We’ve heard a lot for quite a while now about America’s stubborn Achievement Gaps. The stubbornest and most notorious of these is the gap between the races in primary-school education (as mentioned again in yesterday’s Times, where it is fully explained), but another lingering blot on our escutcheon has been the scandalous underrepresentation of women in the sciences.
It is thoughtcrime to imagine that the Science Gap could have anything to do with actual differences between men and women, and therefore it must be the result of sexual discrimination. We know, after all, that except for the various and admirable ways in which females are superior to males, women and men are otherwise exactly alike in all respects. (That’s why it’s so difficult to tell men and women apart, why they enjoy all the same things, etc.)
Lawrence Summers learned a lesson some years ago about the wages of crimethink when to a mixed audience he suggested, with concentric and obsequious disclaimers, that it might be interesting just to ask whether it mightn’t be the case that human intelligence is distributed such that females are on average more clustered around the middle of the scale, with more males way out at the high and low extremes — meaning that at the far right end, where elite scientists come from, there’d be a larger pool of males to draw on. (He hated even to mention it, of course, but it was just that, well, as it happens there had been these studies, you see…)
For his trouble, Summers was hounded out of the presidency of Harvard, and was lucky to get away with his hide intact. And rightly so: as all goodthinkful people know, the persistence of the Science Gap shows that even in 21st-century America, an oppressive andrarchy still holds women in chains. Fortunately, we know also that things can be put right with adjustments to the power structure and forcible re-education of the misguided, if we will but brace ourselves to the task. Onward to a brighter future!
Well, not so fast. A new paper, published by Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams of Cornell in the eminent journal Nature, makes the astonishing claim that the Science Gap may in fact largely be due — are you sitting down? — to differences between the sexes.