Too bad NYT columnist John Tierney doesn't have a fact-checker for his essays. If he did, he might have avoided publishing such a deeply flawed column today (NYT, September 26, 2006, "Academy of P.C. Sciences").
It is clear that Tierney is a very sensitive guy, though. His essay oozes with empathy for the lone man on the NAS committee that produced the "Beyond Bias and Barriers" report. I don't know how Robert Birgenau survived the experience of being on a committee in which everyone else was of the OPPOSITE GENDER. Well, OK, I sort of do, since I've been on 57 MILLION committees where I was the only female. I am sure that Tierney would have no trouble believing that those committees all produced objective, scientifically-sound, non-P.C. results, since the gender ratio was apparently skewed the appropriate way.
[note: Several years ago, one of my graduate students said to me, "I don't know if you realize this, but every once in a while, a little bit of sarcasm creeps into your speech." Then he laughed in a not-entirely sane way.]
What sort of person assumes that a committee whose membership is female-dominated is incapable of producing an objective, relevant, accurate document?
What would it take to convince Tierney that there is a problem? A committee of men concluding the same thing as Shalala et al.?
I don't know about you, but based on my own experiences, I found this less than compelling as an explanation for why there are so few women in science:
"As Science magazine reported in 2000, the social scientist Patti Hausman offered a simple explanation for why women dont go into engineering: they dont want to."
I saw nothing in the essay that explained why so many women students "want to" do science and engineering as students. What happens to them after that? They get a Ph.D. in science or engineering and THEN discover that they are more interested in "social values", "people contact" blah blah blah? And since when do science and engineering not involve "people contact", not to mention "social values". Hello! Ever heard of climate change, natural disasters, and energy resource exploration and extraction, not to mention TEACHING students, most of whom could technically be considered "people"?
Yes, what about those women who do not have "different priorities" than men? What about women who are interested in "learning how (a) dishwasher works."? Why don't they succeed in greater numbers? How nice that Patti Hausman found social science, so she doesn't have to care how her dishwasher works, but don't say that we don't have a problem here because we surely do. How cheap to dismiss a report because it was written by women about women. How weak to avoid the main issues and dismiss a problem for which there is abundant evidence, no matter who compiles the data.
8 months ago