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On 7/6/07, Yoshie Furuhashi <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Moreover, biologically speaking, "men" and "women" may be better
thought of as continuum, rather than two separate categories that are
opposite to each other in all things, as many sociobiologists have it.

Thanks for pointing that out.  I have trouble with the basic category error
in all these studies, namely, that the "male brain" and "female brain" are
recognizably different entities from the start.   The terms "male" and
"female" have been agreed to describe differences in physical biological
equipment and in specific chromosomes, but have they been shown to (a)
unequivocally describe physical differences in brain tissue? or (b) any
proven one-to-one correspondence of such physical brain differences to
sexual or DNA differences?  If some murderer removed my brain and divided it
into, say, half a dozen chunks, of which one were subsequently recovered,
would the forensics folks be able to say at a glance -- as for instance,
with my pelvic bones -- oh, yes, these physical remains are almost certainly
those of a female?  (And as I recall from my physical anthropology, without
large reference collections, even "sexing" individuals from pelves is only
about 75% accurate.)

Thus, to attribute the property of sexuality to people's brains seems
meaningless to me, as brains are not reproductive organs.  Are there such
things as "black" brains and "caucasian" brains?   For that matter, are
there "gay" brains and "straight" brains?  The assumption that there are
only two kinds of humans, male and female, seems another gross
overgeneralization, as Yoshie points out.

Granted, I've read only the NYT and a few other reports on the article
('says lead author, Matthias R. Mehl, University of Arizona psychologist,
"Our paper puts to rest the idea that the female brain evolved to be
talkative and the male brain evolved to be reticent."'), so I have no idea
what conceptualization they are short-handing with their talk of "male
brain"/"female brain".    But my sense is that their main goal is simply to
level the playing field that was badly tilted by scientifically unsupported
"urban legends" by insisting, through such studies as this, that
demonstration of difference must precede hypotheses for cause.  Speaking
rates have countless other possible correlations besides gender, both
internal to subject (eg ethnicity, economic class, cultural group, academic
major) and external (conversation types, gender/class/ethnicity/etc of
others).

I read this thread just after my Amer.Soc. Assoc. 'Animals & Society'
newsletter, and a different but related question pops into my mind:

When scientists use mice/rats/monkeys/rabbits etc., in behavioral and
neurobiological experiments, do they always use only-male or only-female
mice because it has already been proven that the sexes of mice/rats/monkeys
etc. are so profoundly different in "male brain" and "female brain" that
each sex would have significantly different test results?  Or do we
generally take male & female non-human animals to be effectively the same in
the anatomy of their brains, while holding open the question for human
sexes?

Claudia