Katoomba Overlook, Blue Mountains, Australia
Slate, an online magazine with some modest video features, ran this piece today, on the difference between male and female brains.
Readers of this blog will likely not be surprised to hear the punchline of the video — the most recent research on brains indicate that there are no significant, documentable differences between male and female brains. The video is still worth a watch (it’s short) because, if anything, in the 3 odd minutes it lays out the evolution of the social structures that generated the knowledge that originally told us the opposite — that there were categorical differences between male and female processors. Hierarchies of experts set up to study the issue (like university faculties) originally pronounced huge differences. But as finer and finer granulation happened — queer, gay, trans, etc., couple with trauma, experience and so forth — we ended up, not surprisingly, one step away from the Communitarian v-Meme. Interestingly enough, it’s all there in that video. They actually talk about those things.
What does that mean? What I’ve already said. That we are a sum of a spectrum of biology, and a spectrum of experiences. Legalistic v-Meme categorizers are gonna still categorize — people in these types of social structures are going to come up with increasingly sophisticated categorization schemes. But what does it mean when your categories are down to everyone as their own little snowflake?
There’s a purpose in all this study — and it’s the scaffolding principles we’ve talked about. If you’ve ever wondered what was the point of the academic focus on such areas as Queer Studies, here it is. That fine-scaling is actually an important part of the trajectory of how time-dependent collective intelligence, organized into legalistic hierarchies, comes to the point of definitively concluding that there are no differences. Synergistic, guiding-principle thinking can, and does emerge, once the granulation gets to the level that the researchers decide that they can reliably say there are no differences. That’s the point of this.
Starting from the other end of the empathetic evolutionary scale — positing guiding principles through reason and philosophy, as we do on this blog — is inherently more perilous in the arena of public opinion. I’ve said it before on this blog — the brain, like the hand, is an evolutionary adaptation of the circumstances of the prehistoric ur-human, up to when we moved out of the Survival v-Meme. Then it became, in connected aggregate, a very different kind of node in a network. And though we’re stuck with the hardware, we continue to evolve the connected empathetic software, which is far more complex than most people are willing to give credit to. Just like the Panda’s Thumb, which evolved so that the panda could eat bamboo. But once the panda got the thumb, it’s highly likely that they figured out other things to do with it. It’s no different with brains. Once we got past the day-to-day survival aspects, we had to find something else to do. And evolving as mesoscale predators, down there in the Survival v-Meme, we already had it in the cards to collaborate.
I know that some people reading this are still going to cling to the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ stereotypes. But personally, I’m hopeful. Recognizing core neural capacity of all sentient beings is going to give our entire civilization greater metacognitive stretch. More diversity means more solutions, in a bigger solution space, available for the big problems. Now more than ever that’s critical. Dismantling gender stereotypes doesn’t give us fewer bins — it actually gives us more. You are unique because you actually are unique. That’s pretty cool.
On a lighter note –if there’s a real aspirational hero in the mix, it’s gotta be Aquaman, who used to be able to telepathically communicate with all sea creatures. Yeah, he was a white dude with some serious white privilege, being a descendant of a former queen of Atlantis. But if we could decide that there really was only sentience and connection, we’d quickly move past the stage of accepting that members of our own species were equals. And then we finally might make some progress in talking to dolphins — and hammerhead sharks!
Further Reading — bizarrely, this article in the Guardian makes exactly the point I just referenced regarding the value of things like Queer Theory and how reliability (which some might feel is beating a dead horse) actually matters in the arc of society. I just got this after finishing editing the above post!