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The Feminine Face of Science

The Feminine Face of Science

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The Feminine Face of Science by Linda Jean Shepherd, Ph.D.
The Feminine Face of Science by Linda Jean Shepherd, Ph.D.

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The Feminine Face of Science by Linda Jean Shepherd1
The Feminine Face of Science
by Linda Jean Shepherd, Ph.D.
Author of 
Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science 
and Adjunct Professor at theCalifornia Institute of Integral Sciences, United States of AmericaLjsheprd1@comcast.net
My focus has been a bit different than bringing more women into science. I amencouraging the inclusion of qualities that have been called feminine, such as feeling,nurturing, and receptivity, which are inherent in both men and women. I was curiouswhat we miss seeing of reality and of the natural world when we don’t include thesequalities. I wrote my book
Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science 
to explorehow their inclusion might make science more complete.When the institutionsWhen the institutionsWhen the institutionsWhen the institutions of science were forming in England in the mid-1600s their stated objective was to create a “Masculine Philosophy.” The word “feminine” wasused to disparage Aristotelian science and French science. Calling something “masculine” was to praise it, calling it “feminine” was an insult.Robert BoRobert BoRobert BoRobert Boyle yle yle yle wrote that there can be no greater male triumph than “to know the waysof captivating Nature, and making her subserve our purposes.”Masculine science was characterized by thinking, reason and abstraction. It was aboutthe head, the intellect. It was active, virile and competitive. Its goals were about controland exploitation of the natural world. These could be achieved through objectiveexperiments, reducing and analyzing the hierarchy of nature to smaller and smaller bits.Medical texts in the late 1900s applied the law of conservation of energy to assertthat the body can’t expend energy on two tasks simultaneously and do both well.They advised adolescent girls to reduce their brain work, arguing that mental labor 
The Feminine Face of Science by Linda Jean Shepherd2
caused infertility in women.TheseTheseTheseThese characteristics definedcharacteristics definedcharacteristics definedcharacteristics defined what it meant to be a scientist over the centuries. In 1938the journal
Science Education 
called for scientists to:• Deliberately renounce all emotion and desire• Think coldly• Be impersonal and disinterested in thinking • Be dispassionate, and thoroughly self-controlled in thinking As a result,As a result,As a result,As a result, qualities that were considered feminine were excluded from science.Feeling and a heart connection to nature were judged irrelevant. Receptivity wasthought to be passive and weak. Subjectivity was believed to be dangerous.Multiplicity and diversity were too messy. Nurturing was a waste of time.Cooperation required giving up the illusion of independence. Intuition was unreliableand fanciful. Relatedness made controlled experiments too complicated.Up until my lifetime, it was difficult for women to succeed in science without a man toopen the door for her. Even Marie Curie would not have been recognized with theNobel Prize if her husband Pierre had not insisted she be credited for her work along with him.So what do we missSo what do we missSo what do we missSo what do we miss seeing of Nature when we don’t include the feminine perspective?I want to emphasize that the characteristics that Western culture has defined asmasculine and feminine are all human qualities, which we can all develop. By expanding our perspective as individuals, we can expand the perspective of science. This yin/yang symbol is a good image for showing that we need both to be truly whole.Feeling tells uFeeling tells uFeeling tells uFeeling tells us what is valuable and ethical — and what is repugnant. In research, thefeminine can inform the whole process of science and technology, from what questionswe ask, to how we relate to the research subjects, and how we apply the products of science in the world beyond the laboratory.Love for animals, plants or an awe for the Creation often draws people to do science.
The Feminine Face of Science by Linda Jean Shepherd3
Jane Goodall loved animals and devoted decades to gaining the trust of wildchimpanzees and getting to know them intimately. She redefined what it meant to behuman by showing that animals also used tools. Now her love for chimpanzeesmotivates her to go beyond studying them, to helping to protect them and their habitat.ReceptivityReceptivityReceptivityReceptivity is about listening to Nature. But it’s not a passive process. It takespatience, alert awareness, openness, reflection, and responsiveness.One example of what we miss seeing of nature is the role of the egg in the process of fertilization. Biology texts describing fertilization emphasized the passivity of the egg waiting for the sperm to awaken it, the way the prince’s kiss awakened Sleeping Beauty. But Gerald and Heide Schatten discovered that the sperm doesn’t burrowinto the slumbering egg. Instead, the egg surface extends small fingerlike projectionscalled microvilli, which clasp the sperm and draw it into the cell.Although this mound of microvilli had been observed since 1895, it had been ignoredbecause of the belief that the egg was passive. The Schattens demonstrated thatthe egg and sperm are equally active and receptive partners carrying on a biochemicalconversation of enzymes and secretions.MultiplicityMultiplicityMultiplicityMultiplicity is about webs of interaction rather than hierarchical structures. Webs areinclusive and diverse. Bacteria, beetles and earthworms each play a significant role in thesoil food web. No one member is more important than another. Physicists aren’t moreimportant than biologists. Scientists and lay-people can all perform vital roles in science.Multiplicity is broadening, giving us different ways of seeing. We must learn toembrace duality. Light can be seen as
waves.The science of complexity allows us to see nature as generative and resourceful,abundant and interconnected.Unlike tidy hierarchical structures, webs of interaction are chaotic. Chaos theoryrepresents the feminine and demonstrates that precise prediction and control is

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