A distinguished female biologist walked out when the Harvard President suggested that women were biologically less suited to science. The existence of such differences are now the subject of a heated exchange between psychologists Stephen Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke in the latest Edge debate.
The topic is notable as despite its political importance, it is rarely informed by science, particularly as there are reliable differences in psychological abilities and brain structure between men and women.
Simon Baron-Cohen has become notable for arguing that there are fundamental differences in male and female thinking.
A recent study suggested however, that although there are obvious differences in brain structure, overall intelligence was not any different between the sexes. Some have speculated that such structural differences may reflect specialisations for particular skills.
In this regard, Pinker and Spelke make an interesting contrast. Pinker argues that such specialisations are largely inherited, whereas Spelke argues that they are more likely to be the result of sex roles and the influence of society.
The debate includes audio, video and text transcripts of the exchange.