The question of free will versus predestination is an old one in theology. It is a commonplace of science as well, emerging in recent years in claims that human sexuality is an expression of biological inheritance alone, that sexual orientation is genetically encoded and thus immutable.
In this slender, provocative book, a volume in the series Maps of the Mind, neuroscientist Lesley Rogers examines the evidence for and against gene-deterministic views of sex differences, ranging from 19th-century attempts to prove that women are intellectually inferior because their brains, on average, weigh 10 percent less than men's ("There is no difference between the sexes," Rogers observes, "when brain weight is adjusted for body size") to more recent efforts to isolate a "gay gene." Such research, Rogers holds, fails to take into account cultural reasons for sex differences in brain function, which "are manifestations of social values held at a particular time." Among those values are an apparent educational segregation that produces boys with superior mathematical and spatial abilities and girls with superior verbal skills--a differentiation that has no proven biological basis, just as, Rogers argues, "sexual preference is not likely to depend on a single gene, a single neurotransmitter, or a single place in the brain." Rogers's book is certain not to be the last word on the subject, but those who consider nurture to be at least as important as nature in shaping the self will find fuel for their arguments in Rogers's antireductionist views. --Gregory McNamee
From Library Journal
Rogers, a professor of neuroscience and animal behavior at the University of New England (Australia), argues that the scientific basis for genetic explanations of sexual differentiation is shaky. She traces the history of thought regarding sexual differences, summarizes the latest techniques used to study such differences, and discusses factors that might account for sexual differentiation. While highly critical of simplistic explanations of sex differences in brain structure and function, Rogers urges scientists to develop well-controlled experiments that consider the complex set of social events that can affect behavior. Experience, the author believes, can alter the biology of the brain. An individual's development, moreover, is a complex interweaving of genetic, hormonal, and environmental processes. Rogers challenges claims for the existence of a "gay gene" and the ambiguous evidence pointing to sexual differences in brain lateralization. Her feminist perspective will undoubtedly raise hackles, especially when she suggests that politicians may use dubious scientific interpretation to justify social policies maintaining inequality. Appropriate for academic and large public libraries.DLaurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield
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