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'Genetic determinism' fosters the notion that, if genes are part of the causal process, then in order to change outcomes you've got to tweak the genes — you've got to alter that one particular cause. That's a very odd idea. There's no reason why you can't intervene at any part of the causal process, no reason why genes should take precedence. As we've seen with murder rates, when you're dealing with the universals of human nature, the environment is the obvious place to intervene. But that can also be true even when you're dealing with genetic differences between people. There are genetic differences, for example, in the propensity to develop adult diabetes. In an environment in which people eat traditional food — low calorie-density, high fibre, low fat, low sugar — nobody develops this kind of diabetes. But expose these populations to a modern diet and the people with the greater hereditary disposition show up immediately. Similarly, there could be genetic differences in men's disposition to compete. But, in appropriate environments — more Iceland than Chicago — those differences would barely show up in the homicide statistics.

There are lots of other notions packed into 'genetic determinism' — to do with free will and responsibility, control over your life and so on. But I've yet to discover a single interpretation of 'genetic determinism' that carries any of the implications that people seem to worry so much about. On the contrary, it turns out that whatever applies to genes applies equally to 'environments'. So, if people fear 'genetic determinism', they should be worrying equally about 'environmental determinism'.

Now, this kind of thinking applied to sex differences has led to deep hostility to the very idea of evolved differences between women and men. And feminists in particular have led this opposition. Of course, 'feminism' covers a multitude of views. There's often not much in common between the unreconstructed Marxists of the British Left, the 'post-modern' jargon-generators and the CEO who's flicking shards of glass ceiling from her padded shoulders. But one thing on which most schools of feminism agree is that they're anti-Darwinian. Even the so-called 'difference' feminists, who 'celebrate' 'us' versus 'them', prefer to invent differences rather than defer to science. I find it all very dismaying — and, as a Darwinian and a feminist, doubly dismaying.

I think this retrenchment stems from a vague belief that you can't have fairness without sameness. I say 'vague' because, once you say it, you can see it's obviously false. But lots of strands of feminism have somehow got themselves committed to the view that if men and women are in any ways fundamentally different it will undermine the quest for a fair and egalitarian society. What originally inspired feminism was the idea that women shouldn't be discriminated against qua women — where it was irrelevant that they were women. Being barred from universities or owning property or whatever, not because they were incapable but because they were women. But that original inspiration gets into a terrible twist when you deny evolved sex differences. Things have got to the point where there's expected to be some kind of 50:50 representation of men and women everywhere — universities, workplace, politics, sport, childcare. So, if women are under-represented, it's put down to sexism alone. Well, whether or not sexism is operating, evolved sex differences certainly will be — differences in dispositions, skills, interests, and ambitions. So women are very likely to make systematically different choices from men. And it's that — not blanket 50:50 distributions — which we should expect fair policies to reflect.


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