George Will

     Men and women have genetically based physical differences; the brain is a physical thing -- part of the body. Is it unthinkable -- is it even counterintuitive -- that this might help explain, for example, the familiar fact that more men than women achieve the very highest scores in mathematics aptitude tests? There is a vast and growing scientific literature on possible gender differences in cognition. Only hysterics denounce interest in those possible differences -- or, in Hopkins' case, the mere mention of them -- as ``bias.''

     Hopkins' hysteria was a sample of America's campus-based indignation industry, which churns out operatic reactions to imagined slights. But her hysteria also is symptomatic of a political tendency that manifested itself in some criticism of President Bush's inaugural address, which was a manifesto about human nature.

     This criticism went beyond doubts about his grandiose aspirations, to rejection of the philosophy that he might think entails such aspirations but actually does not. The philosophy of natural right -- the Founders' philosophy -- rests on a single proposition: There is a universal human nature.

     From that fact come, through philosophic reasoning, some normative judgments: Certain social arrangements -- particularly government by consent attained by persuasion in a society accepting pluralism -- are right for creatures of this nature. Hence the doctrine of ``natural right,'' and the idea of a nation ``dedicated,'' as Lincoln said, to the ``proposition'' that all men are created equal.

     The vehemence of the political left's recoil from this idea is explained by the investment political radicalism has had for several centuries in the notion that human beings are essentially blank slates. What predominates in determining individuals' trajectories -- nature or nurture? The left says nature is negligible, nurturing is sovereign. So a properly governed society can write what it wishes on the blank slate of humanity. This maximizes the stakes of politics and the grandeur of government's role. And the importance of governing elites, who are the ``progressive'' vanguards of a perfected humanity.

     The vehemence of Hopkins' recoil from the idea that there could be gender differences pertinent to some cognition might seem merely to reflect a crude understanding of civic equality as grounded shakily on a certain identical physicality. But her hysteria actually expresses the left's ultimate horror -- the thought that nature sets limits to the malleability of human material. Summers should explain this to her, over lunch, when he returns from camp.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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