Gender and the Brain

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Are gender difference born or made? Science can give a clue as to how the male or female brains approach life differently. Tonight, The Agenda's contributes to TVO's Mysteries of the Mind week by featuring a discussion on the brain gender divide.

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"We should not be obsessed with the question of whether there are fundamental differences between people with light skin color and dark skin color..."

The woman from Tel Aviv misses the point.

White and black men have MUCH more in common behaviorally and psychologically, as well as physically and hormonally, than white men and women, or black men and women.

White and black men have MUCH more in common in terms of what reproductive strategies would have worked for them, going back millions of years, than men and women do.

And given that the instincts and traits of every single individual alive are essentially the product of who had sex and who didn't, and who managed to keep their offspring alive to adulthood and who didn't, reproductive strategy is perhaps the single most important factor in determining the typical physical, psychological and behavioral traits of men and women.

In comparison to sex differences, what differences may exist between races are trifling. Because of this, it is reasonable to assume that large differences in outcomes may be the result of cultural or environmental factors (racism), rather than innate ones.

When it comes to sex differences in outcomes, the question of whether they are due to sexism or personal preference becomes much more tricky.

Sexism and racism are two completely different mechanisms that arose through completely different evolutionary processes. Racism emerges from in-group/out-group mechanisms that are tribalistic and competitive in nature. With sexism, both sexes have always co-existed within their tribal in-groups. There was never a time when men and women lived in separate tribes, and then men came in and colonized female society and enslaved (or eradicated) all the women. There has never been a genocide of men as a group by women as a group, or women as a group by men as a group, but there have been countless examples in history of genocides based on racial, ethnic, religious and even political differences (tribalism).

While racism against blacks in the US assumes they are more violent, more dangerous, more predatory, more sexually depraved, more criminal than whites (all negative, and all excuses that have been used to justify retributive or preemptive violence against targeted groups), sexism against women assumes they are more nurturing, more benign, more peaceful, more pure and more kind than men (all positive, and all excuses that have been used to justify offering women more protection and support, and exemptions from punishment).

How on earth can anyone equate racism with sexism? They are 100% different animals.

Author — karen straughan


Okay, now 36 minutes, 18 seconds in, and I want to take the woman from Tel Aviv by the shoulders and shake some sense into her.

Maybe that's my masculinized brain talking? But yeah.

Author — karen straughan


So the Israeli "scientist" complains that studying differences between human populations and groups is illegitimate because it has political consequences. Yet she carried out a study on human groups which she has interpreted in such a way to prop up her political biases. Surely she is practicing exactly what she is accusing others of. The only difference being is that she sees her political ideas as the only legitimate ones.

Surely such an obvious and self confessed partisan political view of the subject she is claiming to be an expert on casts doubt on her scientific claims.

If a white nationalist did research on black and white brains and found differences then did an interview saying that studying brain differences was political we would laugh him out of the studio. But a feminist does just that and she is treated as if her research is gold and intentions pure.

Author — Honest John


I keep pausing and commenting, simply because this conversation is so interesting to me. I want to get my thoughts down while they're fresh, so please forgive me for my multiple posts.

42 minutes in, McCarthy says something very profound and very insightful. I have to applaud her for that, particularly since it seems to contradict her wishfulness.

What we are capable of and what we desire are often two different things. Men, I believe, are more prone to the kind of monomania that leads to innovation and wild success. That is less a function of ability and more a function of motivation or desire.

I have had people suggest I run for political office, to which I always reply, "not for love or money". It's not for lack of ability, it's for lack of motivation. The encroachment on one's life, one's ability to decide what a given day will look like, one's freedom to say what they really feel or think, one's ability to enjoy home and family... all of these must be deprioritized in favor of a singular goal. The rewards, psychologically, in my estimation, are not worth the cost. A man is more likely to weigh those factors differently.

Author — karen straughan


It's gender and the brain.
Gender and the brain.
One is a genius, the other's insane...

Author — Shangori


Chimpanzee and bonobo males help out with the kids? Really?

Because last I checked, in bonobos, even food sharing between males and females wasn't that big a thing, and "help with the kids" was more likely to come from a male who is not the father.

And comparing the promiscuous sexual habits of chimps to humans is ridiculous, given human female sexual crypsis (concealed ovulation). Chimpanzee and bonobo females mate promiscuously *when they are not in estrus*. When in estrus, they favor higher status males, which is why among common chimps, almost all the offspring are sired by about 20% of the highest status males, and in bonobos, about 40% of the highest status males.

In humans, neither men nor women can observe when a woman is likely to conceive. Subconsciously, however, when ovulating, women prefer more masculine (dominant) faces, and when not ovulating are more likely to prefer Ryan Reynolds.

Human sociosexual organization is unique among primates (and mammals more generally). Social monogamy (lifelong or serial) is dominant across cultures, but it isn't the monogamy of other mammals, where only the dominant pair get to pair up, and where they aggressively police other members of the group to keep them from mating. Tournament sexual norms exist (polygyny) either formally or informally across cultures, but it isn't the tournament system of other mammals, where only the top dog has mating rights and all the females are essentially single mothers. Female promiscuity exists, but it isn't the blatant, in your face, shameless promiscuity of the female bonobo. We have a unique tendency, across most cultures, to view sex is something that should be done in private. We have a unique tendency, across most cultures, to demand paternal investment in mothers and offspring, and to enforce it.

And despite what everyone seems to acknowledge here regarding males, dominance hierarchies and violence, we have a degree of cooperation between unrelated males that is unprecedented in any other sexually dimorphic species.

We split off from chimps and bonobos about 2 million years ago. It is how we are different from them, particularly in our sociosexual organization, that makes us different from them.

Would the woman from Tel Aviv prefer a life in the trees, built on the charity of a superior species that actively protects her and her kind from extinction? Is the bonobo model a successful model? Really?

Rudimentary tools exemplified by a bent stick or a rock plucked from the ground, no complex language, no writing or reading, no architecture, no infrastructure, no way to pass down knowledge other than by example, no iPhones, no MRIs, no scientific inquiry, let alone scientific journals?

What got us here, woman from Tel Aviv? Was it the chimp model? The bonobo model? Or was it the model humans developed through the interaction of social and biological evolution?

A half dozen bipedal hominid species went extinct during the pleistocene. We didn't. Does anyone think that how we did things, how we organized our societies, how we divided our labor, how we maximized the reproductive strategies of both sexes, had nothing to do with that? 10, 000 years later, we split the freaking atom, while bonobos were still trying to decide whether to dig for grubs or masturbate with that bent stick, all while wardens march on the borders of their territory, protecting them from annihilation, and while the only thing keeping them alive is the fact that the common chimpanzees north of the Congo can't swim.

Fuck sake.

Author — karen straughan


The reason we need to have an answer to nature versus nurture is so that we can have an idea as to what is just and unjust.

If, for instance, women are naturally more person-oriented and men more thing-oriented, by nature, then we have an answer as to why men dominate engineering and women nursing, particularly in the freest, most prosperous societies. That answer does not involve an injustice that requires remedy. It is simply the result of individual preferences expressing in an environment that provides the most room for them to express. Using artificial incentives and disincentives to coerce individuals away from these preferences (quotas not only involve artificially providing opportunities to members of one group, they also indirectly deny some members of the other group those same opportunities) would therefore represent an INjustice.

If, however, these differences are created by cultural influences, then there is more reason to see them as a problem to be fixed (though I would argue that even if it's largely culture, identifying it as a problem to be fixed with artificial measures should not be considered a fait accompli).

In another example, if women are naturally more risk averse and men less risk averse, then the gender gap in high stakes, risky fields like running for public office does not indicate an injustice that needs correction. Again, it is simply a reflection of aggregate innate gender differences. This seems to be largely the case, given the data analyzed by researchers in the US who examined hundreds of elections at all levels and found no statistically significant sex differences in men's and women's likelihood of being elected when they run for office.

I would also take issue with the BBC documentary's conclusion that because the sex differences in connectivity of the brain appear in puberty, this may indicate they're due to cultural factors rather than nature.

When we attempt to estimate average age of onset of puberty in times before such things were really tracked (say, 100 years ago), we use average age of menarche in girls. For boys, we track injury rates, as there is a noticeable spike in serious injury when boys hit puberty. This spike is so apparent, it is a reliable indicator, perhaps the most reliable statistical metric outside of medical testing, of the onset of puberty in boys.

We know our brains are shaped by hormones in utero. High testosterone levels at birth predict masculine styles of play years later *in both boys and girls*. Hormone influences in utero are also extremely apparent in their long term effects, the one most widely known to laymen being the correlation of ring finger length with masculinization in women (lesbianism, masculine thinking patterns and "butchness").

Why then would we think that our brains could not be shaped or changed by hormones during puberty, a period of accelerated physical development where hormone levels go absolutely crazy? It takes all of 9 months for a blastocyst to generate a brain, something that is a natural process, most of which is predetermined by genes and hormones. It would be foolish to disregard the possibility that during puberty, the genes on the Y chromosome and the hormone surges of puberty could not significantly contribute to fundamentally altering an existing brain.

Author — karen straughan


No Daphna Joel, YOU are obsessed in this culture with raising everyone else's children indoctrinated with YOUR ideas and beliefs. Back off crazy lady.

Author — Gregory Alan Elliott


There always has to be an excuse. It can't just be "wow I was surprised by that research that completely contradicted everything I said and proved my case obsolete. Maybe I was wrong this whole time". It always has to be "well yes I'm surprised but everything I already said still applies and that's why I'm right".

Author — iReturnV1deotapes


- Which things on the list do you believe are more nature and which are more nurture?
- I must say that the list is male biased.

Ideologue detected.

Author — Harris D. Afent.


You had this discussion without Karen Straughan?

Author — Tyrant60


Confirmation bias is the lingering contaminant to science. The lady in Tel Aviv is basically dismissing the scientific findings discussed in favour of her beliefs. That is the last person you want in science. There is no nature to her, we are all just blank slates at birth to be shaped into being what she wants us to be, that is, more like her. No thanks.

Author — Dan S


36m in, the Israeli researcher said it's all a good story about men competing in a male dominance hierarchy for access to lots of women, but there's no good evidence for it being biological. Right... And she's married to a janitor?

Author — FauxCapitalist


It's sad that we have to resort to these types of studies to prove what humans have known for thousands of years: men and women and different.

Author — Vebinz


"Why should we ask this question"
"I don't think we should ask this question"
I weep for humanity

Author — MajesticDemonLord


Heavy social justice bull crap with the Israeli woman. No surprise there.

Author — Ayam Sirias


Jordan Peterson, always the voice of reason in an unreasonable world.

Author — LeGioNoFZioN


I was really really hoping the Jewish lady would NOT be on the nurture side. *sigh* Stereotype accuracy strikes again!

Author — AustralianNeoCon1


omg that girl from tel aviv if she was a creationist denying evolution it would make her position more obvious.

Author — Nick Weiland


"You don't see any John Waynes around today" like that's a good thing. A part of me just died.

Author — zöe weitzeil