Apuntes que surgen del curso

Archivo para julio, 2012



He, Once a She, Offers Own View On Science Spat
Sharon Begley
Ben Barres had just finished giving a seminar at the prestigious Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research 10 years ago, describing to scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and other top institutions his discoveries about nerve cells called glia. As the applause died down, a friend later told him, one scientist turned to another and remarked what a great seminar it had been, adding, “Ben Barres’s work is much better than his sister’s.”

There was only one problem. Prof. Barres, then as now a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University, doesn’t have a sister in science. The Barbara Barres the man remembered was Ben.
Prof. Barres is transgendered, having completed the treatments that made him fully male 10 years ago. The Whitehead talk was his first as a man, so the research he was presenting was done as Barbara.
Being first a female scientist and then a male scientist has given Prof. Barres a unique perspective on the debate over why women are so rare at the highest levels of academic science and math: He has experienced personally how each is treated by colleagues, mentors and rivals.
Based on those experiences, as well as research on gender differences, Prof. Barres begs to differ with what he calls “the Larry Summers Hypothesis,” named for the former Harvard president who attributed the paucity of top women scientists to lack of “intrinsic aptitude.” In a commentary in today’s issue of the journal Nature, he writes that “the reason women are not advancing [in science] is discrimination” and the “Summers Hypothesis amounts to nothing more than blaming the victim.”
In his remarks at an economics conference in January 2005, Mr. Summers said “socialization” is probably a trivial reason for the low number of top female mathematicians and scientists. But Prof. Barres, who as Barbara received the subtle and not-so-subtle hints that steer smart girls away from science, doesn’t see it that way. The top science and math student in her New Jersey high school, she was advised by her guidance counselor to go to a local college rather than apply to MIT. She applied anyway and was admitted.
As an MIT undergraduate, Barbara was one of the only women in a large math class, and the only student to solve a particularly tough problem. The professor “told me my boyfriend must have solved it for me,” recalls Prof. Barres, 51 years old, in an interview. “If boys were raised to feel that they can’t be good at mathematics, there would be very few who were.”
Although Barbara Barres was a top student at MIT, “nearly every lab head I asked refused to let me do my thesis research” with him, Prof. Barres says. “Most of my male friends had their first choice of labs. And I am still disappointed about the prestigious fellowship I lost to a male student when I was a Ph.D. student,” even though the rival had published one prominent paper and she had six.
As a neuroscientist, Prof. Barres is also skeptical of the claim that differences between male and female brains might explain the preponderance of men in math and science. For one thing, he says, the studies don’t adequately address whether those differences are innate and thus present from birth, or reflect the different experiences that men and women have. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who defends the Summers Hypothesis, acknowledges that the existence of gender differences in values, preferences and aptitudes “does not mean that they are innate.”
The biggest recent revolution in neuroscience has been the discovery of the brain’s “plasticity,” or ability to change structure and function in response to experiences. “It’s not hard to believe that differences between the brains of male and female adults have nothing to do with genes or the Y chromosome but may be the biological expression of different social settings,” says biologist Joan Roughgarden of Stanford, who completed her own transgender transition in 1998.
Jonathan Roughgarden’s colleagues and rivals took his intelligence for granted, Joan says. But Joan has had “to establish competence to an extent that men never have to. They’re assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise. I remember going on a drive with a man. He assumed I couldn’t read a map.”
Actually, Ben Barres says there may be something to the stereotype that men are better map readers. The testosterone he received to become male improved his spatial abilities, he writes in Nature, though “I still get lost every time I drive.”
Still, there is little evidence that lack of testosterone or anything unique to male biology is the main factor keeping women from the top ranks of science and math, says Prof. Barres, a view that is widely held among scientists who study the issue. Although more men than women in the U.S. score in the stratosphere on math tests, there is no such difference in Japan, and in Iceland the situation is flipped, with more women than men scoring at the very top.
“That seems more like ‘socialization’ than any difference in innate abilities to me,” geneticist Gregory Petsko of Brandeis University wrote last year. In any case, except in a few specialized fields like theoretical physics, there is little correlation between math scores and who becomes a scientist.
Some supporters of the Summers Hypothesis suggest that temperament, not ability, holds women back in science: They are innately less competitive. Prof. Barres’s experience suggests that if women are less competitive, it is not because of anything innate but because that trait has been beaten out of them.
“Female scientists who are competitive or assertive are generally ostracized by their male colleagues,” he says. In any case, he argues, “an aggressive competitive spirit” matters less to scientific success than curiosity, perseverance and self-confidence.
Women doubt their abilities more than men do, say scientists who have mentored scores of each. “Almost without exception, the talented women I have known have believed they had less ability than they actually had,” Prof. Petsko wrote. “And almost without exception, the talented men I have known believed they had more.”
Which may account for what Prof. Barres calls the main difference he has noticed since changing sex. “People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”



Los indígenas del Cauca, como los de muchas regiones del territorio colombiano, se enfrentan a prácticas de exterminio que han sido naturalizadas a lo largo de los siglos. Esta violencia está tan naturalizada en nuestra sociedad que tan sólo podemos apreciarla -y no necesariamente para criticarla- cuando sus resonancias llegan a los medios masivo de comunicación.

En el portal de noticias de MSN, en el día de hoy la portada de las noticias sobre el cauca se titula “muchos indios”. Así la prensa rindió cuenta del proceso de resistencia que viven las comunidades indígenas de esas zonas, haciendo alusión a las supuestamente pocas habilidades civilizadas con las que estas comunidades cuentan , al tiempo que hacían un link entre sus características fenotípicas y un imaginario de un otro salvaje, ajeno y, por ende, permisible para ser violentado. En este sentido, lo más problemático, aún, es que pareciera que las resonancias de estas prácticas de violencia militar contra poblaciones vulnerables llegan a nuestro mundo mediático solo para enontrarse con violencias menos físicas pero igual de explicitas y contundentes. S. Tolosa

Los seres humanos NO somos pinguinos

On Our Radar – Same-Sex Penguin Couple Separated to Breed Is Reunited

by Jean Ann Esselink on July 15, 2012

in Asides,Jean Ann Esselink,News
Post image for On Our Radar – Same-Sex Penguin Couple Separated to Breed Is Reunited

Last fall, Buddy and Pedro, a same-sex couple of endangered African penguins, were separated by the Toronto Zoo in hopes they would breed. Today, their life after gay love is On Our Radar.

When my first grandchild was a toddler, we wore out a copy of And Tango Makes Three, the true story of Silo and Roy, two male Chinstrap penguins at New York City’s Central Park Zoo. They cuddle together, and share a cozy nest, and when all the other penguin couples begin to produce eggs, Silo and Roy want to be parents too. Unaware of the laws of procreation, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest, where they try faithfully to hatch it. A kindly zookeeper notices the plight of Silo and Roy and decides they deserve a chance to be daddies, so he entrusts them with a real egg. The book recalls the same-sex penguin couple’s devotion tending, first to their precious egg, and later, to their little hatchling daughter, Tango. As I remember it, the last words in the book are “Read it again Nana!”

Everybody outside the hard-core homophobes of this world, seems to love a “gay” penguin story. If human gay couples were half as popular, the House of Representatives would be picketing the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA. Why, even in China, a country not known for its embrace of gay rights, a pair of same-sex penguins at Harbin Polar Land was given a “wedding.” Then, when a female in the park had trouble keeping up with her twin hatchlings, keepers gave the pair one of her chicks to make them a family.
Harry and Pepper

“Gay” penguins have always been a huge draw. In the early 1990s, the SanFrancisco Zoo was fortunate to have a pair of “gay” Magellanic penguins from South America. Harry and Pepper drew adoring crowds for six years. The pair would help incubate the eggs of other penguins, and eventually hatched and raised their own chick, just like Silo and Roy. Their keepers said they were the best parents on the island, raising the biggest chick, who, by the way, showed no sign of maladjustment due to having two dads.

The affection for “gay” penguin couples revealed itself again last fall in a public outcry, when the Toronto Zoo announced they were splitting up their own same-sex penguin couple, Buddy and Pedro. Unlike the other penguins who were allowed to raise chicks, Buddy and Pedro are African Penguins, considered endangered, and the two had been born and bred in captivity to have the “right stuff,” genetically speaking, to strengthen their species. But in response to the public protest, the Zoo promised Pedro and Buddy would be reunited in the spring.

For the good of the species, Buddy and Pedro were each forced into what, in human terms, would be an arranged marriage. Buddy had been a successful breeder in the past, producing several chicks before his partner of ten years died and Pedro came into his life. He was introduced to a female named Farai. The two produced two chicks, which sadly didn’t survive. Pedro is said to have courted his handpicked bride, the standoffish Thandiwe, but the two did not produce an egg. Finally the breeding season was over, and the gentlemen were reintroduced into the zoo’s penguin exhibit.
Buddy and Pedro

Are you cheering for the lovebirds to find each other once again? Of course you are. That’s because people love “gay” penguins. (“Read it again Nana!”) But in reality, there’s no such thing as a gay penguin, at least not in the same committed way humans are gay.

Though Buddy and Pedro are back in the same Toronto Zoo penguin exhibit, they have given up their man love and have bonded with the females chosen for them. But before you feel too angry at the zoo for splitting them up in the first place, you should know Silo left Roy for a cute female newcomer and Pepper was lured away from Harry by a conniving widow named Linda before her former partner’s body was even cold, or warm, however that works for penguins

Scientists who study them say penguins aren’t gay the same way people are gay. It is the nature of the species to form “bonded pairs” and occasionally two males or even less frequently, two females will form such a pair. We anthropomorphize the cute little guys – attribute human characteristics to them – but they aren’t people, and how penguins instinctively behave really has nothing to do with human beings. Buddy and Pedro pair bonding doesn’t prove homosexuality is innate in all species, though it may be, nor does the fact they are now happy with female partners prove reparative therapy works. It doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something that we humans can learn from penguins.

The penguin community wasn’t scandalized because Buddy and Roy wanted to nest together. As long as they didn’t steal their eggs, the other penguins didn’t object to having Harry and Pepper in the neighborhood. No penguin felt compelled to protest to the zookeepers with a hunger strike. Not a single penguin bullied them, or ostracized them. Two boy penguins were experiencing penguin attraction, and not a feather was ruffled, imagine that! It is only humans who seem to feel the need to label them as “gay” and treat them as an oddity. To other penguins, they are just two birds in love, and isn’t that the way things should be?

Today, penguin love, and the prospect of all love being considered ordinary love – (which would make it pretty darn extraordinary) – are On Our Radar.

Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at @uncucumbered.

Radar image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Entrevista de Chloe Rutter-Jensen en La W

Entrevista de Chloe Rutter-Jensen en La W

La mejor respuesta a la farandula mediocre (dizque periodista) colombiana y su discriminación.



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