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Summers and Academic Winter

How long has it been since being a college president was a respectable job? Every time one gets appointed it seems it’s because of his passionate personal embrace of “diversity.” It’s not so important what happens, as long as people from officially protected groups get as big a piece of the action as possible. Leading academics who try to talk about something more substantive have to profess the same monomania whenever an issue arises and back up professions with action. So here’s Larry Summers, president of Harvard University, apologizing for raising the issue of possible sex differences at a supposedly off-the-record meeting called among top-level academics to discuss the horrible problem of women’s relative lack of achievement in science despite decades of well-funded efforts to push them forward.

It should be obvious on any number of grounds that there are differences in the number of men and women capable of top-level performance in the hard sciences. Why would anyone expect the contrary? Summers, who has the right as an academic to question the obvious, knows at least that the evidence is strong enough to make substantial sex differences a serious possibility. That’s what he seems to have said at the conference, and he doesn’t say his comments were wrong in substance. What he says is that he was “wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women,” that he’s “learned a great deal” from the willfully ignorant abuse to which he’s been subjected, and that he fully shares the fanatical determination of Harvard and all legitimate people to advance women in science by all necessary means.

Overall, his point seems to be that even though sex differences in talent are at least a serious possibility no-one should talk about them, apparently under any conceivable circumstances (not even off-the-record at a top-level academic conference), because that would interfere with the supreme goal of encouraging girls and women and so helping to rectify the intolerable disproportion in the representation of the sexes in the sciences. That’s not a position any responsible let alone leading academic can conceivably accept if he wants to maintain the position that academic life has something to do with rationality and truth. The president of Harvard, it seems, is a willing participant in the suicide of American academic and indeed intellectual life.

Here’s an account of the events. Here’s some stuff from Steve Sailer about the personal financial interest in the matter held by two high-ranking but off-the-wall women mentioned in the account, Nancy Hopkins and Denise Denton. So it seems that Larry Summers, because of cowardice, confusion and lack of integrity, is acting as an enabler and indeed cheerleader not only for intellectual fanaticism and corruption but for organizational and financial abuses that amount to a system of shakedowns.