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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brain Sex

In what the National Post’s editors called “the most controversial episode of his tenure” Harvard President Lawrence Summers has been ousted by an angry mob engaged in a kind of academic swarming behaviour unbecoming of any institution supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of truth. Summers made the politically incorrect mistake of musing that there may be “innate differences” between men and women that could be the explanation for why so few women excel at the highest levels of the maths and sciences. In my Work in Progress, tentatively entitled (even more politically incorrectly), The Book of Absolutes, I have a chapter, still in draft, on “Biological Universals.” Below are a few items from a small section on human sex differences, drawn from easily available sources about findings so well known they are uncontroversial among most scientists, despite the strenuous efforts of critics to find contrary evidence. Universities used to be filled with genuine scholars who wanted to know the truth, however unpalatable to them. Today, alas, they are over-run with ideologically-stupefied academics and obsequious students who refuse to accept truths they happen to dislike. 
* Hormones Rule
The release of gender-specific hormones begins to influence human personality and behaviour even before birth. All babies begin development as females, but the male testes produce testosterone, which is the telltale hormone that fundamentally alters a baby’s physical development, including the brain.

* Male and Female Differences in the Womb
A great number of studies show that male and female babies behave differently even in the womb (movement, heart-rates, etc), and within moments after birth (give attention to different objects, sounds, and tactile sensations).
* Girls’ Sensitive to Baby’s Cry
Baby girls – but not baby boys – distinguish a baby’s cry from other general sounds.
* Boys Prefer Objects
Although baby boys get more affection and physical contact from their mothers than girls, they nevertheless prefer objects to people.
* Gendered Senses
Girls are more sensitive to sounds, smells, tastes, touch, voice, and musical nuances than boys. A girl’s sense of smell is anywhere from 200 to 1,000 times better than a boy’s; touch is twice as sensitive; and hearing two to four times better than a boy’s.
* Play Differences
Girls are less rule-bound, boys more so. Boys need rules to tell if they are on top or not. Their pre-adolescent play is often such rank-related play. 
* Aggression
From birth, Boys are more aggressive, competitive, and self-assertive than girls (perhaps the most common finding, world-wide, even by feminist researchers). When one-year-old babies are separated from their mothers and their toys by a fence-like barrier, the girls tend to stay in the middle and cry for help, while the boys tend to cluster at the ends of the barriers, apparently trying to find a way out.
* Brain Metabolism
At the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a combination of PET scans and high resolution MRI technology used to study brain metabolism showed that even at rest, doing nothing in particular, there were male/female differences in brain metabolism in seventeen different brain areas.
* Males and Violence
At puberty men are more prone to physical violence (most crime is by males between ages 15 and 25), women more prone to emotional volatility. About 85% of all crimes are committed by males, and there are specific, universal sex-differences in the styles, types of victim, and post-crime behaviours of male and female perpetrators of violent crimes. From half to four-fifths of all female crime, hospital admissions and suicide occurs just prior to or during menstruation. For an in-depth study of crime, see James Q. Wilson, and Richard J. Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985). 
* Spatial Skills
Boys are better than girls on a variety of spatial skills, such as mentally rotating a drawing of an object (called “imaginal rotation”), including 3-D rotation. This skill is cross-cultural, and is practically universal in males. The spatial-skill sex difference becomes quite marked after puberty, and is even observed in animals. “In normal young men and women, spatial ability is systematically related to testosterone (T) levels.” (Kimura, p.122).
* Locating Objects
Women are superior to men at certain tasks requiring memory for the location of objects. This is seen dramatically during self-location in space: women tend to do poorly at map-reading compared to men, and locate their position by memory of objects and landmarks (“turn left at the coffee shop”). Men, in contrast tend to think in terms of compass directions (“turn north when you get to the corner”). Removing landmarks handicaps women, while changing dimensions handicaps men (Nadeau, p.56). 
* Abstract Reasoning
Men tend to be better at tests of abstract mathematical reasoning and problem solving, while women tend to be better at tests of mathematical calculation. This difference increases with age. Although males and females tend to get the same math scores in school, men tend to outscore women consistently on math aptitude tests. Such sex differences in math ability appear to a greater or lesser degree in all countries and in all ethnic groups within countries. 
* Targeting
Boys, from an early age, outdo girls by a wide margin on targeting tasks (throwing an object at a target accurately), and this difference is not due to experience, or differences in strength or size. Kimura states that it is “one of the largest, most reliable sex differences in ability that we know about,” and it is seen “across all human societies.”
* Intelligence Differences
Although overall intelligence differences between men and women are minimal, this is because testers arrange to cancel out the obvious, repeated, and world-wide superiorities of each gender. That is, tests are arranged so that the higher verbal scores of women cancel the higher math and spatial scores of men. But the differences in each realm, after taking overlap into account, are consistent, and universal. One indicator of this difference in verbal and spatial ability is that the best female chess players in the world rank around 2,000 among the best men and could not gain entry to the men’s world championship. Chess matches are normally sex-segregated for this reason. But world-championship scrabble matches, and contests such as Mastermind, are not sex-segregated because there is no detectable difference for those skills.
* Verbal Recall
Women are consistently better than men on “the recall of words or of material that can readily be mediated verbally.” The difference between men and women in verbal memory may be stronger “when recall of a meaningful text or paragraph is required, and this sex difference emerges across cultures.”(Kimura p.93)
* Engineering Sex Differences
Transplants of hypothalamic tissue (in animals) from male to female brains “cause recipient females to behave in male ways” (G. Wilson, p.35).
* Brain Size
“The biggest structural brain difference between men and women is size. Men’s brains are larger and heavier than women’s by 10 to 15 percent.” (Kimura, p.127).  When men and women of the same body size are compared, men’s brains are about 100 grams heavier than women’s. (Ankney 1992, in Kimura, p.128). Danish investigators found that men had about four billion more cortical neurons than women (in Kimura, p.128). And … “there are many other structural features of the brain that appear sexually diffrentiated.” (Kimura, p. 129). 

Posted by williamgairdner on March 8, 2006 | Permalink


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Having read “Men from Mars, Women from Venus” and totally agreeing with the differences. Maybe it's a bit Oprah-like, but it made sense to me. I don’t need a lot of data to confirm the subject deserves more exploration. But follow the money. Larry Summers was also responsible for fund raising. He had a conflict. He couldn’t win because University campuses give tenure to the politically correct groupthink professors not to management. Until Harvard gets squeezed financially because it donors want to return to the days when the campus wasn’t ruled by a Theocracy of Groupthinkers, then we aren’t going to get any exploration on this topic. Allan Bloom saw this coming in the 80’s with “The Closing of the American Mind”.

I’d like to see my daughter do as well as her brother in all subjects she chooses to excel in, and vis versa for my son. That won’t happen if we won’t even acknowledge that there are differences between the sexes. But if we admitted there are differences that would also allow us to question cultural relativism in a post-modern world that wants to carry on with Marxist notions of equal outcomes. I like different outcomes, I simply want opportunities to be as equal as pragmatically possible.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-08 10:57:34 AM

Off topic, but worth a peek.

Check out what Rick Mercer is up to.
it's actually funny for him.


Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-08 11:00:41 AM

From what I've read - Summers is absolutely right. There is indeed a statistically significant difference in neurological processes between men and women. It isn't 100% - nothing ever is, but, certainly, women and men, using majority percentages, function within different cognitive skills (spatial/verbal; abstract/particular). (I guess I'm an anamoly; I prefer the spatial and abstract...but..].

I don't think these differences are socially derived; they are innate to the species. The view that the differences are socially derived would move us into the feminist/postmodernis relativism of: 'anyone can be a mathematician' and "women are not mathematicians only because of the domination of the Evil Patriarchy"..etc. Not true.

I agree with nomdenet. I'm against equal outcomes. I'm for equality of opportunity. However, we must also be realistic; sometimes,in our life, we cannot even expect equality of opportunity much less of outcome. Life isn't always fair..but, our society must try to make these opportunities as available as possible. However, I don't think that the lack of that opportunity then requires you to set yourself up as a Victim.

The dominance of the feminists and postmodernists is still with us. These people reject objective data, reject empirical observations and insist only on belief in an ideology. [That's why they support extremist Islam; the ideology is the same - rejection of reason and science and adherence only to belief.]

One point that modern research is discovering - is that men and women are equal with regards to violence. The old adage that 'women are not violent' is, according to empirical data, false. They are as violent as men - and we are seeing more and more of this in our society.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-08 11:53:48 AM

I just do not get what the big deal is. Yeah.. there are differences... anyone who is a girl and is raising a boy or was a boy and raising a girl... OR, even better, has kids of both sexes, can tell you that they are a bajillion eons squared apart.

CAN the sexes achieve the same? Of course they can, but I heartily agree with 'nomdenet' - if you don't acknowledge the differences then it ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: Heather Cook | 2006-03-08 12:09:25 PM

Having raised two sons and two daughters I can attest to the fact that the sexes are different. There is nothing wrong in that, especially since they are complimentary. Different does not equate to inferior or superior.

The issue once again is the typical and complete intolerance of radical feminists. They continue to confuse equality with sameness, thus insisting there is no difference whatsoever. Anyone who has been a parent of both sexes knows this to be a lie.

What Summers stated has been proven as fact. His lack of scolarly courage to stand up to these radicals is a disgrace.

Posted by: Alain | 2006-03-08 12:23:47 PM

If only it were just a matter of recognizing scientific facts. The problem goes much deeper - conventions regarding the sexes are so broken down we are all, as one female friend put it, "on an androgenous lemming-march".

For a good analysis of the Summers situation in this light see Harvey Mansfield (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/297gfbih.asp)here (an oldy but a goody). Prof. Mansfield also has a new book called (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300106645/102-0178089-5281774?v=glance&n=283155) "Manliness".

Posted by: markdsgraham | 2006-03-08 12:47:02 PM

Here again, the presumably well-intentioned have lost sight of a fundamental difference: that between "equal" and "equivalent". Of course, all humans are "equal" in value, but seldom are they "equivalent" in any meaningful sense. Men and women are not universally interchangeable, and it is ideological blindness to insist they are.

Posted by: John Zebedee | 2006-03-08 2:17:50 PM

Jeez, do mine eyes deceive me? ET is actually acknowledging that human chararcteristis differ and that they are inate, i.e. evolved. Will she take a further step and actually recognise that inate diferences extend beyond just men and women?

Stay tuned.

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-08 2:18:12 PM

If women are exactly the same as men then I guess there is no reason to not consider the gay life-style. I mean same as is same as.

It unbelievably stupid to think that there aren't inherent differences between men and women.

They may not be an entirely different species, but they are a different gender and that counts for something doesn't it. Or has there been a biological shift in humanity that no on told me about?

Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-08 2:27:16 PM

One more thing,

Only the thinking of the Left, who are so famous for living in total denial of what is reality, could possibly want to can Summers for his truthful comments.

Posted by: Duke | 2006-03-08 2:29:21 PM

Well, DJ - I'll never agree with your blatant racism.
You see - I don't agree with 'races'. There's only one race - homo sapiens.

I certainly disagree with your attempts to slice up this one species into different IQ's-by-Nation. Now - that has to be one of the dumbest notions I've ever heard of! Can you imagine - a political identity, which is socially defined (what nation are you a citizen of) is correlated with a biological identity, (IQ. Incredible.

That's like saying that the political party that one belongs to is directly correlated with one's IQ, or eye colour, or skin colour. Nonsense.

Your error is (1) attempting to correlate and link a SOCIAL value (nationality) with a BIOLOGICAL value (IQ). Can't be done. Not in a zillion years. And (2)attempting to correlate a collective statistic (nationality) with an individual statistic (IQ). Can't be done.

And your assertion that some countries have an IQ of..oh..66. Unbelievable. Don't you realize that would mean that the country would be non-functioning??

I'm focusing on biological factors only. There are biological differences in the genders; that's hardly disputable. And, I'm not attempting to correlate anything SOCIAL, i.e., that is learned, with that biological value.

Your assertions of 'national IQ's' remain unscientific and racist.


Posted by: ET | 2006-03-08 2:50:46 PM

Never mind ET. You'll come around one day. I'm comfortable with my position, cuz I got ole Charlie Darwin on my side. Chapter VII, Descent of Man, entitled "On the Races of Man".

Cheers indeed. :)

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-08 3:54:56 PM

Darwin was a racist; you are indeed comfortable with him. The way he, and his fellow Victorians described the indigeneous and people of other countries - was a basis for the 'right of imperial domination' perspective.

His gradualism of evolutionism and reliance on mutation is also strongly debated and rejected in modern biological theories.

So- the fact that you rely on Darwin simply means that you are relying on, with regard to humans, a Victorian prejudiced view of non-English, and..if you rely on Darwin for evolution, that you are relying on a strongly debated and questioned theory. Evolution, by the way, is not question - but Darwin's view that it is a gradual step-by-step result of randomness- is more and more rejected.

Again, DJ - your views don't stand up. You cannot correlate a social value with a biological value. That's like correlating radios with bananas.

Posted by: ET | 2006-03-08 4:25:58 PM

For me this discussion ties back to why we have the Larry Summers problem and why the left keeps pushing cultural relativism

The left has been dying since the Berlin Wall. But they need a victim society to keep buying their only products, which are scare tactics and emotions. Targets had been race. But with Colin Powell and Condi Rice, that card doesn’t carry much weight for Democrats anymore. Besides even the left knew America’s educated classes were no longer racists, it is accepted that we’re all Homo Sapiens.

Therefore in order to find new victims, the postmoderns have been playing the cultural relativism card where race baiting left off. Now when conservatives try to have a rational, reasoned argument with the left on …
all cultures aren’t equal and what people learn socially isn’t the same as accusing them of having a defective gene…
then the postmoderns play their new card:

Political correctness.

That has been a brilliant strategy, especially if, in fact, the MSM and academia did it strategically. Actually I think it was more Pavlovian, my dog can learn what works.

By gagging us with political correctness they have not allowed conservatives to forge ahead as fast as we should have been able to do given the power of our arguments for capitalism, free-trade for global markets, democracy for the third world etc.

Political Correctness, fires Larry Summers for suggesting that there is some data showing differences in men and women. He had scratched his head and said “I wonder if that data is telling us why we don’t have more Math and Science Profs at Harvard and if we don’t get more females to be Profs then we won’t get more female students.”

Seems like a worthwhile topic eh? Wrong! It’s politically incorrect. If the left were to allow a conversation on relativism of any sort with one of their target victim market segments, then their whole strategy of trying to muzzle conservatives would start to unravel.

Ergo, conservatives have to fight political correctness. For example, we have to call a troll a troll or they will take over our space, just like the post-moderns have taken over our MSM and our Universities. Larry Summers didn't fight hard enough for his space. Maybe because he had spent too much time being a Democrat.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-03-08 6:26:49 PM

It's an expensive medical mystery: governments have poured billions in new money into the medical system since the 1990s but there has been no shortening of wait times.

Some how most of the provinces and hospitals too did not put all of the Federal money into the health care system directly but next used it for other purposes.

Such as?

Posted by: Canadian Brain drain | 2006-03-08 6:36:01 PM

Hey do post important issues such as

Citibank Cards Blocked in Canada The NEW YORK — Citibank said Wednesday that it had blocked the use of some of its PIN-based debit cards after detecting fraudulent cash withdrawals in Canada.

Posted by: Mark | 2006-03-08 7:20:31 PM

"Darwin was a racist."

Evidence please.

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-08 7:33:10 PM

Well, Mr. Gairdner, I must say I'm much more impressed with this article than your first. Mostly I'm impressed with your frank willingness to cite highly unpopular but fairly well-done studies.

I would mention, since I don't think anyone else has, that the reason there's such vitriol is an ideological conflict over what "equal" means. "Equality" is frequently applied b y socialists to results, regardless of the circumstances; for example, there are fewer women running corporations than men. Socialists raise hue and cry that women are not "represented" in corporate management, without pausing to consider that, at least at this time, since the _opportunities_ are roughly equal, it may be that most women simply don't _want_ to run corporations.

This, I think, is why there's such a well-run railroad ready for anyone who dares suggest that genders may impact the results. Socialists are concerned with equal results, which they must force people to comply with. Liberals are concerned with equal opportunities, from which people may go any direction they please. If there's an innate difference, a socialist is powerless. Their whole premise rests on the assumption that people can be programmed, that things can be put into their proper order. Gender differences that can't be "fixed" would bring their whole house of cards crashing down.

In short, I encourage my fellow liberals (that's freedom-lovers, not political porkers) to engage socialists on the basis of where true equality lies, not in how they're reaching it. Things make perfect sense to _them_, because they're looking for equal results.

Posted by: Tozetre | 2006-03-09 12:08:06 AM

"Darwin was a racist."

Darwin was a selective racist

Posted by: Mark | 2006-03-09 9:49:32 AM

What's a selective racist and where's the evidence?

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-09 10:05:42 AM

Darwin & racism:

"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes ... will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla."
-Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd edition, New York, A L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 178

For emphasis, he referred to Caucasians and baboons as more distinct, and "the negro" and gorillas as less distinct. This pretty clearly outlines an opinion about blacks that is less than complimentary, and firmly places "the negro" below "the Caucasian" on a hierarchy of humanity.

Please note well: I'm not saying Darwin was a totally morally bankrupt man, or bad scientist, or wrong about other things, just because he was racist. I'm simply pointing out that he was racist.

Posted by: Tozetre | 2006-03-09 1:15:13 PM

Tozetre, To be clear, your position is that because Darwin said, in 1874, that Caucasian were more civilised than negroes or Australians, that he is a racist. However, scientifically, it is a fact. In 1874, Europeans were more civilised than Africans. Is that correct?

And in fact if Darwin ultimately did believe in the supremacy of the white race, then surely he has to deny his own evolutionary theory. However, he doesn't. In the paragraph from which your quote was excerpted he demonstrates why great gaps in the evolution of allies does not deny evolution. He states, "for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian..." Caucasians, for Darwin, are not the last word in civilisation. He does not view them as the supreme race.

Who is this group even more civilised than the Caucasian?

Posted by: DJ | 2006-03-09 3:42:07 PM

The offence that Harvard President Lawrence Summers
committed was to suggest a truth that flies in the face of the Mandatory Conformity of thought required by the Politically Correct.

They cannot tolerate any serious challenges to their assumption of moral and intelectual superiority. The swarming nature and virulence of their reaction is due to the underlying knowledge that their tenets and beliefs are emtpy.

Posted by: PGP | 2006-03-09 7:39:58 PM

How incredibly silly to deny the fact that sex makes us different, biologically, hormonally, physically and mentally.

Different. Not better, not worse.

When I worked as an RN before homeschooling, I worked a while in stroke rehab work.

Male brain injury for strokes are harder to rehab than female due to one significant difference.

Female brains are able to multitask, so when one area dies it's a bit easier to teach another to take over. Females can split focus and track multiple moving objects aka children without missing a beat.

Male brains tend to hyperfocus on one thing at a time.(and it isn't what you all probably like to joke about either)

Both ways of thinking have their advantages. The hyperfocus in males helps them block out other sounds

LOL such as the female of the species shrieking for help with the evil spawn while he is concentrating intently on the sacred TV as Lloyd Robertson tells him what to think about international politics.

LOL no, not.

It's more like men can block out stuff that would distract and maybe derail a project, including their own emotions at times.

Women can track multiple things, maybe not to the same degree of focus, but still keep a lot of balls in the air.

No doubt to deal with the necessary multiple evil spawn bouncing around the living room wreaking havoc on the furniture.

Posted by: Canadian freedoms fan | 2006-03-09 11:02:25 PM

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