AUDIENCE MEMBER: Umm, the Larry [Lawrence] Summers question: “What’s up with chicks in science?” *nervous laughter* MODERATOR: Uhh, slightly off-topic, nonetheless interesting. AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s scientific edge.
MODERATOR: Yeah right. MODERATOR: Does anyone want to field uh, uh maybe that there are genetic differences between men and women that could explain why more men are in science? Anyone wanna touch that? TYSON: I just… I… have never been female. But, I have been black my whole life, TYSON: and, so, let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective, because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that define the black community, as well as the community of women in a male-dominated — white male-dominated society. And I’ll be brief, because I want to try to get more questions. When I look at, throughout my life, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to do astrophysics since I was nine years old — a first visit to the Ayu Planetarium — a little younger than Victor at the time, I was. Although he did it before I did. *laughter* TYSON: And, so, I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions. And, all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist was, hands-down, the path of most resistance through the forces of nature in… forces of society. Any time I expressed this interest, teachers would say, “Don’t you want to be an athlete? Don’t you want to…” I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. And so, fortunately, my depth of interest was so deep and so fuelled and rich, that every one of these curve-balls that I thrown, fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb… I’d just meet with more fuel, and I kept going. Now, here I am, one (I think) of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind me and say, “Where are these others who might have been this?” And they’re not there! And I wonder, “How? Who? What is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive, that others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented, at every turn… at EVERY turn, to the point that I have security guards following me as I look and go through department stores, presuming that I’m a theif. I walked out of a store one time, and the alarm went off. So they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate, and that guy just walked off with… the stolen goods, knowing that they would stop me, and not him. That’s an interesting sort of the exploitation of this… what a scam that was! I think people should do that more often, all right… (LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE) DRUYAN: I’m going shopping with you! *laughter* TYSON: So, my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in science, you don’t find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are REAL, and I had to SURVIVE them in order to get where I am today. So, BEFORE we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. THEN, we can have that conversation.