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How Men and Women Think

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Londa Schiebinger’s book, The Mind Has No Sex?, is an excellent survey of women’s role in the origins of modern science and the reasons for its decline. The title is drawn from a statement by a 17th century philosopher, François Poullain de la Barre. Based on his studies of the ‘new’ science of anatomy, he claimed that there was no evidence that women’s undoubtedly inferior position was due to some biological deficit, or lack of natural ability, and that, given appropriate opportunities, women would be as capable as men of high achievements in all spheres. “L’esprit n’a point de sexe” he declared. It appears to have been downhill all the way since that optimistic statement. In parallel with the exclusion and disappearance of women from the realms of scientific enterprise and discovery, there is evidence of a powerful drive among (male) scientists towards applying the sexual differentiation associated with reproduction to all other aspects of the body, including the brain and hence the ...

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