The inspiration for this hypothesis came from a rather obscure medley of ideas and interpretations. The proposed hypothesis assumed that through a survey given to scientists, we would identify a trend consistent with preconceived principles of gender. I shall try to be brief in describing the conceptual background behind those principles:
Before recorded history men and women lived in seemingly parallel goddess-worshipping societies throughout the world whose ideology, values, and lineage were based on the feminine temperament and psychological disposition. Their spirituality was pantheistic in that it was embraced through the cycles of their bodies and planet and experienced directly in interactions with phenomena. A critical level of tension was reached and within a_relatively_fast succession, through invasions by fringe-dwelling nomadic herder tribes with war gods, (such as the Hebrews), literacy, monotheism, and patriarchy became the fundamentals of a new world-view. It was upon these underscoring principles that roles of aggression and domination were invoked (1). As a disclosure of this paradigm Catholicism represents the zenith of religious power and Science, born as a reaction against religious perceptual models, represents the highest form of Ďsecularí empowerment.
When an idea takes hold in the sciences it is sure to soon become part of the general populationís model of reality, thereby constructing itís values. Considering, with all of the above in mind, the current horizon of Science, including the fringe fields of quantum theory, systems theory, chaos, and synchronicity, one begins to notice a unifying principle. Mechanistic conception and application is breaking down in the truly new science. It is becoming apparent that nothing can be removed from its context and that there is a continual exchange amongst everything in the universe. This is pantheism. Sketchy and insubstantial as it may be this led me to propose the question of individual, gender specific representations of this transition within the scientific community. I assumed a connection between feministic psychology and subjectivity (or pantheism) because of their connection in (pre)history.
We are living in a dramatic resurgence of reverence and respect for feminine integrity. The main controversies within the practice of feminism or feministic activism have been with the assumption of archetypal or inherent characteristics of biological sex. This dispute is best exemplified in the gender/sex debate which argues, quite simply, whether sex and associated characteristics is a physical and biological characteristic, or if gender is a purely psychological disposition induced by environmental pressures and circumstances. In other words, according to the gender/sex theory, there is no reason that a woman cannot succeed in performing manís role in society if it were not for her conditioning. Physical study of brain composition has shown however, that there is indeed an inherent discrepancy between sexes and behavioral studies have shown clear trends in gender characteristics. Of course, social impact cannot be ignored but I would contend that the success of women in contemporary society is an indication more of a shift or a weakening in the fundamental patriarchy towards feminine value than of women as individuals assuming male characteristics of domination, exploitation and aggression. This is all conjecture to be sure.
In Sue Wilkinsonís book Feminist Social Psychology the need to address subliminal influences of a society is expressed in this quote: " To be for women is to be simultaneously critical of androcentric theories that reflect sexist society, and of methods that constrain empirical research of significance to women."
The questions we proposed were as follows:
Are there consistent characteristics dictated by gender in the application of scientific inquiry? Specifically, are women more inclined to pursue or submit to intuition within the context of objective research? Does the difference in the nature of hard and soft sciences bear implications along these lines? . Our contention is that women are more willing to submit or admit to their subjectivity within the realm of science because of a psychological disposition. We assert that by virtue of the questions pursued and the inferences made subjectivity cannot be eliminated from the scientific process. As stated in the book Womenís ways of knowing by Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule " Over the past decade there has been considerable feminism academic debate over just this issue, that is, the equation of the masculine with objectivity, science, and the scientific method in its emphasis on manipulation, control, and distance from the objects of study."
The methods we employed were as follows:
We handed out the attached survey to each of the following departments in quadruplicate, addressed to the head of the department. We attached a note asking them politely and humbly to answer the questions honestly and/or to offer them to graduate students who were doing independent inquiry.
BOTANY-David A. Franko-
CHEMISTRY AND BIOCHEMISTRY-Micheal Novak-
MICROBIOLOGY-Donald C. Cox-
PHYSICS-Paul D. Scholten-
ECONOMICS-John D. Ferguson-
SYSTEMS ANALYSIS-Donald Byrkett
DECISION SCIENCES-Donald Dowley
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY-Alex Thomal
POLITICAL SCIENCE-Susan Ann Kay
SOCIOLOGY, GERONTOLOGY, ANTHROPOLOGY-Linday Ade-Ridder
We also gave an amended copy to each student in our N.S. class to fill out at Alexander one morning. Our intention was to analyze the sixty or so responses in an attempt to identify a trend consistent with our hypothesis.
Surprisingly only one out of the ten departments we gave surveys to returned our survey. Paul D. Scholten (physics) was extremely kind, informative, and enthusiastic and even requested an interview to which we complied. We, therefore, based our conclusions in response to the hypothesis on the studentís responses and made a supplementary conclusion in response to the lack of participation.
Our (paltry, inconclusive) data
Questions (see attachment) Guys-Yes/No Girls-Yes/No
1 6/0 6/0
2 2/4 1/5
3 0/6 2/4
4 4/2 4/2
5 1-none/5-minimal 2-none/4minimal
In retrospect I think we might have gotten better results if we had asked a different question (obviously) or if we had chosen a different method to collect data. Our project was rather ambiguous and obviously quite subjective. I think that interviews (a suggestion from Mr. Scholton) would have been more conducive to information with which we could analyze these ideas.
Our hypothesis was false
in that we found no evidence of individual consistency to the proposed disposition. These results however are not discouraging. We asserted from this and from our work in S.S. and C.C. this semester that there are drives and ideals embodied by populations that may not be expressed consistently through individuals within. In other words we have, in a sense, disproved gender determinism on the individual level while opening a window (or not closing it anyway) for optimism about the trends in science and culture regarding gender juxtaposition. Regarding the lack of participation by Oxfords scientific community we concluded that it suffers from (rather we suffer) condescension towards our survey fueled by disciplinary objectivity, a term we learned in our research. Disciplinary objectivity differs from mechanical objectivity in that its justification only needs to be made within the discipline in which the idea exists. Something in the conditioning of Ďscientistsí made these professors (the ones who bothered to even respond) think that a survey about objectivity and subjectivity did not apply to their particular field. It is this isolation and shallow perspective that keeps a Ďscientistí from forming a more comprehensive and progressive model of the world and bids that they continue to toil under the whims of consumerism and defense progress.
We all learned a lot from this and had some fun doing it. We were glad to get the opportunity and, more importantly, the initiative to get our hands dirty with new ideas.
Here is the one we gave to the class. Slightly different than the one given to professors.
N.S. project survey for class
Are your scientific inquiries based on inspiration? If so from where do you draw your inspiration?
Did funding deter you from pursuing a line of inquiry?
Did you find yourself pursuing scientific inquiry to justify the use of available technology?
Do you consider your scientific practice to be more objective or subjective? Expound if necessary.
What role does intuition played in your scientific endeavors?
1Eisler Riane The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. Harper collins. San Francisco, 1987.
2.Sonnert Gerhard, Gender Differences in Science Careers. Runtgers University press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
3.Porter Theodore M., Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life. Princeton University press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1994
4.McGuigan Dorothy G. (editor), Womenís Lives: New Theory, Research and Policy, University of Michigan, 1980
5.Watt John, Ideology, Objectivity, and Education. Teachers College, Columbia University, New York and London, 1994
6.Bernstein Richard J., Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Her Genetics, and Praxis, University of Pennsylvania press, Philadelphia, 1983.
7.Smith J.C., The Neurotic Foundations of social Order: Psychoanalytic Roots of Patriarchy, New York University press, New York and London, 1990.
8. Bechtel William, Philosophy of Science: An Overview for Cognitive Science. Georgia State University, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1988
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