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bad science cultural marxism Dunning–Kruger effect entitled babies misogyny

Italian physicist suspended by CERN after giving a talk claiming men’s brains are more suited to science than women’s

Brave male scientist ponders the mysteries of the human female

By David Futrelle

Last weekend, Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia gave a talk at a CERN conference in which, he claimed, he would use “bibliometrics data” to answer questions about “a new global symmetry.”

In fact, the talk had nothing to do with high-energy physics, per se; instead, Strumia trotted out a series of flawed arguments and problematic studies in order to “prove” that the preponderance of men in the field is not the result of discrimination against women but rather reflects the fact that men’s brains are better suited to physics than women’s.

Physics, he declared, was “invented and built by men” who are now being undermined in their field, and discriminated against, by “cultural Marxists” determined to tear down their manly accomplishments.

At one point in the presentation, he noted that he himself had been passed over for a job that was given to a woman he implied was less qualified because she had fewer citations than him. He identified her, and a woman on the selection committee, by name.

While the talk itself is not available online, Strumia’s slides are, and they give a pretty clear picture of his presentation.

Here’s one of the slides, which will give you some idea of the quality of his presentation. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

Yesterday, CERN announced that it was suspending Strumia “from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week’s event.”

Well, we can only assume the scientist they are suspending is Strumia, since they didn’t mention him by name. Indeed, while CERN was quick to denounce the substance of Strumia’s talk, they haven’t exactly been forthcoming about their organization’s long ties to the researcher.

The group’s first statement on the incident referred to him only as “an invited scientist.” The updated statement announcing the suspension identified him as “a scientist from one of the collaborating universities.” Never mind that Strumia, who teaches at Pisa University, has been working with CERN for many years and uses a CERN email for professional correspondence.

Strumia has also been suspended by the National Nuclear Physics Institute (INFN), an Italian research agency which he also worked with.

In other news, Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics today for her work on lasers; she shares the award with two male researchers.

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Juniper
Juniper
2 years ago

I don’t think I’d agree that this is proof that if you are a scientist you aren’t smart. As a STEM person myself, I think it does take a certain amount of intelligence to make it through grad school.

I think it means that being smart doesn’t automatically mean you’re a good person. James Watson may have figured out the structure of DNA, so he deserves some credit for that, but he’s also a total dick. Richard Dawkins is also an asshole. I had a few jerkass professors in grad school as well.

But now I’m happy to be able to add “fachidiot” to my vocabulary. German may not be the prettiest language, but it seems like it has some of the best words. People like that are a huge problem in science. I remember when I was a kid my mom was into Linus Pauling’s weird ideas about vitamins because he won the Nobel Prize TWICE, so she kept pushing me to take all this excess vitamin C. When I was a smartass teen, I was like, “Did he get a Nobel Prize in vitamin C?” and she was like, “I don’t know, but he got the Nobel Prize TWICE!”

So yeah, a physicist wouldn’t necessarily know anything about any differences in intelligence between male brains and female brains, so really he’s just another sexist asshole spewing nonsense about “cultural Marxism”.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

@ juniper

James Watson may have figured out the structure of DNA, so he deserves some credit for that

I’m not sure getting a grad student to steal Rosalind Franklin’s work from her desk drawer counts as figuring out!

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
2 years ago

This whole reminds of what Einstein said about how being smart means understanding just how much one doesn’t know.

Kivutar
Kivutar
2 years ago

@magnesium

I understand both of these guys cited the oft-debunked Baron-Cohen for their basic misunderstanding of human biology.

Now, I know what you mean, but the first mental picture I got from that was both funnier and more apt.

Hambeast
Hambeast
2 years ago

Surplus to Requirements – That was such an excellent article, thank you for the link. It had some relevant facts that I wasn’t aware of (and a bunch that I am aware of.) I decided to follow HAES (Health at Every Size) way back when the Fat-O-Sphere was still a thing and never looked back.

The thing I *still* struggle with is my attitude toward other fat people. It’s been so hard for me to banish that nagging little voice inside my head that tells me all about how this or that fat person is inferior (even as I am clinically obese myself!) and I struggle with it every day. Some days, I even think I might be winning.

Moon_custafer
Moon_custafer
2 years ago

this meant his opinions could have a direct effect on who got good reviews, promotions, acceptance for further time at CERN, that sort of thing. Which made his talk also a barely deniable threat of ‘don’t rock the boat by complaining about me or I’ll torpedo your career’.

Ah, a combination self-fulfilling prophecy *and* threat. Niiii-iiice.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
2 years ago

@Johanna: Wikipedia is a complete trainwreck as far as social justice is concerned.

society is a complete trainwreck as far as social justice is concerned

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
2 years ago

On a related we-are-super-rational-we-must-debate-all-the-things note, PZ Myers has posted an awesome picture over on his blog just now (there is a link to the original but it’s on Facebook so the PZ’s blog might be the best place to see it for now). Check out comment #2 from PZ in the comments; you cannot make this stuff up.

moregeekthan
moregeekthan
2 years ago

@Alan Robertshaw

One of my favorite moments in my brief career as a teacher was when the girl who was writing a report on Rosalind Franklin came up to me and said, “Oh my god, Mr. mgt, those DNA guys totally ripped her off!”

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
2 years ago

@Moon_custafer:
Even better (for him), a plausibly deniable threat where the audience could get the message without him actually having to say anything that might be considered an actionable threat.

It’s not as if more blatant versions of that threat haven’t been explicitly used and documented over the years.

Granted, being seen as being explicitly threatening was the least of Strumia’s worries given just how stupid his presentation turned out to be. I mean, really, anybody who uses ‘Cultural Marxism’ seriously needs to be laughed out of any discussion they’re in. (The possible exception being a sociological discussion of the various attempted dodges and euphemisms used by neo-Nazi types.)

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

Re: Juniper –

I would argue that rather than not being smart, STEMlords assume they are *knowledgeable* about everything. They have read an article or two, and based on their degree in a completely different field and discipline, they can make pronouncements.

The worst part is, these pronouncements are taken as gospel, because the person has some letters after their name.

(I’m looking at you, person in this article who thinks cultural marxism is a thing, as well as dawkins, and peterson.) And more! Those are the ones i can name right now haha.

Ensign Garlic Crusher
Ensign Garlic Crusher
2 years ago

I feel I need to amplify on the ecosystem of this branch of STEM in order to defend CERN here, since I’m absolutely sure they weren’t being, “less than forthcoming,” as you say.

Whereof I speak: I came up through grad school doing particle physics in the 90s, spent a full year at CERN (and a month or two here and there besides). Although I stopped doing research after a couple of postdocs, I still work in the field in a support role (but not for or at CERN).

CERN, in addition to having researchers and other employees in its own right, hosts experiments and experimenters, workshops and conferences, and has people who visit regularly and even work there year-round without ever being employed by CERN. Institutions, and therefore those who work for them are “associated” with CERN via the work they do there. Anyone who has the right to use CERN’s computing resources has the right to a CERN email address: I have one, for instance — although I haven’t felt the need to use it for correspondence since I was a grad student, there’s certainly nothing stopping me.

My point: the bar for “association” with CERN is so low, that getting PNG’d, even temporarily pending an investigation, is a huge deal (and taking down slides? Completely unheard of in my experience). I suspect they avoided the idiot’s name in an attempt to avoid the appearance of partiality while their investigation proceeded (“Police confirmed a 25yo man was in custody after an incident involving large amounts of alcohol and a lamp shade …”)

By analogy: this is a long-time attendee and participant in a community center by virtue of membership in an associated club who, after years of skirting the bounds of acceptable behavior, finally soiled himself at a gathering and threatened everyone while spouting his manifesto on who should be allowed to be involved in the community center. Is the community center embarrassed? Certainly. Do they have a lot of work to do to reassure their other users and restore their welcoming atmosphere? In spades. Are they guilty of condoning or encouraging this idiot or his views? Not in my view, for what it’s worth.

Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
2 years ago

@Rhuu

Exactly. This guy is a physicist. That means he knows just about as much about biology and psychology as the average high school student.

There seems to be this idea among STEMlords that because someone is an expert in one field they are an expert in all of them – not the case. I am taking a degree in biology; we did enough chemistry in the first year to be able to understand the discipline as it intersects with biology. It does not intersect with biology much. (My knowledge about chemistry: how to make a molar solution – um – things go like solid liquid gas? atom have electron shell? pH means acid or base because protons? errr…..explosions?)

We didn’t do any physics at all. Not necessary. I sincerely doubt physicists are required to know any biology either. Why would they be?

So, this man is talking out his bum as much as any 16-year-old red pill shitlord, but people are going to believe him because he is “a scientist” and he will believe himself because he is obviously the king of sciency science. How depressing.

Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
2 years ago

It does not intersect with biology much.

TBF I should apologise to all biochemists. It does not intersect with biology much in the bit of biology I’m working in.

Kivutar
Kivutar
2 years ago

Exactly! And of course there are biophysicists – who know precisely as much about neurology and psychology as an automotive engineer knows about designing an oil rig. It’s not entirely unrelated, but they’re not remotely interchangeable.

Expertise in one field has jack-all to do with expertise in others.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
2 years ago

And then you get offshoots like kinesiology, which is effectively biomechanics dealing with how human bodies move. (Kinesiology degrees often end up going into sports medicine, because there are specific rare injuries requiring that knowledge that are a lot more common in sports.)

And the University of Waterloo had courses that were cross-listed between the Kinesiology department and the Systems Design Engineering department… specifically, Ergonomics.

There are a lot of odd little very specific sub-disciplines, like bioinformatics (how to do statistics and analysis on biological data). Those disciplines exist because there are weird issues at the edges that aren’t covered by the umbrella field.

And I remember reading an article back in the 1980s by Isaac Asimov about how it was actually physically impossible for him, even then, to keep up with all the peer reviewed papers just in his field of biochemistry.

Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
2 years ago

The further you go in STEM, the more you specialise. This guy is an expert in… *looks at the website for Pisa University*

high energy physics, higgs, neutrino oscillations, Dark Matter searches at colliders and in astrophysics, cosmology, quantum gravity

I do not doubt his expertise in all of these areas, but he probably doesn’t even know much about, say, bubble physics.

You know, this is the kind of thing that gives men a bad name, when guys stand up and make authoritative pronouncements on things they know nothing about and assume they know best about everything, because penis. And just expecting everyone to listen appreciatively while they blather on about nonsense. He should have been hooked off with a walking stick

Sophiab
Sophiab
2 years ago

Uuuuuuurgh,
As someone who was connected with both that field and that country I’m just… I’ve had enough. this is making me twitch expecting for someone to start argue-discussing this with me. I wish i had something smarter to say, but no. Just screw this.

Robert
Robert
2 years ago

One of the things I’m grateful for in my life is that I didn’t succumb to this self-deception. While there were areas in which my knowledge and understanding were high, I was always keenly aware of all the fields in which I was ignorant. Gladly wold I lerne. A good friend once told me that I was the least obnoxious really smart person she knew, which was a very gratifying compliment.

On the other hand, it’s driven me to try and learn things of limited applicability in my life, such as syncopation, calculus and the card game bridge. Still working on all three.

jone
jone
2 years ago

The saddest realization I just had is that men can make it to the top if they believe women are sub-human.
While a woman most certainly cannot. She’d murder all those assholes.
Or maybe that’s just me fantasizing again.

I fix giant industrial machines for a living. It’s annoying to be called “sweetie” and to be *helped* off the machine. I’m covered in filthy tar-like grease and I just fixed your multi million dollar embosser. I don’t want to be treated like a princess when I’m working.

I am forced to wear a mask I cannot remove.

William Stueve
William Stueve
2 years ago

There IS an English equivalent to the German word “Fachidiot”.

“Mansplainer.”

Liquidmidnight
Liquidmidnight
2 years ago

New Rule: Anyone who trots out the term “Cultural Marxism” as a snarl word must now give an immediate explanation of the theories of Horkheimer, Aldorno, Marcuse, and Habermas and then explain how critical theory and postmodernism are ontologically different (because lord knows people on the right love to conflate those two things). If the explanation is not sufficient to pass a master’s level oral comp exam in sociology or philosophy, then the respondent can’t use the word due to the respondent not having a fuck of a clue what he or she is talking about.

Shlomo Statsberg - Singing Sephardi
Shlomo Statsberg - Singing Sephardi
2 years ago

One thing I cannot help but notice with these types is that it doesn’t occur to them that it is their ridiculously sexist antics that are causing this, rather than their dumb, biological sexist nonsense.

Methinks this whole “Women aren’t in STEM because of biology” is a very thin justification for completely ignoring the rank bigotry and sexual harassment that occurs within these fields.

Shlomo Statsberg - Singing Sephardi
Shlomo Statsberg - Singing Sephardi
2 years ago

@Rhuu – apparently an illiterati

The problem is that many of these white men oftentimes have delusionally high views of their own intelligence and feel the need to close ranks once their privilege is challenged.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
2 years ago

On the one hand, there’s a petition against him. On the other hand, he’s doubling down:

Strumia told BBC News, which first reported the controversy, that the high-energy physics community was about 100 times larger than the number of researchers who had put their names to the statement.

The signatories “mostly come from those countries more affected by political correctness”, he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/oct/06/1600-scientists-sign-petition-against-cern-physicist-alessandro-strumia-open-discrimination

Kanna
Kanna
2 years ago

I think this is just another indicator that being a “smart” person is just one part of his persona. He still is acting like an offended little boy who wants to get revenge upon half the human race for whatever (real or imagined) slights he might have received in the past from some woman somewhere.

Yes, I’d like for people who are intelligent in one field to be well-rounded and sensible human beings in other matters, but that wasn’t why they hired him. People come with flaws, people come with histories, but most of them are not such jerks that they make public fools of themselves in a vain public attempt at retribution the way this guy has done.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
2 years ago

He still is acting like an offended little boy who wants to get revenge upon half the human race for whatever (real or imagined) slights he might have received in the past from some woman somewhere.

I think it might be even simpler than that. I think he’s afraid too many women participating will give his entire field girl cooties and then he’ll have to quit. That’s the level of maturity these STEMlord misogynists have regarding gender. That and no more.

Of course, now it looks like he might have to quit anyway …