I‘m breaking the rule I set for myself, that I would no longer contribute to this madness, started with a tabloid story that ruined the career of a world renowned astronomer and possible Nobel Laureate (see my previous 6 articles, listed at the foot of this article, if you want some context – I’m not linking to the original Buzzfeed story here because, quite frankly, it’s not worth my time doing so). Dr. Geoff Marcy was convicted in the court of public opinion and his career ruined by lies, hearsay, exaggerations and distortions.
If aliens were to land here today and observe what is being discussed under the banner “Topical Discussions in Science”, they would shrug their shoulders and leave – and they would be right in doing so. Even a discussion of careers in science is now synonymous with “Sexual Harassment”. That this is at the focus of everything that is science at this moment is quite telling of the character of those who find this so important. Are we going to have to hear about all the sordid details of every misdeed ever perpetrated by one human being on another? Another story appeared in the Tuesday (2/2/2016) edition of the New York Times (and, again, I’m not linking to it – there’s Google and the NY Times website if you’re interested). It’s almost another story every day; when will it end? Quite frankly, I thought highly educated professionals would have better things to do with their time rather than engaging in what amounts to the sharing of gossip, debates about who did what, where and how long it went on. When are we going to get back to the business of doing science or is this what’s going to define this new generation of scientists? Ground breaking new discoveries in our chosen fields aren’t going to come from social justice campaigns.
There will come a day when we’ll all start to look over our shoulders, wondering if we’re next in the crosshairs of some aggrieved millennial who has carried a grudge for something that happened to them more than 10 years ago or, at the most, 20 years ago for the older millennials, and that now is the right time to exact their revenge. Any reasonable person would admit that waiting 10 or 20 years to report an incident is suspect, regardless of its veracity or the validity of the claim. In some cases, with such a stretch of time, many could have even retired and moved on. Given the character of such a person, it is remarkable that they have actually mustered the intestinal fortitude to complete the degree program in the field of their choosing. The presumption here is that this individual is internally disposed towards their career choice, that they hold some affinity for it rather than it just being the “best career choice” among many. You see, if this is even remotely true, nothing or no one will prevent them from completing the program, nothing! I speak from personal experience. This complaint, therefore, raised as a prominent issue in Geoff Marcy’s case, is a Red Herring designed to evoke a specific visceral reaction based on the inherent sensibilities most people have in these matters. Such subjectivity would be wholly inadmissible in a real court but is perfectly fine in the court of public opinion. The claim that they left the field because of Geoff Marcy’s supposed indiscretions speaks to their commitment, or lack thereof, to astronomy.
How do you suppose they would react if you disagree with them and advocate for a reasoned, objective assessment of the facts in the appropriate forum (such as a court of law instead of tabloid rags or one-off pieces in the NY Times or Forbes)? They behave as anyone would expect a spoiled child to behave who didn’t get their way. For starters, you’re blocked or blacklisted in social media such as Facebook or Twitter as if what they think really matters. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what they think, nor do I have any interest in their opinion. You’re labeled as a miscreant, a bad person, a misogynist, a sexual harasser or protector of same. The latest addition to their litany of descriptions is “predator”; anyone who advocates for Due Process to be applied equally, with fairness, reason and blind objectivity is now a protector of sexual predators! What’s more, the object of their derision, the next victim of their social justice crusade, is forever stigmatized as a “sexual predator”, whether warranted or not.
If a serious crime of a sexual nature is successfully prosecuted in a court of law, the person so convicted deserves to be punished in accordance with the law and Due Process. There are remedies already in place, including protections against reprisals. We don’t need any additional laws, policies or regulations in this regard. Claiming that “I had to protect my career and didn’t report them” or “my career will be cut short if I report them”, etc, or any other variations on this theme, is intellectually dishonest, disingenuous and inconsistent with existing law.
Emboldened by their seeming victories in social media and the press, empty victories largely obtained through the ignorance of pliant interlopers who really know very little about the issues but who have very strong opinions, and appealing to any person’s sensibilities in these areas, certain senior members of the CSWA, as I discuss in this piece, are attempting an end-run around the very carefully crafted by-laws of the AAS. They are attempting to implement a Blacklist of “serial harassers”, in a manner similar to Senator Joseph McCarthy during his demagogic reign as one of this country’s worst elected officials of the 20th century. Any first-year history student knows far too well how it all worked out for Senator McCarthy (he was ultimately censured by the US Senate – Rep. Jackie Speier should take note). Although he was largely discredited in the end, the damage he did and the lives he ruined along the way were a testament to what happens when misguided zeal runs amok, unchecked by reason, jurisprudence, temperance, Due Process and adherence to existing laws and policies. As in the tragic erosion of basic liberties and constitutional protections following the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, imposed on this country ostensibly in the name of “security” by the “Patriot Act”, we don’t need any new laws or regulations that target actions or behaviors specifically arising from a gender difference in an academic context; we have more than enough and they are quite clear in their spirit and intent, many of them already in place since the 1965 Civil Rights Act as amended under Title IX of the Education Amendments to that Act: 1972, 20 U.S.C.:
Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices. Title IX applies, with a few specific exceptions, to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities. In addition to traditional educational institutions such as colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary schools, Title IX also applies to any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance.
If Due Process isn’t exercised in even measure, for even the worst offenders, then our entire legal system, the implementation of our government as a Representative Democracy, loses all claim to moral legitimacy. We will have descended into a morass of conflicting notions of morality, mob rule will have been realized and the notion of “might makes right” will have taken on a whole new meaning.
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer;Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while the worstAre full of passionate intensity.
The full context of this article can be obtained by reading the previous articles on this topic. In chronological order they are:
- Humiliated, World Renown Astronomer Resigns , October 18, 2015
- Amid Sexual Harassment Probe, Prestigious University Lowers Legal Standard , January 14, 2016
- Update to High Profile Astro Cases of SH , January 17, 2016
- Clarification of Position on SH , January 21, 2016
- We Stand Against Public Shaming , January 21, 2016
- Redefining Harassment , January 23, 2016
Update: In act of blatant censorship, an Independent Petition opposing the public shaming of Professional Scientists has been disabled by the petition site administrator.