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11th EMBL/EMBO Science and Society Conference

The Difference between the Sexes - From Biology to Behaviour

EMBL Heidelberg, Germany Friday 5 November - Saturday 6 November 2010 Registration closed
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Programme

Introduction

Both the evident and the less evident biological differences between the sexes have numerous behavioural repercussions. While such phenomena have been observed and pondered from times immemorial, modern science has produced new and powerful means for elucidating them. The implications at the behavioural level in humans, however, remain a source of recurrent controversy, both within the scientific community as well as among the wider public. Are certain behaviours and thoughts fundamentally male and others essentially female? Is it a fallacy to buy into the idea that biological research could reveal how genes/chromosomes determine our identity, sexual or otherwise? Although most human beings fall genetically into one of two predominant sexual categories, both cultural and biological forces seem to shape them into a surprisingly continuous spectrum of gender. ‘The difference between the sexes’ remains a fascinating, intriguing topic providing an ample space for fruitful discussions.

 

Day One: Friday 5 November 2010

09.00 - 09.10 Welcome and Introduction
  Maria Leptin, Director of EMBO and Halldór Stefánsson, Science and Society Programme Manager, EMBL
09.10 - 10.00 Opening Lecture: Donald Pfaff, Rockefeller University, USA
  Multiple Levels of Determination of Sex Differences in Brain and Behaviour
10.00 - 10.30 Coffee Break
10.30 - 12.45 Session I: Sex and Evolution
  Chair: Jan Engelstädter, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  Speakers:
  Nick Barton, IST, Austria
  Why Sex?
  Eva Jablonka, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  Sex determination: an epigenetic perspective
  Nick Lane, University College London, UK
  The power behind the sexes: why energy coupling requires sexual coupling
12.45 - 14.15 Lunch
  Session II: Sexual divergence in development: Genetic, hormonal and physiological differences
  Chair: Melissa Hines, University of Cambridge, UK
  Speakers:
  David Bainbridge, University of Cambridge, UK
  Deciding to be a boy? The history and prehistory of sex determination
  Eric Vilain, UCLA, USA
  Pink Genes or Blue Genes? A Biological Perspective on Sexual Development
  Margaret McCarthy, University of Maryland, USA
  Establishing Sex Differences in the Brain: Lessons from Animal Models
16.30 - 17.00 Coffee Break
17.00 - 18.30 Panel Discussion:
  Nick Barton
  Eva Jablonka
  Nick Lane
  David Bainbridge
  Eric Vilain
  Margaret McCarthy
18.30 - 19.30 Drinks
19.3 - 21.30 Dinner

Day Two: Saturday 6 November 2010

09.00 - 09.50 Opening Lecture: Helen Fisher, Rutgers University, USA
  Sex Differences in Temperament:  How four primary brain systems build gender differences (and similarities) and guide mate choice
09.50 - 10.20 Coffee Break
10.20 - 12.35 Session III: Behavioural and cognitive studies of sexual selection/differences
  Chair: Frank Cézilly, University of Burgundy, France
  Speakers:
  Tim R. Birkhead FRS, University of Sheffield, UK
  Darwin and Post-Copulatory Sexual Selection
  Joanna Setchell, Durham University, UK
  Sexual selection in primates
  Johan J. Bolhuis, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  Evolution, Brain and Behaviour: Pitfalls and Opportunities
12.35 - 14.00 Lunch
14.00 - 16.15 Session IV: Rethinking 'maleness' vs. 'femaleness'
  Chair: Jonathan Marks, UNC-Charlotte, USA
  Speakers:
  David C. Geary, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA
  Evolution and Cultural Expression of Human Sex Differences
  Susan Pinker, Columnist, The Globe and Mail, Canada
  The Sexual Paradox: Troubled Boys, Gifted Girls, and the Real Difference Between the Sexes
  Anne Fausto Sterling, Brown University, USA
  Nature OR nurture? It's the wrong question: bringing the debate about difference into a modern framework
16.15 - 16.45 Coffee Break
16.45 - 18.15 Panel Discussion:
  Tim R. Birkhead FRS
  Joanna Setchell
  Johan J. Bolhuis
  David C. Geary
  Susan Pinker
  Anne Fausto Sterling
18.15 - 18.30 Closing Remarks: Iain Mattaj, Director General, EMBL