Book Review: The Essential Difference

EssentialDifferenceby Brad Nelson   11/13/13
As with many books, you can often get the general gist of them early on. And the author of The Essential Difference, Simon Baron-Cohen, does one better than that and gives you his conclusion on page 1:

The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.

The author also explains how he delayed publication of this book because of the atmosphere at the time (which still is quite prevalent) in the scientific community, and the community at large, that was often stridently opposed to any such concept as differences in people. I don’t know if the edition of this book that I have is an older one or a newer one, but I suspect it is an older one. One of the books listed at has a watered-down subtitle: “Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism.” Wonder if he ran into even more controversy than he suspected or if autism is now all the rage.

The author does an excellent job of spending at least a dozen pages of “don’t get me wronging.” He notes that just because there are differences on average doesn’t mean you can successfully pre-judge any one individual. There are women with more male-like brains and males with more woman-like brains. There are women who become successful mathematicians and men who become successful nurses and counselors.

But even these exceptions just go to prove the rule. There are indeed differences in the male and female brain. And later in the book, Simon Baron-Cohen gives the possible evolutionary reasons for these differences. While this is much more speculative, you can probably sense he’s in the ballpark. How to prove the cause any of our evolutionary traits is difficult because objective proof is hard to come by and probably will always be hard to come by in this field. We can speculate, and feel somewhat confidant that we may be at least in the ballpark. But that’s not quite the same thing as proof.

In the opening of the book the author gives a wonderful description from a parent of the history of his children, one a boy and the other a girl. The boy was immediately into collecting and organizing things. He had that “truck” gene that so many parents notice in their young boys, and I have noticed myself. On the other hand, the little girl would line up all her dolls, talk to them constantly in mock conversations, and have tea parties. While the boy was more interested in things, the girls was interested in relationships, in talking with and flirting with people.

Only the fascist-like repressively dogmatic views of much of today’s radical feminism and political correctness (backed by a new sort of scientific dark age) has caused us (out of fear, usually) to forget these essential differences. The story up until recently (which is changing, thanks to scientists such as Baron-Cohen) had been that any differences between men and women that manifest are due to culture, and thus this supposedly means there is inherent prejudice, bias, and sexism at the base of such differences. Change the culture and you can have complete equality, or so these Utopianists believed.

Nonsense. Most non-scientists and non-social-activists who have kids don’t need to be told by a bunch of cultural imperialists that there is no difference between men and women, between boys and girls, by and large. Anyone with kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews knows otherwise. Little boys are not forced to play with trucks. Little girls are not forced to play with dolls. They just tend to do so naturally even if there are always exceptions (exceptions we should  be happy to make allowances for). And our self-conscious attempts to blot this reality out — including teaching women that they must be soldiers (and do anything a man can do) and that all real men cry (a lot) — is de facto proof of the differences that people are trying to run away from in for first place.

And we now know from some well-known misguided parental experiments (by some libtard parents who have tried to raise a boy, with sexual ambiguous genitalia, like a girl) that trying to force a lack of differences onto children is harmful, if not outright cruel. But, again, to mollify the overly-zealous cultural imperialists, Baron-Cohen has indeed done a good job of reminding us about stereotypes, that the differences between men and women fall along a bell curve, and this means that there is wide diversity in the characteristic of both sexes, even if there are recognizable trends.

That means you might indeed have some very successful female mathematicians. But it also means that feminazis and other political correctors need to apologize profusely to Harvard’s Larry Sommers and the thousands of other people the goons of political correctness and scientific perversion have crushed under the wheels of their heavy and incorrect “equality” dogma. It is no surprise if, on average, more men are mathematicians than women, and that is because men, on average, are better at it.

For anyone who has gone to college in the last thirty years, this book might be thought of as a corrective, an antidote to the garbage that was taught and is likely still being taught in many places. If we can come out of the mini Dark Age that we are in now, where reality takes second place to Leftist political goals, then books such as this are a part of that process.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from The Essential Difference:

Let’s talk murder now, the ultimate in lack of empathy. It is a shocking statistic that in pre-industrial societies one in three young men is killed in a fight, between men. They tend to be men who feel that their reputation has been disrespected. In order that such “loss of face” does not lead to a loss of social status, they stand up for themselves. They send out the signal “Don’t f*** with me.” And how better to signal that you are a man of action, and not just words, than to kill someone. If you kill someone in a competitive fight, your social status goes rocketing up. Whereas in the developed world a murderer is considered to be a vicious person who should be locked up, in pre-industrial societies a murderer (following the provocation outlined above) is someone who gains respect.

Regarding sex differences in murder, Daly and Wilson wrote, “There is no known human society in which the level of lethal violence among women even approaches that among men.” They analyzed homicide records dating back over 700 years, from a range of different societies. They found that male-on-male homicide was thirty to forty times more frequent than female-on-female homicide. Studies show that in a range of different societies, two-thirds of male homicides do not occur during a crime but simply when there is a social conflict, in which the man feels he has been “dissed” (disrespected). Such homicides are carried out to save face and retain status.


Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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One Response to Book Review: The Essential Difference

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Yes, it’s always necessary to remember that however great the differences are, they’re only statistical constructs. When I reviewed The Bell Curve for FOSFAX, there were some liberals who objected that there are, after all, smart blacks as well as whites (as I know perfectly well, owning numerous books by blacks such as Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, John MacWhorter, etc.). Note, too, that the point Summers was making wasn’t even that men, on average, are better at math than women, but that their bell curve for mathematical talent was greater at both ends (more geniuses, more fools).

    But I also remember when I was looking for “executive cut” pants at Purdue (they fit better than the popular flares and bell-bottoms), and none were available at any clothing store I could find within a mile or so of campus. Then and there I decided that men were capable of being just as much slaves of fashion as women, and have enjoyed seeing stereotypes turned on their heads ever since. An excellent literary example of this is Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I highly recommend (as is true of just about everything she’s written, actually).

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