Gay Marriage in Iceland

Iceland have passed a law legalising gay marriage.

All 49 lawmakers approved the change, which will see the words “man and man, woman and woman” added to marriage legislation. […] The country’s president has to approve the bill but is highly likely to do so as this is a formality and public opinion is in favour of the change.

In case you didn’t know, Iceland has the world’s first out gay head of government (prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir), and repealed laws banning homosexuality in the 1940s. Read more here. Hooray for Iceland!

(Thanks, Uncia, for letting us know!)

Turning gold into doss: thanks, John Tierney

The gold, reported by Tierney in the NY Times, is that Congress has passed a bill entitled “Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering”.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular “workshops to enhance gender equity.” At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after “attitudinal surveys” and would take part in “interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias.”

Tierney asserts that “nothing did more to empower its advocates than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president of Harvard.”   Summers claimed that  that there were social and biological  factors accounting for women’s lesser careers in science and engineering.

That’s in the second sentence of  the article and is the first highly questionable thing Tierney says.  At its basis, the issue is not political but economic.   The US has been pouring millions and millions into funding individual campus reforms designed to bring more women into science and engineering, and one can recognize one of the ideas emerging from this effort in the proposal.  Basic university science fuels the US’s position economically, and the fact that still close to 50% of Americans have a  reduced chance at a career in science  is a BAD THING for the economy.

And Tierney’s mistakes get much worse.  Tierney claims that there is new evidence supporting Summers’ claim.  The new evidence is in a paper that I spent some time trying to find;  it just is not publicly available yet.  But from Tierney’s description, there’s no indication that the paper gives any support to Summers’ conjecture about biological factors.  Unlike the paper he says it “refutes,” it doesn’t seem to look at cross-cultural comparisons, at least as far as I could tell.

Tierney entitles his piece, “Daring to discuss  women’s potential in science.”  Let’s dare him to do it well next time!

BTW, here are a number of really good comments.   It appears to reflect a lot of thought since the Summers’ comment.

Thanks to  Rob and J-Bro!