Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Biological Determinism

This is a post to explain the theory behind ‘biological determinism’, and to analyse it briefly. I’m going to publish subsequent posts that provide different examples of biological determinism, and finally a post that asks why humans have a preference towards this theory. It is probably best if these posts are read in conjunction. I don’t want you to feel as though I’ve neglected anything, or that I’m being too biased.

Biological determinism, as stated by Natasha Walter (journalist and broadcaster), is the theory that the differences we see between men and women are not created by social influences, but are laid down for them by the time they are born by genetic and hormonal differences.

In the 1970s, society took a socially orientated view of how sex differences are produced. The Needs of Children (1974), a publication aimed at anyone caring for children, said ‘the gender role is psychologically determined, first by parental and then by wider society’s expectations’. This publication reiterated a mainstream belief and it was highly reviewed at the time.

Today, we are far more likely to have everything explained to us through biology. If I tell someone I believe in gender equality, they will undoubtedly tell me that I can’t deny biological gender differences. They’re right; I can’t deny that I have a uterus. That is a biological gender difference. Point taken. People are also very fond of pointing out how male testosterone levels can contribute to aggression. Yes, this is true. The mistake we’re making with these facts is thinking that they are more significant than variance in human behaviour. Even after puberty, I am more likely to find a more aggressive man because he is a different person. I am quite an aggressive person and most of my male friends would rather avoid confrontation. This is not everyone’s experience however, so it is important to read my post titled 'Hormones' that will assess the situation more critically.

The biological argument falls down when it seeks to prove anything other than anatomical and hormonal differences. When it tries to categorise the brain’s nuances from infanthood for example, the results are so indecipherable that scientists can easily interpret them according to their bias. I will allow the following post to explain…

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