Why does the word “dog” have meaning? If you say “dog” to a friend, why does your friend understand you?
Kansas State University philosopher Elliott Wagner aims to address these types of questions in his latest research, which focuses on long-standing philosophical questions about semantic meaning. Wagner, assistant professor of philosophy, and two other philosophers and a mathematician are collaborating to use game theory to analyze communication and how it acquires meaning.
“Many people object to “wasting money in space” yet have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration. The CSA’s budget, for instance, is less than the amount Canadians spend on Halloween candy every year, and most of it goes toward things like developing telecommunications satellites and radar systems to provide data for weather and air quality forecasts, environmental monitoring and climate change studies. Similarly, NASA’s budget is not spent in space but right here on Earth, where it’s invested in American businesses and universities, and where it also pays dividends, creating new jobs, new technologies and even whole new industries.”—Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (via thedragoninmygarage)
The bottom line is that saying there are differences in male and female brains is just not true. There is pretty compelling evidence that any differences are tiny and are the result of environment not biology,” said Prof Rippon.
“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girls brain, or that’s a boys brain’ in the same way you can with the skeleton. They look the same.”
Prof Rippon points to earlier studies that showed the brains of London black cab drivers physically changed after they had acquired The Knowledge – an encyclopaedic recall of the capital’s streets.
She believes differences in male and female brains are due to similar cultural stimuli. A women’s brain may therefore become ‘wired’ for multi-tasking simply because society expects that of her and so she uses that part of her brain more often. The brain adapts in the same way as a muscle gets larger with extra use.
“What often isn’t picked up on is how plastic and permeable the brain is. It is changing throughout out lifetime
“The world is full of stereotypical attitudes and unconscious bias. It is full of the drip, drip, drip of the gendered environment.”
Prof Rippon believes that gender differences appear early in western societies and are based on traditional stereotypes of how boys and girls should behave and which toys they should play with.