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Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Endless Summer

So I was driving across the Western Interior Seaway searching the AM band for some entertainment when I ran across a program called "Satellite Sisters". It was a talk show hosted by four or five real-life sisters that discussed women's issues. As I tuned in they were heatedly discussing the comments made by Harvard President Larry Summers several weeks back. In short Summer's postulated that part of the reason there are fewer tenured professors at University science departments is that there are genetic differences between men and women that lead more men to pursue science as career.

This caused quite an uproar for those who adopt the "blank slate" view of human nature and it was obvious that the Sisters didn't appreciate Mr. Summer's ruminations and were goading their guests to take shots at Summers.

When this first occurred unca pointed me to this column by George Will, my favorite line of which is:

"He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus."

However, the incident is not merely the familiar story of group think and political correctness run amok. This morning I flipped on a Sunday morning interview show and was treated to pretty much the same analysis. Interestingly, one of the guests did leave the door open by admitting that there were physical differences between how men and women used their brains (for example the activity in women's brains tends to be more diffuse while in men's it is more concentrated). Directly after that admission the guest went on pose the question that if there are physical differences, then "what can be done about it?"

What can be done about it?

Obviously, there is nothing that can be done about the physical differences. Men and women are what they are. The only action that people can take is to be clear in their thinking. It does no good to deny that group differences exist because it might lead to discrimination. Rather, we should acknowledge the differences in groups and yet understand that the generalizations cannot be applied to any single individual since there is a large overlap in group abilities.

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