VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Be cautious about scientific data that offer to be the sole basis and single explanation for the differences between men and women, the Vatican newspaper said.
Different eras have produced different scientific conclusions about sex differences, it said, in part because assumptions were built on the knowledge available at the time.
But past scientific views were also inspired by the particular social concepts in force and were “marked, in general, by a strong ‘male-centric’ ideological slant, aimed at scientifically establishing female inferiority,” the newspaper article said.
The article, “History of Biological Difference,” was published Sept. 1 in L’Osservatore Romano’s monthly insert dedicated to women in the church and the world.
The article presented a rundown of different findings, spanning from the 1800s to present day, by scientists in explaining why men and women are different.
It began with conclusions drawn by Charles Darwin and his contemporaries from the study of the body’s organs — that women were not as evolved and were stunted midway between monkeys and men.
Scientists then went from using the body’s morphology to the effect of hormones in explaining sex differences. The discovery of the X and Y chromosomes shifted research to looking at genetic determinants in sex and behaviors.
New discoveries about cell-trait variation, molecular function and the brain continue to offer more scientific explanations for sex differences, it said.
Biological views of the difference between the sexes, therefore, “have changed over time, according to the theories and dominant ideologies in each historical context, and the interests of medical research,” it said.
Today, at a time when “the male/female concept is fluid and controversial, the language of genomes is preferred in explaining and describing the differences in sex and gender,” it said.
However, “much caution is needed in evaluating scientific data that purport being the basis” for and single cause of the differences between men and women, it said.
“Biological determinism has very serious implications: It could justify, for example, the recourse to classifications such as sexual hierarchies,” like in an earlier era, the article said.