Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Larry Summers affair rumbles on. I won't say a man has never been so persecuted for speaking some common sense, but he certainly looks like he regrets saying anything now. I think his big mistake was to apologise as this was an admission of guilt. Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, wisely told his persecutors to take a running jump at the moon and has come out of it better.

Luckily, some brave voices are speaking out in Summers' defence. One of these is Steven Pinker, with whom I have plenty of disagreements but I have to admire him for being both clear and candid. This makes his mistakes transparent as well as his good points. Sadly, Summers' opponents won't take much notice of him as he is already branded as a mouthpiece of the right (which must be upsetting for a Democrat voting libertarian). The UK Guardian also ran a good article today by a woman scientist who is not afraid of her science.

The key question here is whether we should be aiming for equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. Almost everyone except the most diehard leftie would now say the former, but when push comes to shove, it turns out that many people have a problem with choice. It is a brute fact that more boys want to be mathematicians and scientists than girls. All the evidence points to this being part of human nature and not socialising. It is universal. It is found in the most progressive of environments. Boys actually brought up as girls display the same desires as other boys. Pretending it is not true helps no one and simply leads to unhappy people who are forced to do want they don't want to. And all this business of choice is quite apart from the fact that boys are, at the extremes, better at maths than girls anyway.

I do hope the Summers' affair will be the last stand of the diehard fascist wing of feminism who no longer have a leg to stand on. And hopefully, Harvard will continue to appoint the best people to the top jobs and ignore fatuous quotas that have no meaning in reality.

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