of women more: Summers by speculating that innate differences accounts for different numbers of men and women in the science or Stanton, with her attack of the dreaded vapours?

When I was at university I was asked to entertain some very uncomfortable ideas - that one in four university women had been raped. Or that the "rule of thumb" derived from a law about the size of stick it was permissible to use.

Are these falsehoods harmful to society? They still get repeated. My 10 year old son was told the "rule of thumb" only a fortnight ago.


Dr Dawg,

“A university president suggesting in public that women are innately less capable in the hard sciences…”

That isn’t exactly what was suggested.

“I know that Summers didn't argue racial IQ differences. But what if he had? Would you take the view that indignation in such a (hypothetical) case is justified, or not?”

You do keep returning to the issue of race, rather slyly, I think. I’ve already addressed this point. But, I suppose my reaction would depend largely on the arguments and evidence presented. Unlike Stanton, I don’t feel certain questions are inadmissible, especially in an environment that is, supposedly, about thinking critically and testing ideas. I’m more interested in how reality actually *is*, rather than what may suit a certain political outlook. I’d have thought that would also matter to people who call themselves educators. But apparently not.

Maybe this can be boiled down to something very simple. From the little I’ve read, I get the impression that I could disagree with Summers about a politically sensitive issue, perhaps quite emphatically, and might still take his views as being presented in good faith. Evidence could be exchanged without inhibition or fear of prompting gasps of pseudo-horror. He would not, I think, try to silence me or burst into tears. We might even learn something from each other in the process. I don’t feel that would be terribly likely with Stanton, whose dogmatism, censoriousness and bad faith are all too apparent.

And, given the apparent lockstep among her colleagues, one has to wonder about the academic environment she inhabits, and just how free-thinking it actually is.


"You do keep returning to the issue of race, rather slyly, I think."

Not slyly in the least. Gender and race are both contested areas, in which a variety of opinions are held about relative abilities. Both have salience in a society of differing power and privilege assigned by gender and race. Gender bias elicits, or tends to elicit, less indignation in general than does racial bias. But both forms of prejudice are inimical to the individuals on the receiving end. Having an educator openly suggest that the under-representation of women in "hard" sciences is due to innate inability is hardly encouraging for students and faculty of the female persuasion. Entertaining aloud ideas of Black intellectual inferiority, had this happened, would have had similar kinds of effects--and brought forth similar, if perhaps more intense, indignation.

We must look at Summers' position of authority, not simply the sentiments he flapped his gums about. He wasn't just shooting the breeze; in a very real sense he was speaking ex cathedra.


Dr Dawg,

“Having an educator openly suggest that the under-representation of women in ‘hard’ sciences is due to innate inability is hardly encouraging for students and faculty of the female persuasion.”

Again, that isn’t exactly what was suggested. Summers’ comments concerned a possible difference in *statistical* aptitude and inclination, which seems to have little logical bearing on female students who have already chosen to pursue a career in mathematics or engineering. (And those that haven’t chosen one… haven’t chosen one.) As I understand it, Summers’ suggestion referred to a possible variable - among others - in why relatively few women *pursue* mathematics and engineering, not the *competence* of those who do.


Again, you implicitly assume a 1:1 gender ratio as some kind of ‘natural’ default in mathematics departments, one that would presumably be arrived at if certain social factors were removed. I don’t see why this should be assumed so readily. I’m all in favour of female mathematicians pursuing their ambitions on an equal footing, but I don’t assume that the freedom to do so would automatically result in an equal number of male and female mathematicians.

And you really should try to look beyond this creaky “male authority” schtick. It appears to occlude more than it reveals.


So let's look at Summers' professional approach. Under his stewardship, 4 out of 32 offers of tenure went to women in the Arts & Sciences faculty in 2004. He drove noted African-American scholar Cornel West from his position--West fled to Princeton. Summers is fond of telling a story about giving two toy trucks to his young daughter, who apparently began calling one "Daddy truck" and one "Mommy truck."

He was not talking simply about why women don't *pursue* these careers. He was suggesting that "innate differences" account for actual success in these fields.

Just so we're all on the same page, here are Summers' remarks:


Dr Dawg,

“Under his stewardship, 4 out of 32 offers of tenure went to women in the Arts & Sciences faculty in 2004.”

Which, in itself, proves what? It seems you’re trying to convince me that Summers is clearly some kind of reprehensible figure. Perhaps he is, but nothing you’ve said so far demonstrates that; nor does it excuse Stanton’s own absurd behaviour, or that of her associates. It merely demonstrates your own feelings in the matter. I fail to see why you find Summers’ comments so obviously deplorable. If the argument and evidence he presents suggests that, statistically, women perform slightly worse in certain areas, then you have to address that argument and that evidence. Being irritated simply by the *voicing* of the argument, or any argument like it, (as Stanton seems to be) proves very little.

To return to my other key point… I have no idea on what basis one might estimate how many women “ought” to be mathematicians. But I’m not aware of tens of thousands of brilliant but disgruntled would-be female mathematicians who claim to have been unfairly thwarted by sexist bias and oppressive patriarchy. Perhaps they exist, I don’t know. But nor, I think, does Professor Stanton. And I’m not the one pretending to know what the “proper” number of female mathematicians is.

Incidentally, the one disgruntled female mathematician I’ve talked to at some length never mentioned sexism as an obstacle. Socialist ideologues in academia were grumbled about a great deal, but never sexism or “male authority.” Though, yes, I grant you one person is a pretty small sample size on which to base a convincing estimation. :)



I have no idea what the "proper" representation of women in the hard sciences ought o be. But barring some actual scientific evidence, not scientistic rationalizing by people like Summers, I'll start with the default position, as noted earlier, and be prepared to move off it when evidence is presented.

It's interesting that so much concern has been raised about Professor Stanton's alleged dogmatism, intolerance of dissent and so on. Perhaps you might care to look at Mr. Summers with the same lens. With the usual caveats about Wikipedia, here is a summing up of his attitude while running Harvard:

"Besides the aforementioned controversies [West, women, etc.], which undoubtedly provided the proximate cause for Summers' resignation, other factors have been proposed as contributing to his critical loss of support among the majority of faculty members. The first is Summers' reputed leadership style, described by many as arrogant, blunt, and intolerant of dissenting opinions. Many faculty members claimed they felt intimidated into remaining silent when they disagreed with Summers."



Dr Dawg,

“Perhaps you might care to look at Mr. Summers with the same lens.”

Indeed, but that’s not really the issue at hand. He may well have been a shit for all I know, though his speech seems thoughtful, measured and polite. But I wasn’t defending Summers as a faculty leader or inspirational role model. I made that quite clear. And Stanton’s reactions were, in her own words, based on Summers’ comments regarding women and mathematics, which don’t strike me as remotely offensive.

“I'll start with the default position.”

But, once again, how do you know that *is* the default position? How can you assume that? Perhaps the ‘natural’ default ratio is two to one, or ten to one, or twenty, or a hundred? I have no idea, and nor, apparently, does anyone else. You can’t simply lay claim to some supposed “default” position of exact numerical parity, conveniently excused from evidential support, while dismissing dissent as some kind of caveman recidivism.

The Thin Man

My apologies to Jeff for the wholesale posting, but I think this post from kind of sums up the debate......

"That dream being the free exchange of ideas, once again under siege from inside the academy — the very place where the free exchange of ideas should, by the standards of liberalism, be most in evidence.

Alas, we’ve surrendered liberalism for the kind of creeping totalitarianism whose resemblance to liberalism is limited to a familiar smile and wink.

From the NYT:

The appointment of Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution is drawing fierce protests from faculty members and students at Stanford University and is threatening to rekindle tensions between the institution, a conservative research body, and the more liberal campus.

Some 2,100 professors, staff members, students and alumni have signed an online petition protesting Mr. Rumsfeld’s appointment, which will involve advising a task force on ideology and terrorism. Faculty members say he should not have been offered the post because of his role in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the Iraq war.

“We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry, respect for national and international laws and care for the opinions, property and lives of others to which Stanford is inalienably committed,” the petition reads.


John Raisian, director of the Hoover Institution since 1989, defended the appointment, which was announced on Sept. 7, saying Mr. Rumsfeld is an expert on the subjects that the panel will study.

“I appointed him because he has three decades of experience, of incredible public service, especially in recent years as it relates to this question of ideology and terror,” Mr. Raisian said. Mr. Raisian said Mr. Rumsfeld had accepted the appointment, which would last one year.

Such short-term appointments, whether by the institution or by an academic department, do not require the extensive review that a tenure decision might.


The institution, which is housed in a tower close to the heart of the campus, has had close ties to Republican administrations, including Mr. Bush’s. Like graduate schools on campus, it operates largely independently from the university — with its own endowment and doing its own fund-raising — but still is part of the university.

At times, though, there have been tensions. In the late 1980s, some students and faculty members successfully fought a proposal championed by the director of the Hoover Institution to place Ronald Reagan’s presidential library on the campus. Last year, Mr. Bush planned to visit fellows at the Hoover Institution before having dinner with George P. Shultz, a former secretary of state who is also a fellow. But after protests, the meeting was moved to Mr. Shultz’s home.

Another potential conflict could involve Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a former Stanford provost and Hoover fellow. Ms. Rice, who is on leave from a tenured faculty position, has said she would be interested in returning to Stanford after leaving the Bush administration. In a letter to Stanford’s undergraduate newspaper in May, a professor wrote that she should not be welcomed back.

Pamela M. Lee, a professor of art history who helped write the petition against Mr. Rumsfeld, said she hoped her protest would send a message and prompt the university to review its relationship with the Hoover Institution.

“It’s extremely important for the Hoover to know that their appointments are not in the mainstream of the Stanford community,” Professor Lee said, “as well as to send a very clear signal to the country that this is not what Stanford is about.”

Oh, the message is clear, alright — but I’m not sure it’s the message you’re hoping to send, Professor Lee. Because from here, it sounds something like this: “we have defined ourselves as the center, and from that position of mainstream authority we have positioned ourselves to decide who and what comes to count as so pernicious to the mainstream that it simply must not be tolerated.”

Evidently, having Rumsfeld doddering around near campus could lead one to inadvertently gaze upon him — at which point impressionable students paying big tuition dollars might turn into pillars of salt.

Dr Lee is just trying to protect them. For their own good.

Writes David Bernstein at Volokh:

according to Professor Lee, enforcing ideological conformity among the faculty is “what Stanford is all about.” Having one of the most distinguished public servants of the last half century–an objectively true statement, regardless of what one things of his politics–on campus three to five times (!) is not “what Stanford is all about.”

And, come to think of it, I can’t resist the contrast between the reaction to Rumsfeld at Stanford and, judging from the stories in the Columbia Spectator, the almost complete quiescence, apart from some Jewish groups, at Columbia regarding the invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In fact, according to the Spectator, some of the harshest criticism received by Columbia president Lee Bollinger is that he didn’t criticize Minutemen Project found Jim Gilchrist, invited by students last years, as he has Ahmadinejad.

Up is down. Black is White. Jonah has a blow hole and likes to sup on plankton and shrimp cocktail.



"You can’t simply lay claim to some supposed “default” position of exact numerical parity, conveniently excused from evidential support, while dismissing dissent as some kind of caveman recidivism."

That's going a trifle far. It's my own default position, not some "natural" one--a kind of "as-if." Let's proceed, say I, on the assumption that men and women are fundamentally equal in ability, and that under-representation of women in certain "male" disciplines is a complex product of socialization, systemic bias and so on. Then bring on the neurological evidence--and I assure you, I shall weigh it honestly. I think that's a defensible start position, and I cannot understand why you are taking such exception to it. I'm proceeding under a falsifiable hypothesis. What's wrong with that?

Thin Man:

I had no idea that Rummy had serious academic credentials. He has, as I understand it, an undergraduate degree and was a law school dropout. I wonder if Jeff and his cohorts got remotely upset about the Chemerinsky scandal? Or the Finkelstein tenure farce? Or the current persecution of the authors of "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy"? I do note, however, that there is general outrage and bluster in that quarter about the visit of Ahmedinejad to Columbia. Goldstein's picking and choosing is arrant hypocrisy.


Dr Dawg,

“That's going a trifle far.”

No it isn’t. The gender bias, if any, of a mathematics department isn’t determined simply by whether or not it employs an equal number of men and women in positions of comparable status. If there are other, dispositional, variables to consider in who pursues the subject to advanced levels, or other factors regarding the availability of suitable female candidates or their persistence in the field, then a gender parity of employed mathematicians might just as plausibly indicate an anomaly, a lowering of standards or a bias in favour of women. To assume that, magically stripped of all external influences, the male and female population “should” be perfectly symmetrical in interests, skills and dispositions is just that – an assumption. A prejudice, if you will.

As I said, I haven’t heard of vast numbers of disaffected female would-be mathematicians, all grumbling about exclusion because of sexism and male patriarchy. What matters is that those women who do have talent and drive in the discipline are able to compete for positions on an equal footing. No-one here would argue with that. But whether that fair footing leads to a 50/50 gender split or not is entirely beside the point. And to imply, as Stanton does, that *more* women “ought” to be interested in advanced mathematics as a career seems absurd; as does the claim that if relatively few women choose this career, then there must be some kind of systemic gender bias or “oppression” taking place. And attempting to engineer some supposed “correction” of who is interested in what is to skate on perilously thin ice.


I'm late to the discussion, but it seems to me that someone has done a remarkable job at derailing the actual discussion. What should be discussed here is whether an academic should be allowed to speak at a school function if his views, right or wrong, are in disagreement with the majority of those faculty on campus.

That's it. Nothing more.

Any discussion of the rightness or wrongness of his views is simply beside the point here. There is nothing so utterly dangerous that it cannot be talked about. Invite a "flat-earther" to speak? Why not. A holocaust denier? Sorry, but there are plenty of them around already.

The university is exactly the place where every point of view should be debated. Hiding from things you don't want to hear is a exactly the opposite of what we expect from academics.



"I had no idea that Rummy had serious academic credentials....I do note, however, that there is general outrage and bluster in that quarter about the visit of Ahmedinejad to Columbia."

What academic credentials does Ahmedinejad have? Beside holocaust denial.

And do you not see any difference between Rumsfeld and Ahmedinejad?



The fact that a discussion of this kind might, as Dr Dawg suggested earlier, be deemed insensitive in many academic environments highlights a creeping unrealism and inhibition of ideas. Especially those that diverge from self-serving and politically fashionable beliefs. If even this exchange is likely to prompt gasps of impropriety, that suggests a marked ideological bias among many academics. (And that bias isn’t aimed at excluding women; quite the reverse.)

The degree to which certain questions are deemed inadmissible indicates just how politicised and dogmatic large areas of academia have become. It also highlights why so many of us look on those areas with sadness or contempt. The tendency toward compliance with political fashion, often censorious and irrational political fashion, is a betrayal of what an education is supposed to be.



"And do you not see any difference between Rumsfeld and Ahmedinejad?"

A rather obvious one--the latter isn't being offered a university appointment.


I won't respond the the last except to re-iterate my earlier question: if Mr. Summers was to speak about the innate deficiency in IQ of Blacks, would you have invited him to dinner? I get the feeling that this question is being studiously ducked, but it might just be the lateness of the hour.


Dr Dawg,

“If Mr. Summers was to speak about the innate deficiency in IQ of Blacks, would you have invited him to dinner? I get the feeling that this question is being studiously ducked.”

I’ve addressed this point twice already (14:43, 15:33.), so it’s hardly been ducked, studiously or otherwise. And, as I explained earlier, your attempt to imply some equivalence between what Summers actually said regarding gender differences – which is thoughtful, particular, questioning and polite – with a hypothetical speech about “innate deficiency in IQ” among black people is misleading and disingenuous.

But, yes, it’s late. Hammock time.


When studying failure-mode problems, it's always a good idea to have some good example failures to work with. That's why when discussing the failure modes of universities, we can finally find an argument for the utility of Dr. Dawg.



I of course read your earlier responses, and re-read them with great care. What I divined from the second one, at least, was that no topic should be off-limits--inquiry being key. You state: "I suppose my reaction would depend largely on the arguments and evidence presented."

Quite. I read Summers' notes on women in the hard sciences, math and angineering with care as well, and can quite see how his mode of presenting his ideas might have created a reaction. As I noted earlier, though, that reaction is really part of the debate as well. So here is the nub of the thing: Professor Stanton didn't like that earlier address, and circulated a petition, and Summers' dinner-invitation was rescinded. That generated its own response, including your own. I joined in, as did others. Summers is still alive and kicking, and no doubt speaking and publishing.

But I've pushed this about as far as I dare. Personally, I think it would have been better to attend the bun-fight and argue with the man, rather than rob him of his rubber chicken. but I still maintain that his position is intellectually slovenly. And coming from the head of a prestigious university, the effects of his off-hand remarks on young women who might have considered a career in the hard sciences, etc., are not to be lightly dismissed.


I would put my academic and employment record up against yours anytime--since, bluntly speaking, you appear to be interested in a dick-measuring contest. Show me yours, then, and I'll show you mine.



"A rather obvious one--the latter isn't being offered a university appointment."

How about Summers and Ahmedinejad?

And for the record, could you point out precisely what Summers said that is so controversial?



I thought I had done so earlier in this thread.

Here is his speech about (inter alia) "Mommy trucks" and "Daddy trucks."

I believe it was this address that offended Professor Stanton.


Not at all, Dawg. I just think that the style of fraud that you and your fellow SSHRC travelers perpetrate is exactly the sort of failure mode that threatens to become endemic in universities, not just in the silly-studies departments as it now is, but even in the parts that heretofore worked, like science, medicine, and engineering, upon which our high standard of living depends. Our high standard of living is not dependent on what you do. It is dependent on what I do. Note that that doesn't say anything special about me, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

When prioritizing what one would fight against doing without, I would first fight against doing without oxygen for more than a couple minutes. Then water. Food and shelter are three and four, but the temporal order may be reversed depending on the current weather. And so we work down the list, in some order, fuel, sanitary waste disposal, medicine, transportation, and so on. Art? Sure, but everyone can do art. On the other hand, we can do without academic poseurs inventing faux-problems for personal power-struggle games and then putting words in other persons mouths when the examination of reality turns against them.


SSHRC? We going back fifteen years now, Tony?

You're a software developer with intellectual pretensions. You haven't put a crumb of food in anyone's mouth other than what your salary purchases.

I have contributed to the raising of quite a few people's standard of living, if not in a way of which you might approve. But your approval means very little to me or, I suspect, most other people. You're a pretentious fraud, Tony, and it's about time someone called you on it.


Yes Dawg, I know. However I asked what PRECISELY it was that offended. Please give us the passage that makes Dr. Summers and his ideas so dangerous.


The prosecution rests. Unless the defence would like to re-cross, we now, if I'm not mistaken, go to the jury. So it's over to you, dear readers.



I think the notion, over-all, that women are innately less capable than men in the hard sciences, math and engineering. But that's just a wild guess. And possibly the gratuitous Mommy and Daddy truck nonsense. But perhaps the women involved should speak, not me:

In the second reference, the quite valid point is made (at least, from where I sit) that such remarks from the leader of an institution might have a chilling effect on recruitment. But I've shot my bolt on this.


Summers did not say that females are innately less capable than males in any way. He said there may be some interesting phenomenon at play in the extremes of some distributions. If we're going to talk about what he said, shouldn't we talk about what he said?


Vitruvius made an excellent point about Asperger Syndrome. That's a phenomenon that can be measured somewhat: it DOES predominate in males and it DOES predispose one to the harder sciences.

I am a female who has a mild case of Asperger's, and I know another woman who was a fully fledged Asperger's case. Both of us are into the Humanities, but we also have an affinity for technology. I, for example, am a technical writer, and I find that I'm good at learning how things work quickly, moreso than my "neurotypical" colleagues.

Asperger's is the result of the way the brain is organized in utero and therefore has a profound impact on one's abilities and predilections. I experience this every day as I excel at some things others struggle with and utterly cannot do other things that are second nature to most people.

Dr Dawg, to imply a parallel between race and gender is to make a false analogy. The physiological differences between the "races" has to do with the amount of pigmentation in the skin. It's cosmetic. It affects your vulnerability to skin cancer. But skin pigmentation has no effect on brain development. The only people who imply that there are further types of differences between the races were using junk science (phrenology and other speculation before the advent of brain scanning technology), junk philosophy (white supremacism), or junk morality. Anyone who continues to do so in this day and age does so without an ounce of scientific proof.

Gender, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. The two sexes are created by powerful hormones that change the shape of the body and have a strong hand at organizing the brain. The differences have been observed in brain scans and in controlled experimentation.

You will of course notice that male and female mammals have highly differing habits, dispositions, and behaviors, and that their sex hormones are the same as ours. For example, if testosterone makes bulls and stags and stallions sexually aggressive, is it any wonder that it does so in humans?

Furthermore, while there is no proof that there are significant IQ differences between the sexes, the call of biology often leads women to choose to raise children rather than pursue a career. Our emotional needs are different from a man's because our brains are different. That a woman chooses to listen to her biology rather than her peers is no scandal.

It seems strange to me that modern feminists would demand that women abandon what they want to do in order to fulfill some arbitrary quota that people like Stanton think should exist. Wasn't this all about choice to begin with?

So to answer your question: "If Mr. Summers was [were] to speak about the innate deficiency in IQ of Blacks, would you have invited him to dinner?" the answer is NO, I would not, unless I felt I had the chance to persuade him differently.


One more thing, Dr Dawg. You asked if David were fussed about the Chemerinsky thing. I don't know about David, but I do know that Hugh Hewitt pitched a fit on the air for two days straight, and may have been largely responsible for the current state of affairs.

Chemerinsky said on Hewitt's show, obviously moved, that he had received a flood of supportive e-mails from Hugh's listeners, saying "I don't agree with your politics, but I do agree with academic freedom, so I support your appointment."

Hugh says of Chemerinsky that he's dead wrong about everything, but man, what a Constitutional scholar. Mind like a steel trap, and that he'd make an ideal dean or whatever of the new law school. No animosity, no condescension (the part about him being dead wrong is more trash talk and good-natured ribbing than anything), and a dedication to principle over ideology that is rarely seen on the Left, I'm afraid.


Since Larry Summers has apparently committed a crime against women, we might as well quote from the incendiary speech that got him into so much trouble:

"...if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not even talking about people who are two standard deviations above the's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool..."

And from that same outrageous speech:

"Surely there is (overt discrimination)...No one who's been in a university department or who has been involved in personnel process can deny that this...does go on, and it is something that happens, and it is something that absolutely, vigorously needs to be combated."

That's the sort of talk that simply does not belong on any campus.


Dawg, TomB asked you to give the passage that makes Summers and his ideas so dangerous; I think at this point we're all curious about that.

Here's the speech, have at 'er:


Morning all. Heavens, the wagon rumbles on.

Dr Dawg,

“I read Summers' notes on women in the hard sciences… and can quite see how his mode of presenting his ideas might have created a reaction.”

But you still, even now, haven’t shown *why* that reaction was justified or credible. It seems much more obvious that the vehemence and censoriousness of the protest (and the curious lack of specifics) reflects on those protesting and their dogmatic stance, not on Summers’ speech.

“But I still maintain that his position is intellectually slovenly.”

But, again, you’ve yet to show that it is. Nothing you’ve said thus far demonstrates a remotely credible reason for such pronounced umbrage. Instead, it suggests a grossly unprofessional prickliness and intolerance among parts of the faculty. (The word “blasphemy” springs to mind, and possibly “apostate”.)

To argue that Summers’ comments might “discourage recruitment” sidesteps completely the issue of whether what he actually said is intellectually legitimate and deserving of discussion. And favouring the hypothetical hypersensitivity of hypothetical female candidates over an attempt to determine truth speaks volumes.


Dawg, you seem to have a comprehension problem. So I'll spell it out for you. Summers made a speech. Something in that speech was so verbotten that he was let go from Harvard. Please post THE WORDS that he spoke that were so egregious that he had to be let go.


So many comments--so little time. :)

dicentra (and hello, by the way):

I'm aware that some principled conservatives stood up for Chermerinski. Even David Horowitz wavered a bit before reverting to type. It was a truly egregious, indefensible case. But last I heard, Norman Finkelstein is still looking for work, as is a colleague who stood up for him, and John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt are having appearances cancelled out from under them. And Daniel Pipes' national snitch line is going full-bore.

For the record, I suspect that David is entirely consistent on academic freedom, and I don't believe I have ever suggested otherwise. Others out there in the wide world have been--less so.

But to your other post for a moment. I am not unaware that there are specific diseases and syndromes that are gender- (and also ethnic-)related. I am thinking of androgenized female fetuses, for example, the resulting female children having a pronounced tendency to lesbianism. So I don't want my position in this debate to be caricatured. I'm not arguing against all evidence that there is no difference between the genders when it comes to neural information-processing. Rather, I am arguing for caution.

I mentioned earlier that the Engineering faculty at McGill, when I attended many years ago, had exactly one woman enrolled in engineering. The numbers have obviously shot up since, and in math and science too. We aren't at parity; but we are so far ahead of where we were earlier that one has to wonder whether hypotheses of "innate" this or that might be less sustainable than social hypotheses.

On the question of race, we are in essential agreement. But there are those who still argue that it's more than skin colour, and they're in universities, too; for example, Kevin McDonald, who thinks that Jews are genetically programmed to destroy white Christian culture, or Phillippe Rushton, who (amongst other things) raises penis size in a "racial" context as an inverse correlate of intelligence (which, by his own logic, should make gorillas the rulers of us all, but no matter). So I raised the construct of race as an analogy because it works as one in culture wars where both are salient.

My bottom line? I suspect that much of gender is a construct as well, but sexual dimorphism is an obvious fact of our species, and it may well be that some aptitudes and modes of thinking are innate. Assumptions in that respect, though, keep getting shattered. More women than men attend Canadian universities today. Fifty years ago, who'd a thunk it?

Back, then, to caution. We shouldn't imagine that Summers was speaking as an academic, because his speech wasn't delivered in that context, and besides, his expertise is in economics. He was speaking as a university president: he was wondering aloud whether the under-enrollment of women in engineering, science and math might have something to do with innate capacity. In that context, it was a political speech, and produced a political reaction. I think that university presidents, as public and hence political figures, should take a little more care. Summers is not a tactful man. It can be wounding to a young girl considering math as a career to have such pronouncements made by public leaders of academe. The authority of his office is an important consideration.


I had already--twice--posted a link to that speech. It is delivered in academese, and is not composed of inflammatory rhetoric. But let me offer three examples of comments I think some women might be concerned about:

"So my sense is that the unfortunate truth-I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true-is that the combination of the high-powered job hypothesis and the differing variances probably explains a fair amount of this problem."

"I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something. And I think it's just something that you probably have to recognize. There are two other hypotheses that are all over. One is socialization. Somehow little girls are all socialized towards nursing and little boys are socialized towards building bridges. No doubt there is some truth in that. I would be hesitant about assigning too much weight to that hypothesis... First, most of what we've learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization...."

[It's really been the reverse over the past three or four decades. Things believed to be innate turn out to be socialization. Yup, women can thrive in the trades and make fine doctors. Yup, Blacks can be university professors.]

"If it was really the case that everybody was discriminating, there would be very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating, because of what it would mean for the pool that was available."

[This is the free market argument: I've seen it made in other contexts to "prove" that widespread employment discrimination is a myth. What Summers is ignoring, besides the fact that a free market as such doesn not exist and never has, is the two-fold nature of discrimination. On the one hand, those with power, such as employers, can discriminate. On the other, those in groups that have suffered historical discrimination can internalize that discrimination and see themselves as inferior or incapable. The same thing is true in non-gender and non-racial contexts: the barriers, for example, to working-class university attendance are not solely financial. This is a long side-discussion, though.]


I've made some of my points above. But I would hold to my characterization of Summers' speech. He notes, for example, that enrollments of women in the disciplines under discussion have risen substantially; in the next breath, he doubts that socialization (and discrimination) have anything to do with current under-enrollments. How did such enrollemtns ever rise in the first place? (Yes, he offers handwaves to the effect that discrimination exists, but in the context of his speech, that seems to be merely tactical.) So it's as though discrimination passed the baton to innate characteristics when enrollments allegedly peaked. (What evidence is there, by the way, in the long term, that enrollments have indeed peaked at 25% or so?)

As for the free market argument, why not apply it to the employment of Blacks say fifty years ago? If we assume that there are a lot of bright, capable Blacks around, and that there always have been, how did the market fail them so utterly? Why did it take civil rights marches and legislation?

But let me re-iterate a point that might have been lost in all this. I understand very much the indignation of academic women who have probably fought the hard fight against discrimination to get where they were, in a lot of cases. No one should be surprised by it. To be upset by the passion of some women in this case seems odd to me. I still think, however, that arguing with Summers beats driving him from the dinner-table.


Dr Dawg,

“I've made some of my points above.”

And how we gasped at the damning evidence of his wickedness.

Despite all this time and effort, you’ve unearthed nothing remotely offensive or “slovenly” in Summers’ speech. He basically says that recent developments in a number of fields suggest that the argument for social conditioning, so beloved of the left, has, in some cases, been overstated. This seems to be a fairly unremarkable observation - one that’s supported by my own experience and that of several friends. Clearly, you don’t *like* what he said. But even if one disagrees with particular points he makes, or implications thereof, one couldn’t in good faith claim to be “offended” or “outraged” by anything he said. In order to construe Summers’ comments as “offensive” or grossly ignorant, or maliciously intended, one would have to have a dogmatic, quasi-religious belief in social conditioning as the sole explanation for differences in aptitude and gender performance. Such a position, however modish or obligatory, would itself be hugely tendentious, unrealistic and absurd.

“I think that university presidents, as public and hence political figures, should take a little more care.”

A comforting sentiment, I’m sure.

“It can be wounding to a young girl considering math as a career to have such pronouncements made by public leaders of academe… To be upset by the passion of some women in this case seems odd to me.”

It’s reassuring to know that your disregard for classical liberal values is, once again, in the service of some poor, defenceless underdog who will, no doubt, be “wounded”. How soft and helpless those would-be mathematicians must be. What seems odd to me, suspicious even, is that supposedly intelligent women – tenured, statusful professors - should resort to such dishonest and authoritarian measures in order to silence a viewpoint and punish the man who voiced it, rather than testing those ideas in open debate. In my naïveté I’d assumed that a place of supposed intellectual excellence would be more interested in the open testing of ideas than in dogma, censorship and the pretentious cosseting of designated victim groups. My, how far we’ve come. Those ladies must be proud. What a credit to womanhood.

In case anyone missed it, here’s Camille Paglia’s commentary on the sorry episode:



Given your propensity for accusing me of erecting straw men in th past, it seems to me that you might, in this instance, want to look in the mirror. I have never argued that Summers was "wicked," nor that his remarks were "malicious" in intent. I am not "outraged" easily, either. Nor, as I have pointed out more than once in this very thread, do I take the absolutist position that *only* social conditioning defines behaviour. So let's torch this beast and move on.

Why judging the effects of the pronouncements of powerful authority figures makes me illiberal is anyone's guess. I think it's a matter of simple observation. The women who have expressed passionate objection to Summers have, I suspect, engaged in precisely the debates that you favour all of their professional lives. Perhaps they're a little tired of them by now, when uttered as pronouncements by university presidents in public settings. It's not as though Summers said anything new, after all. In other words, these women are simply pissed off. This appears to surprise and shock you. So be it.

Do you think that the notion of power relations in society is a mere invention arising from the febrile brains of feminists and post-modernists? Do you think that Summers' position of authority had nothing to do with the reaction to, and possibly the effect of, his remarks? I don't believe in being "protective" of anyone in this context, but being respectful is another matter. And a young woman looking for a career in mathematics might think twice about applying to an institution that holds that underrepresentation of women in the mathematics department there is genetic in origin.


Dr Dawg,

The terms I quoted are those used by Stanton and other protestors. It’s your willingness to defend their shameful and unprofessional behaviour, based on little substance we can see, that is in question. That, and your readiness to make allusions to “male authority” and to repeatedly describe Summers as a “powerful authority figure”, while not acknowledging the overtly coercive and dishonest use of status and authority by those protesting. Clearly, they were far from helpless. How righteous they must feel.



I think we're talking past each other. People are more than the sum of their professional qualifications and their abilities to engage in the civil debate that you champion. Sometimes they're just human, and react viscerally when provoked--as do you and I on occasion, I suspect. That's also part of life on campus, and off.


“I think we're talking past each other.”

Let’s let the viewers at home decide. Push the red button now.

Some music, perhaps.


Shorter David: Feminists strove for years to chip away at the orthodoxy that "women can't" do thus and so because of their soft brains and dispositions. But now that they've been able to establish their own orthodoxy of social constructionism, they're just as obtuse and protective as those they sought to depose and use the same odious tactics to enforce that orthodoxy as their predecessors.

Shorter Dr Dawg: They ought to have behaved thus because what Summers said is beyond the pale. The orthodoxy is correct, and challenges thereto are not worthy of consideration.


Well, with respect, that's rather *too* short, to the point of inaccuracy. I don't buy into "orthodox" anything. I have already stated how I would have handled the Summers dinner that wasn't. And I simply pointed out that I'm not surprised that Summers elicited this kind of reaction from people who've been hearing this sort of stuff for years (there was, to repeat, absolutely nothing new in Summers' remarks), and who have fought hard to get where they were despite it.

It seems that some people would rather caricature my arguments than actually *read* them. Maybe they'll run out of straw eventually.


This may not be fun, in the usual sense, but it sure is compelling.

Dawg, earlier in the thread you stated that you have a "problem" with any suggestion that particular abilities might be "unequally distributed" by gender.

Later in the thread you wrote, in an exasperated-ish tone suggesting you've been clear on the matter all along, that you "do not take the absolutist position that only social conditioning defines behaviour."

I'm going to assume -- just for a moment, it'll pass -- that the most recent statement is in fact your position. Question: If social conditioning is *not* the only factor in determining aptitudes and abilities, what might the other factor(s) be?


My position, EBD, is that I have a problem simply *assuming* that particular abilities--and in these discussions it's always the ones we happen to prize--are unequally distributed by gender (or race). That doesn't mean that I necessarily assume that there are no differences of neural processing or of behaviour between the genders. There may well be. In fact there almost certainly are--simply saying "no, there aren't," which I sensed some were accusing me of saying, or implying, is dogmatic. Just show me, is all. And when you have, show me how such differences translate into differing *abilities.* (The distinction between behaviours and abilities seems to be getting lost in here as well.)

Those assumptions were more commonplace 50 years ago. Differences in performance had nothing to do with socialization, etc.--they were just how people *were.* I'm wary of making the same mistake over and over again. Since that time, women have found their way, in increasing numbers, into "male" professions. We (and by that I mean some of us) have come to realize that socialization plays a significant role in observed behaviour and ability.

So: while I assent to the possibility that the genders are different, with respect to neural processing and so on, I remain highly sceptical of claims to this effect being used to rationalize differing rates of success in the professions (for example). (*Sceptical,* I said, which some people here manage to translate as "politicially correct/orthodox.") If you want to make a case to the contrary--prove it. Summers, with his silly talk of Mommy trucks and Daddy trucks, did no such thing. Neither, back in the day, did Donald Hebb, who stated that McGill had so few women in the faculty because McGill was a "research-oriented university," a pretty good example of petitio principii, and the sort of nonsense of which Stanton and the others have obviously had a bellyful.


Sometimes, when analysis paralysis sets in, it can be useful to revisit the undergirding issues:


While it would certainly be interesting to see what effect, if any, biological and psychological variables have on various types of gender performance disparity, a definitive answer isn’t necessary for the purposes of this particular discussion. Nor, I think, is it necessary as a basis for a staffing policy based on merit.

As I said earlier, to presume some ‘natural’ 1:1 gender ratio would itself be a prejudice, albeit a modish one. It would, for instance, be bizarre to assume that quotas or “affirmative action” are required to “correct” an “unrepresentative” ratio of men to women in elite chess tournaments. The unequal number of male and female chess grandmasters cannot, in itself, be taken as evidence of some unfair systemic bias. (There *may* be unfair discrimination, of course, and any number of cultural variables; but my point is that unfair discrimination can’t be determined just from the ratio of top-rate male and female players, which is something like 100:1.)

What matters – the only thing that really matters – is that men and women of comparable skill and motivation compete fairly for employment (or in chess championships). Whether or not meritocratic selection has been achieved cannot be determined by whether or not gender parity results, since we have no solid basis on which to say that gender parity should be the meritocratic outcome. Whether fair competition based on ability leads to 1:1 gender parity, or a ratio of 100 male chess grandmasters for every female one, is surely beside the point?



"Whether or not meritocratic selection has been achieved cannot be determined by whether or not gender parity results."

Which of course is a key issue. But as someone who has actively studied the notion of "merit" in the Canadian public service, I can assure you that this is not an unproblematic notion in itself. Judgments about "merit" in that forum include "personal suitability" as a selection factor. Will the candidate fit in? You can see the dangers.

No doubt the merit principle was in full operation back in the days when women in the hard sciences were a rarity. And no doubt it's in full swing now, when there are more women than men enrolled at university (if not in the senior ranks of tenured faculty).

"Merit" is anything but an objective set of criteria, objectively applied. You are right, though, to assert that the fairness of the process cannot be simply judged by its outcomes. But one's suspicions can still be aroused, particularly over a lengthy period of time in which the same notion of "merit" has presumably been in place, but women are making an increasing mark in the hard sciences, mathematics and engineering, with vastly increased enrollments and much larger numbers of academic faculty. We really only have two explanations to choose from in the light of that observation: either the genetic inheritance of women has somehow improved in the past thirty years, or some social filter was at play earlier.

So when I see a supposedly "objective" selection system result in significantly different outcomes for gender (or "race"), I might want to look at the thing more closely. By itself, I agree it isn't *proof* of anything: but it does arouse my suspicions. One doesn't need to insist on a 50/50 outcome from the start to poke around to see if there are systemic biases at work. There obviously were some in academe in the 1950s and 1960s.


“Will the candidate fit in? You can see the dangers.”

Very much so. (See our discussion re Carolyn Guertin.) That’s why I mentioned elite chess, where a pronounced gender difference exists, but where criteria and performance are much easier to determine.

“You are right, though, to assert that the fairness of the process cannot be simply judged by its outcomes… One doesn't need to insist on a 50/50 outcome from the start to poke around to see if there are systemic biases at work.”

Sweet mother of God. I do believe we’ve agreed on something. Free cake for everyone.


The way I see it, the icing on the cake is that everyone here has consistently agreed that no person should be denied the opportunity to pursue any legal direction, objective, or goal of theirs by any mechanism or methodology of institutional bias based on gender or race. We also all agree, I think, that statistics do not prejudge individuals.

Furthermore, everyone but one here agrees, if I'm not mistaken, with Summers' observation that it is reasonable to conjecture that there may be some genetically correlated statistical observations that can be made about some kinds of behaviour in some cases.

Using Shannon's definition of information, the interesting thing about this discussion is therefore the one exception. Why is there this exception?

Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Canada's best historic prime minister so far) once said, "Experience has established that institutions, which at the outset were useful, often end by becoming intolerable abuses owing to the simple fact that everything around them has changed [...] and they have not".

Last June, Thomas Sowell wrote, "The sad and tragic fact is that the civil rights movement, despite its honorable and courageous past, has over the years degenerated into a demagogic hustle, promoting the mindless racism they once fought against".

I think the reason for the singular exception to the norm here is its institutional relationship to (if I may paraphrase Mr. Sowell), the sad and tragic fact that the womens' rights movement, despite its honorable and courageous past, has over the years degenerated into a demagogic hustle, promoting the mindless sexism they once fought against.


The above gentrified and selective re-statement of what Summers said--and the rather obvious sidestepping of the institutional context in which he said it--is another reason one should avoid serious discussions with some folks. Thankfully, Tony appears to be a "singular exception" here.


Who is this Tony you keep referring to, Dr. Dawg? No one has commented here as Tony, or been referenced in any link as Tony.


Very well, if you would prefer not to be called by your name, that's fine by me. Get your facts straight about the SSHRCC and my long-ago association with it, and we'll call it even.


Given that you comment as Dr. Dawg, I would assume that you also wish to use the cloak of anonymity to avoid being called by your name. I respect that. But given that I know your name, and have never divulged it on the web, I consider your behaviour above to be hypocritical.

Meanwhile, if you wish to critique my long-ago associations with, say, the IEEE or the ACM, go ahead. I will address them as they arise. I will not withdraw my criticism of the agenda of the SSHRC and those who promulgate similar snake-oil.


I would have no problem with your using my real name. "Dr.Dawg" is a nom de plume, not a disguise. I use it to try to avoid taking myself too seriously. You might consider something similar.

You have no idea what the SSHRCC is, do you? For the rest of you: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is merely a government granting agency, not a cabal. It doesn't even make public or academic policy. Dirigisme is a dirty word in those quarters. No agenda; no conspiracy. Move along, nothing to see here. Ignore the long-haired fellow raving outside the building. :)


For sure, watch out for that long hair, ladies and gentlemen, just don't tell Leonardo da Vinci:


Oh, and while you're at it, you might also not want to mention it to Dimitriy Ivanovich Mendeleyev:


And don't forget, as Don Ho sings (as I believe it's sung in these parts) "The Hammock Calls", it's "merely a government granting agency". No risk there, eh what?


I’m guessing you guys have, um, history.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind patrons of the house rules. No spitting. No biting. No heavy petting. If anyone is caught dealing drugs, the house takes 20%. Scratch that. 30%.

And now some music.


Roger that. Actually, the only history is what I've read on this here intarweb thingy. Anyway, thanks for being such a gracious host, David, and for the cake and music. Vitruvius out.


I've spent all day recovering from your "heavy petting" notion. In fact I may need another day.


Sorry, David, but it seems to me that you're trying to have it both ways. You serve cake, and you act like you're trying to calm down a volatile situation, but then you crank up a song clearly meant to incite violence.

Who *are* you?

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