Date: Fri May 30 2003 - 14:01:42 EDT
I just submitted a paper to a peer-reviewed journal about a finding I
made last year
about a correlation between a marker of prenatal testosterone levels
ratios) and the ability of women to recall types and placements of
pictures in a
grid. This is a cognitive test in which women generally outperform men. I
predicted and found that women with more "female" hands (i.e. the pattern that
indicates lower testosterone exposure) do better on this test. Others
exactly the opposite relationship for men using tasks such as mental
which men typically outperform women. (more masculine hands means better
Were I describing this research for Time magazine (not that they'd be
would say that I "suspect" that this result indicates that early
something" to the developing brain and that "perhaps" the low testosterone
environment of women makes the brain better able to procss and retainsuch
visual such information in adulthood.
I said much the same thing in the discussion of my journal article,
except that I
used more scientifically acceptable terms: "hypothesize" rather than
"organize" rather than "does something" and the ever-popular "is
the hypothesis that..." instead of "perhaps." I offer several other
this finding, but explain why I think mine is "more likely." A
careful look at the
graphs I provide of my data show that neither gender or hormones fully explain
picture recall ability, (my lowest scoring subject was a woman) so the gender
difference clearly "does not hold true for everyone." Nonetheless, I
paper with the assertation that my research "may provide clues" into the
development of cognitive sex differences in humans. I'll leave it to my peer
reviewers to decide if the clues are "important."
Have I just submitted a "partisan liberal piece?" My Republican student co-
authors (one of whom is currently deployed in Iraq) didn't seem to
think so, but
maybe if the journal rejects the paper, I can send it to Phil Donahue.
FWIW, the inspiration for this work was the finding that this same
finger length ratio
has a relationship both with the number of older brothers a man has and with
sexual orientation in both genders. (I trained under the researcher who
documented that relationship and published it in Nature in 2000). These studies
have been described in popular magazines using much the same language, and
have gotten a similar reaction from conservative Christian
publications (it's part of
a liberal conspiracy to foster aceptance of homosexuality.) On the
other hand, I
have also seen Christian publications praise other studies that
support the notion
of a partial biological basis for human behavioral and cogntive sex
fine research that reaffirms the Biblical principle of men and women
differently, for different roles.
So if my work actually gets published, maybe I should be more worried about it
being described in a "partisan conservative piece." I hope not...
I'm a Democrat!
And to be fair, it's not only conservative Christian publications who
try to have it
both ways. The liberal press is quick to praise the "biological basis for
homosexuality" as support for the view that the orientation is
"good" (or at least "not bad") and quick to critcize the "biological basis for
behavioral and cognitive sex differences" as a dangerous plot by right wing
conspirators to keep women subordinate to men.
My point is, the theories inspiring the research and the
methodologies by which it
is conducted are largely the same. And one type is no more
"partisan" and no less
"science" than the other.
Louise M. Freeman, PhD
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401
> I think you can safely conclude from ridley's, "more likely","something
> about","that something","suspects","perhaps","would not hold true for
> provide important clues,"
> that this is a liberal partisan piece, not necessarily science.
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