[Paleopsych] NYT: Women in Science: Voices in the Debate (4 Letters)

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Fri Jan 28 16:07:19 UTC 2005

Women in Science: Voices in the Debate (4 Letters)
January 28, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Re "Lawrence Summers, Provocateur," by James Traub (Week in Review,
    Jan. 23):

    The question is not whether Lawrence H. Summers, the president of
    Harvard, offended people with his remarks about the possible innate
    scientific abilities (or rather, disabilities) of women, but whether
    the studies he cited in his remarks have any validity.

    I would like to see the evidence he alluded to, and would be happy to
    hear statisticians and other scientists debate the question in an open
    forum. This is not a matter of politics or offense; it is a matter of
    a search for truth, which is the task of any great university.

    Harvard's motto is "Veritas." It would be good to see the university's
    president pay more attention to that in his "provocative" statements.
    To transform his approximate declarations into a fight against the
    "pieties of academic culture," as Mr. Traub does, and to suggest that
    he is a Socratic "gadfly" courageously shaking up current orthodoxies,
    is to trivialize the meaning and the responsibilities of scholarship.

    Susan Rubin Suleiman
    Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 23, 2005
    The writer is professor of the civilization of France and of
    comparative literature, Harvard University.

    To the Editor:

    Regarding Lawrence H. Summers's remarks on the underrepresentation of
    women in mathematics and science, the real news is that despite
    cultural barriers, women are entering these fields in greater and
    greater numbers.

    About a third of all United States citizens who have received Ph.D.'s
    in mathematics recently are women. About half of all undergraduate
    mathematics degrees in the United States go to women.

    Yes, there is still a shortage of women on the mathematics and
    sciences faculties of many American universities, including Harvard.
    So universities should hire more of these excellent women and then
    treat them as if they value them.

    We call on Lawrence Summers, as well as the leaders of all educational
    institutions, to take positive action to encourage the influx of women
    and minorities into mathematics, science and engineering.

    Carolyn Gordon
    Hanover, N.H., Jan. 22, 2005
    The writer, a professor of mathematics at Dartmouth College, is
    president of the Association for Women in Mathematics.

    To the Editor:

    Re "Gray Matter and the Sexes: Still a Scientific Gray Area" (front
    page, Jan. 24):

    I am one of those women who excelled in math, chemistry and physics in
    school and who scored highly on the math SAT's yet chose not to pursue
    a career in those fields. The reason? I wanted a profession involving
    frequent daily contact with others rather than solitary time in the

    I wonder if women in general prefer careers that involve building and
    nurturing interpersonal relationships while men might more frequently
    prefer to work alone. This type of biological difference could explain
    the scarcity of women physicists and engineers without resorting to
    the argument that women are inherently less able in the sciences.

    Working conditions, and not just ability, greatly affect a choice of

    Helen M. Jacoby, M.D.
    Syracuse, Jan. 24, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Re "Sex Ed at Harvard," by Charles Murray (Op-Ed, Jan. 23):

    The fact is that 99.9 percent of American men lack the skills to be
    top-flight scientists at major research universities. So, too, do 99.9
    percent of American women.

    It seems absurd, then, to attribute the sex imbalance among science
    faculties to innate differences between men and women.

    If the vast majority of men are not gifted at mathematics, what do we
    gain by arguing that mathematical skill is a male trait?

    Human beings with the aptitude to become physics professors at Harvard
    are extremely rare, and they are not representative of men or women in
    any meaningful way. That most of those professors are men is a product
    of how we have organized ourselves as a society, not a product of

    Seth Rockman
    Providence, R.I., Jan. 23, 2005

More information about the paleopsych mailing list