Thursday, March 10, 2005

Re: Response to Summers Affair Blog

----- Original Message -----

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
To: Brown, Mark
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 1:45 PM
Subject: Re: Response to Summers affair blog

Dear Mr. Brown:

I think my post on Larry Summers went far beyond the possibility, or fact, that he "keeps up with recent studies and arguments."

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence R. Velvel

----- Original Message -----

From: Brown, Mark
To: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 9:11 AM
Subject: RE: Response to Summers affair blog

Is there ever an “incorrect view”? I think, after serious research and scholarly debate, factual assertions can be proven wrong. But from my reading of Steven Pinker’s book, The Blank Slate, and Pinker’s piece in the The New Republic, the facts Summers was referring to have not been disproved. Rather, it appears that boys and girls, as a group and on average, may have innate cognitive differences. I fail to see why recognizing this possibility is so upsetting. Recognize and disprove it, but don’t crucify the guy because he keeps up with recent studies and arguments.

Mark Brown

-----Original Message-----

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel []
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 8:41 AM
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: Response to Summers affair blog

March 10, 2005

The following were received from Nancy Hopkins at MIT and from "A member of the Harvard community."

Lawrence R. Velvel

Thanks for sending this. It is so well written and very interesting. By the way, when I was listening to the speech as delivered, I never doubted that these were the beliefs of the President of Harvard. That was what was so upsetting. That the person in that position of power held these incorrect views that are so damaging to women students and faculty.

Best regards,

Nancy Hopkins

Your post on Lawrence Summers was excellent, particularly in giving careful examination to: (1) whether Summers is, at least from the perspective of the demands placed on him by his current job, a person of high intelligence; (2) whether his examples of other groups which are underrepresented in various fields have any basis or meaning; and (3) whether he's a bully of the sort who should not be in a leadership role at a university.

On the first and second points, my spouse, who grew up in a rural area on a small family farm, and whose father raised a large family (starting only with a high school education and without his wife working outside the home) based on income solely from the farm, was disdainful of the idea that Summers supposedly has a tremendously impressive mind.

In the view of my spouse, anyone who's handled the job as Summers has handled it cannot be that smart. For instance, it seems doubtful Summers would have the acumen and adaptability to achieve the success my father in law did starting as a tenant farmer with literally nothing.

Summers undoubtedly possesses narrow intellectual capabilities of great utility in the field of economics, but I don't see that counts as "high intelligence" in any meaningful sense -- any more than the idiot savant character played by Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" would be regarded as highly intelligent simply because he could do things like tell you the weather on any day in the past 40 years, or quote the accident rates for all forms of transportation methods, or memorize a phone book, or instantly count 246 toothpicks before they hit the floor, mental capabilities apparently all based on the capabilities of real people.

A member of the Harvard community

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