Go away, Thomas Kuhn, esteemed philosopher, scientist and author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. We’ll have none of your paradigms, thanks, let alone avenues of enquiry, proofs or even a methodology, because Radio 4 bored-caster Libby Purves has pronounced (in no less a journal than the Daily Mail) that we’re all sexist. That’s you, me, everybody else and definitely Professor Kuhn, because he’s a bloke.
According to Ms P, ‘science is proving that a closet sexist lurks in the vast majority of women . . . we’re all guilty’. This specious contention is supported by Libby’s own rigorous study. Andrew Wakefield-style, it comprises a children’s puzzle from the 1970s. For those who can’t face the article, the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma is here:
‘There’s a man and his son in a car crash. The father is killed and the son rushed to hospital. But the duty surgeon says: ‘I can’t treat the boy. He’s my son.’ If you assumed that the surgeon was a male, then you’re inherently biased, a moral failing which ranks alongside voting Brexit, feeding your children McDonald’s, or collecting flies in a jar.
Purves’s ‘insights’ came to her from the ludicrously-titled Analysis programme on BBC Radio 4 this week, where Mary Ann Sieghart prattled on about ‘Why Are Even Women Biased Against Women?’
With the logical reasoning that befits an arts graduate, Libby believes that ‘the mental image of a surgeon is stamped on the brain as always being a bloke’. However, the brain is not concrete, unless, I suppose, you work for Radio 4. We all seem to adjust to changing circumstances, as well as to the ebb and flow of cultural trends. But how typical of the Left to identify a statistical outlier, scrunge it into the norm and then condemn us for bigotry if we don’t accept their view of things.
There is a get-out though, because Libby writes that intrinsic prejudices are the fault of our ‘lizard brain’, a term popularised by internet marketeer – not neurophysiologist – Seth Godin. Revered by the staggeringly mediocre, Godin’s wisdom is summed up by phrases such as: ‘There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be’. Other gnostic utterances include: ‘[It’s] entirely possible that people aren’t listening closely to you any more’, which could be applied to Radio 4.
But it’s not fair to dump all the blame on Purves. At least she’s honest enough to confess that her two worst bosses were – you guessed – women. She doesn’t explain why, though I would be curious to find out whether it was a severe case of Overactive Lizard Syndrome or just a clash of Leviathan egos.
The ludicrous ‘hypothesis’ of ‘everyone’s biased against women’ is ‘proved’ when Purves cites an experiment at Harvard which showed that science dons preferred to recruit male laboratory managers. We’re never told why, or what other factors might have been present that led to this result. Perhaps they don’t want another storm-in-a-test-tube scandal like the one that engulfed Sir Tim Hunt in 2015?
Harvard is also Thomas Kuhn’s alma mater, where despite his no doubt ‘internalised misogyny’, he achieved three degrees in physics and went on to write one of the most influential books in philosophy and science. I wonder how he would fare today in the era of childish riddles and lizard brains.