Tag Archives: science

We Need More Women in STEM, But I’m Not One Of Them

Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am bad at math. Sometimes this makes me feel like a failure as a feminist.

See, I’m a nerd at heart (surprise!), and a lot of my favourite websites and blogs accrete STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) news alongside covert footage of the new Millenium Falcon. I certainly don’t mind after all, I follow NASA on Facebook. I really am truly interested in most of the science news that comes across my dash, but it’s like being a child with a crush on one of her parent’s friends: I think it’s so incredibly cool and it thinks I’m kind of silly. Left-brainers range from befuddled to downright arrogant when dealing with us right-brainers.  

At any rate I see a lot of news about how important it is to get more girls into STEM fields, and it leaves me feeling a little guilty.  I would consider myself both a nerd and a feminist, and yet my brain seems to be built like a sieve with number-shaped holes.  Seriously, when my husband was doing his engineering degree he would sometimes vent about the concepts he was learning and even when I was trying very hard to focus and follow what he was saying, my brain would go fuzzy and I’d entirely lose track of his words.  Numbers just make my brain congeal a little.

This, but with math.

I’m not exaggerating.  I can do the same problem four times and get four different answers.  The numbers swim and change places, and working through problems feels like pushing something heavy through something thick, only to find out you were moving the wrong heavy object once the job is done.  STEM types laud math for being so reliable and utterly logical, but it’s always felt rather arcane to me. Continue reading

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Why We Don’t Need Fat Acceptance

I swear I am not trying to contradict Kat’s every post.

Yes, we’ve had have our differences.

We locked horns over femininity and warrior-princesses. Clashed over government regulation. Faced off on the subject of pride parades.

Again, I am not- not– trying to be combative.

That said, today’s post is all about why I think Kat is wrong on the subject of Body Positivism and the concept of “Fat Acceptance”

Now yours truly and our glorious editor have both weighed in on the subject of fitness and obesity more than once, and in her defense, I certainly don’t believe that Kat is offering her blessing to obesity or anything like that.

Still, things need to be said here.

First, I want to make it clear that I agree with Kat on pretty much each and every one of the issues that she brought up. Factors of mental health, poor self-image, unrealistic cultural demands- you won’t hear me dispute these for a second. And these are, absolutely, universal problems. While largely centering on women, there’s an undeniable presence of all this among men as well.

(Granted, that might have more impact if it wasn’t being said by Brad Pitt, but the point still stands.)

My problem isn’t with any of the things that Kat brought up, but rather with the conclusions she drew (or seemed to draw) from ’em. Allow me to kick the conversation off with the following statement:

Self-Esteem Without Quality Is Meaningless

Now granted, this isn’t so much a problem with what Kat said as it is with what much of the movement seems based on: just feeling good about yourself.

There is nothing- nothing– wrong with have good self-esteem, but only so long as that esteem is tethered to something of substance. Your efforts, your accomplishments, your principles- even your noble failures. These are all worth celebrating and taking pride in. However, if you’re telling yourself to like yourself simply to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside…

…then you’re going to run into some problems. Continue reading

Stew Departs

Hello all, and welcome back from the CWR hiatus!

It is with great sadness that I must now bow out as an author at CWR, especially after such an embarrassingly short run.  While there’s no shortage of topics to cover, it turns out that I simply cannot balance the blog with my graduate studies and teaching responsibilities this coming Fall.

As passionate as I am about science in general, and, in particular, how it interfaces with the culture we live in, I’m currently constrained to devoting most of my critical thinking to these adorable beasts:

totesadorbsturt

The Northern Map Turtle

Fun fact: there are roughly 300 known species of turtle in the world today, and nearly half of them are threatened and endangered.  That’s pretty terrible, especially since these hearty guys have been around since before the friggin’ dinosaurs.  Even more troubling is the fact that it’s basically 100% our fault.  The species I’m working with is threatened in much of its existing range in North America, so I’m both excited and apprehensive about our continued efforts on this project.  So rest assured, I’m leaving for the best reasons.

I’ve followed this blog from its inception, and will continue to do so.  I’m proud to have contributed to it, and look forward to continuing on with you, dear readers, as one of your number.  Please do continue to stop by, and comment frequently!

Cheers.

Re: #DontStayInSchool: In Defense of the System

A few weeks ago my brother sent me the following video and asked if I could write about it on the blog. He challenged me to defend academia and promised that he would respond by commenting on why this video resonated so deeply with him. So, although I agree with many of the comments Dave from Boyinaband makes in his video, I’m going to offer you several reasons why our education system can be, and has often been, a good thing.


1. Our education system was designed to promote equality

In his video on the history of education, Salman Kahn explains how our contemporary education system was shaped by ideologies that valued class equality. According to Kahn, the Prussian education system, despite its faults, insisted on providing public education for all citizens. Meanwhile, even the “Committee of Ten”,  the group of educators who originally introduced standardized curriculum, were motivated by their belief that economic status should not prevent students from having access to “higher order” skills. Standardization of curriculum meant that every student would (ideally) have access to the kind of information that was once restricted to the elite.

Continue reading

Frankenstein’s (Healthy) Babies

In case you hadn’t heard, the UK just approved the creation of what people are calling “three-parent babies.”  Now, where I come from, this has inevitably spawned a sermon or two about “playing god,” as well as a few horror fans imagining a new era full of bizarre roles for Benedict Cumberbatch to play.

The Guardian does a fantastic job of laying what is actually going on here, so there’s little I can do from here beyond expanding a few facts and gracing you with my own opinions.

To start, here’s the gist of the situation: the procedure that has been approved would involve replacing the mitochondrial DNA of a fertilized egg with DNA from an anonymous, female donor.  This procedure would be used in cases where the biological mother has passed on defective mitochondrial DNA, which can lead to some pretty atrocious diseases in the child. Continue reading

Darwin Day!

A part of me would love to weigh in on Kat’s critique of Gordon’s critique of her critique of anti-femininity, but I’d say they’ve pretty well covered it (Kat won.  There, I weighed in).

You brought this on yourself, Gordon.

But no, I have other fish to fry.  In celebration.  I’m frying celebratory fish here, because it’s Darwin Day!

Yes, February 12 is a holiday to some, though not a federally listed one.  There are some who are fighting courageously to make it so, and I mean, why not? We do have federal holidays for some… Less wonderful people.

Seriously, screw this guy.

Now, Darwin was a pretty great guy, who gave us a pretty great idea (Natural Selection), and both are pretty misunderstood in today’s society, even by some of their supporters. Continue reading

The Rise (or Return?) of the Post-Secularist

Last week, my news feed blew up with a surprising announcement: the “Post-Seculars” have arrived.

Before I get into what exactly that’s supposed to mean, let’s deal with the source of this news.  This new classification of human being comes to us from an article published in the American Sociological Review, and is based on data collected from the General Social Survey (GSS), a biennial survey of American households that, among other things, asks respondents about their attitudes regarding religion and the sciences, as well as general familiarity with facts about the latter.

Now, that’s about as much background as you’ll get from your standard internet source, but fortunately for you I’m a nerd, so I read the actual paper (with skimming.  I’m not a robot).  Basically, participants in the GSS were asked a lot of questions like: “does science increase opportunities for the next generation,” “should science receive more government funding,” “is the Bible the actual word of God,” etc.  Yes, the religion portion is absurdly Judeo-Christian-biased, but they tried to cover more ground with some personal rankings of general religiosity.  In addition, the participants were asked to answer some questions to test scientific knowledge, like: “does radioactivity occur naturally?”

Our sociologist friends found that 43% of participants adhered to what they refer to in the article as the “traditional” perspective (religiously focused with little to no understanding of/appreciation for science) and 36% could be labelled as “Moderns” (the opposite of Traditionals).  The remaining 21 percent were something in between.

But not “in-between” like Richard Dawkins playing dress-up with Papal robes.

Continue reading