Friday, March 9, 2012

The Secret Sauce of Reaction: Particularism and Exceptions for the Truly Exceptional

Discussing reaction with my wife, who says that she only agrees about 80% with me, which is perfectly fine, we turned to the topic of women's 'liberation'.
My contention was that there have always been exceptions made under reactionary social regimes for the truly exceptional---the 3, 4 and 5 sigma talents.  Most of the complaints have come from the moderately talented, the 1 to 2 sigmas who today make up the group I've termed the 'Second Sigma'.  My further contention was that society needed, and still to a great extent still needs, most women to spend the lion's share of their working time raising their children, and only those who are really exceptional or unusually unsuited to such tasks should be encouraged to find their identity primarily in their work outside the home.

So the question was, does the world more resemble what I've described or the 'conventional wisdom'.  I reasoned that if it was true that we were really squashing lots of exceptional women's dreams, that we'd expect to have seen a grand increase in the number of women who are scientists at the highest level of achievement.  My wife agreed that the Nobel prize in Physics and Chemistry best characterized that level, and are also the least political of the prizes.  So our friend google was brought to bear, along with Wikipedia.

First Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics
1963 Maria Goeppert Mayer
1903  Marie Curie

2 Nobel prizes, one from a profoundly reactionary period and the second from a period of transition.  Curie is a really interesting case, because one of her daughters and her husband were ALSO Nobel prize winners in the hard sciences (she had two children but her family direct line appears to have had a fertility collapse sadly).  So the claim that the reactionary social order was capable of employing and recognizing the talent of the truly exceptional woman appears to be much better supported than the conventional wisdom hypothesis.  Interestingly, there are no Nobel prize winning women in physics since the era of affirmative action.

Now let's turn to Chemistry, another profoundly useful science (IMO, the mark of when a science is really matured is when it has an associated engineering discipline)
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry
2009  Ada E. Yonath
1964  Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
1935  Irène Joliot-Curie
1911 Marie Curie

So 2 in profoundly reactionary times, one in transition, and one in the modern Cathedral era.  Once again our claim is supported and the hypothesis that the exceptional flowers were trampled upon fails to pass muster.

That is, unless you want to claim that such 'trampling' encouraged the greatest flowering in the most noble sciences, in which case, why should we be against it?


Aretae said...

You ignore the HBD (HND) hypothesis to your peril here.
Wealth increases options.
Options (through wealth) means that folks do what they want more and what they must less.

Why are there so many more chinese/indian female programmers than American female programmers?

Very simple: in India/China...programming makes it so you don't starve to death, even though it is massively not what a female would otherwise prefer to do.

If HBD is true...then women, especially talented women, will have entered the sciences at lower rates since given the option to do other stuff (besides science and teaching) outside the home.

Red said...

Take a look at Jim's blog about Marie Curie. It seems that they may have just given her credit for the work of her husband in order to give a women a noble prize.

Remember that the Cathedral era started long before the 1900s especially in education and science.

Jehu said...

It's conceivable that Marie got a push, but it's likely that women candidates get a much bigger push now. Also, she got her 2nd Nobel prize (in Chemistry) several years after the death of her husband, and her daughter got one as well. You might argue that a women needs only 5 sigma work to win, whereas a man might need 5.5 or so.

A lot more women enter science today than did in Curie's day and they make up a higher fraction of the faculties of such disciplines. Besides, all of the reactionary period Nobel prize winning women weren't in it because they were shut off from other options, they were seriously obsessed with their work, and frequently paid a serious price in terms of health as well to do it. I suspect that at the level you're talking about---up past 5 sigmas pushing 6, that level of obsession is more the norm than the exception.