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Let's encourage gentler, more reflective scientists


I am one of three men that Ben Barres, in his Commentary article1, pins up in a rogues' gallery and accuses of crimes against women. His article invents and then criticizes the 'Larry Summers Hypothesis', for which he cites three sources2,3,4. I urge readers to look at those sources and ask themselves whether Barres has misrepresented our arguments and views.

Specifically, Barres accuses me of arguing that women have “lesser innate abilities”: this is not true, it is not what I wrote, it is not what I meant and it is not what I think. However, I do believe that there are significant differences in the psychological characteristics of populations of boys and girls as well as men and women (some differences favour females, some males) — a truth that Barres makes use of.

For example, if (as Barres states), men are responsible for 25 times as many murders as women, does that statistic make women inferior? I think not.

Likewise, if more women than men tend to avoid the vicious struggle to survive in science, is this an argument that women are less well equipped? Not so. In a recent article4, I argue that scientists need to open their doors to gentler, more reflective women and men. And that if we do, we will encourage talented but less aggressive people, and the proportion of women at the top in science will rise as a welcome side effect.

Readers are encouraged to add their comments to the Ben Barres Commentary on the Nature News Blog at: does_gender_matter.html.


  1. Barres, B. A. Nature 442, 133–136 (2006).

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  2. Summers, L. Letter to the Faculty Regarding NBER Remarks summers/2005/facletter.html (2005).

  3. The Science of Gender and Science. Pinker vs. Spelke: A Debate debate05_index.html (2005).

  4. Lawrence, P. A. PLoS Biol. 4, 13–15 (2006).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

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Lawrence, P. Let's encourage gentler, more reflective scientists. Nature 442, 510 (2006).

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