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As long as we only look at humans the differences are clear: males have chromosomes XY, produce sperm and don't get pregnant. Females have chromosomes XX, produce egg cells and bear babies. But when you consider other species, things are more complicated: in birds, it's females who carry the Y chromosomes. In pipefish and sea horses, it's the males who get pregnant. So maybe the only reliable criterion to tell if an animal is a male or a female is looking at its reproductive cells, and decide if they look like spermatozoa or egg cells. But then there are male and female plants, where none of the methods above applies.
So how do you tell, in general, who's male and who's female in a species? Or is the distinction arbitrary?
Sexes (male and female) are generally defined in terms of Anisogamy, which means that there are size differences between the gametes (i.e. the reproductive cells that fuse at fertilization). The sex with smaller gametes is defined as male and the sex with larger gametes is defined as female, and individuals that can produce both types of gametes are called hermaphrodites. This is the case in both animals and plants (plants have pollen vs. ovules and microsporangia vs. megasporangia), and the definition of sexes is therefore not dependent on chromosomal makeup as such or which sex that carries the young. Actual sex determiniation in a particular species is often based on chromosomal inheritance though, but other systems also exists (e.g. environmental cues or sequential hermaphroditism). Anisogamy also comes in several different types, where animals generally have Oogamy, where males have small mobile spermatozoa and females large stationary egg cells.
More generally, Anisogamy is a special case of mating types in sexually reproducing organisms, where fertilization (on syngamy) generally can only occur between gametes of different mating types. In for instance fungi, gametes of different mating types are of the same size (isogamous) and they are therefore only labelled as mating types (e.g +/-) and not different sexes. Functionally, if we are simplifying the issue, male gametes can be viewed only as carriers of genetic information, while female gametes also contain the nutrients necessary for the early development of a newly formed embryo.
In general, It's pretty much the reproductive cells with plants and animals. The male's unique cells (sperm, pollen) fertilizes the female's unique cells (egg, ovule). The resulting offspring develops and hatches from within the female's egg/ovule. Now whether that egg/ovule stays put, gets ejected, hides in a flower, or transferred to the male (like your seahorses)… that's just rearranging the furniture after it's been designed.
Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, February 2008
Currently there is a minimizing of the differences between men and women. This is shown in the choice of words, as when a mother or father is shown on the television screen with the word "parent" underneath. Why not put "mother" or "father" as the case may be? Again, the word "person" is often used though it is clear that a man is meant, or a woman. Reference will be made to the "persons in a football team." The word "they" is employed, even when the resulting sentence is awkward and inelegant, to avoid saying "he" or "she."
A wife will be depicted at a job in the workplace, while a husband is seen cleaning the house. If one is dubious about women firefighters, or says women in the army should not be sent into battle, one is accused of sexism.
Back in the sixties (I think) there was a popular television series called Father Knows Best, starring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt. The married couple in the show were essentially equal, with appropriate give-and-take when disagreements occurred, but the father was head of the house and generally had his way in the end, and it was generally the right way. A healthy and well-adjusted relationship existed between the parents and children, and the family was happy. But today such a series would be frowned upon by the people who control the media.
Radical differences between the sexes
In this article I want to look at the radical character of the male/female difference. Maleness and femaleness are more than accidental differences (using accidental in its philosophical sense). Two things of the same substance (the same nature or quiddity) will differ in any number of accidental ways. Two human beings differ in size, skin color, strength, mental power, capacity for affection and so on. We might, therefore, suppose the difference between male and female to be in the accidental order, but a particularly deep accident.
Were it not accidental, it might be argued, it would have to be substantial but that can't be so, for it would mean men and women would belong to different species. Recall Aristotle's ten categories, of which substance is the first and the other nine are accidents. Substance names the nature or essence: it is what the thing essentially is, what the definition of that thing expresses. Man, rabbit, oak tree are substances each is a specific kind of thing. And each has accidents or attributes such as color or shape.
Men and women are of the same nature or species. So it seems that the distinction between them must be in the order of accidents, although clearly at a much deeper level than accidents like color. But that doesn't go far enough. The difference goes into the substantial order.
To understand this it is necessary to see what it means to say that man is a composite of form and matter indeed we must see this if we are to understand what we are. I'll sketch that truth in the next few paragraphs.
All material things agree in being material, but they differ in the kind of thing they are. There is a substratum called matter that is actualized differently in different things. When a tree, say, is burnt down, it becomes something else, but this is not a complete replacement of one thing by another of a living tree by a heap of ashes. There is a continuity between the two a substratum. In the terminology of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, there is an underlying matter that receives a determination called a form. First the tree existed a substance of matter and form, then through the agency of a fire the form was lost and the matter acquired a new form that of ashes.
To use the old example of a statue: the marble from which the statue will be carved is potentially a statue but actually is simply a block of marble it is in potency to receiving a determination that will constitute it a statue of, say, Julius Caesar. That determination is the shape that the sculptor will impose on the marble. So the marble is the matter, the shape is the form. They must be united into one thing, otherwise there will be no statue.
In general, then, matter names the determinable, the potential. Form names the determining, the actualized principle. The illustration of the statue of Julius Caesar is an example of what is called an accidental form, because the marble is already something in its own right, and the sculptor only gives it a new shape. But when we speak of the matter and form of water or a tree or a horse or a human being we are speaking of a substance an entity existing in its own right, and not on the superficial level of shape or color.
Coming to man, the form that makes him human is the spiritual soul. It is the soul that determines the matter to be human. The soul is a form (that is, a determining principle) that actualizes matter to make a body that is living and human. Neither matter nor spirit alone constitutes a human being each human person is a composite of both, and the two constituents are so united as to be one being. As Aristotle says, to ask whether body and soul are one "is as meaningless as to ask whether the wax and the shape given to it by the stamp are one, or generally, the matter of a thing and that of which it is the matter." 1
The philosophical conclusion is confirmed by the Church. Without deciding secondary differences found within scholasticism, the Church teaches infallibly that the soul is the essential form of the human body. 2
This is implied by the teaching of Genesis that God "formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." 3 Dust signifies man's bodily side, the breath of life signifies the soul. His spiritual aspect is implied in the earlier statement that he is created in the image of God, with dominion over the animals. He is seen as a single being, not as two things, a body and a spirit, in some kind of accidental union.
The biblical understanding is sometimes contrasted with the "Greek" view, namely dualism. Actually there were three general positions among the Greek philosophers: a materialist view of man as simply matter a dualist view held famously by Plato and the Aristotelian position of man as essentially body and soul forming a single entity. This third position is in accord with the biblical understanding.
Now we come to a consideration bearing directly on the question of male and female. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, each soul is individualized by the matter it informs. Just as the statue of Caesar is this statue because the shape is in this block of marble, my soul is this soul because of the condition of the matter it informs. Souls are not like a series of car engines that can be placed in any one of a line of bodies of that particular model.
Each human soul is created directly by God when the organized matter is ready to receive it. From what modern science tells us about DNA this seems to be the moment when sperm and ovum unite to form a new organism. Created from nothing by God, 4 the soul is so intimately united with the aptly organized matter that they constitute a single being: this individual human person.
The point I want to stress here is that the conformity of soul to body implies a uniqueness of the soul derived from the condition of the matter it informs. Had the matter been different at the moment its organization made it fit to receive a rational soul, the soul God created would have been a different soul. And its aptitudes would have differed to some extent.
But the organized matter receiving the soul is either male or female. So the soul itself, determined by the matter, is distinguished by that fact. This is not to suggest that the biological differences are somehow present in the soul, as though some souls were biologically male, others female. The human soul is a spirit, having no matter in it. But the implications of being male or female are more than biological they pertain to the whole being. And because this soul is the form of this body, it follows that there is a modality or aspect to the soul of a man other than the modality belonging to the soul of a woman.
Put it this way: if we take sexuality as more than biological parts, and view it as belonging deeply to the whole person, it extends to the spirit or soul and is not confined to the body. I heard an outstanding Thomistic philosopher in Australia, the late Dr. Austin Woodbury, SM, express it this way: "Sexuality extends from the tip of the toes to the top of the soul."
Being male or female is not in the order of contingent accidents, like size or shape. Nor is it even in the order of properties (proper accidents), like sense or intellect. It is deeper still, and more pervasive. It is a mode of the individual substance. That is, it is a manner deeply characterizing the individual, while not placing it in a different species. The difference between men and women is more than physical and more than psychological. It is ontological, extending to the depths of their being.
We know the soul is changed by the three sacraments that impress a character: baptism, confirmation and holy orders. Each of these leaves a permanent character on the soul. 5 It may be helpful to use this to illustrate the influence the physical organism has at the moment of the soul's creation. But this physical aspect is more radical than the sacramental character, for the matter individualizes the soul.
From the aptness of this soul for this body we can draw some interesting corollaries. One is that each of us had only a single chance of existence. Had a child been conceived a little earlier or a little later, and therefore from a different sperm and ovum, it would not have been the same child. Not only would the body have been different there would have been a different soul. So each of us is very contingent we could not have come into being at another time. We had to have the parents we actually had, and the same grandparents, and the same great-grandparents, and so on back to the beginning of the human race.
At times we may complain, somewhat humorously, about the mess Adam and Eve got us into by committing original sin. Well, they certainly got the human race into a mess, but not the people who exist and have existed. All the individuals would have been different ones in the changed circumstances of a world without original sin.
Another corollary is that reincarnation is ruled out. Because body and soul are made for each other the soul can't inhabit a succession of bodies, like a person moving from one house to another. Reincarnation requires that the soul or spirit be an independent complete entity that happens to inhabit successive bodies the true person exists in the spirit. A third corollary is that between death and the general resurrection the human person, strictly speaking, does not exist. The person is a complete thing, consisting essentially of body and soul united the separated soul is only part of the person. Intellect and will are properties of the soul, so we will know and love but we will not be whole again until our bodies rise at the end of the world. In a popular sense the person will go on existing, but in the technical sense (in accord with Boethius' classical definition of the person as "an individual substance of a rational nature" 6 ), we will only become persons again at the general resurrection.
While the distinction between male and female pervades one's whole being, each sex is made to complement the other. We see this exemplified in those happy marriages where the couple remains very close and lives for each other. The expression "soul mate" describes this, as does the scriptural expression "two in one flesh." The relationship is essentially different from the friendship between two people of the same sex, and it is different precisely because of the complementary character of the two sexes.
The naturalness of lifelong marriage is clear the attraction of a man and a woman for each other, and their mutual fulfillment, demands a permanent union. If this is destroyed by divorce, each spouse is damaged. When death separates a loving husband and wife the survivor feels that something is lacking to his or her completeness.
The complementary character of man and woman is seen in traits that tend to predominate in one or the other. Regarding interest in persons and in things, women tend more than men to emphasize persons. They go more than men for the concrete over the abstract. They usually show greater empathy. Their skills are more inclined toward the verbal than the non-verbal than are those of men. They are usually more receptive, while men are more assertive.
Therefore, the view of the husband as head of the house is not a result of a historically conditioned custom that could be changed without harm. On the contrary, it is based on what man and woman are. So St. Paul was able to say: "Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church." 7 Paul's perspective is supernatural, but it is the elevation to a higher order of a natural reality pertaining to marriage.
Any idea that the husband should dominate his wife is ruled out by the Apostle's comparison with Christ and the Church, and by his insistence, in verse 28, that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Pope John Paul II points out that authentic conjugal love "presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife." 8
The husband has no right to autocratically impose his will, but in cases where agreement cannot be reached it is usually the husband's view that should prevail in matters regarding the family's welfare. But in practice the situation differs from case to case some husbands haven't got much sense!
In the past women have often been victimized and not allowed scope for the development of their talents a situation that still prevails in many countries. Partly as a reaction to this, today we find, especially in Western cultures, a drive to obliterate natural differences and to see women as equivalent to men in everything which means, logically, the obliteration of the woman's specific qualities.
The radical distinction, yet complementarity, of men and women helps explain the virulence with which militant homosexuals insist that the homosexual condition is natural, refusing any rational discussion of the issue. Some of them want legislation to ban public expression of the statement that homosexual actions are intrinsically unnatural, and they are having alarming success in this endeavor.
When a way of life is so profoundly unnatural as this, those who practice it are tempted to use every means to conceal the truth from themselves and can't bear to hear the truth from others. By extension they will tend to be hostile to marriage and to family life. Legislation for same-sex "marriages" helps them maintain their delusion that their way of living is normal and good, for such legislation is an implicit endorsement.
The Thomistic concept of the human soul as the form of the body, with the corollaries that follow, gives the rational grounding of the common-sense view of what we are as male and female. It deepens our understanding of the biblical doctrine of human nature.
- Aristotle, De Anima, Bk. II, Ch. 1, 412b, 7.
- Council of Vienne, DS 902 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 365.
- Genesis 2:7.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 366.
- Ibid., 1121.
- Boethius, De Duabus Naturis c. 3.
- Eph. 5:22-23.
- Familiaris Consortio, n. 25.
Mr John Young, B. Th., is associated with the Cardinal Newman Catechist Centre in Merrylands, N. S. W., Australia. He has taught philosophy in four seminaries and published many articles. He is the author of Reasoning Things Out (Stella Maris Books, Fort Worth, Texas), an introduction to philosophy. His latest book is The Natural Economy (Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, New York). His last article in HPR appeared in December 2006.
Can you tell the difference between male and female butterflies?
Though we can often determine a butterfly's sex by looking at the most obvious differences in its appearance - like the scent spots of the male monarch or wing pattern/color of tiger swallowtails - the best way to distinguish between males and females, particularly if you aren't intimately acquainted with each species, is actually by looking at the butterfly's genitalia. The genitalia are located at the base of a butterfly's abdomen.
The yellow circle marks the male monarch's scent organ. Females do not have these specialized scales.
In general, males have claspers which they open and use to grasp the female's abdomen during mating. With the female's abdomen clasped, the butterflies will remain attached until mating is complete. Very occasionally, you might even see this in the wild. I once caught a mating pair of monarchs as the male flew by with a female attached! Hopefully soon, I will have another post on butterfly mating with videos.
Male claspers in the Papilio genus (a swallowtail group) usually come to a point when closed. Here they are circled in yellow in Papilio polyxenes, commonly known as the black swallowtail. In the photo on the left, you can see I was actually out hunting for monarchs, note the blurry common milkweed at the top and my butterfly net.
Papilio polytes and Papilio dardanus males with claspers open.
Females are a bit trickier as you are looking for the absence of claspers. However in some species, like the monarch, you will note a small divot in the last segment of her abdomen. This is where the male actually grabs on during mating. In addition, most female butterflies have rounder abdomens than males, especially obvious when they are carrying many eggs.
A female and male monarch. The differencs between the sexes is highlighted in the yellow circles.
A female Papilio polytes and Papilio memnon, both native to Asia.
In some species, you might not be able to easily identify the claspers in fact, I still have trouble with the Heliconius genus. These butterflies are on the smaller side which also makes a clear picture from my phone camera challenging and are mostly found in Central and South America, though a few species range into Mexico and the southern U.S.
The female and male abdomen of Heliconius cydno, the difference between the female and male are highlighted in yellow. As you can see, male claspers in this species are smaller and difficult to identify.
Differences Between a Female and Male Brain
You’ve heard it all before, the battle between the sexes, the dating game, the he-says-she-says chronicles, all of this stuff relates to the differences between males and females. In a society where gender equality is often put to the test in the workplace, in relationship clashes and marriage dynamics, has anyone bothered to think about what makes males different from females? The answer, of course, has to do with more than just the psychological profile but something deeper–the biological makeup of the brain itself. Little do we know that our every action towards the opposite sex is motivated not only by our experiences and personal beliefs, but by something that’s hardwired into our brains depending on whether we’re male or female. In order to understand ourselves and the opposite sex better, it’s imperative that we delve into the inner mechanisms of the male and female brain. Some differences significantly affect our behavior while others don’t.
First, males have larger brains than females. You shouldn’t take this as a sign that males are superior to females in terms of thought processes however, the increased brain mass of males is designed to accommodate the extra body mass. A larger brain does a better job of controlling the muscle groups which are more extensive in males than in females.
Secondly, each sex tends to specialize in a certain brain hemisphere. Most males have dominant left-brain hemispheres, while women tend to have balanced left-and-right brain hemispheres. As a result, females score better in communication and are superior in intuition than males. The dominance of the left-brain hemisphere in males makes them less adept in social matters. Have you ever heard of EQ before? A long time ago, IQ, or intelligence quotient, was thought to be the best measure of a person’s intelligence until EQ, or emotional quotient, came along, that is. EQ determines a person’s skill at handling emotional matters such as relationships. Females tend to score better at EQ and express their emotional problems readily, while males have difficulty sensing non-verbal, emotional cues. The sharp difference between EQs leads to petty fights and major arguments between the sexes. Also, the balanced use of both brain hemispheres makes women adept at language learning, while males find it difficult because they favor the left hemisphere.
Thirdly, males score higher in math than females. They’re better at all mathematical fields, especially in geometry. The reason for this lies in males’ larger, inferior parietal lobule, an area of the brain that deals with numerical tasks.
Another factor that contributes to the higher EQ of females has to do with the fourth difference–the deep limbic system. Females have a more extensive deep limbic system as compared to males, and this makes them better at emotional expression. However, this is a double-edged sword because it also makes women susceptible to depression.
Have you ever heard the saying that “males will always be greater navigators than women”? It’s true, and its supported by a significant brain fact. The parietal region is denser in the female brain, and this makes it a challenge for females to excel in spatial reasoning. As a result, males have greater depth perception and road awareness skills. This may also be the reason why males are better at playing computer games, which demands a good deal of visual and spatial cognition.
Males have larger brains than females. This is due to their greater body mass.
Males favor the left hemisphere while females utilize both hemispheres. This makes females better at communication, learning languages, and EQ.
Males have a larger, inferior parietal lobule than females, accounting for their superior mathematical skills.
Females have a more extensive deep limbic system than males, helping them greatly in emotional expression but also making them vulnerable to depression.
Females are burdened by a denser parietal region which makes them inferior to males in terms of spatial and visual cognition.
Differences between Female and Male Moths | Mulberry Silk Moths
1. Body size of female mulberry moth is larger (wing-span: 40-50 mm, length: 25-26 mm) than the male [Fig. 3.19a (i)].
2. Head with antennae shorter than that of male.
3. Female mulberry moth has broad and long abdomen with seven visible segments.
4. The caudal end bears median knob like hairy projection that secretes pheromone.
5. Female mulberry moths are less active.
1. The body is broader than male pupa [Fig. 3.19b (i)].
2. On the ventral side of 8 th abdominal segment, a vertical line is present.
3. No spot is present on 9 t h abdominal segment of female mulberry moth [Fig. 3.19b (i)].
1. In the raptured larva, one pair of Ishiwata’s fore-gland and a pair of Ishiwata’s hind glands are present at the ventral side of 8 th and 9 t h abdominal segments respectively [Fig. 3.19c(i)].
2. The female cocoon is heavier than the male cocoon.
Difference # Morphological Characters of Male Moth:
1. Body size of male mulberry moth is smaller (wing-span: 40-45 mm, length: 22-24 mm) than the female [Fig. 3.19a (ii)].
2. Head with antennae longer than that of female.
3. Male mulberry moth has short and narrow abdomen with eight visible segments.
4. The caudal end bears a pair of hook-like har- pens, which help in copulation.
5. Male mulberry moths are more active.
1. The body is narrower than the female pupa [Fig. 3.19b (ii)].
2. No vertical line is present on 8 th abdominal segment.
3. A small spot is present on 9 t h abdominal segment in male mulberry moth [Fig. 3.19b (ii)].
1. The male larva possesses a single small median white gland — Herold’s gland at ventral side, near the junction of 8th and 9th abdominal segments [Fig. 3.19c (ii)].
Sexual dimorphism (two different forms, that differ in one or more characteristics), as they have mentioned in their research, is because of sex differential expression of genes. This differential expression of genes can impact human evolution by differential selection on mutation with dissimilar effects on the two sexes.” Also, these differences in gene expressions can lead to differential disease susceptibilities.
Their research published on BMC Biology in early 2017 has also shown more than 8100 Sex-Differential Expressions in male and female genes.
To understand Sex Differential Expression (SDE) in human males and females, we need to understand that almost all genes that are common to both sexes Gershoni and Pietrokovski have analyzed 45 common tissues in human males and females. But the same genes are expressed in a different manner in the two sexes. For example, both male and female human beings carry genes associated with lactation. However, after childbirth, it’s only human females who lactate and not the human males. This is how similar genetic systems are expressed in a different manner in the sexes.
1100+ specifically expressed genes in males and females
These scientists have found that this sexual dimorphism (differential expressions in genes) has been demonstrated in diverse human traits, such as –
i. Brain Anatomy and Development
iii. Mortality, Longevity and Morbidity
iv. Distribution and Metabolism of Fat Biogenesis
v. Physical Performance Capabilities
Their paper also referred to another study about B-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells in humans) also have sex-differential expressions. That means response to several diseases by males and females is different.
Gershoni and Pietrokovski also found 8100+ Sex-Differential Expressions (SDEs) in the genes existing in the tissues common to both sexes. Here’s a snapshot.
8100+ Sex Differential Expressions in Human males and females
They have classified each gene found in 45 tissues common to both sexes according to RNA sequencing method and noted the expression of the genes. Then they have assigned an SDE score to each gene in those tissues. From that table, presented in the study as Table S1, shows 8100+ SDEs in different genes. (Note, the same gene may be present in multiple tissues and express differently).
In an exclusive conversation with The Male Factor, Professor Moran Gershoni clarified that the male and female SDEs were found by a method of statistical hypothesis testing where the null hypothesis was ‘there were no differences between the populations”. He also mentioned that ‘most of these differences stem from the differential use of genes carried by men and women’. To a question whether evolution is considered as an important factor in Sex Differential Expressions (SDEs) of males and females, Dr. Gershoni clarified that human evolution should at least in part be thought as co-evolution between males and females.
The determination of one’s gender is complex. It depends on many factors including genes, hormones, psychology etc. Feminists say, both sexes (biological identity, determined by X, Y chromosomes and gender organs) are identical and god had not created them differently. But, if we look at the gene expressions, we find our genes are differentially expressed (especially in same ethnic groups) which is also a factor of our ethnicity and evolution. Human evolution, as expressed by many biologists including Dr. Moran Gershoni, plays an important role in creating differences in males and females. This shows the theory of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ worked more in distinguishing between human sexes than patriarchal oppression.
I thank Dr. Moran Gershoni for clarifying some critical technical questions regarding this research.
The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are ➾tter at map reading'
A pioneering study has shown for the first time that the brains of men and women are wired up differently which could explain some of the stereotypical differences in male and female behaviour, scientists have said.
Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
This difference in the way the nerve connections in the brain are “hardwired” occurs during adolescence when many of the secondary sexual characteristics such as facial hair in men and breasts in women develop under the influence of sex hormones, the study found.
The researchers believe the physical differences between the two sexes in the way the brain is hardwired could play an important role in understanding why men are in general better at spatial tasks involving muscle control while women are better at verbal tasks involving memory and intuition.
Psychological testing has consistently indicated a significant difference between the sexes in the ability to perform various mental tasks, with men outperforming women in some tests and women outperforming men in others. Now there seems to be a physical explanation, scientists said.
“These maps show us a stark difference - and complementarity - in the architecture of the human brain that helps to provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others,” said Ragini Verma, professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“What we've identified is that, when looked at in groups, there are connections in the brain that are hardwired differently in men and women. Functional tests have already shown than when they carry out certain tasks, men and women engage different parts of the brain,” Professor Verma said.
The research was carried out on 949 individuals - 521 females and 428 males - aged between 8 and 22. The brain differences between the sexes only became apparent after adolescence, the study found.
A special brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which can measure the flow of water along a nerve pathway, established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map of the brain called the “connectome”, Professor Verma said.
“It tells you whether one region of the brain is physically connected to another part of the brain and you can get significant differences between two populations,” Professor Verma said.
“In women most of the connections go between left and right across the two hemispheres while in men most of the connections go between the front and the back of the brain,” she said.
Because the female connections link the left hemisphere, which is associated with logical thinking, with the right, which is linked with intuition, this could help to explain why women tend to do better than men at intuitive tasks, she added.
“Intuition is thinking without thinking. It's what people call gut feelings. Women tend to be better than men at these kinds of skill which are linked with being good mothers,” Professor Verma said.
Many previous psychological studies have revealed significant differences between the sexes in the ability to perform various cognitive tests.
Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills - such as map reading - while women tend to better in memory tests, such as remembering words and faces, and social cognition tests, which try to measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”.
A separate study published last month found that the genes expressed in the human brain did so differently in men and women. Post-mortem tests on the brain and spinal cord of 100 individuals showed significant genetic differences between the sexes, which could account for the observed gender differences in neurological disorders, such as autism, according to scientists from University College London.
For instance, one theory of autism, which is affects about five times as many boys as girls, is that it is a manifestation of the “extreme male brain”, which is denoted by a failure to be able to show empathy towards others.
The latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the differences in the male and female “connectomes” develop during at the same age of onset of the gender differences seen in psychological tests.
The only part of the brain where right-left connectivity was greater in men than in women was in the cerebellum, an evolutionary ancient part of the brain that is linked with motor control.
“It's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” said Rubin Gur of Pennsylvania University, a co-author of the study.
“Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex related,” Dr Gur said.
Image: wikipedia, Source: wikipedia Image: public-domain-image.com, Source: wikipedia
The Real Differences Between Men and Women
For half a century, the push for gender equality has driven America’s social and political agenda and cast women as victims of male bias and repression. Make no mistake—business, entertainment, science, and academia needed reform, and eventually, the hammer that could break the glass ceiling was handed to qualified women who sought the top job and fought like tigers to get it. But it soon became apparent that despite notable exceptions, many women chose not to enter the CEO sweepstakes. Similarly, women want a more significant role in technology, but most do not want to sit at a computer all day writing code, never talking to another human being. What is lost in the gender equality debate are the biological imperatives that drive gender choices. Some of these differences favor women, and others favor men. But they are indisputable based on reams of global research cited in Charles Murray’s new book, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race and Class. – Editor
Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class, could have been subtitled, Psychology, Neurology, and Genetics for Dummies. But this book is as demanding as it is valuable, and readers would need to be diligent and academically capable. The author has done his best to simplify, but the subjects he takes up are complicated and, for most readers, unfamiliar.
This work is Murray’s attempt to counter the academic rejection of biology in human life. The current orthodoxy states that gender and race are social constructs, and that class is a function of privilege. This is based on the premise that “in a properly run society, people of all human groupings will have similar life outcomes,” and that substantially different outcomes are the result of prejudice and discrimination. Academics who claim publicly that individual people and groups of people are different from one another, and that some of those differences are rooted in biology, are deemed to be sexist and racist and are denounced. According to Murray, “On an individual level, social scientists have valid rationales to avoiding exploring the intersection of biology and society. Collectively, their decisions have produced a form of de facto and widespread intellectual corruption.”
Murray’s objective is to present evidence from psychology, neurology, and genetics about human variability and its biological basis. In Part I, he addresses sex and gender differences. While there are undoubtedly important cultural influences on defining and enforcing gender roles, there are also inherent biological differences between males and females, which influence significant outcomes. Murray provides generalizations that sum up the evidence in a clear and defensible fashion: “Proposition #1: Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures.”
For example, there are sex differences in personality disorders, such as childhood-onset autism, for which males make up 80-90% of cases, schizophrenia 60% of cases male, dyslexia 66-75% of cases male stuttering 70% cases male, Tourette syndrome 75-80% cases male, whereas adult-onset major depression 66% of cases female, adult-onset bipolar two disorder prevalent cases female, generalized anxiety 66% of cases female, panic disorder 70% cases female, obsessive-compulsive disorder 60% of cases female, post-traumatic stress syndrome 66% of classes female, anorexia nervosa 75% of cases female.
There are many differences in personality between men and women, many of them small, but some fairly large. In one personality inventory of Americans, women were found significantly more appreciative of art and beauty, were more open to inner feelings and emotions, more modest in playing down their achievements, and more reactive, affected by feelings, and easily upset. Women, on average, were more, outgoing, attentive to others, sensitive, aesthetic, sentimental, cooperative, accommodating, and deferential, warm toward others, showing selfless concern for others, sympathetic, enjoying company, and straightforward and undemanding. Men, on average, were more reserved, utilitarian, unsentimental, dispassionate, and solitary. These sex differences are evident in infancy.
One of the many studies of sex differences in psychology discussed is Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism (2003). Baron-Cohen generalized the differences by characterizing males as “systemizers” and females as “empathizers.” Men are driven to understand and build systems that have rules, inputs, and outputs, and do things. “This definition takes in systems beyond machines such as math, physics, chemistry, astronomy, logic, music, military strategy, the climate, sailing horticulture, and computer programing…libraries, economics, companies, taxonomies, board games, sports.” In contrast, women are better at understanding people and emotional states, which makes them empathetic ministers, therapists, arbitrators, interrogators, managers of people, and politicians. We might want to add mothers and teachers to the list.
The most definitive studies of differences between the sexes are international and cross-cultural because only by showing that sex differences are constant as culture and socialization varies from society to society, can the argument that sex differences are innate and biological be supported. What multiple international, cross-cultural studies, including both 25-nation and 50-nation samples have shown is that, despite vastly different cultures with different roles and legal statuses, differences between the sexes remain mostly constant. The robust findings are that women substantially more than men “show warmth toward others…appreciate art and beauty, have altruistic concern for others, sympathize with others, and enjoy the company of others.” The international studies are thus consistent with the American studies of sex differences.
One variation is in countries with the highest level of gender equality. Now, if sex differences were the result of culture and socialization, it might be expected that sex differences would be smaller in countries with gender equality. But this is not the case: “Many sex differences in cognitive repertoires are wider rather than smaller in countries with greater gender equality.” As one study concluded, “Sex differences are most marked among European and American cultures and most attenuated among African and Asian cultures.” In wealthier countries, sexual dimorphism also increases in height, blood pressure, and athletic performance, and even in visuospatial abilities.
One study concludes that “Psychological sex differences–self-esteem, subjective well-being, depression, and values—are demonstrably the largest in cultures with the lowest levels of bifurcated gender role socialization or sociopolitical patriarchy.” These findings definitively refute the feminist theory that gender differences are a “social construct,” the result of socialization and oppression by males. Instead, the evidence supports the argument that sex differences are biological and inherent. As Murray puts it, “Personality differences widen in the most gender-egalitarian societies for the simplest of reasons: Both sexes become freer to do what comes naturally.”
In addressing sex differences in neurocognitive functioning, Murray offers the following generalization: “Proposition #2: On average, females have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.” As regards the five senses—taste, touch, smell, sound, vision—females, on average, have somewhat better sensory perception. Males detect movement better but have greater color blindness. Females are more sensitive to pain, and more easily feel disgust, which is why most dangerous and dirty jobs are done by men. As well, “females have better perceptual and fine motor skills than males.” In motor skills, men are faster, but women are more accurate. Men are better in large motor skills, some of which require cognition, such as throwing accurately to hit a target, which is not shocking given the million years of evolution and natural selection of male hunters. Women have better memory, especially regarding people, emotions, and social events, and are also better in verbal working memory. However, women are stronger on details and men on the general gist of events.
Males have better visuospatial memory, such as navigating landscapes, again, not surprising for hunters. Females have somewhat superior verbal ability, slightly in reading, more in writing, to males in the normal range, but at the highest range of verbal ability, the sexes are more or less equivalent. Sex differences in math in the normal range are inconsequential, but at the extreme high end (2%), males have a strong advantage.
In modern, prosperous, egalitarian societies, there is a more significant difference between the sexes than in poorer and less egalitarian societies for high achieving students in mathematics, the advantage to the males. None of this is explained adequately by socialization or role theories. In all countries around the world, including those with gender hierarchies favoring males, females do better in tested verbal skills than males, and in some cases better in math. Murray concludes, “The parsimonious explanation for the international advantage in verbal tests, across cultures that cover the full range from openly oppressive to aggressively gender-equal, is that women have a genetic advantage.”
“On average, males have substantially better visuospatial skills than females.” Males can see much better than females what happens when objects change positions or are modified. The findings of one study were that “Sex differences in mental rotation and line angle judgment performance were universally present across nations, with men’s mean scores always exceeding women’s mean scores.” But all countries were not the same “the more advanced the country, the wider the sex differences in both visuospatial tasks.”
Women, on the other hand, “have better social cognition than men,” which means that women are better at cognitive empathy, mentalizing, and mindreading. In Baron-Cohen’s terms, social cognition is to empathizing as visuospatial skills are to systemizing. This is true cross-culturally. In men, “systemizing skills and empathizing skills are inversely related” the better men are at one, the worse they are at the other. In women, these skills are independent, so a woman may be good at neither, or one, or both. A neurocognitive study concluded that “Males and females have complementary neurocognitive abilities, with females being more generalists and outperforming males in memory and social cognition tasks and males being more specialists and performing better than females on spatial and motor tasks.”
People are attracted to activities they are good at. Men and women are good at different things, and so they prefer different activities. “Proposition #3: On average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.” Women choose to study certain subjects, to take certain jobs, and to manage their careers in ways that are often distinct from what men choose. Vanderbilt University psychologists, studying middle-aged men and women who were high achievers in math, having an IQ of 140+, received quite different responses from males and females to statements about preferences: Men emphasized freedom of expression and ideas, merit pay, a full-time career, invention, taking risks, working with things, lots of money, stating facts in the face of resistance. Women emphasized part-time careers, for a limited time, working no more than 40 hours a week, flexibility in work schedule, friendships, community service, socializing, and community.
The gifted women in this survey were twice as likely to study STEM fields as women in general, but their male counterparts were also twice as likely as men in general. Most of the women got degrees in the social sciences, business, and the humanities. As a result, more of these gifted men went into STEM than did the women, a 1.6 to 1 ratio. The disparate preferences of men and women also showed in STEM students: the females tending to go into the life sciences (people-oriented), rather than math and the physical sciences (things-oriented). “Even among the exceptionally gifted, women have different life priorities and work priorities than men that affect their career trajectories and achievements.”
Whatever their differences in preferences and choices, in middle age, these talented men and women felt that they had equally satisfying lives. The conclusion is obvious: “Men and women are attracted to different vocations, and those differences correspond to differences in the people-things dimension.” Cross-cultural scores for 62 countries show that these results apply universally, and the sex disparity is more significant in gender-equal countries.
The documented sex differences cannot be explained by “social construction,” socialization, or conventional roles, because they are constant cross-culturally even though social and legal rules, socialization, and roles vary from one culture and one country to another. Instead, they are biologically based. Sex differences are found in the brain: “Proposition #4: Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior.”
One of the differences in male and female brains is the effect of male and female sex hormones: the male hormone testosterone administered to women “diminished their accuracy in inferring mental states,” while estrogen given to men “increased their emotional reactivity.” Another study concluded that “in females, the dopaminergic reward system is more sensitive to shared rewards than to selfish rewards, while the opposite is true for males.” Higher levels of testosterone contributed to male impulsive behavior, while in women contributed to higher levels of risk tolerance.
The impact of sex hormones begins prenatally. Male fetuses experience testosterone surges during weeks 12-18 and again during weeks 34-41. A further testosterone surge takes place during the first three months after birth. For male toddlers, the lower the levels of fetal testosterone, the higher the levels of eye contact and a larger vocabulary the higher levels led to less eye contact and a smaller vocabulary. Biological females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a condition that produces a high level of testosterone, leads to greater interest in male-typical activities and less interest in female-typical activities throughout the life cycle, more interest in things than in people. Genetic XY males with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) have non-functioning androgen receptors, are born with female genitalia, are raised as girls, and are behaviorally indistinguishable from girls. Socialization in femininity influenced only those girls who had low levels of prenatal androgen exposure those who had prenatally received higher levels of the male hormone were not affected by the socialization in femininity. In adults aged 27-30, women with low levels of male hormone rated family life as very important those with higher levels rated family life as not important.
Male and female brains are different. In male brains, the hemispheres are specialized the left for verbal tasks and the right for spatial tasks. In contrast, female brains are not functionally specialized, but both hemispheres are used for various tasks. The default for brain development is female it is testosterone that appears to block the use of the right hemisphere for language processing. “Male brains are structurally optimized for communicating within hemispheres. Female brains are structurally optimized for communicating between hemispheres.
This difference is accentuated by brain size the smaller the brain, irrespective of sex, the greater use of both hemispheres the larger the brain, irrespective of sex, the more functionally differentiated. Male brains are on average much larger than female brains, and thus commonly have functionally differentiated hemispheres. Studies of connectivity in subcortical regions concluded that males have better perception-action coordination, while females have better anticipation and processing socially and emotionally relevant cues. Furthermore, “women have a pronounced neurological tendency to respond to negative stimuli men have a pronounced neurological tendency to respond to positive stimuli.” Women thus have a higher rate of affective disorder.
Murray ends his discussion of sex differences by saying, “Males and females are different. A lot different.” The specific findings of differences between men and women help to explain what has happened to our colleges and universities over the past fifty years. There have been two significant transformations. The first is demographic the second is ideological. Up to fifty years ago, colleges and universities were primarily male institutions, with males dominating numerically among students, professors, and administrators. Today, colleges and universities are dominated by females, who are the overwhelming number of students, an increasing majority of professors and administrators. The feminist project of replacing males by females has succeeded.
During those fifty years, there has been a gradual transformation, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, in which science and rigorous analysis has been replaced by “social justice” political advocacy, by ideological victimology and its identity politics. When universities were predominantly male, “systemizing,” the distinctly male approach, provided the intellectual framework for academic disciplines. Under female domination, systemizing was replaced by “empathizing,” a distinctly female approach the object of research and teaching has now become to find “victims” and to advocate on their behalf.
Understanding has been replaced by moralizing. Female sentiments and tendencies have thus triumphed also in the ideological sphere, setting aside impartial science in favor of identity politics.
Intersex: Female, Male and Everything in-between
From a young age, we’re taught that the world is full of opposites: black and white, good and evil, men and women. We’re told that humans come in two ‘types’, two genders, two sexes. That’s it. Yet, as we grow up, and reach for life outside of our cots, we realise that our world exists in all different shades.
The transgender community is helping us understand that sometimes our gender identity on the inside doesn’t match our body on the outside. Our awareness of other cultures, which for centuries have acknowledged more than two genders, is helping us learn that gender is best understood as a spectrum of people that gender roles and stereotypes are social constructs. But, what if the body you were born in doesn’t neatly ‘fit’ into being biologically ‘male’ or ‘female’?
The diverse world of Intersex
It’s called Intersex, and there are as many intersex people as natural born red-heads on the planet. Intersex people are those whose anatomy and/or physiology isn’t typically female or male. Instead, intersex individuals often have a mixture of sex related traits and are a unique biological blend of characteristics. There are over 40 intersex variations ranging across a spectrum of differences in genetics, chromosomal make up, hormones and internal/external anatomy. Sometimes intersex variation is identified at birth, due to ‘ambiguous’ genitalia, but in cases where external phenotype is unaffected many people do not know their biological differences until puberty or adulthood.
In most cases medical intervention isn’t needed for individuals to live fulfilled, healthy lives. There is some debate, due to a lack of scientific understanding, about whether under developed testicular tissue carries increased cancer risk, an idea that, so far, seems to have sprung from a mythical origin. Yet, despite the facts remaining elusive, it has been common practise since the 1950’s in western society to subject intersex children to ‘gender assignment’ surgery at birth. Frequently, doctors will perform ‘normalisation’ surgeries, which can include clitorectamies (the removal of the clitoris), the removal of gonads or hormone therapy, to make young bodies fit the female/male binary. With a lack of information provided for parents, and by performing surgeries so early in individuals’ lives, potentially unnecessary medical intervention has led to much psychological disruption of individuals’ well-being and physical damage through complication. Many families have felt misinformed or lied to by professionals about the need for surgery at such an early age, if at all. “Doctors have taken it upon themselves to literally carve bodies so that they fit neatly into male and female body types” 69-year-old advocate David Strachan recently expressed. “We’re not stereotypically male or female. There’s a whole spectrum in between.”
A necessary procedure?
Advocates of intersex rights have frequently protested that it is unethical to force often irreversible gender assignment surgeries on non-consenting children, particularly as many take the form of genital mutilation. Since the millennium several national organisations, including IntersexUK and ISNA, have been founded to campaign for intersex rights and support families in their choices. Although intersex issues are becoming more visible through media stories and the growing celebration of Intersex Awareness Day, the first intersex birth certificate was not awarded until the beginning of this year. Moreover, only two countries, Chile and Malta, have produced any formal guidelines towards unnecessary interventions and coercive medical normalisation. They are also the only two countries that have banned such surgeries by law.
In some societies where surgery is not an option the stigma surrounding intersex, and the consequential discrimination, often has even more violent outcomes. Director of SIPD Uganda, Julius Kaggwa recently commented that: “in many African countries, the traditional way of dealing with perceived sexual ‘abnormalities’ has largely been staying silent – and wishing them away through various kinds of traditional rituals, which often meant killing the intersex infants.” Hate crimes, such as the killing of 17-year-old Muhadh Ishmael, born with both male and female genitalia, in Kenya two years ago are still scarily common. In recent years the UN has begun working to condemn violence against intersexual people and to support their human rights.
On the path to a more representative reality?
Media outlets of the 21 st century, be they newspapers, TV or Vimeo, have provided both support and hindrance in the fight for intersex acceptance. The portrayal of intersex people on TV is becoming more representative, with the first intersex character to be played by an intersex actor guest starring on MTV’s Faking It last year. But there is concern that ill-informed accounts may be misleading or ignorant of important issues, like NBC’s Friends thanksgiving episode 2001 where one character is made fun of as ‘hermaphrodite’. Overall however, new media has played an important role in increased intersex visibility. Sites such as Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube have nurtured online intersex communities and allowed the sharing of stories where before there was only shaming and silence. Whilst it is still not uncommon for fearful parents to avoid revealing to their children their medical past, perhaps these new social platforms can help reduce the stigmas around being intersex and having surgery, giving more people power to embrace their own experiences.
It seems that society has come a long way in the last decade towards acknowledging intersex issues and beginning to discuss the need for change in standard medical practise. The intersex community has ideas as to how to repair its damaged relationship with medical professionals if only they are willing to listen. Yet, the troubling absence of protocols or guidelines for medical communities in most countries reflects that there are still stigmas surrounding the existence of intersex variation. Fortunately, increased access to media platforms and representation on screen continues to give the intersex community an ever growing voice.
We can accept that there’s variation in other biological traits. There’s a spectrum of heights, hair colours, eye colours etc. So why not in the mixture of sex related traits an individual can have? Perhaps society’s slow progression towards accepting gender as non-binary will also lead to the acceptance that ‘sex’ can have more than two ordinary variants. Intersexuality need not be ‘fixed’: it is just part of humanity’s natural diversity. Surely, individuals’ have a right to decide the fate of their own bodies.