Monday, December 15, 2008

Islamist Brain Research: Update on Scientific Findings

Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani
Yemenite Cleric
(Image from MEMRI)

As all of my regular readers know, I regularly post updates on recent scientific discoveries, so if you don't know that, you're not a regular reader.

As reported in Memri's Special Dispatch Number 2150 (December 14, 2008), today's update on recent scientific discoveries comes to us from Yemen, where Muslim cleric Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani has recently discovered an article from the July 31, 1995 issue of Time magazine. Holding the article's photo of a female and a male brain -- as in the image above -- Al-Zindani explains his discovery:
Both men and women have centers for speech and for memory. In the case of men, the center for speech is here, while the center for memory is here. When a man talks, his center for speech is active, and when he remembers something, his center for memory is active. On the other hand, when a woman wants to talk, she puts both centers into action. This may give us an explanation why women are more talkative.
Let's see now, concerning the "centers for speech and for memory," a woman "puts both centers into action." I suppose that this might explain why my wife can out-argue me -- she can talk and remember at the same time. But wait a minute . . . the cleric concludes otherwise:
What is the outcome of this? When a woman talks, she uses the part of the brain that contains the memory, because in the case of women, both centers function for speech and memory. So when a woman talks, she might use the part of the brain containing the memory for talking -- and that's it, the data is lost.
Come again? A talking woman whose center for memory is activated is more likely to forget details than a talking man whose center for memory is not activated? Well, who am I to dispute a cleric, especially when so much is at stake:
Therefore, if we need the testimony of women in cases pertaining to human lives, property, honor, or the stability of justice, we must take into consideration this fact of life in the nature of women.
Right. Two women are required for valid testimony, according to Islamic law, and we now see why. One woman is for remembering, and the other for reporting the memory. Or so says Al-Zindani. But the good cleric seems to have some problems of his own in talking and remembering:
The American Time magazine, in its July 31, 1995 issue, published this picture from research about the brain functioning of men and women. This is the ma . . . This is the female brain, and this is an image of the male brain.
Come on, Zindani! Get it right without stumbling! Can't you remember which brain is male and which is female? Maybe you forgot to activate your own brain's center for memory? Or were you using it for talking rather than for remembering?

Not that I doubt the good cleric's recent findings, of course. I'm merely engaging in a little necessary peer review in the earnest hope that Al-Zindani will revisit his analysis and revise his theory.

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12 Comments:

At 6:37 AM, Blogger Eshuneutics said...

Fantastic psychology. You have made me laugh and laugh :-).

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Eshuneutics. If I'd had more time, I would have made the piece funnier by pretending to believe the cleric's 'science' . . . but I ran short on that valuable commodity, time.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Allow me to come to the defence of the cleric.

He said ".....When a man talks, his center for speech is active, and when he remembers something, his center for memory is active......".

But you summarize the cleric as saying (in a rhetorical question form) ".......A talking woman whose center for memory is activated is more likely to forget details than a talking man whose center for memory is not activated......?

I'm sure you'll agree that in the matter of the male centre for memory, you have misrepresented the cleric, who said clearly that it (the male centre for memory) is active.

If a man is using all of his centre of memory to remember things, and a woman is only using part of her centre of memory to remember things (because she is using a part of it to talk) then it would follow that a man would remember more things, than would a woman.

I don't, therefore, have too much trouble with the cleric's logic.

But, on the question of whether his assertions about the physiognamies of the male and female brains are scientifically valid, that, as Barack Obama likes to say, is another debate.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Christopher, I read the cleric as meaning that the man is either talking or remembering but not doing both simultaneously.

That seems to follow from his point about the respective centers -- for speech and memory -- being activated.

The problem arises when he then seems to imply that the woman's memory is impaired because her memory center is activated while she is speaking.

Now by arguing in this way, he might mean that the woman is using part of her memory center to 'help' her speak, thereby leaving less 'room' for memory, but I can't see how he would know that from the fact that both centers are active when a woman is speaking. If the memory center is really a memory center and not a speech center, then if it's being activated, it is being used for recalling things.

So in his argument, either the cleric is being illogical (if he assumes that the memory center is for memory), or he is making an unwarranted assumption (if he assumes that a woman's memory center is used for speech as well as for memory).

I would therefore still say that there's something faulty in the cleric's argument.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

The cleric said, in part, ".......When a man talks, his center for speech is active, and when he remembers something, his center for memory is active. On the other hand, when a woman wants to talk, she puts both centers into action.........".

I assumed the cleric meant that a man's speech-centre, and memory-centre are active simultaneously. If you interpret that the cleric meant that a man's speech-centre, and memory-centre, are not active simultaneously, your interpretation would have arisen from what the cleric said next, that - with respect to her speech and memory centres - she ".......puts both centres into action........".

But, by saying that she puts both centres into action, the cleric implies this is simultaneous, because both centres are used for talking. If both centres in a woman don't work simultaneously, then her speech will come out very imperfectly, if not garbled, because part of her brain which she uses for talking is shut down. Since the cleric doesn't imply that a woman's speech is lacking, he's implying that both the centres in the woman's brain, which are used in whole or in part for speaking, are working simultaneously.

If we accept that the cleric thinks that the woman's speech and memory centres are working simultaneously, does he imply that the man's speech and memory centres don't also work simultaneously? I think not, because when the cleric said that a woman puts both centres into action, he said this because both her centres are used, at least in part, for speaking. Since a man uses only his one speech centre for speaking, there was no need for the cleric to say anything more about it, or about the man's memory centre. The cleric would have assumed that those listening to, or reading, what he said, would have no reason to think that the man's speech and memory centres don't work simultaneously.

While the cleric has (for me, anyway) made made perfect sense so far, I do admit (after reading what you wrote in your comments) to having some semantical problems with part of what the cleric said next: "........ When a woman talks, she uses the part of the brain that contains the memory, because in the case of women, both centers function for speech and memory. So when a woman talks, she might use the part of the brain containing the memory for talking -- and that's it, the data is lost.......".

If both centres in a woman's brain function for both speech and memory, can we call one centre the "speech" centre, and the other centre the "memory" centre, without causing confusion in the mind of the reader or listener? Wouldn't it be better to call both centres "speech/memory" centres? If we accept that "....when a woman talks, she might use the part of the brain containing the memory for talking.........", we must also accept that when a woman thinks, she would use part of the brain used for speech, for thinking, since, according to the cleric, both centres are used for both speech and memory.

So if "....data is lost....." in the part of the woman's brain designed for thinking, because it is used partly for talkng, there could be a data gain in the part of the woman's brain designed for talking, because it is used partly for thinking. Thus the data loss and the data gain could cancel each other out, leaving a net zero.

But the cleric seems to imply that a woman is more forgetful than a man, meaning she is more deficient in memory. It would then follow that she would be more talkative than a man. This means that, taken as a whole, the aggregate (roominess) of the speech sections in her two "speech/memory" centres, would be bigger than the "speech" centre in a man. But the aggregate (roominess) of the "memory" sections in her two "speech/memory" centres, would be smaller than the "memory" centre of a man.

Hence a woman will talk more (or better) than a man; and a man will think better (have a more retentive memory) than a woman.

I'm glad that's all settled.

 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Christopher, I suspect that we can both agree that the cleric's remarks are far from clear . . . assuming that we try to make sense of them.

If we want to be charitable, I suppose that we could assume a faulty translation.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say (whether this "adds" I don't know) is that in arguing with my ex at divorce court-to the consternation and disapproval of the Judge-was that she remembered stuff from ten years before.

I on the other hand had to refer to the police report.

JK

 
At 6:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I know from experience that I cannot recall well while I'm talking. My experience is that I have to pause to search for the right fact . . . as though it's located elsewhere.

My wife, on the other hand . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:15 AM, OpenID sonagi92 said...

The whole premise of the cleric's notions of using separate parts of the brain for memory and speech is faulty. MRI-supported research on language shows that multiple parts of the brain are used in oral communication and in storing and retrieving from the long-term memory.

As Jeffery pointed out, it is impossible for the brain to talk about a past event without tapping into the memory. In plain English, one cannot recall everything first and then speak.

The cleric doesn't make sense to me, either. Such arguments in defense of Islam's lesser value assigned to women's testimony reminds me of similar convoluted arguments in defense of the passage about restrictions on the size of a stick used to beat a woman.

 
At 9:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi, just the other day, I was just wondering about you. Good to hear from you again. As you see, I'm still harping on the same sorts of things.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:09 AM, OpenID sonagi92 said...

Thanks, Jeffery. I've been teaching extra hours in an afternoon program three days a week plus breaking in a new colleague from Brazil, leaving little time for keeping up with blogs. I probably won't be a faithful reader again for awhile, but I will check in from time to time. As a small town midwestern gal, I enjoy your family tales of life in the Ozarks, for I am always able to make a connection to my own background and heritage.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, my kinfolk keep promising me more stories, so I should be posting a few soon.

Jeffery Hodges

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