If you've been accused of sexual harassment, maybe don't sing about how wonderful it is to be a woman in science?

Lenny Teytelman Apr 04, 2017

Two weeks ago, a famous science writer Michael Shermer went on Twitter to say that science is apolicital and has no gender or race.

Shermer's name was familiar to me because I recall reading a BuzzFeed article Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? which was focused on Shermer's reputation of sexual harassment. The article includes things like:

At a conference, Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me […] I wanted to share this story in case it helps anyone else ward off a similar situation from happening […] Ever since, I’ve heard stories about him doing things (5 different people have directly told me they did the same to them) and wanted to just say something and warn people, and I didn’t know how.


But among some women, since Myers’ post, there has been a sense of relief that somebody had finally spoken out. Several women told me that women new to the [atheist/freethought] movement were often warned about the intentions of certain older men, especially Shermer. Two more women agreed to go on the record, by name, with their Shermer stories. (Neither accused him of rape, and neither was in a position to corroborate Smith’s story.) These stories help flesh out a man who, whatever his progressive views on science and reason, is decidedly less evolved when it comes to women.

Of course, when countless women and minorities pointed out to Shermer how wrong he is, he wouldn't listen. Instead, he dug in and wrote a blog post to defend his point of view. In that post, he quotes a famous astronomist Larry Krauss in his defense, where Krauss says that now is a great time to be a woman in science. Well, Krauss also rang a bell for me because he too has been accused of sexual harassment:

When women come to me to warn me about what speakers to avoid at conferences or confide in me sexual harassment they’ve experienced, Lawrence Krauss is by far the most common name I hear.

Google for Larry Krauss and Michael Shermer together, and you get here:

Last and worst, serious allegations have been reported about two big names: Michael Shermer and Lawrence Krauss (who seems to have threatened legal action to get one of the posts mentioning him taken down).

Larry Krauss was also all over the news at one point, defending the convicted sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

I can't believe I have to write a post and explicitly say this, but here we go:

1. It's rather odd when two white men discuss how wonderful it is to be a woman or minority in science.

2. It's disturbing when two men accused of sexual harassment decide to comment on how wonderful it is to be a woman in science.

3. In general, it's a good idea if you are a guy not to tell women they are wrong that there is discrimination against them. If you are white, it's best not to tell minorities who are speaking up about injustices that now is a terrific time to be a minority. 

You'd think common sense would be in ample supply among scientists. Alas, there are many exceptions.