Thursday, January 27, 2005


Academics, Hysteria, and The Indignation Industry

Larry Summers, the president of Harvard recently managed to say something that made the PC crowd once again show their colors. George Wills noted it, and gives us some choice tidbits about it:

WASHINGTON -- Forgive Larry Summers. He did not know where he was.
Addressing a conference on the supposedly insufficient numbers of women in tenured positions in university science departments, he suggested that perhaps part of the explanation might be innate -- genetically based -- gender differences in cognition. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.

He was at Harvard, where he is president. Since then he has become a serial apologizer and accomplished groveler. Soon he may be in a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp somewhere in New England, relearning this: In today's academy, no social solecism is as unforgivable as the expression of a hypothesis that offends someone's "progressive" sensibilities.

Someone like MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, the hysteric (see above) who, hearing Summers, "felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill." She said that if she had not bolted from the room, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

Is this the fruit of feminism? A woman at the peak of the academic pyramid becomes theatrically flurried by an unwelcome idea and, like a Victorian maiden exposed to male coarseness, suffers the vapors and collapses on the drawing room carpet in a heap of crinolines until revived by smelling salts and the offending brute's contrition.

Hopkins' sufferings, although severe, were not incapacitating: She somehow found strength quickly to share them with The Boston Globe and the "Today" show, on which she confided that she just did not know whether she could bear to have lunch with Summers. But even while reeling from the onslaught of Summers' thought, she retained a flair for meretriciousness: She charged that Summers had said "that 50 percent" of "the brightest minds in America" do not have "the right aptitude" for science.

Men and women have genetically based physical differences; the brain is a physical thing -- part of the body. Is it unthinkable -- is it even counterintuitive -- that this might help explain, for example, the familiar fact that more men than women achieve the very highest scores in mathematics aptitude tests? There is a vast and growing scientific literature on possible gender differences in cognition. Only hysterics denounce interest in those possible differences -- or, in Hopkins' case, the mere mention of them -- as "bias."

Hopkins' hysteria was a sample of America's campus-based indignation industry, which churns out operatic reactions to imagined slights.

There is truth to this. The reaction becomes, "If I don't agree with you, I am not going to have rational discourse, because that doesn't make me feel good (or whatever the motivation is). I am going to throw a fit, and if I can, I will smash you."

O Academia, how far you have fallen! They have turned the temple of the muses into a cross between indocrination center for the leftist religion, a training camp for left wing brownshirt tactics, and a hairpulling center for the indignation industry.

Fair thee well, ivy covered halls of my youth - thy promise of wisdom and knowledge seem to have been lost by the wayside.


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