Daily Archives: October 12, 2010

Delusions of Gender

This Friday’s Skeptically Speaking will feature …

… academic psychologist Dr. Cordelia Fine. Her new book, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, challenges the assumption that gender roles are wired into our brains, and shows us how ubiquitous cultural stereotypes are mistaken for actual fact.

That will be a life discussion with Desiree Schell.

Also, this Friday’s edition of Skeptically Speaking will have the latest “Everything You Know is Sort of Wrong” in which Greg Laden (whoever the heck that is) asks if modern hobbies are an evolutionary consequence of prehistoric gender roles.

Desiree and I just finished recording that, and it went fairly well considering that we are both in the latter stages of a very nasty upper respiratory viral infection. I’m sure she can edit out the coughing and hacking.

You can listen live on line here.

Why do women shop and men hunt?

Or, when the hunting season is closed, watch teh game (the guys), or when there are no sales, admire each other’s shoes (the gals)?

This is, of course, a parody of the sociobiological, or in modern parlance, the “evolutionary psychology” argument linking behaviors that evolved in our species during the long slog known as The Pleistocene with today’s behavior in the modern predator-free food-rich world. And, it is a very sound argument. If, by “sound” you mean “sounds good unless you listen really hard.”

I list this argument among the falsehoods, but really, this is a category of argument with numerous little sub-arguments, and one about which I could write as many blog posts as I have fingers and toes, which means, at least twenty. (Apparently there was some pentaldactylsim in my ancestry, and I must admit that I’ll never really know what they cut off when I was born, if anything.)

Before going into this discussion I think it is wise, if against my nature, to tell you what the outcome will be: There is not a good argument to be found in the realm of behavioral biology for why American Women shop while their husbands sit on the bench in the mall outside the women’s fashion store fantasizing about a larger TV on which to watch the game. At the same time, there is a good argument to be made that men and women should have different hard wired behavioral proclivities, if there are any hard wired behavioral proclivities in our species. And, I’m afraid, the validity from an individual’s perspective of the various arguments that men and women are genetically programmed to be different (in ways that make biological sense) is normally determined by the background and politics of the observer and not the science. I am trained in behavioral biology, I was taught by the leading sociobiologists, I’ve carried out research in this area, and I was even present, somewhat admiringly, at the very birth of Evolutionary Psychology, in Room 14A in the Peabody Museum at Harvard, in the 1980s. So, if anyone is going to be a supporter of evolutionary psychology, it’s me.

But I’m not. Let me ‘splain….
Continue reading Why do women shop and men hunt?

Hurricane Paula

Paula has just been named a Hurricane. This is a storm that formed in the northwestern Caribbean, just east of the Yucatan. Although the storm has the potential to become quite strong from very warm surface waters, shearing winds are likely to keep Paula from becoming well organized. Forcasts as to where this storm may go are all over the place It might round the Yucatan and head west into the Gulf of Mexico; possible but unlikely. It may head west after going north for a while, and go to the Atlantic, passing between southern Florida and Cuba. It may travel over western Cuba and curve south towards the central Caribbean. In any event, Paula will sit roughly where it is, not going anywhere fast, for a few days, then likely speed up and go somewhere. And, by the time that happens, we may have a prediction of the storm’s direction that is a bit more accurate and consistent.

The strength of the storm is linked to its likely direction. A weaker storm will head off to the Atlantic, a stronger storm will head down into the Caribbean, according the discussion at the National Hurricane Center.

There are currently hurricane warnings in effect for the coast of Mexico from Punta Gruesa north to Cabo Catoche. This includes Cozumel. There is as much as a 40% chance or so that areas within this warning zone will experience hurricane force winds. Tropical storm warnings are in effect for other regions outside of this zone.