Fourth International School On Mind, Brain And Education

2009, August 1-5

Educational Neurosciences
and Ethics

Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Mariko Hiraiwa Hasegawa
Graduate University for Advanced Studies, JAPAN

Evolutionary biology, Neuroscience, and gender issue
Feminism and evolutionary biology have had rather antagonistic relationship on the interpretation of sex differences. Feminists pointed out the huge influence of socio-political stereotype and inequality on our perception of sex differences among animals and humans, and proposed to call them “gender differences” rather than sex differences. They insisted that biology, as a science, has been heavily distorted by this stereotyped ideas and also accused biology of providing scientific basis for the current gender ideas. They are partly right, and evolutionary biologists themselves are now well aware of this bias, and are trying to remove the bias when they make up hypotheses about sexual behavior. However, evolutionary biologists are convinced that not all of sex differences are the mere reflection of socio-political gender stereotypes, and think that feminists should take evolutionary biology more seriously. Although recently several feminist-biologists have attempted to fill the gap through publications and conferences, consensus has yet to be reached between them. In the middle of this controversy, new development in neuroscience has revealed a number of sex differences in many aspects of human brain activities. The relevance of such studies is also debated. In this talk, I will summarize what kind of sex differences in brain activities we can predict from evolutionary biology and physical anthropology, and discuss how we can use this knowledge to better understanding of humans and human society.