Strumia’s disgrace continues to be public


Alessandro Strumia was in the news earlier this fall — he’s the physicist who gave a workshop at CERN to declare that the humanities suck and that women were inherently less capable of doing physics than men. It was so bad that CERN struck the recording of his talk from their archives. We still have a copy of his slides.

By the way, there is a difference between a lecture and a workshop, and he seems to have failed to comprehend that, too.

Well, now CERN has also decided to cut Strumia altogether. His appointment as a guest professor has not been extended. Cue men wailing that he has been oppressed and discriminated against.

His excuses are terrible.

“Some people hated hearing about higher male variance: this idea comes from Darwin, like other offensive ideas that got observational support,” he told BBC News.

“Science is not about being offended when facts challenge ideas held as sacred”.

Darwin isn’t sacred, either. He published sexist claims that he did not support with evidence — they were reflections of the cultural biases of Victorian England. Darwin didn’t create Holy Writ, you can’t simply pretend that Darwin said it, therefore it’s true. Does Strumia also think pangenesis was correct, and that whales evolved from swimming bears?

He added that he believed that he had not been fairly treated.

“For months, Cern kept ‘investigating’ if my 30-minute talk might have violated Cern rules [requiring an] ‘obligation to exercise reserve and tact in expressing personal opinions and communication to the public’,” Prof Strumia said.

“In such a case, they would have opened some procedure, where I would have been able [to defend] myself. This never happened.”

Last September, Professor Strumia stated that “physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation” at a presentation at the Cern the workshop.

If I were attending a workshop at CERN, I’d be expecting practical, interactive discussions about matters of utility in physics. He made a tactless, opinionated rant grounded in factual falsehoods while simultaneously dismissing the relevance of academic disciplines in the subject he was discussing. Not much investigation was necessary — he was so blatantly wrong that recordings were removed in embarrassment.

I’m going to take a wild guess here that administrators took notice of the harm he was doing to CERN, and also noticed that he was on a temporary contract that was going to expire in March, and decided that it was more sensible to wait on taking any action until his renewal was evaluated. In addition, there was a thorough rebuttal of his claims by his peers. He can whine all he wants that he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend himself, but his arguments were indefensible, and he demonstrated repeatedly that his “defense” was to bluster angrily and double down on his misogyny. Good riddance.

Strumia still has his professorial appointment at the University of Pisa…although the ethical committee at that university is investigating him, too.

Comments

  1. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I sometimes annoy my fellow physicists by referring to fields like biology, ecology…as the “hard sciences,” but they really cannot argue that their subject matter is inherently more complicate and “hard” than what we physicists study.

    My experience has been that there will always be a few physicists who will contend that our science is inherently a meritocracy. Usually, they aren’t particularly good physicists and the idea that there might be competition from currently marginalized groups.

  2. miramarco says

    I checked out the press releases from the University of Pisa and it turns out that they published an “ethical sanction” on January 18th. Here’s the press release in Italian (I can’t find it in English): https://www.unipi.it/index.php/news/item/14355-sanzione-etica-a-carico-del-prof-alessandro-strumia

    The ethical committee decided that Strumia had violated three articles of their ethical code – not the one about discrimination (Article 7), but the ones about “loyalty, correctness”, “honesty”, “mutual respect”, and having a “responsible conduct”. (I guess this is the case because Article 7 seems to address only discriminatory actions against people working or studying at the university).

    The sanction the council opted for was a “public reprimand”. I checked the ethical code and it looks like the only possible sanctions are private and public reprimands, but the council can also “take additional initiatives or measures, with the specific aim of removing, wherever possible, the effects of the events, acts, or behaviours that violated [their] code”. Link to the ethical code (also in Italian, and in pdf): https://www.unipi.it/index.php/phoca-prova/category/2-regolamenti-di-ateneo?download=72

  3. says

    I would imagine there will be work for him on the European right wing chicken circuit, telling all and sundry how he’s a victim of political correctness. The attendees will sit there and nod as they eat their overpriced meals as he tells them he was punished for “telling the truth.”

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’m going to take a wild guess here…[CERN administrators] decided that it was more sensible to wait on taking any action until his renewal was evaluated

    The talk was on September 28, and he was suspended on October 1. Doesn’t that count as “action”?

  5. says

    We still have a copy of his slides.

    I’m not quite sure whether I’m more offended by the content or the presentation. To think that this is from somebody who didn’t only finish school but actually works as a professor is terrifying.
    Still, when I made fun of that on Twitter, somebody told me that it’s obvious that Italian schools don’t have the same high standards as American high schools do (are you fucking kidding me?) and the informed me that it is not possible to be bigoted against Italians…

    Some people hated hearing about higher male variance

    For some reason cis men believe that since they have a higher chance of suffering from certain hereditary diseases due to their lack of a second X chromosome, nature also owes them some spots at the very top.
    Yes, I know, I know, people will trot out that more men than women have super high IQs, but since IQ tests are pretty much bullshit anyway, especially when talking about the extreme ends, you can lose me with that.

  6. chrislawson says

    I seem to remember a time when people who were caught out behaving as badly as Strumia would slink off to ignominity, especially when they had lost the trust of their own peers and colleagues. Is this just nostalgia?

  7. chrislawson says

    Giliell@7–

    Yep. The “scientific sexists” fetishise the bell curve as the answer to all their fallacious reasoning without understanding the statistical basis of binomial probability functions. Yes it’s true that a binomial distribution with wider variability will have more at the top and bottom ends of the curve…but they leave out all their necessary assumptions, i.e. that the distribution curves really are mathematically binomial, that the means are the same, and that any difference in variability can be explained only by Mendelian genetic differences. From actual IQ studies, we know that all three of these assumptions are empirically wrong.

  8. DanDare says

    That rebuttal from his peers is an exemplary piece of work. Clear, accurate and without hyperbole.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says

    After decades of Creationist claiming that be in evolutionary theory leads to immorality and ”scientific” excuses for bigotry (ok, mainly racism and eugenics), why are some scientists—and atheists—willing to play into that stereotype?

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    chrislawson @8:

    I seem to remember a time when people who were caught out behaving as badly as Strumia would slink off to ignominity [sic]

    When was this magical time? I certainly can’t remember it.

  11. snuffcurry says

    One of the features of the slides presentation that has stuck out to me, given the game away entirely, is the insinuation in slides 23-4 that men become victims when they tell the “truth” about female inferiority. His examples are the usual suspects, plus Matt Taylor. After all the gas-lighting about what Taylor’s shirt meant, it’s nice to see we were right all along: the cheesecake thing was trying to send a message about what women are actually good for and good at. Kudos for the honesty, I guess.

  12. John Harshman says

    that whales evolved from swimming bears?

    Hey, now. Darwin never said that. He used a swimming bear as a modern observation of behavior that might eventually lead to something “as monstrous as a whale”. No claims about phylogeny there, folks.

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