In a fascinating and accessible book, Homme, femme. Ce que nous disent les neurosciences: La nature a raison! (Man Woman. What neuroscience tells us: Nature is right!) Professor René Écochard reaches into the contribution of neurosciences to explain how our biology influences our behaviors as men and women—contrary to what gender theory asserts.
The brain is a genius. It grows with us, shapes itself, operates, at each moment of life, with mechanisms, exchanges of fluids, release of hormones, so that it is at the same time a receptacle of our education and our evolution and a predisposed engine since our birth. We are born male or female. Our brain is marked, like a seal, with this quality; and an astonishing alchemy, a clever play of hormones, like a machine, is at work.
René Écochard is not a polemicist and this book, in a calm, sober, natural manner, asserts conservative ideas about the family, the couple, the function of woman and man, opposing their equality, supporting, on the other hand, their holy and beautiful complementarity, between love and war, Mars and Venus. Écochard is one of us, and consequently, opposed to the theory of gender, careful not to adhere to the progressive delusions, to the modern and deconstructionist theories, to the open world of Davos, and to wokism. If the reader is afraid of reading a book on neuroscience, he should rest reassured— the tone is simple, accessible, even though there is a substantial set of notes and a substantial biography at the end of the volume. But isn’t it the characteristic of a great scientist to allow lambda readers, like us, gain clarity of ideas and purpose, while also digesting a complex quantity of data?
The professor places the debate on the side of science, though the debate is now also informed by the political and economic challenges of a fragmented, liquid, liberal, too liberal, consumer society. So be it Also, it becomes necessary to restore the intellectual stakes of these last years. Societal progressivism claims, in the name of human rights, the absolute freedom of the individual, in the very name of his rights and even of his whims. Nothing should prevent the freedom of man, not even nature which, unjustly, works like fate. We are born a man, by chance, without having chosen. What misfortune! This kind of biological determinism is unsustainable for progressives.
Distinguishing Nature and Culture
Progressivism’s second fight is to try to distinguish nature and culture, to separate them drastically, as two things that have nothing to do with each other, and to make of the one something outdated, and of the other, a kind of a la carte menu from which one chooses everything as one pleases. Thus, a little boy can become a little girl, despite having a penis, if he decides to wear make-up. The father is a symbolic function. The family can, well, in the name of modernity and of rights, be constituted by two moms. The reign of the individual.
Professor Écochard’s book seeks to present three main points: born male or female, our biology determines part of our behavior; our education, our culture, our evolution in society are anchored to our sex disposed at birth, as if married to it. Man and woman are not undifferentiated but complementary: “The same hormones masculinize or feminize the body, but also the mind.” There is a coherence between a male body and a male personality; hence the deep distress of a society where we repeat that we are physically a man but not psychologically; that what is natural is a stereotype, therefore atrocious and oppressive, where we distinguish between gender and sex and, even more grotesquely, “gender identity” and “gender expression.” While modern society asks us, in the name of vague rights, to choose—nature takes the opposite view of Beauvoir’s famous phrase and enjoins us to observe this precept—one becomes a man because one is born a man.
Without talking about determinism, the professor well says that “human societies are not structured by genetics alone—free will enriches human life.” And to add that where progressives deny the importance of nature and the fullness of culture, it is necessary to consider a kind of concordance between biological determination and our way of being a man, a woman, based on our education and our personal trajectory: “The process of masculinization of the male brain is biological; but it is also educational; education participates in the development of the natural given which the Y chromosome establishes directly or through testosterone.”
The Evolution of Boys and Girls
The first part of the book is devoted to children and their evolution. Girls have a predominance of empathy. This is explained by the fact that boys and girls “have a natural foundation, linked in part to the higher level of testosterone in boys than in girls in the fetal period.” From childhood, we read, “the brains of girls and boys develop differently under the influence of the games that attract them, the interactions with their environment and the gaze of those around them, which indicates their horizon as women or men. All this contributes to the development of a personality whose feminine or masculine traits are gradually revealed.” It thus appears that everything is established from the conception of the child; that the child, girl or boy, is fitted by its sex with such or such characteristics which will influence its behavior, its tastes, its ideas. The mechanisms work! Let’s get on with the show!
The most relevant part of the book is the one that deals with the family. At a time when it is explained that a grandmother can be a father, at a time of the reconstituted family, single parent, model of perfect capitalism, and marriage for all in its version 2.0, the information of the professor is delightful. The family is the perfect illustration of a cultural, civilizational institution, anchored, copied in nature, sublimating the instinct of reproduction and the animal behavior of man and woman, by a sacrament and an institution. To understand that an alchemy at the level of the brain takes place between the married couple, between the mother and her child, between the father and his child, confirms and reaffirms the defense of the family according to natural law. A man tends to become a father—and the father, this changed man, chemically transformed, is irreplaceable. The conjugal bond, marriage, a cultural institution, is in perfect harmony with the natural feeling of love between a man and a woman, so much so that at the time of pregnancy “the greater the hormonal changes observed in the mother, the greater the changes observed in the father.” Amazing!
The Father Back in the Spotlight
The father resumes, under the professor’s observations, some meaning. Whereas he had been reduced to being a function, now the man who becomes a dad is transformed, “the hormonal balance of the father changes during the pregnancy of his wife; even the view of the newborn’s smile triggers a burst of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, in his parents.” How can that happen, even in the name of individual rights, with a surrogacy pregnancy? During the first months of the child, the father feels less testosterone, this drop encourages him to stay in the family nest, which has served, during evolution, to encourage the father to protect his child from threats. The model of the protective “Dad” is not just a stereotype, it is biologically posited. This is remarkable—becoming a father is not simply an apprenticeship by a method, a What-do-I-know-about-paternity, a Being-a-dad-for-dummies—but on the contrary happens naturally. “Even later, the man undergoes a kind of metamorphosis; seeing his wife breastfeeding, he also benefits from a hormonal shift that strengthens his attachment to his wife and their child. The same hormone therefore serves as a vector to nourish the child and to strengthen the bonds.”
This book will therefore be a necessary vade-mecum for all Catholic supporters of natural law and those who want to justify their principles with factual and scientific data that will reassure us about our ideas and our struggle.
Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.
Featured image: “Das Stelldichein” (The Tryst), by Carl Schweninger d. J. Painted ca. 1903.