Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Women who make the world worse (and the men who do what they say) got the best of Larry Summers

By Charlotte Allen

After years of battling with Harvard's notoriously hard-left arts-and-sciences faculty, Lawrence H. Summers has admitted defeat. He was forced out of his position as president of Harvard University despite overwhelming support from the faculty at other Harvard schools, as well as from the university's undergraduate students and alumni.

His tenure has been tumultuous, to say the least. But in the end, it was not his criticisms of divestment from Israel, nor his clash with African-American studies professor Cornel West, nor his supposedly heavy-handed involvement in Harvard’s curricular review, that cost him his job. Rather, Summers’s fatal misstep was to question feminist orthodoxies. He dared to speculate that the reason why there are so few women who are top scientists and engineers might have something to do with innate gender differences. The speculation enraged liberal professors (it made MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins feel “physically ill”), and they staged a coup d'état — well, actually, they simply clarified who exactly is in charge at Harvard.

The Washington Post editorialized that Summers's defeat might "demoralize" other outspoken academics who, like Summers, dare to challenge the reigning orthodoxies of political correctness. Apparently, even mentioning doubts (not defending them, mind you) about whether men and women are exactly identical except for a few superficial reproductive differences will not be tolerated. Are there few women Nobel laureates in physics? It must be due strictly to sex discrimination and pervasive societal misogyny. The editors of the Post need not have used the potential mood. The demoralization, and the silencing, has already set in.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.K. "Telegraph" revealed that the prestigious journal "Science" had, just before press time, decided not to publish an essay it had earlier accepted by a molecular biologist and Royal Society fellow Peter A. Lawrence. The essay made exactly the same assertions that Summers had gotten into trouble for making last year. Lawrence, a researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, argued that the reason only 10 percent of the world's professional biologists are women even though women make up 60 percent of undergraduate biology majors might have something to do with, well, biology. Like the other Lawrence, this Lawrence had plenty of well-documented scientific research about male-female brain differences and differences in testing outcomes with which to back up his conclusions — research that he said his fellow scientists assiduously ignore because they don't want to run afoul of the feminist Gestapo. Fortunately, the "Public Library of Science", an online journal, picked up Lawrence’s article, which reads, in part, as follows:

you say, for example, that women are on average more understanding of others, this can be interpreted as misogyny in disguise. If you state that boys on average are much more likely than girls to become computer nerds, people may react as if you plan to ban all women from the trading rooms of merchant banks. The Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen published research on the ‘male brain’ in a specialist journal in 1997, but did not dare to talk about his ideas in public for several years....One reason for this absurd taboo is that we cannot think objectively because our minds are full of wayward beliefs and delusions — ‘ghosts’....And one of these ghosts is the dogma that all groups of people, such as men and women, are on average the same, and any genetic distinctions must not be countenanced.

“Classifying individuals in general terms, he concludes that among men, about 60% have a male brain, 20% have a balanced brain, and 20% have a female brain. Women show the inverse figures, with some 60% having a female brain. Many facts...have their roots in biology and genetics. Here are some examples. First, it is hardly necessary to point out that distinguishing between the contributions of nature and nurture to animal or human behaviour has proved difficult. However, newborn infants (less than 24 hours old) have been shown a real human face and a mobile of the same size and similar colour. On average, boys looked longer at the mobile and girls looked longer at the face....Second, such differences at birth must have developed earlier. One factor is the level of testosterone in the developing brain around three months of gestation, which is higher in males (due to the hormone being produced by the foetus itself). Many studies show that testosterone affects development and behaviour, not only in humans, but also in other mammals. Testosterone sponsors development of the male phenotype, and can influence behaviour even of animals of the same sex. For example, giving older men testosterone specifically improves their ability with those spatial tests on which males normally score higher than females.”

Lawrence pointed out that autism, for example — an almost exclusively male phenomenon — is an extreme example of a trait, possibly linked to testosterone, which fosters obsessive focus on the minutia of inanimate objects. Mild autism actually pays off in many branches of science, such as those which require classifying hundreds of thousands of species of beetles. These scientific fields tend to be male-dominated.

Lawrence’s article advised biologists to change their criteria for handing out grants and promotions to accommodate male-female differences, so that women’s superior “people” skills, which, for instance, may make them better project managers, would be rewarded along with the aggression and obsessive focus of men, which, for instance, may make them better bench scientists and salesmen. But that wasn't good enough for the editors of Science. They faulted Lawrence for not having taken the further step of suggesting ways to restructure the biology profession to ensure an equal number of men and women — presumably via gender quotas.

Naturally, among the first to complain about Lawrence's essay was Nancy Hopkins. According to the Telegraph, she accused Lawrence of “mashing together true genetic differences between men and women with old- fashioned stereotypes. In so doing, he perpetuates the very problem he is trying to address about why so few women get to the top in science.”

Too bad "Science" wasn’t so stringent in its standards when it decided to publish the phony cloned-embryo research of now-disgraced South Korean biologist Hwang Woo-Suk, along with many a cheerleading pro-cloning editorial. It all bespeaks an ominous trend — a trend that has let politics get in the way of science and has made it commonplace for militant feminists to cow, sanction, and silence those who dare to question the tenets of their ideology.


Laurie Pycroft is 16, taking a year off before his A levels to brood over his computer. He brooded well. He has a long-held interest in science, and as a small child lost a grandfather whose life had been prolonged by medical advance. Laurie lives near Oxford, and became aware of the “animal rights” campaign of intimidation against the building of a new research centre. So he decided to do something about it.

On Saturday — Glory be! — the boy’s “Pro-Test” initiative brought a large demonstration, including grateful scientists, on to the streets of Oxford with a plain message: that limited and regulated animal testing is unfortunately still necessary, and that a small number of vicious and unbalanced terrorists may not overturn the law of the land.

He is brave. Braver than the suppliers that broke off relationships with Huntingdon Life Sciences, braver than the New York Stock Exchange that was frightened to float it, braver than numerous construction companies, the Crown Prosecution Service and the whole of Cambridge University. You may say that a 16-year-old has less to lose, but he does have life: Laurie has already had threatening e-mails, one saying: “We are going to kill you, you evil, evil scumbag.” This is not a pleasant feeling, but it may be a small consolation to the Pycroft family that you don’t actually need to stick your neck out as far as Laurie in order to have these creeps threaten you. To take a minor personal example: I have never hunted, shot or fished, I have opposed the testing of cosmetics on animals, and I rant against chicken batteries and sow-crates. But the moment I opined that the hunting Bill was a spiteful waste of parliamentary time, my address turned up on a web list of “bloodsport scum” with the message: “These people are not immortal and their homes are not fireproof.”

Rhetoric, maybe: but scientists’ children have picked up letter bombs on the mat, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences was clubbed with a pickaxe handle, and nobody has returned the corpse of an elderly woman dug up from her grave because her family bred guinea-pigs — even when they stopped. Ten minutes on any animal-Nazi website yields boasts of tyre-slashing, paintstripper attacks, nocturnal arson and the latest infantile tactic of sending letters to neighbours of people “connected” with animal testing, claiming that they are paedophiles.

The “connection” may be very tenuous, because all fascist movements like to spread fear widely. Concerning the Oxford research centre, they first named as legitimate targets any employees (and their relatives) of any building firm doing any work at all for the university. For a small builder in Oxford this could spell ruin. Next, the bullies sent out 100 letters to companies that donated to the university, saying that if they did it again: “You will have your offices trashed and the homes of your directors, employees and trustees attacked . . . your details will be sent over the internet to other animal rights activists.” This, they smugly claim, led to several companies withdrawing support; they add: “Any company who has not made (such) an announcement can now expect full attention from the Animal Liberation Front. It’s not going to be pretty.” Finally they announced that all students and staff of the university are targets. No doubt there will shortly be threats against Oxford Marmalade.

These people are not “activists” or even “extremists” as mealy-mouthed news bulletins like to put it. They are terrorists. Death threats and physical attack are their prime arguments. They are, in some ways, more horrifying than the Abu Hamzas who threaten all unbelievers and offer no escape: animal thugs prefer to make their threats individual, in order to cow individuals into silent compliance. Their attack is not on cruelty to animals but on free speech, free thought, freedom from fear. They assume that their limited view of what is right excuses them from giving the slightest respect to law, democracy, or common humanity. A stupid woman questioned by the BBC said that any attack was fine because: “These are like, evil people, yeah?” Nicolas Atwood, unmasked last week as the manager of a website run from Florida that passes on calls to criminal action, drivelled that “ the academics set themselves up and I agree with protest . . . I am not going to say what form the protests should take”. So Atwood’s a coward as well as a thug, is he? His website does, in fact, pass on very practical and violent incitement. The Americans, by the way, roll up their eyes, cite the First Amendment and say they can’t do anything. This from the nation that brought you Guantanamo.

Notice that I say little about animal testing itself. There is plenty of material to help you to decide: in a nutshell, my view is that there has been laudable progress since the 1970s, that welfare and pain avoidance are much improved, and that with luck future advances will make it redundant. Meanwhile, honest scientists working for human (and animal) welfare say we still need it. It is also relevant to note that if research centres get driven abroad to less scrupulous and less craven countries, more animal suffering will undoubtedly result.

But Saturday’s splendid show of faith on the streets of Oxford was as much against thuggery as it was in favour of science. Several demonstrators said that they were personally opposed to biomedical research, but even more opposed to intimidation. Saturday was a massive “How dare you!”, a blow for freedom and a blast against bigotry. We need more of these, to give our wet authorities courage to act more resolutely against those who glorify and incite this particular violence. It may be a turning point, the beginning of the end for a filthy minority who have gone beyond love of animals into love of violent power. It took a kid to show the way. Honour him.


Christians singled out, says Australian Senator: "Christians are seen as fair game when it comes to poking fun at religious icons, while Jews and Muslims are seemingly off-limits, Family First senator Steve Fielding said on Sunday. The Victorian senator has called for the Federal Government to ban an episode of US cartoon South Park titled "Bloody Mary" for its depiction of the Virgin Mary menstruating. SBS Television has decided to "defer" the airing of the controversial episode, because of the "current worldwide controversy over cartoons of religious figures". Overseas riots in reaction to newspapers publishing satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed led to the death of nearly 30 people. "How come Christians are such easy targets? How come it's okay to make fun of symbols at the heart of Christianity, such as the Crucifix or the Virgin Mary, but people seem to think twice before having a go at the Star of David or the Koran?" Senator Fielding said.

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