Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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ACtually the main thing I took from that study was that it was crap, and the reporting on it was poorly done.
""Our findings may help answer an important question -- why do we feel male or female?" Dr. Eric Vilain, a genetics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Sexual identity is rooted in every person's biology before birth and springs from a variation in our individual genome." "
This is not logically connected to anything about their actual study. Finding that some genes are produced at different levels between male and female mice (and I would think that mouse brains would be different from human brains for a whole host of reasons) does not have a single blessed thing to do with how we "feel" about our sex identity. Or at least, if it does, there's a ton of steps in the middle describing the cause and effect relationship that they conveniently left out.
For all we know, those genes are simply what is necessary to trigger puberty at the appropriate time and has no influence on sex identity or individual behaviour whatsoever. For all we know, those genes build testicles and ovaries. Any conclusions for what these genes do are premature. WAY premature. Connecting them to sex identity is like ... an astronomer saying "We found a distant sun-like star with an earth-like planet orbiting it. We now know that there is intelligent life on other planets."
"For example, the two hemispheres of the brain appeared more symmetrical in females than in males. According to Vilain, the symmetry may improve communication between both sides of the brain, leading to enhanced verbal expressiveness in females."
Now this is just stupid.
First of all, male and female mice do not have "verbal expressiveness."
Secondly, "verbal" anything does not reside in brain **symmetry**--there specific parts of the left and right hemispheres that are devoted to speech and verbal ability. This is just using science to justify preconceptions. Any scientist with a basic understanding of neurobiology would know this guy is making it up.
I really hate this kind of "science" and its reporting.
Unfortunately, scientists have been using badly flawed scientific studies and poorly reasoned conclusions to justify their ideas about what men and women are "really" like for hundreds of years. In the last century, scientists weighed the brains of men and women, found that women's brains weighed less, and said, "Well that proves it then, women really are less intelligent than men, no point sending them to school."
And let's not forget that in some societies, women are not expected or allowed to speak--it's men who are assumed to have greater "verbal ability" (as well as every other kind of ability). What would their scientists have made of these findings? "The greater symmetry of female brains is a clear sign of their inferiority; male brains are more exciting and diverse."
ARguments like this actually were made when scientists first discovered that sex was determined by x and y chromosomes. Men were supposed to be better because they had one of each; and women were inferior because they had two that were the same. Making them more limited and more like each other, you see, than men are.
Personally I find it problematic that we have this obsession with classifying everyone as either "male" or "female". Modifying someone's genitals will not change the fact that they are intersex; it simply makes them more "acceptable" to society and gives them an identity that other people can understand. I fully support such surgery for anyone who chooses it (although I have questions about the way sex reassignment surgery is today performed--but that's another topic). We're all adults, we can do what we like with our bodies. But I think that, as a society, we'd be better off if we stopped trying to force everyone into either the "male" or "female" box.
I want to make clear that I fully support equality for people of all sex identities and orientations. I can't buy that someone would "choose" to be gay or transgender--who would want to be discriminated against and make themselves a target of hate groups? But I don't believe this study has anything to do with it.
Sorry for the long post! This kind of thing tends to get my hackles up.