Monday, January 24, 2005

The ivory tower

Following the reaction of Prof Hopkins to Larry Summers' "sexist" remarks, Will Wilkinson has coined a new verb that has an attractive ring to it:

pull a Hopkins intr. v.

1. to become faint or nauseated upon hearing a statement contrary to one's ideology or dogma.
2. to leave the room, usually dramatically, because of such faintness or nausea.
3. to feign such faintness or nausea as part of a ploy to establish or reinforce a social convention about the limits of acceptable discourse.
e.g.: "I pulled a Hopkins when I heard Bob say that, even though it has never worked, communism is 'a good idea.'"

Historical source:

"I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill. I would've either blacked out or thrown up." - Professor Nancy Hopkins, in response to Harvard President Larry Summer's conjecture that women are scarce in certain mathematical disciplines because of genetic differences between the sexes.

The best reaction to the debacle comes from Prof Steven Pinker who has written perhaps the definitive book on human nature to date:
Look, the truth cannot be offensive. Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is “offensive” even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don’t get the concept of a university or free inquiry.


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