Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Summers out at Harvard

Larry Summers has resigned. His becomes the shortest tenure of all Harvard presidents. What surprises me about this is that the students didn’t come to his defense. They support him, and are offended by the soft-left-and-often silly-faculty-with-oversized-egos; they shgould have rallied to him. It would have been a good bruhaha. Here is the Crimson story. Alan Dershovitz thinks that the inmates (still in a minority) are now running the assylum.

Discussions - 24 Comments

The major problem on campuses (as I see it) is that the sensible Right doesn’t have the zeal of the loony Left. The latter are out to save the world, conveniently overlooking the "easy activism" afforded by the hothouse of the university environment. On the other hand, the Right is more practical (and yes, self-interested in the sense of being there to get an education). It’s probably very hard to mobilize them in the same fashion, and so the Leftist "frenzy" generally wins.


Goodbye, Larry Summers. We hardly knew ye.

It may be true that the students are not on board with the left-wing faculty at Harvard. I’m not convinced that a poll that suggests they thought he should not step down is indicative of their political views. All the same, it should not be the job of the student body to come to defense of academic freedom and free thinking. The students are there to be educated not rescue the President. Proper academic modesty may even suggest that the students should not rally to the President’s aid. The blame ought to be placed on Summer’s silent defenders most of whom failed to rally to his defense, those alumni that supported him, and his own inability to properly defend himself.

Again with the head-scratching! Why are we continuously surprised by events that don’t transpire the way we would wish?

Many of you still think that considering women as equals constitutes looniness, or radicalism. (Recall the "pretty women who write" argument). Until you realize that white males are not the center of the universe, you will continue to wonder when people like Larry Summers are invited to leave.

Fung, how can you say this? All Summers suggested was the possibility of biological differences in aptitude for certain subjects. This is hardly a radical notion, and I think science is supporting that conclusion.

What’s horrifying is that the academic Left, supposedly 4-square behind academic freedom and the pursuit of truth, is utterly intolerant of such hypotheses. They are dogmatic, and the fact that you defend such behavior does not surprise me one bit.

Okay, assume the stance of the board at Harvard. Your President has just told half the population that he perceives a biological disadvantage for them, unless, of course, they want to pursue some discipline that does not entail math or science. How much "academic freedom" are women going to expect, ehn they hear such a message?

An old acquaintance of mine (who, incidentally, was one of the Texas Democrats hiding in New Mexico from Tom DeLay and the other re-districting crooks) was told by a Law School professor that every seat in their class occupied by a female, or a Hispanic, or an African American, was a seat that was being deprived of a more deserving law student.

It is a very short leap from discussing genetic deficiencies to discussing systematic (usually finance-driven) ways to exclude the biologically deficient. This can mean redistricting, loss of affirmative action, Supreme Court decisions against a woman’s right to choose without her husband’s consent, sterilization, intelligence testing of non-English speaking immigrants (a sad chapter in Psychology’s history)or job discrimination, and more. it is one thing to allow the academic freedom to rigorously study an issue. So, Herrnstein, Jensen, and Churchill should not lose their jobs because they have investigated unpleasant questions. But, the President of Harvard should lose his job for spreading such garbage.

the President of Harvard should lose his job for spreading such garbage.

And you wonder why so few conservatives trust social science...what a laugh. You’ve already made up your mind about "genetic" differences, and you’ve never even studied it. Wanna bet that, if you did study it, you’d find...viola!, no differences in aptitude.

There are important differences in brain architecture between the sexes, on average. That this might translate to different (not necessarily better or worse) aptitude is logical. Summers wasn’t even saying that much...he was only raising the possibility...but brownshirts like yourself shut him down.

And given Brian Gumble’s recent suggestion about blacks as the world’s finest athletes...assuming that’s true, how do you account for it. We are waiting for your explanation, Mr. Behavioral Scientist.


John refers to "proper academic modesty," suggesting that students shouldn’t have become involved on Summers’ behalf. It "should not be the job of the student body to come to the defense of academic freedom and free thinking." I’m sure Mr. Summers’ enemies would be happy to agree with these sentiments, which tend to give them a free pass.

It seems to me that we no longer have time for things like "property academic modesty" and worries about whose-job-is-what. If the grown-ups at Harvard who supported Summers weren’t numerous enough or bold enough to do the job, someone else had to.

If the students didn’t, either they aren’t really that tired or the liberal dictatorship, or they don’t recognize it, or they’re too afraid or selfish to get involved. Whatever is the case, we have a big problem.

If things don’t change in some SERIOUS ways on campus, I fear for the future of this country, even if, as a mere doctoral student, it isn’t my place to.

I have studied the relationship between gender and math abilities enough to know that gender differences exist, although they are not consistently in favor of males. For instance, in grade school, girls tend to score higher than boys, and this is true until around 8th grade, or so. There also seems to be evidence of differences among males that overshadow differences between genders. Finally, of course, most people who think that they know how to interpret "biological differences" really do not know (a) what that means, (b) how small the biological contribution really is, or (c) what the environmental contributions are. The same goes for people who claim to know about "brain architecture."

The relationships among genetic and environmental influences are very, very complex. People like you and Summers who mouth off with "mere suggestions" do not help ANYTHING or ANYONE when you pretend that this is a simple matter.

What if I publicly "merely suggested" that you might (only might!) be a pedophile? Just a suggestion!

But, for those with a slight tolerance for facts, suppose it was true that the heritability quotient for math skills was 40%. It is not, but suppose it was. That means two things: (a) Forty percent of the variance (the average squared deviation from the mean) is predictable if we know the person’s genetic history. (b) that leaves the other sixty percent of the variance left unexplained, or unpredicted. This must be ultimately explained with variables such as expectation, parental support, education, opportunity, self-fulfilling prophecy, and individual differences that remain when all else has been explained.

All this means is that, if we treat a person’s actual ability as a bulls eye on a target, and our previous misses from that bull’s eye as the variance , we can decrease the magnitude of the average predictive "miss" by 40% (given my inflated estimate of heritability.) But, that is all it means.

There is little-to-no evidence to support any generalization as gross as yours, or that of Summers. I might as well suggest that Dain is more likely to be a pedophile than my neighbor because Dain is a male, and my neighbor is not. It has to do with his "brain architecture." And, of course, it is only a suggestion.

Yea, I guess I’ll take your word for it, Fung. Scientific American, what do they know, anyway? Fung and his Lefto-psychologists...they know this stuff SO well that persecution of heretics...uh, I mean incorrect persons, is perfectly valid. Here’s to persecution, speech codes, institutional racism, and all the other totalitarian things that Fung endorses.

Dain- This is a good example of what I was saying. Readers should give that article a very close read, and exercise the level of critique that you try to use on my arguments. Observe how the SA article goes from observing differences in behavior, to observing differences in (basically) the endocrine systems of male and female humans. The endocrine system works largely in the peripheral nervous system, while its controls are mainly in the limbic system, the hypothalamus, amygdala, and pituitary, etc.

The point is, the endocrine system does NOT control higher level functioning, but rather more basic, physical activities (We refer to the three F’s fighting, feeding, and sexual reproduction). The endocrine system does not control math activities, or other intelligence-related activities.

So, there are a number of holes in the argument that is presented in the SA article: First, the see-saw between observation of structural differences and observation of behavioral differences without ANY causal evidence at all!

Second, brain differences that are observed tend to control lower functions in the peripheral nervous system, and NOT the Central Nervous Sytem (the brain and the spinal cord)

Third, structual differences, such as those observed (in animals, largely) in the hippocampus can, and do, occur due to differences in experience. For instance, experienced taxi drivers, who exercise a great deal of memory for places, have been found to have significantly large hippocampuses than the normal population. This difference is NOT observed among new, inexperienced cab drivers. That indicates that the hippocampus size differential is IN FACT caused by experiential differences.

Finally, as your article itself stated:

"It is important to keep in mind that the relation between natural hormone levels and problem solving is based on correlational data. Although some form of connection between the two measures exists, we do not necessarily know how the association is determined, nor do we know what its causal basis is. We also know little at present about the relation between adult levels of hormones and those in early life, when abilities appear to become organized in the nervous system."

So, thank you, Dain, for bringing up your strong argument. As I stated earlier, the relationships between brain differences and behavior differences are complex, and certainly due to the important role of the interaction between environment and heredity.

As for your drivel about lefto-psychologists.... what was your stand on Ward Churchill? Didn’t you want to give him a ticket on your famous train?

How much of contemporary psychology is dependent on corrlational analysis, Fung? This is a criticism that one reserves for nit-picking the arguments of people you don’t like.

As for all your other high fallutin’ post, this is just one example of hundreds of articles and studies that document a very strong difference in the cognitive PERFORMANCE of men and women. What do you have to say about women’s superior verbal abilities...are they too just environmental? And I noticed you never answered my question about blacks and athletic ability. What’s wrong, Fung, don’t like the question?

There is nothing nit-picky about noting that correlations are not evidence of causation. And, that is only one small (tiny) component of my message. You have typically forgotten the rest of that message.

And your other question about Bryant Gumbel. What was that question? Why are there no Black in the NHL? Was that your question? Why are there no Black in Nascar? Was that it?

Or, was your question something else, like why is Dain choosing one of the biggest jerks in the media to represent some "fact" about African Americans? How about Tennis? Do you want to suggest that the Williams sisters always win? Or, do you want to suggest that Black athletic superiority just emerged over the past decade? Looking at the Williams sitsters phenomenon, are you suggesting that there is no interaction between opportunity and ability? That there has always been a level playing field, or court? Or, do you want to focus on basketball? What is your point, Dain?

I seem to have lost my "s" key.

I addressed as much of your post as was warranted. Ever hear of the Vanderbilt group? What do they have to say about cognitive performance? They are your brethren, after all.

My point about blacks in sports is simple -- here is a well-paying source of employment and yet, even in racist Amerika, blacks dominate football, basketball, and a few other things. How do you account for that? My response to your NHL is simple...it could be racism, or it could be that blacks aren’t "into" winter sports. YOU have the burden of proof about the opposite.

Tennis, swimming, soccer, hockey, baseball, long-distance running, car racing, diving, wrestling, horse-racing, field hockey, boxing, karate, jujitu, lacrosse, skate-boarding, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, motocross, skating, ping pong, bowling, golf, hunting, fishing, skydiving, darts, volleyball, surfing, snorkeling, yahting, badminton, horse-shoes, bull-fighting, rugby, and your claim about football is debatable.

I don’t know of the Vanderbilt Group.

Try Psychological Science, November 2000. Nothing that psychologists touch is beyond critique, of course. I’m just establishing that your own discipline doesn’t have a consensus on this gender field, despite what you suggest.

I have that issue in my office at work, and will look it up. In the meantime, my discipline is full of variability in perspective and sub-discipline. There are plenty of neuro-bio-physio types who (lately) are dominating the field. Still, when all is said and done, what do they often demonstrate? That the brain is important, and that genes are important? With those as givens, we still need to remember that genotype is never expressed in a vacuum. Culture, society, family, country, religion, history all provide context in which behavior must occur, and be interpreted.

The decisions about the brain’s workings will still be carried out in a context of politics, religion, and a sliding scale of respect and tolerance for empiricism.

None of which justifies the vilification of someone who suggests that gender might determine interest and aptitude. You should be ashamed of yourself for becoming exactly what you condemn in others.

I didn’t vilify him, I suggested that his behavior made him wrong to represent Harvard. And I stand by that. As you and I have agreed, the picture is far from straightforward, or simple, or clear. So, to suggest it is otherwise is premature and inflammatory, and incorrect.

And, you still haven’t answered my question about Ward Churchill. Weren’t you one of the carriers of tar and feathers?

Fire a man for a simple speculation? If that’s not vilifying someone I don’t know what is. I didn’t realize that being an Ivy League Prez meant you had to check your brain at the door. Maybe it does.

Ward Churchill should be fired, but not for his ludicrous statements. He should be fired for gaining his job under false pretenses (and for plagiarism, from what I hear). Personally I think his whole department, which isn’t a legitimate field of scholarly endeavor anyway, should be abolished. Virtually every public system allows cancellation of tenure if the department goes under, and in this case I think it’s completely warranted.

It does mean that you have to check your mouth before you allow drivel to dribble out of it! If a Harvard Prez cannot (a) understand or articulate the complexity, and then the political ramifications of brain and behavior, or (b) shut up until more is known, or until he understands, then he should be fired. Not killed, and not dragged across the coals, and not suspended by his pectoral muscles, but fired.

The only reason you know anything about Ward Churchill is because he is guilty of a very similar kind of remark. It was stupid of him to say what he said, and how he said it. That invited all of his enemies to get out the magnifying glasses and look for problems. The only REAL difference between the two is who is offended by what they said.

I strongly disagree that it was a similar type of remark. What Churchill was saying has no basis in science...none...it was a political statement, a damned unprofessional. What Summers said may turn out to be the case...what you are saying is that a university president can’t discuss research/science if it might offend people. What nonsense!

And you know what? I suspect we could find any number of university presidents who have come out with political statements on cloning, abortion, religion, etc., but the people they offended don’t count at the University. Not only are you wrong, Fung, you are also employing a double-standard.

Hmm...and I notice that Ward Churchill still has his job. Funny, that.

My impression is that Summers’ gender remark was only the most public example of his imprudent behavior. Jessica Stern came to AU last semester and we had a conversation about this. She said that the man has absolutely no tact or other "people skills." He seemed to make no effort to go along with anyone (Stern actually suspects that he has a mild form or autism). If this is true he’s not likely the sort of person that any of us would want to be working under.

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