Quantum Misogyny


I thought this article by Marina Koren was very insightful. I was unaware of some of the stuff she brings up. For instance, how Krauss tried to brazen it out at a conference after the accusations were made.

In another way, it was surprising. Two months before the conference, several women had accused Krauss of sexual misconduct, describing behavior that went unchecked for over a decade. By the time Krauss stepped foot on Stanford’s campus for the gathering, he had been banned from three universities, removed from multiple speaking events, and was under a formal investigation by Arizona State University, his primary affiliation. But Krauss had denied the allegations, and refused to withdraw from public life. “He chatted with peers. He ate with prestigious scientists. In the conference hall, he sat in front, where there were two rows of cloth-covered tables for VIPs,” Jason Davis, a science writer who was there, reported. “He even challenged a nasa engineer after one talk, declaring a proposed propulsion drive to be based on bunk physics.”

Some attendees were flabbergasted by Krauss’s appearance, and chastised the Breakthrough Initiative, the host of the conference, for admitting an alleged harasser in the midst of an investigation of inappropriate behavior in a professional setting.

He was probably right about the propulsion drive — he’s a smart guy. But not smart enough to recognize a subtle distinction: you can and should be bold and refuse to be cowed if you are falsely accused of things you did not do. Being bold about things you know you did, but think are not important or wrong for you to have done is a whole different matter. It makes you look like you haven’t learned a thing and are just going to keep on doing them.

But then, some scientists see perfection as something that will just inevitably happen, not requiring intervention and struggle by human scientists to accomplish.

Some scientists, especially vociferously atheist scientists like Krauss, pride themselves in their ability to rise above certain biases, in their work and in social systems at large. They believe that science, as a concept, will safeguard against them.“Science itself overcomes misogyny and prejudice and bias. It’s built-in,” Krauss said last year during a promotional event for one of his books.

Interesting. But how will Science accomplish that? By learning to recognize and purge itself of error. Science tries and fails all the time, we just have a system for detecting and winnowing out mistakes. I wonder if Krauss realizes that the process that led to his dismissal is part of that process of overcoming misogyny and prejudice and bias that he is so proud of?

Probably not. One of the most interesting parts of this article is that she read Krauss’s book, Quantum Man, a biography of Feynman. There’s no denying that Feynman was an absolute genius, one of the most brilliant physicists of the last century. But there’s also no denying that he was a terrible person who, in his own charming way, treated women terribly. But Krauss tends to dismiss the importance of all that.

Quantum Man is a tremendous exercise in hagiography. Krauss documents Feynman’s bad behavior, but couches it in language that removes any responsibility the scientist may have possessed.

He had continued an intense long-distance courtship with her, and she was causing another woman in Ithaca to lash out at him in jealousy.

And:

He often stayed with friends, usually married ones, and these visits frequently ended badly as a result of his sexual improprieties.

And:

When he spent a year in Brazil, he actually devised a set of simple rules for seducing women, including prostitutes, at bars. He became famous for seducing women at conferences abroad.

Krauss failed to mention that in this game, Feynman considered women who did not put out after he bought them drinks as “worthless bitches.”

It is strange to read Quantum Man now, as waves of women continue to come forward to tell their versions of male behavior that went long unchecked, that existed only through carefully constructed whisper networks, that, if they hadn’t said anything, could be diluted into the silly actions of a brilliant and edgy man. It feels like a time capsule, a snapshot of unbridled adoration for geniuses in a time long before #MeToo. But it remains a cautionary tale, not just for women, or just for men, but for everyone, that some stories can be left behind in favor of others. That some evidence, even when it is corroborated and convincing, can still be dismissed and ignored.

Some of those “simple rules” are outlined in Feynman’s own autobiography. He cultivated misogyny.

All during the next day I built up my psychology differently: I adopted the attitude that those bar girls are all bitches, that they aren’t worth anything, and all they’re in there for is to get you to buy them a drink, and they’re not going to give you a goddamn thing; I’m not going to be a gentleman to such worthless bitches, and so on. I learned it till it was automatic.

Krauss idolizes Feynman. I can’t help but wonder if he thought that his kind of behavior is just fine: if you’re smart and valued for being smart, you can get away with being an asshole to women. Feynman wasn’t censured or dismissed by his university or the public (although he should have been), so how would they dare criticize Lawrence Krauss?

He failed to notice that society as well as science works to overcome misogyny and prejudice and bias. It often fails — way too often it fails, as we look out on American culture today. But Krauss should take pride in the fact that in his case, it actually worked. His story is a story of progressive success. Hooray!

Comments

  1. Artor says

    “Science itself overcomes misogyny and prejudice and bias. It’s built-in,” Krauss said last year during a promotional event for one of his books. He then proceeded to declare, spittle flecking his lips, “I AM THE SCIENCE!!!

  2. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    While I don’t think that Feynman was any better than any other man of his era, I do think it’s rather disingenuous to quote that bit of his autobiography out of context. Yes, that was part of I suppose an experiment given that he’d been getting advice from a pick up artist equivalent of the time. That particular bit about the simple rules was him trying to get himself into the advised mindset because it was NOT his usual mindset. He also reported that even when it worked he didn’t like that it did.

  3. says

    A friend once told me that he had tried the experiment of employing the rules espoused in Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People towards getting laid. He reported that it worked depressingly well. (I didn’t try to replicate it.)

  4. says

    Ralph Leighton, who edited Feynman’s anecdote books, added a footnote for the combined edition released later (Classic Feynman, 2006):

    I feel compelled to point out—as a possible explanation for the disturbing behavior recounted at his insistence (not because he was proud of it, but because he wanted to show that this purported hero had feet of clay)—that during the years in which these episodes occurred, Feynman could well have been still reeling from the effects of his work on the atomic bomb, and from the concomitant loss of his beloved Arline.

    Maybe that’s an explanation, but I wouldn’t say it’s an excuse. Nor does it change the tone of the story, as they decided to set it down in print. It reads very much like Feynman saying, “Look at this horrible thing I shouldn’t have done—that I totally got away with because it really works.

  5. cartomancer says

    I’ve never understood this mindset. Surely the whole point of finding people who want to have sex with you is to enjoy how attractive it makes you feel to share something fun with a willing other person? How does tricking, browbeating or lying about who you are contribute to that end? Surely it undermines it entirely – if you have to pretend to be someone else to appeal to a person then doesn’t that just undermine any satisfaction in your own attractiveness completely?

  6. says

    Here’s how James Gleick put it in his biography of Feynman, which I highly recommend:

    Since Arline’s death he had pursued women with a single-mindedness that violated most of the public, if not the private, scruples associated with the sexual ballet. He dated undergraduates, paid prostitutes in
    whorehouses, taught himself (as he saw it) how to beat bar girls at their own game, and slept with the young wives of several of his friends among the physics graduate students. He told colleagues that he had worked out a kind of all’s-fair approach to sexual morality and argued that he was using women as they sought to use him. Love seemed mostly a myth—a species of self-delusion, or rationalization, or a gambit employed by women in search of husbands. What he had felt with Arline he seemed to have placed on a shelf out of the way.

    […]

    In their wholly male world, physicists were even less likely than other American men to look for intellectual partnership in their sexual relationships. Some did, nevertheless. In the European tradition, where the professoriat implied a certain social class and cultural grounding, wives had tended to share their husbands’ class and culture: Hans Bethe married the daughter of a theoretical physicist. In the American social stew, where science had become an upward pathway for children of the immigrant poor, whatever husbands and wives might be assumed to share, it was not necessarily a background in the academy. Feynman, alone anyway in the distant reaches of much of his work, seemed to date only women of obvious beauty, often blondes, sometimes heavily made-up and provocatively dressed […] He hardly seemed interested in professional companionship from the women he chased, try though they might to offer it. “I’m learning more everyday about physics and realizing that there is just reams more to learn,” one of his lovers wrote. “Somehow the field of physics has a fatal fascination for me.” She suspected, though, that he had already moved on to someone else.

    Gleick’s book came out in 1992. None of this is news. It’s just that Geek Culture(TM) didn’t get the memo, and didn’t want to.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I see this as “compartmentalization” the word I use for the tendency to compartmentalize aspects of a person’s behavior as if they were completely separate, and not part of a unified personality. It is universal to consider people that way, it’s what I consider a basic coping mechanism of staying friends with someone you strongly disagree with on some issues.
    thank you for letting me share my amateur opinion

  8. says

    In his first primarily-text book, before he became a terrible person (or, at least, before he became a terrible person in an obvious way), Scott Adams wrote a list of rules for running a workplace to avoid being Dilbert’s company. Many of the things he recommends are, oddly enough, suggestions which I keep seeing made in other contexts by psychologists and sociologists with actual data to back them up. His company model was named “OA5” (“Out At 5”, referring to the idea that people are only productive for a limited number of hours in the day so keeping them working late is pointless) and here’s a relevant quotation:

    What does an OA5 manager do?

    “Staying out of the way” isn’t much of a job description for a manager. So if you want to be a manager in an OA5 company you’ll need to do some actual work too. Here are the most useful activities I can think of for a manager.

    1. Eliminate the assholes. Nothing can drain the life-force out of your employees as much as a few sadistic assholes who seem to exist for the sole purpose of making life hard for others.

    Sadly, assholes often have important job skills that you’d like to keep. My advice is that it’s never worth the tradeoff. In an OA5 company if you’re making your co-workers unhappy, then you’re incompetent by definition. It’s okay to be “tough” and it’s okay to be “aggressive” and it’s okay to disagree—even shout. That’s not necessarily being an asshole. Some conflict is healthy. But if you do it with disrespect, or you seem to be enjoying it, or you do it in every situation, guess what—you’re an asshole. And you’re gone.

    Makes you wish he had stopped after that book.

  9. says

    It feels like a time capsule, a snapshot of unbridled adoration for geniuses in a time long before #MeToo. But it remains a cautionary tale, not just for women, or just for men, but for everyone, that some stories can be left behind in favor of others. That some evidence, even when it is corroborated and convincing, can still be dismissed and ignored.

    Reminds me of this.

  10. petesh says

    Recently, someone, I forget who or where, linked to a YouTube video of Feynman trying to explain how magnets work, at great length, to someone asking what sounded like a deliberately naive question. It seems to be posted a lot, and I don’t think this is what I watched, though it’s the same source:

    Whoever linked it thought they were presenting an example of Feynman’s brilliance. I can’t say I was impressed. (I am not a physicist, and he wasn’t much more than a name to me.) I thought he came across as overbearing and condescending; a classic know-it-all with an apparent contempt for the commoners. He was smart all right, but the stories of his philandering make perfect sense. Evidently a brilliant asshole.

  11. hotspurphd says

    Does anyone here know if feynman’s misogny was evident in the books “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: or “ six easy pieces”?

  12. chrislawson says

    Kip TW@6–

    Carnegie might be a bit superficial, but at least his system involved being honest, respectful, and appreciative of the people you are trying to win over. It’s the opposite of the “negging” strategy of the modern pick-up artist school (not to mention Feynman’s antagonistic, exploitative approach).

    This tells us everything we need to know about pick-up artist culture. Even if all they want is sex, there exists a well-known, successful strategy from Dale Carnegie that involves principles like “give honest and sincere apppreciation”, “become genuinely interested in other people”, “try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view”, “be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires”, and so on. But no, Feynman and the PUAs prefer to go with a system that essentially means “destroy the other’s self-esteem until they’re terrified that nobody else will ever show any interest in them, and then you can force them to do what you want.” So, yeah, absolutely shows Feynman and other PUAs are at heart emotional abusers who want it that way.

  13. chrislawson says

    hotspurphd–

    Yes, the evidence of his misogyny is there in his autobiographies. He downplays it, talking about it as a type pf intellectual game that he abandoned when he didn’t like what it meant. But it’s there.

  14. says

    In What Do You Care What Other People Think, Feynman mentions that as a young man he was so terrified of being thought a “sissy” by his peers he hated being sent to the shop by his mother to buy any product he thought had an effeminate name, like Peppermint Patties; and even gave up piano lessons because he thought they were emasculating. It seems to me that like a lot of introverted men, his exposure to the toxic masculine norms of his time manifested as misogyny. His stories in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman complaining about “getting nothing in return” for food or drinks bought for women at bars you can hear echoed on any MRA thread on Reddit, where the notion that buying someone dinner apparently entitles you to the use of their body is apparently an article of faith 🙄

  15. angela78 says

    . Feynman wasn’t censured or dismissed by his university or the public (although he should have been)

    Uhm. Why ? Did he harassed female colleagues or students? Did his behaviour reflected in his work, damaging someone?
    I don’t care if my colleagues are machist assholes, provided they behave properly while in a working environment.

    They are colleagues, not friends. I only want them to be professional and good in their work. Who gives a shit -professionally speaking- what they do in their spare time?

  16. chrislawson says

    I should add that Six Easy Pieces is all physics lectures. No overt misogyny there. The stories of the way he treated women are to be found in Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feyman and What Do you Care What Other People Think? (if you want Feynman’s minimised, self-censored version) or James Gleick’s Genius (if you want a more honest and unabridged version).

  17. chrislawson says

    angela78@18–

    You’re right that Feynman’s universities shouldn’t have made it their business to run purity tests on all his personal failings, but his actions included repeatedly seducing undergraduates (which should have got him sacked on professional grounds) and seducing the wives of colleagues (which couldn’t have helped his working relationships). That is, Feynman’s behaviour directly damaged the universities’ professional standards in a way that was harmful to many students and co-workers.

  18. says

    @chrislawson:

    Don’t trust my memory, but I thought he had also then badmouthed some of those co-workers’ wives. When you’re engaging in misogynistic insults of co-workers’ spouses in front of those co-workers, that is also a direct threat to the type of academic cooperation necessary to a university and also should have been the basis for reasonable disciplinary action.

  19. angela78 says

    @20 chrislawson:

    repeatedly seducing undergraduates (which should have got him sacked on professional grounds)

    I don’t completely understand the last part, but yes, that’s something in the professional sphere, not only in the private one, so this is enough for me to say that he was unprofessional.

    and seducing the wives of colleagues

    umh. “Seducing” wives? I wouldn’t take it well if someone told me that a man “seduced” me and it was his fault. I’m not a doll that can be “seduced” without having anything to say about it. Therefore I’m uncertain about this.

    @22 Cat Mara
    I don’t remember who you are or what you wrote int the Wikipedia thread (and, if your comments were as useful and stimulating as the one above, I can see why).

  20. says

    At the risk of going off-topic: Donna Strickland’s biography wasn’t deleted. Someone wrote a draft, and the draft was declined.

    I’ve written a bit about Wikipedia and its various failure modes (what gets written about and how, etc.), and as a result, people who are active over there occasionally tell me about stuff. Judging by what they’ve told me, and as much of the policy pages and behind-the-scenes discussions that I’ve been able to read, the people who go around accepting or declining draft articles don’t have any special status. (They don’t have to go through a community approval process like “admins” do.) More significantly, perhaps, multiple people have told me that the draft should have been accepted, per the project’s notability guideline for scholars and academics. It seems that not everybody going around doing judgments on drafts is aware of that guideline, or if they do know, maybe they don’t care.

  21. chrislawson says

    angela78@23–

    a. The fact that those women may share responsibilty does not negate the inappropriateness of Feynman’s behaviour; if a professor encourages plagiarism, it’s true that the students and academics in that deparment should refuse to do so, but it does nothing to lessen the ethical breach of the professor.

    b. We don’t know how consensual Feynman’s seductions were; it would not surprise me if he used his position as a star faculty member to pressure his colleagues’ wives with either threats to careers or promises of references/adding as coauthors. Do I know this to be true? No. But given his hateful mysogyny (in his own words), and given that his seduction “technique” relied on bullying and degrading women rather than charming them, I would suggest that his repeated successes with undergrads and colleagues’ wives had a lot more to do with a willingness to abuse power rather than personal attractiveness. Since nobody thought to interview those women about it, we’ll probably never know.

    c. Even if his colleagues’ wives were all 100% enthusiastic and willing participants, why would Feynman repeatedly target them for seduction including those who were generously allowing him to live in their houses long-term? (Which he did frequently and for long periods, btw.) If he was such a charmer, why would he repeatedly poison his relationships with colleagues, especially those who went out of their way to help him, when such an irresistable Adonis/Valentino figure could surely have satisfied his sexual desires with many willing partners who weren’t attached to his workplace? We’re not talking here about two people who meet each other and come to realise they love each other rather than their spouses; we’re talking about repeated targeting, followed by tossing the women aside as soon as he became bored, followed by vocal denigration of the women in the presence of their husbands in the workplace. I’m astonished you’re cool with that behaviour in a professional environment.

  22. angela78 says

    @24 Blake Stacey
    Ok, we’re going offtopic, but yes: there is ample evidence that no sexism was involved in Strickland-Wikipedia issue.
    And it’s discomforting to see people like Cat Mara going around spreading lies about that. Also, I saw no corrections on PZ side, even if he unjustly attacked W. without proper knowledge.
    This is dangerous: if you want to help women to reach equal rights and treatment, the worst thing you can do is to attack straw men -expecially when there are tons of proper targets around.

  23. chrislawson says

    Blake Stacey@24–

    Without opening up the whole Strickland-Wikipedia argument again, I think it’s important to acknowlege that the specific editor who declined Strickland’s page should not be tarred as sexist for that decision. It’s quite possible that this editor is just a stickler for referencing. Unless someone’s prepared to collate a list of the editor’s decisions and break down any differences in male:female subjects (which I have zero interest in doing myself), I didn’t want to throw this accusation around. But the point I was trying to make is that it shows the biases in public perceptions of scientists when Donna Strickland’s bio page was rejected for having insufficient references when the technique she co-invented has its own page, and her co-inventor’s bio page was accepted despite having fewer references than Strickland’s. It wasn’t about how awful Wikipedia is (I’m very much in favour myself), it was about showing evidence that women in science are less highly regarded than their male counterparts even for the exact same work.

  24. says

    @angela78:
    Jesus Toast Babies!

    The point about Feynman’s “seductions” is not whether or not we would call them non-consensual. If we had specific evidence that any of them were non-consensual, we’d call them rapes or sexual assaults.

    The point is that they were unethical. Whether someone’s spouse wants to fuck you or not, if that someone is expecting monogamy from that spouse, and if you’re not going in completely above-board discussing potential sexy-times with all concerned, then you’re acting unethically.

    The fact that the “someones” in this case were co-workers means that his unethical behavior risked serious harm to the necessary work dynamics for productive collaboration at a university. The fact that he ran around doing unethical things with the potential to damage the work environment made it an issue for his employer, which could reasonably have investigated and, if the investigation substantiated the idea that he was risking harm to the work environment (whether such harm had as yet manifested or not), disciplined Feynman using any normal means by which an employer may discipline an employee – pay cuts, suspensions, firings, whatever.

    Feynman acted unethically. Maybe he didn’t rape anyone, but “seduction” wasn’t an allegation of rape. So what the fuck is your point? That so long as sex is consensual, the lying, the betrayal, the sabotaging of the work environment don’t matter, because an employer can’t discipline anyone for anything other than rape?

    If that’s not your point – and it would be a repellent point if it was – then you obviously have no grasp of what the issues raised by Feynman’s behavior actually are. Your, “but he didn’t rape anyone” defense is, frankly, disgusting. Neither Matt Lauer nor Charlie Rose were ever alleged to have raped anyone, but as a standard for a university’s employees, “please stop short of rape” is nauseating.

    Maybe you should stop and think through your arguments before you make them.

  25. chrislawson says

    Oh FFS, angela78, are you going to do nothing but make excuses for unfair treatment of women here?

    I have said before and now that I don’t blame this specific editor for rejecting the Strickland page. I don’t even specifically blame Wikipedia for not being immune to the biases of the culture it grows from (in fact it would be impossible for Wikipedia to have equal weight for women scientists given the historical record and the choices of Nobel committees and so on are themselves so biased). But I do see it as clear evidence of bias against women in general, not just specifically on Wikipedia that Strickland’s most important work (chirped laser pulsing) has its own page, that her co-inventor had his bio page accepted, and yet Strickland’s was rejected for not having enough references despite having more references than her co-inventor’s bio. For you to claim “ample evidence that no sexism was involved” is just ridiculous. Maybe next you can tell us how the exoneration of the police who beat Rodney King is ample evidence that racism wasn’t involved.

  26. damien75 says

    “He was probably right about the propulsion drive — he’s a smart guy. ”

    If it’s about the EM drive, it doesn’t take a great physicist to figure out it’s bunk. A friend of mine brought it to my attention two-odd years ago. I found it pathetic and was appalled NASA had anything to do with it.

    Money was spent to find out it does not work. Money that could have been spent usefully.

  27. says

    @damien75:

    Oh, I don’t know. When you get down the the quantum realm, there really is new physics to be discovered. Inevitably some of that different science is going to lead to different engineering. I’ll take Krauss’ word that this was never very promising, but people much more knowledgeable than I thought it was worth investigation and I’m willing to trust them that ruling out such an effect was worth the time, trouble & expense.

  28. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To petesh
    To explain. Your character attacks are all true, but I still find it to be a valuable resource to correct a particular mistake: Correlation is not enough to show causation. In other words, you need to show mechanism before you show causation. That’s wrong. This is a common wrong belief that many, many people have, and Feynman in this video does an excellent job explaining why, albeit with some arrogance thrown on top. This mistake comes up all the time in religious discussions under the guide “science is limited by methodological naturalism”, which is wrong for the same underlying reason.

    But yeah, Feynman was a misogynist asshole.

  29. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke:

    Oh, I don’t know. When you get down the the quantum realm, there really is new physics to be discovered. Inevitably some of that different science is going to lead to different engineering. I’ll take Krauss’ word that this was never very promising, but people much more knowledgeable than I thought it was worth investigation and I’m willing to trust them that ruling out such an effect was worth the time, trouble & expense.

    No. We’re talking about something that purportedly violates half a dozen laws of physics, with no alternative theory or explanation that is anywhere close to plausible. It was not a “well golly gee, physics is hard, so who knows?” type of issue … it was a “Crip Dyke doesn’t know” type of issue, while experts certainly had no good reason to doubt that the claims were wrong.
    For some more information, here’s a blog post by Ethan Siegel. Long story short: fucking magnets, how do they work? Well, they are pretty interesting … but momentum is conserved and they’re not perpetual motion machines.
    Of course, people waste time, trouble and expenses on all sorts of things. I think it was as pointless and as wasteful as trying to debunk claims about ghosts (or other “explanations” involving supernatural entities) that fail to provide an adequate or even coherent explanation. This stuff doesn’t need to be “tested” again and again, each time someone comes up with a slightly different flavor of ghost — it has already been done, we’ve got physics that works, and this violates said physics without presenting a genuine alternative to it. There is nothing to do, except point to the physics and say that you have to do better than that (not worse), in order for it to even be considered a serious proposal. You might like to think that such people are giving you a mystery box, with some kind of present hidden inside — for all you know, there could be something inside — but it is definitely just an empty box. With physics, every day is Christmas, and they don’t bother wrapping it up in mystery … you just get the damn toy, which you can start playing with immediately.

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @31:

    When you get down the the quantum realm, there really is new physics to be discovered

    Not at the energies involved in the EM drive. Simply put, it violates laws which apply at any scales accessible to us; conservation of momentum, Lorentz invariance, etc. See here. Also here. Favourite quote:

    “Quantum vacuum virtual plasma” is something you’d say if you failed a course in quantum field theory and then smoked too much weed.

  31. chrislawson says

    Crip Dyke@31–

    It’s worth knowing that the EM drive was being investigated by NASA’s Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory which was set up specifically to look into weird and wonderful ideas with a high-risk, high-gain strategy. Unfortunately it’s all been high-risk, no-gain so far. And even some of the things that might work, such as the microwave cavity generator are only showing thrusts of 50 microNewton from 50W power. This makes me pretty skeptical since really it’s at the very limit of observation, but even more importantly, it’s too little thrust/watt to be even remotely practical.

  32. damien75 says

    Thank you Rob Grigjanis for the links.

    To Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Sure there is some new physics to be discovered somewhere. However when you hear a claim of a phenomenon that sounds too good to be true… 99,9% of the time it’s just not.

    I agree with consciousness razor, Ethan Siegel, John Baez and the rest of the crowd on that one.

    Of course if you know of a physicist with stripes on the sleeves, with no vested interest in the matter, who takes the EM drive seriously, I am interested.

  33. angela78 says

    @28 Crypt

    The point is that they were unethical. Whether someone’s spouse wants to fuck you or not, if that someone is expecting monogamy from that spouse, and if you’re not going in completely above-board discussing potential sexy-times with all concerned, then you’re acting unethically

    OMG…didn’t hear such a bigot thing since my last visit to a church.
    Are you serious in thinking that an employer should monitor and evaluate and judge his employees’private life in search of “unethical behaviours”?
    I repeat: I don’t give a shit if in your spare time you do “unethical things”, provided that you properly behave in the working enviroment.
    Therefore: chrislawson pointed out to me that F was also misbehaving with undergraduates, and this is wrong and unprofessional. Unprofessional, mind you, not “unethical”, unless you are referring to work ehtic, which is included in being professional.

    On the contrary: “seducing” colleagues’wives (actually meaning, having consensual sex with them) is maybe unethical, but also a big whogivesafuck from the working env point of view.

    I have many colleagues: some are Jeowah’s witnesseses, other are catholics, other are racists. They are all “unethical” by definition: who cares, provided their beliefs do not damage me at work?

    But if you want to start a moral crusade ok: tell me, so that I can buy some popcorn and sit down to watch…

  34. says

    Well. At least now we’ve established that angela78 cannot read.

    Elsewise how does one explain this comment by angela78

    Are you serious in thinking that an employer should monitor and evaluate and judge his employees’private life in search of “unethical behaviours”?

    in response to my comment #28 in which I clearly stated:

    The fact that he ran around doing unethical things with the potential to damage the work environment made it an issue for his employer, which could reasonably have investigated and, if the investigation substantiated the idea that he was risking harm to the work environment (whether such harm had as yet manifested or not), disciplined Feynman using any normal means by which an employer may discipline an employee

    bold added.

    If you fuck up the work environment, it’s an issue for your employer. If you fuck up the work environment for reasons that either you can’t help or shouldn’t have to help (e.g. you take Yom Kippur off when everyone else wants to have a meeting that day), the employer should bend to the needs of the employee. However, if you’re fucking up your work environment through your own unnecessary and unethical actions, the employer can and should discipline you so that other employees don’t have to shoulder the burden of dealing with what was really someone else’s fault or someone else’s problem.

    It’s pretty simple, and it has nothing to do with starting a moral crusade. It’s about maintaining a productive work environment at work. The ethical violation just helps determine whose behavior or expectations should change – the employer’s or the employee’s.

    But angela78 simply can’t understand basic english and/or basic reasoning. Sounds like that might become an issue for angela78’s employer at some point.

  35. says

    crip dyke @40: “But angela78 simply can’t understand basic english and/or basic reasoning. Sounds like that might become an issue for angela78’s employer at some point.”
    OMG OMG OMG THREATENING ANGELA78’S EMPLOYMENT OMG BADTHINK WHAAAARRGARBLE!!1!111!!!

  36. Bill Buckner says

    #40,

    But angela78 simply can’t understand basic english and/or basic reasoning. Sounds like that might become an issue for angela78’s employer at some point.

    Actually it appears to be you who has a problem. angela78’s comment is perfectly consistent. Your comments, including your boldface highlighting in#40, can easily be read as implying (and perhaps it is indeed what you meant) that an employer can monitor an employee’s private life for unethical behaviors that might in turn affect the workplace. angela78 appears to consider that practice unacceptable. Regardless of who is right, angel78’s comment is responsive.

    So no, it has not been established that angela78 cannot read. That appears to be wishful thinking on your part.

  37. says

    The Vicar @ 11: Scott Adams has on more than one occasion defended his repellent opinions with an argument along the lines of, “I don’t know what everyone’s problem is; I’ve always been an asshole!” If we take Adams at his word, this seems to have been more a stopped clock moment for him than anything.

    BTW, the let’s-get-the-assholes-out-of-the-workplace crusade seems to have been taken up by a guy called Bob Sutton, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Sutton seems to have half-facetiously written a book (The No Asshole Rule) to do for assholes what Harry Frankfurt did for bullshit and has inadvertently stumbled into a career as “the asshole guy”. His most recent book, The Asshole Survival Guide, which I’ve heard, has some pretty harrowing research into just how one toxic individual can completely wreck the working environment within an organisation.

  38. says

    I recently watched this documentary about Netscape Corporation’s 1998 decision, in response to competitive pressure from its rival Microsoft, to release the code of its browser under an open-source licence, a decision that ultimately lead to the creation of the Firefox browser. One of the people featured in the documentary was Brendan Eich, the Netscape programmer who created the JavaScript programming language, who went on to become the CEO of the non-profit Mozilla organisation, and who later had to resign that post when his donation to fight California’s 2008 gay marriage bill became an issue. This incident was mentioned in passing in a post of PZ here and Eich’s canonisation as a martyr by the Right in a linked article by the Village Voice.

    Eich is no Feynman but he is certainly a very accomplished practitioner within his own discipline of software engineering. Did he deserve to lose his position for political opinions held while “off the clock”? IMO, yes: open organisations like the Mozilla Foundation need to be open: open to accepting contributions from everyone; and if the CEO of such an organisation has a documented problem with some subset of “everyone”, he ought not be CEO of that organisation, end of story. His goals and the organisation’s goals are clearly at odds. The time for making excuses for “great men” (or, as the Avital Ronell case shows, the occasional “great woman”) needs to be over.

  39. llyris says

    It’s not so unknown for a workplace to experience major problems because someone was found to be sleeping with someone else’s wife. And what? Badmouthing them to their husbands afterwards! At work! That is absolutely an employer’s business. As much as it’s their business if someone came to work still drunk from the night before. Of course, inebriation at work is also overlooked in some work environments, regardless of the social and safety risks.

  40. says

    Plenty of the things that Krauss finally got in trouble for happened “off the clock”: at conferences and other such events that might not be the “workplace” by the strictest of definitions. His assault of Melody Hensley happened at a 2006 Center for Inquiry meeting, for example. Other incidents occurred on a CFI cruise, at an American Atheists convention and at the national convention of Australian skeptics. All this happened outside the walls of the physics building, but it’s still unethical and unprofessional.

  41. militantagnostic says

    Feynman’s behavior with the wives of his colleagues and grad students echoes that of cult leader’s like Sun Myung Moon and Joseph Smith. At least Joseph Smith didn’t bad mouth the women afterwards.

  42. angela78 says

    @44 Bill Buckner
    Thank you, you got and described my point very well.
    I would love to live in an asshole-free world, but I’m not willing to support moralizing crusades for this.
    “the potential to damage the work environment” means nothing. Smoking at home has this potential, as well as playing drums, going to church, buying a new car, having sex with a colleague’s ex-husband, inviting a group of colleagues to a paragliding session…

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