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Scientists' Contribution

Recent letters from Philip Siekevitz (The Scientist, June 22, 1992, page 12) and M.P. Thomas (The Scientist, July 20, 1992, page 12) misrepresented both the content and the intent of my commentary (The Scientist, May 11, 1992, page 12). In response to Thomas, I said nothing to demean the professional accomplishments of Radcliffe College president Linda Wilson, for which I have the highest regard, and I expressed qualified support for her views. In contrast to Thomas's unabashedly sexist letter,

By | September 28, 1992

Recent letters from Philip Siekevitz (The Scientist, June 22, 1992, page 12) and M.P. Thomas (The Scientist, July 20, 1992, page 12) misrepresented both the content and the intent of my commentary (The Scientist, May 11, 1992, page 12). In response to Thomas, I said nothing to demean the professional accomplishments of Radcliffe College president Linda Wilson, for which I have the highest regard, and I expressed qualified support for her views. In contrast to Thomas's unabashedly sexist letter, I made no reference to Wilson's gender, nor did it enter into my consideration of her views. Thomas's pejorative use of "old boy" is no less reprehensible than any other race- or gender-based epithet intended to dismiss another class of people without confronting them as human beings.

In response to Siekevitz, it is not true that Grogan "refuses to recognize the social implications of scientific research...." What I addressed in my commentary were the implications of social agendas for scientific research. It is not true that my article did not "acknowledge that scientific endeavor is a part of society--that it must . . . take note of agendas other than its own." I did advocate "sensitivity to the individual needs of people" and "flexibility in accommodating and finding niches for people of divergent goals and levels of commitment." I did say, "There may be good reason to change the rules, in the interests of more productive, higher-quality, and more accessible science." My concern is that good science not be sacrificed to other agendas. I did not advocate "hunkering down" as a response to pressures to change the university. I did argue that the university must guard its foundations against ever-shifting cultural winds. Siekevitz agrees in principle that "a university must uphold its values." If he is referring to the search for truth, preservation of knowledge, free exchange of ideas, and so forth, I am in full agreement. Although I agree with Siekevitz that "if the society says that women and minorities must be accommodated within it, then the scientific establishment must seek ways for it to occur. . . ," I would go further and say that we should do this because it is the right thing to do. However, when we speak for science, we should remember that scientists are the principal advocates for a special kind of truth and a method for arriving at that truth. Scientific truth is our unique contribution to society and an indispensable ally of social justice. When other agendas entice us away from this center, we risk becoming just another collection of special-interest groups.

W.M. GROGAN
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond

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