The Discrimination of Dawkins

Everyone reading ERV knows that Im a huge admirer of Richard Dawkins.

Not only is he a priceless modern voice for popularizing science, he was one of the first voices of Out Atheism. A voice for Atheists from Amsterdam to Alabama.

But as others have pointed out, Dawkins completely dropped the ball with his ‘The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing‘.

Do you know how many virologists are featured in this ‘anthology’?

Zero.

ZERO.

You know how many virologists have won Nobel Prizes in the past 100 years? A quick scan of Wikipedia, I count at least 30.

AT LEAST THIRTY.

I dont think any other field comes close to that.

The past 100 years have basically been The Century of Viruses– from Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper discovering polio (which we exterminated with vaccines), to Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase using viruses to prove DNA is the code of life, to Francis Peyton Rous discovering that viruses could cause cancer in chickens and Yorio Hinuma discovering that viruses could cause cancer in humans, to Frederick Sangers very first sequence of anything ever, the phage fX174, to the death knell of small pox and the rise of HIV-1…

The past 100 years of science were built by virologists.

But there arent any in ‘The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing’.

There is no explanation for this. This is just another example of evolutionary biologists unspoken (and sometimes spoken) discrimination against virologists, our viruses, and the way our viruses evolve.

Im SORRY my viruses arent ALIVE enough for you, DR DAWKINS. IM SORRY.

**WINK!!** LOL!

Comments

  1. #1 William M
    December 11, 2009

    I hate to burst your bubble, Ditz, but Dawkins is absolutely right to ignore virologists. Infectious diseases, particularly viruses, particularly retroviruses are clinically irrelevant. Don’t believe me? Check out this graph from Armstrong in JAMA (1999)

    http://www.cwbpi.com/AIDS/reports/JAMAinfdis.jpg.

    As you can see on the left, over the last century, mortality in the US from infectious disease dropped from about 800/100,000 to 50/100,000. That’s a 95% decline.

    On the graph on the right, you will note that in 2000, the black line (all causes of death) has pretty much converged with the blue line (non-infectious cause of death), leaving the red line (infectious disease cause of death) at the rock bottom.

    As a clinical matter, infectious disease has no relevance in the US.

    But, have fun studying it at $10/hour in a lab! LOL.

    Dawkins ignores virologists because aside from awarding each other fancy prizes, they don’t do clinically relevant work.

  2. #2 William M.
    December 11, 2009

    Fixed link — see page 63.

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/281/1/61

  3. #3 Divalent
    December 11, 2009

    Don’t worry. I rather suspect the two prionologist authors will give y’all a shout-out. :)

  4. #4 Offended
    December 11, 2009

    Well, you know what, William? The reason that that line has dropped so precipitously during the 20th century low is because there’s been a lot of good science in the last century that lets modern medicine treat such things effectively.

    It’s complacent fools with similar attitudes that are swelling the anti-vax ranks (hork, spit!) by thinking that that decrease somehow happened magically and there wasn’t a lot of hard medical work involved.

    The very graph you cite, if you look at all of it and not just the right-hand end, shows just how much good science there has been in the last century to include.

  5. #5 William M
    December 11, 2009

    ..because there’s been a lot of good science in the last century that lets modern medicine treat such things effectively .

    Yes, there’s been good science, but it has little to do with modern medicine. Yes, Penicillin has helped; yes, the polio vaccine in the mid-1950s. But, the rest is due to public health, sanitation, better nutrition — general improvement, not pointless hours wasted looking thru a microscope.

  6. #6 Vene
    December 11, 2009

    Clinical? You really think that medicine is the only part of biology? Ha!

  7. #7 Brian Smith
    December 11, 2009

    But, the rest is due to public health, sanitation, better nutrition — general improvement, not pointless hours wasted looking thru a microscope.

    And the reason we’ve known that those things would fight infectious diseases is because of the work of virologists and other scientists. Otherwise we’d still be doing stupid shit like claiming the diseases were caused by witches and trying to fight them by killing all their cats.

  8. #8 William M
    December 11, 2009

    Otherwise we’d still be doing stupid shit like claiming the diseases were caused by witches and trying to fight them by killing all their cats.

    Yes, it is good we stopped doing “stupid shit” like blaming witches.

    But, doctors continuing doing a different type of “stupid shit” like killing 106,000 patients per year with prescription drugs. (See, Lazarou JAMA (1998).

    The good news is that death by infectious disease has largely been conquered in the West (still a problem in developing countries.) The bad news is that medicine kills us far more often than microbes.

  9. #9 Shirakawasuna
    December 12, 2009

    Hahahaha, this is awesome.

  10. #10 Philip
    December 12, 2009

    “The good news is that death by infectious disease has largely been conquered in the West”

    You sir are a jackass, except without the intellect that these noble creatures generally possess.

  11. #11 Cut
    December 12, 2009

    Understanding viruses is very important to the development of bacteriophages and possible vectors for gene therapies. The investigation into the workings of viruses will have a profound impact on the future of medicine and biotechnology.

  12. #12 windy
    December 12, 2009

    LOL is this “Ben Rabb” with his $10/hour science again? Or a colleague of his?

  13. #13 Lab Rat
    December 12, 2009

    “Penicillin has helped; yes, the polio vaccine in the mid-1950s. But, the rest is due to public health, sanitation, better nutrition — general improvement, not pointless hours wasted looking thru a microscope.”

    Ummm…no. That’s just *wrong*. You need more than ‘general sanitation’ to combat microbes; you need antiboitics, new antibiotics (Penicillin doesn’t work anymore) to continue fighting infections that develop resistance. You find these new antibiotics in labs, by doing lab work, some of which involves microscopes.

    And the reason viruses have dropped is because of anti-viral vaccines and medication. They didn’t just drop of their own accord. You put a blanket ban on development and research andd all those graphs will go flying right back up again.

    I’ve spent the last few years working in labs looking for new antibiotics/alternative antibiotics, believe me those things are needed.

    And if microbes do kill less than perscription drugs (SERIOUS CITATION NEEDED – is that even true!) it’s only because we have the medication needed to combat them. If we didn’t, like I said, the graph would go shooting up again.

  14. #14 Brendan White
    December 12, 2009

    Is the anthology one of good science writing or good science that has been written about? Nobel prizes do not equal writing skill.

  15. #15 justme
    December 12, 2009

    “Penicillin has helped; yes, the polio vaccine in the mid-1950s.”
    Penicillin? For viruses? Seriously?

    Thanks for the chuckle over coffee … penicillin has absolutely NOTHING to do with viruses (other than being misprescribed for viral infections) as penicillin is an antibiotic used against bacteria.

  16. #16 Chris
    December 12, 2009

    “The bad news is that medicine kills us far more often than microbes.”

    Dude, the fatality numbers you cite yourself (106000 total for prescription drugs; 50/100000 for infectious disease) show this isn’t true.

  17. #17 Sili
    December 12, 2009

    This would be discrimination by Dawkins, not of Dawkins (that would be what happened in OK).

    I think I actually agree with the argument as I understand it: it’s bad form to call it an anthology of science writing, if all it features is biology. If there’s no good writing in chemistry and physics, so be it, but don’t try to pass off biology as the only science.

  18. #18 Sigmund
    December 12, 2009

    Sili said:
    “I think I actually agree with the argument as I understand it: it’s bad form to call it an anthology of science writing, if all it features is biology. If there’s no good writing in chemistry and physics, so be it, but don’t try to pass off biology as the only science.”
    Pardon? What are you talking about. There’s plenty of physicists included.

    3 James Jeans from THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
    4 Martin Rees from JUST SIX NUMBERS
    11 Peter Atkins from CREATION REVISITED
    16 Helena Cronin from THE ANT AND THE PEACOCK
    18 R. A. Fisher from THE GENETICAL THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION
    22 Theodosius Dobzhansky from MANKIND EVOLVING
    27 G. C. Williams from ADAPTATION AND NATURAL SELECTION
    30 Francis Crick from LIFE ITSELF
    35 Matt Ridley from GENOME
    40 Sydney Brenner ‘THEORETICAL BIOLOGY IN THE THIRD
    MILLENNIUM’
    48 Steve Jones from THE LANGUAGE OF THE GENES
    53 J. B. S. Haldane from ‘ON BEING THE RIGHT SIZE’
    59 Mark Ridley from THE EXPLANATION OF ORGANIC DIVERSITY
    61 John Maynard Smith ‘THE IMPORTANCE OF THE NERVOUS
    SYSTEM IN THE EVOLUTION OF ANIMAL FLIGHT’
    66 Fred Hoyle from MAN IN THE UNIVERSE
    69 D’Arcy Thompson from ON GROWTH AND FORM
    78 G. G. Simpson from THE MEANING OF EVOLUTION
    82 Richard Fortey from TRILOBITE!
    86 Colin Blakemore from THE MIND MACHINE
    89 Richard Gregory from MIRRORS IN MIND
    96 Nicholas Humphrey ‘ONE SELF: A MEDITATION ON THE UNITY OF
    CONSCIOUSNESS’
    103 Steven Pinker from THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT and HOW THE
    MIND WORKS
    viii . CONTENTS
    110 Jared Diamond from THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD
    CHIMPANZEE
    114 David Lack from THE LIFE OF THE ROBIN
    115 Niko Tinbergen from CURIOUS NATURALISTS
    123 Robert Trivers from SOCIAL EVOLUTION
    127 Alister Hardy from THE OPEN SEA
    130 Rachel Carson from THE SEA AROUND US
    138 Loren Eiseley from ‘HOW FLOWERS CHANGED THE WORLD’
    143 Edward O. Wilson from THE DIVERSITY OF LIFE
    PART II
    Who Scientists Are
    151 Arthur Eddington from THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE
    152 C. P. Snow from the Foreword to G. H. Hardy’s A MATHEMATICIAN’S APOLOGY
    157 Freeman Dyson from DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE
    161 J. Robert Oppenheimer from ‘WAR AND THE NATIONS’
    168 Max F. Perutz ‘A PASSION FOR CRYSTALS’
    172 Barbara and George Gamow ‘SAID RYLE TO HOYLE’
    174 J. B. S. Haldane ‘CANCER’S A FUNNY THING’
    176 Jacob Bronowski from THE IDENTITY OF MAN
    179 Peter Medawar from ‘SCIENCE AND LITERATURE, ‘DARWIN’S
    ILLNESS’, ‘THE PHENOMENON OF MAN’, the postscript to
    ‘LUCKY JIM’, and ‘D’ARCY THOMPSON AND GROWTH
    AND FORM’
    188 Jonathan Kingdon from SELF-MADE MAN
    190 Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin from ORIGINS RECONSIDERED
    195 Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey from LUCY
    200 Stephen Jay Gould ‘WORM FOR A CENTURY, AND ALL SEASONS’
    211 John Tyler Bonner from LIFE CYCLES
    214 Oliver Sacks from UNCLE TUNGSTEN
    219 Lewis Thomas ‘SEVEN WONDERS’
    226 James Watson from AVOID BORING PEOPLE
    229 Francis Crick from WHAT MAD PURSUIT
    232 Lewis Wolpert from THE UNNATURAL NATURE OF SCIENCE
    234 Julian Huxley from ESSAYS OF A BIOLOGIST
    235 Albert Einstein ‘RELIGION AND SCIENCE’
    239 Carl Sagan from THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD
    PART III
    What Scientists Think
    247 Richard Feynman from THE CHARACTER OF PHYSICAL LAW
    249 Erwin Schrödinger from WHAT IS LIFE?
    254 Daniel Dennett from DARWIN’S DANGEROUS IDEA and
    CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED
    259 Ernst Mayr from THE GROWTH OF BIOLOGICAL THOUGHT
    263 Garrett Hardin from ‘THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS’
    266 W. D. Hamilton from GEOMETRY FOR THE SELFISH HERD and
    NARROW ROADS OF GENELAND
    273 Per Bak from HOW NATURE WORKS
    276 Martin Gardner THE FANTASTIC COMBINATIONS OF JOHN
    CONWAY’S NEW SOLITAIRE GAME ‘LIFE’
    284 Lancelot Hogben from MATHEMATICS FOR THE MILLION
    289 Ian Stewart from THE MIRACULOUS JAR
    297 Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver from THE MATHEMATICAL
    THEORY OF COMMUNICATION
    305 Alan Turing from COMPUTING MACHINERY AND
    INTELLIGENCE
    314 Albert Einstein from ‘WHAT IS THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY?’
    317 George Gamow from MR TOMPKINS
    323 Paul Davies from THE GOLDILOCKS ENIGMA
    332 Russell Stannard from THE TIME AND SPACE OF UNCLE ALBERT
    336 Brian Greene from THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE
    342 Stephen Hawking from A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
    PART IV
    What Scientists Delight In
    349 S. Chandrasekhar from TRUTH AND BEAUTY
    352 G. H. Hardy from A MATHEMATICIAN’S APOLOGY
    357 Steven Weinberg from DREAMS OF A FINAL THEORY
    362 Lee Smolin from THE LIFE OF THE COSMOS
    367 Roger Penrose from THE EMPEROR’S NEW MIND
    371 Douglas Hofstadter from GÖDEL, ESCHER, BACH: THE ETERNAL
    GOLDEN BRAID
    378 John Archibald Wheeler with Kenneth Ford from GEONS, BLACK
    HOLES, AND QUANTUM FOAM
    381 David Deutsch from THE FABRIC OF REALITY
    383 Primo Levi from THE PERIODIC TABLE
    390 Richard Fortey from LIFE: AN UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY
    392 George Gaylord Simpson from THE MEANING OF EVOLUTION
    393 Loren Eiseley from LITTLE MEN AND FLYING SAUCERS
    394 Carl Sagan from PALE BLUE DOT

  19. #19 becca
    December 12, 2009

    Just for the record- penicillin is a beta lactam antibiotic effective against bacteria with peptidoglycan in their cell wall that do not also make a betalactamase to deactivate it. This includes syphilis, even today. It is not accurate to imply they work against viruses; however it is also not reasonable to conflate “infectious diseases” with viruses.
    ALSO, erv, dirty sneakery to pretend some of those chemists (phi X 174? Rly?) or immunologists or oncologists are actually virologists, just because they employed viruses. I’m not a virologist if I use a retrovirus to transduce my macrophages with my favorite gene to see how they respond to malaria components.
    Not that virology isn’t important, just that some of those Nobels weren’t given for the knowledge generated as it pertained to viruses.

  20. #20 D. C. Sessions
    December 12, 2009

    The past 100 years of science were built by virologists.

    C’mon, Abby! I’m sure that the physicists and chemists at least played a supporting role.

    Now if you’d written “biological sciences,” I’d simply nod. However, I’m inclined to give the 20th century to the folks who deal in matter at a relatively crude level. The 21st is quite likely to be far more bioscience oriented. Assuming that we manage to avoid making it the century black powder and recycled steel.

  21. #21 Spartan
    December 12, 2009

    Awesome post. Perfect antidote to some, uh, other comments being made about his anthology, most of them heavy on outrage and very light on argument.

  22. #22 AndreasB
    December 12, 2009

    Why do I get the feeling that some people missed the P-A-R-O-D-Y category this post is filed under?

    It’s even spelled out.

  23. #23 D. C. Sessions
    December 12, 2009

    On the graph on the right, you will note that in 2000, the black line (all causes of death) has pretty much converged with the blue line (non-infectious cause of death), leaving the red line (infectious disease cause of death) at the rock bottom.

    That’s “acute infectious disease.” Cervical cancer (to name just one) isn’t included. There’s some very interesting reason to suspect that quite a few chronic conditions (including atherosclerosis) are at least partly traceable to pathogens.

    I do know that my maternal grandmother, like Bobby Darin, died of “heart disease” that isn’t included in your “infectious disease” total.

  24. #24 Optimus Primate
    December 12, 2009

    William M, can you show me here on this doll where the bad virologist touched you?

  25. #25 Shirakawasuna
    December 12, 2009

    Finally, at least two other people got the joke :).

  26. #26 Ritchie Annand
    December 12, 2009

    I just chalked it up to the fact that all virologists write in LOLspeak.

    I’m extrapolating of course :)

  27. #27 Joshua Zelinsky
    December 12, 2009

    Heh. I hadn’t noticed that when I read the book. Now that you point it out it is actually a surprising omission. I’m going to go with Ritchie’s hypothesis and suggest that maybe Dawkins doesn’t like LOLspeak?

  28. #28 windy
    December 12, 2009

    Finally, at least two other people got the joke :)

    Sadly I don’t even have to check the usual suspects to know what the faux outrage of the day is.

    Oh well, at least this means more material for my new project, “The big book of science whining”

  29. #29 ERV
    December 12, 2009

    I just wanted to thank all the non-virologists here, ie ‘virominists’, for your support.

    becca, D.C.– Typical, derogatory bullshit. The virus does all the work, but other fields take all the glory. Why is this practice ‘fine’ for viruses, but ‘unacceptable’ when it happens to Rosalind Franklin (another scientist who used viruses, BTW)?

    Ritchie– More bullshit. So its okay to ignore virologists cause we talk in lolz, but if Dawkins openly said ‘IM NOT INCLUDING ANY SWEDES. SWEDISH SOUNDS LIKE MORON MOON-SPEAK!’ people would be outraged. BULLSHIT.

    Joshua Zelinsky– I hadn’t noticed that when I read the book.
    Thats because youre a bigot.

  30. #30 ERV
    December 12, 2009

    windy– Technically, I have seen no evidence that The Usual Suspects are scientists– theyre anon.

    They could be professional cloggers, for all we know.

  31. #31 Ranson
    December 12, 2009

    I’m with you, Abby! Why, this massive oversight is like…like…it’s like Ed Brayton leaving female artists off a list of jazz artists, I tell ya!

  32. #32 justme
    December 12, 2009

    “Just for the record- penicillin is a beta lactam antibiotic effective against bacteria with peptidoglycan in their cell wall that do not also make a betalactamase to deactivate it.”
    becca – I wasn’t gonna toss him into the deep end. LOL Just enough to make his error obvious. ;-)

  33. #33 Miranda Celeste Hale
    December 12, 2009

    This post is made of win :)

  34. #34 Sili
    December 13, 2009

    My apologies. I went by my poor recollection of what I thought I’d heard of the anthology. It would appear I was wrong – again.

    (And I didn’t miss the Dembskifictation.)

    Personally, I consider myself more of a virologistophile.

  35. #35 D. C. Sessions
    December 13, 2009

    becca, D.C.– Typical, derogatory bullshit. The virus does all the work, but other fields take all the glory.

    I’m having this fascinating vision of a blogwar between Abby and Ethan Siegel regarding “viral astrophysics.” I wonder if we could get a project started for a “large virion collider.” Then there’s the project closer to my own field to use viral nanotubes for computation.

  36. #36 a equivocating lurker
    December 13, 2009

    Thirty Nobel Prizes for writing malicious programs and other code? And no articles on hacking in that Dawkins book.

    Dawkins is a virominist indeed. Not to mention a very brave man as hackers NO CARRIER

  37. #37 Blake Stacey
    December 13, 2009

    Is the anthology one of good science writing or good science that has been written about? Nobel prizes do not equal writing skill.

    It’s meant to be an anthology of good writing, mostly by people who are also well-known as working scientists. I’m not sure if anyone in the current kerfuffle has mentioned this so far, but one of the selections — the bit by Max Perutz — is actually about a female scientist, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. If we’re counting up “role models”, that probably ought to qualify as much as an essay on a gender-neutral topic which happened to be written by a woman. Of course, these kerfuffles tend to be more about drawing lines in the sand and deciding Who’s In and Who’s Out, not about (heaven forbid) reading books, so I doubt anybody cares.

  38. #38 mikka
    December 13, 2009

    I’m seeing some real ignorance here. Viruses are important and will continue to be important for biology in general for a very simple reason: Viruses have to do a lot with very little genetic material. They don’t have the luxury of a large genome. So, if a virus performs or affects a particular cellular process, YOU KNOW IT’S IMPORTANT.
    That’s definite evidence of biological relevance. Biological relevance is what we seek in research, lest we become distracted with pathways that are completely redundant, useless, remnants of past mechanisms or plain figments of our pattern hungry brains (put that in your pipe and smoke it, IDiots).
    So go through that list of nobel prizes: DNA replication? check. Apoptosis? check. RNA splicing? check. Any of them related to virus related morbidity? not directly, but you bet it’s directly related to biology in general. Viruses rock as a model, and that makes them important.
    All that’s left is for evolutionary biologists to realize that parasitism is a life strategy like any other, and that it affects and is affected by evolution. The above principle also applies to what we see in virus/host and transposon/host interactions; merorize this: if a virus does it, that means it’s important.

  39. #39 minimalist
    December 13, 2009

    Well if viruses are so important, how come they’re so SMALL?

  40. #40 Joshua Zelinsky
    December 13, 2009

    Minimalist, you mean if viruses are so important how come there are PIGMIE + DWARF viruses?

  41. #41 Ritchie Annand
    December 13, 2009

    Abbie – If Dawkins said that out loud, of course there would be an outrage, but his campaign against virologists is smoothly underhanded, just like his campaign against native-born Antarcicans.

    Besides, there are no Swedish people, because if I remember Dawkins correctly, it would be child abuse to say “oh, there goes a young Swedish child”. Americans, on the other hand, constantly call their children “American children”, as they are made of crasser stuff.

    These things would make much more sense to you if you were on the same sleep regimen as I am at present.

  42. #42 eddie
    December 13, 2009

    And this isn’t the first time. I was tres disappointed the ending of RD’s Ancestors’ Tale was spoiled by no viruses.

  43. #43 Prometheus
    December 14, 2009

    Dawkins does not hates virologists, Swedes and Native Americans so much as he hates what they stand for…..

    On a different topic, when exactly did Abbie Smith become the Asperger syndrome pin-up girl?

  44. #44 William Wallace
    December 14, 2009

    Did Al Gore make it in Dawkin’s book? If so, for the internet, or global warming strike that climate change?

  45. #45 Rrr
    December 14, 2009

    Did Al Gore make it in Dawkin’s book? If so, for the internet, or global warming strike that climate change?

    So, still finding reading a book is like too much heavy lifting, quad-u? Why not write one yourself, seeing as you’re already such a pee-er you could even review it too just like that other willy?

  46. #46 Dr. Duke
    December 14, 2009

    And Tara Smith, of the Aetiology scienceblog:
    http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2009/12/the_science_boys_club_strikes.php
    notes that Dawkins also snubbed women scientists.
    So, as a woman virologist, Abbie is double-snubbed.

  47. #47 becca
    December 14, 2009

    erv- viruses are not an exploited class! Quite the contrary- they are clearly the privileged members of the parasitic pathogens. Did you know that if you write an immunology paper with completely identical findings but you use a virus TLR ligand instead of a malaria TLR ligand you can get it published in Nature instead of JBC????

    So-called “discrimination” against viruses is just making up for all the irrational preferences they are given.

    Viruses don’t actually do any work; *by definition* cells do the work, viruses have simply enslaved the cell. Complaining that other fields ‘get all the glory’ is laughable.

  48. #48 Optimus Primate
    December 14, 2009

    Dr. Duke gets jokes.

  49. #49 Tyler DiPietro
    December 14, 2009

    VIRUSES ARE THE JEWS FOR DAWKINS’ OVENS.

  50. #50 Tyler DiPietro
    December 14, 2009

    BTW, wimmins do not belong in science and should get back in the kitchen. This does not apply to ERV because we all know ERV is actually a Real Man, unlike CP who is actually a weak woman.

  51. #51 Tyler DiPietro
    December 14, 2009

    Actually, CP can’t be a weak woman because there are not women on the internet. CP must be a post-op transexual.

  52. #52 becca
    December 15, 2009

    That, Tyler, is a deep and insensitive insult to post-op transsexuals.

    Also, make me a sammich.

  53. #53 eddie
    December 15, 2009

    Watch out ERV!! I just read over on Deltoid that christopher monckton is working on what may lead to a cure for HIV!

  54. #54 Tyler DiPietro
    December 15, 2009

    I know I’m being stupid above (and continuing to make it harder for you guys to take anything I say seriously), but IRL I was disappointed to see the whole Dawkins anthology lacking female writers issue. Then I decided to take a look at my bookshelf.

    I tried to find a female author amongst what is mostly a collection of math monographs, textbooks and semi-technical pop-science and philosophy books. I got four shelves down before I found Susan Blackmore’s Consciousness: An Introduction, and found none after that. In my closet I found some stuff by Lynn Margulis and a scientific biography of Ben Franklin by Joyce E. Chaplin. That was the end of all the science stuff I had.

    I got the same sinking, cold feeling in my gut when this came up last time and I took a look at my old blogroll. It’s that feeling you get when you realize that something is fucked up.

  55. #55 Prometheus
    December 16, 2009

    #54 Tyler DiPietro

    “It’s that feeling you get when you realize that something is fucked up.”

    I know that feeling.

    I just rolled back to the shelves where I keep the Britannica synopticon and up to the library to scan the sixty volume western canon, poor Willa Cather, Jane Austen and Virginia Wolf . The cigar smoke must be stifling. Where the hell is mommy! What! No Mary Shelly! Bastards.

    Yea it’s fucked up.

    Every anthology/collection/whatever is a lookback. In science, literature, art, history, law or pipe fitting there is a disparity based on the irrational, disgusting, diminution, exploitation and brutalization of women. The further back you look, the greater that disparity. The anthology incidentally does a good job of charting disparity. What a great gauge for anybody(who is not a retard) to measure the progress of recognition of the contribution of women in science…or lack of recognition.

    You start compiling “reparation” anthologies without telling people that is what you are doing and you screw up any chance of developing legitimate historically objective ideas about the progress of women in science. That’s the kind of crap that atavistic adherents to feminism as a political religion do. It already has destroyed any objective understanding of the status of women authors in the literary field.

    This isn’t about feminism it is about status and only about status.

    If your skill set consists only of a particularly loud annunciation of “witch!/thought criminal!/sexist!” then you wait until someone far more prominent than you will ever be, to do something. Then, if you squint at the something while standing on your head and play it backwards at half speed, you can hurl an epithet and everybody will notice you because of your target.

    We aren’t dealing with feminist critics, we are dealing with jingoistic McCarthyist fame vampires.

    Now that’s really fucked up.

    The only thing Dawkins got wrong was responding to an under accomplished opportunist like Sheril “Science of Kissing” Kirshenbaum.

  56. #56 Tyler DiPietro
    December 16, 2009

    Note that I’m not blaming Dawkins, in fact I meant to imply the opposite. I was initially willing to condemn him but checked my own bookshelf before I got all holier than thou on his ass, and subsequently reversed course.

    I made no effort to specifically exclude female writers in my collection of math monographs, for instance. I picked them based on content. Many of them are Dover paperbacks which are older, proven books, and reflect an even larger male bias than exists today. Even the newer (and more expensive) ones are uniformly authored by men.

    Dawkins is simply subject to an unfortunate fact, women are not well represented in the history of scientific accomplishment. That’s not his fault, things are just, as I said, fucked up.

  57. #57 Sigmund
    December 17, 2009

    I saw an interesting point highlighted recently about another publication that had a very similar gender ratio – twenty authors with only one of them being a woman scientist. What was it (I don’t hear you ask)?
    The report of the IPCC climate change panel which contained ten pieces, each authored by two scientists.
    In contrast to Dawkins anthology – essentially a collection of historical pieces with a sprinkling of a few modern writings – the IPCC report is an entirely contemporary work.
    Not only that but its a report that must be of paramount interest to a blog like ‘The Intersection’ that is primarily concerned with the issue of climate change.
    Why they should ignore the gender ratio of that report while highlighting a book published by Dawkins nearly two years ago suggests an agenda other than equality underlies the kerfuffle.

  58. #58 Prometheus
    December 17, 2009

    “the IPCC report is an entirely contemporary work.”

    Except as a comprehensive compendium it is still an incidental lookback, albeit a short one and another example of a reading of role, status, recognition of women in that field.

    If the reading indicates we are doing a lousy job in the equality category then you THANK the compiler for bringing the disparity to your attention.

    Shooting the messenger just means that you lose all ability to acquire intelligence to wit the current attribution of sexism to Dawkins lacks intelligence hyurk hyuck yuck….see what I did there?

  59. #59 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 17, 2009

    William Wallace’s reference in #8 has been disputed in a number of followup comments: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/280/20/1741
    Certainly, the incidence of medication errors is too high, and systems have been done and are continuing to be done, although more work is needed. The death rate from drug effects will never be zero, since drug effectiveness also carries risk, by necessity.

  60. #60 becca
    December 19, 2009

    Tyler- the cognitive dissonance I get when you make sense is too much. I demand you go back to being an oblivious incoherently rambling jackhat.

    Anyway, when I was a kid, my dad got me started on reading the childhood biographies of great Americans, bringing them home from the library for me. I read Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and EVERY female that was at the library (the ratio was probably about five:one male:female).
    I also remember truly enjoying the biographical compilation Nobel Prize Women of Science, and several biographies on Madame Curie (including the one by her daughter Eve Curie, which is excellent).
    So, I can understand the issue of role models in book form, and I think there’s a need for good coverage of women scientists.

    That said, Dawkin’s book did not generally sound like the main purpose has anything to do with role models. So I can cut him slack for not thinking about which people he might be inspiring, and whether that could contribute to a continued lack of diversity. Further, it’s not surprising to me that he didn’t notice how biased his tastes are (no doubt his tastes are deeply tied to what has been historically noticed and widely read, and are thus partially a reflection of the ills of society at large).

    But how do folks think that that bias happens? It happens through the collective ‘taste’ of scientists. Who you read matters. Who you cite matters (a lot, in academia). Who you write about matters. And I do wonder if, regardless of intention, Dawkin’s book might function to inspire young scientists, given that it seemed to have categories of selections like “what motivates scientists”.
    So I can see why people are saying it was a missed opportunity for Dawkins. He could have written a book that’s part of a solution, instead he wrote one that reflects a problem.

  61. #61 red rabbit
    December 28, 2009

    The viruses just can’t get no respect.

    Also, re: derailment by WW. You think there are medication errors now? Wait until Ontario’s bill 179 goes through and NPs, pharmacists, and, wait for it, naturopaths get prescribing privileges.

    Part of me is supremely irritated. A small shameful part of me thinks if you vote in morons who pass laws like this, you deserve the consequences.