Some claim that gender is socially constructed and that differences in behavior between men and women are not innate or natural, but are imposed by society. If society created different expectations, then the behavior of men and women could be easily changed and differences in tendencies or inclinations between the two sexes could be eliminated. According to this view sex and gender are separate. Boys and girls are a "blank slate" at birth and are essentially identical at birth except for genitalia. I will call this theory "X".
There is an opposite theory that says that gender is essentially innate, meaning that boys and girls are born with different behavioral inclinations. This view implies that society's expectations of boys and girls most likely reflect how they behave naturally on average. I will refer to this theory as theory "Y".
One important principle of a good theory is that the theory can be falsified. The theory of evolution is an example of this principle. Darwin said, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." The theory of evolution and natural selection can be falsified. Bad theories survive regardless of whether its predictions are right or wrong. Anyone who believes in a bad theory is insulated from feedback. No matter what the evidence says, it will be very difficult to stop believing in the theory.
So what evidence would falsify or validate theory X? I can think of 5 tests, that if reported accurately and honestly, should cause any rational person make up her mind on the issue.
- Imagine that a group of baby boys received a sex-change operation and was then treated like a girl. If they still had the mind of boy, then (X) would be undermined. If they had the mind of a girl then (Y) would be undermined.
- There are many different societies in the world. Most of them had little or no contact with each other until a few hundred years ago. If gender roles were arbitrarily assigned then the roles in each society should be different. If gender roles show a lot of similarity in these disparate cultures, then that would count as evidence against theory (X).
- If parents treated sons and daughters the same and the children on average still exhibited different dispositions and preferences, then that would count as evidence against (X).
- If we observed differences in preferences and dispositions in animals that were genetically close to humans like primates, then that would count as evidence against (X).
- Behavior is affected by the brain. This has been shown in many psychological and neurological studies. If boys and girls had the same brain characteristics, then (Y) would be false. If they had significantly different brain characteristics then (X) would be false.
In the next few posts, I will argue that every test seriously undermines theory (X)—the theory that boys and girls are essentially the same. In other words, scientific evidence shows on average that gender is innate and that the expectations of society play a smaller role in influencing inclinations and preferences than natural biological causes.