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February 21, 2006



Actually, he also listed (3) discrimination as a reason for the disparity.

Far from being dubious, Summers' claims are well-documented by scientific inquiries. See Stephen Pinker's "The Blank Slate" for a summary. During the brou-ha-ha, Pinker defended Summers' statements for their truth-value, while his critics just kept repeating that his words were "dubious" "beyond the pale" and "hurtful."

As far as your points about the cognitive disparities documented matching up neatly to departments - both Summers and Pinker address this point, and only claim that the more the particular type of cognitive ability posited (such as spatial ability) as different is drawn upon in a given department, the greater difference you will find. Therefore, it is unsuprising that women earning Phds in the top departments in physical sciences such as physical biology (a very non-spatial enterprise) are approx 50-50 with men, but in astro-physics (a very spatial enterprise) women make up a very small percentage of the Phds.

The more disturbing notion is that a president of a university should be silenced for offering a theory about men/women (a theory already published by one of Harvard's professors, nonetheless.) It is quite a shame that Summers did not stand his ground against all the people "made ill" by his comments. Political Power 1, Pursuit of Truth 0.


Yes, he did also mention discrimination. But he also made clear that he believed it did less explanatory work than factors (1) and (2).

not a harvard grad

His comments are here:


His intro paragraph was:

"There are three broad hypotheses about the sources of the very substantial disparities that this conference's papers document and have been documented before with respect to the presence of women in high-end scientific professions. One is what I would call the-I'll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described."


what of the points made by John Tierney on Sat in the NYTimes and by other observers? Is the Summers firing less about his gender comments and more about the dangers of challenging entrenched faculty on the matter of how they fulfill their obligations to the university?


and I should say resignation instead of "firing"


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