LETTERS Date: May 16, 1988
Data on the incidence among women of what we call the "double tie," to a field, by professional degree and by marriage to a man in the same field, are scarce. Our 1985 survey of women physicists disclosed that, of 479 female physicists, 49% were the wives, ex-wives, or widows of physicists.
In the same year the American Chemical Society’s survey of chemists asked, for the first time, whether married chemists’ spouses were also chemists; among female PhD. chemists, 27% were currently married to chemists; among male Ph.D. chemists, 7% were. Fava’s earlier (1968) examination of women sociologists found that 25% were present or former wives of sociologists. These figures would be merely "interesting" if being the wife (or husband) of a professional in the same field had no professional consequences. We especially welcome your article because it begins to address these issues.
However, the title says that academic couples are "stymied" by attitudes in the workplace and, yet, the examples given in the body of the article are distinctly upbeat and optimistic.
Our own studies indicate that it is typically the wife who has a secondary status in the professional couple. Thus, women Ph.D. physicists married to other physicists had experienced significantly more periods of unemployment, especially in the postdoctoral period, than either their counterparts married to non-physicists or than single women physicists. The three marital groups did not differ significantly in whether they were currently employed; and the two married groups did not differ in terms of childbearing status.
The impact of postdoctoral unemployment often delayed or sidetracked women physicists’ careers, not simply (or even mainly) because of anti-nepotism rules, but because of gendered cultural expectations about decision-making in marriage and marital roles such as age difference between spouses and the "proper place," of women in science.
SYLVIA F. FAVA
The City University of New York
33 West 42 Street
New York, N.Y 10036-8099
"Little Help" for Brazil It was with real interest that I read your editorial entitled "World Bank Boosts Brazilian Science" (February 8,1988). I would like to thank you for your confidence in the potential of Brazil to become a developed nation. However, your analysis is inaccurate on three points:
1) For a country like Brazil, money from abroad for science and technology is always welcome. I believe, however, that $72 million U.S. over five years is a very small amount. The figures prepared by the World Bank show that PADCT [the World Bank’s Program for Support in the Development of Science and Technology] was responsible for only 1.23% of the budgets of the various Brazilian agencies between 1984 and 1987. Better call it "a little help" rather than a real boost.
2) A peer-review system has been established in the country since the 1950s. So it is not certain that PADCT has helped create the system.
3) As you stated, inflation in Brazil is very high (about 350% per annum), and grants must be protected against its effects. Some years ago, the Brazilian government created a protective mechanism that takes into account an index of "cruzado" devaluation. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the World Bank helped Brazilians formulate the system.
REINALDO FELIPPE NERY
Estudos e Projetos
Avenue Rio Branco, 124-9
Rio de Janerio, Brazil
No Room for Religion It has been with considerable dismay that I have followed recent articles and correspondence in The Scientist on how to reconcile science and religion (February 22, March 21, 1988). Apologists tend to focus on the similarities between the two in order to rationalize their heed to have it both ways. However, it is the differences that, by definition, render science and religion incompatible.
Not the least of these differences is the fact that religious belief in the supernatural shall forever isolate it from honest scientific inquiry. Religious miracles fly in the face of the law of causality, as do the concepts of divine creation and a first cause. How can the exclusively immortal soul of man be accommodated to the fact of organic evolution, not mention the absence of scientific proof of an afterlife? The top-down reasoning of theologians is the antithesis of science’s bottom-up approach. As W.K. Kellogg wrote more than a century ago, "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."
"Like most rational scientists, I am at a loss to understand how so many others can adopt the double standard of believing in the supernatural while pretending to embrace science, too. One wonders if, while conducting experiments, they pray for a particular outcome."
RICHARD J. GOSS
Div. of Biology and Medicine
Providence, R.I. 02912