Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Summers Turns to Fall

As Elise just noted, Lawrence Summers, the current president of Harvard and a former Clinton aide, recently argued that innate differences between the sexes may account for career choice and success, especially in math and science. The proverbial firestorm ensued, and Summers now has apologized. That's a good thing, and the group to which he made his formal apology - the Standing Committee on Women (don't misplace that preposition, or it'd be some weird Ivy-League kink club) - seems to have accepted it.

Still and all, though: why the hell would an apparently smart guy like Summers ever say something like this? Did he learn nothing in all his years of public, private, and nonprofit service? Did he never take a course - or have someone tell him - that social scientists have been laboring since the Enlightenment to demonstrate that racial, class, and gender differences are much more compellingly explained by social and cultural factors than by ostensibly "natural" factors like biology (which is itself a social factor, ultimately: see "eugenics, American and German" or "Darwinism, social" or Curve, The Bell)?

Probably not. He's an economist, after all. They're a recondite bunch.