I don’t have much time for Jerry Coyne as a “philosopher”, in which role he rarely rises above a Dawkins-esque smugness. But, credit where it’s due: also like Dawkins, as a biologist he knows his stuff and refuses to parrot politically-correct nostrums if they are obvious scientific bullshit.
As a biologist, I get especially irked at the repeated claim that sex in humans is “a spectrum, not a binary.” In fact, as I’ve discussed several times before, sex might as well be a binary, because the overwhelming majority of people conform to the definitions of either male or female, which involve differential gamete production (sperm vs. eggs), and only slightly fewer fail to conform to a binary of other primary sexual characteristics (appearance of genitalia) or secondary sexual characteristics that appear at puberty (breasts, pubic hair, etc.).
People who claim that “sex is a spectrum” understand neither terms. A spectrum is something which varies, without steps, across a continuum. Human biological sex is nothing like that.
To be a bit more precise, biological sex in humans is bimodal: if you do a frequency plot with “sex” on the X axis and “frequency of individuals conforming to that sex” on the Y axis, you get a huge peak at “male”, another huge peak at “female”, and then a few tiny blips in between that conform to hermaphrodites or intersexes.
Unfortunately, Coyne still falls for the gambit of imagining that sex and gender are different qualities. This is a false distinction fabricated by activists from the late 70s on, which deliberately conflates gender roles with an allegedly sex-independent quality called “gender”. But, even if we accept such a false claim, as Coyne shows, it still doesn’t support the “spectrum” claim.
Still, gender is also bimodal, though less binary, for the vast majority of people still claim identities of “male” and “female”. But let’s leave that aside, as today we’re dealing with biological sex[…]
The existence of only two sexes does not mean sex is never ambiguous. But intersex individuals are extremely rare, and they are neither a third sex nor proof that sex is a “spectrum” or a “social construct.” Not everyone needs to be discretely assignable to one or the other sex in order for biological sex to be functionally binary. To assume otherwise — to confuse secondary sexual traits with biological sex itself — is a category error.
Here, as Coyne says, is where the real problems begin. Transgenderism is the worst kind of science denialism.
And it’s especially galling that biologists, of all people—even evolutionary biologists, who should know better—will assert that sex is not a binary. I was appalled, for instance, when the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), of which I used to be President, issued a woke-ish statement that neither sex nor gender were binary (see link below). That’s misleading for both terms, but especially for sex. Do they not know the evolutionary rationale for having distinct and separate sexes? (Answer: yes they do, but they’re trying to be woke.)
[…]The shameful part of all this is that the scientific journal Nature, as well as three evolutionary biology/ecology societies, who should know better, made statements or editorials that neither sex nor gender are binary. That’s a flat-out abnegation of both their responsibility and of science itself.geneticliteracyproject.org/2020/02/19/viewpoint-biologist-jerry-coyne-challenges-view-that-sex-is-a-spectrum%e2%81%a0-not-a-binary%e2%81%a0-such-claims-undermine-public-trust-in-science/
Too many biologists, who should know better, have capitulated to this gross denialism. Some out of political allegiance, others from sheer cowardice (transgender activists are notorious for bullying people with threats against their career, with lawfare and even with physical violence). Neither reason speaks highly for the future of science.
More importantly, despite its self-righteous posturing about “inclusion” and “safety”, transgender ideology is deeply harmful to vulnerable groups. Women are seeing their hard-won rights trampled by mentally-damaged men in dresses, and, increasingly, their bodies mutilated in the name of the dangerous transgender fad, the “affirmation model”. Children are also being damaged, physically and mentally, by appallingly negligent, ideologically-deranged health professionals.
Finally, transgender people themselves are being betrayed by fanatical ideologues. Given appropriate psychological care and support, almost all “transgender” people will reconcile with their biological reality. A very few will indeed benefit from surgical or hormonal treatment, but those are not decisions to be taken at a whim, not least for children. For every successfully “transitioned” person there are statistically certain to be 10 regretful others: medically and psychologically damaged. Perhaps for life.
This dangerous nonsense has to stop – and scientists have to stop enabling it.
If you enjoyed this BFD article please consider sharing it with your friends.