Truth Fails to Triumph Again

You’ve probably heard that Larry Summers is leaving Hahvahd. It’s interesting to note that the BBC is still, obstinately, misreporting what he said about women and science. I did a comment on that ages ago, months and months ago, and I can’t believe I’m the only one; surely people must have written to them to tell them they got it wrong – but maybe not, because they’re still doing it. (Andrew Marr got it wrong in talking to Steve Pinker last year; Steve said ‘that’s not what he said,’ but to no avail; no one listened.)

Lawrence Summers lost the first vote in March last year after suggesting women had less “intrinsic aptitude” than men for science.

No he didn’t. That is not what he said. You can read what he did say – scroll down to the fourth paragraph. What he did say is considerably more complicated, and it certainly doesn’t boil down to that ridiculous, meaningless formula the BBC embarrassingly, incompetently gives. The Beeb’s version would have it that, oh, any woman physicist or cosmologist you’d care to name has less intrinsic aptitude for science than any random guy on the Clapham omnibus. It would have it that all women have less intrinsic aptitude for all branches of science than all men – which is ludicrous, and obviously ludicrous; so why can’t they get it right? It’s an important part of the story, so why can’t they get it right? Isn’t that their job?

There’s a discussion of Summers and his speech at Pharyngula with a lot of comments; I read them hoping to find a lot of people making the same point, and was disappointed to find only one – but one is better than none.

But not much better. See why I don’t think truth will necessarily triumph ‘in the end’?

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