Sunday, March 23, 2008

Neuroscience: Vive la difference between boys and girls?

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I have long had a soft spot for Larry Summers, lately president of Harvard University, who was forced to resign in a ridiculous flap during which he merely pointed out what everyone knows, that women are not as attracted to careers in the hard sciences as men are for reasons that may have to do with nature rather than prejudice.

Beats me why that should be a surprise.

Summers is no friend to design theory, to be sure. But he was, after all, railroaded out of his job by hysterics who seemed to me to prove by their behaviour the opposite of what they contended.

Anyway, a recent column by Ashley Herzog reports:

Predictably, scholars who aren’t intimidated by feminists are ridiculed and ostracized. Last year, Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatriast at the University of California San Francisco, published her book The Female Brain, which is based on more than a thousand studies from the fields of genetics, neuroscience, and endocrinology. After decades of research, Brizendine concluded that male and female brains are both structurally and hormonally different. As she wrote, "there is no unisex brain…girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys."

Feminist book reviewers and columnists—who don’t have degrees in neuroscience, just a faith-based belief that socialization accounts for all gender differences—savagely attacked Brizendine and the book, calling it "garbage" and "scary." Displaying feminists’ typical open-mindedness to scientific facts, one reviewer claimed that "I found my self slamming the book down and walking out of the room in an aggressive and angry mood."

Right. And when the book hits the carpet really HARD, you know its author must be wrong.

There. That beats a lot of hard math, right?

What I find really interesting is the way people are always looking for confirmation of weird theories from neuroscience, but they won't accept actual evidence that disconfirms a weird theory. For exmaple, there is way more evidence that boys and girls are different than that weird materialist theories of religion are true.

Incidentally, none of these findings shows that girls can't excel in math and science. They help us understand why many girls do not TRY to excel in math and science. That's useful information, however we choose to use it.

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