Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gender Attributes - Is There a Distinction?

In "The Tangle of the Sexes" (NY Times Sunday Review, Apr 21) Carothers and Reis argue that men and women are "less different than we like to think."  The implication is that  the sexes belong to the same taxon (sort of like "species") and any noticeable difference between the sexes such as in emotional reactions, scientific abilities, social support manifestations, or intimacy are really just "dimensional" and that there are no real gender differences. We are all basically from the same species-specific gene pool and any distinctions are not sex-related.

The authors evaluated 122 attributes from more than 13,000 individuals and found that "one conclusion stood out:  instead of dividing into two groups, men and women overlapped considerably on attributes" such as those given above as examples.

But wait a minute - what have we really learned here.  We have learned that there is more overlap than there is distinction.  This, however, proves nothing about whether significant distinction exists in areas that do not overlap.  If we were to compare the attributes of rocket scientists with those of ordinary workers, I feel certain there would be considerable overlap in most of them.  It's not the overlap - it's the distinction that matters!  It's the distinction we notice - not the commonality.

Men and women are genetically distinct.  It is not reasonable to believe that the only difference this yields is one of gender.  Though the overlap of similarities is obviously huge, both physically and attitudinally, one cannot conclude that no distinctions of significance exist at the non-overlapping points on the curve.

Remember - 90% of human DNA has commonality with that of a chimpanzee.  It's the differences that that make us distinct - not the similarities.

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