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Toby Young @toadmeister
, 23 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
The inquisition that has been launched by Woke physicists against Professor Strumia for expressing some heretical ideas at @Cern about why women are under-represented in physics is truly shocking. You would think physicists, of all people, would be wary of inquisitions.
Professor Strumia has now been suspended by @CERN and is under investigation by the University of Pisa, where he holds a chair in physics, for “ethics violations”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses both positions.
In the BBC report, his headline sin is reported to be claiming that “physics was invented and built by men”. That’s not 100% accurate — some women, such as Marie Curie, have made critical contributions to the field — but is it “offensive”? bbc.co.uk/news/world-eur…
The reason his presentation caused uproar is that he challenged the orthodox view that the reason women are under-represented in physics is because of implicit bias, stereotype threat and sexual discrimination.
Professor Strumia pointed out that female applicants for post-doc jobs in physics aren’t discriminated against; they’re actually more likely to get hired than male applicants with the same credentials.
Feminists will say it’s harder for women to reach that level than men, but Professor Strumia pointed out that isn’t true, at least not when it comes to securing places to study physics at university. Many university physics departments discriminate in favour of female applicants.
What about in school? Surely women are discouraged from studying physics at school, whether explicitly or by unconsciously biased schoolteachers? Well, no, there isn’t much evidence of that either, not in the West, not any more.
Indeed, the evidence that human behaviour is critically affected by unconscious or implicit bias is threadbare at best. See here for a comprehensive rebuttal nationalreview.com/2017/01/implic…
One feminist physicist suggested that Professor Strumia should be given “unconscious bias training”. (In a camp of some kind? She doesn’t say.) But the evidence that such training has any impact at all is, again, flimsy. journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09…
So could it be – hush now, don’t say it out loud — that the reason more highly-intelligent women don’t study physics, particularly at a post-graduate level, is because — in general, not in every case, obviously — they just aren’t as interested in it as in other subjects?
Could it be that, at a population level, women are more interested in people (empathetic) and men are more interested in things (systematic)? See Professor Simon Baron-Cohen’s work (cited by Professor Strumia) on this here researchgate.net/profile/Simon_…
One compelling piece of evidence for this — again, cited by Professor Strumia — is that the more gender equality there is in a country, the lower the female participation in STEM is. Good summary of all the evidence on this here theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
The implication is that the reason there are fewer women physicists is not because of implicit bias, stereotype threat or discrimination, but because when highly-intelligent women exercise their free will — yes, they can do that — they choose the subjects that interest them most.
Like healthcare, for instance. 82 per cent of obstetrics and gynaecology medical residents in the US in 2016 were female — although, weirdly, stats like that haven’t prompted anyone to inquire about whether there’s any sexual discrimination against men in healthcare.
For a thorough and fair-minded analysis of why there aren’t more women computer scientists, see this piece by Stuart Reges in @QuilletteM quillette.com/2018/06/19/why…
Needless to say, that article resulted in hysterical calls for the author to be sacked from his job at the University of Washington westernjournal.com/ct/prof-attack…
I don’t doubt some physicists will take issue with this thread, just as they’ve taken issue with Professor Strumia’s presentation — not least because the hard sciences are in the process of being captured by the identitarian Left, as @HMDatMI points out city-journal.org/html/how-ident…
But in heaven’s name, why not just debate these issues? If you think Professor Strumia’s analysis is scientifically unsound, pick holes in his argument. Present the counter evidence. Show that he’s indulging in bad science.
That’s the scientific approach, surely? But no. Instead, it’s just wild speculation about his motives – he was overlooked for a job in favour of a women, therefore he’s an embittered misogynist. A dismissal of his ideas as “dangerous” because they make female physicists feel bad.
Or the absurd claim that it’s ideas like his that will put off bright young women from applying to do physics at university rather than, I don’t know, feminists saying that women in physics will face an unending barrage of sexual discrimination and harassment.
What’s really depressing is that the mainstream media is reporting this through an identitarian lens, distorting what Professor Strumia said and regurgitating the SJW critique, as if he’s part of the dark forces of oppression and the Woke physicists are brave freedom fighters...
...brave freedom fighters who are now using their collective institutional and cultural power to make sure this lone heretic is expelled from the scientific temple and deprived of his livelihood.
To all those physicists calling for Professor Strumia to be fired, I will leave you with this thought: If you demand that someone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy should be punished, I don’t see how you can expect to go unpunished if you ever challenge that orthodoxy.
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