Op-ed submission: In response to April 13 article

Jonathan Katz | Professor of Physics

One of the things one learns in all fields of scholarship, and is taught in high school, is that when citing the work of others, one must supply enough detail for the reader to find the source (so that he may evaluate it critically). “Studies have shown” without bibliographic details has no weight as evidence; Jen McLish does this twice in her article.

A study has shown that the majority of published studies in psychology are not reproducible, and hence their results are not reliable. Similar results have been found in the “harder” science of clinical biomedicine. Even if McLish had cited actual, published, peer-reviewed papers, we should be skeptical.

In some fields of science, planned experiments are impossible. But unplanned “natural experiments” may be informative. One such experiment was the change, a few decades ago, in expectations of women’s careers. In medicine and law (fields that, unlike physics, were notorious for hostility to women) the fraction of female professional students rapidly rose to about 50 percent. In the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering, the percentage stayed stubbornly in the 10-20 percent range despite deliberate efforts to increase it. No one has been able to explain this as the result of prejudice or hostility, so it is plausible to consider that there may be some other explanation. There is no basis for rejecting the hypothesis that men’s and women’s minds, as well as their personalities, are intrinsically different.

Serious students don’t care if their instructors look different from themselves. They are almost always older (are we concerned that there aren’t many 18-year-old professors?). Serious students do not feel “anxiety and isolation” if “everyone except you, including the professor, looks the same”; they regard this as a stimulating challenge to prove themselves.

There are no such things as “male physics” vs. “female physics”, “Aryan physics” vs. “Jewish physics” or “white physics” vs. “black physics”. There is only physics. This is true of every field of knowledge.

Once we realize that different results are not necessarily the result of invidious discrimination, we will recognize that “diversity” is only a euphemism for discrimination and an excuse for patronage. In the U.S. legal system, individuals have rights; groups do not.