Neuro Nonsense

December 15, 2010 | Source: PLoS BIOLOGY

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In her new book “Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference,” Cordelia Fine takes a critical look at the evidence that the brains of men and women are wired differently, says Ben A. Barres, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine.

“The main theme of the book is that current widespread beliefs about gender—that is, we needn’t worry about social or cultural factors leading to sex inequality because hardwired differences between the sexes are to blame—just don’t bear up to scrutiny….

“Fine points out how much writing about sex differences consists of just-so stories that can be easily constructed because the relationship between brain structure and cognitive function is still poorly understood. Such just-so stories are also the bread and butter of a field known as evolutionary psychology. Darwin, Pinker, and others have long argued that men have evolved different neural circuits that imbue them with different (superior) cognitive abilities that favor more competitive and risk-taking behaviors.

“But the field of evolutionary psychology has been the subject of many recent critiques. Not only are its hypotheses untestable and unfalsifiable, they also involve circular reasoning; the thinking starts out with sexist Darwinian biases, like males are more competitive, and then ends at the same starting point, concluding that male neural circuits have evolved for competition.”

PLoS articles are open access. – Ed