I read through a letter in today’s Boulder Daily Camera, and was amused by the flat thinking, the broad general assumptions, and the absurd use of undefined terms. I thought to myself that some well-meaning liberal soul had just spouted off on his or her computer and sent off their little diatribe to the Daily Camera’s editors. I’ve seen that enough before. No problem.
But then I reached the end of the letter and saw the writer described himself as an associate professor of classics at the University of Colorado:
WOMEN IN SCIENCE
Liberals challenge easy assumptions
George Will finds more evidence of the “problem with liberals” in the “hysterical” reaction to Larry Summers’s gaffe in suggesting the gender gap between male and female scientists stems from genetically based gender differences: Liberals want to believe that all is governed by “nurture” and thus constantly fight vainly to overcome the limits imposed by nature.
If his column can be taken as representative of conservative opinion, I heartily agree that this rumpus is indicative of liberal/conservative differences, though not those Will sees. The more accurate read is that conservatives operate on assumptions, liberals challenge them. Conservatives assume that — to quote Will quoting Lincoln — “all men are created equal”; all women, unfortunately, are not.
Liberals have challenged this assumption since the’70s with the result that women are now rising to the top ranks of science—witness local heroes Anseth and Chen. Pace Will, Summers’s remarks are not the product of credible science showing a significant-gender gap in cognition. They are simply the same hackneyed assumptions women have been battling for decades.
One could list further examples of how conservatives are happy with unsubstantiated assumptions, liberals not: “Iraq must have WMD”; “the Iraqis will welcome us with open arms”; “the wealth gap is natural”; “the book of Genesis explains creation”; “our form of government is best for all nations”; “privatized Social Security will work better.” Only in one arena would I concede Will’s point.
Conservatives have raised a hysterical flap over the liberal/conservative gap on college campuses, those dens of intellectual iniquity. The conservative in me is tempted to assume that this, like the gender gap, must reflect the natural order: Liberals are smarter. The liberal, however, must challenge this: Liberals don’t populate the academy because they possess innately superior cognitive power, just a stronger inclination to question assumptions, the essence of academic inquiry.
Associate Professor of Classics
University of Colorado
Written contributions like this merit some sort of thoughtful deconstruction. I may get around to it later, but I wanted to bring others’ attention to his letter so they could take up the task, should they be so moved.
In the current air of heated controversy over another professor’s extreme views, I must state for clarity that Dr. Lenski is certainly entitled to his opinion and certainly entitled to publish his opinion in the daily paper. But his unspoken assumptions about conservatives – ironically stated as that may seem – provide interesting and instructive insights into the liberal academic mind.