“Let woman share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty.”—Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (via esplumoir)
“Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.”—Neil DeGrasse Tyson
When a child asks you a question that stumps you, instead of being irritated and embarrassed, thank them, take them by the hand and go with them in search of the answer. Carl’s mother, Rachel, did that for him and look where it led.
Learn everything you possibly can about a subject that truly interests you. As Carl used to say, “When you’re in love you want to tell the world.” You can’t fake it. But if you really feel it, chances are you will infect someone else with the passion to know more.
Don’t lie to children. Don’t doom them to perpetual infancy. Nature is wondrous enough as it is. Our pathetic fantasies are not supernatural —they are sub-natural. Lying to your children only really communicates that reality is not good enough. I’m convinced that’s how we end up with leaders who tell us that “trees cause pollution” or that “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.” They destroy untold lives and are never held accountable for the damage they do because we are inured to lying from childhood.
What I’m saying is you can’t expect to have a science based society when science is compartmentalized into a boring 45 minutes of class time a couple of days a week, while in our inner lives, we cherish a collection of baseless ideas. Science is a way of thinking. If we instilled the wonder of life, the glory of nature from day one and abjured magical, non-sensical thinking —not humorlessness, mind you, there’s plenty of room for that and nobody had a better, fuller, greater laugh than Carl— but if we could bring ourselves to actually take the revelations of science to heart, we might begin to change in the ways we need to in order to get our species, and many others, through this current phase of our technological adolescence.
”—Ann Druyan, late wife of Carl Sagan, co-writer of Cosmos, President of the NORML Foundation Board of Directors, and co-author of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, The Demon-Haunted World and Billions & Billions
"The history of feminist interventions into most disciplines follows a common pattern. Feminist inquiry begins as a critique of accepted disciplinary methods, assumptions, and canons. As it matures, it develops constructive projects of its own. The history of feminism and science follows this pattern. In the empirical sciences, the pattern helps us see how feminist epistemology negotiates the tension between the two poles in the paradox of bias that lies at the core of the feminist empiricist project. Feminist science critics focus on identifying androcentric and sexist biases in the actual practice of science. This practice began by representing bias as a source of error. But as philosophers and historians of science joined the practice of feminist science criticism, they developed a more sophisticated way of understanding some biases as epistemic resources. Advocates of feminist science develop this theme in seeking to practice science in light of and in the service of feminist aims and values. They thereby represent feminist biases as epistemic resources."
“And then evolution itself was a still further disquieting discovery, because it had been hoped that humans were separate from the rest of the natural world, that we had been specifically put here in a different way than petunias, let’s say. And yet Darwin’s historic work showed that we were very likely related in an evolutionary sense with all the other beasts and vegetables on the planet. And there remain many people who are enormously offended by this idea.
This sense of offense has––I’m only speculating––deep psychological roots. Part of it is, I believe, an unwillingness to come to grips with the more instinctive aspects of human nature. But I believe it is essential to understand this id we wish to survive. I think ignoring that, imagining all humans are rational actors in the present phase, is an enormously dangerous idea in an age of nuclear weapons. […]
Then, in the early part of [the 20th] century, there was still another such assault, which came with special relativity. Because one of the central points of special relativity is that there are no privileged frames of reference, that we are not in an important position or state of motion. […]
This insight was obtained by a young man who was opposed to privilege in the social sphere. If you look at Einstein’s autobiographical writings, I think it is quite clear that his opposition to privilege in the social world was connected with his opposition to privilege in fundamental physics.”—Carl Sagan, “The Retreat from Copernicus: A Modern Loss of Nerve” from “The Varieties of Scientific Experience”
“Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know.”—
Jeremy Knowles, discussing the complete lack of recognition Cecilia Payne gets, even today, for her revolutionary discovery. (via alliterate)
Type “men” and “hardwired” into Google and you tap into a wonderfully absurd catalogue of assertions about male behaviour. Men are “hardwired” to cheat, ignore their wives, suspect infidelity, overspend, fail, love money, pursue women and achieve supremacy in the workplace. Meanwhile, women are “hardwired” to worry about their weight and dump cheaters. All include the magic phrase “scientific studies show”. It’s a snapshot of how science is being used and abused to legitimise gender stereotypes. It would be laughable if it didn’t signify how a form of biological determinism – the claim that differences between men and women have a basis in innate biological characteristics – has re-emerged and acquired an astonishing popular currency.
This fascination in differences between the sexes is a staple of the self-help industry. John Gray’s thesis about planetary confusion (Men Are From Mars and Women are From Venus) has spawned nearly two decades of publishing with guides on everything from communication to food, and all still enjoy warm Amazon reviews and healthy sales.
What’s changed in recent years is that the idea of innate biological differences – for instance in cognitive abilities or communication skills – has gained academic credibility and powerful champions in widely admired researchers such as Simon Baron Cohen (author of The Essential Difference) and Steven Pinker. In their wake has followed this boom in scientific studies claiming to find hardwiring for sex differences, and every time they do so, they are guaranteed to accumulate column inches of free publicity. The argument is that breakthroughs in neuroscience, genetics and evolutionary psychology are proving false the feminist consensus of the last 30-odd years that gender is entirely a social construct. The claim is that there are innate differences, and they go part of the way in explaining why men and women have such different lives.
Nonsense, retort a number of prominent women academics who have been trying to fight back in the US and the UK. A new book, Brainstorm, by Rebecca Jordan-Young exhaustively analyses every relevant study on hormonal sex differentiation of the human brain, and argues that they are riddled with weaknesses, inconsistencies and ambiguity. It’s a clarion call for better science on the subject.
Good science will challenge the tendency to stereotype. The danger though is what Cameron refers to as “stereotype threat”. If you tell women that women do less well in a maths test, they will do less well, confirming the claim. Don’t tell them, and they do better. Stereotypes are dangerous; they become self-fulfilling and can generate discrimination. Cameron points to interviews with call-centre managers who were discriminating against hiring men on their assumption that women were better at empathising. So beware a popular mythology of hardwiring that can result in some very concrete – and pernicious – outcomes.
“A woman who engages in debates about the intricacies of mechanics, like the Maquise du Châtelet, might just as well have a beard; for that expresses in a more recognizable for the profundity for which she strives.”—Immanuel Kant, 1764
Ah, fertilization—that miraculous process to which we all owe our existence. Let’s review: First, a wastefully huge swarm of sperm weakly flops along, its members bumping into walls and flailing aimlessly through thick strands of mucus. Eventually, through sheer odds of pinball-like bouncing more than anything else, a few sperm end up close to an egg. As they mill around, the egg selects one and reels it in, pinning it down in spite of its efforts to escape. It’s no contest, really. The gigantic, hardy egg yanks this tiny sperm inside, distills out the chromosomes, and sets out to become an embryo.