"His nature, her nurture-or what good are conceptual critiques for tackling practical concerns about the development of gendered individuals?"

Paper for July 2015 meetings of International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology, Montreal.
(this page can be accessed by shortlink: )

Last September a colleague from gender studies read—or tried to read—the introduction to my new book, “Nature-Nurture? No” ( She asked me somewhat testily “What does this have to do with nature-nurture issues that feminists discuss? What can we do with your analysis?” This paper is about my subsequent exploration of her “nature versus nurture” versus the one central to the book. Along the way I have distinguished not just two—“his and her”—but five conceptually distinct nature-nurture sciences, identified the gaps between them, and puzzled over the ways that are conflated or seen to reinforce one another.
In relation to my title question—what good are conceptual critiques for tackling practical concerns about the development of gendered individuals?— the three take home messages are that: conceptual critique (of the forms I shall describe) clears space for focusing on the development of gendered individuals; this counters a persistent essentialism about gender; and these first two messages have implications well beyond issues raised by feminist scholars.

Practice version of talk, 11 June 2015,

Written version of talk, HisNatureHerNurture.docx

Visual aids, HisNatureHerNurtureAV.pdf

Fausto-Sterling, A. et al. (2015). "Multimodal Sex-Related Differences in Infant and in Infant-Directed Maternal Behaviors during Months Three through Twelve of Development." Developmental Psychology, in press.
Hendriks-Jansen, H. (1996). Catching Ourselves in the Act. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Taylor, P. J. (2013). "Dawkins--the rational believer." (viewed 4 July 2015)
Taylor, P. J. (2014). Nature-Nurture? No: Moving the Sciences of Variation and Heredity Beyond the Gaps. Arlington, MA, The Pumping Station.
Taylor, P. J. (2015). "Distinctions that make a difference? An essay review of Beyond Versus: The struggle to understand the interaction of nature and nurture, by James Tabery," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 51: 70–76.