randombio.com | commentary
Saturday, April 01, 2017

First fake news, now fake biology

Gender essentialism is the latest buzzword for denying biological truth.

L ike most humans, I have rules to live by. My latest one is Never assume that a pile of leaves in a ditch means there is any solid ground underneath and not, say, three feet of yellow mud. Another one is Nothing anybody ever says about another person is true. Anyone who went through junior high school knows this one. Whenever someone talks about somebody else it's either trivial, meaningless, or false.

A corollary is Never believe anything people say about themselves. Medical doctors know this about patients and exercise. Cops know it about criminals. Garbage collectors know it about those scumbags who put banana peels in the bluish-green recycling bins instead of the greenish-blue ones.

Much of human history consists of lies by people about people. So maybe it shouldn't be so surprising that the same is true of our news media, which consists mostly of people.

But I never thought I'd have to write an article defending the scientifically proven fact that there are two, AND ONLY TWO, sexes. There is no “continuum.” The two sexes are genetically determined and from a biological point of view—the only one that counts—immutable.


I identify as a woolly mammoth. Talk about discrimination ... I demand reparations!
(Mamuthus primigenius skeleton. Image from US Smithsonian Institution / National Museum of National History)

Feminists call this concept “gender essentialism.” To the postmodern mind, it's a pernicious myth, just like the myth that you can't change from one race to another at will when doing so gets you special privileges, like former white person Rachel Dolezal.

That's why those pink pussy hats that were so popular last month seem like a perfect metaphor for what's wrong with postmodern identity culture: their genitalia have gone to their heads. In its death throes, cultural Marxism is expanding, like that alien on Star Trek who thought he was a Greek god and just got bigger and bigger until there was nothing left but “the wind.”

Karl Marx taught that social status determines one's beliefs, but even the Frankfurt school probably never dreamed that “beliefs” would someday include that crazy patriarchal concept that we are either male of female.

Consider this from an article about “trans women” in a well known paper (h/t Ed Straker):

Not all women have vaginas, and not all vagina-havers identify as women. A rhetorical strategy whose goal is universality falls short if it excludes some of the most marginalized women.

In general I agree with the article: if human females wanted to be memorialized in some future Smithsonian as fundamentally unserious by whatever intelligent life form takes our place after we go extinct, they couldn't do better than to adopt the vagina as a symbol of protest. And you've got to admire the cleverness of calling transsexual men who want to become women “marginalized women”, thereby conferring upon them at one stroke the benefits of intersec­tionality and femaleness. And I suppose technically it's true about not all W's having a V.

But what she's getting at is spelled out more clearly in the new AP style guide:

Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.

They're pussyfooting by saying ‘sex or gender’, but what they really mean is: don't say “both” sexes, say “all” sexes, because there are more than two.

I never heard any reputable medical organization saying this.

On the contrary, the medical research literature is overflowing with articles discussing sex differences (27,346 at last count using the term explicitly, singular or plural). It's a hot topic in biology. Ironically, some of the credit for this goes to the feminists themselves, who complained about the near-exclusive use of male rats and mice in biology.

An example is an article last month by researchers at the Harvard Aging Brain study, who found

. . . significantly greater advantage for women than men on the tasks of verbal memory and category fluency while better performance of naming in men than women when age, education and depressive symptoms were considered.

A group at UC Irvine studying adolescent rats discovered “major sex differences” in whether nicotine intake increased drinking later in life: male rats who self-administered nicotine were more likely to take up drinking alcohol later in life.

Rats being driven to drink and smoke might sound like an amusing and improbable scenario, but it's caused by sex differences, well documented in humans, in brain opioid receptors. There are sex differ­ences in how the body responds to cutaneous ischemia. There is a vast literature—far too big to summarize here—demonstrating sex differences in the brain function and in brain injury.

Functional MRI, despite a few teething problems, is showing many sex differences in brain structure and function. One study at Harvard found sex differences in circadian rhythms in BDNF, a protein that is critical for brain repair and memory.

The message from science is that there is only sex. Sex and gender are not two different things. If gender identity is a real thing, it too is sex. There are only two of them, and while a person can certainly be confused about which one they may be, sexual identity is determined by biology, not psychology.

But according to social worker Elizabeth Boskey, the idea that men and women are fundamentally different for reasons that are unchangeable is gender essentialism, and that encourages “rape culture“ which makes men believe that they should keep pressing for sex until and unless women give a clear no. Some lesbians, she says, may have trouble being sexually assertive.

That's a darn shame, but the fact is that denying the existence of sex differences is a game of Let's Pretend played by those who see males and females in competition for resources and special privileges. It's what I call “political truth”: whatever backs up your political goals is automatically true because of its consequentialist benefits. It's created by the government's willingness to accede to the demands of special interest groups and give them special privileges. It won't stop until the government stops trying to remold society and goes back to the idea of treating all its citizens as if they were the same.

That is what ‘equality’ means.

As for gender, until recently it meant “an idea relating to the division between male and female.” Even today, that's the only definition that has any real meaning. It never made sense to say that someone “is” one particular gender. Now that activists are claiming that there are vast numbers of 'em, and you can change from one to the other at will, it makes even less sense.

Now, maybe you could make the argument that if you're a member of one of the 56 or so man-made genders, why not flit from one to the other at will? After all, it only happens in your imagination. Maybe we should drop the term ‘transgender’, as it is ambiguous—if there are 58 genders, transgender could mean any of 3,306 different things, most of which are biologically dubious.

What they really mean is that you can change from male to female, or vice versa, whenever you want, just by clicking your heels and saying it three times—no surgery required. Activists are lined up like penguins to see who will take the first plunge in declaring it the new truth.

Yeah, well, if biology worked that way, I'd be a twenty foot woolly mammoth. (TAKE IT FROM ME, DON'T DO IT—IT'S A TRAP! ONCE YOU'VE CHANGED INTO A MAMMOTH, YOU NO LONGER HAVE ANY HEELS TO CLICK AND YOU'RE STUCK!)

What will the robots who take over the Earth after we've gone extinct think of us poor deluded carbon units? I'm afraid to guess.

Created apr 01 2017; last edited apr 18 2017, 4:59 am

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