From the New York Times:
Girls won top honors for the first time in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, one of the nation's most coveted student science awards, which were announced yesterday at New York University.
Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17 and seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School on Long Island, split the first prize--a $100,000 scholarship--in the team category for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
Isha Himani Jain, 16, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa., placed first in the individual category for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish, whose tail fins grow in spurts, similar to the way children's bones do. She will get a $100,000 scholarship.
The three girls' victories is "wonderful news, but I can't honestly say it's shocking," said Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Hopkins helped start a national discussion about girls and science two years ago when she walked out of a talk by Harvard University's president, Lawrence H. Summers, after he suggested that innate differences between men and women might be one reason that fewer women than men succeed in math and science careers. Dr. Summers apologized during the ensuing furor; he announced his resignation as Harvard's president 13 months later.
How pathetic is it that the Times can't report on these young ladies' accomplishments without using it as an opportunity to take potshots at Larry Summers for failing to adhere to feminist orthodoxy? But since they brought it up, we feel obliged to point out that this in no way disproves anything Summers said. He did not claim that no women succeed in math and science, only that fewer women than men do. That it is newsworthy when girls win a science contest only serves to underscore Summers's point.
Moreover, as intelligence expert Charles Murray noted in a 2005 Commentary essay, the differences between men and women are more pronounced in more abstract fields such as mathematics and theoretical physics than in less abstract ones like biology and medicine, the areas in which the girls won the prize:
In the humanities, the most abstract field is philosophy--and no woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world's great philosophical traditions. In the sciences, the most abstract field is mathematics, where the number of great female mathematicians is approximately two (Emmy Noether definitely, Sonya Kovalevskaya maybe). In the other hard sciences, the contributions of great women have usually been empirical rather than theoretical, with leading cases in point being Henrietta Leavitt, Dorothy Hodgkin, Lise Meitner, IrSne Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie.
None of this is to disparage the accomplishments of the Siemens Competition winners. They have already accomplished more in science than any but a handful of women or men ever will, and we wish them all the success in the world if they choose a career in science (or, for that matter, if they don't). But is it really necessary for Hopkins and the Times to superimpose upon these young people's achievement a political agenda based on assumptions that cannot withstand honest scrutiny?
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