S3 E2: Ain’t No Amoeba

July 25, 2018

For millennia, Western culture (and most other cultures) declared that men and women were different sorts of humans—and, by the way, men were better. Is that claim not only wrong but straight-up backwards?

Co-hosts Celeste Headlee and John Biewen explore the current state of the nature-nurture gender debate, with help from Lisa Wade of Occidental College and Mel Konner of Emory University.  

Music by Alex Weston, and by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine. Music and production help from Joe Augustine at Narrative Music.

Download a transcript of the episode.

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5 comments on “S3 E2: Ain’t No Amoeba

  1. David Jul 27, 2018

    I’m having issues with the audio player. It just plays and intro saying “PRX”.

    • cdsduke Jul 30, 2018

      Hi David,

      The player is working okay for me in Chrome. Can you try reloading your web browser or trying a different browser?


  2. I think you’d be interested to know that I found your podcast humorous. I mean, a creature reproducing asexually, comparing that to female. Hilarious. Asexual reproduction creates a fully functional life form, and is an almost identical replication. Sexual reproduction takes two life forms. The progeny will have a stage of infancy. For how different all animals are, no animal will create a life form that is fully capable. No woman, even with a partner, will divide into two identical, fully capable people.

    Of course it’s not just that. I found it funny how the concept of gender roles being learned as funny. I’d be careful, that’s really close to saying that gender identity is taught, and heavens forbid your statement bring on the wrath of your peers for being transphobic.

  3. Disappointed in this one. It would’ve been great if you had interviewed religious studies scholars on the Genesis text rather than taking it at face value – for instance, they could’ve alerted you to a historically contextualized reading that would have included the myth of the primal androgyne and how much later Christian interpretations would have distorted the likely original meaning of the text. It also seemed like you missed the opportunity to contextualize “evolutionary psychology” as a fairly fringe and MRA-associated field whose core assertions are repeatedly challenged (and not just by “feminist scholars” which was a phrase whose repetition in this episode I found strange). Instead, to take one example, you repeated as fact the idea that men had an ‘evolutionary advantage’ in sleeping with multiple partners, but – while this seems commonsensical – it isn’t borne out by studies that look at what actually happens with patterns of human fertility (essentially, the man who sleeps with multiple women without knowing their ovulation has less chance of impregnating one than a man who sleeps repeatedly with the same partner) (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s work is important here; perhaps more easily accessible, Natalie Angier’s book WOMAN dedicates Chapter 18 to popularizing research debunking these kinds of claims). Yet even at that, it seemed like repeatedly you interviewed experts only to have hosts then evaluate their knowledge according to what “feels right” in their personal experiences – something that you didn’t do in Season 4 with history, for example (thank heavens). The thing is, what “feels right” is misleading when we’re talking about something where our interpretations are so heavily socialized (it would’ve been great to mention studies of adults who are shown the same videos of children’s behavior but told the children are different genders and how differently the adults evaluate the exact same video, for example). I really like this podcast in general, but this episode felt like a huge missed opportunity and I’m wondering whether the rest of this season will be worth listening to.

  4. Now listening about the beer commercial; after insulting, am finding it quite funny. My parents share a walk-in closet where in my father’s section everything is meticulously ordered, he also maintains painstakingly his leather shoes. My mother’s side of the closet is everything all over the place and doesn’t really care about shoe maintenance.
    On the beer front: best thing to quench thirst is beer while for the father after more than 25 years of marriage has learning to tolerate-like it…