January 23, 2005

Yes, Nancy Hopkins Is a Scientist -- and She Was Still Wrong

In an earlier post on the Larry Summers controversy, I wrote:

To this, the academic feminists reacted as if it were the worst of heresies. In particular, MIT professor Nancy Hopkins, who has made a good part of her career as an academic feminist, walked out and later told the press that she was nauseated by Summers's remark.

Now Blogs for Industry claims I (along with others) was being unfair:

I should also note that much of the right-wing reaction echos Jonah Goldberg's characterization of Nancy Hopkins
Hopkins made a name for herself a few years ago by whining incessantly about gender discrimination at MIT.
Sorry folks, but whether or not you liked the MIT report, this is like saying Richard Feynman made a name for himself in 1986 by whining incessantly about safety at NASA. Nancy Hopkins' work is not about gender or feminism; she studies zebrafish development, and before that she studied tumor viruses.

For the record, I didn't mean to say Prof. Hopkins wasn't a scientist, and indeed, pointed to her MIT website, which presents her zebrafish research right up front. Not being a geneticist and not having read her work, I have no opinion about its merits. For all I know, it's brilliant.

I have no objection to her disputing everything that Larry Summers said. It's the walkout and the hue and cry for an apology (as opposed to a critique or a discussion) that offended me.

One should be able to challenge academic feminist orthodoxy without walkouts and blather about nausea.

Nor have I reviewed the literature on male-female cognitive differences, which would have to be statistical and thus irrelevant, from a decision-making perspective, to the abilities or achievements of any particular student or scientist. I suspect that in the current climate there's a tendency to soft-pedal the genetic component. Evidence of inherited differences in intellectual capacity makes the politically correct extremely nervous. That research results evoke nervousness, however, does not falsify them.

Next time I need to breed zebrafish, maybe I'll give Prof. Hopkins a call.

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