Saturday, April 23, 2005

The politics of science

Baron-Cohen is researching autism. It's an interesting read into the human pysche by looking at people who are on the edge of a particular behavior. One of his recent theories is based on the dichotomy of systemizers vs empathizers, and how it is distributed between the sexes. Males, he proposes, are more innate to be systemizers, females are more innate to be empathizers, and testosterone is what makes you one or the other.

You can pretty much guess what comes next.

The Edge has scholars commenting on his work on autism, here and here. Warning: spoiler.

There's nothing much about autism in their comments, but a lot of ink is spilled on how they perceive Baron-Cohen's proposition of the difference between the sexes along the systemizer-empathizer axis. And can you guess who will be saying 'yes, there's something to this theory' and who will be saying 'sex differences do not exist'?

Mind you, it's the final comment from Helena Cronin that puts the politics out in the open, lays out a scientific test, and calls the politics for what it is, in her words: "An a priori commitment to 'environment over biology' sounds more like ideological posturing than a serious attempt to solve society's problems"

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