A reader let me know that I was mentioned on the March for Science Seattle page.
Wow. Let me repeat that amazing accusation.
…the idea that there are no biological differences between men and women, that there are no evolutionary differences in male and female psychology, and that everyone is a clean slate (tabula rasa hypothesis – false) with gender being 100% socially determined without biological basis.
I am a fairly conventional cis-het man, steeped in Western culture, married to a conventional cis-het woman. I have seen porn. I have had heterosexual intercourse. I’m entirely conscious of the biological differences between men and women.
I’m also a biologist. I know the difference between a testis and an ovary, between a Mullerian duct and a Wolffian duct, between testosterone and estrogen (which, in the latter case, isn’t much). I’m also fairly well acquainted with the literature in evolutionary biology, and even know a bit about neuroscience.
To say that I claim there are no biological differences between men and women is so patently absurd and totally divorced from reality that Mr Pavlov ought to be embarrassed about saying something so stupid while accusing me of saying something so stupid. He won’t be.
What he’s doing is a common rhetorical trick. It’s obvious that most men have a penis and most women have a vagina, therefore, with a bit of clumsy sleight of hand, he wants to claim that every bit of cultural bias about the relative abilities of men and women is equally valid. He wants to pretend that because ovaries exist, all his notions about femininity must be equally rooted in biological reality.
Similarly, he reveals his hand with that odious Pinkerism about blank slates — that’s exactly the same game! Argue that some element of human psychology is not fixed by genetics and that it arises in a social context, and you are castigated by Pinker fans who like to bring the discourse to a dead stop with the ludicrous accusation that you must believe everything is
100% socially determined without biological basis. It’s idiotic and dishonest, but right now it’s Pinker’s main claim to fame.
Some things are complex and culturally determined. Biological sex is strongly canalized to produce a bimodal distribution of physical properties, but intersexes do exist. The brain is a plastic organ that responds to its environment in sophisticated ways, and carries both predispositions and the potential to develop in new ways, and gender is less strongly specified by genes than is the reproductive tract. If anyone is anti-science, it’s these people who want to argue for a less responsive, less adaptive, less diverse pattern of possible behaviors from the human brain.
You don’t get to claim that you have a solid biological footing in arguing that women are more nurturing, are less capable of doing math, and prefer the color pink because estrogen unless you’ve done actual work to demonstrate that those differences are real. Breasts aren’t your shortcut for imposing a mass of narrow Victorian cultural prejudices on how people should be, and you don’t get to hide behind science on this one.
Also…hiding behind trivially exposed lies isn’t science, even if some of your scientific heroes who try to defend a regressive conventionality think so.