Men vs. women: Why we’re imagining equality all wrong

It's possible to seek equality without seeking sameness.

HEATHER HEYING: Should we seek identical outcomes for men and women on all tasks because our imagining of what equality looks like is that equality must be same?

Male and female are concepts that are real and far older than us as humans, older than primates, older than mammals, older than vertebrates. Man and woman obviously are the human names for adult forms of male and female and it would be beyond surprising if we were identical in every way except for the obvious ways that we're reproductively not identical. We can, we should recognize our difference and be equal under the law, be equal in our expectations for what we can achieve, be equal in our ability to move into particular careers that we might want to move into while simultaneously recognizing that at the population level males as a population and females as a population are on average different. It's not to say better or worse on average across the board, but that there will be places, there will be things that you can measure, there will be parameters that are actually relevant to being human and to moving around in the world where women are on average better than men and places where men are on average better than women.

With regard to some measures of mathematical intelligence the greater male variability hypothesis, for which there is research evidence, suggests that males and females are basically the same on average, but the standard deviation for men is higher, which means that you expect to see more men at both tails of the distribution, which is to say more male geniuses in this particular regard and more male idiots as well, men who can't do math at all and men who are much better than the vast majority of the population. Not to say that there aren't women in both of those categories as well, but you expect to see more men. To take an example of a character on which women on average are better than men we have measures of linguistic capability such as reading and writing. With regard to reading and writing and other linguistic activities women are on average better.

I would argue then that we should seek equality without seeking sameness: seeking equality means recognizing difference, being honest with ourselves about what differences are and honoring the choices that people make when you're in a system in which all barriers to entry for various careers have been eroded. So allow girls and boys equally to make choices that they would like to make, but instead of, for instance, forcing girls to play with trucks and boys to play with dolls, some of them want to, many of them don't, many girls don't want to play with dolls either, let children choose what they want to choose and don't be appalled and don't assume that society is putting people down when on average there are differences between the sexes.

  • Males and females as a population, on average, are different. Beyond obvious differences in reproductive systems, research has shown measurable differences between the sexes in areas such as linguistic capabilities.
  • Evolutionary biologist Heather Heying argues that while males and females should be equal under the law, that does not mean that their differences should be ignored. "We should seek equality without seeking sameness."
  • People should be given the freedom to make choices, not forced to engage in activities in the name of equality.

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

Lair of giant predator worms from 20 million years ago found

Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.

Credit: Rickard Zerpe / Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
  • The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
  • The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
Keep reading Show less

FOSTA-SESTA: Have controversial sex trafficking acts done more harm than good?

The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.

Credit: troyanphoto on Adobe Stock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) started as two separate bills that were both created with a singular goal: curb online sex trafficking. They were signed into law by former President Trump in 2018.
  • The implementation of this law in America has left an international impact, as websites attempt to protect themselves from liability by closing down the sections of their sites that sex workers use to arrange safe meetings with clientele.
  • While supporters of this bill have framed FOSTA-SESTA as a vital tool that could prevent sex trafficking and allow sex trafficking survivors to sue those websites for facilitating their victimization, many other people are strictly against the bill and hope it will be reversed.
Keep reading Show less

Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Keep reading Show less

What is the ‘self’? The 3 layers of your identity.

Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.

  • Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
  • Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
  • In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
Keep reading Show less