I was hoping to actually say something substantive about this, but time is precious these days (and it’s been all over the blogosphere anyway). The National Academy of Sciences has released a report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. They seem to think that the relative paucity of women in science is not due to differences of innate aptitude, or even to an aversion to hard work and competitive environments, but to systematic biases within academia. Hmm, fancy that. Cornelia Dean in the NYT writes:
Women in science and engineering are hindered not by lack of ability but by bias and “outmoded institutional structures” in academia, an expert panel reported yesterday…
The panel dismissed the idea, notably advanced last year by Lawrence H. Summers, then the president of Harvard, that the relative dearth of women in the upper ranks of science might be the result of “innate” intellectual deficiencies, particularly in mathematics.
If there are cognitive differences, the report says, they are small and irrelevant. In any event, the much-studied gender gap in math performance has all but disappeared as more girls enroll in demanding classes. Even among very high achievers, the gap is narrowing, the panelists said…
The report also dismisses other commonly held beliefs — that women are uncompetitive or less productive, that they take too much time off for their families. Instead, it says, extensive previous research showed a pattern of unconscious but pervasive bias, “arbitrary and subjective” evaluation processes and a work environment in which “anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a `wife’ is at a serious disadvantage.”
As Bitch Ph.D. says, “I, personally, am expecting the apologies from Larry Summers’ apologists to start pouring in any day now.”
So I have a question. The reason why most of us were upset by Larry Summers is that he was wrong, in a spectacular and potentially damaging kind of way, and the new NAS study supports this (yet again). But, almost without exception, Summers’ supporters pretended that what got people upset was the very idea of raising the possibility of gender-based cognitive differences, and that these people were anti-free-inquiry and afraid of the truth. Steven Pinker was the most dogged straw-man-constructor, but there were plenty of others. (See also Lawyers, Guns & Money.)
My question is: was there anyone who was actually upset at Summers for this reason? That is, was there any respectable academic who really came out against even asking whether there were gender-based cognitive differences? To make things precise, I’m looking for (1) actual professors or other academics, not crazy blog commenters and so on; (2) people who explicitly were against even asking the question or doing the research, not people who (quite reasonably) argue that bias and discrimination are much more important factors in explaining the current gender disparity; and (3) did so in response to Summers, not some time back in the 1970′s or whatever. I sincerely want to know, did anyone take that position? I’m sure it wasn’t the position of most of us, strawmen notwithstanding, but given the speed and efficiency with which the fairy tale was promulgated among Summers’ supporters, I can’t help but think that at least one person did say it. There are alot of crazy academics out there who say all sorts of nonsensical things, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone.