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The Science of Gender and Science

Filed under: General — JohnPotter @ 10:20 am Wed 11th May 2005

On April 22, 2005, Harvard University’s Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative (MBB) held a defining debate on the public discussion that began on January 16th with the public comments by Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, on sex differences between men and women and how they may relate to the careers of women in science.

The Science of Gender and Science – Pinker vs. Spelke

A DEBATE
…on the research on mind, brain, and behavior that may be relevant to gender disparities in the sciences, including the studies of bias, discrimination and innate and acquired difference between the sexes.

Who won the debate? Make up your own mind. Watch the video, listen to the audio, read the text and check out the slide presentations.

STEVEN PINKER is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His research has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and he is the author of six books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate.

ELIZABETH S. SPELKE is Berkman Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, where she is Co-Director of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is cited by Time Magazine as one of America’s Best in Science and Medicine.

Very interesting material here.
I’m also very impressed by the comprehensive presentation of different media, a good model to aspire to for those of us using the web to educate others.

Fascinating that Pinker, arguing against the Extreme Nurture position (that males and females are biologically indistinguishable, and all relevant sex differences are products of socialization and bias), says:

“I am a feminist. I believe that women have been oppressed, discriminated against, and harassed for thousands of years. I believe that the two waves of the feminist movement in the 20th century are among the proudest achievements of our species, and I am proud to have lived through one of them, including the effort to increase the representation of women in the sciences.”

“But it is crucial to distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex โ€“ which I take to be the core of feminism โ€“ and the empirical claim that males and females are biologically indistinguishable. They are not the same thing. Indeed, distinguishing them is essential to protecting the core of feminism. Anyone who takes an honest interest in science has to be prepared for the facts on a given issue to come out either way.”

I had to laugh when I read:

“It is said that there is a technical term for people who believe that little boys and little girls are born indistinguishable and are molded into their natures by parental socialization. The term is “childless.””

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