Vive la dif­fer­ence

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

“That boys and girls — and men and women— are pro­grammed by evo­lu­tion to be­have dif­fer­ently from one an­other is now widely ac­cepted. [. . .] But which of the dif­fer­ences be­tween the sexes are ‘bi­o­log­i­cal,’ in the sense that they have been honed by evo­lu­tion, and which are ‘cul­tural’ or ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal’ and might more eas­ily be altered by changed cir­cum­stances, is still fiercely de­bated.

“The sen­si­tiv­ity of the ques­tion was shown last year by a furor at Har­vard Univer­sity. Larry Sum­mers, then Har­vard’s pres­i­dent, caused a storm when he sug­gested that in­nate abil­ity could be an im­por­tant rea­son why there were so few women in the top po­si­tions in math­e­mat­ics, en­gi­neer­ing and the phys­i­cal sci­ences.

“Even as a propo­si­tion for dis­cus­sion, this is un­ac­cept­able to some. But bi­o­log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tions of hu­man be­hav­iour are mak­ing a come­back as the gen­er­a­tion of aca­demics that feared them [. . .] is re­tir­ing. The suc­cess of neo-Dar­win­ism has pro­vided an in­tel­lec­tual un­der­pin­ning for dis­cus­sion about why some dif­fer­ences be­tween the sexes might be in­nate. And new scan­ning tech­niques have en­abled re­searchers to ex­am­ine the brain’s in­te­rior while it is work­ing, show­ing that male and fe­male brains do, at one level, op­er­ate dif­fer­ently.”

From “The mis­mea­sure of wo­man,” in the Aug. 3 is­sue of the Econ­o­mist

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