To support his lie that women are constantly discriminated against in science (in the comments, Mark S. has explained that the pendulum has swung to the opposite side), he started with the following story:
One day in grad school, a couple of friends and I were sitting at a table in a hallway in the astronomy building, working on a problem set. The professor who had assigned the problems walked by and noticed what we were doing — which was fine, working together was encouraged. But then he commented, “Hey, I’m confused — you’re all smart guys, so how come the girls have been scoring better than you on the problem sets?” Out loud we mumbled something noncommittal, but I remember thinking, “Maybe they are … also smart?”So the most terrible example of discrimination against women that Carroll could have found in his career was a 20-year-old story about a professor who expected a bunch of guys to have a higher score in a test than girls?
This professor was a good-hearted guy, who would have been appalled and defensive at the suggestion that his wry remark perhaps reflected a degree of unconscious bias.
I think this complaint is insane at least at six different levels. It's just a complete lunacy to suggest that there was something wrong about the comment by the instructor.
Let me list some of the reasons why this makes me breathless:
- The story took place 20 years ago. Even if there were something bad about the story, the time stamp suggests that the frequency of such events is extremely tiny.
- The actual message from the instructor was that he was disappointed that guys whom he considered bright didn't end up so good in a test. In particular, Carroll wasn't as good a student, postdoc, or physicist as some people could have hoped for.
- If Carroll loudly said that "Maybe they are also smart", it would have been a lame excuse of the disappointment, a method to blame his personal failure on some ideology and related social discussions.
- There is no evidence that other instructors in other courses haven't used the exact mirror image for girls. Many people could have said: "Girls, I thought that you were the best ones. How it's possible that the boys had a higher score?" The funny thing is that those exact mirror symmetric situations were not picked, and even if they were, they would still be used as a proof of discrimination against women despite their being exact mirror images! The instructor saying "girls..." would surely be accused of giving the girls worse grades than they deserved and then laughing at them.
- There were no girls who actually heard it so their psychology couldn't have been affected.
- Even if they had heard such things, you know, people's skills are being compared often, regardless of their sex. Being described as an underdog may disappoint you but it may also motivate you. So even if the girls have heard it, even if the comment were important, and even if the comment were an unfair appraisal of the students' apparent talents, it would be a neutral event for the average student's future.
Multiply this example by a million, and you get an idea of what it’s like to be a woman trying to succeed in science in a modern university.If there are "millions" of similar things, why Carroll needed to pick an event that took place 20 years ago? This surely suggests that only O(1) of such events in each person's life are taking place, so the total number of such events in the astro/cosmological community is only of order one thousand, not one million.
Not necessarily blatant abuse or discrimination, of the sort faced by Marie Curie or Emmy Noether, but a constant stream of reminders that many of your colleagues think you might not be good enough, ...What about the idea that people have the right – and they also often have very good reasons – to think that some students are just not as good as others? Sometimes the apparent frontrunners in physics may be female, more often, they are male. You know, even in the "mostly male" community of physical science graduate students, the average male student is smarter. There are two main reasons.
One of them is that the graduate schools pick the people "above a certain threshold" but boys, because their IQ distribution is 10% wider than it is for girls (and the male distributions are wider for many other quantities as well!), have a higher conditional probability to be significantly above the threshold. So not only the percentage of girls will be well below 50%; even those who get in will have lower skills in average. The percentage of girls in the grad schools may be just "reasonably" below 50%, something like 10%, but the percentage among the Nobel prize winners etc. is and will be smaller approximately by an additional order of magnitude.
Second, and this is unfortunately an increasingly important factor, girls are being helped in the admission process so they're only expected to surpass a lower threshold.
These two facts combine and create the reality. At almost all graduate schools with a large enough, statistically reliable number of students, the average skills of the male student exceed those of the average female student. This doesn't mean that this fact should be generalized and shape the instructors' opinions about every single student. It shouldn't. But it is a fact that is likely to be manifest whenever you evaluate large enough groups of people and the "planning" or macroscopic evaluation of whole communities must be compatible with this fact.
And quite obviously, because of the "two thresholds" issue, the more affirmative action you will have, the greater the difference will be.
...that what counts as “confident” for someone else qualifies as “aggressive” or “bitchy” when it comes from you, that your successes are unexpected surprises rather than natural consequences of your talent.This is just nonsense.
Let me pick the song Bitch in Business, a feminist parody of "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor. The parody tries to make the exact same point as Carroll. When women (managers in this case) are doing their work as well as men, they end up being bitches while the men are widely praised as confident men, we're told.
Except that the woman in the video clearly is a bitch, and her very exact male counterpart would probably be called a jerk. The men who have achieved great things in business were often peaceful if not shy, warm if not nurturing, Gentleman, and even those who were not, were tough for good reasons, in a way that was needed or effective. Being a simple bitch just can't replace those real business skills, skills that are much finer and more diverse than just self-confidence.
There exists absolutely no evidence that the negative labels like "bitch" attached to women in business or science are giving them a harder time than the equivalents such as the "jerk" do to the men.
In the next paragraph, Carroll tries to label Geoff Marcy as a criminal of a sort and we learn about some cases of professors who were de facto eliminated for related reasons. The speech by Jackie Speier, a feminist Congressbitch, has revealed that she wants to turn all girls and women in physical sciences to snitches and send all of feminism-incompatible males in science to Gulags.
(I am sure that I would have faced institutional problems just for pointing out that she was a Congressbitch if I were still in the U.S. Academia. The degree of the institutionalized terror against non-feminists is probably more brutal in the U.S. than the harassment of non-communists was in the communist Czechoslovakia.)
Carroll's first "absolute crime" at the beginning was a 20-year-old quote by an instructor who expected some boys to be at the top of their class but they were not. Speier's "main example of crime" is about Timothy Slater, an astronomer, who did his most terrifying crimes before 2004. So in this case, it's more than 10 years ago.
What did Slater do? He did things
...such as gifting a student a cucumber-shaped vibrator, going to strip clubs for lunch, and openly commenting on women’s bodies.A cucumber vibrator gift is a prank that many people including myself consider too sensitive and stupid. But it is not a crime, it is a silly joke (as the most upvoted comment under Speier's video says as well). Before the left-wing authoritarians restrained our society in so many ways, people were doing similar jokes all the time. Some of them were viewed as legendary, others didn't end up being so good.
Does anyone believe that the suspension of a tenured professor is an appropriate reaction to a cucumber-shaped gift?
Going to strip clubs is bad? They're just legal. Richard Feynman frequented strip clubs where he spent many hours a day. And he wasn't just looking. He slept with numerous female employees – and with female students, too. It was said to have contributed to his productivity. Or was Slater a criminal because he went to strip clubs during the lunchtime? Why does it matter? He is allowed to spend the lunchtime outside his office.
Commenting on women's bodies? I think that I mostly don't do such things but people do. Sometimes it's fun. When I was examined from undergraduate electromagnetism, a female classmate came before me. She got a "3", basically a "C" (she had just decided to specialize in meteorology). When I came to the office, the instructor – soon to become the dean of my Alma Mater – said: "She has nice legs, doesn't she?" – "Yes, but you gave her a C," I replied – "Well, I did, but that wasn't for her legs!" ;-) The instructor has preemptively rejected a possibly intriguing causal relationship.
It was absolutely fair, sort of funny, but it was still a comment on her body. And she was reasonably pleased by the compliment when I told her. I don't think that it would have been possible for someone to complain about such things back in the mid 1990s. After all, a faculty member I was (even) much closer professionally and otherwise to than to the electromagnetism instructor knew this particular classmate's parts that were much more intimate than just legs. They got married at about the same time. I think that the idea that romantic relationships of this kind should be banned is like an idea imported from the Muslim world. It's just not something that should have a chance in the Western civilization.
Carroll's rant quickly mentions several other stories about professors who were charged of big crimes by the feminist police.
Christian Ott, a young big shot Caltech astrophysics tenured professor, was fired after two female students claimed that he "fired" one of her after she refused him as a romantic partner. Now, the literal word "fired" can't be right because an individual professor can't really "fire" grad students at Caltech. But OK, let's assume that he greatly contributed to that. It's not how the fate of students etc. should be decided in the ideal world, I think.
On the other hand, I do think that people like him should have the freedom to choose and fire his subordinates in ways that these people consider optimized. If a girl who has rejected them is a problem – and it's not hard to imagine that it could be – they should have the right to arrange things differently. If this hiring and firing strategy makes their output disappear, they will suffer for that. But if they manage to keep their contributions to science high even with these arrangements, I don't see anything wrong about it. People should try to be happy and to cooperate with someone who reminds them of their broken heart may be a problem. And yes, I think that it's the local truly competent professors like Ott who should actually make many of these hiring, firing, and grading decisions (much like owners or managers or private companies), not people like the Congressbitch above.
I am in no way praising Ott's reactions to his broken heart, whatever they exactly were (because of quite some experience, I don't think that we're told the full truth), and I don't even think that a cucumber vibrator is too funny a gift (although it would probably make me laugh for a while, anyway, and I would bet that the gift was more useful, pleasing, and practical than we're told). But what I do find much more important is that the actual, competent (and often stellar) scientists maintain their basic freedoms – which includes the freedom to do research, freedom to frequent strip clubs, freedom of speech, freedom to fall in love, freedom to get married, freedom to fire and hire if they have the corresponding positions etc. – and that the politicians or ideologically-driven committees of brown shirts similar to Sean Carroll won't take all these rights and duties from them.
Science just can't work like that. Slater, Ott, and Marcy could have done some controversial but legal things partly inspired by their sexual interests. But they have also greatly contributed to science. Congressbitch Jackie Speier hasn't tangibly contributed anything to any field, and neither have the female students whom she wants to hire as snitches expected to poison the atmosphere in all the physics and astro departments. Scientists are employed to do science and increase the human knowledge, and to have enough fun while doing so which is needed for them to remain happy and active. They are not hired with the purpose of serving as role models for pathological political ideologies such as feminism or helping to maintain the absurd superstitions about women's being equally good physicists in average and similar silly stuff like that. Some people may believe that the two sexes are equally good at mathematics or physics – just like some people may believe in Allah – but there can't be any duty for the physicists and astronomers to be a part of these two (or other) religious cults.
In the recent decade or two, the influence of similar Congressbitches and their allies, usually 3rd and 4th class scholars, has dramatically strengthened in the Academia. Their further expansion already existentially threatens science and the progress in the whole Western society.
P.S. In the Preposterous Universe comments, Mark S. talks about studies that show that it's the men and not women who are facing additional hurdles these days. The pendulum has swung to the other side.
There are some feminist comments, however. Melanie offers her two own horror stories. The first one:
When I was an undergraduate, on my way to first day of quantum mechanics class, I was riding up in the elevator with the professor and several (male) students. The professor kindly informed us that this would be the class that “separated the men from the boys.”This is a real tragedy. This "separation of the men from the boys" is an old saying – I've heard similar things many times, too. Melanie, you surely don't want to ban such proverbs just because we have girls in physics these days, do you? An intelligent female student knows that:
- She can always ignore such comments if she wishes, they are basically inconsequential.
- The words "men" and "boys" are used because they are concise and sound clear but to some (very large) extent, they apply almost equally to girls as well, and it's obvious that the class may separate girls from the adult women, too, and an intelligent college student should be able to construct this female version of the sentence by herself.
- There actually are differences between the girls' and boys' puberty. The girls' puberty takes place earlier. The boys' puberty takes place later and is changing the boys in physical respects (just like for girls) but also spiritual respects that are arguably deeper than for girls.
Concerning this Argentinian paradise where men and women are already 50-50, it's interesting that if you Google search for Argentinian physicists, you get a list of pictures of Maldacena, Bunge, Balseiro, Sabato, Paz, Pullin, Virasoro, Navarro, Gaviolla, Gaede, Hartmann, Carena, Robba, and Alignasse, and only Carena is female!
So the idea that physics is not mostly a business of males in Argentina is clearly a silly fairy-tale. You must know that Melanie, right? And in particular, you know that Juan is a boy's name, don't you? Well, if you don't, let me teach you: Juan is an El Niño. Hey chico, are you ready? ;-) A catchy song.
The commenter named "ks" (and later, Phillip Helbig as well) criticized Carroll's text as follows:
What does “too cutthroat” have to do with harassment and gender bias? Mixing the two in the same article gives the (presumably unintended) impression that the field needs to be less cutthroat so that women can compete. Being too cutthroat is a separate problem, but men and women are both equally capable of dealing with that problem.Right. This shows the hypocrisy of Carroll's stories. On one hand, he deplores everyone who believes that girls are different or worse in some particular skills. On the other hand, he equates cutting of the throat with male-only skills. So which way it goes, Mr Carroll? As I said, while the aggressiveness may sometimes be helpful, it's far from being the main or only relevant skill. But in average, men are better in that skill and this is a part of their advantage, too.
I agree with almost everything you’ve said. There is no reason for harassment to continue and quite simply it’s a problem with us males (almost always – the exceptions are too rare to bother considering).If from your viewpoint, there's a problem with your being a male, why don't you undergo chemical castration like Scott Aaronson?
I do however quibble with thisOh, I see, you already have. You know, people and teams cooperate and the whole science has some spirit of cooperation because people ultimately build the same "structure" that sort of belongs to the whole mankind. But just like in the industry and the commercial sector, this process simply couldn't work without the competitiveness.
“Academia will always necessarily be, in some sense, competitive”
It’s just not true. It is also unsurprisingly a very masculine approach. Science is best when it is collaborative.
In one of his numerous comments, Phillip Helbig calls for a public list of subpar female researchers who only got their job because of their achieved husbands.