Different Brains - Shocking News to Some

Harvard’s Summers Speaks Truth—Then Apologizes
by Mac Johnson
Posted Jan 31, 2005

In one of those rare instances in which Harvard University would seem to deserve its reputation as being the avant-garde of creative social thought—rather than actually being the rear guard of rehashed thought from the sixties—Harvard President Lawrence Summers recently dared to speculate that men and women might actually be different sexes. Different not just in the assorted bulges, protuberances, and textures that make up the male versus the female body, mind you; but different in the construction of their brains and—horribly—even their minds!

This may not seem like a novel thought to anyone that has ever a) dated, b) had both a male and a female child, or c) been outside; but you must keep in mind that one of the central tenets of the failed revolution of the sixties is that men and women are exactly the same between the ears. The human mind is tabula rasa—a blank slate. Sure, nature may endow cows, monkeys, pigeons, and rotifers with a mental armory of instincts and predispositions that are clearly as innate to their biology as the inherited forms of their bodies, but man is different. Yes, man (and this includes wo-man)—which the left takes such pains to lower to the level of all other creatures in so many other discussions—is in one regard considered unique among all evolution: he is the only empty-headed being on Earth.

Having worked in Academia, I can understand why this thought would seem true to many there, as most heads in that realm do seem to be empty. But the theory actually states that we arrive here on Earth empty-headed, and then our heads are filled up with all sorts of received information that controls—entirely—who we become. Men and women aren’t born different, they are carefully trained by society to believe they are different. The purpose of this training, of course, is to perpetuate the exploitation of those who are trained to be women by those who are trained to be men. (Although, if we really are equivalent, I’ve never been able to figure out how the group called “men” managed to muster the unity, motivation, and identity that were first necessary to inflict the self-perpetuating mythology of sex-specific behavior on society, unless of course men are just evil, which would be innate, wouldn’t it?)

The hypothesized “gender training” is subtle—but insidious. For example, if you bought a so-called “girl” a Barbie doll and a so-called “boy” a toy truck for Christmas (or even Kwanzaa—subtle and insidious, remember), you may think you were saying “have fun”. But what you were actually saying was “girls should obsess on clothing and the shape of their sex-specific protuberances” and “boys should lift heavy objects and drive profitable vehicles”. Of course, at a much more subtle, but infinitely more accurate level, you were saying “Have my children, womb-slave!” and “Make her go get you a beer, man-child!”

All this would have remained just so much delusional non-sense, except that most of the West’s cultural elites came to believe it was true, and—like most bad ideas—it led to worse extrapolations. If there are no differences between men and women, and you find some endeavor in which they are not equally distributed in numbers and rank, then this can only mean one thing: discrimination against women by men. And the solution is that women should co-operatively worry in a way that a politically-incorrect philistine might say is an innate part of women’s constitutions and men should seek to avoid their collective wrath by pretending to listen to them in a way the same hypothetical philistine might say is inherent to the constitution of any man that survived childhood under the gaze of women.

This is what was occurring at the meeting at which Harvard’s President blundered into creative thought in front of witnesses. While discussing why it is that there are not as many female as male scientists, a number of possibilities were proposed. Among these (as best I can tell from news reports and personal experience with such discussions) was the politically correct view that talking Barbie says things like “Math class is hard!”—thereby damaging female psyches irreparably. Also discussed was the equally politically correct, if somewhat more conspiratorial, explanation that men have secret meetings in the bathroom where—in front of a large phallic sculpture—we discuss all the best science privately. Alternatively, it was proposed that the disparity between men and women at the highest levels of advancement could be explained by the fact that most pregnancies occur in women, and that women with young children often choose to take leave from work, quit work altogether, or transfer to alternative jobs that don’t require 70-hour weeks just to keep up with the competition. In other words, mothers care more about being mothers than about their careers, so they voluntarily shift much of their effort and talent to the more important and worthwhile endeavor.

Lastly, President Summers dared to repeat in public the private thought of many that maybe men and women are just different. Maybe they have different skills mentally; maybe they find different work attractive; maybe men and women are born different and cannot be expected to be equally represented in any field—not math, not science, not elementary school education or nursing. Maybe there are innate behavioral differences that explain everything much better than improbable conspiracies or indoctrination by a plastic Barbie.

That is when it hit the fan (and Dr. Summers began apologizing—as is the nature of man, who evolved to please woman, after all), because the left cannot tolerate the idea that anyone is born different—except, of course, if they are gay. When it comes to homosexuality, the left loves the idea that complex differences in human behavior can have their roots in genetics and biology—because if the difference is innate (an idea I personally find very persuasive, by the way), then it is not a simple moral issue of personal choice anymore. The entire nature of the question is redefined in a way the left finds philosophically more appealing.

But intellectual consistency would demand that anyone who believes there could be such striking innate differences within a single sex, should be open to the possibility that there could be equally striking differences between two separate sexes. If gays can be programmed differently from heterosexuals, then certainly one must consider that women could be differently programmed than men.

One does not need an anti-female bias to explain skewed sex-ratios in any career category, any more than one needs an anti-heterosexual bias to explain why gays are disproportionately represented in some careers and not others. People are different. That is a good thing, as is the freedom to choose for oneself where one is most likely to be happy in life. “All Men are created equal” is a legal principle—not a biology lesson. It guarantees only that artificial legal impediments will not be erected to impede the choices that free citizens make. It does not guarantee that all human categories will be equally apportioned into every field; neither does it guarantee a minimum level of success to any individual in the field of their choice. All people are created equal in the eyes of the law. Where they go from there is not entirely outside the influence of biology.

We are born with part of who we are already in place, our experiences then build elaborately upon that foundation. Only a fool can believe that DNA holds the blueprint for the brain, but has no influence on the mind—or that nature would select the sexes so differently in body, but not in mind. Scientists, of all people, should be comfortable with this thought. It’s therefore a shame that Dr. Summers gave in to the human instinct to apologize. It is, however, not a shame he has instinct.

Mr. Johnson is a freelance writer and medical researcher living in Cambridge, MA. His published commentaries can be viewed at www.macjohnson.com.

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