Thursday, October 15, 2015

Famous astronomer resigns

Big-shot UC Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy was just forced to resign. He was famous for finding a lot of alien, and has been mentioned as Nobel Prize candidate, but the prize is rarely given to astronomers.

Lubos Motl has a rant about this.

I do not know the details, but this seems weak:
This summer, in response to a formal complaint by four former students, the University of California concluded that Dr. Marcy had violated its policies on sexual harassment. The violations, spanning 2001 to 2010, ...
Under Obama administration policy, this means only that there is a 51% or better chance that Marcy did something to cause offense.

His colleagues were ganging up on him, such as this letter complaining about NY Times coverage:
This article downplays Marcy's criminal behaviors and the profound damage that he has caused to countless individuals. It overlooks the continued trauma that Marcy inflicts to this day as a Berkeley professor, and it implicitly condones his predatory acts.
What? As far as I can see, there is no criminal complaint, and no complaint at all about behavior in the last 5 years. If someone does have a criminal complaint, then the appropriate place to complain is to the police, and then grand jury, district attorney, and court. Marcy would have a chance to defend himself like any other defendant.

No, this is just a witch hunt. Apparently some people don't like Marcy because he grabs too much credit for alien planets, or leftist feminists want to make a statement about bringing down a big shot. I don't know.

What were all those complainers doing in 2001-2010 when the behavior was supposedly happened? Apparently they all thought it was just fine back then.

We have statutes of limitations for good reasons. Is is no longer practical or reasonable to draw judgments about possibly rude behavior ten years ago.

The NY Times draws this comparison:
Dr. Marcy’s troubles come at a time when sexism and sexual harassment are gaining prominence in science. Last December, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology cut ties with Walter Lewin, a popular lecturer, and deleted his physics course materials from its website after finding that he had sexually harassed at least one student.
No, Lewin was not accused of harassing any MIT students or anyone else within 1000 miles of him. The complaint was from an over-30 woman on the other side of the world who watched a couple of his YouTube videos.

Some people are also comparing to Tim Hunt, who lost his job over a false accusation about a public telling of a sexist joke.

Update: Lumo posts a 2nd rant.


  1. Roger,
    I have actually done some digging on this Dr. Marcy scandal. The way it was hyped by Ethan Siegel I thought Dr. Marcy had seriously hurt, raped, beaten, or blackmailed some women. Sexual harassment sounds so vile ....and It turns out he may have....hugged a few of them, and kissed a few others.
    Umm. Wow. That is ....uh, truly terrible.

    Perspective please. Getting shot or physically raped at school is traumatic. . Getting kissed and maybe hugged....considerably less so. Awkward and embarrassing, yes, but survivable with no ill effects. I should know, I speak from direct experience.

    Having been forcibly kissed by girls trying to infect me with cooties back in grade school, I can relate to the absolute horror those girls must have much agony and pain...sigh. In college a girl I wasn't interested in once kissed me catching me by surprise. She also almost died of embarrassment when I told her outright "I'm really not interested in you like that, don't do that" before I almost passed out from the trauma of sexual harassment. How on earth did I ever survive? I was somehow able keep a friendship with this person once the awkward wore off a little. Turns out, awkward moments and social embarrassment can't kill you. Who knew?

    I do actually pity young girls at Berkeley. I can see why they are so confused. They have been told they are every bit as strong and capable as a man, that they should flaunt their sexual charms openly, yet they are encouraged to be immature fragile timid snowflakes that must be protected by social justice inspired parenti loci which considers young women as virtuous maidens and judges young men guilty by gender. The young women want to live among young men in co-ed dorms...and not have guys treating them like...well, gals. What fresh new hell is this? Camille Paglia had these conflicted idiots down pat to a science over a decade ago. Sex and relations between genders are messy, have always been messy, and will continue to be messy, and if you want to play with the boys as equals, you aren't going to achieve it by trying to neuter all the boys, or turn them into trained dogs.

    In regards to how the faculty behave, read some history. Even the kings of old knew that genius and superior talent gets more leeway in regards to social conventions and norms. You knew you might have hired the best painter in the country to paint your portrait, but he would be trying to bugger your page boy...this is an old dilemma. You would think universities knew this as well: If you wish to find people who can think outside the box or have exceptional ability, you will have to make exceptions and accommodate some behavior outside of the box as well. If you are looking for zealous adherents to PC Emily Post to populate your faculty with, much boring mediocrity will ensue...and not much else.

    Berkeley will be a wonderful experiment, to see if confusing skin tone ratios, racial grievance laundry lists, and gender identity quotas with actual diversity of thought and ability will produce anything but more complaints of inequality. It certainly won't accomplish more science or make discoveries. If it weren't for the fact that Berkeley is publically funded, I'd wish them well in their descent into lunacy as they chase their hurt feelings around in circles.

  2. This is the modern equivalent of a witch hunt.

    I guess that the people who forced Marcy out think that they needed to do this in order to make a public statement that the field of Astronomy welcomes women.

    They might get the opposite impression. Here is a field where someone supposedly misbehaved for 20 years, everyone supported him, until they suddenly turn on him, and gang up to ruin his career. Sounds like a horrible career choice to me.

    In any healthy profession, minor misbehavior is prompted by minor action to correct it. Waiting 20 years and then destroying him is the worst way to handle it.