Denying the Obvious

I understand why Harvard president Lawrence Summers might be confused. Speaking at a conference about "diversifying the science and engineering workforce," he thought that science might have something to do with the subject. He was wrong. The subject was why "relatively few women become scientists or engineers." Besides the obligatory nod to discrimination on the part of universities, Summers noted the differences in math test scores. While, on average, boys and girls score approximately the same, more boys than girls score in both the highest and lowest percentiles. Summers reportedly mentioned "innate" and/or "natural" differences between the sexes: the differences reflected in the test scores. That's when the fur flew. MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins told the Boston Globe that she thought that she was going to be sick. "This kind of bias" left her with no choice but to flee the room. If she had stayed, she risked "blacking out." Hopkins's hysteria is hilarious. As George Will put it, here we have someone "at the peak of the academic pyramid" overcome by the "vapors" upon hearing an "unwelcome idea." Like a "Victorian maiden," she collapsed waiting to be "revived . . . by the offending brute's contrition." What's not funny is that Hopkins and others succeeded in getting Summers to apologize for "sending an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women." What nonsense! The only "signal of discouragement" being sent in this affair was by Hopkins and the others directed at anyone who takes the pursuit of truth and free inquiry seriously. That signal was intended to enforce the idea that differences between men and women are "socially constructed." Aside from the inconvenient fact that only women can get pregnant and bear children, there's no reason that women and men shouldn't be interchangeable, whether at home or at work. Unfortunately for Hopkins and company, as John Adams once said, "facts are stubborn things . . . our wishes [and] the dictates of our passion . . . cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." As Hopkins's MIT colleague David Page told the New York Times, "the genetic difference between males and females absolutely dwarfs all other differences in the human genome." By some estimates, the genetic difference due to sex is 100 to 200 times greater than the difference due to race or ethnicity. One of the places these biological differences manifest themselves is the way in which our brains work. According to the Los Angeles Times, "men and women, on average . . . possess documented differences in certain thinking tasks . . . " Those of us who are married know this -- and are glad of it. It helps me that Patty's often more sensitive than I am. None of this means, however, that a given girl might not be a brilliant mathematician -- only that, all things being equal, mathematicians are more likely to be male than female. Ideologues like Hopkins don't care about the facts. Like the villains in C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, their goal is to re-make humanity in a more amenable image. That begins with denying the obvious and punishing those who dare to point it out -- even if his title is the "president of Harvard."


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary