Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Episode 19: Gender Science

Way back in Episode 16 we paired up with Always Already to talk about a book on gender and the interaction of science and society. Unsurprisingly, that conversation spanned far beyond the scientific study of gender and so we never really got into the biological weeds. Our intent with the current episode was to go back to gender, with a focus on the explaining the current state of the science. What we quickly learn, however, is that it's very difficult to talk about gender without talking about society. So we first work through this by airing our anxieties on the topic, and our personal motivations for finding this science interesting.

Eventually though, we break into the biology of embryonic sexual differentiation and certain "natural experiments" that alter the course of this differentiation. People with abnormal differentiation offer a chance to see what happens when things like chromosomal sex (XX vs XY) and external genitalia are decoupled, which offers some insight into normal gender development. Next we cover some biological hypotheses on sex that didn't pan out (but are still being promoted...). Finally we turn to the better controlled world of animal experimentation and cover what factors impact gendered behavior in macaque monkeys.

As it turns a lot of findings on gender don't replicate, but here's one that does: whenever the Unsupervised Thinking crew has a conversation on gender it takes more than an hour.

We read:
The biology of human psychosexual differentiation  (a recommended read!)
Hormonal influences on sexually differentiated behavior in nonhuman primates

And Conor mentioned:
Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern
by Bruno Latour

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here.

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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