Gender differences all in the mind

According to your report (Male and
female brains wired differently,
scans reveal, 2 December): "Maps of
neural circuitry show women's
brains are designed for social skills
and memory, men's for perception
and co-ordination." Yet another
deeply confused "hard-wired brain"
story. It has received much comment,
not least for the empirical mismatch
between the data and the conclusion,
given that the cited study apparently
provides "strong evidence for
behavioural similarities between the
sexes". But there is something even
more basic at stake.
Will scientists, journalists and
readers wake up to this truism: if the
mind is the brain, any mental
difference will be a brain difference.
Suppose there are some actual mental
differences between men and women,
whatever their prior causes. (Hard to
imagine training up half of humanity
one way, half another, without
creating some differences between
them.) There will then be some neural
differences. Suppose you have two
televisions, whose images are
different. You call in the technician,
who trumpets the discovery that they
differ in their pattern of pixels. That
bit we knew already: no difference in
the images without a difference in the
pixels. Same for ourselves: no
difference in states of mind without a
difference in states of brain. That
doesn't mean it has to be that way, or
is designed to be that way. Even if
your mind is your brain, that doesn't
mean "your brain made you do it",
as if the "you" were a different
being. Let's not fall for this
confusion, or we'll take what happens
to be the case and freeze it. We'll take
differences, however they may have
come about, and make them seem
inevitable and appropriate. We don't
need this deterministic fairy-tale. It's
bad for men and women, bad for
science, bad for us all.