Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Vaniver » Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:45 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:2) Gathering was probably a much better way to get food than hunting was in many hunting/gathering societies.
Leaving aside the value of protein, fighting over gathering ground is just as plausible as fighting over hunting ground.

Enuja wrote:4) We know from archeology and anthropology that different hunter/gather societies were structured very differently (our ancestors didn't just make one set of decisions that had one set of evolutionary outcomes).
Weren't the vast majority of differently structured societies (in the sense of differently structured from what came after) memetic dead ends? Matriarchal tribes did not become matriarchal developed societies; they vanished.

Enuja wrote: 5) The cultural ideal of women = homemaker and man = breadwinner is a super-recent Western culture invention. In Europe and American before the Industrial Revolution, marriages were economic alliances and the creation of a household economic unit where both members "worked" hard in the home/farm. Women as "homemaker" was part of the devaluation of household work as men left the home and worked in factories and as professionals.
Then why did Xenophon write the Oeconomicus?

The economic alliance is probably tied for the most important component of early marriage with child-rearing, but it's pretty clear throughout the history of developed societies that there has been men's work and women's work, and men were considered the head of the household. Men's work was probably not drastically more valuable than women's work until the industrial revolution, and it's clear that men and women had different spheres of management instead of the man always giving orders. But the consideration of women as political equals, even on frontier farms who were the most receptive to that message, took over a decade of work.


As for Me321's musings: that's the unscientific way to go about it. The scientific way is to ask, "can we tell what percentage of our ancestors were men?" Through DNA research I don't pretend to understand, we can- and humans have roughly twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors. That is, the average number of men that had successful offspring is about half that of the average number of women that had successful offspring.

Now, we can't spring from that to "and thus all sex/gender stereotypes are true!" Instead, we can just get an idea of what sort of effects are reasonable. Increased risk-taking compared to women is a sensible male trait- the men that do win win big, but if you're not a big winner, you're a dead end. Increased investment in children among women compared to men seems like it would come about because men, on the whole, have more children to invest in than women.

Note that these are all comparative, and averages among reproductively successful men. The great example here is intelligence- there are no credible explanations why the average of men's and women's intelligence should be different. Any intelligence gains among genes carried by males will go into both males and females in the next generation. However, there are credible reasons to believe that the variance among men and women is different- and thus more males will end up both in prisons and in academia. If the intelligence of fathers is higher than the intelligence of males in general, however, it makes sense to suspect that the intelligence of fathers will be higher than the intelligence of mothers, presuming the same 2-1 mother-father ratio. If that's not the case in modern society (I suspect but do not know that the ratio of mothers to fathers is closer to 1-1 now than 2-1), then we should see the effects caused by that 2-1 ratio slowly disappearing over time.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Enuja » Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

Vanvier, I was responding to Me321's post. I was not writing a freestanding description of human history. I did not address, in any way shape or form, patriarchal versus matriarchal societies. It is quite possible to have deeply patriarchal societies where women are property and also important economic workers, not protected homemakers. I was responding to this quote.
Me321 wrote:First we all have to agree that there are differences between men and women, other than just the obvious, these differences generally have men being stronger and seen as the protector and the bread winner, and women are seen as the housewife and more involved with raising the children, regardless of why you think this happens, it does, so why does it happen?
I disagree with Me321's basic statement, especially the "bread winner" and "housewife" part. I don't have any problems with "men were on average stronger and women were more involved with raising children" as a generalization about past human societies, but that leaves a lot of room for differences in specifics that Me321 was not allowing. My ideas about the history of gender come from have read Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz and a few anthropological papers about the male's role in child raising in different societies. I wasn't arguing that women had all the power, just that men have been all kinds of things, but only occasionally and recently "breadwinners" with a "housewife." Vanvier's link is to a Wikipedia article about source in which the male is deeply and specifically involved as the head of the economic household, giving orders and teachings to the wife, not earning money and then turning it over to her for her management of the household. In other words, it supports instead of undermines the argument I was making.

Vanvier wrote:Weren't the vast majority of differently structured societies (in the sense of differently structured from what came after) memetic dead ends?
Nope. Human societies have been diverse and constantly changing. Societies haven't found a single system that worked and stuck with it. Everyone can be quite certain that their distant ancestors had very different ideas of gender and gender roles than they do.

Looking over it, I appear to have misread Me321's post: I thought that the people were being sent to hunt, not into battle, which is why I was addressing hunting versus gathering. Anyway, my point stands: because small group societies have a tendency to be egalitarian (not gender egalitarian, individual power egalitarian), there isn't a single chief who decides everything. Instead, individuals and groups decide who does what. You can't just send specific people to fight: you have to convince them to go fight, or convince them not to fight. A thought experiment with specific conditions is just that, and the actual evolutionary history depends on actual conditions, not on imaged ones, and the imagined conditions are unrealistic.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Vaniver » Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:01 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:I disagree with Me321's basic statement, especially the "bread winner" and "housewife" part. I don't have any problems with "men were on average stronger and women were more involved with raising children" as a generalization about past human societies, but that leaves a lot of room for differences in specifics that Me321 was not allowing. My ideas about the history of gender come from have read Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz and a few anthropological papers about the male's role in child raising in different societies. I wasn't arguing that women had all the power, just that men have been all kinds of things, but only occasionally and recently "breadwinners" with a "housewife."
I would argue that it seems common that women have the majority of the internal focus in a household, and men have most of the external focus- only in a mercantile society does that manifest as 'breadwinner' and 'housewife,' but the general differences between 'master' and 'mistress' are ancient and durable.

It is worth remembering that the industrial revolution was in many ways the first step in the widespread liberation of women- if many women could be something other than 'housewife,' it was because 'factory seamstress' was a widespread and lucrative position which allowed women to be socially and financially independent en masse.

Vanvier's link is to a Wikipedia article about source in which the male is deeply and specifically involved as the head of the economic household, giving orders and teachings to the wife, not earning money and then turning it over to her for her management of the household. In other words, it supports instead of undermines the argument I was making.
The Oeconomicus is, in parts, about a ~30-40 year old man instructing his first wife (~15-20) on how to manage a household; since she is moving from a fairly sheltered position to the mistress of a household, Xenophon thought it might be helpful to have a manual of sorts. There's more going on, but that's the relevant bit.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby jules.LT » Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:18 am UTC

I just saw this in another thread:
Joeldi wrote:Okay, so I've been of the belief that gendering is almost wholly a social function, physical sex has very little direct effect on behaviour, classifying anything as 'female behaviours' or 'male behaviours' is sexism in its purest and while there must be small differences in brain chemistry, it can't be that different or men and women would be much more different than even the most backward of sexists would have us believe...


Although obviously our upbringing and culture have a massive effect on our gender-specific behaviours, I find it ridiculous to dismiss physiological differences like they hardly have any effect at all.
The main culprits, in my mind, are hormones. Those seem to affect people's behaviours drastically, especially with regards to sex and agressivity. And hormone levels and cycles in typical men and women are very different.

Do note that I don't mean to imply anything about men and women's relative abilities.
(although physical abilities are obviously deeply affected by their hormone levels)

P.S: As I read through this thread, I found the link at the beginning to be broken. This probably includes the article they were talking about.

EDIT: link to the original thread as requested
Last edited by jules.LT on Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:25 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

There is a significant body of evidence that points towards Testosterone causing aggressive behavior.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggression#Testosterone

Since men biologically have more testosterone than woman, you would expect men to be more aggressive, regardless of socialization. This has a lot of impact on all kinds of behavior through life.

This is also observed across species, making it somewhat difficult to be the result of socialization.

In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby podbaydoor » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:34 pm UTC

So the problem with that line of thought is - what happens when a woman with high levels of testosterone is legally and/or socially punished into staying home and having kids on the strength of having boobs and a vag? That's equally ludicrous.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Роберт » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:51 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:So the problem with that line of thought is - what happens when a woman with high levels of testosterone is legally and/or socially punished into staying home and having kids on the strength of having boobs and a vag? That's equally ludicrous.

Not sure what you're responding to. What do you think is ludicrous?
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby podbaydoor » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:13 pm UTC

This:
stevey_frac wrote:In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Роберт » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:24 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:This:
stevey_frac wrote:In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.

Sure, sometimes you don't want to bring up true statements when you know they'll be misused. I agree that saying "on average, women are better nurturers of children, therefore <specific woman> should stay at home and raise kids" would be ridiculous EVEN IF it was unambiguously proven that women were, on average, better at raising children. And yet you see people make statements like that regularly.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby setzer777 » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:38 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:This:
stevey_frac wrote:In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.


Yeah, biggest issue with talking in terms of "men are like this and women are like this" is the question of what that means for people who don't fit the stereotype. Seems like the most common response is to punish them in various ways. I think that anyone who discusses at length possible gender differences while giving only a token "but of course we shouldn't discriminate" aside is acting irresponsibly. The stronger you advocate the existence of differences, the more you need to emphasize the importance of treating those who don't fit the average with the respect/acceptance they should be treated with.

Also, it seems like if we're looking at various societies that have all had gendered roles, it's important to also understand why so many of them considered women not only different, but inferior to men. Unless someone here is seriously proposing that women are inferior, we can take that as evidence that much of humanity did (and still does) engage in faulty reasoning regarding gender differences.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:19 am UTC

podbaydoor wrote:This:
It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.


So. Uhm. Ya. Didn't say this. I didn't even say aggression was a good thing. Nor did I say anything involving kitchens. I would sincerely appreciate if you did not attempt to put words in my mouth.

I merely refuse to accept the Basically Decent, but scientifically incorrect statement of 'There are no observable differences between men and woman'. Which is where the other line of arguing more often than not leads to.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Enuja » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:24 am UTC

I've linked this book in several other threads, but it's really evidence based, and therefore extremely relevant for this thread (and it wasn't yet published the last time this thread was active).

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by Cordelia Fine, 2010. Here is the amazon page. Fine's basic argument is that social factors currently confound our scientific ability to tease out psychological differences between men and women. She happens to think that male/female non-social differences do exist, but that, so far, we have been unable to figure out what they are. Fine goes over a lot of the research usually used to support the argument of "inherent" biological differences, citing many of the actual studies, and coherently criticizing them. One of the primary weakness of the book is how it treats the gender evidence from trans folks: Fine simply includes a anecdote that supports the idea that gender is social, and ignores the many anecdotes going the other way.



jules.it, there isn't a problem with people "dismissing physiological differences"; our culture as a whole strongly embraces the idea of inherent biological differences between males and females. The sentence from Joeldi you quoted (please link to the thread that came from, if you don't mind) doesn't dismiss differences, anyway. It simply says that that differences must be small, because even with the effects of social conditioning, men and women are pretty darn similar.

Fine goes into a fair amount of detail about hormones in men and women, and describes the complexity of the biology behind hormones and mood. She does the same thing (much more extensively) for brain differences: brain and hormone differences don't always mean psychological differences because sometimes a combination of differences results in a similarity, as one difference compensates for another difference. Your reasoning about hormones, jules.it, is a reasonable basis for a hypothesis, but it is not, in any way, shape, or form proof that physiological differences between gender must have large effects on psychology.

stevey_frac, it is scientifically correct to say that "There are no observable, non-socially derived, psychological differences between men and woman." What Delusions of Gender does is rigorously examine the the science, and find that we just don't know much about this question, because all of our attempts are all tied up in our social expectations.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:33 am UTC

Does this apply to strength too?

And given how you can observe male aggression cross-species throughout virtually all mammals, It's clear that is not a social response, but a biological one.

I call bullshit on your book. And i'm aparently not the only one. From the blessed wiki:

"Diane Halpern, whose paper "The Science of Sex Differences in Mathematics and Science" is also criticized by Fine in Delusions of Gender, reported mixed feelings about the book, arguing that it was "strongest in exposing research conclusions that are closer to fiction than science...and weakest in failing to also point out differences that are supported by a body of carefully conducted and well-replicated research."

EDIT: After re-reading, You might be trying to target just psychological differences, which I was not... which is ... vaguely confusing.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Enuja » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:50 am UTC

Delusions of Gender is about psychology, so, no, it is not about physical strength! And the reviews mentioned in that wikipedia article are primarily positive (except two reviews by people whose work is criticized in the book), so that's pretty weak evidence to "call bullshit on" the book. Read it before you judge it. Feel free not to read the book, but don't claim it's bullshit from reading a wikipedia article about it, and don't judge it if you are unwilling to read it.

There is also a lot of female aggression in mammals (mamma bear? hyena?), and the perceptions of zoologists have been widely influenced by their gender conceptions that come from human society. Your flip statement about biology is both completely unconvincing (from my perspective as a biologist), and a very weak argument to dismiss a well researched book with.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby setzer777 » Fri Apr 22, 2011 6:16 am UTC

stevey_frac wrote:There is a significant body of evidence that points towards Testosterone causing aggressive behavior.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggression#Testosterone

Since men biologically have more testosterone than woman, you would expect men to be more aggressive, regardless of socialization. This has a lot of impact on all kinds of behavior through life.

This is also observed across species, making it somewhat difficult to be the result of socialization.

In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.


Obviously we don't want to oversimplify things though. Given the physical effects that testosterone has, I'm assuming that if you take a fairly non-aggressive male and a very aggressive female, the male will still have higher testosterone levels.

My point earlier though is that saying "men are X, women are Y", when true, is a less precise way of talking about statistical averages. Normally such imprecision in language is okay, except that the cultural default response (the assumed consequence) to the statement above is "a man who is Y is less of a man". That's why it's important to emphasize that no such attribute is essential or inherent to "male-hood" or "female-hood". If an attribute (like aggressiveness) was essential and inherent to male-hood, we would have to conclude that non-aggressive males are somehow "less male".
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby jules.LT » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:22 am UTC

Enuja wrote:jules.it, there isn't a problem with people "dismissing physiological differences"; our culture as a whole strongly embraces the idea of inherent biological differences between males and females. The sentence from Joeldi you quoted (please link to the thread that came from, if you don't mind) doesn't dismiss differences, anyway. It simply says that that differences must be small, because even with the effects of social conditioning, men and women are pretty darn similar.
I know our culture overenthusiastically embraces the idea, but I think that what I read from Joeldi and others in the trans thread is just going too far in the other direction. This is what made me react.
In stevey's words: attributing all causes of gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

Enuja wrote:Fine goes into a fair amount of detail about hormones in men and women, and describes the complexity of the biology behind hormones and mood. She does the same thing (much more extensively) for brain differences: brain and hormone differences don't always mean psychological differences because sometimes a combination of differences results in a similarity, as one difference compensates for another difference.
Permit me to doubt that differences exactly compensating one another is a common occurence. Especially considering that it's not just overall hormone levels that differ, but also cycles. I'm guessing it's not a major point in the book?
Enuja wrote:Your reasoning about hormones, jules.it, is a reasonable basis for a hypothesis, but it is not, in any way, shape, or form proof that physiological differences between gender must have large effects on psychology.
But I'm not claiming that there's proof, as it's nigh-impossible to isolate social from physiological factors. I'm sure Fine doesn't claim she has proof either. I'm just saying that it seems to be the most reasonable assumption.

Enuja wrote:stevey_frac, it is scientifically correct to say that "There are no observable, non-socially derived, psychological differences between men and woman." What Delusions of Gender does is rigorously examine the the science, and find that we just don't know much about this question, because all of our attempts are all tied up in our social expectations.
The problem is that most physiological differences seem to be socially reinforced, so saying that we can't isolate the physiological differences from the socially-acquired ones doesn't mean much.
Also, what happens to your body has an impact on your psychology so it can be hard to isolate psychology from physiology.

podbaydoor wrote:It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.
(That wording disturbs me because it seems reasonable from experience to expect women to be less aggressive, although obviously you and I will agree that it does not mean that they should be).

The relationship between "is" and "ought" is shaky enough as it is, so we're not going to defend the relationship between "the population is on average" with "the individual should".
I'll trust the people on these forums to pound whoever makes that jump.

setzer777 wrote:If an attribute (like aggressiveness) was essential and inherent to male-hood, we would have to conclude that non-aggressive males are somehow "less male".
I'd argue that non-agressive males are indeed less stereotypical males, and that they should be proud of it.
"Male" and "Female" are like most categories: ill-defined and blurry at the edges. Just because society wants you to be a caricature doesn't mean you have to be.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby mister k » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:54 am UTC

jules.lt wrote:
Enuja wrote:jules.it, there isn't a problem with people "dismissing physiological differences"; our culture as a whole strongly embraces the idea of inherent biological differences between males and females. The sentence from Joeldi you quoted (please link to the thread that came from, if you don't mind) doesn't dismiss differences, anyway. It simply says that that differences must be small, because even with the effects of social conditioning, men and women are pretty darn similar.
I know our culture overenthusiastically embraces the idea, but I think that what I read from Joeldi and others in the trans thread is just going too far in the other direction. This is what made me react.
In stevey's words: attributing all causes of gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.



This is true, and I don't think anyone would argue with it. Specifically its pretty solidly true that men are stronger than women on average. However, on most specific claims its actually much harder to pin it down, so while some differences may not be due to socialisation, its actually pretty damn hard to work out which ones those are, so, for now, its not unreasonable to work as if most aren't. Its hardly going to do us much harm: as long as a society we prioritise choice and competence then any innate gender differences will sort themselves out in the wash.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:22 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:Delusions of Gender is about psychology, so, no, it is not about physical strength! And the reviews mentioned in that wikipedia article are primarily positive (except two reviews by people whose work is criticized in the book), so that's pretty weak evidence to "call bullshit on" the book. Read it before you judge it. Feel free not to read the book, but don't claim it's bullshit from reading a wikipedia article about it, and don't judge it if you are unwilling to read it.

There is also a lot of female aggression in mammals (mamma bear? hyena?), and the perceptions of zoologists have been widely influenced by their gender conceptions that come from human society. Your flip statement about biology is both completely unconvincing (from my perspective as a biologist), and a very weak argument to dismiss a well researched book with.


To be fair: Serious Business makes all kinds of arguments about all kinds of things in which we are not subject matter experts. So, no, I will reject the premise of this book, and I will do so on the strength of the 2004 review in Nature Review Neuroscience that concluded with: ""the differentiating effects of gonadal secretions seem to be dominant," the existing body of research "support the idea that sex differences in neural expression of X and Y genes significantly contribute to sex differences in brain functions and disease."

Bolding is mine.

Also, claiming you are a biologist, and with the implication that you are right is an appeal to authority, a red herring fallacy. The author and his argument stand separately.

On the matter of aggression, once again from the blessed wiki:

"Gender is a factor that plays a role in both human and animal aggression. Males are historically believed to be generally more physically aggressive than females (Coie & Dodge 1997, Maccoby & Jacklin 1974), and men commit the vast majority of murders (Buss 2005). This is one of the most robust and reliable behavioral sex differences, and it has been found across many different age groups and cultures. There is evidence that males are quicker to aggression (Frey et al. 2003) and more likely than females to express their aggression physically (Bjorkqvist et al. 1994). When considering indirect forms of non-violent aggression, such as relational aggression and social rejection, some scientists argue that females can be quite aggressive although female aggression is rarely expressed physically"

Bolding is mine. It should be noted that non-physical aggressive behavior, while still a form of aggression, is much milder.

Furthermore, from the same page:
"The frequency of physical aggression in humans peaks at around 2–3 years of age. It then declines gradually on average.[21] These observations suggest that physical aggression is mostly not a learned behavior and that development provides opportunities for the learning of self-regulation."

Bolding mine. For the record, if it is mostly 'not a learned behavior' than this implies it is not the result of socialization.

Finally, Yes, getting between mama bear and her cubs isn't a good idea, unless you have some fairly high powered weaponry (.30-06 or up would work). But that's not the animal being aggressive. That's the animal being protective of her young. You want to avoid the male bear more. Because, not only is it bigger, they have a mean streak a mile wide, and they are more likely to go out of there way to confront you, which is real aggression.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Enuja » Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:13 pm UTC

I was not making an appeal to my own authority. I was trying to explain to you that a flip one-sentence argument about aggression in mammals wasn't going to convince me of anything, because I can return with my own flip one-sentence argument, and because, with my background in biology, I require a high standard of proof on biological questions. You returned with actual cited evidence, which is good. However, you tell me that the sources I'm citing are irrelevant, and you don't need to bother to read them. That's not a good basis for continued discussion. Why should I read what you are citing if you aren't interested in even contemplating the idea of going to sources I cite? Why should I cite further sources if you've apparently dismissed a book I cited simply because it doesn't agree with your current position?

I don't know what "aggression" means, if a momma grizzly is not aggressive. I suspect that you (and many other people), are looking at human males, finding a characteristic that is more common in men than in women in current human societies, calling that "aggression", and then making animal behavior fit that pre-arranged mold, such as excluding aggression for the purpose of protection from your definition of aggression. I agree that men are more "aggressive" in human cultures, but I don't know of any evidence that this difference in "aggression" is biological instead of cultural. Remember, the most successful human societies right now are agriculture and ownership based societies. Just because something exists across cultures doesn't mean that it is biological, because extant human cultures have a lot of things in common.

The physical aggression of 2-3 year olds might very well not be primarily a learned behavior, but this evidence you cite strongly suggests that non-aggression is a learned behavior. It is a reasonable hypothesis that girls, in all current human societies, are taught that physical aggression is wrong (and that it doesn't work anyway) much more heavily than boys are, leaving boys as more aggressive because of the society and circumstances they grew up in. I certainly don't have proof of this possibility, but all I'm arguing is that we don't have the evidence to distinguish between these two possibilities.

I put Delusions of Gender in this thread because I thought it would be useful for Jessica and others interested in the science behind gender differences. The book does not address non-psychological differences, so it is not useful for those, and because of its skeptical perspective, it is not useful for people who want clear-cut, strong evidence about any differences or similarities between men and women.

I don't have any handy or favorite links or citations for physiological differences between men and women, or for observed differences (keeping in mind that a combination of biological and cultural factors, interacting in a complicated way are behind any observed differences) between the psychology of men and women.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

There are two problems with Delusions of Gender.

1) I disagree with it
2) It's not readily available for me to read online, so I'm not likely to change my opinion on it.

So, citing from something I can't read, simply doesn't mean anything, or at least, isn't conducive to further discussion, since you are likely the only person knowledgeable on the subject. It's like quoting a study that you have to pay to read. It may be perfectly valid, well researched, and have strong conclusions. But, no one can really tell, because no one's going to pay to read it, for the sake of a Serious Business thread.

As for the issue of aggressive behavior. Aggressive behavior is defined as:

In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause pain or harm. Predatory or defensive behavior between members of different species is not normally considered "aggression".

Therefore, Mama grizzly defending her cubs is not aggressive, but defensive behavior. Papa Grizzly hunting you down and killing you, then leaving your corpse to rot in the woods... that is aggressive.

However, conversely, me shooting papa grizzly, then having bear roast for dinner... That's predatory, not aggressive behavior.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Enuja » Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

You can check Delusions of Gender out from your local library, which is free and easy to do. Since I don't have an institutional subscription to any journals, books are much easier and cheaper for me to get a hold of than scientific journal articles, and I suspect the same is true for other people reading this thread. Also, they usually provide a more complete version of the story, and with journal articles, you need to read at least 25 of them to get the same breadth of knowledge you get from a good non-fiction book about a scientific topic. If I didn't think some people were going to buy or check out Delusions of Gender because I mentioned it here, then I wouldn't mention it.

That's a terrible definition of aggression for the purpose of comparisons with animal behaviors, because the "intention" of animal behaviors are impossible to find out. Are you sure Papa Grizzly isn't defending a territory or isn't hungry and won't eat you? Momma Grizzly isn't going to eat you, but somehow her behavior is not aggression, because defending children seems somehow less aggressive than defending territory? I think it's because you, and some scientists who study grizzlies, have used your gender conceptions, from human society, to color your observations of and reading about grizzly bears.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby setzer777 » Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:41 pm UTC

jules.lt wrote:
setzer777 wrote:If an attribute (like aggressiveness) was essential and inherent to male-hood, we would have to conclude that non-aggressive males are somehow "less male".
I'd argue that non-agressive males are indeed less stereotypical males, and that they should be proud of it.
"Male" and "Female" are like most categories: ill-defined and blurry at the edges. Just because society wants you to be a caricature doesn't mean you have to be.


Would you say that all notions of how men and women "should be", and all hostile/negative reactions to "feminine" men and "masculine" women are purely cultural? Put another way: is it fair to attribute all gender enforcement to socialization?

Those reactions seem just as widespread as average gender differences. That seems like evidence that whatever the statistical differences between average male and average female are, they are significantly *less* than the culturally constructed differences, else there would be no need for such widespread enforcement and punishment.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby stevey_frac » Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:44 pm UTC

Enuja wrote:That's a terrible definition of aggression for the purpose of comparisons with animal behaviors, because the "intention" of animal behaviors are impossible to find out. Are you sure Papa Grizzly isn't defending a territory or isn't hungry and won't eat you? Momma Grizzly isn't going to eat you, but somehow her behavior is not aggression, because defending children seems somehow less aggressive than defending territory? I think it's because you, and some scientists who study grizzlies, have used your gender conceptions, from human society, to color your observations of and reading about grizzly bears.


Expecting people on the internet to go and read a book and come back is not reasonable. Just for the record. But lets leave that alone for now.

You say, "the intention of animal behaviors are impossible to find out". The field of Ethology disagrees with you.

Perhaps you can't say with a absolute certainty that this bear's intention was to do this, but you can have a pretty good idea, based on their behavior. And you can look at large numbers of bear interactions, and you can tease out what they were generally going for, and who acts most aggressively, and why. So, no, i have to say you are wrong on that.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby biodomino » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:20 pm UTC

In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause pain or harm. Predatory or defensive behavior between members of different species is not normally considered "aggression".


This is true, and that's exactly why males and females have actually been revealed to be about equally aggressive. The difference is that male aggression tends to be more physical, whereas female aggression tends to be more relational and social. Human females more often exert aggression by attempting to hurt someone's feelings. I somewhat doubt that female mammals are equally as bitchy, but I'm not knowledgeable about zoological social systems.

By the way, regardless of how that sounded, I mean no slight to woman-kind.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby jules.LT » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:38 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:Would you say that all notions of how men and women "should be", and all hostile/negative reactions to "feminine" men and "masculine" women are purely cultural? Put another way: is it fair to attribute all gender enforcement to socialization?

I think that we are naturally hostile to what is different or unexpected, and our culture reflects and reinforces that in many cases. But thankfully the quite recent value that is "tolerance" tells us to stop doing that.

setzer777 wrote:Those reactions seem just as widespread as average gender differences. That seems like evidence that whatever the statistical differences between average male and average female are, they are significantly *less* than the culturally constructed differences, else there would be no need for such widespread enforcement and punishment.

The culturally constructed differences are definitely an addition to the innate differences, so the end result is greater difference. I don't think we can deduct anything about which has more impact.

biodomino wrote:males and females have actually been revealed to be about equally aggressive.

Well then we're just differently aggressive.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby HungryHobo » Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:59 pm UTC

I get the impression that the OP is going about this search for scientific evidence in somewhat the wrong way.
deciding the answer you want then finding the data is exactly how you're not supposed to do science.

Would it not be more valuable to you to simply know what is actually true rather than simple piling up the evidence for what you want to believe?


also I'd like to propose
"You throw like an accountant"
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Sat Apr 23, 2011 8:56 pm UTC

Here's the thing there, is there not a Hume's Fork distinction to be made. If the empirical model we have includes inherrent biological differences between the male and female human sex, let's take for example that males on average tend to demonstrate higher levels of aggression. Is this any reason to conclude that we should construct genders around this fact? I mean is it any different from saying that some people are more aggressive than others except that those people are more often than not those with a different reproductive organ. Is that any reason to create socio-culutral constructs called gender on the basis of the possession or non-possession of this reproductive organ?

I mean is the only reason that gender is bad is because it's not based on any statistical trends? I feel this is purely a matter for specialist empiricists (i.e. those crazy people called Evolutionary Biologists and the like) who should be able to study, and construct empirical models on, the data without those models being politicised irrelevantly to discussions of gender. If anything the inexpert arguing over these facts usually serves to only distract from the wider debate on Gender as a "should" rather than biological sex as an "is".
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Ptolom » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

You're never going to be able to prove that men can't through a ball further than women when both are using efficient technique. You may well be able to prove that both have similarly efficient technique though.
The point is that physical strength isn't terribly relavent to society these days. We don't need people who can throw things really hard; we need engineers who can design missiles, and computer programmers to create targeting software. The number of jobs to which physical strength is still a major factor is relatively small and decreasing with every year with advances in mechanisation.
There are still a few exceptions of course. Builders have jcbs and cranes, but they still need to do a fair amount of hammering and lugging stuff around. Soldiers probably need some brute strength, though I haven't seen as many soldiers working in my street as I have builders, thankfully. Not to say that women don't make effective builders and soldiers, but there are some advantages to being male there.

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby fr00t » Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:58 am UTC

As far as cognitive abilities go, there were several studies done that showed males possessed a significantly higher capacity for spacial reasoning. The often (sardonically) referred to example is "mentally rotating 3d objects". Similar trends in math and analytical reasoning in general are found but with a weaker correlation and easily attributable to the fact that females aren't encouraged to pursue associated fields. (shamelessly referenced from one of my psychology textbooks, (Halpern, 2000, 2004, Voyer & Hou, 2006).

You could never control for all environmental variables without some severely unethical experiments.

Enuja wrote:it is scientifically correct to say that "There are no observable, non-socially derived, psychological differences between men and woman." What Delusions of Gender does is rigorously examine the the science, and find that we just don't know much about this question, because all of our attempts are all tied up in our social expectations.


While I don't think that's entirely accurate, I do (as a matter of personal belief more than anything) think that the power and adaptability of the human brain outweighs any inherent gender differences by a very wide margin. On the other hand, whatever "socially derived" mechanisms for enforcing gender roles that do exist seem to be very consistent and effective at doing what they do. But why and how? Is it Fisherian runaway? Coincidence? A secret council of rich old WASP men who have been deviously plotting how to keep women submissive for the past 5 millenia?

I am intrigued by the questions, but I am unable to derive any "is -> ought" from them. The statement "women are generally passive and should therefore be homemakers" is obviously false, but so is "gender roles are purely social constructs and should be actively dismantled" (outside of institutions obviously in need of change such as wage-inequality).

podbaydoor wrote:It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.


Who does this?

Whimsical Eloquence wrote: Is this any reason to conclude that we should construct genders around this fact?


Who is the "we" that are constructing genders?

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby podbaydoor » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:41 am UTC

Everybody. I just got done arguing about shaming "barracks bunnies" in the military over in General, and then there was another argument recently about affixing "man-" to feminine clothing, e.g. "man-purses" or "man-skirts," because it's not acceptable to break gender norms unless you pretend it's a masculine version. Just a couple of examples. But it demonstrates that little, subtle sexism/gender distinctions pop up even in a community full of people who try not to buy into it most of the time.

fr00t wrote:
podbaydoor wrote:It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.


Who does this?

You've read this thread, right? It also comes up frequently in the feminism thread and in LSR with respect to relationships, and some of the academics threads. The degree of severity depends on the individual arguer. Also IRL, especially when it comes to arguments about the number of men/women in X academic discipline or industry. And it manifests every time someone dismisses a woman by accusing her of having PMS.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby setzer777 » Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:36 am UTC

fr00t wrote:I am intrigued by the questions, but I am unable to derive any "is -> ought" from them. The statement "women are generally passive and should therefore be homemakers" is obviously false, but so is "gender roles are purely social constructs and should be actively dismantled" (outside of institutions obviously in need of change such as wage-inequality).


Gender roles should be dismantled in the sense that all enforcement* of them should cease. This "ought" comes from valuing freedom. "Enforcement" means restricting people's choices (or punishing them for them) - this also causes suffering. It requires a strong justification to hurt someone for being different, and in this case nobody has yet presented a sufficient justification for treating "womanly" men or "manly" women poorly.

*By this I also mean social enforcement - telling someone by word or action that they are wrong because they don't act according to the gender norms expected of them.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Aaeriele » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:49 am UTC

fr00t wrote:
podbaydoor wrote:It would be much easier to acknowledge biological differences across an average if this line of argumentation didn't more often than not lead to arguing that women are supposed to be less aggressive.


Who does this?


You.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:19 am UTC

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Here's the thing there, is there not a Hume's Fork distinction to be made. If the empirical model we have includes inherrent biological differences between the male and female human sex, let's take for example that males on average tend to demonstrate higher levels of aggression. Is this any reason to conclude that we should construct genders around this fact? I mean is it any different from saying that some people are more aggressive than others except that those people are more often than not those with a different reproductive organ. Is that any reason to create socio-culutral constructs called gender on the basis of the possession or non-possession of this reproductive organ?


Sure and some guys are still far more peaceful than some girls.
thus are normal curves.

My grandmother has perfectly good sight memory and motor control despite being in her 80's.
Yet she has to have her vision tested when she wants to renew her licence. Why? it's only based on things you can say about the average over 80.
She has to go to more trouble based purely on things than are only true on average for her age group.(that they tend to have problems with vision, memory and motor control making them unfit to continue driving.)
Is that any reason to create socio-culutral constructs called "age" on the basis of nothing more than time since the day you were born?

The thing is that you can still make sensible statements about the average or variance or distribution like "on average women are 5 inches shorter than males".
You can then make sensible conclusions like "most of the top players in this sport/job/profession/etc(lets say for example basketball) affected by this are likely to be men/women" .

but it gets politicised when the split in the sport/job/profession/etc isn't close to 50:50 and the reason isn't as straightforward as height.
And worse people make up differences which have no evidence behind them or exaggerate them or simply assume that every member of the group will be like the average and exclude them like automatically excluding women from certain jobs involving spacial skills or automatically assuming that all young men will be violent and aggressive and excluding them from jobs working with the vulnerable or children without actually assessing the individual.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Monika » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:33 pm UTC

athelas wrote:Same goes, by the way, for the male-dominated prison population, (selected for aggression and low intelligence)

stevey_frac wrote:There is a significant body of evidence that points towards Testosterone causing aggressive behavior.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggression#Testosterone

Since men biologically have more testosterone than woman, you would expect men to be more aggressive, regardless of socialization. This has a lot of impact on all kinds of behavior through life.

This is also observed across species, making it somewhat difficult to be the result of socialization.

In short: Yes. Attributing all causes to gender differences to socialization is more than a little ridiculous.

This Wikipedia paragraph actually mostly mentions animals, mentions that for the human-related studies half do not find a link, and the ones that find a link only find a weak one and that they did not prove causality.

To prove or disprove causality we would need to increase the Testosterone level first and then check for an increase in aggressive behavior. And guess what: This can be done relatively easily - and it was done. And found that it resulted in less aggressive, more fair, less risky behavior!

Citation: http://www.aerzteblatt.de/nachrichten/3 ... Hormon.htm
Ernst Fehr, Christoph Eisenegger, Universität Zürich + Royal Holloway University London, published in Nature (2009: doi: 10.1038/nature08711)
120 female participants (because their natural Testosterone level is low and relatively similar), half injected with Testosterone, half with a placebo
game: two people play for a real amount of money, one gets to offer how to split it (usually they take more than half for themselves), the other person says yes (then it is split as suggested) or no (then they both get nothing)
The aggressiveness and riskyness of the offering player is measured by how much they take for themselves.
Participants who got testosterone offered more fairly, closer to 50:50 splits, i.e. showed less aggressive / less risky behavior.
When participants knew it was a study about testosterone, then those who believed they got the testosterone showed more aggressive behavior - even if they actually got the placebo.

Let's go back to giving examples of animal behavior. This is not related to gender, but I found it a very interesting example of how humans may misinterpret animal behavior to fit into human molds: Have you seen documentaries where wolves or other such animals fight and then the narrator says that the weaker animal turns the throat to the stronger animal to show its submission, and this keeps the stronger animal from further hurting the weaker one? I have. Well, turns out this is wrong from beginning to end. The animal that looks away - and thus shows the throat - is the winner of the fight. It was not a serious fight to begin with, but just one to establish or confirm rank within the pack, and these kinds of fights generally do not lead to serious injuries or death. In fights with animals from other packs there is no looking away / baring the throat / "submission" and the animals fight to the death. This is not even a recent finding, it has been known for decades ... and still the wrong interpretation can be seen on "educational TV".

So, all in all, there may or may not be biological reasons for some of the differences in gender roles. If there are, we really have no idea, yet, what these are. Which is exactly what the previously mentioned book Delusion of Gender says.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby lutzj » Thu Apr 28, 2011 3:30 am UTC

It's pretty obvious that a mix of cultural and biological factors are at play in almost any situation. To take the example prompted by the OP:

"Throws like a girl" refers to poor throwing technique, which reflects the fact that most girls aren't expected to learn how to throw a ball at a young age. Increased female participation in high-school and college is changing that particular societal effect, and the term is devolving over time from a specific type of improper throwing style to a crude dig at one's perceived weakness.

That said, there is a significant difference in upper-body strength between adult men and women, and this has impacts on one's ability to throw as well. People with weaker arms tend to struggle to throw properly, and because a much larger proportion of people who do not meet the threshold for cleanly throwing a football overhand are women, women are saddled with a reputation for poor throwing technique.

It's a puerile insult at best, but saying that somebody "throws like a girl" because of poor technique or physical frailty is just as reasonable as saying they "throw like an accountant." Both women and accountants have less cultural pressure to learn how to throw and are less likely to have the requisite upper-body strength than the rest of the population.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby podbaydoor » Thu Apr 28, 2011 3:52 am UTC

And yet, "throws like an accountant" is not loaded with centuries of societal baggage. Even now, comparing a man to a girl or vagina still has a stinging impact. Accountants just don't have the same sexist cachet.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby jules.LT » Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:01 am UTC

Jocks will be offended by being compared to girls, and creative types will be offended by being compared to accountants... It's a matter of personal values.
The fear that gender differences will be used to make value judgements is as much of a problem as those value judgements, when it comes to determining what the actual differences are...
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:38 am UTC

oh but some accountants can be so very very creative. Look at Enron and more recent events. :D

Thing is it's not about the person who it's being directed at.
It's just that some comparisons have become socially unacceptable.

Half the lawyer jokes out there used to be racist jokes but the laywer forms are still perfectly socially acceptable.
It's not the joke or the sting but rather the butt of the remark or joke.

In large part it's about choice, mocking groups you're born into without any real say in it has fallen out of favour while mocking high paid professions or groups you can step into and out of easily is perfectly acceptable.
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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby Harry Manback » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:49 am UTC

I'm finding the previous page of this thread to be both informative and humorous.

The informative:
I especially found the study indicating lower aggression in response to testosterone interesting. I wonder if the results would be the same if they tested different types of aggression (i.e. social, physical, competition driven, whatever) and/or tested with testosterone in combination with other hormones or neurotransmitters. For example, I'd imagine testosterone and adrenaline would have different effects from testosterone and dopamine, beyond the obvious differences between testosterone and dopamine, and similarly, I wouldn't expect the results from the above study to necessarily be similar if instead of money-splitting, it had been something competitive, and in turn both might be different from something sexual.

The comical:
SIDE1: There may be differences, but they're not as big as they're made out to be.
SIDE2: Differences may be slight, but they do exist [*insert citation], and make for interesting discussion.
SIDE1: Discussion that tends to end with sexism, yeah.
SIDE2: What, me sexist?
SIDE1: Not necessarily you, but such discussion lends itself to sexism. Plus, what differences there are are mostly socially imposed [*insert counter-citation].
SIDE2: There are differences, though. Isn't that worth something?
*repeat from beginning of dialog, with slightly altered phrasing. loop infinitely

Slight change of track, though- Do what extent can sociology even be extricated from biology? Obviously, there are large differences between specific cultures, but there are also some (albeit subtle) biological differences between cultures. Even aside from race, diet and climate affect biology quite a bit. There also seem to be some common themes in gender relations among a wide variety of cultures. I won't claim to have the slightest practical knowledge base on the topic, but I really am curious- to what extent can social gender constructs be isolated from biology, and to what extent are they related?

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Re: Looking for evidence - Male/female differences

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:48 pm UTC

I wonder if anyone's ever done a Cochrane review or similar of such data.
It's easy to po-po one side or another but then people tend to see flaws in the oppositions data far more easily than flaws in their own so some rigorous comparison would be helpful.

There are enough straightforward obvious physical differences that personally I would find it very surprising if there were no differences in the brain though the issue does get so politically charged.
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