Neuroscience is methodologically flawed. Even when an effect is objectively measurable, small sample sizes and poor statistical significance plague brain imaging studies. Most results are not replicable and, often, the alleged “findings” are not even based on human research. Extrapolating functional or behavior qualities from these studies is logically tenuous at best.
Click on pictures for source documents/web references.
TRANSGENDERISM: these scientific authorities demonstrate with exhaustive research and great analytic detail that there are no meaningful differences between male and female brains, making implausible all arguments about transgenderism that depend on a connection between one’s brain and their sex.
Dr. Anne Lawrence is a male-to-female transsexual and a well-recognized expert on transsexualism.
A Critique of the Brain-Sex Theory of Transsexualism article by Anne A. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., 2007
The brain-sex theory of transsexualism has never been easy to reconcile with clinical reality: Homosexual and nonhomosexual MtF transsexualism are so different clinically that it is almost impossible to imagine that they could have the same etiology. Nevertheless, for a time the Zhou/Kruijver data gave the brain-sex theory a certain superficial plausibility. In 2002, Chung et al. reported new data that raised serious doubts about the brain-sex theory, but the authors were able to explain why the theory might still be plausible. The new data reported by Hulshoff Pol et al. in 2006 did not invalidate these explanations, but it rendered them largely irrelevant. The simplest and most plausible explanation of the Zhou/Kruijver findings is that they are attributable, completely or predominantly, to the effects of cross-sex hormone therapy administered during adulthood. There is no longer any reason to postulate anything more complicated.
The brain-sex theory was never helpful in explaining clinical observations; now it has become irrelevant to explaining neuroanatomical observations. It is time to abandon the brain-sex theory of transsexualism and to adopt a more plausible and clinically relevant theory in its place.
Bold not in original.
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, book by Cordelia Fine, 2011
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains, unraveling the evidence behind such claims as men’s brains aren’t wired for empathy and women’s brains aren’t made to fix cars. She then goes one step further, offering a very different explanation of the dissimilarities between men’s and women’s behavior. Instead of a “male brain” and a “female brain,” Fine gives us a glimpse of plastic, mutable minds that are continuously influenced by cultural assumptions about gender.
From a review of Fine’s work in the Washington Post:
Fine gives these scientists no quarter, and her beef isn’t just with brain scanners. Consider her critique of a widely cited study of babies’ gazes, conducted when the infants were just a day and a half old. The study found that baby girls were much more likely to gaze at the experimenter’s face, while baby boys preferred to look at a mobile. The scientists took these results as evidence that girls are more empathic than boys, who are more analytic than girls — even without socialization. The problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is that it’s a lousy experiment. Fine spends several pages systematically discrediting the study, detailing flaw after flaw in its design. Again, it’s a somewhat technical, methodological discussion, but an important one, especially since this study has become a cornerstone of the argument that boys and girls have a fundamental difference in brain wiring.
By now, you should be getting a feeling for the tone and texture of this book. Fine offers no original research on the brain or gender; instead, her mission is to demolish the sloppy science being used today to justify gender stereotypes — which she labels “neurosexism.” She is no less merciless in attacking “brain scams,” her derisive term for the many popular versions of the idea that sex hormones shape the brain, which then shapes behavior and intellectual ability, from mathematics to nurturance.
Two of her favorite targets are John Gray, author of the “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” books, and Louann Brizendine, author of “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain.” Fine’s preferred illustration of Gray’s “neurononsense” is his discussion of the brain’s inferior parietal lobe, or IPL. The left IPL is more developed in men, the right IPL in women, which for Gray illuminates a lot: He says this anatomical difference explains why men become impatient when women talk too long and why women are better able to respond to a baby crying at night. Fine dismisses such conclusions as nothing more than “sexism disguised in neuroscientific finery.”
Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, book by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young, 2010
In this compelling book, Rebecca Jordan-Young takes on the evidence that sex differences are hardwired into the brain. Analyzing virtually all published research that supports the claims of “human brain organization theory,” Jordan-Young reveals how often these studies fail the standards of science. Even if careful researchers point out the limits of their own studies, other researchers and journalists can easily ignore them because brain organization theory just sounds so right. But if a series of methodological weaknesses, questionable assumptions, inconsistent definitions, and enormous gaps between ambiguous findings and grand conclusions have accumulated through the years, then science isn’t scientific at all.
Elegantly written, this book argues passionately that the analysis of gender differences deserves far more rigorous, biologically sophisticated science. “The evidence for hormonal sex differentiation of the human brain better resembles a hodge-podge pile than a solid structure … Once we have cleared the rubble, we can begin to build newer, more scientific stories about human development.”
Average differences between men and women are not under dispute, but the dimensionality of gender indicates that these differences are inappropriate for diagnosing gender-typical psychological variables on the basis of sex.
And from an article written by the authors, published in the New York Times:
That men and women differ in certain respects is unassailable. Unfortunately, the continuing belief in “categorical differences” — men are aggressive, women are caring — reinforces traditional stereotypes by treating certain behaviors as immutable. And, it turns out, this belief is based on a scientifically indefensible model of human behavior.
As the psychologist Cordelia Fine explains in her book “Delusions of Gender,” the influence of one kind of categorical thinking, neurosexism — justifying differential treatment by citing differences in neural anatomy or function — spills over to educational and employment disparities, family relations and arguments about same-sex institutions.
article in the Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2006
Ben Barres, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University:
…Prof. Barres begs to differ with what he calls “the Larry Summers Hypothesis,” named for the former Harvard president who attributed the paucity of top women scientists to lack of “intrinsic aptitude.” In a commentary in today’s issue of the journal Nature, he writes that “the reason women are not advancing [in science] is discrimination” and the “Summers Hypothesis amounts to nothing more than blaming the victim.”
And quoting another trans scientist on neuroplasticity.
The biggest recent revolution in neuroscience has been the discovery of the brain’s “plasticity,” or ability to change structure and function in response to experiences. “It’s not hard to believe that differences between the brains of male and female adults have nothing to do with genes or the Y chromosome but may be the biological expression of different social settings,” says biologist Joan Roughgarden of Stanford, who completed her own transgender transition in 1998.
You know, it is hard to believe that people continue to support these antiquated “brain sex” theories without reproducible and unambigious scientific proof.