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Getting Married or Engaged ...

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#41 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 25th, 2010, 5:38 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Paolo wrote:we've been hunting some pretty big game since long before we were Homo sapiens. Chimpanzees engage in hunting activities for pretty big prey in relation to their body size - at least equivalent to humans hunting Thompson's gazelle. Only the males do this. In hunter-getherer societies there is a clear division of labour when it comes to hunting - the men do it. This suggests that there is some underlying reason for men to be the hunters - that reason is probably simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women.
I'm not convinced. From what I've read there is considerable variation in this. In some societies the men do all the hunting; in others it's partly shared, though certain tools or animals are often assigned to a particular gender. Even in hunter-gatherer societies in which women don't generally hunt, like the !Kung, they may contribute to hunting by bringing information to the men about animal tracks and direction of movement. So, thinking about the "women can't read maps" stereotype, they would need to have a pretty good sense of direction, spatial awareness, etc. See the page on Sexual Division of Labor in the Hunter-Gatherer Wiki of Ohio State Universities Department of Anthropology. I think that the variation suggests that the reasons for the way labour is divided are to a significant extent geographical, and not entirely biological. And I think Kaoru's suggestion that women don't hunt (or hunt less) because of their childcare responsibilities is more plausible than your suggestion that "the reason is simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women".
Paolo wrote:The reason men are bigger and stronger is (mostly) due to the anabolic steroid testosterone, which builds muscle and bone and is directly associated with increased levels of aggression. Women have testosterone too, but at much lower levels than most men (about ten times less). Testosterone is important to the whole question of gender, since testosterone is also partly responsible for the development of male sexual and secondary sexual characteristics, there is also evidence that it plays a role in determining sexuality and gender identity during development (Hines 2006 - pdf), although this does not account for all gender influenced cognitive behaviour, so obviously the issue is more complex than can be explained by looking at one hormone.
Quite. And testosterone is itself a much misunderstood hormone. It's relationship with aggression is far from clear. There was an interesting article about it in Nature last year: "Testosterone link to aggression may be all in the mind". I think the conclusion of the research cited in this article makes my case for me very well. What people believe about gender difference has a huge impact on how they behave.

Emma

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Paolo
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#42 Post by Paolo » May 25th, 2010, 6:47 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Paolo wrote:we've been hunting some pretty big game since long before we were Homo sapiens. Chimpanzees engage in hunting activities for pretty big prey in relation to their body size - at least equivalent to humans hunting Thompson's gazelle. Only the males do this. In hunter-getherer societies there is a clear division of labour when it comes to hunting - the men do it. This suggests that there is some underlying reason for men to be the hunters - that reason is probably simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women.
I'm not convinced. From what I've read there is considerable variation in this. In some societies the men do all the hunting; in others it's partly shared, though certain tools or animals are often assigned to a particular gender. Even in hunter-gatherer societies in which women don't generally hunt, like the !Kung, they may contribute to hunting by bringing information to the men about animal tracks and direction of movement. So, thinking about the "women can't read maps" stereotype, they would need to have a pretty good sense of direction, spatial awareness, etc. See the page on Sexual Division of Labor in the Hunter-Gatherer Wiki of Ohio State Universities Department of Anthropology. I think that the variation suggests that the reasons for the way labour is divided is to a significant extent geographical, and not entirely biological. And I think Kaoru's suggestion that women don't hunt (or hunt less) because of their childcare responsibilities is more plausible than your suggestion that "the reason is simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women".

Don't forget the "probably" in my quote Emma - I added a qualifier because I acknowledge that there is likely to be more to it than size and strength. However, hunting is physically demanding and most hunting technology is geared around increasing the mechanical advantage of weapons, in some cases only by small amounts, in order to maximise their efficiency - males immediately bring greater efficiency to the weapon by being bigger and stronger, so it seems redundant to increase a weapon's efficiency by 5% and then lose 10% efficiency by having a smaller and weaker person use it. This goes for smaller weaker men as well as women. I do agree that there is more to hunting than killing big stuff and I am happy to accept that women often play an important role, but that role doesn't usually extend to killing large game. I also agree that childcare plays an important role in gender based division of labour, but since childbirth and milk production are determined physiologically it can't be easily separated from the same suite of factors that make men bigger and stronger - they're different sides of the same physiological coin. As to map reading and other gender stereotypes, I don't think they have much to do with hunting and since I was merely challenging your assertions about hunting large game in our evolutionary past I don't think they're relevant to what I was saying.
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Paolo wrote:The reason men are bigger and stronger is (mostly) due to the anabolic steroid testosterone, which builds muscle and bone and is directly associated with increased levels of aggression. Women have testosterone too, but at much lower levels than most men (about ten times less). Testosterone is important to the whole question of gender, since testosterone is also partly responsible for the development of male sexual and secondary sexual characteristics, there is also evidence that it plays a role in determining sexuality and gender identity during development (Hines 2006 - pdf), although this does not account for all gender influenced cognitive behaviour, so obviously the issue is more complex than can be explained by looking at one hormone.
Quite. And I get the impression that testosterone is itself a much misunderstood hormone. It's relationship with aggression is far from clear. There was an interesting article about it in Nature last year: "Testosterone link to aggression may be all in the mind"? I think the conclusion of this article makes my case for me very well. What people believe about gender difference has a huge impact on how they behave.
Yes, but reading through the methods reported I would say that there is a big leap from the research to the conclusions. The assumptions about what construed aggressive behaviour in a game situation made by the researchers were untested, the sample size is not particularly large, the use of a placebo meant that the subject's behaviour was altered psychologically as well as/instead of physiologically. I also add the important caveat that testosterone is unlikely to show a simple dose dependent effect (as assumed in the study you cite), since the timing of exposure to testosterone during development is more likely to be the determining factor in aggression levels within individuals. Because of this developmental aspect, giving someone 0.5mg of testosterone and expecting them to become more aggressive is like giving someone 0.5mg of thalidomide and expecting their fingers to wither - it simply doesn't work like that.

That said, I am happy to acknowledge that there is more to aggression than testosterone during development, but testosterone has been identified as playing a role in aggression in other species (Simpson 2001 pdf), so it is parsimonious to assume that it will also play a role in humans - probably setting the bar on just how aggressive an individual is likely to become in relation to certain sets of stimuli.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#43 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 26th, 2010, 4:34 pm

Paolo wrote:Don't forget the "probably" in my quote Emma - I added a qualifier because I acknowledge that there is likely to be more to it than size and strength.
Apologies, Paolo, for missing out the "probably". I was focusing too much on the "simply". :D
Paolo wrote:However, hunting is physically demanding and most hunting technology is geared around increasing the mechanical advantage of weapons, in some cases only by small amounts, in order to maximise their efficiency - males immediately bring greater efficiency to the weapon by being bigger and stronger, so it seems redundant to increase a weapon's efficiency by 5% and then lose 10% efficiency by having a smaller and weaker person use it. This goes for smaller weaker men as well as women.
Am I right in thinking, though, that male lions are bigger and stronger than female lions, yet it's the lionesses that do most of the hunting for the pride? Sorry, I know that's almost completely irrelevant to the discussion about human hunting, but it just popped into my head, and I'm curious about it. I accept that chimpanzees provide a more valid comparison, and that around 90% of the hunting is done by males, and that male chimps are, on average, significantly bigger and stronger than female chimps. But you were talking about weapons, and that clearly brings in a different dimension. If it's true that a lot of hunting was done in large groups, with nets (as it still is by the Aka pygmies of South Central Africa and north Congo-Brazzaville), then the requirement for strength and size may have been less significant than it would be for hunting with a spear, say.
Paolo wrote:I do agree that there is more to hunting than killing big stuff and I am happy to accept that women often play an important role, but that role doesn't usually extend to killing large game.
Yes, I agree. This is clearly a controversial topic, and it may be that the researchers who have suggested that big-game hunting was not significant until about 40,000 years ago are just plain wrong, and that homo heidelbergensis were hunting significant numbers of horses and deer and maybe elk and elephants and rhinoceroses and mammoths with spears 400,000 years ago. I should have been more circumspect, and said simply that there is not (yet) enough evidence to show that our ancestors' gender division of labour in food provision is related through evolution to gender differences in modern human psychology or cognition.
Paolo wrote:I also agree that childcare plays an important role in gender based division of labour, but since childbirth and milk production are determined physiologically it can't be easily separated from the same suite of factors that make men bigger and stronger - they're different sides of the same physiological coin. As to map reading and other gender stereotypes, I don't think they have much to do with hunting and since I was merely challenging your assertions about hunting large game in our evolutionary past I don't think they're relevant to what I was saying.
Well, as I said, I got bogged down with that word "simply" in your sentence: "This suggests that there is some underlying reason for men to be the hunters - that reason is probably simply that men are usually bigger and stronger than women." I do accept that physiological differences are significant reasons for the division of labour, but I still think that the variation in that division of labour among modern hunter-gatherer societies suggests that geographical and bioclimatological (is that the word?) reasons play an important part.
Paolo wrote:Yes, but reading through the methods reported I would say that there is a big leap from the research to the conclusions. The assumptions about what construed aggressive behaviour in a game situation made by the researchers were untested, the sample size is not particularly large, the use of a placebo meant that the subject's behaviour was altered psychologically as well as/instead of physiologically. I also add the important caveat that testosterone is unlikely to show a simple dose dependent effect (as assumed in the study you cite), since the timing of exposure to testosterone during development is more likely to be the determining factor in aggression levels within individuals. Because of this developmental aspect, giving someone 0.5mg of testosterone and expecting them to become more aggressive is like giving someone 0.5mg of thalidomide and expecting their fingers to wither - it simply doesn't work like that.
Well, it's not quite the same thing, but ... yes, I take your point.
Paolo wrote:That said, I am happy to acknowledge that there is more to aggression than testosterone during development, but testosterone has been identified as playing a role in aggression in other species (Simpson 2001 pdf), so it is parsimonious to assume that it will also play a role in humans - probably setting the bar on just how aggressive an individual is likely to become in relation to certain sets of stimuli.
That sounds plausible. I still think it's too soon to say, because there's not yet enough evidence, but I agree that the University of Zürich's research does not show what Nature claims that it shows (incidentally, there's a good critique of that article in the Neuroskeptic blog).

Emma

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#44 Post by Kaoru » May 29th, 2010, 11:29 am

Can I just apologise for the lengthy delays responding in this thread. I'll do my best to catch up with the comments that have been made since I last visited over the next few days. My partner's elderly mother has just today passed away, we have been traveling the six hour trip many times in the last few weeks to be with her and will have to do so again this week for the funeral, so, that's why I've not been able to respond more fluently.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#45 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 29th, 2010, 12:06 pm

Don't worry, Kaoru. Take your time. There's no rush. These threads can wait ... indefinitely, and they're easily resuscitated. So sorry to hear about your partner's mother. It's a tough thing to go through, I know.

All the best,

Emma

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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#46 Post by Alan H » May 29th, 2010, 3:11 pm

Our condolences to everyone, Kaoru.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#47 Post by Kaoru » May 29th, 2010, 11:12 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:I'm still not convinced that there is such a thing as a masculine mind or a feminine mind or something anywhere in between. I certainly accept that people can have a gendered sense of identity. That it is possible for a boy, or a child with male genitalia, to believe or feel that he is a girl, or vice versa ....
Emma, if you certainly believe that people can have a gendered sense of identity, but balk at the notion that minds are feminine, masculine or anywhere in between, then perhaps we should be looking at what makes us the gender that we identify as?

To me at least, so much of this gender stuff is socially constructed and pretty much the only thing that defines us as the individuals that we are, are our minds.

It also seems that there could be a reliance upon a "gender binary" in your thinking, which is something that I've discarded after many years of trying to fit into "both" of the socially accepted genders.

You see I knew that I wasn't male, I just knew it for many reasons, most are very difficult to describe. So, like many transsexual people I transitioned from "male" to "female" and believed that I should therefore be able to get on with my life in peace. But lo and behold I spent the first 7 or so years of my "female" life not being able to conform to that gender role.

Let's leave out the discrimination, the rejection and prejudice that follows trans people in this backward world and just focus on how I felt. I also knew that I didn't belong in a female world either. It was equally as hard to explain as not being able to fit into a masculine world.

Earlier this year, already after a few years of deep introspection of myself, my life and many of the issues that had affected me throughout my transitional years, I stumbled quite by accident on the "mind" thing, and this is how it happened:

I was returning from a walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge with my partner one afternoon when we were stopped by a woman walking towards us who asked us if the Casino was located on the northern side of the bridge, the direction that she was heading. Both my partner and I responded to her at the same time, but my response had ended seconds later after I had told her "no", and pointed in the direction where the Casino was and said "it's over there". But my partner didn't give such a simple response despite it being blatantly obvious that this woman wasn't actually wanting to walk to the Casino then, she was even motioning to continue in the direction that she was already walking, but my partner hadn't read that and insisted upon giving her the most detailed directions on exactly how to get to the Casino from where we stood at that time. This other woman and I looked at each other in amazement, I rolled my eyes but she was too polite to do so, upon thanking us and walking away, I kicked my partner in the pants and questioned him as to why he couldn't understand that she hadn't been after such specific details at that time. He didn't have a clue as to why I was criticizing him.

We had interpreted the exact same incident totally differently, we had both been right in our responses, but in a highly stereotypical way, my instinctive response had been most appropriate. My feminine mind had responded to her feminine mind in an appropriate way, the masculine mind had responded in an inappropriate way.

I went on to think about this over the next few weeks as it started to make sense. I bought the book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray, and although only having read about 60 pages of that book I can clearly see that the masculine-feminine mind thing exists.

Can I say at this point that I have also found this book to be highly sexist and also disagree totally when the author frequently attributes these ways of being as "male" or "female" or "men" and "women", in my opinion he should be referring to the masculine minds and feminine minds. It seems that he, like many believe that a man will always think and behave in typical ways as opposed to women, it has nothing to do with what's between your legs, but he seems to want to label people that way, which I guess suits his mostly non-thinking audience.

So, elaborating on my experience on the bridge that day, I believe that every brain function is a continuum. Each of our thought processes are their own individual continuums, and basically the sum total of all of these individual continuums give us our overall mind. I agree that feminine minds are more easily able to show empathy, masculine minds are more likely to be logical, my level of empathy will be different from Emma's, different again from Paolo's, and the same can be said for all of our other mind functions. They are not "female" and "male" all of these individual continuums are uniquely somewhere on their own continuum, and the total of all the continuums that make up our minds, the mind continuum at one end is labeled "feminine" and at the other "masculine".

It really has little to do with our interests and hobbies and other socialization things, and more to do with our instincts and reactions, and feelings. It is why I believe that even leaving socialization out completely, that those that wear dresses and pony tails will slowly form their own groups in the school playgrounds, distinct from those that wear shirts and pants, because the interaction at the mind level between girls as we label them now is different from boys as we label them now.

Feminine minds respond in appropriate ways to other feminine minds, a feminine mind responds to a masculine mind in ways that often the masculine mind can't understand and misinterprets.

It's not that women think alike, it's that feminine minds think alike and vice versa.

It was amazing that when I came to this understanding, the understanding that I had a mind that processed things in a mostly feminine way yet I was forced to socialise with masculine minds in many ways that I couldn't explain even five years ago let alone when I was a kid, it put my whole mind at ease. It was, for me, the answer.

Kaoru
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Re: Getting Married or Engaged ...

#48 Post by Kaoru » May 30th, 2010, 12:17 am

As for the cavemen stuff and the analogy of men being hunters and women tending to children, well I tend to reduce things these days to the most basic that I can think of, yet as Paolo has indicated, the presence of which hormone is even more basic than the caveman stuff.

But, I think that some of us tend to focus on the biological, others on the sociological, and I’m one that usually looks for socially driven reasons behind things first.

I tend to think that the most basic of expectations placed upon us from birth are based around whether we have the apparent ability to give birth or not.

Thanks for the condolences too. It was to be expected, she’d been bed-ridden for some time and had suffered a stroke a few weeks earlier. The experience did help me to deal with death a lot more.

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