“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Otherwise titled “The post in which I get all petulant and stamp my feet.”

I usually approve all my comments. In fact, there is only one non-spam comment I have ever NOT approved.

A while back, a semi-regular reader (at least from the IP address and my hit-counter) posted a comment to one of my posts that has sat in my moderation queue for some time. I didn’t approve it for two reasons.

First, it had nothing to do with the post that it was commenting on.

Second, it linked to a moderately well-known polemic blogger whose rantings I really don’t feel like giving any more exposure to.

I am not going to divulge who the post linked to, but one of his more regular spoutings of idiocy revolves around the idea is that women have brains that are not equipped for the pursuit of hard science, and by allowing entry of these “inferior” minds into the fields that we are dumbing down scientific pursuit and science is suffering as the result.

Well now.

I generally try to avoid that kind of narrow, extreme commentary. Mostly because I find it faintly ridiculous from personal experience. I have always been at the top of my class in mathematics. In NY, the tests are graded electronically, standardized across the state and are gender-blind. I have a minor in mathematics and made straight A’s through physical biochemistry and quantum mechanics. I made a perfect score on the Analytical section of the GRE, and scored above 750 on the other two sections. I was an NSF Graduate Fellow. I don’t need to play the gender card to compete.

I chose life science because it interested me, not because I am incapable of “hard science”. I started my degree in engineering, and made high marks until I decided I found it boring. I didn’t go into the fields of engineering and physics because I didn’t want to, not because I “didn’t make the cut.”

I didn’t want to enter these pursuits because, like a huge chunk of scientific academia, they generally do not allow any balance in your life. I looked around at most of the people I knew who were “successful” in those fields and I made the startling realization that I didn’t want to be like them; I have a very different definition about what a satisfying life is, and how contribution to society is measured. It is the same reason I didn’t go to medical school (and I WAS accepted [insert stamp of foot here]).

I don’t think the gender disparity has diddly to do with ability. It has to do with inclination.

I also avoid that particular type of commentator because it is impossible to have any kind of informed debate with them and pointless to try. Their minds have closed to any other options outside their own pontification, and will only accept as valid the narrow range of data that support their particular slant on life. Frankly, life is just too short, and has too much richness of experience offered to bother wasting time on that flavor of stupidity. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And I am entitled to ignore it. Or occasionally point and laugh.

I may be accused of being a dilettante, but I only get one pass at this life, and I want the whole enchilada, not just a narrow slice. I am not saying that the pursuit of science does not enhance the quality of life. I think it can be argued that it has benefited millions, if not billions, of people, reduced suffering and saved lives. But intellectualism is not the entire font of human contentment and scientific accomplishment is not the full measure of a life well-lived.

This is the only life I get, my one passage through this world.

It’s not that I’m not smart.

I am just not that altruistic.

July 18th, 2008 at 12:20 pm
4 Responses to “Getting it straight”
  1. 1
    jodifur Says:

    I’m so dumb I don’t even understand what the hell you or the commenter are talking about.

  2. 2
    Moira Says:

    When my daughter says “Mommy, I can’t do it.” I tell her she can do anything she decides to do, in hopes she grows up with your (and my) kind of perspective.

  3. 3
    Willow Says:

    Robbin, I’m the first to admit that I have a completely non-scientific mind — particularly since my stroke 3 years ago even simple logic and deduction can prove difficult for me. That said, I have nothing but respect for ANYONE, never mind their gender, who can achieve at the levels that you have. I’ll go further and say that I ADMIRE anyone who has achieved at those levels and maintained both a sense of humor and sense of humanity. Whenever I think of you, the word dilettante never enters my mind. Renaissance woman perhaps given your spectrum of interests. Argh, now I’m ready to stamp my feet on your behalf!

  4. 4
    Karen Says:

    There are lots of things I could have done in my life, but chose not to–either they were boring occupations, they were thankless, or they took way too much time–time is at least as important to me as money. I would rather have no money than no time.