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the feminist critique of science

Pearse Ward wardp at herald.usask.ca
Tue Sep 12 13:06:05 EST 1995

In article <1C5BB641B23 at bio.tamu.edu>, jfrugoli at bio.tamu.edu wrote:

> Yes, and respond regulalry.  I've read Pearse's views on the evils of 
> affirmative action, the problems with hiring women in science, and the 
> right of professors to sleep with their students, and while I disagree 
> with him almost all the time, I always read his posts-and sometimes out 
> loud to others in my lab (some men I read them to believe he's not real, 
> that he just takes position for kicks because he enjoys conflict, but 
> only Pearse can answer that.) 

That is somewhat unfair, and I resent the implications that somehow I am
anti-female. I am not.  I don't believe in discriminatory hiring practices
in any instance.  I don't think that affirmative action is equitable, nor
do I think it is the best way to achieve equality. I believe that people
ought to be hired on the basis of ability. I have argued and worked long
and hard for changes in the way hiring is done and changes in the way the
workplace is structured to remove barriers that obviously exist for women,
the disabled and visible minorities. In other words, I am concerned enough
about equity and equality to do something about it. I just don't happen to
believe that what passes for "employment equity" or "affirmative action"
is the correct way ro the best way to achive those ends. The logical
consequences of most affimative action schemes devised to ate are
inherently unjust. They purport to address historical injustices by
perpetrating new injustices, That, I believe, is morally indefensible. The
most common justification for affirmative action is that the end justifies
the means. Whether or not you consider that justification enough is a
personal matter.

I don't think that I have ever argued against hiring women in science, nor
in any way denigrated their abilities. It certainly isn't a view I hold so
I can't imagine ever having espoused it in this group. Since my graduate
supervisor, until very recently, was a woman for whom I have the greatest
respect as a scientist, I doubt very much that I would have chosen her as
a supervisor had I harboured latent anti-female bias.

Nor, did I argue that professors have "right" to sleep with their
students. I did say that both faculty and students are adults, and ought
to be treated as such. There are sufficient rules and guildelines in place
to guard against sexual harassment of students by faculty. Legislating
against all social contact between faculty and students is an
inappropriate and excessive encroachment on individual rights and

I don't take these positions just to be controversial. I think there is  a
very disturbing trend in society as a whole, and with universities leading
the way, away from the notion of personal responsibility and individual
rights (the two are inextricably linked IMHO). There is an attempt to
stifle controversial or unpopular ideas for fear that they might offend
someone, which in a democratic society is a very dangerous slope to get

For the record, I believe absolutely and unequivocaly in equality of
opportunity, in parity of esteem, and in respect for the rights of each
individual.  I believe in freedom of association and freedom of
expression, even for those whose views I find abhorrent. 


Pearse Ward
Dep't Veterinary Microbiology
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, SK

---------- The road to hell is paved with good intentions ----------

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