The Liberal War on Science

Christina Hoff Sommers writes about a looming liberal war on science. Based on a campaign promise Obama made to feminist groups in October 2008, Sommers foresees the Obama Administration moving to artificially cap male enrollment in math and science classes to achieve gender proportionality — the way that Title IX currently caps male participation in intercollegiate athletics. The result could be a substantial reduction in the number of scientists graduating from America’s colleges and universities.

Critics have long argued that the Title IX cap is in tension with the Supreme Court’s warnings against proportional representation. In a ruling by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Supreme Court said that it is “completely unrealistic” to argue that women and minorities should be represented in each field or activity “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.” (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989)). In an earlier ruling, Justice O’Connor noted that it is “unrealistic to assume that unlawful discrimination is the sole cause of people failing to gravitate to jobs and employers in accord with the laws of chance.” (See Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust Co. (1988)).

But the Title IX athletics regulation mandates proportional representation. It contains three alternatives for compliance, but two of them are illusory in the long run. The first way (and only permanent way) to comply is to adopt a quota that artificially caps male participation. The second and third ways, which are only short-term fixes, involve continuous expansion of participation by, or satisfaction of all desire to compete by, the “underrepresented” sex. In a world of finite resources, these latter two ways can only work for a short period of time. I used to work at the agency, the Office for Civil Rights, that administers this regulation, and I think that it would be a mistake to apply standards designed for allocating resources among all-male and all-female sports teams to the very different context of math and science classes, which are coed.

But this is not an Administration that is very good with math and numbers. Obama claimed his $800 billion stimulus package was needed to avert “irreversible decline.” But the Congressional Budget Office says it will actually cut the size of the economy in the long run. His budgets don’t add up, either, piling up $9.3 trillion in red ink, and breaking his promises to enact a “net spending cut” and not raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year.

Some liberal publications are suspicious of scientific advances. The agronomist Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the Green Revolution, saved perhaps a billion lives in the Third World by developing high-yield, disease-resistant crops through biotechnology. For this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. For this, he was smeared in the liberal magazine The Nation, which has an irrational phobia of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as being “the biggest killer of all.”

Similarly, the Danish researcher Bjorn Lomborg was demonized and investigated after accurately pointing out that global warming is less of a threat to human health than AIDS and malnutrition.