BBC ‘Horizon’ programme on gendered brain differences

[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.

About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • epistemol

    Much as expected then, a Femarxist(c) propaganda vehicle.

  • epistemol

    Alice Roberts has form on this.
    I once used to quite enjoy her presentation of ‘Coast’. But perhaps a year or two ago she also presented a programme which covered the topic of how early humans used to live on the African Serengeti or some such. In it, we learn that the men (boo) of the tribe would go off hunting for days, on what must have been a demanding, arduous and sometimes dangerous undertaking. Only to return shamefaced and empty handed (we are told with a smirk) after this failed, irresponsible lads lark about.
    Meanwhile the women (hurrah) had been diligently collecting berries, nuts, roots and the like, thus being the saviours of the tribe, in contrast to those awful useless men (as though she had been there and witnessed it in person).
    At the time I was hoping this was perhaps some sort of production lapse or misunderstanding. Now it becomes clear it was a faintly risible attempt to re-present history, like some Soviet era air brushed photo.
    This, of course, hardly makes her the new Solanas, I know. Perhaps Roberts was just copying what she perceived to be the fashionable in-thing to do (as perhaps was Emma Watson at the UN) but that would be, in itself, culpable given the consequences of gender de-stabilisation.

    • Interesting. Feminist re-writing of history has reached epic proportions. I’ve heard of this ‘gathering berries/ nuts / roots v hunting’ thing before, with some feminists even suggesting a majority of a tribe’s calorific intake would come from women. Even if it were true, so what? Hunting is essentially about gathering protein, and in whatever form – including fishing – is a more dangerous undertaking. I’ve never heard of a tribe where the women did the hunting.

  • Saw a repeat. 
    A. Anyone working with congenital learning disability, acquired brain injury and dementias has clear evidence of the effects on behaviour and personality of specific parts of the brain, indeed their are now predictive maps! 
    B. As human society isn’t a “thing” landed from  space it is highly likely that it’s development reflects human proclivities in the face of survival. I note that “serious” feminists long ago conceded that “matriarchal” societies had never existed and so the broad pattern of social organisation has been almost universal up to the modern era. 
    C. Very young boys and “monkeys” playing with cars seems much more likely to reflect a male proclivity to investigate novel and possibly dangerous objects in their environment rather than anything about cars as such. Of course the females prefer both the familiar doll( two hands,legs, head eyes etc.) and consequently  don’t take such risks in investigating the novel and dangerous. So the difference is in risk and investigation of the strange and unfamiliar. A commonly observed behavioural difference across the life course. 
    D. I note in the sequence with school kids that the girls were choosing “creative” options with rationalisations that this gave greater opportunity for self expression. The boys were choosing maths and science and offered no rationalisations beyond usefulness for future jobs, sadly no expectations about self expression at all. When pressed by Alice the girls opined that lack of images of female scientists may be the cause. This did look like agreeing with Alice and saying “yes” to more female scientists so long as it’s someone else! This is a common theme with females expressing a “correct” view having decided not to do the science themselves! “Yes to female scientists, but not me”.
    E. There was the usual littering of value judgements. For example it may well be testosterone plays a role in risk, competition and innovation. This most commonly finds outlet in a huge variety of useful work behaviours and roles , but may indeed also have a role in behaviours that are deemed crimes. The point being it is only the latter, much rarer , behaviours that get mentioned! Meanwhile our current comfort relies on generations exploration, risk. Innovation/invention and the striving engendered by competition. “Rest less” males have and are vital but we choose only to notice the few.