The Corner

On Biological Determinism

I don’t think Peter goes far enough in his discussion of “biological determinism.” Not only did Augustine and Aquinas understand that there were deep differences between genders and sexes, but that understanding is today resurgent in the sciences. Evolutionary psychology, neurology, zoology and many other fields are confirming what was almost forgotten thanks to the marriage of Marxism and Feminism: there are very real differences between men and women. I liked a lot of what Brooks had to say and the argument he uses has long been the one I’ve generally been most sympathetic to.

But, as I’ve written many, many times, the essential insight of conservatism is that human nature has no history. Brooks’ use of the phrase “biological determinism” is very clever, but it denies much that is central to conservatism. Would he say that it is just so much wrong-headed biological determinism for women to be the primary caregivers for their children? Who says men can’t make better mothers?

I believe in the power of institutions to civilize barbarians into humans and I think Brooks’ (and Sullivan’s) strongest argument is that marriage is a civilizing institution which we are denying to the very men we claim are in most need of it, i.e. in terms of promiscuity. But, so far, the only marriages we have as evidence for the argument that they civilize men are marriages involving a man and a woman (or many women). Brooks seems to casually dismiss this objection as lunk-headed “biological determinism.” That strikes me as unfair and a bit unserious.


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