Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Who is more the fool: the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

So sayeth Ben Kenobi from the classic film Star Wars: A New Hope or, as kids today think of it, Star Wars: Episode IV. Mostly I remember it as "When Star Wars didn't suck," but I digress. Kenobi's point, of course, is that you probably shouldn't criticize someone you're following too sharply, as it reflects poorly on you. Doubtless this explains Fox News' relationship with the President, as well as lemmings.*

I bring his point up because our old friend from Harvard is back in the news again. I refer, of course, to President Lawrence Summers who suggested in a speech last January that, perhaps, the reason why males outnumber females in certain math and science-related fields is because males are smarter. No, I'm really not kidding. Exaggerating, yes, since he also argued that women are not choosing to work psychotic hours, but definitely not kidding. I'm not going to address this point myself as it's old news and others have pounded on Summers much, much, much, much, more thoroughly than I could.

What has Summers said this time? Well, as it turns out, he's got some more ideas about intelligence to share with us. Specifically, former Dean Peter T. Ellison reports:

Over lunch not long after Summers took over the presidency in 2001, Ellison said, Summers suggested that some funds should be moved from a sociology program to the Kennedy School, home to many economists and political scientists. ''President Summers asked me, didn't I agree that, in general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists?" Ellison said. ''To which I laughed nervously and didn't reply."


So, hey, apparently Summers' own field rules the social-sciences roost. Now, I don't want to engage with this question. I think it's a pretty stupid one, on the face of it, since the inaccuracies in most methods of measuring intelligence are so great** that dealing with Summers' point would be like trying to gauge the size of a flagellum using a yardstick.

Instead of arguing about how smart Sociologists are*** I am, instead, just going to say this: maybe you should pick on a discipline that isn't getting plagiarized by your own.****

Who is more the moron, Summers? The moron, or the moron who steals his work?



* Yes, I know it's a myth that lemmings commit suicide en masse, but it's such a beautiful metaphor.

** Actually, the issue of IQ is so hazy that it has given rise to "Boring's Dictum" which reads, "IQ tests measure whatever it is that IQ tests measure." That's some rigor.

*** Answer: Pretty f-ing smart.

**** This is not to say that Economics isn't producing good work- just that, from time to time, they're a smidge behind the curve.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem with this argument is that it's self-cannibalizing: if pure smartness is his criterion, then all the money -- including the money from economics -- will end up going to physics, math and philosophy.

Monday, February 20, 2006 8:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like he's not going to be the pres for too much longer.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060221/us_nm/life_harvard_summers_dc

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 9:46:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

if pure smartness is his criterion, then all the money -- including the money from economics -- will end up going to physics, math and philosophy.

You assume, of course, that there is a demonstrable difference between these three disciplines and the rest of the academy in terms of intelligence. I have my doubts for a variety of reasons.

Though I do, indeed, have a great deal of respect for many of these intellectuals.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 5:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Lucas said...

It's my biggest dream that I too can one day lose a high level job at an internationally reknowned university for - ironically - being stupid

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 12:29:00 AM  

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