Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Physics, Homophobia, and Karma

Something I read today got me thinking about a topic I've occasionally pondered (and read about) through the years: the pros and cons of getting a PhD. Not that I'm planning on getting one, or regretting that I didn't. Just an interest. I reread a few articles on the topic, in particular So You Want to Go to Grad School? and Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go. These are written by a humanities professor. This got me thinking about opinions specifically for the sciences, e.g. Is a Science Ph.D. a Waste of Time? and U.S. pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there.

Then I wondered:  How about physics? Are there any opinions specifically about getting a physics PhD? I searched a bit and came across this: Don't Become a Scientist!. It's written by a physicist. Seems a bit harsh. So I googled him and took a look at his university web page. Jonathan I. Katz, Professor. Fairly standard stuff. Well, sort of. Ok, not completely. There are several essays linked on his page in which he argues in support of the 2003 Iraq war, against political correctness, against diversity, and (I guess) on how unfair Summers was treated at Harvard when he pondered whether women may not be competent enough to do math.

Fine. Katz is a conservative physicist. Conservatives say there are too few in our liberal universities, so this professor restores at least part of the balance.  But then I came across an essay, on his site at the university, but without links: In Defense of Homophobia. In it, he compares a homosexual in a monogamous relationship to someone who joins the Ku Klux Klan. Holy cow.

Well, it turns out that others found his writings and weren't too pleased: Controversial Wash U Prof Jonathan Katz Cut Loose From Gulf Oil Spill Relief.

Here's the karma part:  Son of homophobic father says life gets better. That's right: his son came out after his father's views were widely published. Amazing.