Choice words at a 2009 Center for Inquiry conference "Secular Society and its Enemies".

(I found this via Upworthy; or you can go to the YouTube video page.)

"To set the scene, the (poorly posed) question is referring to comments made by former Treasury Security and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, who suggested that genetic differences could explain why there are fewer girls in science."

The video is cued up to the question, and Dr. Tyson's powerful answer.

(transcript and bolding are mine)

Questioner: "Um, the Larry Summers question, 'what's up with chicks and science?'"

Moderator: "Slightly off topic, nonetheless interesting; it's science education... does anyone want to field, maybe if there are genetic differences between men and women that explain why more men are in science? Does anyone want to touch that?"

Neil deGrasse Tyson:

"I've never been female. But I have been black my whole life, and, so, let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective, because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as in the community of women, in a white male dominated society, and I'll be brief, 'cause I want to try to get more questions.

"When I look at, throughout my life, I've noticed that I've wanted to do astrophysics since I was nine years old, my first visit to the Hayden Planetarium. (I was a little younger than Victor at the time, although he did it before I did.) And so I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions, and all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist, was, hands down, the path of most resistance through the forces of nature, the forces of society. Any time I expressed this interest, teachers would say, 'Oh, don't you want to be an athlete? Oh, don't you want to'-- I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. And so, fortunately my depth of interest was so deep, and so fueled, enriched, that every one of these curveballs that I was thrown, and fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just leaped for more fuel and I kept going.

"Now here I am, one, I think, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind, and say 'where are the others who might have been this?' and they're not there, and I wonder, how, who, what  is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented, at every turn, at every turn, to the point where I have security guards following me as I go through department stores, presuming that I'm a thief.

"I walked out of a store one time, and the alarm went off, and, so they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate, and that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing that they would stop me and not him. That's an interesting exploitation of this -- what a scam that was! I think people should do that more often."

[laughter]

"So my life experience tells me that when you don't find blacks in the sciences, you don't find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we talk about genetic differences, you've got to come up with a system where there's equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation."

Tags: Neil deGrasse Tyson, education, equality of opportunity, expectations, opportunity, racism, science, sexism, women

Views: 2474

Replies to This Discussion

absolutely, I've experienced the various subtle forces that get in women's way.

sexist parents, parents playing sex roles in their marriage, domineering father dishing out training on how to be a good servant, men in math reluctant to associate with women because they're afraid of sexual overtones (and if you're single or nice looking it's worse).  The assumptions of men that as a woman you make a good servant to do grunge work for them, in science or math.  The assumptions of men that math is a young man's field.  The sexism that hides itself as something else - which it usually does.  Etc. etc. etc. ...

All the men who have women to cook and clean for them.  Stephen Hawking with his severe disabilities, has a wife to take care of him so he can think about physics.  If he was a woman it would likely not have worked out that way. 

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