[The programme will be available on iPlayer here until 27.10.14. We hope to post it to our YT channel in the next two or three days.]
An interesting programme, although its feminist bias was apparent within a few minutes, with a statement from Alice Roberts along the lines of ‘Women earn 20% less than their male colleagues’. A clear statement of the gender pay gap myth, with a subtle twist – ‘their male colleagues’ implies an equivalence in the work being done, whether in terms of choice of profession, or seniority. Outrageous. Of course we know that when we account for these factors, the ‘gap’ disappears.
One of the more interesting sections in the programme concerned a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania – or was it Philadelphia? – showing that major gender-typical brain ‘wiring’ differences emerge in the teenage years. This was attributed to social conditioning for no apparent reason, and the idea that this might be an innate biological process unconnected with social conditioning not even out forward as a possibility. At the end of the section Alice Roberts said something along the lines of:
This study has been heavily criticised.
… and then moved swiftly on. We weren’t informed who’d criticised the study, nor on what grounds, nor how well qualified (if at all) they were to criticise it. But those few words were enough to discredit the research.
Prof Simon Baron-Cohen has demonstrated that gender-typical differences in what newborn babies find interesting – males are more interested in mechanical objects, females more interested in faces – long before exposure to social conditioning. This well-known research cannot have escaped the attention of the programme’s researchers. But how did the programme present the issue of gender preferences for toys? By seeing what happened when they left toy trucks and dolls in Woburn Safari Park, and noted the strong gender preferences of monkeys. Many viewers would reasonably have thought, ‘Well, that may be true for monkeys, but it may not be true for humans.’ And that’s precisely what the piece was designed to do.
The ending of the programme was, with the benefit of hindsight, predictable. Michael Mosley all but accepted the ‘nurture’ explanation about differences in the natures of men and women. A good opportunity squandered.