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In the thread on possible male-female differences, I raised the issue of how progressive scientists and science activists win friends and influence people as my main concern. During our earlier discussions of SftP history, Michael Goldhaber posted this account from Jon B. of the organization's past. Jon says that the organization was rapidly dwindling in numbers, which raises the question why. In my personal case, I cut off most of my scientific activities, including my sub to Science, during the late 70s when I quit graduate school in disillusionment and went into non-science journalism (I only became a science writer during the early 90s, although I did do some environmental writing in Los  Angeles.) But I am wondering whether SftP old hands have any thoughts about why the organization died off as it did? Are there any lessons for today?

thanks, MB


Michael- Basically SftP was rapidly dwindlling in numbers  and while we had an office with two staff people, they were effectively left on their own to take care of everything including finances.  The last person who was the finance staff person found that he couldn't pay bills, so he stopped paying withholding tax from SftP funds for their staff without telling anyone.   By the time that came into the open in the late 80's, we were faced with (if I remember correctly) an $80,,000 IRS debt.  A group of us formed to take charge and see if we could raise the money.  I was made "President" so that dealing with the IRS would be possible.  We maybe raised $30,000.  The lawyer who worked with me on this was a big fan of SftP and when I suggested it might be better to disband, he opposed it.   However, it became clear we could never raise the money needed to pay the IRS.  I evetntually met with the IRS person, who was surprised that we were pursuing this and said "If you just close down, we won't go after you."  We did.
        I think it was mistake to make the effort in the first place.  I had been in SftP for so long (~20 years) and it had been so important to me that I couldn't let go.  Yet, there was hardly an organization any more- no chapters and the Boston chapter was practically non-existent.  That was the real problem.  The steering committee or whatever it was that we had at that time agreed we would close down.  This happened in 1990 I think.
        By the way, the Study Group that I was in at the time (Sociobiology Study Group) continued eventually as the Genetic Screening Study Group and meets to this day.  We;ve done a lot- conferences- school materials and a 2002 book titled "The Double-Edged Helix: Social Implications of Genetics in a Diverse Society."
        You sent this to me personally.  Should I send it out to the SftP ListServe or you can copy and paste it out.
                        Best-  Jon


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Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
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