Imagine that! Men’s Brains are different (and bigger) than Women’s Brains.

021314One 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:

11 Replies to “Imagine that! Men’s Brains are different (and bigger) than Women’s Brains.”

  1. ROFL!

    Monsignor Pope, good things come in small packages! I’m a petite 5′ — so I know!
    Grew up without a dad. Mom and grandma played the roles of mom and dad for us kids.
    Maybe that’s why I’m still single…could never find a “father figure” for a husband. Sad but true. All my friends had their dads and got married – unfortunately 3 of 4 got divorced.

    Anyways, thanks for your thoughts. And God bless you for your posts!

    Your spiritual daughter in Christ, anna

  2. Monsignor Pope, I’m glad you recognize reality. And you are not afraid to speak your mind.

  3. I have always wanted a succinct way to explain #3 and that was brilliant!! Thanks GREAT ARTICLE!

  4. Thank you Msgr , since this truth too , is to help both sides, to cater tenderly to the needs of each other , recognising that , the minute one denies the mercy and power of The Lord, to the other , seeing him /her as less deserving , the enemy has gotten one, to deny such , for oneself too – the truth of The Lord, who IS alive …with the power of His Blood , that can cleanse and heal, in forgiving love , all areas of hurts of miscommunication of whatever nature , which, in turn, would leave one feeling alienated from The Lord !.

    The incident of the Cananite woman , where The Lord seems to tease her, seemingly to give us a lesson , also about the role and power of His Mother, whose intercession can help her children, to be rid of all those ‘possessed ‘areas, of selfishness /prdie . loss of faith and all that comes with it , so that , in The Mother, we all get to be mothers for each other .

    Power of The Heart – woman said to have two hearts – the womb being of same structure as the heart !

    On this Feast of St.Valentine, may we be blessed , to touch and be touched, in the hearts, of all in our lives, with the Precious Blood, ( a ‘literal ‘ touching symbolically might be good too, since we are people of senses !) with its cleansing , healing awesome power ..hearts and heads ..all hurting areas , to be set free , to do what every baptised has the calling to do – to take Kingly dominion , against evil , for the priesty ministry, of praise and intercession , and the prophetic ministry of helping each other , to live the truth .

    St.Faustina, the powerful saint of this century , had a 3rd grade education – her diary , full of Godly wisdom, a best seller , to help us live in our times ; may the Lord help us all , to cast off any mountains of demonic wisdom of envy or selfishness , in us or others, to fill us instead with the ever deeper awareness of His love, into the depth of all our hearts , under the headship of The Holy Spirit of The Father and The Son !

    St.Valentine , pray for us and touch our hearts ,with The Blood of His love for us , that we do get to trust in same, to thus bring us the only lasting peace !

  5. I’m just reading a book about Bletchley Park. That may mean nothing to you but for those of us who come from England we know that it is the place where the brilliant young men who were mathematicians and musicians puzzled over the codes which the Germans and the Japanese were sending to each other (in German code to Germans of course) and the British wanted to break those codes and learn what was being said. The Americans did come in later on, I must add, but the brains required to break codes, in general, came from young men with mathematical, analytical minds. There were many many women there as well but they specialised in listening to what was sent and recording it faithfully and then passing this information on to the actual code-beakers who were 99%, of the time, men! Some women were exceptions but that was the way it was. The brains of men and women are different! We are having the Winter Olympics right now. Women athletes do not compete against men and vice versa. Why? The answer is obvious. The physical build of men and of women is quite different. Evolution has not generally produced women who are men and vice versa! There are exceptions but exceptions are not the general rule. That is why they are exceptions.

  6. #4 point is politically very incorrect. It is also audacious and eminently reasonable. I would add this, that in the case of divorce, we have a form of legal, socially sanctioned, child abuse.

  7. Here is the link to the actual study if anyone is interested: A Meta-Analysis of Sex Differences in Human Brain Structure

    An important thing to keep in mind is that what studies like this keep showing is that there are consistent differences between the average female brain and the average male brain. That is very different from saying there are consistent differences between every female brain and every male brain. So defining categorical differences between the masculine genius and feminine genius is precisely what this research does not support. We can very accurately define some traits and qualities that will more often be found in men or women, but aside from reproductive anatomy, there is precious little that is always true of men or always true of women.

  8. Query on the question of transgenderism and hermaphroditism.
    “And hence a human and feminine soul will give rise to a feminine body with aspects developed for motherhood and intimacy with a husband.”

    Hermaphrodite = male/female soul? And what of the androgynous? I think this is an area where your variation of uber-difference mentality suffers a fatal blow to the head. When the concept of mutant genders are brought up, it presents a conflict toward this gender binary assessment.

    Hence why I cannot bring myself to the extremist view.

  9. “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?”
    Good point to mention the possible conflict of meaning(s) because, no matter how close to certainty a possibe understand is, there’s the old saying that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
    However, I’ve been wondering if the number of cells per mass unit is appropriate. Took me a while and I don’t have the time to get deep into spatial relations mode but; shouldn’t it be the number of cells per 3 dimensional unit. Such as cubic centimetre, litre, flagon, etc.
    I think that more per mass unit would necessarily mean that the cells themselves would be less dense?
    Now, if this is totally your’s from the original then OK because scientific measure isn’ inevitably in your necessary expertis. but, if someone who should have the expertise was consulted, shouldn we be looking to see if there be a vagueness that interferes with readily getting a full grasp, and why?

  10. Size is not a good measure, but the number of synapses is important. Einstine’s brain is measured to have twice the number of synapses of the average brain. Also, there is a woman from India that had a childhood fever that compressed her gray matter together. The doctors expecting a mentally handicapping result of the fever were shocked that she became a genius. The compression caused more than density it caused many nerons to be pushed together and make more synapses. If they really wanted to determine one sex better than the other counting synapes would be the way to go, but this is a silly thing to do. People are more than the sum of their parts and there is no accounting of the soul.

    There are important differences. The averages of IQ between men and women are very close, but men’s brains cover a wider bell curve. Many more are very sharp or very dull, men of both these extreems need the help of a more practical brain and one good in a broad base of things that is often found in women.

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