Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

My friend Emma Bull recommended this book to me.  I love it.  There is nothing quite as affirming as finding a scientist who does careful research that supports your prejudices.

We’ve all seen (and maybe even read) the popular books that explain how men and women are “fundamentally” different; have different brains; we’ve come across–or seen reference to–neurological proof of this.  Fine looks at this “proof” in detail, carefully; she analyzes the data, she looks at the testing methods, she studies the conclusions–and she destroys the whole myth.  Beautifully.  Entertainingly.

It must be said that the idea of (for lack of a better term) “white male privilege” is also shown to be real, with hard evidence as well as theoretical backing.  I can, to be very brief, state that, to me, such arguments as John Scalzi’s recent one get support (much of what she demonstrates clearly applies to non-white, non-hetrosexual men as well as to all women); but, to me, so do my objections to it (to put it another way: this reaffirmed my conviction that prejudice exists and is a major factor in our lives; it did nothing to make me question my hatred of identity politics).

None of which is the beauty of the book.

I have long believed that certain classes of scientists (evolutionary psychologists being the most recent) either understate or overlook entirely that man is above all a social animal; we adapt, we work, we compete, we cooperate as societies, and the social forms we’ve developed for doing so determine, more than anything else, who we are.  It is a joy to see this view supported.

She is strongest when she is looking at the methodology of the tests that found men and women have different brains.  One of my favorite moments is on page 122.  There was a study to determine how much girls chose girlish toys, and boys chose boyish toys.  “Interestingly, one of the staples of the boyish toys, the Lincoln Logs construction set, recently had to be replaced because girls liked it so much.” I don’t know what you’d call that, but “science”certainly isn’t the right word.

She goes into brain tests such as PET and fMRI, and discusses what we can and cannot learn from them; and it’s scary how many of the popularizers of “hardwired brain differences” are drawing conclusions from either insufficient data, or data that directly contradict their conclusions.  She goes into detail, she makes it clear, and she makes it fun.  And there plenty of references for those who want to check her work.

Page 177: “Genes don’t determine our brains (or our bodies), but they do constrain them.”  Clear, elegant, and dead on.  And then a page later, “As cognitive neuroscientist Giordana Grossi points out, terms like hardwired–on loan from computer science where it refers to fixedness–translate poorly to the domain of neural circuits that change and learn throughout life, indeed, in response to life.”

No, it isn’t “hardwired.”  No, it isn’t “innate.”  Which means we can change it.


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0 thoughts on “Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine”

  1. Okay, I reserved it from the library.

    We so need a better phrase than “white male privilege”. Privilege is not the absence of oppression, and any formulation of privilege that omits capital fails to explain power in any society that has even the slightest version of capital.

    For any identitarians reading over our shoulders, no, this does not mean racism or genderism do not exist. It means capital gives people “privilege” despite all other factors, while the absence of capital leaves you homeless in a capitalist society, despite all other factors.

    Okay, that’s a digression. My bad.

  2. ‘We so need a better phrase than “white male privilege”.’

    We SO do. Um…prejudice? Discrimination?

  3. That sounds similar to neuroscientist Lise Eliot’s book ‘Pink Brain, Blue Brain’ which explores (with a great deal of scientific data) how very small gender differences in children are socialized into big differences in adults.

    This is a pretty decent review though it inaccurately over simplifies the ages at which children become aware of gender, figure out what they are, and try to conform:

    As the reviewer says, in her book Eliot explains “that assertions of innate sex differences in the brain are either “blatantly false,” “cherry-picked from single studies,” or “extrapolated from rodent research” without being confirmed in people. For instance, the idea that the band of fibers connecting the right and left brain is larger in women, supposedly supporting their more “holistic” thinking, is based on a single 1982 study of only 14 brains. Fifty other studies, taken together, found no such sex difference—not in adults, not in newborns. Other baseless claims: that women are hard-wired to read faces and tone of voice, to defuse conflict, and to form deep friendships; and that “girls’ brains are wired for communication and boys’ for aggression.” Eliot’s inescapable conclusion: there is “little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.””

    I was mainly interested in the part about babies, so I haven’t finished the book yet. The one you’re talking about sounds interesting too.

  4. Updated the post and comment #2 to show as from skzb (not admin). This should fix things so you get notifications when new comment show. Also changed things so that if you do post as Admin things are still signed ‘skzb’. That’s probably confusing for this here comment but, I hope, less so in any future context.


  5. I find myself torn whenever I hear such arguments. While I would like to believe that there is no real difference, mentally, between men and women, I cannot find a way to accept the idea without rejecting the idea of a “woman in a man’s body.” And I have met multiple cases of the latter, some of whom went through what would have been completely unnecessary surgeries if there was nothing “male” or “female” about their thoughts that begged for a matching exterior. Does Ms. Fine address and resolve this conflict?

    I’m also curious how she addresses testosterone and estrogen, which I believe are still present at demonstrably different levels in men and women, and which I also believe have demonstrable effects on the brain.

  6. Anne Gray: Many years ago, I saw a fascinating article about “subordinate’s intuition,” which basically talked about how any person in a subordinate position has more to lose by failing to anticipate the needs and views of those higher up, so there is a strong impetus to pay attention to all of the subtle cues that *everyone* gives off. Of course, the higher-ups have no such impetus, and are therefore free to ignore those cues as they want. “Women’s intuition” is really the intuition of those in a culturally subordinate position.

    It’s never quite as simple as it appears on the surface, is it? Though I will say that my boy and my girl (both under five) are very different, I’m not willing to say that it’s only because one is male and one is female. (The one real difference is that the boy never got The Shriek™. My goodness, that’s piercing.)

  7. Shire: Interesting point. Read the book, if you get a chance, and see what effect that perspective has on it. Then let me know here; I’m curious.

  8. ShireNomad: On reflection, we might say this: It is certainly possible that there are, in fact, differences in the brain between male and female, and that these are reflected in the mind. It is even possible (though in my opinion unlikely) that these differences are greater than the differences between individuals. But, so far, science has not discovered what these differences are. Moreover, those who have claimed to have discovered what they are, are(to use the proper scientific terminology) full of shit.

  9. This fascinates me. I wonder if there has been studies that have been able to determine which aspects of behavior are gender based and which are personality based. I can’t come to believe that there is no difference at all between the genders from a behavioral standpoint. It would certainly be hard to isolate those behaviors from all of the social conditioning that happens.

    I have two boys and two girls. One is a baby, and reminded me that at that age, there is no distinguishable difference between the genders. The older children often play together. When they play outside, my daughter will get just as muddy as the boys. When they play inside, the boys often play ‘house’ with her. Other than that, they each have their likes and dislikes, as well as behavioral quirks, many of which are in line with social gender expectations, as well as some which aren’t.

  10. ShireNomad, since transfolk can be born male or female or intersexed, I’d suggest that’s more evidence of sexual similarity, not difference.

  11. So much of our gender identity is imposed by social and cultural norms. To the extent that those who substitute the word “all” for “so much” in the previous sentence would get no argument from me, personally.

    Those who flagrantly violate said norms risk persecution from the vast majority of their society.

    Without hyperbole, it’s safe to say that all human beings in all human societies throughout all of recorded history have bought into this gender identity scheme, without exception. (The specific requirements for each gender do vary over time and from society to society.)

    For example, if an American man shows up at a sporting event in a pink dress, he will likely be asked to leave by a security guard. And hostile or amused glances (at least) from pretty much everyone else. This has nothing to do with genetics or biology or brain chemistry.

    This has everything to do with humans buying into the socially accepted idea of gender identity. It’s pretty much impossible to ignore this as predominant a factor in any study that even pretends to be objective.

    True objectivity in the analysis of such matters is itself impossible to achieve, since every single human being is going to identify more strongly with one gender or the other. Most of those individuals (but not all) will have genes to match their gender identity.

    Even if you are a hermaphrodite or a eunuch, it just makes the bias somewhat harder to detect, it doesn’t really make it go away.

    We all judge based on gender identity, pretty much all the time. How could one even possibly hope to conduct a truly objective scientific assessment of the real biological differences between men and women (if any) in any human society?

    How could we possibly trust any study that purports to “scientifically prove” that men and women are different in how they think or behave based on genetics alone? There’s just no way to filter out the cultural gender biases of those conducting the study.

    The whole prospect is just a non-starter. This is one of those subjects that we as human beings will likely never really be able to get a handle on.

    Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.

  12. =v= The main problem with the phrase “white male privilege” is that it puts white males on the defensive. Sometimes this defensiveness is tempered by pointing out that we are beneficiaries of this privilege even when we don’t want to be.

    Capital is on a different axis.

  13. >to put it another way: this reaffirmed my conviction that prejudice exists and is a major factor in our lives; it did nothing to make me question my hatred of identity politics).

    OK, I guess the question is what constitutes identity politics. For example, NY had huge demonstrations against stop&frisk in the past few days. Is this identity politics? It is against an abuse that is aimed overwhelmingly at people of color. And there are far more radical demands possible than ending stop-and-frisk, and plenty of police abuses possible in the absence of NY city’s particular policy.

    And I would answer that there is at least one important corollary of your take on Scalzi’s analogy. You say you don’t want to change the rules of the game. You want a whole new game.

    OK, great. But there is one difference: in actual games, if you don’t like one game, you can simply walk away and play another. But in the game of capitalism there is no real choice at this historical moment but to begin by playing this game. You can’t simply quit and choose another game. Whatever changes you want to make, you have to start within this game, with the choices available within it. You have to somehow transform this game into the one you want.

    Even if your chosen means is revolution, you have to build support for that revolution within the existing game – which probably means not telling people, “oh that problem will be solved after the revolution”. So you have to start by working with people where they are. That means fighting to change the rules of the game as it exists is at likely to be part of the struggle to create the game you want.

    Now I don’t know if you disagree with this, but certainly the extension you chose of Scalzi’s analogy seems to lead in a different direction.

    I will say one other thing, and again I don’t know that you disagree. Any organization that claims to be engaging in any type struggle to transform society but consists mostly of straight white males is engaging in identity politics.

  14. Jym: I agree completely.

    Gar: Identity politics can be reasonably defined as any political program that tends to divide the working class. Affirmative action is the classic example.

    The policy you’re talking about–making demands based on where the working class is now–is, to a revolutionist, based on making “transitional demands.” A transitional demand is one that, A) is absolutely necessary for the working class, and B) Cannot be given by capitalism. Identity politics rarely fall into this category.

  15. Jym Dyer, would you say there was German male privilege in Hitler’s Germany? Would you say that the most powerful ethnic or gender group, by definition, is privileged, even if many of its members are poor? Last, what is this privilege useful for? Does it comfort poor members of the group? I suspect not–I would think racist homeless white people are more bitter for not having the privilege well-off antiracists assure them they wallow in.

    Gar Liptow, when you’re working to make something available to everyone, it’s not identity politics. For example, need-based aid is not identity politics; gender-based and race-based aid is.

    Would you say Marx and Engels were engaging in identity politics? White males, y’know. Or Castro and Che?

  16. Actually, one more question about “white male privilege”: Is there no in-between position, so you’re either privileged or oppressed?

  17. I very much regret having used the term privilege in my original post. I think it would be more precise to say that there is prejudice and discrimination, and that these are real things that hurt women and minorities. The point of the book isn’t that, and it becomes a distraction (for good reason, on reflection).

  18. Additional to Gar: Any so-called revolutionary party that displays prejudice and discrimination within its own ranks is demonstrating tendencies that are, at best, unscientific and reactionary.*

    Any so-called revolutionary party that would avoid putting a particular straight white male in a particular position for which he was the best qualified, merely to increase “diversity,” would prove that it isn’t serious, and deserve nothing but contempt from the working class.

    *This is not impossible. I was, for some years in the 60’s, involved with a group led by a homophobe. In some measure, the Old Left tradition of distrust of homosexuals is justified, because in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s the FBI could and often did use the threat of exposing someone’s homosexuality to turn that person into a spy. But it was unjustified in that group at that time, and it was corrected by about ’71.

  19. Hmm, well if by affirmative action you mean quotas, those have been illegal in the U.S. for decades. In current parlance, affirmative action simply means avoiding discrimination not only by avoiding overt action, but by taking positive action to make sure a work place is open to women and people of color and so on. I will simply say that I see the working class split a hell of a lot more by various types of racial and gender discrimination against women and people of color than by the sort of thing you describe. Parts of my local anti-war movement are pretty much what I would describe as sausage fests, and I have trouble believing that this is true just because the leadership consists of the most qualified people 9 out of 10 of whom just happen to be straight white men.

    BTW, as long as you are objecting to the word “privilege” you might also want to thing about the problems with excessive focus on the concept (not just the word) prejudice. That is because a classic defense racists and sexist make is always to try and turn the conversation to what is in their hearts. But the fact is that if some is acting in an oppressive way, it does not matter what their intent is. It is the way that they act that needs to be changed. And often discrimination happens because institutions have been set up in a discriminatory way, and while it may have originally been the intent, none of the people in the institution may be thinking about the consequences of what they are doing. They are merely acting the way they always have. At any rate, even if someone is deliberately being racist or sexists, intent is difficult to prove. We don’t always know what is in people’s hearts. But we do know, much more frequently , what they do.

    So I’d avoid too much concentration on prejudice, and concentrate more on actual discrimination – both on pragmatic grounds, and also because changes in belief follow changes in behavior as often as the other way around. If someone decides to stop acting on their prejudices, to behave as if they were not prejudiced, they will often find the prejudice weakening. I would describe that as a good materialist psychology.

    Religious people are very familiar with this. Every now and then a preacher will encounter someone who says ‘I really want to believe, but I just can’t.” And many such preachers (the smart ones anyway) say”don’t worry about it for a while. Come to church. Pray. Follow the tenets of our church. And you will see that God will grant you faith. ” And it usually works, not because of God, but because of the way humans work. The person saying “I want to believe” is already halfway there. And then going through the rituals and acting out belief breaks down the resistance, and odds are high the person will end up believing. Humans are not rational animals, but we are rationalizing animals. We don’t like discrepancies between the way we act and the way we believe, and are very likely mentally adapt are beliefs and emotions to anything we do regularly.

  20. Any one person “is” many things. Probably in different balances and priorities from anyone else who “is” the same things. “Priviliging” one attribute above others is sterilizing as a central strategy.

  21. Isn’t the word you’re looking for ‘kyriarchy’ or am I terribly off base here?

  22. I think “kyriarchy” is just an attempt to avoid “hierarchy”, because so far as I can tell, the people who talk about kyriarchy like the idea of a hierarchy in which they’re on top.

    Also, the people who talk about kyriarchy tend to talk about intersectionality, and I think for many commies and anarchists, hierarchies are interconnected, not intersectional.

    But, I confess, I’m getting old, and I want to make sure a new word is more than shiny before I adopt it.

  23. Regrettably, my library system does not have a copy, so I cannot read it at this time. I really want to, though, so I will look elsewhere.

    But I will point this out:

    The effects of testosterone on the male brain, as measured through study of the Castrati (singular Castrato) vs. Eunichs vs. men who retain their testicles throughout life show that differences in the male brain do not begin until puberty is reached, so studies of children are completely irrelevant. The aforementioned suppressed UK Engineering study suggested that changes may be occurring in the female brain at puberty (crossing racial, religious, environmental, and class boundaries) and so suggested a hormonal effect on the female brain. Studying children before puberty cannot disprove differences in adult physiology because they do not have the adult hormones (which are obviously different in both sexes). We know the effect of testosterone on male aggressiveness, musculature, and voice during puberty which are retained even if the testicles are lost after puberty, so we know at least one hormone DOES permanently affect emotions, and therefore, thought processes.

    In short, studying children *SHOULD* prove a lack of difference in children because their body chemistry is almost identical, but such studies do *NOT* prove a lack of difference in adults, because the differentiators between sexes — hormones — cannot be studied until after puberty. A properly executed study should show a sharp deviation at the age of puberty, which has already been shown in the studies of aggressiveness of men, but since puberty can start from 11-14 for girls and 12-15 for boys, correlation between individuals in a study to associate change to the moment of hormone production is mandatory. (Without such a correlation, the gradual addition of children into puberty over a 4 year period can seem to create a slow curve that simulates gradual environmental change, when in fact they’re all changing exactly at puberty from hormones.) It is easier to study testosterone, because testicle loss is relatively common (cancer, disease, accident, twisted tubes, etc.), though the documentation on the Castrati is not insignificant. It is nearly impossible to study the female hormones, because those hormones (more than the one men have) come from several glands, and it is much harder to lose the ovaries to accident than testicles. That makes it hard to isolate any change that estrogen, the most famous one, could have because others are present, too.

    And if I need to remind anyone of hormone induced physiological and emotional changes on the female body and psyche, please take the time to look up post-menopausal Hot Flashes, and PMS. The chemicals in your brain are insanely complex, so the idea that only one hormone (testosterone) can cause permanent emotional instability is simply wishful thinking, especially in the face of the known temporary effect documented as PMS.

    Please note: if you do not remember my previous reference to the UK Engineering study, the study was started at the insistence of feminist groups that blamed engineers for being exclusionary to females, who responded that females were not applying for engineering (esp. electrical, at 5%), so the UK Engineering society started tracking the girls with full feminist cooperation and oversight to try to identify why they were rejecting engineering as a career prior to university application age. They were trying to identify the age of decision to best direct resources towards changing that decision, and stumbled onto something else no one predicted…

  24. Kreistor. This is the “secret” study you can’t actually provide a citation to? Or can you provide a title, set of authors and guidance as to where it can be found?

  25. I have tried. I had direct contact with an engineer journalist that knew the president/chairman of the UK Engineering society, so when I mentioned it, he said he’d contact him for me. At that point, I got shut down — no further responses on the subject of any kind.

    I saw the description of the report on a series of documentaries about sex from the BBC, and have never been able to track down a copy nor seen the series re-broadcast: I get shut down from the Engineering side wherever I try. I get neither confirmation nor denial that the study was ever done, just silence, which for me confirms the controversial nature of the conclusions. I am hoping that someone with contacts on the feminist side sees this and tries to get it, since I expect exactly the same thing — neither confirmation nor denial that the study was ever performed.

  26. Men and women are different because they need certain traits to form attraction. This means they will physically/mentaly react differently to each other.

    Gender is a process inolving the opposite sex not something that takes place outside of human interaction.

    This process is then extended to non human interaction data by colouring it with gender roles–this is what I believe genderless proponents are advocating. The problem is that they are assuming that the gender colours assigned to external data are a result of privilege and not born out of wanting to enhance ones sexual traits for the opposite sex by increasing ones associations with coloured non human data.

    Its not some conspiracy by the man ladies to keep you in the kichen, people want to be percieved as sexy–this includes human females.

    If you want to shift the coloured gender roles assigned to activities/objects/interactions for economic reasons, you would need to shift the opposite genders associations.

    Since males continue percieving male traits in objectionable economic activities/objects/interactions, you would need to make those things female, not genderless.

    For example, if females percieved rich guys to be homosexual–this would have a greater effect on economic differences between sexes than all the ‘get organized’ parties put together.

  27. Thank you to McKinley for posting the link to Fine’s presentation. That helps a lot.

    First, I do agree with a lot of her points. Studies require a significant sample space to be accurate. There are a lot of ways a small sample space can be corrupted, such as being from a single region, introducing environmental factors that cannot be ruled out as the cause of detected deviations. Some scientists will overlook such alternative explanations in the excitement of the quest to make their names and get published.

    However, Fine herself violates some scientific standards in the quest to dismiss other scientists.

    She seems to have the belief that having debunked other scientists, this means that she has proven her own theories. This is a fundamentally false technique for two reasons. Primary is: you don’t get to decide for yourself that you successfully debunked someone else. Your own lack of objectivity prevents you from determining if you succeeded: rely on objective and accredited individuals (ie. not an audience of prejudiced listeners) to tell you which of your arguments hit their target. Secondary is: to prove something you must have positive evidence of your claim. It is impossible to prove a negative, because negatives leave no evidence, so if you eliminate all of the positive evidence of a competing idea, you have not proven your idea to be factual, only reduced the competing idea to the level of your own — unproven. For Fine’s claim that there is no difference between male and female brains to be true, she must have positive evidence demonstrating that sameness. She attempts no science of her own to prove her case, instead relying on debunking to solely support her position. In other words, shooting down other theories does not give yours wings: it only leaves them all wounded on the forest floor.

    Perhaps she was short on time, but the last part of her presentation, on Behavior, was grossly inadequate. I saw no mention of testosterone induced male aggression (which is backed by studies of steroid abuse, all of which are testosterone derivatives), female PMS (emotions are a brain function, demonstrating trends in post-pubescent differences in the function of the brain), male/female differences in discussing “feelings” (which was simply whitewashed as a joke), and so on. We could discuss why, in the vast majority of the world, even in this day and age of greatly improved equality, many women continue to expect men to be the ones to ask them out, and cannot stand the idea of approaching a man. Behavior differences cannot simply be dismissed by an “They don’t exist until you adequately prove them to me” statement by an agenda-driven individual: such individuals will constantly move their standards of proof to prevent the conclusion from being made.

    She makes one extremely suspect argument. She takes a number of studies and averages out their results in order to diminish perceived differences. This should never be done. EVER. The first reason against is basic: we don’t know if she has cherry-picked studies to ensure she gets the average that she desires, and we don’t know if she weighted the studies by the number of data points or treats each study as equal despite having small sample spaces. (A study with large sample space and a diffinitive result should never be treated as equal to a small sample study that finds an opposite result.) Second, the different studies use different methods to arrive at different conclusions. You should only combine the results of studies that use the exact same methodology, even if they do use the same original data. If you apply the same methodology to all of the data in all of the studies, you may find different studies providing significantly different results from the original including an overall trend that was hidden by the use of different methods. This means that she is averaging the method used to draw conclusions and not averaging the results inside a single context as she neds to defeat the arguments that she faces. Further, older studies may be hampered by inadequate technology that prevent detection possible with newer equipment. All studies must have reasonably equal technologies.

    I do agree with a number of her points, but not with her claims about what reality is. Here is a simple test that you can amuse yourself with:

    1) Gather a small group of people from work from different careers (ie. receptionist, engineer, sales director, marketer)
    2) Give each one a paper and pencil
    3) Tell them to draw a bicycle from memory and include as many parts as they can think of, but do not cheat off each other. Any type of bicycle is fine — mountain, 12-speed, banana, etc. (Check room for pics of a bike they could cheat off.)

    The result? Some will draw a perfect bike. Others will draw something that has all the parts, but the parts will somehow be in the wrong places. Spatial visualization is not an ability every human being possesses. I can picture a bicycle in my head, rotate it, and see every piece in perfect position, and only my limited dexterity and pathetic hand-eye co-ordination prevent the drawing from being photo-real. A 48 year old friend drew a bike like he was 7 years old… chain attached to the down tube, everything totally out of proportion, just nothing like reality. He has no capacity to visualize the bike in his head like I do. (Guess which of us is an engineer. Spatial visualization is vital to engineers.)

    Do not even try to tell me that everyone’s brains are the same, and that mentally we are all of equal intelligence without environmental factors. It’s a foolish and ignorant thought. Heard of Perfect Pitch? Eiditic Memory? Golden Ears? Idiot Savant? And here’s a nasty one… Asperger’s Syndrome, which seems to make one smarter, and it seems to be (oh noessers!) genetically inherited since it runs in families. If we were all the same, we would all have these talents (or curses), but we obviously do not. Most don’t even get one.

    And once you accept that genetics must be responsible for any of the above (since they cannot be taught), the idealistic belief that the genetics of sex cannot be the root cause of deviations between men and women’s behavior reveals itself to be wishful thinking, at least until it has been proven with positive evidence.

    Am I saying that all men are one thing and all women are another? No, that is equally foolish. I’m going to pick Fine’s nit on her use of “empathic” behavior study she countered. Essentially, some of these other books claim women have a stronger sense of empathy. Fine presents an argument that men have demonstrated equal capacity to determine the emotions others are feeling. I agree with that study: they can. You see it in sales directors, marketers, and poker players, all of which try to find that hint of emotion in those they deal with. But that is not what other scientists mean by “empathy”: they don’t just mean the capacity to detect the particular emotion someone feels, but to feel the same emotion others are currently feeling. A poker player is not going to feel worry when he detects worry in an opponent: he’s going to feel joy as he throws it “all in” against the expected bluff. And a marketer that misses that the person he is speaking to is worried about the design he is presenting will waste a lot of money on a second design cycle to fix the problem he did not discuss because the marketer overlooked the worry. But there are certainly many men that do feel the same emotion as others, and some that pretend to (ie. womanizers). And there are most certainly women that can do advanced math or become engineers.

    But, coming out of high school, is the same percentage of girls able to become engineers as the percentage of boys, and the same percentage of girls that feel strong empathy equal to the percentage of boys that can? Fine would have you believe “Yes”, but presents no evidence of her own to demonstrate it. At 5% female application to Electrical Engineering vs. 50% to Chemical Engineering? It’s not the word “engineering” that’s holding girls back from applying, but the words Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Geologic, Aeronautic, and Computer. Girls are voting, on their applications, against Fine, by not choosing some types of engineering while embracing others. Fine cites that numbers of lawyers (a memory skill profession), doctors (a memory skill profession) and math (a broad subject that also includes computer science) are rising, but does not show figures on exactly how much each has risen.

    Ultimately, though, my biggest problem with Fine is not her science, but her presentation style. I have no appreciation for derision at all, and her argument is rife with it. Derision is nothing more than a belief that anyone that disagrees with you is stupid, and consequently has absolutely no merit in a scientific discussion. Belittling others without cause is a terrible habit, and you can see that she fails to live up to her own standards: in the midst of one such effort, she stops and reverses her position on one author, stating that he did the job better than others, before continuing on with her self-centered, agenda-driven debunking. She knows she is cutting her own throat on stage.

    If you want your science to have respect, then you don’t want to support Fine until she finds some.

  28. Kreistor, if you read Pink Brain, blue Brain, you will learn that there are differences in the hormones make and femqle babies experience in the womb. I think you’re right that hormones have a signifigant effect on the brain, though it seems they have a more clearly detectable effect on other aspects of physiology, but Eliot at least, is not ignoring it. Boys have a big surge of testosterone in the womb, and more rapid gross motor growth before they are born, but later lung development, which is why male babies who are born premature are at greater risk than girls.

    Still, the gender-blind studies of social treatment are very interesting. When adults are misled about the real gender of the babies, I mean. For instance, women are significantly slower and less likely to react to expressions of pain by babies they believe to be male, while they are more likely to react negatively to expressions of anger from babies they believe are girls. It is only logical to expect this sort of treatment to transform how babies instinctively try to communicate into social norms.
    Similarly they observed that boys who express a disinterest in being social with visitors are more often allowed to go off and play by themselves instead of getting more practice being verbal in a social setting. The author has sons and is quite focused on how to reverse trends like this, to get boys more involved in talking and reading so they don’t suffer poor academic performane later in life.

  29. As I said earlier, I don’t really validate pre-pubescent studies. Children are mimics: you put any of them in the right environment and they can be convinced to demonstrate any characteristic you want. That doesn’t mean they naturally want that characteristic, though. For instance, put a boy in a room with four girls and 8 barbie dolls for three days straight, and you’ll find him playing with barbie dolls… because you didn’t give him any other friends or toys. If you put that same boy in a room with three other boys and one girl, and eight barbie dolls, I’ll bet you’ll find only pieces of mangled dolls left over, and the one they let the girl have torn apart by the girl herself in order to be part of the fun. Manipulating children to get your desired results is incredibly easy.

  30. So, way off topic, but SKZB, can you please start a Affordable Health Care Act discussion. Since it was upheld this morning, I’ve been anxious to see a discussion about it where the people involved in the discussion have a few brain cells to click together and make a rational thought.

    Thank you in advance.

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