randombio.com | commentary
Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sex differences in the liver

People are becoming afraid to express even the most anodyne ideas.


L ast week I discussed how one feminist noted for her intelligent ideas got basted on the Internet for wishing everyone a wonderful day. The same week a university professor was threatened with revocation of tenure for a comment so anodyne that, for the life of me I can't remember what it was. Is it any wonder that people act as if terrified to say anything?

Because our world is made of ideas, as we come to fear ideas, we become afraid of the world, and more importantly afraid of each other. Our fear of other minds extends even to machines: it is no coincidence that those piles of fear-mongering books about the dangers of AI appeared at the same time as the attempts by students to deplatform ideas that challenge their beliefs.

And so, instead of ideas, we get bombarded with politics and, according to a Pear Research study, 40.55 percent of tweets are now pointless babble. The relentless politicization of the public forum is driving out those who have something intelligent to say.

Even feminism, which can usually be counted on to come up with interesting (if occasionally wacky) ideas, is falling into this trap. Women have enormous power already. Yet some feminists act as if they're getting the vapors about their powerlessness in the face of a patriarchy that oppresses them.

As an aside, many people think that “getting the vapors” was a term for female hysteria. In fact, it was a euphemism for migraine headache, a very real and extremely painful type of headache that affects three times as many women as men.

You had to know Fippler was going to turn this into an article about the brain.

In their fascinating chapter on the history of migraine in Wolff's Headache and Other Head Pain, 8th ed., CJ Boes and DJ Dalessio attributed the ‘vapors’ theory to Galen (131–201), who claimed that migraine, or hemicrania, was caused “by the ascent of vapours, either excessive in amount, or too hot, or too cold.”

Boes and Dalessio go on to cite the Arabic physician Ali ibn Isa (AD ca. 1000), who recommended that as treatment for migraine the patient should “bind over his head a mole long dead and putrid.” Perhaps this is the true origin of those pink hats.

Previous feminist movements succeeded because they convinced men their cause was just. But Fippler's mad cackling only gets worse when he hears about how piano keyboards are too big for women's hands, bookshelves are too high, air conditioned offices are too cold, women are left out of medical research studies, emojis are mostly male, and only 10.8% of pages in political science textbooks reference women.

Yet in a way it's also reassuring: these days, it's gratifying to discover that somebody still believes there are such things as men and women. The idea that sex is a continuum conflicts with the central tenet of feminism that there are only two. It also conflicts with the idea held elsewhere that men and women are identical and there is really only one sex. We have not two, but three incompatible foundational ideas here.

I once suggested to a female colleague—a very smart one with a good scientific mind—to rotate the 3D structure of some molecule in her mind. She looked at me like I'd just asked her to solve Einstein's equations. It's just one example of how our brains are different. Most women don't like rotating images in their heads and doubt that such a thing is even possible.

Feminists used to say male and female brains no more different than male and female livers. But a PubMed search on “liver AND sex differences” pulls up 10,206 articles with titles like “Hepatic FGF21 mediates sex differences in high-fat high-fructose diet-induced fatty liver” and “Role of estrogens in the regulation of liver lipid metabolism.” Male and female livers might look similar to a layman, but they're just as different as their vocal cords, hearts, and muscles.

The feminist demand to include more women as subjects in medical research paid off bigly for science, and we now know that there are sex differences in virtually every organ of the body, including the liver and the brain.

Thanks to feminists, it is now well established that male and female brains are substantially different and that these differences are innate. Our behavior, which is based on our brain programming, is different, the way we think is different, and our biochemistry is different. If it were otherwise, the NIH's demand for inclusion of female subjects in research would make no sense. Few scientists combine male and female results because we find sex differences everywhere we look.

To Fippler, with his superior logical mind, it sometimes seems that men and women are the same when being the same benefits women, and different when being different benefits women. This isn't a sustainable hypothesis. An ideology built on falsehoods, no matter how plausible or enticing, will crumble away just as its goal comes within reach.

Voices of reason are being drowned out by demands for govern­ment to solve problems using force of law. That won't work until the problems are correctly identified and discussed. When intelligent discussion is unsafe, the people whose ideas we most need to hear remain silent.


mar 16 2019, 5:11 am. last edited mar 17 2019, 4:40 am


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