What makes you who you are?

It turns out that newborns conceived in a time of famine are more likely to be girls than boys—or so it is reported. Think back to China’s “Great Leap Forward.” Between 1959 and 1961 the famine there killed 30 million people. Before this time period, male births were on the rise. About a year into starvation conditions, trends shifted dramatically, and more girls were born in China (see Helen Fields, Science Now, March 27, 2012).

Take another example from another window of time. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours. Studies have shown that Muslim infants conceived during this month are more likely to be female. Just why this is so remains largely a mystery, although researchers have attempted to connect gender ratios with nutritional maternal conditions. These things stir thought, but do not satisfactorily answer the question, what makes you male or female? In addition, people ask, what is the decider, not only of your gender, but also of a thousand different details that constitute your character? Things like social proclivities, athletic abilities, scholarly inclinations, as well as likes and dislikes. In other words, what makes you, you?

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July 23, 2012

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