A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 :::
The recent flap over comments made by Harvard President Larry Summers on possible differences in scientific aptitude between the sexes has served mainly to highlight the silliness of modern academe. The one useful distinction introduced into the debate was that there may be an innate difference in interest. When parents come home and find some expensive new household gadget mysteriously dismantled and perhaps irreparable, with parts lying all over the house, it is not on any girls in the house that suspicion normally alights. Just ask any boy who has had the occasion to indignantly demand, "Why don't you ask her if she did it?"

Now comes a study by 250 scientists mapping the human genome, who found that the differences between male and female humans may make up as much as 2% of the genome, prompting one of the researchers to comment that there may not be one human genome, but two. Indeed, it may be that men and women show greater genetic variation than that between humans as a species and our closest cousin, the chimpanzee. According to press reports of the study, which was published in the journal Nature, the scientists found that even where the X-chromosomes had genes that were the same in both sexes, women's genes interacted in more complicated and difficult to understand ways.

As the Weekly Standard's Scrapbook reports this week, one scientist told the Chicago Tribune "any of us over the age of two realizes there are plenty of differences between males and females that are characteristic of the two sexes."

With all due respect to the niceties of academic discourse, they should have called the article simply, "Duh."

Grammar note: This writer remembers that the great William F. Buckley, Jr., perhaps the country's greatest stickler for grammatical rectitude, once complained about people who pedantically use the possessive before gerunds, "I saw his sitting under the tree" being an example that popped to mind just now. Obviously, that should be, "I saw him sitting under the tree." But consider: "His sitting under the tree is not helping us." The difference is simply this: are you talking about the actor, or the action--or in this example, the inaction.

Further, if the phrase is the reduction of an adjective or relative clause (two different names for clauses with but a single function), then the possessive is entirely out of place. The description of the scientists quoted above is short for, "250 scientists who have been mapping the human genome." No possessive is required.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:12 AM



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