Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Behold - men and women have differently wired brains

Alternate headline: "privilege" located on brain scans.

Bonus quote:
“It's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” said Rubin Gur of Pennsylvania University, a co-author of the study.
 Complementary. My prediction: you will not be hearing more about this anytime soon, because 'complementary' implies a whole lot of things about "gender roles" and the like that will drive the thought police bonkers. With their indirectly wired brains and all.

30 comments:

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/04/richard-dawkins-stereotypes-male-female-brain?CMP=twt_gu

Syllabus said...

Well, if by "Richard Dawkins" she means "someone who attacks an argument by not saying anything about the actual argument but by adducing complaints about what he/she thinks the argument promotes and ignoring the data entirely", then....

malcolmthecynic said...

So Codg, in other words, the latest studies have all shown that the prevailing views of the vast majority of civilization are, in fact, correct, and she doesn't like it.

The Deuce said...

LOL, so, basically, she's saying the study is isn't really science because feelbad.

Crude said...

Yeah, that reply from Moore is just... unusual.

I think her comparison to "evolutionary psychology" is flat out wrong. EvoPsych is largely pulling explanations out of a hat based on what you kinda-sorta think people did in prehistory, what was selected for, etc. But if neuroscience shows that men and women have differently wired brains, then... that's that. The brains are wired differently on average. Here is the picture.

At first I thought she was being misunderstood - that maybe she just meant we should allow for environmental influences, individual distinctions, etc, in our considerations. But no, she seems to be setting up the barricades against the idea that women and men may have some deep natural differences.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I just wanted to throw it in the hopper. As soon as I began reading it, the word "mewling" came to mind.

rank sophist said...

Studies like these are often exercises in confirmation bias and the post-hoc fallacy. As another Guardian article explains: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/07/brain-science-ditch-male-female-cliche.

Crude said...

Rank,

Studies like these are often exercises in confirmation bias and the post-hoc fallacy.

The problem is, in this case, it looks as if the difference in wiring is just... explicit. Now, maybe you'll argue that this wiring makes no difference - in which case we're going to have to ask why the wiring is the way it is, and why the pattern seems to correlate to gender. But at the very least we're going to have to acknowledge that, yep, there does seem to be a difference in the brains.

Robin says,

Yes, men and women probably do have differently wired brains, but there is little convincing evidence to suggest these variations are caused by anything other than cultural factors.

Really? I think this is the usual game of, 'Little convincing evidence. By which I mean little evidence that I will say convinces me.' Is Robin also going to say that the only reason men tend to be taller than women is because men are expected to play basketball?

That's really the problem here, and let me explain where things really go off the rails. Women and men are physically different. This, I think, one cannot argue without being absolutely bonkers. (I say this certain that some people will argue it - probably no one in this thread.) They have differences in height. In build. In physical characteristics. In muscle mass. Etc.

The problem is, if you admit this much, then there comes - before even the scientific studies - a pretty reasonable expectation: a different body will lead to different experiences, different typical capabilities, and this will lead to different brains.

I don't think that's an unreasonable conclusion. Which is actually the real source of my problem here: Robin's response isn't a plea not to oversimplify things. They just want the issue oversimplified in the direction they want - with all evidence to the contrary.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

First of all, statistical surveys of this kind deal in averages. In the 500+ female test subjects, for example, they did not see the exact same pattern each time. They whittled away outliers and focused on what they perceived (and perhaps favored) as trends. Feser's friend William Briggs runs a blog on statistics, and, when you read his posts, you realize that findings like these are usually just statistical fictions. They rely on number wizardry and pre-existing biases, backed by the faulty frequentist interpretation of statistics.

But, general skepticism aside, McKie's article should not offend anyone with Thomistic leanings. The idea that men and women have their brains shaped by what they experience is totally in line with Aquinas's theory of habit. Brain plasticity is exactly what he would have expected, had he considered it. You seem to agree here. But then you seem to say that the (average) physical differences between men and women lead (on average) to different brains, which, you imply, validates "traditional" gender roles and stereotypes. Unfortunately, that simply doesn't follow.

Physical differences are accidental, not essential. (The same applies to femininity and masculinity in general: they are accidents, not essences.) Say 8 in 10 women are shorter than 8 in 10 men, and 9 in 10 women are physically weaker than 9 in 10 men. Say that the strongest woman is weaker than the strongest man. And say that these physical differences lead to different experiences, which lead to brain differences. The problem is that these are simply averages and bits of data. They don't tell us how any particular man or woman should behave; they merely offer evidence as to why so many men and women behave in the ways that they do. You can't confuse description with prescription on this issue.

Even if the study is factual (and it probably isn't), it tells us nothing that we did not already know. The Average Man and Average Women--neither of whom has ever existed--display different traits and have biological differences. Jumping from this fact or description to a value or prescription related to universal gender roles is not just a fallacy: it is an indignity to the person, the actual living human that JPII and his successors have focused on so often. On top of that, it tries to subvert the authority of specific cultures--each of which has its own set of gender expectations--with some kind of absolutism, which goes against Aquinas's and Catholicism's insistence that relative cultural norms are (in most cases) morally binding. It's a really bad deal all the way around.

Crude said...

Rank,

They whittled away outliers and focused on what they perceived (and perhaps favored) as trends.

What you're talking about here is a biased sampling pattern. That should be pretty easy to spot if it happened - so what's your evidence on this matter?

You seem to agree here. But then you seem to say that the (average) physical differences between men and women lead (on average) to different brains, which, you imply, validates "traditional" gender roles and stereotypes. Unfortunately, that simply doesn't follow.

You say 'seem to', but really - where is this 'seeming' coming from? I haven't made many claims here, nor has anyone else. The closest you get to your statement would be Malcolm talking about the far and away majority of cultural views, but even that is vague.

Physical differences are accidental, not essential. (The same applies to femininity and masculinity in general: they are accidents, not essences.)

I don't think I agree with this, but that's actually beside the point - your objection is irrelevant. Say it's merely accidental. Alright - granted. But you're still left with the averages, you're still left with the differences, some of them pretty serious. They will be, and I believe are, wide-spread enough to not be taken as mere anomalies. Nothing in particular follows from that, but something well may.

You're really in a situation here of trying to get 2 steps ahead of me in an argument I haven't made, and won't be making. For me, it's enough to point out an article showing that men and women have differently wired brains. What does this lead to? What does it mean? We'll see. But for now, the existence of the difference is enough.

We see why here:

Even if the study is factual (and it probably isn't), it tells us nothing that we did not already know.

Take a good look at that statement. 'The study probably isn't right, but even if it is, it's not telling us something new.' That's quite a thing - 'it's probably wrong, but if it's right, I knew it anyway.' No, I think this study, if factual, does in fact tell many people something new, precisely because there's no shortage of people who deny these differences. The very idea that men and women may have considerable differences between them is not welcomed or believed by, in my experience, a sizable number of people. Plasticity can only do so much.

Jumping from this fact or description to a value or prescription related to universal gender roles is not just a fallacy: it is an indignity to the person, the actual living human that JPII and his successors have focused on so often.

I didn't jump to any 'value', much less 'prescription', based on this. I don't really have many 'prescription' thoughts where women are concerned - they cannot be priests, they should probably stay out of combat aspects of the military. That about covers it. If a woman can be a lumberjack without radically redefining the standards purely so she can be a lumberjack, she's welcome to. I will say, what has long passed for populist 'women's politics' to me is a frightening thing, but there you go. Nor do I think different gender expectations, period, is an indignity to the person in and of itself.

On top of that, it tries to subvert the authority of specific cultures--each of which has its own set of gender expectations--with some kind of absolutism, which goes against Aquinas's and Catholicism's insistence that relative cultural norms are (in most cases) morally binding.

Some cultures suck. PJPII agreed, hence, Culture of Death.

And are you defending gender expectations or not? You're telling me that Aquinas seemed comfortable with them, but most of your post was spent attacking the idea.

malcolmthecynic said...

The real indignity to the human person is assuming that inherent differences in sexes make one sex superior or inferior to the other - something I utterly reject. Even if (and I don't think this is true) it turned out that this study proved that women were terrible at math and shouldn't be allowed to drive, it would mean absolutely nothing to either the male or female sex's inherent value.

Gyan said...

"Physical differences are accidental, not essential."

Perhaps physical differences are categorical.
Thus, the statement "man is stronger than woman" may apply to a category "man" and a category "woman".

It would be similar to the categorical statements -"man is a rational animal", "dog is a four-legged animal" etc.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

You're really in a situation here of trying to get 2 steps ahead of me in an argument I haven't made, and won't be making. For me, it's enough to point out an article showing that men and women have differently wired brains. What does this lead to? What does it mean? We'll see. But for now, the existence of the difference is enough.

The line of argument in your post is one I've seen repeated so many times on Catholic blogs that I assumed you were planning on taking it to the standard conclusions. Looks like I got a little ahead of myself.

The very idea that men and women may have considerable differences between them is not welcomed or believed by, in my experience, a sizable number of people.

Who actually denies that a large group of women exhibit the stereotypical characteristics set forward by the brain article? I don't even think feminists are in that boat. The standard feminist talking point isn't that women aren't that way, it's that they don't have to be that way. This is why they rant on about patriarchy and narratives and brainwashing and such: they're rebelling against the forces that "make" women act in ways traditionally considered feminine.

And there isn't much in McKie's article or in traditional Thomism that disagrees with the gist of this idea, viz. gender identity and inculturation. The main difference is that feminists are generally absolutist liberals who want to destroy tradition in the name of "freedom", whereas Thomism sees tradition as being good, necessary and binding in many cases.

Nor do I think different gender expectations, period, is an indignity to the person in and of itself.

I fully agree. My point was that reifying the abstractions that statistics provides of men and women into some kind of essential, biological necessity is destructive. Gender expectations are one thing; claiming that men and women are biologically determined to exhibit traits X, Y and Z, and that anyone who falls outside of these traits is some kind of deviant from the archetype, is quite another. Not saying that you're doing this--just making a point about where biological determinism about gender leads.

Some cultures suck. PJPII agreed, hence, Culture of Death.

Indeed. But the line between a deviant culture and a different culture is often murky.

And are you defending gender expectations or not? You're telling me that Aquinas seemed comfortable with them, but most of your post was spent attacking the idea.

Aquinas believed that women were biologically inferior to and thus subject to men, because men were better at reasoning. He considered them "spiritual equals", though, which is something. Anyway, as I indicated above, I think that accepting gender expectations is part-and-parcel with accepting traditions. However, traditions are largely collections of positive laws--and so are gender expectations. Positive laws are not universal, and they don't account for every situation. They are subject to development or even revision. The same is true of gender expectations, which are based on generalizations that necessarily cannot account for every case.

To put what I think simply: gender expectations as such are fine; gender archetypes are not universals; gender is in large part a relative positive law (or "social construct") based upon common traits; and there are exceptions to every positive rule.

rank sophist said...

Oh, and one more thing.

What you're talking about here is a biased sampling pattern. That should be pretty easy to spot if it happened - so what's your evidence on this matter?

It isn't a biased sampling pattern; it's a way of manipulating the p-value of the body of research to create a statistically significant result, and of repeating experiments until the desired results take place. (This is how certain regions of the brain got designated "centers" of certain activities to begin with.) It's a lot more complicated than that, as you would see on Briggs' blog, but that's the best description I can manage. And my only evidence is that all studies of this sort rely on the frequentist interpretation of statistics, rather than the Bayesian interpretation--and frequentists always fall into the same trap.

Crude said...

Who actually denies that a large group of women exhibit the stereotypical characteristics set forward by the brain article? I don't even think feminists are in that boat. The standard feminist talking point isn't that women aren't that way, it's that they don't have to be that way. This is why they rant on about patriarchy and narratives and brainwashing and such: they're rebelling against the forces that "make" women act in ways traditionally considered feminine.

The problem is that one of those standard feminist talking points involves a heavy resistance to the idea that there is even so much as a 'default' state for women. It's not that they admit that women are typically way X by default and men are way Y by default but that, with effort, women can become like !X. It's that women are not like X even to begin with. As if men and women are utter blank slates and that, outside of the most obvious standard physical differences (and even some of them are questioned), they're mentally pretty much the same minus the cultural reinforcement.

That I find not to be merely unproven, but nonsense, with evidence pointing against it. One of the comments in Robin's article was 'The data is consistent with the idea that these differences are due to cultural conditioning'. The problem is the data is also consistent with the idea that these differences have a genetic factor.

Not saying that you're doing this--just making a point about where biological determinism about gender leads.

I think there's a certain amount of biological determinism, so to speak. Women can get pregnant - this is not a defect. Etc, etc.

Indeed. But the line between a deviant culture and a different culture is often murky.

You know, I hear this kind of sentiment a lot - I am not convinced. I used to just accept it without questioning it, but no, I think sometimes it's not really all that murky.

To put what I think simply: gender expectations as such are fine; gender archetypes are not universals; gender is in large part a relative positive law (or "social construct") based upon common traits; and there are exceptions to every positive rule.

I deny that it's 'in large part' a 'social construct'. I think the evidence we have indicates that to a large degree, whatever 'social construct' aspects there are, they are ultimately rooted in typical genetic proclivities. I am not at all certain there are exceptions to every positive rule.

It isn't a biased sampling pattern; it's a way of manipulating the p-value of the body of research to create a statistically significant result, and of repeating experiments until the desired results take place.

I am skeptical that this is taking place. If nothing else, you must admit that such a conclusion runs against the current academic culture.

And one comment on Aquinas regarding women as inferior reasoners. I do not think that is necessarily the case by a longshot. But one problem I have is noticing that every major 'women's movement' initiative or collection of female thinkers and, on average, female leaders... leave a lot to be desired. That's putting it gently, and I mean this in terms of left and right alike. I can think of various exceptions, but in terms of the rule? A lot needs to be explained right now.

Gyan said...

"these differences are due to cultural conditioning'."

That there are cultural factors does not mean that the thing itself has any less significance.

Man is a cultural animal. To view him as culture wrapped over a biological core is misunderstand. Man is cultural all the way down.

malcolmthecynic said...

"Aquinas believed that women were biologically inferior to and thus subject to men..."

Well, the Bible makes it pretty clear that, in many cases, they ARE subject to men - like in marriage and in the Church. So he wasn't totally wrong.

And as Crude pointed out...maybe they are, maybe they aren't inferior at reasoning (though I think the GENERAL attitude of pro-choice women, and the state of the country since women got the right to vote, is at least somewhat telling of women taken as a generality), but it seems that they certainly are, in general, inferior leaders.

I don't think it really matters if sex is accidental or not; biology is always going to

malcolmthecynic said...

...to be there, whether we like it or not. And it makes a significant difference.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

As if men and women are utter blank slates and that, outside of the most obvious standard physical differences (and even some of them are questioned), they're mentally pretty much the same minus the cultural reinforcement.

True. But, to a large extent, people in general are blank slates. They become who they are by developing habits, many of them in infancy. This is Thomism 101.

I think there's a certain amount of biological determinism, so to speak. Women can get pregnant - this is not a defect. Etc, etc.

Pregnancy is a sexual trait; not a gender trait. And I've already agreed that the particular physical differences (such as the capacity for pregnancy) between men and women will, in many cases, entail different experiences, different habits and different brains. My point was that, if you take generalizations like "women are emotionally intuitive" or "men are emotionally retarded" to be absolute gender traits, then you end up pointlessly excluding all of the outliers--and there are more than you might think.

You know, I hear this kind of sentiment a lot - I am not convinced. I used to just accept it without questioning it, but no, I think sometimes it's not really all that murky.

Interesting. So, would you say that the practice of toplessness among women in certain parts of Africa is immodest? How about the midriff-baring choli of India? Would you call the hijab oppressive?

There are countless examples of cultural relativity, but the different standards of modesty are a particularly good illustration. Obviously, I agree that a culture can be evil. Americans live in such a culture. But on many issues armchair morality simply does not suffice.

I think the evidence we have indicates that to a large degree, whatever 'social construct' aspects there are, they are ultimately rooted in typical genetic proclivities.

The "evidence" we have is laughably non-existent. First of all, the traits expected from men and women differ by culture. Compare the "Good Wife, Wise Mother" stereotype from East Asia to the "women are emotional rather than intellectual" stereotype common in societies from the western hemisphere. How do you square these with each other? One requires that women be intellectually robust teachers of their children; the other requires women to leave intellectual instruction to their husbands, who are better at reasoning. There isn't even agreement on what universal traits women do exhibit, let alone what traits they are genetically determined to exhibit.

On top of that, all of the "evidence" we have is susceptible to the same cultural explanation that McKie provides in the article I linked. I should add that such an explanation is far more in line with Thomistic philosophy than is the genetic determinism theory, which stems from post-Enlightenment attempts to ground the supremacy of the European white male in "scientific fact". It gave us scientific racism, eugenics and all kinds of great stuff like that.

I am skeptical that this is taking place. If nothing else, you must admit that such a conclusion runs against the current academic culture.

The current academic culture is based on the systematic failure of statisticians to avoid the frequentist model. Read Briggs' blog.

But one problem I have is noticing that every major 'women's movement' initiative or collection of female thinkers and, on average, female leaders... leave a lot to be desired. That's putting it gently, and I mean this in terms of left and right alike. I can think of various exceptions, but in terms of the rule? A lot needs to be explained right now.

I could say the same thing about the vast majority of male thinkers and politicians in English-speaking countries right now. It has nothing to do with gender.

Crude said...

True. But, to a large extent, people in general are blank slates. They become who they are by developing habits, many of them in infancy. This is Thomism 101.

No, and no. This is a bit of bait and switch. 'Blank slate' talk to the extent you suggest is not 'Thomism 101'.

To some extent, people are blank slates. "Large"? Not nearly so large as feminists want to believe. And while habits are important in 'Thomism 101', typical feminist views about this would likely have them failing Thomism. Probably some biology classes too.

Pregnancy is a sexual trait; not a gender trait.

No, it is both. Clearly.

then you end up pointlessly excluding all of the outliers--and there are more than you might think.

First, who was making those generalizations as 'absolute' in the sense you mean? Second - how are there more than I might think? Was there a study? And are you as skeptical of that study as you are of the one mentioned in the OP, if so?

Interesting. So, would you say that the practice of toplessness among women in certain parts of Africa is immodest? How about the midriff-baring choli of India? Would you call the hijab oppressive?

"Sometimes it's really not all that murky." Not always. And I'd say no, no and - much to the chagrin of many - no. The hijab itself isn't oppressive. Now, in principle actions one may take to keep a woman in one may be called oppressive. But covering clothing is not oppressive, even as a cultural norm.

And that's clear-cut.

Obviously, I agree that a culture can be evil. Americans live in such a culture. But on many issues armchair morality simply does not suffice.

Bring them out. Let's see.

The "evidence" we have is laughably non-existent.

I think it's abundant, and - this is key - also vastly better supported than standard feminist views to the contrary.

First of all, the traits expected from men and women differ by culture. Compare the "Good Wife, Wise Mother" stereotype from East Asia to the "women are emotional rather than intellectual" stereotype common in societies from the western hemisphere. How do you square these with each other?

Because intelligence and wisdom are different. Haven't you played Dungeons and Dragons?

More seriously, that's going to depend on how 'wise mother' is cashed out. My momentary Google-scholar activity on 'Good wife, Wise mother' indicates that this developed - at least in Japan - largely as a government initiative, and hardly one that focused heavily on formal schooling or having keen insight into deep topics of education. This was more 'You should know to feed your child good food, take care of sick children, etc.' Not exactly 'women can't do this' thinking in the West.

There isn't even agreement on what universal traits women do exhibit, let alone what traits they are genetically determined to exhibit.

Oh, I think there's plenty of agreement, certainly with regards to the default and general physical factors. And if you can get the physical factors, you get a reasonable basis for mental suspicions as well.

On top of that, all of the "evidence" we have is susceptible to the same cultural explanation that McKie provides in the article I linked.

Do you apply this standard when a study shows 'men, women largely the same'?

The current academic culture is based on the systematic failure of statisticians to avoid the frequentist model.

I think the current academic culture involves academics who would typically rather eat their own non-existent offspring than promote a scientific study concluding something politically incorrect about women or people with same-sex attraction.

Crude said...

It has nothing to do with gender.

Sure it does. In fact, here's a potential illustration.

I don't think you'd dispute that Women's Studies is a field dominated by women. Likewise, feminism in general. Are both of these things, on average, anything other than intellectually abhorrent in the main?

In fact, can you point at any female-dominated intellectual field - I'll include religion in this - that isn't a freaking disaster? I say this hesitantly, because I'd like to be proven wrong. Seriously. I am not against female bankers, female engineers, female various-jobs, certainly not as a rule. But I cannot ignore the patterns I notice.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

No, and no. This is a bit of bait and switch. 'Blank slate' talk to the extent you suggest is not 'Thomism 101'.

This isn't an argument.

No, it is both. Clearly.

Honestly, I have no idea what that even means. How can a sexual trait be a gender trait? Gender traits are related to culture and the mind. A sexual trait can cause a gender trait, certainly, but it can't be one.

Second - how are there more than I might think? Was there a study? And are you as skeptical of that study as you are of the one mentioned in the OP, if so?

There was no study. That was based on personal experience.

I'd say no, no and - much to the chagrin of many - no.

Justify these assertions philosophically, please. Once you've done that, try to explain why the same logic couldn't apply to, say, the bikini or "muscle tee". Then you'll see why I said they were murky issues.

I think it's abundant, and - this is key - also vastly better supported than standard feminist views to the contrary.

I don't endorse the standard feminist view. But your counter-argument is basically just an assertion.

More seriously, that's going to depend on how 'wise mother' is cashed out.

From Wikipedia:

"Women were expected to master such domestic skills as sewing and cooking as well as develop the moral and intellectual skills to raise strong, intelligent sons and daughters for the sake of the nation."

Also, "Good Wife, Wise Mother" wasn't a government initiative, although it wasn't a traditional Confucian view, either. It's an ideology that was created in the 1800s to respond to modernity, which then came to be seen as traditional Confucianism. My point was simply that it represents an alternative view of women from the European one.

Do you apply this standard when a study shows 'men, women largely the same'?

What standard? And what study showed that? My point is simple: cultural formation is far more important than anything else in determining the way one acts and thinks.

I don't think you'd dispute that Women's Studies is a field dominated by women. Likewise, feminism in general. Are both of these things, on average, anything other than intellectually abhorrent in the main?

I don't think you'd dispute that analytic philosophy is a field dominated by men (source). Likewise, contemporary philosophy in general. Are both of these things, on average, anything other than intellectually abhorrent in the main?

In fact, can you point at any male-dominated intellectual field - I'll include religion in this - that isn't a freaking disaster?

Theology, philosophy, ethics--all of these things are dominated by men, and all of them are in the most dire condition they've ever been in. What you're intuiting is the intellectual climate; not anything related to women. Certainly there are pockets of brilliance in what men produce. The same could be said of women. If you want to read the philosophical work of intelligent women, check out Anscombe, Foot, Eleonore Stump or the essays of Flannery O'Connor. On religion, look up the writings of Edith Stein or Therese of Lisieux.

Crude said...

This isn't an argument.

It's a statement of the facts. You yourself can cite Aquinas believing in natures and in some considerable innate differences between men and women. It's not as if 'This is Aquinas 101' is an argument either.

There was no study. That was based on personal experience.

Great. I'm not going to call that invalid - so long as I can call my own personal experience valid too.

Honestly, I have no idea what that even means. How can a sexual trait be a gender trait? Gender traits are related to culture and the mind. A sexual trait can cause a gender trait, certainly, but it can't be one.

Because there are cultural and mental aspects of pregnancy at work. Do gender traits fail to be gender traits just because of their cause?

Justify these assertions philosophically, please. Once you've done that, try to explain why the same logic couldn't apply to, say, the bikini or "muscle tee". Then you'll see why I said they were murky issues.

I'll focus on the hijab: because there's nothing oppressive about a piece of clothing in and of itself. That's like saying beekeeper suits are oppressive. They can be sweaty. They can be uncomfortable. They can be inconvenient. Oppressive, in and of themselves? No.

Again, I reject this claim of 'murky'. I think sometimes issues can be murky - other times, it's to make it seem as if an issue is more complicated or clear cut than it is.

You're the one saying it's murky. Show me how the question of the hijab's oppressiveness is murky - my guess is you are going to need to get into something way beyond the clothing itself.

I don't endorse the standard feminist view. But your counter-argument is basically just an assertion.

Considering it's an indisputable fact that men and women have considerable physical differences, and that these physical differences can trivially lead to different mental states, the side I'm arguing for starts out with more evidence out of the gates.

"Women were expected to master such domestic skills as sewing and cooking as well as develop the moral and intellectual skills to raise strong, intelligent sons and daughters for the sake of the nation."

Everything there is compatible with the western view - the only 'murky' area is intellectual skill, and as I said, from what I've read that meant 'Know how to feed your children healthy food' and other things that the western views comport with.

What standard? And what study showed that? My point is simple: cultural formation is far more important than anything else in determining the way one acts and thinks.

And while I think culture is supremely important, I disagree with the extent claimed by most feminists I encounter, and certainly with the confidence of their views such that the lack of women in engineering and physics must be a case of the patriarchy at work.

I don't think you'd dispute that analytic philosophy is a field dominated by men (source). Likewise, contemporary philosophy in general. Are both of these things, on average, anything other than intellectually abhorrent in the main?

Your source is Colin McGinn sending dirty effing texts to a student?

I think the current state of philosophy is bad. Intellectually abhorrent in the main? Not quite so. And to the extent it is, a good share of those problems come from initiatives that are hard to disentangle from modern feminism. Not exclusively, but that's certainly front and center.

Crude said...

In fact, can you point at any male-dominated intellectual field - I'll include religion in this - that isn't a freaking disaster?

Computer science? Game development? The Catholic Church? And while I have my complaints about the Church, and the hierarchy, it is heaven on earth compared to what religious mutant the episcopalian church has become.

Oh, but we have a comparison within the Church as well - the LCWR nuns. How'd that turn out?

I'm not denying there are individual brilliant women. Absolutely. The best bet you'd have at showing me a male-dominated field which is an intellectual disaster would be the Cult of Gnu. And the Cult of Gnu is heavily loaded with male feminists.

Crude said...

And my McGinn comment wasn't in doubting the field. I just thought that was a weird source for it.

Anyway...

Thinkers from Aristotle to Kant questioned whether women were fully capable of reason. Today, many in the field say, gender bias and outright sexual harassment are endemic in philosophy, where women make up less than 20 percent of university faculty members, lower than in any other humanities field, and account for a tiny fraction of citations in top scholarly journals.

Yeah, I question the gender bias and outright sexual harassment bits. And it seems to be 'because there's not more women there'.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

It's a statement of the facts. You yourself can cite Aquinas believing in natures and in some considerable innate differences between men and women.

Aquinas did not believe that men and women had different natures. He believed that they had the same nature, but, with Aristotle, that women were a more imperfect and less noble instantiation of that nature. He had no concept of complementarity, except sexually. On the other hand, he acknowledges that individuals are shaped by inculturation, particularly at a young age.

If you want to endorse Aquinas's full account, which is backed by almost no logical arguments and is one of his weakest claims, then be my guest. But don't pretend that it's anything like what contemporary Catholics believe. It's an extremely outdated and disturbingly sexist view repudiated by most current Thomists. On the other hand, his belief that habit and custom form people is sound. I prefer to accept that part and ditch his sexist nonsense.

Because there are cultural and mental aspects of pregnancy at work.

Please enumerate them.

I'll focus on the hijab: because there's nothing oppressive about a piece of clothing in and of itself.

The hijab is also the least problematic piece of clothing I mentioned. I'd appreciate it if you could also explain the difference between the bikini or muscle tee and toplessness or the choli, and why one is right and the other is wrong.

You're the one saying it's murky. Show me how the question of the hijab's oppressiveness is murky - my guess is you are going to need to get into something way beyond the clothing itself.

Women who don't wear the hijab are considered immodest. That is a Muslim standard of modesty. But Christian women are not expected to wear the hijab, and revealing one's hair and neck is considered perfectly fine. Why isn't the Christian standard the "right" one? Why isn't the hijab considered another example of Islam's "oppressive" doctrines, like teetotalism or the ban on men and women dancing together? By the way--what about those doctrines? Should we consider them fine or false? How do we distinguish the relative from the absolute on any of these issues?

Considering it's an indisputable fact that men and women have considerable physical differences, and that these physical differences can trivially lead to different mental states, the side I'm arguing for starts out with more evidence out of the gates.

What is your side? As far as I can tell, you endorse a variety of gender essentialism. My argument is that gender derives from custom and from the different experiences that physical differences can cause. This is more-or-less gender nominalism: there are only individual men and women with individual experiences and bodies, and any concept we use to connect them universally will necessarily be a generalization and construct.

So, I'm lost. In places, you seem to accept that habit and plasticity are the causes of gender differences, and that physical differences contribute to these only by limiting the possible experiences of the person. But this contradicts your seeming insistence that gender differences are genetically determined and thereby essential. What are you arguing, here?

rank sophist said...


Everything there is compatible with the western view - the only 'murky' area is intellectual skill, and as I said, from what I've read that meant 'Know how to feed your children healthy food' and other things that the western views comport with.

That isn't what it means, as I showed.

And while I think culture is supremely important, I disagree with the extent claimed by most feminists I encounter

So, again: what are you arguing? More importantly, who are you arguing against? Are you arguing against my Thomism-based theory? Or are you arguing against the postmodern ramblings of the feminists?

Intellectually abhorrent in the main? Not quite so.

That's now how you would describe analytic philosophy's Fregean notion of existence, or its rampant materialism, or its adoration of Daniel Dennett, or its flirtation with eliminativism? How about the absurdity of symbolic logic or modalism, or the logical positivism that still influences current thought? How about the pathetic theistic arguments that haunt the field? I would consider all of this at least as bad as feminist theory. And, before you appeal to the rare high points of analytic philosophy, I will counter: feminist theory has high points as well. Most of it is hogwash, but a few of its arguments and concepts are valid. I would say the exact same thing about analytic philosophy.

Computer science? Game development? The Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church is a disaster, particularly in America. It is an absolute trainwreck, and it has been for about a hundred years. Why do you think Pope Francis is so relentless about reforming it?

As for computer science and game development, I don't really consider them intellectual fields. Either way, computer science is, to my knowledge, currently stagnant. Game development is a mess, and for about a decade it has achieved the seemingly impossible task of getting worse every single year. Are there bright spots? Sure. But you have to dig.

Oh, but we have a comparison within the Church as well - the LCWR nuns. How'd that turn out?

Don't be dense. I'll see your schismatic liberal group and raise you the male-dominated Sedevacantists. And, as far as the idea of women's groups led by women goes, convents have been doing that for nearly 2,000 years. Look at all the intellectual confusion and heresy they've churned out, huh?

As for the McGinn article, it was where I read the 20% statistic for the first time a few months ago, so I just tossed it out as my source.

malcolmthecynic said...

Game development is a mess, and for about a decade it has achieved the seemingly impossible task of getting worse every single year.

I just finished the PS3 Journey for the third time. I got it on Friday.

Considering all of the great games that have come out recently, and considering that we are living in the golden age of indie games, with some truly remarkable titles coming out of that area ("FTL" comes to mind quickly, as does "Limbo"), I could not disagree more. I mean, "Portal 2" (one of the best games EVER)? "Arkham Asylum"? "BioShock Infinite"? "The Last of Us"? GTA V?

For full disclosure - of those games I've played only "Portal 2" and part of "BioShock Infinite" - but they're all so highly regarded both within the industry and among gamers that I really will go as far as to say that it's totally and completely ridiculous to say that gaming has been getting worse, and right after a new console generation too (though lack of backwards compatibility on the PS4 still pisses me off...).

Get over Zynga, if that's it. They're big, but there's a lot of stuff going on with gaming beyond them.

RS, serious question - What is YOUR point here? You claim not to be a feminist - where do you differ strongly? What do you think the important distinctions are between men and women? Are gender roles the proper way to go, or not? The Bible seems to indicate that wives, at least, are supposed to be very submissive, and outright says that women shouldn't lead a man. It even goes as far as to say that while man is made in the image of God, woman is made in the image of man. Basically, it outright states that women can only gain any sort of practical equality through motherhood, which is by far the most useful thing a woman can do. Men are meant to lead - women to follow, and to mother. This is some pretty clear stuff from St. Paul. Do you agree with all of it?

Crude said...

Get over Zynga, if that's it. They're big, but there's a lot of stuff going on with gaming beyond them.

The irony is that Zynga is one of the few gaming giants that is huge, by and large, with women.

rank sophist said...

Malcolm,

I just finished the PS3 Journey for the third time.

Interesting. That game was produced by a woman.

For full disclosure - of those games I've played only "Portal 2" and part of "BioShock Infinite" - but they're all so highly regarded both within the industry and among gamers that I really will go as far as to say that it's totally and completely ridiculous to say that gaming has been getting worse, and right after a new console generation too (though lack of backwards compatibility on the PS4 still pisses me off...).

Video games have been getting more generic and more commercialized each year. And every year they focus more on savagery, which I talked about on Joe K's blog earlier this year. (But, for what it's worth, I liked Portal more than Portal 2--and Portal was designed by a woman.)

Get over Zynga, if that's it. They're big, but there's a lot of stuff going on with gaming beyond them.

Zynga has nothing to do with it. I simply think that the quality of video games in general has decreased in the last ten years. It's not relevant to the argument, though.

You claim not to be a feminist - where do you differ strongly?

Feminism is based on postmodernism, and I'm not a postmodernist. I don't believe that all values are relative, or that happiness is subjective, or that ideas like "human nature" are social constructs, or that tradition is evil, or that the entire world is reducible to power struggles. That pretty much rules out any chance of me being a feminist.

What do you think the important distinctions are between men and women?

Because the differences are accidental rather than essential, I can't claim to provide any definitive list of distinctions between the sexes. There are generalizations, though. Men are often aggressive; women are often emotionally intuitive. Men often display "choleric" ambition and leadership tendencies; women often prefer advisory roles. Men generally like to debate more than women do. Again, though, these are simply generalizations--and ones based in my own culture. They are not universal even in America.

Are gender roles the proper way to go, or not?

Gender roles are often appropriate, but they are not universally applicable. They're customs.

The Bible seems to indicate that wives, at least, are supposed to be very submissive, and outright says that women shouldn't lead a man. It even goes as far as to say that while man is made in the image of God, woman is made in the image of man. Basically, it outright states that women can only gain any sort of practical equality through motherhood, which is by far the most useful thing a woman can do. Men are meant to lead - women to follow, and to mother. This is some pretty clear stuff from St. Paul. Do you agree with all of it?

The Bible does not interpret itself. Those passages you mentioned are often used by rad-trads to defend "tradition", but a totally different method of interpretation has been applied to them by people like JPII. I have no interest in debating the finer points of biblical exegesis regarding gender roles, however.