One of the more irritating experiences of living in the post rational and ideological modern age is that common sense is often overruled by the intransigent and pseudo-religious notions of ideologues. But every now and then some one in the media lets it slip that reality is still out there and has data to offer us.
From Cambridge University comes the astonishing news that men and women are different and that those differences are actually reflected in brain size, structure and function. Here are some excerpts from The Cambridge Article along with some (often) tongue in cheek comments by me in plain red text
After analyzing 23 years [did it really take 23 years?] worth of research a complete picture of how men’s and women’s brain develop differently has been drawn…[and that] men’s brains are bigger overall than women’s – by up to 13 per cent. [Isn’t 13 an unlucky number?]
But some individual parts of the female brain are denser…. [Oops did they really say denser? Surely they refer to the number of cells per mass unit rather than “dense” in the sense of unteachable or stubborn? 🙂 ]
“For the first time we can look across the vast literature and confirm that brain size and structure are different in males and females. [First time? Please. Those who live in the common sense world are saying to the recent scientific arrivals, “When did you get here?” The point being that anyone with common sense has known that male and female brains are different. It was not necessary for us to scan, dissect, weigh or measure brains to know this, since something can also be known by its effects. Men and women think differently, therefore their brains through which this spiritual power manifests must be different. It is nice to have a physical description of this difference but this is not “the first time” we can confirm that the male and female brain are different.
“We should no longer ignore sex in neuroscience research, especially when investigating psychiatric conditions that are more prevalent in either males or females.” (Normal folks haven’t ignored sex…ever. And frankly most psychotherapists with any experience at all know that men and women think differently and are to be treated differently).
“It is important to note that we only investigated sex differences in brain structure, so we cannot infer anything about how this relates to behavior or brain function.
Now gosh darn it, I thought we were heading toward common sense and logic and then comes this “disclaimer.” Honestly cannot someone reintroduce simple logic and philosophical truths to the modern discussion? How about a few simple truths such as agens sequitur esse (acting follows being, or what a thing is). Or how about that material and efficient causality relate to final and formal causality? Of course differences in brain structure relate positively to brain function. The fact that a car has four good wheels is going to say a lot about how it functions. Show me something without four wheels and I’m going to tell you it probably doesn’t function as a car. Maybe its a desk or a storage device. Function and form are obviously related. Do we really need a costly 23 year study to tell us this. And why after 23 years are our analysts still not able to say that the difference in brain structure both reflects and gives rise to a different way of thinking?
Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, who also worked on the study, said: “Although these very clear sex differences in brain structure may reflect an environmental or social factor, from other studies we know that biological influences are also important... The old nature/nurture debate once again. For the meager evidence I have amassed in 52 years, I think that nature has a lot to do with differences, those nurture surely has its influence too.
A few other thoughts from the theological perspective.
1. First a minor point: Size is of little account here. In the computer world, smaller is usually better. But in the theological world smaller is often better too. God often thins his ranks. He tells Gideon his army is too large, Jesus always many to leave him and follow him no more. He teaches that few find the kingdom and many more do not. He teaches us to humble ourselves, to make ourselves smaller, in effect. That men have a larger brain says little here.
2. The soul is the form of the body. And hence a human and feminine soul will give rise to a feminine body with aspects developed for motherhood and intimacy with a husband. Surely too her brain, which it would seem the soul makes great use of for thinking, deliberation and the exercise of other rational faculties, would exhibit differences from men’s brains.
3. There is a feminine genius and a masculine genius which together are meant to complete what it means to be fully human. It is not good for the man to be alone, and I would suppose also that it is not good for the woman to be alone. Indeed, when God wants to make “man” in his image he made them “male and female.” Therefore each sex manifests something of the glory of God that the other cannot. And while God is revealed as Father and uses masculine pronouns to denote Himself, it is not a man alone or a woman alone who best image God, but a man and a woman in fruitful marriage who best image him.
4. In terms of parenthood can we please draw the politically incorrect conclusion that Children need a father and mother to complete their psychological, spiritual, emotional and even physical development? Since men and women actually ARE different does it not follow that a child with only a mother or a father, or God forbid (and he does) two fathers or two mothers…does it not follow that such a child is being unjustly deprived of what he or she reasonably deserves? My father taught me things my mother could not and vice versa. I am the person I am today thanks to both the masculine and personal genius of my father and the feminine and personal genius of my mother. Too many children today are unjustly deprived of what they deserve: a father and a mother. If men and women are different, and we have always known they are, then we ought not go on sanctioning intentionally irregular family structures which deprive children of the masculine and feminine genius exhibited in a stable, heterosexual union known as Holy Matrimony.
5. Difference has nothing to do with dignity or “equality.” Men and women are different, with diverse gifts, but equal in dignity. This is the true meaning of St. Paul’s often misunderstood quote:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26 -29)
St. Paul is not saying there are no differences for that would be foolish and blind. Rather, he is saying that our greatest dignity is to be in Christ and thereby a child of God. Of course men and women are different and possessed of different gifts, that is obvious. But they are of equal dignity for they are both members of Christ. There is no greater dignity than to be a child of God. What ever our secondary titles or distinctions, and they DO exist, they do not affect our dignity. The Pope has many titles and is head of the Church, you’d better believe it. But he is no more baptized than you or I. Of all his titles, none is greater or higher than his title, “Beloved Child of God.” The same title he shares with you and me. Before God we have equal dignity with him.
Now you know I had to use this video:
and this one too: