Enviroweb is the blog by a aquatic and environmental scientist Eugene Macri on all aspects of the environment,science, ecology, health, educational science and the politics involved. ©2006 All Rights Reserved E. Macri. Permission to reprint or use electronically as long as credit is given and we are notified.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Harvard Chooses Woman President But Did They Blow It!

Nothing Shocks Me--I'm a Scientist

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones

Harvard has chosen Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust as their first woman president. Drew replaces the embattled Larry Summers who upset everyone with the way he treated the faculty and remarks he made concerning women.

The selection of Faust is surprising not because she is a woman but because her background is not in science. She is a historian. It is more surprising since Harvard is now undergoing an expansion of scientific research and that a scientist was not chosen is a mystery to many faculty members.

At first glance this seems to be an overreaction to Larry Summers. Summers’ stormy five years were wrought with arguments and wrangles with the faculty. His infamous war with Dr. Cornell West who left Harvard and went to Princeton in 2002 ended up being played out in the media

The truth is that Summers is an overbearing bully. He does not have the temperament for dealing with faculty members. His arrogance is partially derived from his PhD in Economics which he believes gives him some intellectual superiority over some other faculty members. Nothing could be further from the truth. PhDs in Economics are easy to get and couldn’t hold a candle to the sciences or math doctorates. It’s this lack of respect that Summers embodied that started the mess at Harvard.

But the powder keg blew up when Summers made some comments about the differences between men and women and how it may be the cause of who seeks what degree. The academic world exploded because Summers implied that there might be innate differences in how the brain functions in men and women. The problem with what he said was that it’s at least partially true but not politically correct.

There are many studies, MRI scans and research that now show that men and women have different brains and that they function differently. Furthermore, areas of the brain in men show a spatial advantage which would allow them better understanding in certain fields of science, math, and engineering. On the other hand women’s brains are more efficient and have better communication skills. Now does this mean that women can’t be scientists or men can’t be good writers? Absolutely not! What it means is that these things are hard wired in our brains and affect what we like, our behavior, and what we do. But it might show why women prefer communicative work rather than the loneliness of many scientific and engineering fields.

Now if Dr. Faust doesn’t believe in such scientific studies and is a politically correct animal which she appears to be, perhaps she will be less controversial than Summers but may be worst in the long run. Once again science is under attack because it doesn’t show the politically correct results that politically correct people want to see. Men and women are different and these differences manifest themselves in variety of ways including academia whether Dr. Faust or the people who have chosen her believe it or not!