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The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    

 

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Wednesday
Mar082006

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).

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Glad to see your contributions to the Shotgun. Also, always enjoyed my days at the Fitness Institute. Blogs are like mental aerobics



Having read “Men from Mars, Women from Venus” and totally agreeing with the differences; 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.


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March 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternomdenet
What really irks me is feminist talk about 'social constructs.' Many people tend to think that society has made these socially constructed and defined roles for men and women, but does anyone ever ask the question, "are these social constructs natural?" I, without any research to back my claim, would argue, that social and gender constructs are natural. If it wasn't natural for women to want to establish a home, and nurture children, why would we do it? I absolutely agree that there are biological differences between men and women which makes us take different roles in our society. It's a natural thing and shouldn't be fought against. Men and women can be 'equal', but not the same. Why do feminists want to make us men? Instead of striving to be like a man, women should embrace and be proud of being a woman, different from a man!

That's not to say that women shouldn't be firefighters or in any other profession that is stereotypically a male job. If a woman can do the work, it's fine. But the requirements should not be lessened to allow for women to be hired. There is much talk in my university political science classes about the lack of women in politics. But why is there a lack of women? It's not because they are running and not getting elected, it's because women aren't running! Why aren't they running? Well, maybe they have different priorities and getting involved in politics may not appeal to a large number of women. I think this is fine. A woman shouldn't get the position just because they need to fill their quota of women needed. The best person should get the job, man or woman. I am proud to be a woman, I'm 'equal', but different from a man, as it should be.
July 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

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