Nov 11, 2021
This week on the Unsupervised Learning podcast, Harvard professor Carole Hooven joins Razib to discuss her new book T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us. Though they do talk about the science of testosterone, Razib and Carole end up exploring the public reaction to her writing a book on sex and biology in 2021, as well the culture of censorship and shunning that has become the norm in much of academia. Hooven’s recent experience is in the context of backlash to her brief appearance on Fox News.
Hooven recounts in detail the repercussions she’s weathered for defending the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ as being real, concrete and meaningful descriptors of observable phenomena associated with reproductive organs and the particular set of gametes one possesses. She stresses that these terms should in no way diminish any individual’s struggles with identity, sexuality and belonging - but that they are necessary to have accurate descriptors for the dimorphic nature of humans and other species, which begins in utero and is largely determined by prenatal hormonal balance affecting the physical development of both body and brain.
They both talk about their disappointment with institutions and the erosion of academic vigor in favor of creating an environment that is supposedly ‘inclusive’ – an ironic assertion since inclusion seems to involve creating a climate that has a chilling, exclusionary effect on opinions that are not de rigueur.
Eventually, the conversation circles around to the hormonal differences in the development of gendered traits, noting that some traits – such as play fighting – seem to be highly segregated between the sexes, in ways that are observably echoed across many species. Despite the reality of human culture and the complexity of individuals, they agree that some patterns and differences in distributions are real, robust and have to be addressed and acknowledged.