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Differences in Gender in Science

LRV LRVives at msn.com
Sat Feb 8 19:50:36 EST 1997


To whoever asked:

I find it hard to explain human nature in terms of isolated studies, no
matter how good the studies are. They are pieces of a puzzle that research
tries to put together.

The findings of a study does not necessarily apply to individuals in the
population. A study that should follow such a general one should take a
look at men and women doing scientific work. I would tend to believe that
people doing the same job were born with similar "neurobehavioral tools"
and that early-life interests and training may have refined them. 

Take an extreme example: a child with a learning disability for math will
be less likely to choose mathematical activities in early life and may be
good in language or art. With time, he/she will be more likely to get
involved in activities that are "easy" rather than math or engineering. As
an adult, he/she would probably choose a career in the better skills rather
than going for a career in physics or math-related fields.  
Apply the same "relative logic" to the spectrum of abilities people have. 
Different hormones may dictate different early development, but just like
brains vary so do hormonal effects. Normal values of hormones and other
substances that could have an effect on behavior frequently overlap between
genders. 

Historically, women have been excluded from certain activities and men from
others. The male and female hunted until only the strongest-built survived;
so today's male has greater muscular bulk, higher hemoglobin level, etc.
Women may have been underselected in this process because of biologic
issues like excessive menstrual blood loss or pregnancy, which may have
limited the physical performance of an evolutionarily significant
proportion. The dependence of the group on the availability of food may
have prompted the assignment of the hunting role to the male who would
never be pregnant or anemic and could be counted on to bring back food.
However, their brains had already evolved so that the abilities were in
both, but used only by the non-pregnant, non-anemic members of the
community. The time that has elapsed since those primitive communities
existed is short and probably not enough to make the male and female brains
much different.
If we take it from the evolutionary point of view, more women would be
working in business administration, budgeting and medicine, since they
administered the "cave" and took care of children and the sick or moribund.
Their mathematical, forecasting and insight into human nature, development
and disease should be thought to have evolved more. History tells us that
women, more often than men, and in different proportions in different
societies, have been excluded from higher education centers, jobs and
"acceptable roles".

Today, we are still facing those prehistorically assigned roles in spite of
the baby sitters, day care centers and laws that protect nursing mothers
and women's rights to work and get educated. I support the social milieu as
the by far the main cause of the disproportion in the representation of
genders in various professions and activities. It is a matter of "shading"
rather than "absolute values", once again. The spectrum of capabilities of
one gender probably greatly overlaps that of the other..however, that great
overlap and degree of equality is not socially visible.

I think genders are, from the functional perspective, "neurobehaviorally
equal" and "reproductively different" (that's all the difference there is
and may not apply in our times).
Thanks.
LRV








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