ARE CRIES OF SEXISM HOLDING BACK SCIENCE?

pat_west_neurosexism

From Spiked:

“We’ve all become aware in recent years, if not decades, as to how universities have become more conformist, censorious and hostile to new thought deemed too dangerous or unsuitable to delicate sensibilities. We have become accustomed to academia’s weedy mendacity and intellectual cowardice. But this week, news has emerged revealing just how grievous this tendency has become.

According to a report in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, scientists have been ignoring gender differences in male and female brains, and how they respond differently to different drugs (including treatment for stroke and Alzheimer’s), for fear of being deemed a sexist ‘pariah in the eyes of the mainstream’.

‘The assumption has been that once you get outside of reproductive functions, what you find in males and females is fundamentally the same’, Larry Cahill, a neurologist from the University of California, Irvine, told The Times on Tuesday. ‘The last 15 or 20 years has overwhelmingly proven that assumption is false, false, false.’ While many scientists concede that there are differences between the sexes in how the liver, heart and microbiome work, there is a reluctance to admit to differences in brains – this bears possibly frightening consequences. Cahill adds: ‘We are talking about experiments in petri dishes, and how cells die. If you are coming up with drugs to deal with that you’d damn well better be aware of the differences.’ Because drugs are by default tested on male cells, it is women’s health that is being put in peril because of this failure to speak openly.

One can sympathise with those who are reluctant to talk about brain differences between the sexes, as the concept has tainted history. But this silence among scientists is fitting for our climate of fear, our fear of evidence, facts, knowledge, and our tendency to self-censor, as outlined by Joanna Williams in her book, Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity. People in universities have far less secure positions these days. In an age when people who voice incorrect opinions can lose their job as a consequence (witness the professional ruination of Eric Bristow this week), academics dare not stray into this perilous arena.”

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