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Old 30th August 2019, 04:11 PM   #1
Malicex
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Male & Female Brains Are The Same

I've had two anthropology teachers in Kansas tell the class that there is no difference between male and female brains, that the genders are the same. Is this belief starting to become a thing now?

The first teacher I approached about it, who was always in a hurry, kind of broke down and said there is research supporting both sides, and that we really don't know...

The second teacher I haven't spoken with, but he told the class it was proven a long time ago. His source was Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935) by Margaret Mead, wherein in the Tchambuli tribe the women were dominate.

Last time I heard this argument, it was from right-wing Christians trying to disprove homosexuality and what not. Now I am hearing it from the left?
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Old 30th August 2019, 04:16 PM   #2
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Are your instructors leftists?
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Old 30th August 2019, 04:34 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Venom View Post
Are your instructors leftists?
They seem like it, especially the 2nd one. But I've heard the sentiment online from the left too. My guess is that some of them have gotten so caught up in equality between sexes, that they're starting to get their beliefs confused.
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Old 30th August 2019, 04:49 PM   #4
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Never had much time for the idea myself.

Physically men and women have significant differences but the brains are identical?

Sort of conflicts with evolutionary theory also. I mean our brains evolve to fit the tasks required and the tasks for men and women are often different. Childbearing is one example of this.
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Old 30th August 2019, 04:58 PM   #5
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A lot of colleges lean a bit left, it reflects in hiring practices eventually.

It sometimes isn't easy to see from inside.
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Old 30th August 2019, 05:30 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
I've had two anthropology teachers in Kansas tell the class that there is no difference between male and female brains, that the genders are the same. Is this belief starting to become a thing now?

The first teacher I approached about it, who was always in a hurry, kind of broke down and said there is research supporting both sides, and that we really don't know...

The second teacher I haven't spoken with, but he told the class it was proven a long time ago. His source was Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935) by Margaret Mead, wherein in the Tchambuli tribe the women were dominate.

Last time I heard this argument, it was from right-wing Christians trying to disprove homosexuality and what not. Now I am hearing it from the left?
The studies I have seen say that it is complicated.

In general it seems that there are structures to the brain that can be more masculine traited or more feminine traited. However, most people don't have all masculine traited, or all feminine traited, they have a mixture of the two, and all the variants in between. However in general men will tend to have more structures that are towards the masculine end of the spectrum, and women will have more that are towards the feminine end, but at the same time there is no clear pattern that says women will have these structures in a feminine version, and men will have them in a masculine version. So... Yes there is a difference in that overall most women will have more feminine type structures, and most men will have more masculine type structures, but which structures tend feminine and which will tend masculine varies so much from person to person that you can also say that there is no formal differences between which structures will be found in which gender.
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Old 30th August 2019, 05:41 PM   #7
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Let me try an analogy...

Imagine that we have ten bags of stones, the stones inside being labelled 1 through to 10 based on the bag, and each bag's stones being a mix of pink and blue stones.

Now a group of people draw one stone from the bag so that they have ten stones, labeled 1 through 10.

Now as you can imagine, most people will have a mixture of pink and blue stones. A very few might have all blue or all pink, but they will be rare.

Now most of those that have 6 or more pink stones are women, but not all of them. And most of those that have 6 or more blue stones are men, but again not all of them. Also you have as roughly as many men that have a blue number 4 stone as have a pink number 4 stone, just as you have roughly the same number of women that have a pink 7 stone as a blue 7 stone, and likewise for all the other stones.

So there is a clear pattern that more pink stones means female, and more blue stones mean male, but there is no pattern in the labelled stones as to how that number of stones will be reached.
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Old 30th August 2019, 05:42 PM   #8
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It seems that, with such different instincts, it is impossible to imagine them the same.

Oh, and why is this in Paranormal?
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Old 30th August 2019, 05:43 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
The studies I have seen say that it is complicated.

In general it seems that there are structures to the brain that can be more masculine traited or more feminine traited. However, most people don't have all masculine traited, or all feminine traited, they have a mixture of the two, and all the variants in between.
That's exactly how I understand it. Many years ago I heard it referred to as male-differentiated brains vs female-differentiated brain, when reading about brain research.

There are so many masculine and feminine traits. One trait being sexual attraction, wherein men are typically attracted to women, and women are typically attracted to men. But individuals inherit a mixture of traits, you can't expect something as complex as the human brain or entire human body to only have traits of set A or set B. However when someone says they're just simply the same... all I can think is that they don't entirely comprehend the difference between populations and individuals.

Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Let me try an analogy...

Imagine that we have ten bags of stones, the stones inside being labelled 1 through to 10 based on the bag, and each bag's stones being a mix of pink and blue stones.

Now a group of people draw one stone from the bag so that they have ten stones, labeled 1 through 10.

Now as you can imagine, most people will have a mixture of pink and blue stones. A very few might have all blue or all pink, but they will be rare.

Now most of those that have 6 or more pink stones are women, but not all of them. And most of those that have 6 or more blue stones are men, but again not all of them. Also you have as roughly as many men that have a blue number 4 stone as have a pink number 4 stone, just as you have roughly the same number of women that have a pink 7 stone as a blue 7 stone, and likewise for all the other stones.

So there is a clear pattern that more pink stones means female, and more blue stones mean male, but there is no pattern in the labelled stones as to how that number of stones will be reached.
That's a good and simple way to put it, I like it.

Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
It seems that, with such different instincts, it is impossible to imagine them the same.

Oh, and why is this in Paranormal?
Where should I have posted it?

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Old 30th August 2019, 05:43 PM   #10
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I just read about the new study on genetics and homosexuality. The conclusion was that there was no single "gay gene" but multiple factors that then get confounded even more by hormone production and again by upbringing. Basically, the researchers said that out of their very large sample size, they couldn't conclude any sort of bright line existed.

I'm inclined to suspect that this would also be the case with male/female brains. There may be differences, but untangling any of the reasons for or effects of those differences would be impossible. There's probably a spectrum along which various people fall for reasons far too complex to care about.
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Old 30th August 2019, 06:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post



Where should I have posted it?
Sorry. My first thought had been in Medical, but I wasn't being critical.
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Old 30th August 2019, 07:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
Sorry. My first thought had been in Medical, but I wasn't being critical.
No problem. It's my first time posting in these forums, so I just went with the general category.
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Old 31st August 2019, 02:01 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Never had much time for the idea myself.

Physically men and women have significant differences but the brains are identical?

Sort of conflicts with evolutionary theory also. I mean our brains evolve to fit the tasks required and the tasks for men and women are often different. Childbearing is one example of this.

So how does the female brain regulate childbearing?
Does the female brain have a lobe that controls their breasts?
And men one that controls the penis? (Some women claim it's the other way round.)
Neuroscience of sex differences: Male and female brain (Wikipedia)

There seems to be only minor differences between male and female brains, but they are not identical. (Of course, no two brains are.)
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Old 31st August 2019, 02:04 AM   #14
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If you have a brain sitting in front of you, can you tell whether it came from a man or a woman? (I'm asking because I don't know, not to make a point, whatever it might be.)
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Old 31st August 2019, 05:04 AM   #15
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To be properly "woke" these days, it seems you have to simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies.
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Old 31st August 2019, 05:17 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Matthew Best View Post
If you have a brain sitting in front of you, can you tell whether it came from a man or a woman? (I'm asking because I don't know, not to make a point, whatever it might be.)
From memory, we had a thread on here a little while ago that was about some of the latest information. And it was whilst there are some male and female structures nearly all brains are a combination of both and the variances between same sex brains is almost as much as between male and female brains so probably the best you could say is "this is more likely to be the brain of a female".

I'll see if I can find the thread or articles again.

ETA think this is an article about it https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015...nt-study-finds
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Old 31st August 2019, 05:18 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Ron Obvious View Post
To be properly "woke" these days, it seems you have to simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies.
I take it "woke" is some form of insult? What's it got to do with the thread topic?
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Old 31st August 2019, 05:56 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
From memory, we had a thread on here a little while ago that was about some of the latest information. And it was whilst there are some male and female structures nearly all brains are a combination of both and the variances between same sex brains is almost as much as between male and female brains so probably the best you could say is "this is more likely to be the brain of a female".

I'll see if I can find the thread or articles again.

ETA think this is an article about it https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015...nt-study-finds
That's kind of what I got from a quick read of Wikipedia when nobody answered my question quite quickly enough(!).
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Old 31st August 2019, 08:16 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Ron Obvious View Post
To be properly "woke" these days, it seems you have to simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies.
That is what shocked me. How can one believe both?

And how is that supposed to work with them also believing in multiple genders, like androgynous and asexual? It doesn't really fit The Gender Unicorn (I am not allowed to post URLs yet).

www dot transstudent.org/genderunicornexample.jpeg

If the brains of men are women are the same, how does someone manage to feel like a female trapped in a male body and want to change their body to a female one?

Perhaps... the best answer is that the largest differences between male and female brains are their sexuality?
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Old 31st August 2019, 08:25 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
I take it "woke" is some form of insult? What's it got to do with the thread topic?
"Woke" isn't generally an insult. It means to be alert and aware about racism, sexism, or other injustices. Can't tell if Ron intends it as an insult though.
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Old 31st August 2019, 08:54 AM   #21
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Hormones and genes are powerful things and as with the rest of their bodies there is no doubt that men and women brains differ on average in several anatomical and physiological ways. But as stated unthread there is an enormous amount of variation and overlap too and any individual may be more like the average of the opposite gender or more like the average of their own.

The sociological political position that men's and women's brains are "the same" emphasizes that their intelligence, potential, worth, etc. are the same. This is both accurate and a counter to the historic prejudices that "women don't have the brains for science" etc.
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Old 31st August 2019, 08:58 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Ron Obvious View Post
To be properly "woke" these days, it seems you have to simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies.


Actually, to be properly woke, you don’t have to believe anything at all. You just have to accept people for who they are. Pretty simple actually.

But to address what you said, it’s actually quite easy to believe there are little to no differences between male and female brains. This means that gender and sexuality don’t have much to do with actual brain structures and that it’s other factors that determine these things.
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Old 31st August 2019, 09:56 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
But to address what you said, it’s actually quite easy to believe there are little to no differences between male and female brains.
He never stated it was hard to believe. He pointed out a self-contradiction.

Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
This means that gender and sexuality don’t have much to do with actual brain structures and that it’s other factors that determine these things.
Gender and sexuality are neurological phenomena. What other place do you generate feelings of emotion and identify, other than the brain?
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Old 31st August 2019, 02:17 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
So how does the female brain regulate childbearing?
Does the female brain have a lobe that controls their breasts?
And men one that controls the penis? (Some women claim it's the other way round.)
Neuroscience of sex differences: Male and female brain (Wikipedia)

There seems to be only minor differences between male and female brains, but they are not identical. (Of course, no two brains are.)

What is this?

A pathetic attempt to ridicule what I have said but including a note at the end that is in line with my statement. You then link a Wiki extract that you obviously have not read yourself .... perhaps you did but with a comprehension shortfall.

Quote:
Males and females differ in some aspects of their brains, notably the overall difference in size with men having larger brains on average (between 8% and 13% larger),[2] but there are areas of the brain which appear not to be sexually differentiated. Additionally, there are differences in activation patterns which suggest anatomical or developmental differences, but the source of these differences is often unclear.
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Old 1st September 2019, 03:52 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
What is this?

A pathetic attempt to ridicule what I have said but including a note at the end that is in line with my statement. You then link a Wiki extract that you obviously have not read yourself .... perhaps you did but with a comprehension shortfall.

Quote:
Males and females differ in some aspects of their brains, notably the overall difference in size with men having larger brains on average (between 8% and 13% larger),[2] but there are [hilite]areas of the brain which appear not to be sexually differentiated[/highlight]. Additionally, there are differences in activation patterns which suggest anatomical or developmental differences, but the source of these differences is often unclear.

The bias is painfully obvious. You don't even read the two quoted sentences properly.
1) Brain size differs quite a lot. Some women's brains are bigger than some men's brains, which doesn't seem to influence their gender or their sexual orientation.
2) "Activation patterns" means that there are areas of the brain that men tend to use more than women and vice versa. You need to perform a brain scan in order to see this because you cannot otherwise see the difference, i.e. anatomically.

An interesting documentary: Being Transgender, BBC 2017.
Go to 15:00-17:00 to hear dr. Baudewijntje Kreukel from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam (VU Medisch Centrum) talk about similarities in the way that women and trans-women - in contrast to men and trans-men - solve spatial exercises, i.e. which areas of the brain are activated when they solve them.


ETA: My link to the documentary is to a Danish public-service TV station. I don't know if people abroad can access it.
This is a link to the BBC.
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Old 1st September 2019, 07:41 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
He never stated it was hard to believe. He pointed out a self-contradiction.
Its not a contradiction.

Quote:
Gender and sexuality are neurological phenomena. What other place do you generate feelings of emotion and identify, other than the brain?
Yes. But a male and a female brain are different from each other in the same way as two male or two female brains would be. It would not be surprising if it’s near impossible to tell the difference just by looking or doing scans.
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Old 1st September 2019, 09:07 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Ron Obvious View Post
To be properly "woke" these days, it seems you have to simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies.
Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
That is what shocked me. How can one believe both?

And how is that supposed to work with them also believing in multiple genders, like androgynous and asexual? It doesn't really fit The Gender Unicorn (I am not allowed to post URLs yet).

www dot transstudent.org/genderunicornexample.jpeg

If the brains of men are women are the same, how does someone manage to feel like a female trapped in a male body and want to change their body to a female one?

Perhaps... the best answer is that the largest differences between male and female brains are their sexuality?
Disclaimer - The following is conjecture and the study I refer to does not look into the issue, nor does it suggest the inference I am about to make.

First off, thanks to Darat for posting the article with the link to the study I was referring to earlier.

One of the things that the study did find was that women tend to have more Feminine Structures and Men have more Masculine, but that the mix is all over the place, and so if you look at a brain it would be impossible to say "This is a male's brain" or "This is a female's brain" but rather you'd have to qualify it as "This is more likely to be..."

Based on this, here is my conjecture.

All mammal fetuses start life as females, and as they grow they are exposed to either greater amounts of androgens or estrogens depending on if they are XY and so testes grow and start to produce androgens, or they are XX and so generally don't get as much exposure.

I would suggest that the difference in the brains features occur based on the shifting levels of androgens or estrogens in the womb as the brain grows. More androgen at the time of growth, and that growing feature shifts more towards masculine. More estrogen and they remain feminine. This is what tends to give the random differences in structures, with males tending towards more masculine structures, and females towards more feminine structures.

Now there are individuals who exhibit more of the opposing gender's structures than their own, and other individuals who exhibit mostly transitional stages with very few true masculine or feminine structures.

My thoughts are that these are the groups of people where Trans and other non-conforming gender behaviour has the potential to occur.

I think this also tends to explain why males tend to have a higher variability than females and also why males tend to have higher rates of transgenderism than females.

Now having said all of that, I haven't seen any studies that look into it directly but there are studies that show that Transgender female and female brains do operate in similar ways, as distinct from their male counterparts, and again I think that this pushes towards the explanation I have currently. Whether it holds up as more study is done, I done know, so at the moment I'll place it as my belief based on the studies I have read, and should some future study show it true of false then it'll either go from a hypothesis to a theory, or it'll be discarded for the better proven idea.
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Old 1st September 2019, 11:52 PM   #28
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Two people have mentioned hormones so far, but can I propose a simple explanation:

Maybe men's and women's brains essentially are the same, but are affected by a different mix of hormones. I think that androgens like testosterone could go a long way toward explaining the behavioral and physiological differences between men and women.

Take a woman and give her male hormones regularly, and you will see changes that make her more "man-like" in both physical appearance and behavior and such.

Under this hypothesis, the differences are mainly down to a different mix of hormones affecting the brain, not the underlying anatomical structures of the brain itself.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 09:27 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
How can one believe both?...

If the brains of men are women are the same, how does someone manage to feel like a female trapped in a male body and want to change their body to a female one?
That's a description of a feeling, not a description of anatomy.

Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
Based on this, here is my conjecture.

All mammal fetuses start life as females
Your conjecture has failed at its first conjected point, by conjecting something which is already known to be false.

Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Take a woman and give her male hormones regularly, and you will see changes that make her more "man-like" in both physical appearance and behavior and such.

Under this hypothesis, the differences are mainly down to a different mix of hormones affecting the brain, not the underlying anatomical structures of the brain itself.
There is some truth in that, based on the experiences of transgender people comparing how they feel before & after hormone therapy. I've seen interviews with several women-becoming-men describing how much more managible and under-control their emotions seemed to get, and how much easier it got to think clearly & rationally under emotional stress, after they started taking testosterone. And I once ran across a study finding that fathers' hormone levels shifted slightly in the feminine direction after they started spending a bunch of time taking care of kids.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 11:36 AM   #30
Malicex
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Its not a contradiction.
"Simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies."

Again, he never said it was hard to believe that they are completely the same or different, he was pointing out the contradiction of believing both at the same time (i.e. simultaneously).

If there is no difference between male and female brains, then there can't be a female brain in a man's body.

Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
That's a description of a feeling, not a description of anatomy.
Ok. So where does feeling like a woman trapped in a man's body come from? Does this not require their brain to be different from a man who identifies as a man?

Last edited by Malicex; 2nd September 2019 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 11:59 AM   #31
xjx388
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
"Simultaneously believe there are no differences between men and women's brains, and yet that there exists a real phenomenon of women's brains in men's bodies."



Again, he never said it was hard to believe that they are completely the same or different, he was pointing out the contradiction of believing both at the same time (i.e. simultaneously).



If there is no difference between male and female brains, then there can't be a female brain in a man's body.
Ah. That’s an oversimplification I think. . . a metaphor to describe how being transgendered feels.. In other words, I don’t think it’s scientifically accurate to say, “male brain in a female body,” but it’s a perfectly adequate way to express the feeling. Given that science hasn’t figured out what causes transgenderism yet, a scientifically minded person would not “believe “ in a real phenomenon of male brains in female bodies or vice versa. There’s no real evidence for that.

Anyway. The whole “simultaneously believe” construction is a strawman as no one here has actually espoused that belief.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 12:23 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
a scientifically minded person would not “believe “ in a real phenomenon of male brains in female bodies or vice versa. There’s no real evidence for that.
Depends on how you define male and female brains. Personally, I am fine with someone that feels like a woman and wants to change their body into a woman, as fitting the definition of the female gender, which comes from the brain.

Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Anyway. The whole “simultaneously believe” construction is a strawman as no one here has actually espoused that belief.
It's not a strawman, as he was never attacking anyone here in the first place.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 12:28 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
Ok. So where does feeling like a woman trapped in a man's body come from?
Nobody really knows. It's probably different for different transwomen, I'd guess.

Quote:
Does this not require their brain to be different from a man who identifies as a man?
No.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 01:50 PM   #34
xjx388
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Male & Female Brains Are The Same

Originally Posted by Malicex View Post
Depends on how you define male and female brains. Personally, I am fine with someone that feels like a woman and wants to change their body into a woman, as fitting the definition of the female gender, which comes from the brain.
And all I’m saying is that one could not look at or scan a brain and determine if that brain produces a female gender feeling or a male gender feeling.
Quote:
It's not a strawman, as he was never attacking anyone here in the first place.
Sure it is. He invented a person who has a ridiculous made up position and attacked that invented person. The very definition of a strawman. His purpose was to attack people who say they are “woke.” His strawman does not reflect the actual position of anyone on this thread or not.



Which is kind of my point; nobody holds these contradictory beliefs he’s made up.
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Old 2nd September 2019, 02:14 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
And all I’m saying is that one could not look at or scan a brain and determine if that brain produces a female gender feeling or a male gender feeling..
Correct. We are not equipped to see and understand all the difference in brains.

Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Sure it is. He invented a person who has a ridiculous made up position and attacked that invented person. The very definition of a strawman. His purpose was to attack people who say they are “woke.” His strawman does not reflect the actual position of anyone on this thread or not.
I didn't interpret it as an attack on someone in this thread, as it seemed a reply to me. I try not to be too lose with informal fallacies. And I have no idea what people he has come in contact with or what they believe.
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Old 3rd September 2019, 04:15 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Two people have mentioned hormones so far, but can I propose a simple explanation:

Maybe men's and women's brains essentially are the same, but are affected by a different mix of hormones. I think that androgens like testosterone could go a long way toward explaining the behavioral and physiological differences between men and women.

Take a woman and give her male hormones regularly, and you will see changes that make her more "man-like" in both physical appearance and behavior and such.

Under this hypothesis, the differences are mainly down to a different mix of hormones affecting the brain, not the underlying anatomical structures of the brain itself.

I think that you should add "a different mix of hormones affecting the embryonic brain." Based on the theories I've heard, this seems to be essential. Nowadays, both male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals describe what happens to them emotionally and mentally when they undergo sex-change hormonal therapy, but they are already at the outset the opposite gender of what we would expect them to be based on their bodies and genetics. The hormones of the amniotic fluid seem to contribute to gender identity and sexual orientation.
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Old 3rd September 2019, 04:32 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
I think that you should add "a different mix of hormones affecting the embryonic brain." Based on the theories I've heard, this seems to be essential. Nowadays, both male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals describe what happens to them emotionally and mentally when they undergo sex-change hormonal therapy, but they are already at the outset the opposite gender of what we would expect them to be based on their bodies and genetics. The hormones of the amniotic fluid seem to contribute to gender identity and sexual orientation.
Maybe. This says:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4681519/

Quote:
Many important psychological characteristics show sex differences, and are influenced by sex hormones at different developmental periods. We focus on the role of sex hormones in early development, particularly the differential effects of prenatal androgens on aspects of gender development. Increasing evidence confirms that prenatal androgens have facilitative effects on male-typed activity interests and engagement (including child toy preferences and adult careers), and spatial abilities, but relatively minimal effects on gender identity.
So...
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Old 3rd September 2019, 06:21 AM   #38
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How about pondering the old "brain is a computer" analogy?

You can start out with identical computers (anatomical brain, as in neurons, blood vessels, support structures and what not), prime them with different versions of operating systems (hormones), software (what you teach them) and data (the differential experience females and males make in the real world), and in the end you might think that these are two different computers.

You could program the same computer to do nothing but control a robot, and its twin to do nothing but present great video graphics, i.e. specialized devices, and from their behaviour, people would think these are totally different computers.

But the same way, you can take a Mac and a Lenovo PC, with their different operating system, and program them to do the same activity, and people might think from their behaviour that they are the same, or very similar.


A brain is not as much a blank slate, software-wise, as a digital computer, and there are many ways in which the analogy fails

Just something to ponder.

Many people believe that men and women have different hair and need different hair care products. No.
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Old 3rd September 2019, 01:27 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
How about pondering the old "brain is a computer" analogy?

You can start out with identical computers (anatomical brain, as in neurons, blood vessels, support structures and what not), prime them with different versions of operating systems (hormones), software (what you teach them) and data (the differential experience females and males make in the real world), and in the end you might think that these are two different computers.

You could program the same computer to do nothing but control a robot, and its twin to do nothing but present great video graphics, i.e. specialized devices, and from their behaviour, people would think these are totally different computers.

But the same way, you can take a Mac and a Lenovo PC, with their different operating system, and program them to do the same activity, and people might think from their behaviour that they are the same, or very similar.
Hmm... so physically the computers would be in two different physical states, but the basic structure is the same. If you think about it, just a drop of acid can completely change how you feel, think, behave, and perceive, but the underlining structural components of your brain remain the same. It's an interesting thing to think about.

Going back to differences in the brain, I recently read an article on how it changes through time.

Unexpected sex differences in brain development in Psychology Today

"What's particularly interesting about this new report is that the NIH group found that sex differences diminish as a function of age, from age 9 through age 22.

To put it another way: after the onset of puberty - when girls start making lots of estradiol and other ‘female' hormones, while boys start making lots of testosterone and other ‘male' hormones - sex differences in the brain actually decrease. The brains of 9-year-old girls and boys are remarkably different - but they grow more and more alike throughout adolescence and into young adulthood."
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Old 3rd September 2019, 01:42 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Matthew Best View Post
If you have a brain sitting in front of you, can you tell whether it came from a man or a woman? (I'm asking because I don't know, not to make a point, whatever it might be.)
Yes, I'd ask the brain: "Are you a man or a woman" and go from there.

Oh, you mean an extracted brain from a dead person?

We did this in physical anthropology. Sexing remains, basically. Skeletons are easier to sex because the bones form processes at the insertion points and you can see robustness versus gracile patterns.

Brains are a little different. It's not a bimodal situation, brains aren't definitely male vs definitely female. They're just further in one direction than the other, so sexing with a complete brain and no cranial bones (which would show much more distinct male/female musculature esp at the nuchal line, and you wouldn't even have to crack it open) is a "percentage confidence" thing.

Meaning, you'd do the metrics and say "this one's female" and be wrong 25% of the time, but it's still better than guessing, so there's something to it. But this is just superficial - you can also tell if the brain belongs to a tall vs short person, fat vs skinny person, young vs old person. None of this tells you about the organ's emergent personality.

Which is probably the point of the teacher's high level lesson. The physiological differences don't guarantee behavioral differences. We also don't know, for example, whether the physiological differences are genetic specific for the brain itself or acquired through life experiences (some of which may be genetic but manifest elsewhere). It's the usual chicken and the egg problem.
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