What about someone who is scrupulously honest about his scientific contributions but whose behavior towards women or members of underrepresented minorities demonstrates that he does not regard them as being as capable, as smart, or as worthy of respect? What if, moreover, most of these behaviors are displayed outside of scientific contexts (owing to the general lack of women or members of underrepresented minorities in the scientific contexts this scientist encounters)? ...So he is considered a sexual predator because he flirted with some non-scientist women, outside a scientific context, and he is a bad guy because he was more interested in them as sex partner than their potential to contribute to science?!
This last description of a hypothetical scientist is not too far from famous physicist Richard Feynman, something that we know not just from the testimony of his contemporaries but from Feynman’s own accounts. ...
The predation in question here included actively targeting female students as sex partners, a behavior that rather conveys that you don’t view them primarily in terms of their potential to contribute to science. ...
About the Author: Janet D. Stemwedel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at San José State University.
There is no such thing as "San José State University". She teaches in San Jose, an American city with no accent.
Galileo's Pendulum blog also attacks Feynman because he flirted with some undergraduates without revealing that he had graduated. Some comments ask the author to explain what Feynman did wrong, but he refuses.
Another SciAm blogger was apparently fired for writing:
Also importantly, while some of Feynman's utterances and actions appear sexist to modern sensibilities, it's worth noting that they were probably no different than the attitudes of a male-dominated American society in the giddy postwar years, a society in which women were supposed to take care of the house and children and men were seen as the bread winners. ... The encouraging development is that actions by Feynman - and male society in general - that were considered acceptable or amusing in 1950 would quite rightly cause instant outrage in 2014. ... We can condemn parts of his behavior while praising his science. And we should.The problem is that he did not sufficiently condemn sexism.
SciAm is owned by Nature mag, which just apologized for saying that female scientists might publish less if they are taking care of small children.
Update: The Wash. Post reported on SciAm firing bloggers:
Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.It is hard to figure out what is supposedly offensive about the SciAm posts, except for facts that are upsetting to leftists.
Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.
A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”
At the risk of sounding pedantic, the spelling of San Jose, California does sometimes take an accent mark - this spelling was actually officially adopted by the San Jose City Council in 1979, though this usage by both the City of San Jose and SJSU is inconsistent. More here -
To the matter at hand, yes, the recent anti-Feynman is campaign is the lastest example of idiocy on the part of the "social justice warrior" brigade in the science and technology world. Of course, this side of Feynman's character has been known and debated since the late 60s, but apparently, the moral purity brigade has just learned about it, and now is on a tear to have Richard Feynman officially declared a Bad Person who is not to be remarked on in a positive way.
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