if you haven’t already, you HAVE to go watch the brainwash series! really. trust me. it’s terrific! and i’m not the only one who thinks so (see some of the comments in this post). (^_^)

the show — from norway, but now with english subtitles (thank you, internet!), available here and here — was conceived and is hosted by a norwegian comedian (yeah, i didn’t know they had any either (~_^) ), a guy named harald eia. i guess maybe it takes a comedian to point out the most absurd aspects of our modern, western society, eh?

wikipedia says:

“‘Hjernevask’ (‘Brainwash’) … contrasted cultural determinist models of human behavior (also referred to as the Standard social science model) with nature-nurture interactionist perspectives.”

but it’s funnier than that. waaaaaaay funnier than that!

the basic layout of the show is that eia picks a topic — gender equality, for instance — and then goes and interviews some norwegian social scientists — you know, “specialists” in the subject — about it (in this episode it was — heh — gender researchers). and then he goes and interviews researchers in touch with the real world, like biologists or whatever, both norwegian and others (american, english). and THEN he goes BACK to the social scientists with recorded interviews of the non-social scientists in hand and gets the reaction of the lost-in-space social scientists to what the real scientists had to say.

needless to say, much hilarity ensues! (^_^)

the first episode is about differences between the genders and whether any of it is innate or not (i know — pretty basic — how could anyone get this one wrong?). more specifically, it’s about a BIG problem they, apparently, have in norway — the “gender equality paradox.” that is, despite the fact that norway has equal — prolly more than equal — opportunities, education, etc., etc., for everyone, they still have this awful, awful problem that something like 90% of engineers are men and something like 90% of nurses are women. the horror! the horror.

the norwegian gender researchers, of course, blame the differences that men and women have in capabilities and interests on the fact that, from day one, boys and girls are treated differently — boys are dressed in blue and called “little tough guy” while girls are dressed in pink and referred to as sweet little things. you know. that sort of thing. according to one (of the more clueless) gender researchers, some guy named lorentzen, men and women are exactly the same in all ways — mentally, emotionally, etc., etc. — there are just a few minor differences like different genitals, women have boobs, men have beards, and so on. *facepalm*

eia records all of them explaining these concepts and then heads off to talk to some people who have at least half a brain.

first, he talks to one norwegian researcher, trond diseth, who studies behavior in babies born with an unclear sex to see if they behave more like boys or girls (i guess this one of the tools they use when considering what sort of gender-reassignment surgery or whatever you call it to maybe perform on a baby). throughout his research, this guy has found that most boy babies born with all of your standard “boy parts” prefer playing with masculine toys, while most girl babies born with all of your standard “girl parts” prefer playing with girlie toys. there are exceptions, of course, but we’re just that — exceptions.

eia then heads to the u.s. where he interviews richard lippa, who has found that, curiously, gender differences in things like job preference (do you want to be an engineer or a nurse?) seem to be consistent on a global basis. strange if these differences have only a cultural cause that the same differences should show up in different cultures. he also visits simon baron-cohen at cambridge who has found that gender differences are present on day one of life [opens pdf], so again it’s hard to see how culture can be 100% of the explanation for the differences between the sexes.

finally, he also speaks with anne campbell, evolutionary psychologist, who explains natural selection beautifully and points out how unlikely it is that men and women should be exactly the same mentally or emotionally:

Campbell: ‘The key to all this is how many descendants you leave behind you and any traits that increase the number of descendants you leave behind you will tend to stay in the gene pool. And that’s what’s selecting in particular traits both in males and in females…. If women are generally the ones that give birth, that lactate, that raise children, it would surprising if there wasn’t some kind of psychological orchestration that helped women achieve those tasks and made those kinds of tasks particularly pleasurable to women. So, things like empathy in women, things like avoiding dangerous confrontations where you may be hurt or injured, things like avoiding social exclusion, being pushed out of the group, all of those are good things. All of those mean that you are more likely to survive and to reproduce, and to leave children who they themselves also reproduce.’

“According to Campbell, that’s why today’s women are more oriented towards other people than men.”

the best zinger comes right at the end, tho, from simon baron-cohen:

Baron-Cohen: ‘It’s a very moderate proposal to say it’s a mixture of biology and culture. I’m not saying it’s all biology. I’m simply saying don’t forget about biology.'”

heh! ’nuff said, really. go watch the show to see the reactions of the different types of researchers to each other’s theories — it’s all very amusing — and very informative!
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btw, the gender-researcher, lorentzen, is a real winner. not only did he insist that his “culture only” theories were correct, he actually laughed at other sorts of research. and he thought that american researchers were particularly bad. from the show:

“Lorentzen was skeptical of this kind of research [specifically richard lippa's research].

Eia: ‘It’s a funny study… You’re laughing as I say the word “study.”‘

Lorentzen: ‘I get telephones from every media when they get these American studies. They’re often American.’

Eia: ‘Are Americans especially good?’

Lorentzen: ‘No, especially poor, I would say. Or especially speculative.'”

you gotta remember that this lorentzen guy was laughing the whole time he was saying this.

now, don’t take this the wrong way, mr. lorentzen, but i have to point out that it’s not like norwegian gender-researchers are, by any stretch of the imagination, on the cutting edge of human behavior studies. you know, you guys gave us ibsen and the paper clip. feel free to rest on those laurels for as long as you like. really. please don’t think that you have to compete with anybody to prove that you’re the best in show science (only to wind up feeling second-rate like you obviously do).

previously: brainwash and the hard sciences are soooo sexist!

(note: comments do not require an email. the paper clip.)

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