brain sizes: Einstein's and women's

Bob LeChevalier lojbab at
Fri Aug 23 08:04:43 EST 2002

Tom Breton <tehom at> wrote:
>Bob LeChevalier <lojbab at> writes:
>> Tom Breton <tehom at> wrote:
>First, let me get this out of the way:
>> >Thus when a prize is shared between man and woman, there's a
>> >legitimate suspicion that the man provided disproportionately more of
>> >the gravitas and credibility, since the woman also provided the
>> >rewarded quality of being female.
>> Only for bigots like you who thing that one must be a man to have
>> gravitas and credibility.
>Bob, please.  I have only respect for you.  Can you at least try to
>respond to my points without personally attacking me?

Sorry, but that is what I get from the line.  You would no doubt scoff
at "Thus when a prize is shared between man and woman, there's a
legitimate suspicion that the woman provided disproportionately more
of the gravitas and credibility, since the man also provided the
rewarded quality of being male." as being sexist AND wrong.  Your
statement presumes that women were being rewarded with Nobel prizes
merely for being female.  That is not only an insult to the women
getting the prize, but to the Nobel committee.

>As for me, I do *not* consider you a bigot for believing in the Marie
>Curie exaggerations.  It seems to me that you are an honorable man who
>simply doesn't have enough skepticism towards Feminist claims. 

Maybe because Marie Curie was well known long before feminism was an

>I gave you a perfectly cogent argument about an issue
>you raised.  You've said nothing to rebut the premiss, nor the logic.

There is no logic.  Only assumption.

>> >But there is also a legitimate question of favoritism towards a
>> >birth-group, women.  Consider just the facts we saw in the Curie case,
>> >well before Feminism reached its current power:
>> In an era when women had virtually no respect in the sciences in
>> France, Marie Curie rose to the highest levels.
>One can read the phrase "women had virtually no respect in the
>sciences" in two ways.  One, the habitual Feminist reading, is that
>"equal" women were somehow kept down.  That's the outcome-oriented
>reading, where one assumes that all inputs are equal, and all
>differences are due to bias.
>The other reading, the opportunity-oriented reading, is that women got
>as much (or as arguments here have suggested, more) respect in
>proportion to their accomplishments, but had few accomplishments.
>Your argument appears to switch between readings,

Because both were true.  Women had little opportunity to work in the
sciences, being steered from birth into lives of domesticity, and
being assumed to have "lesser gravitas and credibility", so they
accomplished less.  Quite often, they had to hide behind a man's name
in order to get their accomplishment seriously, so fewer women than
actual accomplished were recognized.  And then when one rose above the
norm to become significant in accomplishment and to become known for
that accomplishment, they were STILL put down for being a woman.
Marie surpassed both obstacles and was known in the sciences for her
own work even before Pierre switched to work on her project.

>> >A confessed advocate for women scientists sitting on the nominating committee
>> "confessed" - you make it sound like a sin.
>And don't you consider it wrong?


>I'm sure you're not *for* bias.

One can be an advocate without being biased.  Indeed, your argument
against my gravitas complaint above seems to me to be a claim that
your advocacy of men is not biased.

Furthermore, I think one can be biased, admit that bias, and retain
credibility to advocate.  But no one has established that the Swedish
mathematician was in fact biased.  All the article noted is that he
was an advocate for women scientists.

>light your previous post, and your apparent assumption that the Nobel
>process is not biased, you may want to think about whether it's wrong.

I don't assume that the Nobel process is not biased.  I am sure that
it IS biased.  But I believe that the bias is based on political
aspects of the day, and feminism wasn't a big deal in Europe then.
You'd have a better case to assume that the article on the Nobel site
was biased, since it was written in the modern era with feminist
issues in mind, which is probably why they even noted that the
mathematician was an advocate for women scientists.

>> >and taking direct action to secure a woman's nomination,
>> She WASN'T nominated, 
>OK, quibble, to secure her into whatever nebulous nomination-like
>status it has after they add her to the nomination.

You are inventing a status that wasn't necessary.  The committee did
not need to award to someone that was nominated.  They looked at the
nominations, but they also considered from their own knowledge who
should get the prize.  In this case they had a nomination that omitted
a name that was well known to have been involved in the work, so one
member of the committee asked why they weren't included.

>> yet she was already well know for the work.  He
>> simply asked why.
>Raising the issue to the committee and then to Pierre, seems to admit
>"took direct action".

You are assuming that the person who wrote the letter raised the issue
to the committee.  How the committee makes its decisions is not
documented.  Obviously someone noticed that Marie's name had not been
listed.  One person wrote a letter to ask about this.  The letter was
not needed for the process - they could award to her without
consulting anyone.

>"simply asked why" also seems to confer more
>innocence on that action than a sense of Realpolitik would dictate.

I am not trying to imply innocence.  I am saying that there is no
evidence of what precisely the Realpolitik would dictate.  

>> >the admitted fact that Pierre secured Marie her part of the prize by his letter,
>> It is not "admitted".  Pierre's letter may or may not have had
>> anything to do with her getting the prize.  It was a letter to that
>> "advocate" who obviously already thought she was worthy of
>> consideration, not to the Nobel committee.
>It seems odd that a letter mentioned so frequently mentioned in the
>various histories is considered irrelevant.  If you say there are
>credible historians who believe it was irrelevant, I won't argue, but
>color me skeptical.

Actually, I think it has been traditionally assumed to mean precisely
the opposite of what you and the nincompoop are trying to say that it
means.  Tradition and Realpolitik both argued AGAINST naming a woman
when her husband was involved, so she was't nominated.  The letter
from Pierre was HIS advocating that his wife NOT be ignored.  That he
wrote it in response to someone else, and wrote not to the committee,
and that he used the wording that he did, was following the 19th
century tendency towards indirection and extreme courtesy.

>You may want to reexamine that argument.  She got her second Nobel for
>(as credited to her) discovering two radioactive elements in 1898, not
>for later chemically isolating radium.
>I also note that what it actually says is that Pierre "chiefly"
>studied radiation, not that he sat on his butt and hummed whenever
>chemistry was involved.

So?  I don't think that anyone claimed that he had no involvement in
the work.  The point is that HER work was considered worthy of a
prize, independent of any contribution that he might have made.

>Now, I know that history is often slanted, and Feminist revisionist
>history is as common as dirt.

Maybe you think it is, but historians for the most part aren't
feminists, and most history remains biased towards ignoring the role
of women.  I don't favor rewriting history to say that women did all
the work, but women who do contribute to history should get their part
duly noted.

In my own case, as you are well aware, my name is all over the net as
the driving force behind Lojban.  I'm the president of the
organization, and I did a lot of the work.  It would be a shame if
Lojban came to be of historical note and people said that >I< invented
the language.  My wife and I did it as a team, and in fact for part of
the critical time I was the one working and she was at home doing the
research.  It is not "feminist revisionist history" to say that she
deserves as much credit as I do for making the language a reality.
And she still does a lot of key, behind the scenes, work.  If her role
can be lost in this modern feminist era, imagine how many women were
similarly ignored in the past.  (Indeed  James Cooke Brown is noted
for inventing Loglan, but his second wife, who did a lot of the
original language design work, is almost unknown.)

>I also notice that this material, as
>well as a previous URL you gave and the AIP site, all shy away
>attributing the crucial events.  Eg phrases with muddled agents like
>"that led to the discovery of the new elements, polonium and radium".

The mores of Europe tend to be self-effacing.  The mores of scientific
society are even more so.  Scientists know that every step taken
relies on contributions from many people.  That Curie did the critical
work is evident in the details of the story, which have largely been
glossed over in this discussion.

>Common sense says that the part of the story we're not getting is
>favorable to Pierre.

Why would you assume that?  No one has said anything UNfavorable about
Pierre.  He also shared in that first Nobel, and he was a great

>You can call me what you like, but there's more
>credibility in my observation than in any Feminist history.

Only because you have the mistaken belief that all history is
"Feminist history" so that if a woman is mentioned at all, you think
it is a feminist plot.

>> >a prize which the committee admitted (not noted on either site
>> >AFAICT) was aimed at giving her unshared recognition.
>> If she deserved unshared recognition, then why is this an "admission"?
>Your question is oddly formed, since we do not agree on its antecedent
>"she deserved unshared recognition".

It is not an "admission" unless she did NOT deserve unshared

But looking at your next sentence, I now see where you are going.  To
give someone unshared recognition does NOT mean that they are doing it
with "the aim of giving a previous winner a prize of her own".  The
latter suggests an intent to cover up past error, and I don't see
anyone saying that Marie should have gotten the first prize on her

>In any event, it is an admission.  The aim of giving a previous winner
>a prize of her own is simply not a good reason to award a Nobel.

Who are we to say what is a good reason to award a Nobel?  It is
solely the committee's decision (From Nobel's will:)
>"The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in
> the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my
> executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be
> annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the
> preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on
> mankind.The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts,
> which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who
> shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the
> field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most
> important chemical discovery or improvement; ...
>The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish
> Academy of Sciences;
>It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be
> given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy
> shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not." 
>winner's identity shouldn't be a factor, much less the most important
>one.  Do you disagree?

I have no idea what you mean by that question.

>> To the rest of us, the fact that she overcame the anti-female
>> bigotry in an era when there was no "affirmative action", 
>Bob, can you please at least try not to use question-begging terms?  I
>don't consider "the anti-female bigotry" a fact and you know it.  I
>consider it Feminist revisionist history.

Well, frankly sir, I will avoid calling you names, but you don't know
much about history.

>Secondly, take a second look at what you wrote.  Is the absence of the
>institutionalized favoritism known as "affirmative action" really
>evidence of "anti-female bigotry"?

No.  The evidence of anti-female bigotry is in the mores of the time.
After Pierre died, the French government offered to pension her - the
concept that a woman would want to support herself rather than live on
her husbands pension was surprising enough that it ALSO is noted in
the history.

The whole point of Pierre's letter, that makes it significant, is that
it was recognized AT THE TIME that she was being slighted because she
was a woman.

>> and went on to direct a major research institute
>I can't see that as a sign of unquestionable greatness.

History, even before the revisionist feminists, disagrees with you.

>And of course
>having been given a Nobel was not unrelated, nor was the backing of
>others.  And occupying the position is not neccessarily a positive
>thing - for all you know, more qualified people were pushed aside.

(Splutter!)  She founded the bloody institute!  "Pushed aside", my

>So I can't give you that as a positive.

It seems to me that there is NO argument that you would give as a
positive.  That is why I call you a bigot.

>> and to singlehandedly raise her daughter to be a Nobel-caliber
>> scientist, 
>While that does bring a different Nobel into the picture, it's still
>basically circular, don't you think?
>Unless you meant that raising a daughter at all is a sign of
>unquestionable greatness.

Raising a daughter as a single mother is not an easy thing in today's
supposedly feminist-biased society.  100 years ago, it was a lot
harder; to do so while building a major research institute and
conducting Nobel-level research makes it harder still.  If we assume
that part of what we become is owed to how our parents raise us, then
the success of her daughter reflects on Marie's childraising while
dealing with those other things.

>And you say she "overcame the anti-female bigotry" to raise a
>daughter?  You can retract that if you like, I won't blast you.

You left off the rest of my sentence: "raise her daughter to be a
Nobel-caliber scientist".  Pierre wasn't around for most of that
child-rearing (not that men were much involved in rearing daughters
anyway in that era).

>> shows that her performance was unquestionably great.
>As we saw above, the legitimate items on your list consist of
>overcoming a scandal and raising a daughter.  Don't you think that
>sets the bar for unquestionable greatness rather low?

Your version of what I said leaves out the elements that make those

>> If anything, the "favoritism" was AGAINST women.  
>You haven't made any argument for this,

That is because I am trying to presume that you are an intelligent
person and not a bigot.

>and your rebuttals to my
>arguments to the contrary haven't stood very well.  Some consisted of
>questioning my phrasing.

And your twisting of my words is something I should accept?

>And obviously we're never going to agree on this.  Feminist
>revisionist history has no credibility with me at all.  I've seen
>enough of it not to believe any of it.

And you've made it clear that your mind is closed as tight as a steel
trap, such that NOTHING could convince you.

That is your loss.  I hope women decide to think of you as you seem to
think of them.


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