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In my previous post, I wrote about how Scientific American had fired blogger Ashutosh Jogalekar for posting in defense of Nicholas Wade and Richard Feynman. I realize now that my interest in Wade’s book led me to bury the lede:

It’s come to this: a writer gets fired for not being wholly condemnatory of Richard Feynman.

Here’s a moving four minute video on the January 1986 Challenger space shuttle catastrophe and how the dying Feynman cut through the quasi-cover-up by publicly demonstrating that the O-rings were the cause by using a glass of ice water. This simple experiment elevated the Nobel laureate to a national folk hero. From James Gleick’s 1988 obituary in the New York Times:

Although his handiwork permeates the foundations of modern science, millions of Americans heard his name for the first time in 1986, when he brought an inquisitive and caustic presence to the Presidential commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Early on, he stunned a Washington hearing room by calling for ice water, plunking in a piece of the critical O ring seal from the rocket booster and then pinching it with a small clamp. It was a turning point in the investigation – a simple experiment, taking half a minute and no money, that perfectly demonstrated both the vulnerability of the seal and the absolute confidence of the experimenter.

Feynman’s personal appendix to the Commission’s report concludes:

Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them. They must live in reality in comparing the costs and utility of the Shuttle to other methods of entering space. And they must be realistic in making contracts, in estimating costs, and the difficulty of the projects. Only realistic flight schedules should be proposed, schedules that have a reasonable chance of being met. If in this way the government would not support them, then so be it. NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

History repeats again and again how nature points up the folly of men.

In today’s culture, however, public relations must take precedence over reality. (Nature, though, still can’t be fooled.)

Here are excerpts from Jogalekar’s Last Straw post for Scientific American:

Richard Feynman, sexism and changing perceptions of a scientific icon

By Ashutosh Jogalekar | July 11, 2014 | Comments 13

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

[Note from Blogs Editor Curtis Brainard: On Saturday, July 12 the text of this post was replaced with the following statement: "The text of this post has been removed because it did not meet Scientific American's quality standards."

To be specific, we felt that the post lacked clarity in a manner similar to two previous posts published by this author (please see, "A Response to Recent Criticism"). As the author acknowledged in an addendum to the post before it was removed, he did not effectively convey the points he was trying to make. We believe the lack of clarity made the post insensitive to valid concerns that many readers have about past and existing biases and prejudices in our society.

However, this alone is not necessarily enough to warrant removal. Another serious issue underlying the post was that following the earlier rounds of criticism of his work, the author and I had come to an agreement about steps that he would take to prevent future misunderstandings. The author, however, failed to take those steps when producing this post, which caused us to take down the post and remove the author from the blog network.

Following a discussion among Scientific American's editors, we are now re-publishing the post in the interest of openness and transparency and because we believe that more will be learned from its presence than from its absence. This is in keeping with Scientific American's editorial philosophy that the best place for even the most disagreeable arguments and opinions is out in the open where they can be deconstructed and rebutted, if necessary, in public debate. We regret any confusion or frustration this episode has caused for our readers.]

###

I fell in love with Richard Feynman when I was in middle school. That is when I discovered “Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman” in my dad’s bookshelf. …

My first foray into taking a more critical view of Feynman came from his once arch-rival and contender for most brilliant theoretical physicist in the world, Murray Gell-Mann. Unlike many others Gell-Mann was never swayed by the Feynman legend, so he provides a good conduit through which to view the latter’s personality. Although dismissing his status as some kind of a physics God, Gell-Mann genuinely admired Feynman’s brilliance and originality – on this count there seems to be unanimous consensus – but his take on Feynman’s personal quirks is more revealing. The main thing about Feynman that really got Gell-Mann’s goat was that Feynman seemed to “spend a huge amount of time generating anecdotes about himself”.

The deliberate generation of these stories could occasionally make Feynman appear like a jerk. …

What started bothering me more the deeper I dug into Feynman’s life was something quite different: his casual sexism. The latest insight into this comes from Lawrence Krauss’s book “Quantum Man” which does a great job explaining the one thing about Feynman that should matter the most – his science. But Krauss also does not ignore the warts. What startled me the most was the fact that when he was a young, boyish looking professor at Cornell, Feynman used to pretend to be a student so he could ask undergraduate women out. I suspect that this kind of behavior on the part of a contemporary professor would almost certainly lead to harsh disciplinary action, as it should. The behavior was clearly, egregiously wrong and when I read about it my view of Feynman definitely went down a notch, and a large notch at that. Feynman’s apparent sexism was also the subject of a 2009 post with a sensationalist title; the post pointed out one chapter in “Surely…” in which Feynman documented various strategies he adopted for trying to get women in bars to sleep with him. Neither were Feynman’s escapades limited to bars; more than one of his biographies have documented affairs with two married women, at least one of which caused him considerable problems.

Not to mention the women’s husbands …

It’s not surprising to find these anecdotes disturbing and even offensive, but I believe it would also be premature and simplistic to write off Richard Feynman as “sexist” across the board. People who want to accuse him of this seem to have inadvertently cherry-picked anecdotes; the nude painting in topless bars, the portrayal of a woman in a physics lesson as a clueless airhead, the propensity to lie on the beach and watch girls. But this view of Feynman misses the big picture. While not an excuse, several of his 1950s adventures were probably related to the deep pain and insecurity caused by the death of his first wife Arlene; by almost any account the two shared a very deep and special bond. It was also during the late 40s and early 50s that Feynman was doing some of his most intense work on quantum electrodynamics, and at least a few of the situations he narrates were part of him letting off steam.

Also importantly, while some of Feynman’s utterances and actions appear sexist to modern sensibilities, it’s worth noting that they were probably no different than the attitudes of a male-dominated American society in the giddy postwar years, a society in which women were supposed to take care of the house and children and men were seen as the bread winners. Thus, any side of Feynman that raises our eyebrows is really an aspect of a biased American society.

No, sleeping with other professors’ wives was bad form back then, too.

In addition, Feynman’s ploys to pick up girls in bars were – and in fact are – probably practiced by every American male seeking companionship in bars, whether consciously or unconsciously; what made Feynman different was the fact that he actually documented his methods, and he was probably the only scientist to do so.

No, a lot of guys simply won’t follow Feynman’s advice that the way to pick up women is by acting like a jerk toward them because they aren’t jerks.

In fact we can be thankful that society has now progressed to a stage where both genders can practice these mate-seeking strategies on almost equal terms, although the gap indicated by that “almost” deserves contemplation as an indication of the unequal bargaining power that women still have. The point though is that, whatever his actions appear like to a modern crowd, I do not think Richard Feynman was any more sexist than a typical male product of his times and culture. The fact that society in general behaved similarly to what he did of course does not excuse the things he did, but it also puts them in perspective. I think recognizing this perspective is important partly to understand how our views on sexism have changed for the better from 1950 to 2014. The encouraging development is that actions by Feynman – and male society in general – that were considered acceptable or amusing in 1950 would quite rightly cause instant outrage in 2014. We still have a long way to go before both genders achieve parity in science, but the change in attitudes is definitely encouraging.

However the fact that simply dismissing Feynman as sexist is problematic is ascertained by this 1999 article from the MIT Tech (by a woman) which gives us a more complete picture of his views toward women. As far as we know, there is no evidence that Feynman discriminated against women in his career; the letters he writes to women in the collection of letters edited by his daughter indicate no bias. Both male and female students admired him. His sister Joan documents how he was always supportive of her own career in physics. At one point he came to the aid of a female professor filing a discrimination suit at Caltech. In addition he was a devoted husband to his first and third wife and a loving and supportive father to his daughter who in fact tried hard to get her interested in science.

The irony thus seems to be that, just like Feynman was fond of generating cherry picked anecdotes about himself, we seem to be fond of generating skewed, cherry picked anecdotes about him that accuse him of sexism. In fact most conversations about Feynman seem to center on a few select anecdotes that showcase some side of his character, whether positive or negative, and this anecdotal reading of his life is something he himself encouraged. But a more complete view of Feynman’s life and career indicates otherwise. My own perceptions of Feynman have changed, and that’s the way it should be. At first I idolized Feynman like many others, but over time, as a more careful reading of his life revealed some of the unseemlier sides of his character, I became aware of his flaws. While I still love his lectures and science, these flaws have affected my perception of his personality, and I am glad they did. There are things that he said or did that are clearly wrong or questionable at the very least, but we can at least be grateful that we have evolved to a stage where even the few instances of his behavior that have been documented would not be tolerated on today’s college campuses and would be instantly condemned. As a man I do not now admire Feynman as much as I did before, but I am also glad to have a more complete understanding of his life and times.

However I think it’s also important that we don’t make the same mistake that the “Feynman industry” has made – focus on a part of the celebrated physicist’s life and ignore many others. Feynman was a brilliant physicist, Feynman was occasionally sexist – and sometimes disturbingly so- and Feynman also supported women in science. One reason why it’s interesting to explore these contradictory sides of Feynman’s personality is because he is not a scientist who is usually regarded as complicated and contradictory, but the facts indicate that he was. Feynman himself did a kind of disservice by sending a few wrong messages through the recounting of his adventures, and others have performed an equal disservice by embellishing his achievements and papering over his ugly side. But knowing his emphasis on honesty and integrity in science – one ethic that does consistently shine forth from the narrative of his life – he would almost certainly want us to do better. We can condemn parts of his behavior while praising his science. And we should.

Note: There were some things in the piece that did not seem to have come across as clearly as I meant them to; I apologize if this was the case. Firstly, when comparing Feynman’s behavior with other men I was not excusing it, I was saying that his behavior was a sad commentary on society as a whole, so he was not special; *most* men during those times were to blame for similar actions. Secondly, this post was about how Feynman’s image in my mind went down a notch with these revelations and I started to admire him less as a man. Thirdly, I wanted to point out some of the good things that he did for women in science and the fact that he did not professionally discriminate against them; the reason for doing this was to indicate that Feynman – a man who is usually not considered contradictory or complicated – was actually these things.

Writing this is now a fireable offense in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

 
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  1. MC says:

    Ironically, he’s only able to persuade himself that Feynman wasn’t so bad because he believes the P.C. official history that all men prior to 1963 were lecherous cads. If you believed that sleeping with married women was the common practice of “most men” back in the 50′s, you would also find it odd to see Feynman singled out for criticism.

    Male Feminism: the only way to win the game is not to play.

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    • Replies: @fazsha
    Yes, sleeping with married women is something not to be admired.

    But married women sleeping with a man who is not their husband is not admirable, either.

    Why are the women not called lecherous for their own behavior? Do they find themselves powerless to resist Feynman?
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  2. Chang says:

    Looks like they really wanted to fire him for defending Nicholas Wade’s new book in an earlier blog post, and the Feynman post was the excuse.

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    • Replies: @Dahlia
    I'm thinking that, too. He's obsequious in his denunciations of Feynman's behavior. As MC pointed out, he mostly wants to spread Feynman's culpability around to that era's men. But don't leftists believe just this, that there was this cesspool of misogyny and lecherous behavior in the 50s?
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  3. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Actually, it could well be that Feynman wasn’t sexist at all, that is, if a woman had stepped up to his chalkboard and written a brilliant mathematical proof, he would have trumpeted it and promoted her in the academy.

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    • Replies: @Eric Rasmusen
    And slept with her too.
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  4. ….

    “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” – Saul Bellow

    “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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  5. Having read Wade’s new book, and having heard him in interviews about it, I’m astonished that it is considered career-destroying material. The song-and-dance he does about making anti-racism a moral principle, not a scientific position, is so eminently reasonable.

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  6. Dahlia says:
    @Chang
    Looks like they really wanted to fire him for defending Nicholas Wade's new book in an earlier blog post, and the Feynman post was the excuse.

    I’m thinking that, too. He’s obsequious in his denunciations of Feynman’s behavior. As MC pointed out, he mostly wants to spread Feynman’s culpability around to that era’s men. But don’t leftists believe just this, that there was this cesspool of misogyny and lecherous behavior in the 50s?

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  7. Hacienda says:

    “Gell-Mann genuinely admired Feynman’s brilliance and originality”

    http://www.webofstories.com/play/murray.gell-mann/143

    http://www.webofstories.com/play/murray.gell-mann/197

    Can we lay off the Feynman worship. It’s one thing to know that he’s a great scientist because you know what great physics is. It’s another to think Feynman is a great scientist because so-and-so told you so.

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  8. Luke Lea says:

    The irony is that Gell-Mann was the most unabashedly egotistical scientist of his generation, a kind of Paul Samuelson of physics.

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  9. JMR says:

    Where’s the fire? Men have slept with married women before, during and after Feynman’s lifetime, and they have been as creative as they’ve needed to be to get a woman’s interest/attention in the same timespan. Nobody was suggesting that he be enshrined in the the pantheon of enlightened gender-neutral attitudes, so firing the blogger who wrote this character analysis seems, as Steve says, to be all about Scientific American’s PR.

    The bad old days were bad, so the present we occupy must be much better.

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  10. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    And he was a good blogger! Thoughtful, humble, smart and curious, the guy really liked the stuff he was doing (semi-theoretical modeling to design better drugs for big pharmas). Damn shame on Sci Am but it’s their own loss – Ashutosh was on Blogger before for quite a while and he will certainly find a comfortable home elsewhere.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    His blog, sans Sci Am: http://wavefunction.fieldofscience.com/
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  11. Good God, are there any conservatives left at isteve? Who cares about his 1950′s sex life? The point is, that in 2014, a writer dared to point out – in a freaking ‘scientific’ journal – that “Hey, maybe his grungy sex life wasn’t as important as all that science stuff” – AND HE GOT FIRED.

    HE GOT FIRED! Yes, he got fired for that.

    That’s what’s important.

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  12. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Anonymous
    And he was a good blogger! Thoughtful, humble, smart and curious, the guy really liked the stuff he was doing (semi-theoretical modeling to design better drugs for big pharmas). Damn shame on Sci Am but it's their own loss - Ashutosh was on Blogger before for quite a while and he will certainly find a comfortable home elsewhere.
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  13. LFoD says:

    In all fairness to The Scientific American, a public failure to denounce controversial evidence would open the door to discussion of even more dangerous views, like those of Copernicus or Galileo.

    Who knows where that could lead.

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  14. wren says:

    And we still celebrate MLK’s birthday every year as a national holiday, knowing full well that he plagiarized much or most of his work.

    Folks on the autistic spectrum frequently get in trouble for noticing and mentioning things that they are not supposed to in polite company.

    Since most theoretical physicists seem to be considered to be on the ASD spectrum, perhaps there is some violation of the ADA and thus discrimination in demonizing them like this.

    Whom can we sue?

    I doubt that Autism will trump T, but as the whole discrimation project falls apart perhaps something like this will help speed along its demise.

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    • Replies: @Coemgen
    Telling the truth -> mental disorder (e.g., autism) -> disability due to the disorder -> a stick to beat those who punished the truth teller. Can this be made to work?
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  15. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Ironically, he’s only able to persuade himself that Feynman wasn’t so bad because he believes the P.C. official history that all men prior to 1963 were lecherous cads.

    I’m making a bit of an assumption regarding a man named Ashutosh Jogalekar, but immigrants and the children of immigrants, even when they’re highly read and intelligent, simply don’t have an intuitive understanding of US cultural history. In addition feminist propaganda, his beliefs were likely formed on the basis of movies and television (Mad Men).

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  16. Better not tell these Little Berias about von Neumann!

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  17. Alice says:

    Super Bright guy was jerk because not all bright guys are betas. Some are alphas. That super bright guy can be a PUA really pisses off beta bright guys. Betas like to tar alpha as sexist jerk, so much so they fire anyone who doesn’t.

    This is how betas exact revenge.

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  18. Veracitor says:

    What is all that crap from Scientific American editor Curtis Brainard about Jogalekar’s supposed “lack of clarity?” How is the blog post unclear? A bit prolix, yes; a bit pc-whipped, sure; revealing a slight deficit of historical knowlege, perhaps; but unclear?

    I think that Brainard may have adopted a completely inverted definition of “clarity.” Perhaps according to Brainard, clearly saying that Feynman was an agressive womanizer is unacceptable. Instead Jogalekar should have written something like “Feynman was a famous physicist whose personal life has sometimes been criticized.” That would have the requisite “clarity” because the interesting part, the non-cliche part, would be nearly opaque!

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  19. Coemgen says:
    @wren
    And we still celebrate MLK's birthday every year as a national holiday, knowing full well that he plagiarized much or most of his work.

    Folks on the autistic spectrum frequently get in trouble for noticing and mentioning things that they are not supposed to in polite company.

    Since most theoretical physicists seem to be considered to be on the ASD spectrum, perhaps there is some violation of the ADA and thus discrimination in demonizing them like this.

    Whom can we sue?

    I doubt that Autism will trump T, but as the whole discrimation project falls apart perhaps something like this will help speed along its demise.

    Telling the truth -> mental disorder (e.g., autism) -> disability due to the disorder -> a stick to beat those who punished the truth teller. Can this be made to work?

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  20. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    bend-over-backwards enough = human pretzel

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  21. Mr. Blank says:

    Looks like they really wanted to fire him for defending Nicholas Wade’s new book in an earlier blog post, and the Feynman post was the excuse.

    That’s the only non-frightening explanation that makes sense to me. I read and re-read the guy’s post, and I’m sorry, but I’d need an electron microscope to detect anything offensive about it.

    If the stated reason is REALLY why they gave the guy the boot, then I’m scared, because I am no longer able to reliably discern exactly what might cause me to run afoul of the P.C. inquisition. Perhaps that’s the point — random “executions” to keep everybody in a constant state of fear, so nobody gets any funny ideas or starts asking uncomfortable questions.

    Pour encourager les autres, indeed…

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  22. Bill M says:

    Murray Gell-Mann on how Feynman got on his nerves:

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  23. Steve says:

    Feynman sounds like Bill Clinton, but interestingly, it’s still OK to love Bill Clinton.

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    • Replies: @Justpassingby
    "Feynman sounds like Bill Clinton, but interestingly, it’s still OK to love Bill Clinton."

    Well said.

    And Hawking might want to stay away from the poll dancers for a couple of weeks, until this blows over.
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  24. Dumbo says:

    I can’t really see what’s the point of the article, or of the firing. Accusing white men of being racist or sexist or womanizing pigs is pretty common fare in Slate.

    So Feynman liked to pick up women in bars, how is that relevant to a scientific publication?

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  25. Old fogey says:

    This is just a note to put the infamous 1950s in perspective. The 50s were a golden age in the United States, especially for women. A woman could do anything she wanted – no good job was closed to her, and if she wanted to concentrate on being a wife and a mother (which most women then and now would consider the best use of her time) she could do so without being scorned. The “Feminists,” who despised femininity and urged women to act exactly like men, destroyed the safety net created over centuries to protect women and children. “Women’s liberation” meant liberation for man’s basest instincts.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    "“Women’s liberation” meant liberation for man’s basest instincts."

    For an elite minority of men, yes. But it also meant liberation for women's basest instinct - hypergamy.
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  26. the raven says:

    Yeah, we need a Newspeak-to-English translation for this new definition of “clarity”.

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  27. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    Scientific American has been going downhill for years. It’s become blatantly political and crazy-lefty. If you look at it, it’s filled with ‘science’ articles that are all essentially liberal propaganda. Each issue seems to have a global warming-climate change article, plus another article/letter/smart-alec crack about the ‘anti-scientific mind (i.e. conservatives) etc., among other dross. It’s tough to find anything that’s not political slanted inside its pages, and I’m not kidding about that.

    It’s a very different publication from what it was in the ’70s when I first began reading it. They actually published genuine scientific research back then.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    And we are probably going to see more and more of this as today's indoctrinated college students graduate and move into management positions.
    , @Anonymous Nephew
    The same applies to New Scientist in the UK - not to mention the medical journals.
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  28. Dahlia says:

    I went looking for the people who were upset by this article, an anthropological expedition if you will, and it seems to be a very small minority. Moreover, these few were critical of the article, but I couldn’t find any baying for blood or the like that normally precedes a firing.
    One of the most earnest critics is a woman named Janet Stemwedel, and while my search was far from exhaustive, I’m not sure even she was seeking his dismissal. Not sure what to make of all that.

    The primary underlying motivation for the denouncing of Feynman’s behavior, and I’m guessing Watson’s as well, is that it is seen as threatening to the project of equal representation of women and minorities in elite careers, specifically STEM. Psychological safety and comfort of these workplaces for these groups therefore are a matter of great societal importance. Feynman is someone that many intelligent people, importantly, young impressionable intelligent people, idolize so that creates a problem. If these young men take their cues from Feynman, they’ll mistreat women, and then there will be an exodus! One thing I’ve learned from these people is that it takes very little discouraging to make women and minorities run for the exits.
    One twitter comment expressed awe asking how do some women overcome really daunting obstacles yet still pursue STEM. Another replied jokingly, “epigenetics”. At least I think she was joking.

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  29. “Writing this is now a fireable offense”

    I’m left speechless.

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  30. CIP says:

    Scientific American stopped being scientific or American some time after it was sold to Holtzbrinck, in 1986.

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  31. wren says:

    Yes, I was thinking something like that. Thank you for clarifying my thoughts.

    As I understand it, Asperger’s Syndrome has been subsumed into Autism, which, I believe is a disability protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    I just now learned that a group of parents of autistic children is suing Disneyland because waiting in lines is a violation of the ADA.

    This seems to open up many possibilities.

    There are a lot of folks like Bill Gates out there whose rights are not being respected. Feynman doesn’t care anymore, but others are being forced to suffer these injustices, like Jogalekar.

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  32. hbd chick says: • Website

    @mr. blank – “Perhaps that’s the point — random ‘executions’ to keep everybody in a constant state of fear, so nobody gets any funny ideas or starts asking uncomfortable questions.”

    yes, you hit the nail right on the head there. that is EXACTLY the point of witch-hunts — to have them be (somewhat) random to keep everybody in a constant state of fear (see second and fourth sections):

    “to disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies”

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  33. enderby says:

    I just got the Blue Oyster Cult reference. Nice one, Steve.

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    • Replies: @SGOTI
    Dang! I was hoping I'd be the first to notice that and comment. Only Steve could thusly caption a pic in a post.

    Science needs more cowbell.
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  34. SFG says:

    “HE GOT FIRED! Yes, he got fired for that”

    I’m not even a conservative, and it pisses me off. Some of us liberals still believe in freedom of speech, though it’s a vanishing contingent, and I’ve gone way off the reservation by now.

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  35. dearieme says:

    It’s reminiscent of Harvard firing Summers for being an utter twat, but pretending it was really about his view that few woman are gifted at maths.

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  36. @Steve
    Feynman sounds like Bill Clinton, but interestingly, it's still OK to love Bill Clinton.

    “Feynman sounds like Bill Clinton, but interestingly, it’s still OK to love Bill Clinton.”

    Well said.

    And Hawking might want to stay away from the poll dancers for a couple of weeks, until this blows over.

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  37. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Anon
    Scientific American has been going downhill for years. It's become blatantly political and crazy-lefty. If you look at it, it's filled with 'science' articles that are all essentially liberal propaganda. Each issue seems to have a global warming-climate change article, plus another article/letter/smart-alec crack about the 'anti-scientific mind (i.e. conservatives) etc., among other dross. It's tough to find anything that's not political slanted inside its pages, and I'm not kidding about that.

    It's a very different publication from what it was in the '70s when I first began reading it. They actually published genuine scientific research back then.

    And we are probably going to see more and more of this as today’s indoctrinated college students graduate and move into management positions.

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  38. Priss Factor [AKA "ho"] says:

    Now it’s critical correctness. War on reasoning.

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  39. Don’t waste your time with SciAm. They went for the new religion years ago, even before the Atlantic. Now I read ‘Science’ and ‘Nature’. The new religion has only made slight inroads there. You can still read an article about quantum electrodynamics and only have to put up with a couple of mentions of feminism or global warming.

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    • Replies: @quercus
    Yes, Scientific American is a waste of time. It reads like popular science now. I have an edition of Scientific American from 1963 about Mathematics. To read the decline in this publication from then to now, makes one want to weep. The quality of the writing was so superior, and the article titles are clear and devoid of the silliness and juvenility of today's Scientific American.
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  40. Priss Factor [AKA "Fried"] says:

    It’s incredible how much of male behavior can be summed up with one word. And IQ has nothing to do with it.

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  41. FWIW says:

    Since I read the ‘Surely Your Joking’ book years ago … I may be mistaken. But there was no detail regarding his pick up technique. I would have remembered.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Sure there was. He learned that if he was always trying to attract their interest and ingratiate himself to them, they would take no interest. If instead, he played it cool (read: "jerk" to betas), they were all over him. Specifically, girls would use guys for free drinks (shockingly not unlike today). Feynman asked a player he met in a bar what his secret was, and the guy simply told him, "Never buy a girl a drink until she's already agreed to sleep with you." That was Feynman's ticket, and he used it successfully from then on, opening with that.

    His specific instance relating this involved two women at a bar at the same time, if I recall, but he didn't go home with them for some reason.
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  42. AndrewA says:

    I work with someone who worked closely with Feynman as a graduate student at Caltech in the 60s. He often comments on how much women loved Feynman and how good Feynman was with them. He related a story of coming into Feynman’s office to work and finding a sketch of a nude young women both he and Feynman were friends with.

    Feynman probably was sexist by modern standards. The guy was born in 1918 after all and social norms were different then. But conflating chasing after women with sexism seems a bit much to me.

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    • Replies: @jamie
    Yah.

    "...the propensity to lie on the beach and watch girls. "

    Oh, the horror...
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  43. VincentT says:

    I too read Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman and was swept up in the Feynman mystique. But you gotta love that YouTube video of Gell-Mann putting to rest the mythical Feynman. He makes Feynman out to be a pretentious actor always trying to be cutesy. (An aside: I am always skeptical of people who have a lot of funny occurrences happening to them). I love the bit about how Feynman ridiculed Gell-Mann and called him an ordinary person, a salesman-type, for washing his hands after urinating (Feynman thought hand washing after urinating was unnecessary and superstitious).

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    • Replies: @vanderleun
    Well Slava if you're the kind who is always pissing on his hands....
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  44. conatus says:

    Science used to be about absolute truth.

    But Nowadays we live in a world of truth by consensus. Our truth is manufactured not discovered.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_theory_of_truth

    Nowadays science has become so political and consensus driven that comedians are more truthful about subjects like race than scientists. If you tell the truth about certain subjects you get laughs and nods if you are a comedian, you get fired if you are a scientist. I think that has been said before somewhere on Sailer.

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  45. Dave says:

    Feynman’s problem was that he wasn’t gay – if he’d picked men up in bars and slept with married men then he would be considered a hero by the PC Police of 2014. As it is, he was straight and that cannot be forgiven. No one has accused him of rape so I assume that the women he slept with consented, but the PC Police would say that they were victims of the patriarchy or some such rot – funny how the femnazi’s of today assume women are stupid creatures who are incapable of making up their own minds and saying “yes” through their own free will.

    What a world we have created here in the USA – being heterosexual is a moral crime, being homosexual is glorified 24/7.

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    • Replies: @Henrico Otto
    Nice point. Another interesting aspect is that Feynman's crime of sexism is evidenced by the fact that he posed as a student to pick up girls. This deception counts against him as sexist, but surely if he had not lied -- i.e., picked up girls under the imprimatur of his professorship -- he would be accused of using a power relation to "coerce" sex. Shouldn't a PC discussion grapple with the defense that this was a virtuous lie, to remove the power relations to the extent they ever can be between men and womyn. Ha!
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  46. j says:

    I never cease to be amazed at how much gets invested in this weird 1950′s mythology as the baseline to well, everything.

    I’m wondering if one of the newfound appeals to STEM is the perception that a student/young entrant into the field can avoid a lot of the PC brigades. I remember watching some documentary about Russian scientists where one admitted that going into STEM had the added bonus of allowing some freedom from the Soviet truth brigades.

    As Steve has documented frequently lately, even STEM may not be able to be a refuge anymore.

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  47. SGOTI says:
    @enderby
    I just got the Blue Oyster Cult reference. Nice one, Steve.

    Dang! I was hoping I’d be the first to notice that and comment. Only Steve could thusly caption a pic in a post.

    Science needs more cowbell.

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  48. e says:

    For those interested (for themselves and to pass on to those who need to know, esp. young people), Charles Murray has up on his twitter a long video (hour and a half) of an interview in which he talks about “The Bell Curve.”

    https://twitter.com/charlesmurray

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  49. Mr. Anon says:

    “Anon says:

    Scientific American has been going downhill for years. . It’s become blatantly political and crazy-lefty.”

    “Scientific American” is no longer scientific, nor is it even American anymore – I believed it’s owned by a german publishing company. It was never a very good magazine – the editing is so ham-handed to make the articles unreadable. And now, as you point out, it has become grossly steeped in PC – an example of O’Sullivan’s law at work.

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  50. Mr. Anon says:

    “Lux says:

    Since I read the ‘Surely Your Joking’ book years ago … I may be mistaken. But there was no detail regarding his pick up technique. I would have remembered.”

    There was not much detail, but the conclusion he reached was clear: Never buy her a drink until you KNOW that she is going to sleep with you.

    Feyman is a hero to most physicists. In addition to the originality of his work and the creativity of his thinking, the fact that he was a womanizing cad is one of the reasons why.

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  51. Mr. Anon says:

    “suited prick says:

    Actually, it could well be that Feynman wasn’t sexist at all, that is, if a woman had stepped up to his chalkboard and written a brilliant mathematical proof, he would have trumpeted it and promoted her in the academy.”

    Feynman’s sister, Joan, is also a physicist. There is no evidence that he discouraged her from that career – quite the contrary.

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  52. VincentT says:

    j said:

    As Steve has documented frequently lately, even STEM may not be able to be a refuge anymore.

    STEM and research universities are all federal government dollars, in greater or lesser degrees of separation. They calls the shots in all major respects. The days of Edison and Goddard are gone. Scientists and engineers today are much worse than welfare queens in both dependency and doing whatever to get mo’ money.

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  53. @Old fogey
    This is just a note to put the infamous 1950s in perspective. The 50s were a golden age in the United States, especially for women. A woman could do anything she wanted - no good job was closed to her, and if she wanted to concentrate on being a wife and a mother (which most women then and now would consider the best use of her time) she could do so without being scorned. The "Feminists," who despised femininity and urged women to act exactly like men, destroyed the safety net created over centuries to protect women and children. "Women's liberation" meant liberation for man's basest instincts.

    ““Women’s liberation” meant liberation for man’s basest instincts.”

    For an elite minority of men, yes. But it also meant liberation for women’s basest instinct – hypergamy.

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    • Replies: @Old fogey
    @Anonymous Nephew

    Thank you for reading my comment so carefully. My use of "man" - as in "man's basest instincts" was meant to include women as well as men, in the same way we use the term "mankind." I regret that I didn't express myself more clearly.
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  54. prosa123 [AKA "Peter"] says: • Website

    In the mid-1950′s Feynman went through an extraordinarily bitter divorce from his second wife, Mary Louise Bell. It actually got nationwide media attention.
    A few years later, the FBI interviewed people close to Feynman after he sought a high-level security clearance. A person whose name has been redacted from the records, but who almost certainly was Bell, wrote a nine-page letter which basically portrayed him as The Worst Person in the World. It is amusing it is so vitriolic. You can feel the hatred emanating from its pages:

    http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/1958-08-08-Feynman-FBI-file-smear.pdf

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  55. @Anon
    Scientific American has been going downhill for years. It's become blatantly political and crazy-lefty. If you look at it, it's filled with 'science' articles that are all essentially liberal propaganda. Each issue seems to have a global warming-climate change article, plus another article/letter/smart-alec crack about the 'anti-scientific mind (i.e. conservatives) etc., among other dross. It's tough to find anything that's not political slanted inside its pages, and I'm not kidding about that.

    It's a very different publication from what it was in the '70s when I first began reading it. They actually published genuine scientific research back then.

    The same applies to New Scientist in the UK – not to mention the medical journals.

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  56. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Idle speculation, but maybe this Brainard dude silenced this insufficiently feminist blogger so that Brainard could boost his own PC points and increase his prestige among the Sandra Fluke types working in the office. I think feminism is often a means by which men persecute other men in the race to climb the career ladder and disqualify potential rivals for jobs and mates.

    Also, I wonder if this was even a paid gig for the blogger, or just a prestige job for aspiring science writers.

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  57. @Anonymous
    Actually, it could well be that Feynman wasn't sexist at all, that is, if a woman had stepped up to his chalkboard and written a brilliant mathematical proof, he would have trumpeted it and promoted her in the academy.

    And slept with her too.

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  58. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says: • Website

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2696136/Why-people-Denmark-happy-Study-claims-Danish-DNA-king-pursuit-happiness.html

    Vell, so a race can be genetically superior in something–happiness and hilarity. The Hilaryan Race.

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  59. “the one thing about Feynman that should matter the most – his science”

    Agreed, and his science was questionable. The Standard Model is a house of fudges based on the dubious premise that there are unobservable quarks.

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  60. jamie says:
    @AndrewA
    I work with someone who worked closely with Feynman as a graduate student at Caltech in the 60s. He often comments on how much women loved Feynman and how good Feynman was with them. He related a story of coming into Feynman's office to work and finding a sketch of a nude young women both he and Feynman were friends with.

    Feynman probably was sexist by modern standards. The guy was born in 1918 after all and social norms were different then. But conflating chasing after women with sexism seems a bit much to me.

    Yah.

    “…the propensity to lie on the beach and watch girls. ”

    Oh, the horror…

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  61. AndrewA says:

    “Agreed, and his science was questionable. The Standard Model is a house of fudges based on the dubious premise that there are unobservable quarks.”

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve read today. Feynman’s main (but far from only) contribution to physics was quantum electrodynamics. QED is the most precisely tested theory in all of science. The standard model is also tested to an obnoxiously high precision–and keeps on working. This is why particle physics has become rather boring in the last couple of decades.

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  62. Mr. Anon says:

    “Commentguy says:

    ““the one thing about Feynman that should matter the most – his science””

    Agreed, and his science was questionable. The Standard Model is a house of fudges based on the dubious premise that there are unobservable quarks.”

    You are in error. Feynman’s greatest accomplishment was a a comprehensive theory of quantum electrodynamics, which by itself is on a quite firm footing (electrons and photons certainly count has having been observed). His work on quarks (then called partons) came later. If memory serves me correctly, Feynman showed that the data from experiments involving deep inelastic electron scattering off of protons could best be explained by a proton that had three scattering centers – i.e. by what we would now call quarks. That is an observation that tends to confirm at least some of the quark model.

    I agree that the standard model as it now stands appears to be a jury-rigged monstrosity. People whom I believe to be smarter than I am assure me that it is all true and logically necessary. Never-the-less I have my doubts – perhaps those particle physicists are just too clever for their own good – or not quite clever enough. However, what has come to be called the standard model is the work of lots of people. Feynman was only one of many authors of it, and his contribution is among the most sound.

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  63. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    “Scientific American has been going downhill for years. .”

    In particular after it got taken over by that German company, Scientific American became largely one of those glossy sitting room or dentist office magazines that vaguely pushes some gauzy new world order that seems intended to minimize causing readers affront or raising their blood pressure. Sort of like elevator musak. Some of its articles can be technical and interesting, but it often seems to be more a fashion accessory, kind of like Discovery. The less glossy places, like barber shops, still go more for Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. They seem to have remained a lot more honest because they don’t have the column space to get into politics. Instead, “hey, a new jet ski!” “Look, a new jig saw!” Can’t go too far wrong with that.

    Ironic that there’s probably more money for some of these magazines as high-turnover “built-in obsolescence” fashion accessory that as something to actually be read.

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  64. ATBOTL says:

    These kinds of absurd PC witch hunts have really escalated in the last few years. Remember back in the 90′s there was superficial a backlash against the more absurd aspects of PC? What happened to that? In that era, this kind of nonsense — attempts to smear dead people of great accomplishment for peccadillos against PC were mainly found in academia or the NYT, not popular periodicals. We’ve seen the tabloid media, which has grown exponentially since 2000, become largely focused on PC enforcement.

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  65. Old fogey says:
    @Anonymous Nephew
    "“Women’s liberation” meant liberation for man’s basest instincts."

    For an elite minority of men, yes. But it also meant liberation for women's basest instinct - hypergamy.

    Nephew

    Thank you for reading my comment so carefully. My use of “man” – as in “man’s basest instincts” was meant to include women as well as men, in the same way we use the term “mankind.” I regret that I didn’t express myself more clearly.

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  66. B and B says:

    Comments 1 and 2 are interesting. The second comment reflects the HBD obsession that race is the ultimate taboo when we’re actually going through a feminist moral panic (remember events at Nature.) First comment reminds us that simply not being an extremist can be reason enough to get purged. Internalise all you like, probably ‘they’ don’t care whether you believe it. Survival is all about signalling one is no threat to the people laying down the morality.

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  67. quercus says:
    @Jean Cocteausten
    Don't waste your time with SciAm. They went for the new religion years ago, even before the Atlantic. Now I read 'Science' and 'Nature'. The new religion has only made slight inroads there. You can still read an article about quantum electrodynamics and only have to put up with a couple of mentions of feminism or global warming.

    Yes, Scientific American is a waste of time. It reads like popular science now. I have an edition of Scientific American from 1963 about Mathematics. To read the decline in this publication from then to now, makes one want to weep. The quality of the writing was so superior, and the article titles are clear and devoid of the silliness and juvenility of today’s Scientific American.

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  68. […] and perhaps in addition to his heresies within his review of Nicholas Wade’s book. (HT: Sailer)  He responds […]

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  69. That preface by the editor was among the most disgusting displays of contemporary weasel-speak I have seen in ages, so full of magnificently deployed cliches I at first thought it must be fake. But then I read it again and could hear it in the kindergarten-teacherish manner with which I was myself corrected/upbraided by peers in more than one undergrad seminar 25 years ago. Those peers would appear to now be in command, and their pupils after them.

    What kind of a man could write that sort of thing with a clear conscience and in the belief it has valid intellectual content?

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  70. Also, the content of Jog…’s post suggests the degree to which even a slavishly pomo left wing sensibility is subject to the shifting diktats of the inner party. His post was itself a tiresome read, and his self-correction all the more so.

    Almost the only point on which I could understand his criticism of Feynman was the moment when he suggested disapproval of adultery, which struck me as shockingly quaint and inconsistent with the rest of his worldview. If women are free to pursue various mating strategies along the same lines as men, and men are free to do with women whatever women consent to, what place is there for the marital restrictions of the old world, with their tedious moral obligations?

    As inconsistent as this seems to me, how gratifying to learn that even now the enforcers of orthodox relations between [among?] the sexes [gender identity matrices?] condemn adultery as though marriage vows have meaning.

    Also, perhaps the more important question, why did any of this ridiculous baffle appear on Scientific American? I saw nothing about Feynman’s work in science, pro or con. Is SA just a gossip rag and scandal sheet now?

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  71. Can’t say I agree with this:

    “What startled me the most was the fact that when he was a young, boyish looking professor at Cornell, Feynman used to pretend to be a student so he could ask undergraduate women out. I suspect that this kind of behavior on the part of a contemporary professor would almost certainly lead to harsh disciplinary action, as it should. The behavior was clearly, egregiously wrong …”

    Surely this is no different from women putting makeup on in order to appear prettier? The fact that he’s willing to pose as a student says something. I thought that sexual harassment came from male professors trying to exploit the power differential between themselves and their students, e.g. sleep with me and I’ll get you funding; don’t sleep with me and I’ll fail you.

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    • Replies: @AndrewA
    Feynman pretended he was an undergraduate because when he told women he was a professor they thought he was lying. So if they thought he was an undergraduate he just rolled with it. This was in his book Surly You're Joking… Kinda odd that the author did not mention this.
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  72. @Dave
    Feynman's problem was that he wasn't gay - if he'd picked men up in bars and slept with married men then he would be considered a hero by the PC Police of 2014. As it is, he was straight and that cannot be forgiven. No one has accused him of rape so I assume that the women he slept with consented, but the PC Police would say that they were victims of the patriarchy or some such rot - funny how the femnazi's of today assume women are stupid creatures who are incapable of making up their own minds and saying "yes" through their own free will.

    What a world we have created here in the USA - being heterosexual is a moral crime, being homosexual is glorified 24/7.

    Nice point. Another interesting aspect is that Feynman’s crime of sexism is evidenced by the fact that he posed as a student to pick up girls. This deception counts against him as sexist, but surely if he had not lied — i.e., picked up girls under the imprimatur of his professorship — he would be accused of using a power relation to “coerce” sex. Shouldn’t a PC discussion grapple with the defense that this was a virtuous lie, to remove the power relations to the extent they ever can be between men and womyn. Ha!

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  73. […] Steve Sailer has a post about Richard Feynman’s womanizing behavior. […]

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  74. AndrewA says:
    @Gilbert Ratchet
    Can't say I agree with this:

    "What startled me the most was the fact that when he was a young, boyish looking professor at Cornell, Feynman used to pretend to be a student so he could ask undergraduate women out. I suspect that this kind of behavior on the part of a contemporary professor would almost certainly lead to harsh disciplinary action, as it should. The behavior was clearly, egregiously wrong ..."

    Surely this is no different from women putting makeup on in order to appear prettier? The fact that he's willing to pose as a student says something. I thought that sexual harassment came from male professors trying to exploit the power differential between themselves and their students, e.g. sleep with me and I'll get you funding; don't sleep with me and I'll fail you.

    Feynman pretended he was an undergraduate because when he told women he was a professor they thought he was lying. So if they thought he was an undergraduate he just rolled with it. This was in his book Surly You’re Joking… Kinda odd that the author did not mention this.

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  75. […] got fired from Scientific American for preferring scientific inquiry to New Creationism; see here, here, here, […]

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  76. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Feyman confirmed his theortical underpilings for Positron Field Theory with experimental Positron Emissions in the Night.

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  77. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    I quit my subscription to The Scientific American almost 20 years ago when they started to editorialize about political issues as if they were scientific issues. I had always looked forward to the new issue, and had been reading it since high school. They haven’t changed except to get worse.

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  78. dearieme says:

    “Blogger Fired by Scientific American After Being Only Mildly Critical of Richard Feynman”. I’ve just seen an analogy: Henri IV of France was assassinated for being an insufficiently extreme Roman Catholic.

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  79. fazsha says: • Website
    @MC
    Ironically, he's only able to persuade himself that Feynman wasn't so bad because he believes the P.C. official history that all men prior to 1963 were lecherous cads. If you believed that sleeping with married women was the common practice of "most men" back in the 50's, you would also find it odd to see Feynman singled out for criticism.

    Male Feminism: the only way to win the game is not to play.

    Yes, sleeping with married women is something not to be admired.

    But married women sleeping with a man who is not their husband is not admirable, either.

    Why are the women not called lecherous for their own behavior? Do they find themselves powerless to resist Feynman?

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  80. […] anyone tell me what this guy said that was supposedly so offensive?  From what I can tell, it’s pure PC.  If I had […]

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  81. vanderleun says: • Website
    @VincentT
    I too read Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman and was swept up in the Feynman mystique. But you gotta love that YouTube video of Gell-Mann putting to rest the mythical Feynman. He makes Feynman out to be a pretentious actor always trying to be cutesy. (An aside: I am always skeptical of people who have a lot of funny occurrences happening to them). I love the bit about how Feynman ridiculed Gell-Mann and called him an ordinary person, a salesman-type, for washing his hands after urinating (Feynman thought hand washing after urinating was unnecessary and superstitious).

    Well Slava if you’re the kind who is always pissing on his hands….

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  82. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @FWIW
    Since I read the 'Surely Your Joking' book years ago ... I may be mistaken. But there was no detail regarding his pick up technique. I would have remembered.

    Sure there was. He learned that if he was always trying to attract their interest and ingratiate himself to them, they would take no interest. If instead, he played it cool (read: “jerk” to betas), they were all over him. Specifically, girls would use guys for free drinks (shockingly not unlike today). Feynman asked a player he met in a bar what his secret was, and the guy simply told him, “Never buy a girl a drink until she’s already agreed to sleep with you.” That was Feynman’s ticket, and he used it successfully from then on, opening with that.

    His specific instance relating this involved two women at a bar at the same time, if I recall, but he didn’t go home with them for some reason.

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  83. […] Naravno da Feynman jest bio seksist, jer je više puta u svojim intervjuima i djelima ponovio da postoje razlike između muškaraca i žena (tj. sama činjenica da je prihvatio terminologiju muškaraca i žena ga danas kvalificira kao seksista ili cisnormativnog licemjera). Tu dvojbe nema. Pitanje je samo koliki seksist je bio. Naime, srž problema je u tome što se dotični tužitelj u Scientific American-u nedavno usudio ozbiljno pozabaviti novom knjigom Nicholasa Wadea,  A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, pa je bilo potrebno opravdati se službenoj religiji za preveliku količinu hereze u premaloj jedinici vremena. Isti bloger optužen je da nije dovoljno jako osudio Feynmana i zato je otpušten – usudio se ustvrditi da su Feynmanovo ženskarenje i seksistički stavovi bili sasvim uobičajeni u tom patrijarhalnom nazadnom vremenu, što umanjuje njegove zločine umjesto da ga se osudi kao inkarnaciju svog muškog šovinizma u povijesti. (Detaljnije o novoj penetraciji najagresivnijeg kulturnog marksizma u sferu znanosti možete pročitati ovdje i ovdje.) […]

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  84. […] Feynman, and perhaps in addition to his heresies within his review of Nicholas Wade’s book. (HT: Sailer)  He responds […]

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