Vive la difference
“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