I was one of the few English majors at an engineering school (Lehigh), so I am well aware that engineers are different from the rest of us. I had friends that would wait eagerly for HP or TI to release the latest pocket calculator, and when they got one they would spend hours playing with it and show it off to all their engineer buddies.
Because of my close association with lots of engineers, I know I would have made a lousy one. Its not that I'm stupid or anything, its just that engineers have a special (read weird) way of looking at the world. For example:
So, if not everyone has the blend of talents and interests necessary to make a good engineer, is that capability equally distributed among the sexes? It beats me, but I guess it is an interesting question.
Not for Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at MIT. Harvard President Lawrence Summers was speaking at a conference about the lack of women in the math and science professions. He threw out the speculation that maybe there were innate differences in the sexes, as something that should be looked at. This was enough to cause Ms. Hopkins to throw a hissy-fit and storm out of the conference:
"When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill," Dr. Hopkins said.
I'm not sure that Nancy Hopkins is doing her sex a favor by acting like a caricature of a hyper-sensitive woman. I doubt her reaction was really this extreme, however. As Ms. Lopez at NRO pointed out a few years back out, Ms. Hopkins has made a career out of being offended by stuff, and probably just saw Mr. Summers' remarks as another opportunity.
In my humble opinion, people who wander the earth looking for excuses to be offended should be mocked until they cry for mercy. Jonah Goldberg agrees:
Doing remarkably little to combat the stereotype that women are emotionally frail and constitutionally incapable of dealing with stress, Professor Nancy Hopkins of MIT told the Boston Globe that she had to leave a lecture delivered by Harvard president Larry Summers because if she didn't she would have "either blacked out or thrown up."
What caused this damsel Hopkins to hie to her fainting couch? Why, the mere suggestion that there might be inherent differences between men and women when it comes to aptitude to the hard sciences.
There is no dispute that there aren't many women making a profession in the hard sciences. Maybe this is because of prejudice, and maybe its something else. If Ms. Hopkins can't handle an academic discussion about the possible "something elses" without getting all squeamish and stuff, I wonder how she got past dissecting frogs.