Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 19, 2005

Lawrence Summers, Women & Math

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:08 pm

Jane Galt has a fascinating analysis of Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ recent comments on possible (?) differences in average innate (?) mathematical ability between men and women. Actually, her comments on the reactions of other people are even more interesting.

By sheer coincidence — maybe — Meep has a post that doesn’t mention Summers or this incident at all, but does reference a May 2002 article by Doreen Kimura in Scientific American on “Sex Differences in the Brain” which begins:

Men and women differ not only in their physical attributes and reproductive function but also in many other characteristics, including the way they solve intellectual problems. For the past few decades, it has been ideologically fashionable to insist that these behavioral differences are minimal and are the consequence of variations in experience during development before and after adolescence. Evidence accumulated more recently, however, suggests that the effects of sex hormones on brain organization occur so early in life that from the start the environment is acting on differently wired brains in boys and girls. Such effects make evaluating the role of experience, independent of physiological predisposition, a difficult if not dubious task. The biological bases of sex differences in brain and behavior have become much better known through increasing numbers of behavioral, neurological and endocrinological studies.

The article even has charts showing different types of problem-solving which (the article claims) favor men or women.

So it seems that Summers is being excoriated for sexism for saying something that was said — apparently without controversy — by a trendy, certainly-not-right-wing publication, in an article written by a women over two and a half years ago. Which is based on a book written by a woman! (Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women by Deborah Blum)

One Response to “Lawrence Summers, Women & Math”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    Reverse-Voltaire. I may agree with what you say but I deny your right to say it. He’s only a man, after all. You’d think they’d cut him some slack. ;-)

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