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The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Male versus female

It is easy to see why the politically-correct prudes who hold authority in American universities absolutely detest George Will:
Forgive Larry Summers. He did not know where he was.

Addressing a conference on the supposedly insufficient numbers of women in tenured positions in university science departments, he suggested that perhaps part of the explanation might be innate -- genetically based -- gender differences in cognition. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.

He was at Harvard, where he is president. Since then he has become a serial apologizer and accomplished groveler. Soon he may be in a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp somewhere in New England, relearning this: In today's academy, no social solecism is as unforgivable as the expression of a hypothesis that offends someone's "progressive" sensibilities.

Someone like MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, the hysteric who, hearing Summers, "felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill." She said that if she had not bolted from the room, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

Is this the fruit of feminism? A woman at the peak of the academic pyramid becomes theatrically flurried by an unwelcome idea and, like a Victorian maiden exposed to male coarseness, suffers the vapors and collapses on the drawing room carpet in a heap of crinolines until revived by smelling salts and the offending brute's contrition.

Here's a shock: I think men and women are very different. It's true! Not just in their biologies, but in the way they approach the world and attempt to understand it.

Why is this thought so troubling?

Men and women are clearly different in their sexual desires, mainly because of biological imperatives. A woman needs one man for a long-term relationship, because bearing and raising children is hard work.

Men would - if all societal and moral constraints could be removed (and willing women could be found) - act like sexual brutes, having sex as many times with as many women as possible. In areas of US society where such constraints have been removed, there is chaos that is not conducive to raising children.

But most men are not like that. In the interests of society, men repress their predatory sexual natures and (usually) settle down with one woman.
Reason - insofar as reason informs culture and morality - conquers the savage. The brutish sexual nature is little more than an annoying itch to most men, committed as they are to living in monogamous loving relationships and raising children. This act - men getting married - is the cornerstone of functioning modern society.

Male-female differences are almost all nature and very little nurture.

Unfortunately, modern liberalims has wagered alot on the nuture side of things. Many liberals believe that it is mostly nuture: that is, people are capable of being molded into scientists or writers or politicians. (Or perfectly tolerant little liberals). For this reason, liberals are naturally eager to control institutions that are meant to educate and inform (i.e. train) people (schools, journalism, the mainline churches).

Unfortunately for them, it is also part of their problem: There is a parochial aspect to contemporary liberalism that "common" people (those stupid sexist redneck red-state brutes) find just a little offensive.

Of course, the idea - that people can be completely molded from their natures - is a losing argument. If it is all nuture, for example, then it stands to reason that certain cultures will excel in producing certain kinds of people. For example, it may very well be that Asian families - very close-knit and respectful of knowledge - produce scientists at an above average rate.

Liberals may be inclined to accept such evidence with a shrug until they realize that such reasoning overturns the very tortured logic of "Affirmative Action:" it justifies why more science-minded Asians should be over-represented in the sciences, in numbers far above their percentages in the general population.

Of course, while both nature and nurture play a role, there is no denying that male and female start with different natures, different biological imperatives and different roles in the world. This does mean that they are not equal before the law, or that they should not have equal opportunities to excel as far as their talents can take them. The women scientists I have known are every bit as capable as their male counterparts.

We are speaking of general trends, not absolutes. I'll be the first to admit that my wife, for example, has a much more logical mind than I do - a fact that makes her different from most women. This aspect of her personality is one of the things I find most appealing about her.

But the inherent male-female differences mean that we should not approach things like the male-female disparity in the sciences with a jaundiced eye. Certainly, some of the female underrepresentation can be explained away with sexism. Society should always seek to eliminate such outright bias. But the disparity should be studied without preconceptions about the biases of society.

We should view these disparities as data, and data is meant to inform the open mind.

Females, from a very young age, tend to be more interested in understanding interpersonal relationships. Perhaps young girls play with dolls and host tea parties because society tells them to do so. But it is quite possible that if they were isolated from the invisible sexist hand of society, they would still do such things - just as they do in every culture in the world. Even die-hard feminists do not expect their little girls to act like boys, planning attacks on enemy forts beyond the brambles and getting into fights.

Now imagine a man saying this: I "felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill...I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

It is virutally inconceivable that a man would say such a thing. And it is inherently unscientific to approach unwelcome thoughts by throwing up.

Let us study them.

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