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Is science sexist?

By Nicholas Stix
web posted May 2, 2005

What do feminists want? On April 14, a panel discussion was held at Manhattan's Cooper Union, an elite engineering, architecture, and art school with a tradition going back to Abe Lincoln of showcasing political speeches, entitled "Sexism and Science: Are Women Scientists Being Held Back?" The panel's title did not promise an honest debate, and it did not disappoint.

The event was inspired by MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who had stormed out of an informal talk Harvard President Lawrence Summers gave at a conference on January 14, in which Summers had cited, among possible reasons why women are a minority among tenured professors of science, math, and engineering, the fact that women's intellectual abilities, while on average identical to men's (100 IQ), are less variable than men's. Women's abilities cleave much closer to the middle of the bell curve, while men have more cases of extremely low and extremely high IQ. As Steve Sailer has observed, jobs like engineer, physicist, and mathematician require an IQ three to four standard deviations (45-60 points) above the average (100 points). The ratio of males to females at that IQ level is from over 7:1 to over 30:1.

In January, Hopkins told journalists that had she stayed, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up." Very scientific. Ever since, under ever more intense attack by feminists and their journalistic shills, Summers has backtracked, apologized profusely, and paid extortion to already privileged academic feminists, which is another way of saying that he has resolved to discriminate against qualified men.

At the Cooper Union, several of the speakers, beginning with moderator Cornelia Dean, spoke contemptuously of Summers, but he was merely a proxy for white, heterosexual, maledom. And he is deserving of contempt. As Dean observed, it is no longer clear what Summers actually believes.

The Cooper Union panel was a little late being seated. Two sources later told me that Nancy Hopkins had threatened to walk out if panelist Richard Haier, a University of California Irvine psychology professor, was not ousted. Hopkins sought to rig the panel. (This is SOP among academic leftists, who deal with opponents variously by: 1. Harassing them and having them fired; 2. Refusing to debate them; 3. Defaming them and/or lying about what they have said or written; 4. Setting up a panel that is a travesty, because it is weighted so that it is dominated by leftists; and 5. Refuting them via fraudulent "research.")

Hopkins' complaint notwithstanding, Haier avoided the evening's topic, and pandered shamelessly to the predominantly female crowd, implying that Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush are of limited intelligence, but that Hillary Clinton is a genius.

Diane Halpern, a psychology professor from Claremont-McKenna College, also avoided the issue. Haier and Halpern essentially said, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."

Joshua Aronson, an NYU professor of applied psychology, was more acceptable to Hopkins. He claimed that women outscore men on the highest level math exams, when men are kept out of the room. Thus, women scientists will apparently do fine, as long as men students, professors, and staffers are barred from interacting with them.

Aronson is a supporter of the pseudo-scientific notion of "stereotype threat," which assumes that certain groups are "vulnerable" and must be protected from white men.

At one point, Aronson betrayed that he took male sexism for granted, even though he had no proof of it, when he said that we can't ask women to "go through all this" to study math, if we aren't willing to protect them. Go through all what? Needless to say, the crowd liked Aronson.

In the main event, headliner Nancy Hopkins claimed that the number of female tenured science and engineering professors at MIT only started to rise after she complained about it ten years ago. According to her own graphic, however, the number started to rise twenty years ago. (If that should not be the case, complain to Hopkins, not me. She's the one who presented the lousy graph work.) Hopkins celebrated MIT's "reform," whereby each science department has its own female-chaired "gender equity committee."

Anyone who prizes scientific progress has to shudder at the thought of Soviet-style politburos awarding tenured professorships based on politics and sex, rather than competence. Lysenkoism II, here we come!

Hopkins never mentioned the circumstances behind MIT's "reform": As Wendy McElroy reported in 2001 (a tip of the hat to Steve Sailer), a committee "was established to investigate complaints of sex discrimination that were leveled by Hopkins herself. Yet she became the Chair, heading an investigation into her own complaints. As a result of her findings, Hopkins received -- among other benefits -- a 20 percent raise in salary, an endowed chair and increased research funds…. The only evidence of sex discrimination produced was the fact that there are more men than women in the faculty of the School for Science."

Actually, as Judith Kleinfeld, a University of Alaska/Fairbanks professor of psychology showed, after making the charges, Hopkins saw her research space tripled, received millions of dollars in additional research money, and as a result, was able to hire dozens more research assistants, and was inducted into the National Academy of the Sciences. Her research into zebrafish could not have progressed without the windfall she received, as a result of her making sexual discrimination charges, and the shameless conflict of interest she engaged in, in leading the committee that investigated her own charges.

In a puff profile by Christen Brownlee in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Brownlee wrote of Hopkins' "revolutionary work on gender equity issues in science, including many awards and more than 400 requests to speak on the topic."

Belying Brownlee's puffery, at the Cooper Union, Hopkins provided no research, no analysis and no facts, just the unquestioned assumption that if fewer than 50% of tenured science and engineering professorships are given to women, an institution is guilty of discrimination. On the other hand, she apparently has no problem with female-dominated academic departments.

Note that all Hopkins does these days is give talks on "gender equity" in the sciences, particularly at MIT, yet her talks are so lacking in scholarly research that if during my teaching days, one of my undergraduate students had handed in a paper that bad, I'd have given her a "D." And Hopkins gets fat lecture fees for her baseless rants!

But according to Christen Brownlee of the National Academy of Sciences, Hopkins has done "revolutionary work on gender equity issues." Apparently, for Brownlee, political agitation counts as scholarship. So much for Christen Brownlee, and so much for the National Academy of Sciences.

But perhaps Hopkins' committee did do the revolutionary work that Christen Brownlee and so many other people ascribe to it, conflicts-of-interest be damned, and Hopkins only got lazy with her claims and research since then.

But the 1999 report was fact-free. It was only an inquiry in the sense that the 1930s Soviet show trials were. As Judith Kleinfeld reported,

1. The senior women at MIT were judge and jury of their own complaints. The chair of the MIT committee evaluating the charge of gender discrimination was Nancy Hopkins herself, the chief complainant. Two-thirds of the committee members were other senior women in the School of Science, interested parties who would personally profit from a finding of gender discrimination, and in fact did profit, gaining increased salaries, increased research budgets, more laboratory space and other perks.

2. The MIT report presents no objective evidence whatsoever to support claims of gender discrimination in laboratory space, salary, research funds, and other resources.

3. MIT is keeping the facts secret, claiming that "confidentiality" is required on such matters as sex differences in square feet of laboratory space. Science depends on the disclosure of data on which claims are based.

4. The "universal problem" of gender discrimination trumpeted in the MIT Study boils down to the subjective perceptions of senior women (not the junior women) in only three of the six departments at MIT's School of Science. Even these perceptions—evidence of nothing but personal feelings—were not counted and measured according to accepted scientific standards in the social sciences

5. The claims by the senior women in the School of Science that, as "pioneers" in science, they are "exceptional" and "above the average MIT faculty" are unproved . An independent study by Professor James Guyot of Baruch College reveals that about the same percentage of senior MIT women (32%) and senior MIT men (34%) have been elected to membership in prestigious scientific academies. But in the MIT Biology Department, where the discrimination uproar started, the difference in scientific stature in favor of the senior men is quite large.

And as the cherry on top, Kleinfeld reported that an anonymous informant from MIT told her that even by the Hopkins committee's own pathetic, politically compromised standards, it could not found any evidence of sexual discrimination against women.

In a thorough examination of the MIT case and of Hopkins in particular, journalist Cathy Young showed that Hopkins' own personal story of the "sexual discrimination" she suffered at MIT had three different versions, none of which held water. Nancy Hopkins later decided that the truth didn't matter anyway, because her story was part of a larger truth.

Cathy Young suggested that MIT caved in so quickly, because President Charles Vest was afraid of costly litigation.

Later, a report by IWF showed that the tenured females in MIT's biology department (Hopkins' department) were, far from being victims of sexual discrimination, in fact inferior to their men colleagues.

Steve Sailer, who has owned the Summers/Hopkins story from the outset (I'm just offering some footnotes), has approached the story of fraudulent but remunerative claims of sex discrimination and the powerful feminist cronies who have arisen in the sciences and engineering, as a corruption story, the way one might expose graft at City Hall.

Sailer has the right idea. He has given several examples of feminists in the sciences and engineering who have gotten ridiculously high-paying university jobs for themselves coupled with high-paying show-no jobs for their female lovers, in one case at a school where secretaries' wages were frozen. (In at least one case, a woman nominated her lover for an award, which was duly issued to the latter.)

Specifically, if Nancy Hopkins lied about discrimination at MIT, and got control of the committee with the clear intent of shaking down the institution, which she indeed succeeded at doing, according to the law, she would be guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion.

Having taught college for six-and-half years, I realize that academia is a law-free zone, where tenured criminals and administrators wreak havoc with impunity, defrauding parents and taxpayers alike. And so, I have no illusions that any Massachusetts prosecutor will seek a criminal referral. But the law is the law. And if I were a prosecutor down Cambridge way …

To return to the Cooper Union, only the last speaker challenged the feminist dogmas of the evening. Linda Gottfredson, a professor of psychology at the University of Delaware, argued that feminists' assumption that "sex differences" are 100% explainable by reference to "socialization & bias" is not supported by the facts. She pointed out that as of 2001, women were dominating fields such as sociology (71% of all Ph.D.s), anthropology (68% of all Ph.D.s), and education (65% of all doctorates), and counseling (71% of all Ph.D.s), clinical (70% of all Ph.D.s), and experimental psychology (62% of all Ph.D.s). Gottfredson observed that more women can go into the sciences, only if they stop going into the fields they now dominate.

Gottfredson spoke of a "people-things gradient." Women tend to prefer fields dealing with "people" (whether it be medicine, anthropology, or psychology), whereas men prefer fields dealing with "things," e.g., physics and engineering.

As Judith Kleinfeld has written, even teenage girls with the highest level of mathematical ability tend to choose fields such as the law and medicine, rather than math, physics, or engineering, even to the point of resisting parental and social pressure to go into the hard sciences.

"When universities like MIT bemoan the lack of women faculty in the School of Science and attribute this situation to gender discrimination, they are ignoring women's own preferences and choices."

During the Q&A period at the Cooper Union, I asked Hopkins if the charges against her of conflict of interest were true. Instead of answering, she launched into ad hominem attacks against her critics, disparaging Judith Kleinfeld and the Independent Women's Forum as "right-wingers," as if that were a refutation of their charges.

Hopkins wouldn't stop dissembling, so I had to cut in and say, "So, the answer is ‘yes.'" She never did give me a straight answer.

Moderator Cornelia Dean, a former New York Times science editor, jumped in and saved Hopkins, perversely twisting my words to insinuate that in mentioning Hopkins' conflict of interest, I was denying ANY woman the right to chair a committee investigating charges of sexual discrimination, and ordering me to take a seat.

(Unlike Nancy Hopkins, Judith Kleinfeld actually provides research, facts, and analysis for her claims. Indeed, it is bad enough that a fraud and political hack like Nancy Hopkins should get away with politically disparaging a Judith Kleinfeld, but it is particularly despicable, given that in 1992, as Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate detailed in The Shadow University, Kleinfeld endured a leftwing political witch hunt at the University of Alaska, which sought to cost her her job.)

Finally, Gottfredson asked, "Why do we need equal proportions of men and women in every profession?" Hopkins responded, "Now, I don't care how many there are" at the top level of mathematics, contradicting what Hopkins had already said, and indeed, what she has been saying for years. Gottfredson followed by asking her, "When would you be happy?" but Hopkins continued with her evasions.

Note that Linda Gottfredson is not only one of the most brilliant social scientists working in America today, but one of the most heroic figures of the postwar American university, who in 1990 was targeted by a leftwing witch hunt at the University of Delaware. The campaign targeted as well Gottfredson's junior associate, Jan Blits, but Gottfredson was the main target, because it was she that got the research money for herself and Blits.

Gottfredson and Blits fought back, sued in federal court, and though it took two-and-a-half years, they prevailed. Their story is also told, along with many others, in The Shadow University. Had Gottfredson and Blits been lefties, they would by now be national celebrities, the way Nancy Hopkins is.

On April 14, I learned a thing or two at the Cooper Union about sexism, but it wasn't the lesson Nancy Hopkins or Cornelia Dean had intended.

Nicholas Stix can be reached at Add1dda@aol.com.

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