April 29, 2005

The Molecule

Jill picks up on a general blogging malaise to inquire about gender and scholarly discussion. She's intrigued by a study that reports:

Men’s posts lacked social softeners and relationship-builders like please, thank you, do you think so, I hope this helps you. They rarely asked questions and often gave answers. They rarely referred to themselves or gave personal information. They tended to present their statements as absolute, unquestionable, correct, and they often used put downs to other people in the group.

A little later, Jill observed that the next ReBoot conference is advertising only one female speaker. When the organizer claimed it wasn't intentional, she replied:

There is no such thing as selection from strict quality criteria and nothing else.

One of the nice things about cooking (and chemistry, and mathematics, and -- I think -- scholarship) is that, at the core, we have facts that matter. Dinner is ready. Or it isn't. The molecule you made is the molecule you set out to make, or it's something else. You've got the proof, or you don't.

Scholarship isn't a party. It's terrific if you are good with social softeners and build relationships and look great and schmooze well. But if there is no food, well, then people will be hungry. We're trying to discover stuff that will matter deeply, long after we're gone and nobody remembers if we were wonderful or not.