Thus Spake Zuska

Lives of the Saints of Science: Darwin

Part of my socialization into the world of science and engineering was, of course, the worship of great and important historical figures in the professions who, naturally, just happened to all be white males. This socialization was an informal, even casual, process – passing references in the introductory matter of various textbooks; framed portraits and busts on the walls and in the halls of university buildings dedicated to science and engineering; and the ubiquitous idolatry of a few key figures, e.g.: Galileo, Newton, Mendeleev, Darwin, Einstein.

As an acolyte of science, I was more than happy to worship along with everyone else. Growing up Catholic, saints were an important feature in our culture. My parents made sure that we had access to books in our home, and one of those books was Lives of the Saints, of which I think this is a modern edition. I understood the canonization of certain figures and the retelling of their stories as exemplars for the common folk to live up to, perhaps even to invoke in times of stress.

This past year the scientific community has been engaged in a massive telling and retelling of the story of one of those key figures – Charles Darwin. All year long, I have been reminded of my first encounter with the actual writings of Mr. Darwin, as opposed to the presentation of his myth. It happened in a women’s studies class.

The class was “History of Feminist Thought”, taught by Jean O’Barr at Duke University. Every woman scientist should be so lucky to take a seminar class like that one. Jean gave us our heritage, the heritage that had been kept from us in the rest of our university education. Where do you think we started with the history of feminist thought? If you guessed 1400 and The Book of the City of the Ladies by Christine de Pizan, you go to the head of the class, girl!

My treasure from the class, however, is Alice Rossi’s The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beavoir. And as we worked our way through it, we eventually came to Antoinette Brown Blackwell. Antoinette was part of the large Blackwell clan deeply involved in the suffragette cause, and is famous as the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United States. But I came to know her as the author of “Sex and Evolution”, an excerpt from her larger work The Sexes Throughout Nature, published in 1875 in New York by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. It is a contemporary rebuttal to The Descent of Man.

I could not believe what I was reading. Could a scientist, a revered scientist, really have had his head this far up his ass, when it came to the actual science? My confusion and distress over the unbelievable and increasing loads of misogyny I’d been subjected to as a woman in engineering had propelled me into that women’s studies classroom in my fourth year of graduate school. But I had assumed that the problem was confined to the social behavior of scientists, and not the science itself. Reading Blackwell, and then Darwin, sent me into a tailspin.

People say, “well, of course he was a product of his times” as if that explains or excuses the misogyny and racism of Descent. And in some ways it does – you can’t read Darwin out of context. But what, then, are you to make of the adulation that surrounds him, with nary a whisper about his culturally-inflected misogyny and racism, laced through and through his scientific theory of humans? What are you to conclude, when this obtains in an environment where you have been made to feel, on a daily basis, less than welcome for the lack of a few dangly bits? Well, if you are me, you might feel like pukin’ on some shoes at that point.

I was very, very, angry for a long, long time, and my anger has only moderately diminished over the years, because I keep in mind the following. Christine de Pizan arguing in 1400 for women’s reason and abilities. Mary Wollstonecraft in the 1700′s, with A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Antoinette Brown Blackwell in 1875 arguing against Darwin, and disappearing into obscurity as far as the evolutionary theorists were concerned. Mary Beard, suffragist and historian, writing Woman as Force in History in 1946. Margaret Rossiter with her exhaustive two-volume history of women scientists: Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (1984) and Before Affirmative Action 1940-1972 (1995). The 2007 NSF Report, Beyond Bias and Barriers. Along with all these larger works, there are the publications over the 50 years of the Society of Women Engineers’ history in which they repeatedly attempt to show look! women can be engineers, and feminine, too! I have citations to works that are much less well known that the ones above, written by women engineers and chemists and medical doctors over the course of the twentieth century, in an attempt to demonstrate that it has “now” been proven that women can be educated and have a career in [insert scientific career here] and still be womanly women so as not to threaten western civilization as we know it.

We have been having this argument, literally, for centuries. We have been demonstrating, literally, for centuries that we are capable of doing whatever it is we put our minds to doing, if only the goddamn patriarchy will get out of our way and stop erecting roadblocks, quit installing us in fortresses and digging moats around them. But the conversation goes on in many quarters as if it just started last week. Don’t women want to give up their careers to stay home with the kids?????? Oh my! Do women have the brains to do math????? Oh dear! Can women and men work together in the lab without men having 24/7 erections and fondling teh boobiez uncontrollably because, omigod, evolution!!!?!??!?!?

Go ahead and light the incense and shake the censor in the direction of Darwin’s altar, if you feel the need. He did give us the grand theory of evolution, without which not much else in biology makes sense. Praise the theory of evolution, puke on the shoes of descent. They aren’t mutually exclusive activities. We could do with a lot more shoe-puking honesty in ScienceLand. We wouldn’t have Lives of the Science Saints, anymore, but we’d have something much more interesting and helpful: lives of real scientists, honestly discussed. It would be a helluva lot more interesting than yet one more tedious round of can women combine career and family oh noes?!?!?!

Comments

  1. #1 Laelaps
    November 24, 2009

    RE: Darwin’s views on race and human evolution, Desmond and Moore published a biography focusing on just that subject this year called Darwin’s Sacred Cause. I reviewed it here.

  2. #2 Peggy
    November 24, 2009

    My initial reaction to your post was to suggest that Darwin may be given more of a pass on racism and sexism than he deserves because the creationists go to such great lengths to vilify him.

    But I think you are right that there is a sort of canonization of certain famous scientists – pretty much all white dudes, except for Marie Curie – that makes people upset if you suggest they have human failings. Physicists have it easier than Darwin, since their science can be more easily separated from their biases. However, I recall an online discussion of the sexism of Richard Feynman that turned into bashing the woman who was writing about her experiences – and Feynman was given the same “product of his times” excuse as Darwin. (In Feynman’s case I believe there was also an “if you’re brilliant you’re allowed to be a jerk” sentiment as well.)

    Anyway, considering the sexist leanings of current pop-culture evo-psych it would be very worthwhile to have a public discussion of how Darwin’s personal beliefs about differences between the human sexes and races influenced his science.

    And thanks for introducing me to Antoinette Brown Blackwell!

  3. #3 lost academic
    November 24, 2009

    I agree wholly. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with publicly beatifying anyone, because we’re none of us perfect. My epiphany on that was with Euripides’ Medea.

    We’re all of us going to do some great things, some good things, some careless things, and some godawful stupid things that hopefully we’ll realize and feel appropriate remorse about. We’re none of us saints.

  4. #4 DNLee
    November 24, 2009

    Thanks Zuska for a full picture of Darwin and his works.

  5. #5 razib
    November 24, 2009

    i also tend to be a perspective that there’s too much of a tendency to whitewash, so to speak. people do live in their own contexts. though i come from the perspective of someone who does think that dead whites dudes like darwin were teh awesome. for me it is also really a matter of not always shoehorning individuals from the past in to our own present categories. in some cases this is useful, but in other cases i think it misleads.

  6. #6 Christian Chandler
    November 24, 2009

    Zuska is apparently the mental equivalent of a YEC. How brilliant.

  7. #7 History Punk
    November 24, 2009

    Yet, for the alleged Darwin worship, it appears his modern day prophets and acolyates cannot even be bothered to read the cannonical text.

    “http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/on-the-origin-of-species/”

    “Antoinette Brown Blackwell in 1875 arguing against Darwin, and disappearing into obscurity as far as the evolutionary theorists were concerned.”

    Lots of Darwin’s critics have faded into obscurity. That is often the fate of those who are wrong, unless of course the failed theories produce horrific results like Lysenko. Dare I ask if she was correct?

    Ultimately, Darwin gets respect because he produced results and he was right. It’s how these things work.

  8. #8 SKM
    November 24, 2009

    Ultimately, Darwin gets respect because he produced results and he was right. It’s how these things work.

    How do you figure? How do you know that all the voices that have faded into obscurity were wrong, and all the sound ideas have surfaced in a timely manner on their own merits? What makes you confident that it is, in fact “how these things work”? You cannot asses the merits of ideas you never get a chance to hear.

    I’m not talking about Darwin and Blackwell specifically here, by the way–I hear this idea that genius will always naturally bubble up into fame and etch itself into history all the time, and it just does not add up. Art, literature, science–all these fields and many more have the same convenient narrative.

  9. #9 Zuska
    November 25, 2009

    Yes, yes, using an extended metaphor to examine the effects of patriarchy in science on women who would participate in it is EXACTLY like being a YEC. Christian Chandler is a GENIUS!

    And History Punk? More brilliance! Ultimately, Darwin gets respect because he produced results and he was right. It’s how these things work.

    Of course he was right! I assume by “right” you mean the misogynistic portrayal of women as not-quite-as-evolved as men, somewhere between children and adult white males, and the racist portrayal of nonwhite peoples as culturally inferior to all things British were scientifically accurate results that have stood the test of the ages? No? Then perhaps you might concede that, just possibly, Antoinette Brown Blackwell may have had something to say in criticism of Darwin’s misogyny-laced “scientific” theory that would have been worthwhile for scientists to listen to.

    Or wait. Maybe back in the 19th century, women hadn’t evolved yet, and it’s only now in the 21st century that we have begun to catch up to the white d00dz, so she must have been wrong.

  10. #10 History Punjk
    November 26, 2009

    I hear this idea that genius will always naturally bubble up into fame and etch itself into history all the time, and it just does not add up. Art, literature, science–all these fields and many more have the same convenient narrative.

    The problem here is that you mix art and literature with science. Art and literature are like ice cream flavors, there’s no objective measure by which to compare them. Is vanilla better than chocolate? I say yes. Why? Nothing objective, I just like it better. I find most alleged classics to be utter torture to read. I stopped years ago and decided to read what I found to be truly good literature. Is Max Brooks better than Jane Austin? I say yes, others say no? How do we measure them? We don’t.

    “Of course he was right! I assume by “right” you mean the misogynistic portrayal of women as not-quite-as-evolved as men, somewhere between children and adult white males, and the racist portrayal of nonwhite peoples as culturally inferior to all things British were scientifically accurate results that have stood the test of the ages?”

    No, it is pretty clear that when most people, i.e. the bulk of the population that has avoided women’s studies classrooms, that refer to the Theory of Evolution.

    “Then perhaps you might concede that, just possibly, Antoinette Brown Blackwell may have had something to say in criticism of Darwin’s misogyny-laced “scientific” theory that would have been worthwhile for scientists to listen to.”

    Whether Darwin is incorrect has little bearing on the merits of Antoinette Brown Blackwell’s theory. They can both be wrong. Just like Christian Chandler is correct to call you out for aping the rhetoric of the YEC, you should also stop mimicking their tendencies to hype any incorrect aspect of Darwin’s thought as proof of your theory’s correctness.

    Wow, I am still thankfully I learned my science and history in useful departments.

  11. #11 Edwin Kyalangalilwa
    November 26, 2009

    thanks for the share. happy thanksgiving

  12. #12 zylph
    November 26, 2009

    What exactly do you expect here? That everybody that is venerated for one achievement must be absolutely perfect in all other respects? That their paradigm shift must be absolutely perfect in all regards, anticipating 150 years of further history?

    This is why you irritate me, Zuska. You have never, once, since I have read your blog, offered any concrete solution to any problem. Health care, feminism, whatever. You’re content to complain about problems, and from that vantage point, half solutions are no solutions. The fact that Darwin basically changed the world was not enough. That he was more liberal than 95% of the people of his day was not enough. You’re content to judge him from the safe standpoint of an orthodox feminist of the early 21st century. Congratulations. Puke on his shoes. Accomplish nothing.

  13. #13 SKM
    November 26, 2009

    The problem here is that you mix art and literature with science. Art and literature are like ice cream flavors, there’s no objective measure by which to compare them.

    No, the problem is that you do separate science from art and literature as though science were some great objective mountaintop of pure truth. Science posits falsifiable hypotheses, so sure, it ought to be purely objective. But all science is a social endeavor as well, and we see evidence of that in who is allowed to enter the canon.

    Your own bias is pretty transparent here, too, btw (“useful departments”?)

  14. #14 GAC
    November 26, 2009

    Many people often forget that the theory of evolution does not begin and end with Darwin. He was inspired by geological and linguistic theories of the day, as well as predecessors grappling with the idea of biological change over time. And it was left to other scientists to find the exact mechanisms for inheritance, all the way up to the genetic scientists of today filling in the edges and details of our understanding of the world.

    The cultural influences seen in Darwin can be seen as wrong without taking away the value of his theory of natural selection. Indeed, there are probably a number substantive points where he was wrong that either have been found or will by. The “because he was right” stuff only goes so far, Newton succeded “because he was right”, except that his entire theory of gravity has been proven wrong by General Relativity (never mind someone else apparently invented calculus independantly, just as happened with Darwin and Russel on nat. sel.).

    In any case, it’s probably best to realize that the great minds in science were in fact just human beings. They may have one accomplishment that has changed humanity, but that isn’t the only thing that they existed for.

  15. #15 Hena
    November 27, 2009

    Brilliantly written… as usual

  16. #16 History Punk
    November 28, 2009

    “Newton succeded “because he was right”, except that his entire theory of gravity has been proven wrong by General Relativity”

    Classical mechanics (Newton’s physics) is still useful and used in for every day objects. Relatively only displaced Newton’s work in specific cases like high velocity.

    “you do separate science from art and literature as though science were some great objective mountaintop of pure truth”

    Unlike like art or literature, science and scientific theories, hypothesis, and guesses all interact with physical reality which is often harsh and unforgiving and utterly ignorant of and unresponsive to the social needs of people. That is why, for example, Bernoulli’s principle has been accepted over other theories of flight. Bernoulli’s principle produced results while my alternative theory of magic fairy propulsion did not. Even if I mobilized millions of people and millions of dollars in support my theory of magic fairy propulsion, planes built along my design principles will not fly. Those engineered by engineers informed regarding Bernoulli’s principle will fly, assuming they get everything else right.

    SKM, my biases, beliefs, and attitudes are always transparent. This is to ensure that nobody gets confused about how I feel. As for “useful departments,” I rank them according to how they impact my life. Departments like Engineering, Chemistry, and the other hard sciences get top billing because they build things that keep me alive, comfortable and safe. Second tier are things like Fine arts, my own field of history, film, which produces I like like and that amuse me. Third tier would be departments that every so often do me a solid, such as English when they produce an author capable of producing the literature I like. Finally, come the useless departments, whose closure would not negatively impact my existence.

  17. #17 clamboy
    November 30, 2009

    Here is a link to where one can find “The Sexes Throughout Nature”: http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924031174372

    And Chapter IXX in “The Descent of Man” is a good place to start to get a handle on Darwin’s sexism (I hesitate at this time to say “misogyny”).

  18. #18 clamboy
    November 30, 2009

    XIX. My bad, or rather, my typo.

  19. #19 skeptifem
    December 1, 2009

    Hey zylph, maybe discussing it is part of the answer. ever think of that?

    And zuska doesn’t seem like she is blogging as an activist anyway. Maybe what she writes is for her own (and other feminists) enjoyment. Its not her job to explain how to fix the world to relieve your irritation, or even to know how to do it.

  20. #20 Monado
    December 2, 2009

    Hmmm. I remember my mother saying that Marie Curie was spoken of as “the exception that proves the rule” or some kind of weird mutation, to nullify her example of what women could do in science.

    She’s the one who, when I told her I had read that for some unknown reason women quit their jobs and went back to home life after World War II, said rather crisply, “We were all given our pink slips the day the war ended.” That means pink pieces of paper that told them their services would no longer be required.

  21. #21 Ron Sullivan
    December 3, 2009

    zylph, #12: This is why you irritate me, Zuska. You have never, once, since I have read your blog, offered any concrete solution to any problem.

    You’re irritated? So what are you doing about that?

    (Honestly, I’m hoping that was a joke.)

  22. #22 Kaleberg
    December 6, 2009

    It is quite possible that Darwin did have his head up his ass, but it would help your argument if you actually described, or better yet, quoted him with regards to his stupidity and sexism. It is clear you were quite angry, but it isn’t clear what angered you. Was it a particular statement, or the kind of blind sexism that states flatly that in some cultures, a family consists of a brother, his sister and her children (by a man not her brother)? Share the fun!

  23. #23 MCP
    December 7, 2009

    The rantings against Darwin are so childish that it makes me sad that a scientist would write them.

    “Product of the times” is just an “excuse”. Really?
    How do you know that 100 years from now, your ideas on certain issues will not be considered ignorant hate speech? Are you suggesting your ideas are so perfect that they cannot be modified?

    Between Darwin and you, I would rather worship Darwin.

    Do you know that there is such a thing as the Zeitgeist? Slamming Darwin for his views on women is like slamming Newton because he wrote “that the arrangement of the heavens…could only follow from the counsel and dominion of a” (favourite creationist quote).

    People like Darwin pushed the boundaries of human thought. We open our minds one door at a time. Darwin opened one of the biggest floodgates of free thought ever. In fact, it is because of people like Darwin who pushed human thought that you are even here… a scientist… a professor. Otherwise, you would have been knitting and sewing in your husband’s parlour, convinced that “outside work” is a “man’s job”. You forget that women believed as much in patriarchy as men did in Darwin’s day.

    Darwin did not open all doors of free thought. He opened just one. You are slamming him for not opening all others. Seriously, how retarded is that? Let me see you open just one, just one. Let me see you open a small peep hole to the future. Then, we’ll discuss Darwin’s faults.

  24. #24 Prometheus
    December 9, 2009

    Wow, what’s with this puddle of bathwater and all these babies with concussions.

    Whenever I picture Zuska in a historical context she is sitting beside Madame Defarge.

  25. #25 Zuska
    December 14, 2009

    Wah, wah, wah…so many cranky people and concern trolls on one comment thread! Well, people really hate having their objects of worship spoken of in a less than hush-mouthed, respectful manner. My bad.

  26. #26 History Punk
    December 16, 2009

    “objects of worship,” somebody’s not borrowing from creationist rhetoric at all.

    Your post is good evidence for Hayden White’s belief that people often choose which historical interpretations they believe not on evidence, but for moral reasons or aesthetics.

  27. #27 snow black
    December 16, 2009

    Idly returning to these comments weeks after the original post, I’m astonished. Yes, after all these decades, it’s still possible for me to be astonished at the depth to which people just don’t get it about women’s place in science, in engineering, in the arts, in politics, in you-name-it.

    Sheesh.

    Thanks, Zuska, for cluing me in about Blackwell, and for reminding me that I need to get Christine de Pisan and read her.

  28. #28 Prometheus
    December 16, 2009

    Despite being a cranky troll baby I would strongly recommend Lady Murasaki’s eleventh century masterwork “The Tale of Genji” as the first true novel. Isotta Nogarola’s dialogue on Adam and Eve (King translation) and Christine de Pizan who is more interesting in the context of her arguable patron and political corollary, the much maligned but fascinating Isabeau of Bavaria.

    Isotta Nogarola was actually from a tradition of critical humanist women writers (her aunt,Angela and sister, Genevive) who’s works, sadly, like Sappho, Sulpicia I and Sulpicia II survive only in fragments or reference.

  29. #29 Zuska
    December 16, 2009

    Wah, wah, History Punk, why don’t you go off and read some Margaret Wertheim or David Noble before you come back around here to call people creationists and show that you have absolutely no fucking idea what you are talking about? ‘K? Thx.

  30. #30 History Punk
    December 16, 2009

    “you have absolutely no fucking idea what you are talking about”

    When I floated a proposal to do my thesis on the history of the creationist and intelligent design movements, a lot of people thought I’d be a good person to do it because of my knowledge of science, the relevant historiography, and my interest in the matter. Good thing you set me and the experts straight.

  31. #31 Zuska
    December 18, 2009

    Good for you, a thesis on the history of creationism and intelligent design. Now what, exactly, do you bring to that mix that qualifies you in any way to comment on the history of women in science, or how religion has influenced the development of science? The latter especially is something very different from the history of creationism and intelligent design. Have you read David Noble? Have you read Margaret Wertheim? Or are you just going to go “wah wah I am an expert on creationism” again? Because if you don’t really know anything at all about the history of women in science, you really might want to think about shutting up for one second, just one second, and considering the possibility that there is knowledge out there that you don’t have that is actually useful and relevant and meaningful. Because from everything you’ve posted here on this thread, it appears to me that you know absolutely zilch on the topic. If that’s not the case, then you are doing an excellent job of disguising your expertise.

  32. #32 Prometheus
    December 18, 2009

    David Noble is a gibbering scenery chewing monster. His philosophical position relative to the Unabomber varies only in that Ted Kaczynski isn’t an anti-Semite.

    As for Margaret Wertheim, from the perspective of a real medievalist historian, I can say that it is pretty mercenary to base an entire career on the proposition that your readership will understand Aquinas, Augustine and the Renaissance cosmologies even less than you do.

    But hey, it saves Dan Brown the trouble of producing coffee table books.

  33. #33 Zuska
    December 18, 2009

    Gibbering? Did I hear gibbering? Oh my! Another comment from Prometheus!

  34. #34 History Punk
    December 20, 2009

    Zuska, go re-read my last comment, but this time with an effort on understanding it. Never mind, I’ll do the dumbing down for you.

    In my comment (26), I referenced and mocked your earlier comment about people reacting poorly to attacks on their alleged “their objects of worship”.

    I responded by mocking your plagiarizing a common creationist tactic, accusing secularists and biologists of worshiping Darwin.

    You got cranky and spouted off the following non-sequitur nonsense:”Wah, wah, History Punk, why don’t you go off and read some Margaret Wertheim or David Noble before you come back around here to call people creationists and show that you have absolutely no fucking idea what you are talking about? ‘K? Thx. ”

    First, if you had read my comment with the reading ability required to graduate even from Baltimore City’s notoriously lax high schools, you’d know that I never called you a creationist, I called you on your crude aping of their rhetoric. Now, I am a learning disabled, state-school educated dolt, yet I was smart enough to realize the rather large difference between the two. Judging by the lack of complaints from your readers, they were too. This means only you failed to get my point. This means the failure originates with you.

    Two, neither Margaret Wertheim nor David Noble appear to have much, if any, experience on creationism or the history of the movement, so reading them would be of little use on the matter. Just because they tell you want you like to hear on some issues do make them relevant in all situations.

    As for your last post to me, you’re babbling about “Good for you, a thesis on the history of creationism and intelligent design. Now what, exactly, do you bring to that mix that qualifies you in any way to comment on the history of women in science, or how religion has influenced the development of science …”

    demonstrates a complete failure to read for understanding. It was a comeback designed to highlight your utterly evidence free assertion “that you [me] have absolutely no fucking idea what you are talking about?” It seems to served its purpose given your abrupt change of topic.

    Now that I have broken it down into appropriate bit-size chunks for easy intellectual digestion, do you get what I was saying? I’m kind of busy but I got a program that creates comics and coloring books. I could use it to make my points that much easier to understand. If you ask politely, I’ll teach you how to read for understand. It’s not as fun as whatever you learned in school, but you’ll find that reading is a lot more fun when you have a firm grasp on all the words.

  35. #35 Zuska
    December 20, 2009

    History Punk, I suppose you mean well, but I really think you don’t get it. So I’ll try to break it down and make it simple for you, too. I don’t think you are able to read what I wrote from the perspective of women who have been excluded from the power centers of science for centuries – and not by accident, but by the active and conscious policies of men who were the leaders and shapers of the scientific community. In many cases, these are the same men held up to women as heroes and idols of the scientific community. Their stories are the ones that are told as the story of science, and the experience of the women who struggled alongside them, in obscurity, without access to the same education and resources they had, whose contributions, when they managed to make them, were attributed to men – their stories are not told. When their stories do get told, then they are dismissed by people like you as “just telling you what you want to hear”. If they aren’t in the standard histories, they aren’t important, and if they appear in non-standard histories, they aren’t important, because it’s just “telling us what we want to hear”. Well, that’s hardly a new form of dismissal, but it does reveal something about where you are coming from, so I thank you for that.

    Apparently you are completely unable to see ANY difference between a creationist who claims that scientists worship Darwin (or whoever) exactly like a god VERSUS what I did, which is: using metaphor to show how women experience patriarchal authority similarly in the Catholic church and in science (which is not much of a stretch, given how modern science developed in the breast of the Catholic church, as Wertheim and Noble, whom you sneer at, have exhaustively detailed in scholarship that you should only hope one day you could be capable of). If you really cannot parse that difference then I wonder how you made it into a graduate program. Try setting aside your “must smash creationists!” tunnel vision blinders for just teeny tiny minute, and try, try, try for that same teeny tiny minute to think about what the world looks like to women in science. The change in perspective might do you some good.

  36. #36 Prometheus
    December 21, 2009

    “try, try, try for that same teeny tiny minute to think about what the world looks like to women in science. The change in perspective might do you some good.”

    Pssssst. There are as many perspectives on women in science as there are women in science.

    Try not to invalidate…well….the planet by assuming that you have the only pertinent central nervous system.

    Shhhhh. I’m sitting next to a Little Old Lady Petroleum Engineer right now.

    She chews nicotine gum, looks up from her book every few minutes, peeks over my shoulder at your blog and gives it the raspberry.

  37. #37 Zuska
    December 21, 2009

    Oh wow, thanks, I had NEVER thought of that. Too bad you and History Punk both appear incapable of understanding even one of those perspectives. But nice try.

    Here’s a suggestion: if this blog bothers you so much, stop reading it and leaving comments.

  38. #38 Prometheus
    December 21, 2009

    It doesn’t bother me a bit. I wouldn’t bother to be critical if it didn’t interest me. You are more often right than you are wrong and I read your posts for a strategies I can use for dealing with crap the women I work with encounter.

    We also have more in common than you might think. We both work our butts off trying and correct the repugnant disparity and misogyny in our professions (My latest associate had her client pressing his erection against her in open court during sentencing Friday…sigh).

    We have differences of opinion as to style and perspective but I rely on differences of opinion and argument as a crucible to be an effective thinker and to keep learning.

    If you would prefer to go unchallenged and confirmed in your every assertion, its your blog.

    Bye.

  39. #39 History Punk
    December 23, 2009

    “If you really cannot parse that difference then I wonder how you made it into a graduate program. ”

    I made into a graduate program because a committee of vastly superior scholars then you or I reviewed my record and decided that I possessed the latent skills and talent neccessary to thrive both inside the program and upon graduation. Not a lot of mystery in that question. They seem to think highly of me and given their demonstrated skill in such matters, I’m guessing their analysis of my talent and skill is more likely to be correct than yours.

    Now back to lack of reading comprehension.

    “History Punk, I suppose you mean well, but I really think you don’t get it. So I’ll try to break it down and make it simple for you, too. I don’t think you are able to read what I wrote from the perspective of women who have been excluded from the power centers of science for centuries – and not by accident, but by the active and conscious policies of men who were the leaders and shapers of the scientific community. In many cases, these are the same men held up to women as heroes and idols of the scientific community. Their stories are the ones that are told as the story of science, and the experience of the women who struggled alongside them, in obscurity, without access to the same education and resources they had, whose contributions, when they managed to make them, were attributed to men – their stories are not told. When their stories do get told, then they are dismissed by people like you as “just telling you what you want to hear”. If they aren’t in the standard histories, they aren’t important, and if they appear in non-standard histories, they aren’t important, because it’s just “telling us what we want to hear”. Well, that’s hardly a new form of dismissal, but it does reveal something about where you are coming from, so I thank you for that. ”

    All that babbling is merely you dodging getting called out on other points of idiocy. For example, I didn’t dimiss the works of people like Noble, I dismissed your crude appeal to authority which they didn’t even possess. In short, I mock your feeble attempt to snow people with a blizzard of names. (A practice so common among the intellectual underclass that graduate programs actually set aside time to teach students how to handle it.) As for their quality of scholarship, I’m not read enough in the field to comment, but I am aware that my criticism of you was right, both from a review of the historiography and from their own CVs.

    “Apparently you are completely unable to see ANY difference between a creationist who claims that scientists worship Darwin (or whoever) exactly like a god VERSUS what I did, which is: using metaphor to show how women experience patriarchal authority similarly in the Catholic church and in science ”

    Ohh, it’s metaphor. An original twist on the old “I was just joking,” or the middle aged “It was satire defense.”

  40. #40 MonkeyPox
    December 23, 2009

    As for their quality of scholarship, I’m not read enough in the field to comment

    And that’s about where you should have called it quits.

    Have you ever sat back and considered why you are becoming so defensive or why you have become so emotionally invested in leveling caustic comments at a female academic whose opinion differs from yours? Have you wondered what drives you to spew such hatred-laden language?

    It might just be that you’re an asshole, but it might also be that you are so immersed in a culture of privilege and so blinded by your own experiences that you can’t see what you’re doing.

    Or maybe you’re just an asshole.

  41. #41 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 23, 2009

    I made into a graduate program because a committee of vastly superior scholars then you or I reviewed my record and decided that I possessed the latent skills and talent neccessary to thrive both inside the program and upon graduation. Not a lot of mystery in that question. They seem to think highly of me and given their demonstrated skill in such matters, I’m guessing their analysis of my talent and skill is more likely to be correct than yours.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!! D00d, how many fucking times are you gonna tell us how some motherfucking committee of doddering douchebags at the university of east bumfuck thinks you are teh awesome?

    D00d, you were totally champeen of debate team in high school. AMIRITE?

  42. #42 MonkeyPox
    December 23, 2009

    I have found over the years that telling people how good you are rarely convinces them of that.

    But it’s cool for shits and giggles.

  43. #43 DFW
    December 23, 2009

    It’s like you guys are some sort of clique just defending each other for no reason and being a bunch of assholes. Shame on you for lowering the level of discourse. History Punk and others just happen to disagree…why not let him speak?

  44. #44 Funky Fresh
    December 23, 2009

    Or, it could just be that some dude needed someone to do his scut experiments. This science ain’t gonna do itself, smarty pants.

  45. #45 becca
    December 23, 2009

    HistoryPunk- it seems to me, that you think the topic of this post is about creationism vs. intelligent design, because it comments on Darwin. It seems to me that Zuska is instead writing about the history of women in science, and how what is common knowledge about Darwin can tell us about the culture of science.

    Now, I can see why you I think it obvious that Darwin and his sexism are related to the creationism vs. evolution debate. After all, isn’t that exactly why creationists saying “Darwin is a jerk, ergo evolution is wrong!11″ makes so much sense, right? Because, if *that’s* batshit insane illogic, then it would also be only tangentially relevant for you to go on scathing rants about how much better you are and how important your creationism vs. evolution expertise is to this blog post, right?

  46. #46 Dick
    December 23, 2009

    History Punk, dude, what the hell are you going on about? Did that graduate school committee examine you on reading comprehension? You might want to ask for your tuition back because I think they’re taking you for a ride, buddy!

  47. #47 leigh
    December 24, 2009

    I made into a graduate program because a committee of vastly superior scholars then you or I reviewed my record and decided that I possessed the latent skills and talent neccessary to thrive both inside the program and upon graduation.

    that is, you looked good on paper and didn’t get too wasted on the interview weekend. good job. now if you turn out to be anything worthwhile as a result of said admission, that remains to be seen… but the evidence as presented here is weak.

  48. #48 Department Wetback
    December 24, 2009

    Wait! That fucker is still a student????

  49. #49 History Punk
    December 26, 2009

    I am answering the posts in reverse order, newest to oldest.

    “Wait! That fucker is still a student????

    Yeah.

    “that is, you looked good on paper and didn’t get too wasted on the interview weekend. good job. now if you turn out to be anything worthwhile as a result of said admission, that remains to be seen… but the evidence as presented here is weak.”

    Actually, I looked pretty bad on paper. I had a C average at the university which gave me my four year degree. I had a ton of D’s, W’s and F’s liberally peppered throughout my transcript. After graduating, I went back to a community college and only managed a B average despite having just graduated days before from a four uni. As for the interview, what interview?

    Now, why did they accept me? Maybe it was the 160+ page independent study I did. Maybe it was the time I was operated on and, despite some post op complications, managed to get to class on time. Maybe it was the fact I earned a high C average despite being called to active duty like ten times and spending a lot of time on crutches after a line of duty injury I suffered training to defend Western Civilization and your rights under the U.S. Constitution. I don’t have access to those records, so I cannot answer that.

    “Or, it could just be that some dude needed someone to do his scut experiments. This science ain’t gonna do itself, smarty pants.”

    I do history. We don’t do experiments.

    “I have found over the years that telling people how good you are rarely convinces them of that. ”

    Dude, during my second semester of graduate school, I so convinced myself that I was going to fail, I nearly panic dropped the entire semester to avoid the shame of being flunked out. I was given straight A’s. Behavior like this is why I let other people determine how I view myself to a degree that isn’t safe. I only repeated what others have told me.

    “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!! D00d, how many fucking times are you gonna tell us how some motherfucking committee of doddering douchebags at the university of east bumfuck thinks you are teh awesome?”

    Comrade, I was always told that the University of Maryland system was pretty good. However, if you have information to the contrary, I’d appreciate hearing it before going there for my Ph.D. For example, is your uni better or worse than the schools of Maryland?

    “D00d, you were totally champeen of debate team in high school. AMIRITE?”

    No, you are not.

    “It might just be that you’re an asshole, but it might also be that you are so immersed in a culture of privilege and so blinded by your own experiences that you can’t see what you’re doing.”

    From my personal experience, I’ve found that when you’re learning disabled, all the white privilege in the world doesn’t help. You’re still “retarded “dumb” or “lazy.” My white teachers didn’t spare me lectures about how I just worked harder I could cure myself of learning disabilities. It was all in my head and I was making excuses. Never mind, I clearly worked harder than the other kids as evidenced my tendency to produce 2-3 times longer than required papers and openly helped other students cheat. Given the horrendous state of American special education, I sure do feel privileged. This “privilege” is probably why people with ADHD are so over represented in the work place, academia, and the rest of society. Nobody ever postulates that their disabilities are a conspiracy by “Big Pharma” to dumb down the masses for the purposes of making more money.

    However, I guess with upfront parking, complementary electric-wheelchairs at Wal-Mart, and closed captioning we who are also physically handicapped are pretty privileged too.

    For the record though, despite my joining the military, working for non-profits dedicated, in part, to educating disadvantaged youth, and spending thousands of dollars to become a school teacher, I’m an asshole.

  50. #50 anon
    December 26, 2009

    Give it up, History Punk. They don’t care; they’ve already made up their minds about you, and mere “facts” won’t get them to change.

  51. #51 Phil
    December 28, 2009

    Zuska, do you REALLY belive that women negligibly contributed to human progress because of male discrimination?

  52. #52 Zuska
    December 29, 2009

    Phil, do you REALLY believe that that is what I am saying in my post? Try again. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

    History Punk, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the thought that you are so desperate to prove yourself on a blog you mock and malign. Give it a rest.

  53. #53 Phil
    January 1, 2010

    From what you write, it seems that you contest the interpretation by Darwin, “puke on the shoes” and that you believe in an alternative interpretation in terms of male discrimination, “We [women] have been demonstrating, literally, for centuries that we are capable of doing whatever it is we put our minds to doing, if only the goddamn patriarchy will get out of our way and stop erecting roadblocks”. Is there a deeper thought?

  54. #54 Luna_the_cat
    January 1, 2010

    How about, try this,
    “Darwin was a great scientist with valuable insights to biology who nevertheless held to (culturally widespread) beliefs about the ‘proper’ role of females and to the assumption that the male represents somehow the norm of the species, from which females merely deviate; and that this set of thoughts and assumptions, reflected in his writings, has continued through today as justification for arguing against women having an equal set of abilities and inclinations, and has contributed to systematic exclusion or alienation of women from certain fields. In short, the work of Darwin can be and is still used to justify hostility to women in certain fields on the grounds of what is “natural”, and this use is not alien to the tone of Darwin’s own writings. And biology would advance and be more honest if Darwin were discussed warts-and-all as having been wrong, biased or prejudiced where he was wrong, biased or prejudiced, rather than simply glorified and defended as an inspirational genius. And it’s time for the ‘debate’ over whether women have an equal place in science to get killed dead with fire, not to mention that Darwinian ideas should not be used for justification for systematic prejudice, precisely because some few of these are based on cultural bias and assumption rather than clear-eyed assessment of the world.”

    I’m personally sick of being told that because I’m female, my “evolutionary role” is to nurture and support and look after kids.

    Not as short, but not as stupid as your version, Phil.

  55. #55 Zuska
    January 3, 2010

    Nicely done, Luna. But I fear even laid out as you have in the spoonfeeding style for beginning thinkers about patriarchy and sexism, it may still be more than thinkers like Phil and his ilk are capable of grasping. Maybe they’ll surprise me. It’s pretty to think so.

  56. #56 SKM
    January 3, 2010

    Wow, Phil, do you REALLY belive that women negligibly contributed to human progress?

  57. #57 darwinsdog
    January 19, 2010

    “His patience & gentleness with ill health his reverence for the laws of nature was immense” – Emma Darwin, 1882

    Read her diary. Perhaps Emma had a better perspective on Charles’ “misogyny” than you have.

    Good post(#23) MCP.

  58. #58 jc
    January 19, 2010

    LOLZ@57
    Yeah, Darwin can’t be “misogynist” if 1. he’s married and 2. his wife loovvvees him.

    The mansplainers are assplainin’ away!

  59. #59 Zuska
    January 19, 2010

    Whatever would we do without the mansplainers???!!??

    Sooooo glad to know that Darwin had a wife who loved him. That really changes everything.

  60. #60 darwinsdog
    January 20, 2010

    What do you wymmnsplainers – jc, zuska – think of Joan Roughgarden’s “Evolution’s Rainbow”? Have you read it? I’m curious about your opinion. Thanks.

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