Sunday, February 20, 2005


I was shocked, shocked I say, to read a news item this week suggesting that male and female brains work differently. I live with three women and two dogs (one female and one androgynous), plus a male guinea pig who doesn't communicate well, so the idea obviously had crossed my mind, say, thirty times a day, that this could be the case but imagine my relief when an expert actually went public with it.

Some background: We all know this is true. It's basic common sense. But much of elite academia now devotes itself to convincing us that what used to pass as common sense is now hopelessly simplistic, prejudiced, oppressive, even hateful. Consider, for instance Harvard President Lawrence Sommers recent suggestion that maybe, possibly, he didn't know but he thought it ought to be worth exploring, innate differences might account for the reason females are outnumbered by men in the highest levels of math and science professions. Keep in mind that he didn't say women aren't capable of achieving at a high level in math and science; he said men gravitate more to these fields and the reason might (might!) be because the male brain is wired more conducibly for this kind of work. The resulting firestorm and Sommers' abject apologies have redefined the terms "hysteria" and "grovel."

At any rate, Michael Gurian, psychologist and author of "What Could He Be Thinking?" (a fruitless question, I might add) notes there are about a hundred structural differences that have been identified between the male and female brain (CNN, "Brainpower as easy as X and Y," 2/15/05). For instance, scientists say that males have more activity in mechanical centers of the brain, whereas females show more activity in verbal and emotional centers. No doubt you are as disturbed as I am to hear this gross and unfair stereotype perpetuated by scientific findings. Imagine, women talk more than men! And men like to tinker with mechanical things!
"The more female brain will gather a lot of material, gather a lot of information, feel a lot, hear a lot, sense a lot. Men, because we tend to compartmentalize our communication into a smaller part of the brain (for some of us, a very small part of the brain - Matt), tend to get right to the issue," Gurian says.

Scientists have explored the "gray matter" using MRI scans to find out why these differences exist between men and women. The scans show that in most women, the corpus callossum area, which handles communication between the brain's two "hemispheres," is larger. In layman's terms, it means that the two sides of the female brain "talk" better to each other
- which could explain why studies show women tend to multi-task better. On the other hand, the scans show men tend to move information more easily within each hemisphere.
I hope you don't mind me taking a humorous slant on this subject. I grow weary of the hyper-sensitivity which characterizes so much of our public discourse. As a Christian, I see God's beauty, purpose, and wisdom played out in male and female differences. The key is to celebrate those differences with respect and appreciation. And to get right to the issue. With feeling.


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