Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Friday, February 18, 2005

Lawrence Summers; or, They Put Lucifer in Charge at Harvard

If I were a doctor, I would be a surgeon. The way my mind works, I want to actually see a problem, physically manipulate it solve that problem, and be done with it, so I would rather open up someone's chest and stitch up a hole than give them drugs and monitor subjective statements of reactions over the next several months.

Even pharmacology, however, is closely connected with objectively-verifiable, tangible results, it just works on a microscopic level. So I would rather do pharm than psych. Psych is to pharm as pharm is to surgery - to an even greater degree, you have to diagnose the problem and track and efforts to fix it based on subjective interpretations and little hard, tangible evidence.

With that in mind, I find the Lawrence Summers saga very disturbing. In case you haven't heard, the Harvard Dean speculated out loud that maybe there are more men in hard sciences because men are more naturally attuned to hard science. Unsurprisingly, the PC world freaked out, and is still freaking out, according to this CNN report, in spite of a series of apologies (no apologies from Ward Churchill, however. The blogosphere reaction (from what I've seen) has been predictable - one half thinks Summers needs to be skinned alive and thrown into the ocean, another half complains about PC thugs run amok. VodkaPundit has two indispensable quotes from George Will, the latter showing a female professor getting offended by the gender stereotype, and reacting in perfect alignment with a gender stereotype:

"MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins. . . 'felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow.' And, 'I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill.' She said that if she had not bolted from the room, 'I would've either blacked out or thrown up.'"

You're a credit to womanhood, Dr. Hopkins.

And Cokie and Steven Roberts wrote a column, outraged by Summers' stereotyping, that apparently sought to express outrage at the stereotype by claiming - that girls are smarter than boys? An odd approach, to be sure.

I started this post off by discussing the fine points of surgery versus pharmacology. On a very macroscopic and obvious level, men are different from women. If you haven't figured that out for yourself, I'm sure there are plenty of anatomy text books or adult web sites that can help you out. No one can deny these differences, and no one really does.

We are different on a microscopic level as well. When I was in elementary human anatomy class in undergrad, I preferred the gross anatomy portion much more than the microscopic stuff, including the hormone stuff. Gross anatomy is tangible, real, immediate. You can see for yourself if the femur isn't working properly because it's broken in half, and you can see for yourself why muscle A has to insert at a given point on bone B. At the hormonal level, you can't see any of it. It can be objectively verified that men and women, at the microscopic level, are different (ovaries simply don't do what testicles do - that should be clear enough).

Now the open question is whether our psychological anatomy is different, as well. It's not really a field that interests me, for the reasons I stated at the beginning. Psychological anatomy can't be determined through dissection and cataloguing, and a microscope and slides won't help you. Any documentation, like diagnosing psychological problems, must be done through painstaking evaluation of subjective statements over a long period of time.

And as Lawrence Summers just demonstrated, no one is allowed to do that.

The very idea that I might be psychologically different from a woman is anathema to the Academy. "Gender is a cultural construct!" is the mantra, and woe to the man who dares defy it. Obviously gender isn't a cultural construct on the macroscopic level; obviously it's not a cultural construct on the microscopic or hormonal level. So the mantra must refer to the psychological level - and no one is allowed to even ask questions about that level. Assertions are fine, as Cokie and Steven Roberts demonstrate, so long as the assertions line up on the correct side of American politics. But since when is respectable science based on nothing more than assertion?

I'm not trying to evaluate the substance of what Summers said. Maybe it's true, and maybe it isn't true, that men are better than women at hard sciences. I haven't read the sociology, and I don't care to read it, and I don't have the training to evaluate the sociology if I did read it. But I find it eminently objectionable that leftist dogma forbids those who are interested from questioning feminist holy writ.