James Shaftesbury – Vive la Difference

This is a side post following a truly excellent Dan Dennett lecture at the Royal Institution this evening. More on which later, but I was prepared for disappointment meeting a hero of mine in the flesh. He did not disappoint.

However this post concerns a single Q&A. James Shaftesbury(*) asked a politically incorrect question on gender cognitive differences that Dan answered very carefully – on camera.

Vive la Difference has been a tag of several of my posts over the years. Gender differences important to recognise and understand even if not to use directly as the basis of decision and action.

Dan’s thoughtful answer did not deny difference. It did point out the lack of any unified or combined scales to judge such cognitive differences better or worse. And it also suggested that weighing up disbenefits, knowing the significance of such difference was not necessarily a net positive benefit – some things were better not known and efforts better not spent trying to know objectively.

Good answer. But. The main positive benefit in my thesis is an informational evolutionary one. Significant genetic difference is a piece of information that adds to the opportunity pool of future cultural evolution. “Cui bono?” still applies of course. For me this is crucial in the make-up of teams generally, and teams of management and governance in particular, that members bring more than one homogeneous bag of thinking tools to the party. Diversity of thinking beats groupthink – western-male groupthink.

(*) James was unknown to me before this evening, but in the intro to his question he indicated he had research, involving known science and media people, being prepared for publication.

[Post Note : Iain McGilchrist link on emissary and master – two modes of brain function.]

[Post Note : by rights though related, this should be irrelevant – reporting on a piece of “scientific” research on how atheists are “smarter” than religious believers. Wrong on so many levels, not least the problem Dan leads with above, of who chooses the scales to measure intelligence and with what agenda in mind. Spookily in her first sentence reacting on this point the religious spokesperson mentions “male dominated” measures of intelligence. Ha. What a tangled web we weave.]

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