Fisking Amy

The Advice Goddess criticises women scientists who were upset at a bobblehead doll show that featured, inter alia, Marie Curie being sexually assaulted.  Whether or not this is merely a joke or falls squarely into the category of bad taste is something I will leave up to the sensibilities of my readers; this post is about Alkon’s inappropriate criticism of the women scientists. Alkon writes,

.[…] If you feel diminished as a woman and as a scientist because of a video like this, well, I don’t think you’re much of a person or a scientist.

(Emphasis my own.) Bad people can do great science. Thin-skinned people, angry people, rude people, tacky people – the science that they do does not depend on Alkon’s opinion of them as people because scientific principles do not make exceptions for neurotic people.  Basic logic, right?

But, as it turns out, Alkon really likes this “not much of a scientist” attack: it is, in fact, identical to the attack she used against me back in September.

Prior to law school, I was a research and development engineer. Many of the projects that I worked on were (perhaps still are) classified; all of them were at least ten years ahead of their time.  Most were Phase I feasibility studies or Phase II initial development projects. To that end, I either did proof-of-concept work (i.e. demonstrating that it is realistically possible to build the system in question) or developed reliable systems for creating nanomaterials. Some of the work involved creating new ways of testing my materials: for example, I once designed and built an apparatus that would reliably enable us to test raw material that we got in from a lab; that test then enabled us to do appropriate side-by-side comparisons of composite materials. (My boss had told me that the test was impossible to run; I came back with a prototype after lunch.)

Yet, according to Alkon, I’m “not much of a scientist” because she does not like my opinion of Peter Gray’s research.  (I wish I were kidding.) If you would like to know where Alkon gets off criticising women scientists for being bad scientists, she lays out her super-sciency scientist credentials in her post:

I missed this because I was too busy actually writing science — working on explaining costly signaling so it could be easily understood by ordinary people vis a vis answering a question for my science-based syndicated column.

Awww! Amy thinks that writing about other people’s scientific discoveries means that she’s a big smart scientist, too!  By that logic, my commentary on the Lilly Ledbetter case makes me a Supreme Court justice.

Alkon uses “not much of a scientist” the same way that leftists use “anti-science” or “racist” – a term that has no connection to reality and is used as a convenient bludgeon, one that the writer feels morally entitled to, regardless of merit.  Make no mistake, there is a large gulf between doing science and merely writing about other people’s scientific discoveries: it’s the difference between inventing a semi-conductor chip and explaining how to reboot a computer.

Perhaps if Alkon were a scientist herself, she would be better able to understand the shortcomings of the research of people she admires, and the talents of those she does not agree with. But her inability to grasp the meaning of the term “scientist” shows that she’s not much of a writer, either.


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