Very, very good! Dr Mike hits another out of the ballpark!

A related issue bothers me, still: if gender - which has a solid basis in physical evidence - is fluid, then why isn't race - which CRT claims is a mere social construct - also fluid? If a person can choose to be a Woman or a Man then why can they not choose to be a Black Women or an Asian Man?

Expand full comment
Jul 9, 2022·edited Jul 9, 2022

I'm not as erudite as some other commenters on this forum, but here's my take on that: as a pale-skinned person with straight hair, blue eyes, etc., if I 'chose to be a Black woman', no one would find my choice convincing because the social construct of 'the Black race' includes much more melanin in skin and iris, etc., than I have. That does not, however, mean that 'the Black race' ISN'T a "social construct", rather than some rigid, objective biological absolute. One need look no further than American history, which defined 'bi-racial' people as "Negroes", even when they were so pale-skinned that they "could pass as white". Some white supremacists who were heavily invested in maintaining the social hierarchy that privileged themselves held the view that 'even a drop' of "Negro" blood made someone not-white. What is that but a social construct for 'othering'? It was far easier to define, legally, who was a free person and who was a slave; in fact, from what I have read, the idea of a(n 'inferior') "Negro race" was deliberately socially constructed so as to justify slavery or, at the least, a legally inferior status.

As for choosing to be "an Asian man", I have lived and traveled in some of the nations defined (at least by Westerners) as "Asian", but my impression was that no one who was born in those nations defined themselves that way. The Korean boyfriend I met working in Japan decades ago defined himself as culturally (and biologically?) Korean, and nationally as a South Korean. The Japanese I worked with thought of themselves as "we Japanese", not "we Asians" - and, from what I could tell, additionally thought of themselves as distinct -- and, genetically speaking, they were -- from the aboriginal people of their islands known as the Ainu. In northern Thailand I met various members of what are know as "the Hill tribes", whose primary identity was their tribe, not the nation they resided in or came from. The Peoples Republic of China is not just full of "Chinese" people; there are various groups of culturally- and genetically-distinct peoples. And what of the peoples of various Polynesian islands? While they are all, from a Western perspective, "Asians", to treat or regard them all as a distinct "race" of people is, I think, an obvious social construct of Westerners. Nevertheless, the fact that I could not "pass" as "an Asian" by choice -- in the minds of either Westerners or the "Asians" I lived and travel among -- despite my ardent study of tea ceremony, kimono wearing, and other cultural and culinary traditions, does not make the idea of "the Asian race" any less of a social construct.

Expand full comment

What if you darkened your skin? Rachel Dolzal lived her life as black woman. Many other white women have done the same. Mixed race people that identify as black exist (Mariah Carey, Halsey). Most people can tell when someone is trans, because hormones and surgery can’t undue the effects of puberty.

I lived in Japan and they certainly know when someone is black or white or Asian. I think most people define themselves in terms of national identity and interests rather than race. To them I was American, a sailer, and tall first, but they knew I wasn’t from China or S Korea.

There is no legitimate reason that people can identify as a different sex, but not race or age. None of these things are social constructs. Aging and race are far more fluid than sex.

Expand full comment
Jul 10, 2022·edited Jul 10, 2022

If "race" is not a social construct, but a biological reality, then how many true races are there and what clearly defines one from another? If race is a concrete biological reality and not a social construct, then, obviously, darkening my skin would not affect actual biology and so not change my true race, but only peoples' perceptions of it. Yes, people can "live (their) life" in such a way as to be perceived, or self-defined, as a member of "the Black race" or as "an Asian" -- and I'm not saying that is "wrong" or impossible, or that I object to it -- but that in no way proves that race itself is NOT a social construct.

There are definitely genetic differences and genetically-determined physical characteristics among humans -- myriad differences -- and genetic analyses can now reveal a great deal about where an individual's ancestors come from, and, sure, 'Japanese people (or anyone else) know when someone (or at least, SOME someones) are (obviously) black, or white or Asian.' I never said they didn't. But these generalities -- while perceptible -- do not neatly boil down to a handful of biologically distinct, clearly delineated races. There is no such thing as "the Asian race". The general type of eyelid and eye shape one has might be common to many peoples of Asia, but that doesn't make all people with those eye characteristics members of a single, specific race. Nor are all people with skin past a certain degree of paleness members of a biologically distinct "Caucasian race" or "Aryan race". Many Black Americans, while identifying as Black, nevertheless understand it is not actually a distinct race. (I think more Black Americans understand that much better than a lot of white Americans do.) That does not mean, though, that their identifying as Black is in any sense illegitimate. It doesn't mean the social construct has no relevance, serves no purposes (good or not good); it's just not some simple biological reality in the way many of us have been led to believe. If "race", as you say, is "more fluid than sex", it's because it is not an actual, specific and immutable biological thing, but because it is, at heart, a social construct, which varies across societies and across history. But just because it's a social construct - albeit one with usually a few broad genetic characteristics underlying it -- doesn't mean that everyone who chooses a new "racial" identity can reasonably expect to be fully accepted in that identity by everyone. Social constructs are powerful things; society makes many social constructs "real". It's heartening to me that a lot of socially-constructed barriers in the U.S. are less rigid and more permeable than before. I'm old enough to have seen a great deal of change since my mid-century childhood. But I'm enough of a realist to know that simply adopting a new identity for oneself is not the only thing required to get the society one lives in -- or the society one wants to be a part of -- to accept that identity. That was my general point.

Expand full comment

It occurs to me, Ang, that we may not have a common understanding of the term "social construct". Per Meriam-Webster:

"Definition of social construct


: an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society

Class distinctions are a social construct. "

This is a good little piece on it, I think:


Expand full comment

Yes we do.

Race is not a social construct. It’s observable and genetic. The word we use to describe those traits is ‘race’. A black man from Nigeria could travel to Japan, Italy, Norway, or Mexico and every society (community, country) would notice his race, because race is genetic and observable.

Again this is off topic and we obviously have different perspectives.

I don’t believe someone can change their sex or race, because dna/genetics. I don’t care if someone wants to identify as a different sex or race, until it harms said group. Transwoman entering woman sports or “trans-black” person heading NAACP is harmful. There’s no reasonable argument for one being okay, but not the other.

Expand full comment

Melanie: "good little piece on [social construct]"

Fairly decent article by the look of it, at least on a quick skim. But there's some evidence that you and Ang - among others - are talking at cross purposes, are looking at opposite sides of the same coin; consider this cogent observation on "Three Sides to Every Story":


A nice illustration of that is afforded by this quote from your article:

"For example, they see people with different skin colors and other physical features and create the social construct of race."

Do you - and Ang - think that those "skin colours and other physical features" are "socially constructed"? Or is it just the names and definitions that are so "constructed"?

You both might want to take a gander at the article on the "map-territory relation" or dichotomy:


Those skin colours - from albino to black as the ace of spades - and other "physical features" - which show the same range or spectrum of variation - are the "territories" in question. What we CALL those combinations of colours and other features are the "maps", the representations of, the labels for those combinations. That the "maps" are "socially constructed" does not at all obviate the brute fact that those variations actually exist. Nor does it do-away with the benefits of so labelling those "territories".

My earlier comment in this thread which links to a decent if rather convoluted and complex discussion - at the Unz Review - on all of those different combinations - which justifies arguing that there are, in effect, literally billions of "races", even if only a few are readily apparent or identifiable:


Expand full comment

I loved the "three sides to every story" image -- and of course even that is a simplification. Long ago when I was a newspaper reporter, we certainly understood that there were multiple sides to contentious local issues. Most sides had some facts to cite in support of their positions, but positions were still influenced by self-interest. A year or so ago I took a grad-school course called "Ethical and Evidence-Based Decision-making", conducted by a pair of co-instructors who each blog online about critical thinking, etc., and they really pushed all students to re-examine their preconceptions, argue against a "steelman" version of the opposing position, rather than a "strawman version", etc. It was challenging and stimulating course, for sure.

I would certainly not argue that all genetically-influenced physical traits of humans -- skin tones and eye shapes and general body types and hair textures and how naturally hairy people are or aren't and so much more -- are mere "social constructs", any more than I would argue that Down Syndrome is. Long before we had the ability to map DNA, people knew there were myriad different ethnic groups with different physical features, as well as different languages and customs. They understood, too, that humans migrated and mated with other tribes, other ethnic groups, etc. Some of what the empire-building Romans assumed about the various peoples they encountered and colonized, or what some of those peoples believed about themselves, we might now know were incorrect, but it would be anthropologically false to claim that that all modern humans are one homogenous group, in which all physical differences are merely "social constructs". But a reality of 'billions of "races" seems much closer to the fascinating complexity and diversity of humanity than the simplistic divisions that a few brutally-colonial European nations came up with, or the oppression-and-exclusion-minded wrinkles that the U.S. and its "eugenics" theory added (including, I believe, the 19th-century view that poor Catholic Irish or Eastern European immigrants "were not white"), or how the Nazis took the eugenics ball from America in the 1930s and ran hard with it.

It's too simplistic to define all people with rather dark skin as members of "the Black race from Africa", when many African peoples are not very dark skinned, but some peoples of India or Indonesia have rather dark skin, but not other features that we in the U.S. might fuzzily associate with "the Black race" and so. Regarding Ang's conception of all "Asians" being members of a distinct race, I couldn't help but wonder whether that includes the peoples of the Indian sub-continent or not. From a Western perspective, India was generally considered part of "the East" in the colonial era, but it would be absurd to group all the ethnic groups of India with all the ethnic groups of China and Mongolia, Vietnam and Japan, etc., and stridently insist they are all "the Asian race", cleanly discernible from other races. Seeing humanity's complexities in such a simplistic way, without questioning it, or the historic purposes it has served, is kind of like not perceiving that the reason one believes one's beautiful city is emerald green is because one has, since earliest childhood, been continually wearing green spectacles to reinforce the perception, just like everyone else in the city has. One can't perceive the presence and effect of one's own spectacles because one sees the world THROUGH them.

Expand full comment

You’re saying race is a social construct, but then admit there are genetic differences that determine what people will look like and where their ancestry is from. We have a name for it, race. Parents from Senegal, Japan, and Norway will have babies that look different. There is definitely an Asian race. People from Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand will look more similarly than those from Nigeria, Sudan, Niger, Chad who will also look similar. They are distinct, but have similar characteristics that would make the people from China/Korea/Vietnam Asian and Sudan/Niger/Nigeria black. Black people identify as black, because they share similar characteristics despite living in all parts of the world and can trace their ancestry to countries in Africa.

How is Rachel Dolezal identifying as black any different from Lia Thomas identifying as female?

Neither one passes.

Sex nor race are social constructs. Both are observable.

Expand full comment
Jul 10, 2022·edited Jul 10, 2022

The short article I linked to explains how humans constructed the idea of "race" based on a few outward characteristics. Our idea of who is "Asian" and who is "Black" are rooted in some outward characteristics, but that does not mean that "Asian" and "Black" are objectively real, fully discrete "races". And not all the dark-skinned people of the world identify as "Black" -- far from it. I have never lived nor traveled in Africa, but my understanding from reading is that the idea of a single "Black race" is not at all a concept that the myriad brown- or black-skinned peoples of that vast continent subscribe to; they recognize it as a social construct of colonial powers. Likewise, some people in Brazil or other multi-cultural nations, who would be perceived and described by Americans as "Black", think of themselves in terms more common in their own cultures. In some parts of the world, "colored" or other terms for people of mixed ancestry are common.

Expand full comment

Humans constructed race or did they notice differences based on where people evolved, say specific continents. Those people had similar characteristics and they invented words to describe those people.

You’re describing what race is and then saying it doesn’t exist. You may not think it’s important, but it definitely exist. Just like biological sex.

It feels like we are going around in circles and our discussion is off topic.

My point is Rachel Dozel identifying as black is just as reasonable as Lia Thomas identifying as female. Assuming it’s acceptable to change a genetic characteristic.

Expand full comment

Race is not a social construct, but neither is it a scientific term. We should instantly distrust any notion of “social construct” since the phrase comes from a illegitimate and illogical outlook whose foundation is the denial of objective reality.

Next time you’re required to identify your race on a job application and write some fluff about social construct, don’t be surprised when you aren’t called for interview.

Expand full comment

You've said, in parenthesis, that the nations are defined by westerners as Asian.


You go on to relate how different people identify themselves, by nationality, ethnicity etc. None of them deny the fact of being born in the Asian continent - its just to large to be relevant.

Why the jab at Westerners?

From the outside, all Americans look the same. From the inside, you call yourselves New Yorkers or Southerners or whatever. From inside New York, you call yourselves Upstate or Brooklynites or whatever. Its not discriminatory for disinterested outsider to not know the granularity.

Expand full comment

Your own comment defines an asian as "None of them deny the fact of being born in the Asian continent". Basically destroying your claim that race is a scientific term. My brother was born in india when our family moved there from america for awhile. Is he "asian" if yes it's not genetic, if no, then your comment is incorrect.

Expand full comment

I guess the line you are referring to is:

"As for choosing to be 'an Asian man', I have lived and traveled in some of the nations defined (at least by Westerners) as 'Asian', but my impression was that no one who was born in those nations defined themselves that way."

I don't see that as being a "jab at Westerners".

Expand full comment

I think you made a key point here tangentially: Social Constructs vary from society to society. America has a large population and geographic area that contains many societies and consequently many sets of social constructs. After centuries of White Hegemony we now agree that no one society is supreme -> no particular social construct is supreme.

Also, many, many, many human societies have 'old school' social constructs about the nature of women. We ask them to embrace other (newer) social constructs - that conflict with their construct - about being a woman. Again, why can we NOT ask folks to embrace other (newer) social constructs about being Asian, Black, Indigenous, etc? (FWIW: Many scholars of literature agree with the statement Mark Twain had a Black Voice - so in some sense they accepted Twain as Black)

I will make a prediction now: just as the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (AKA Pastafarians) was a made up religion intended to mock religion-based "Intelligent Design Theory" - in the future, we can expect made up societies created to mock social constructs. I would not be surprised if one purported construct is that the notion of species is a social construct (clever folks can make hay out of the fuzzy-boundary problem of species). We may one day see folks self-identify as Redwood Trees or Dolphins.

Expand full comment

Gender is language we use in part to describe the particular integration of experience, input and emotion that happens in the parts of our brain responsible for proprioception. That is to say, it is based in something physical and internal, as well as external.

Race, on the other hand, is entirely relational. It has to do with how one is treated in a racist society & the community and culture that considers you a member. The locus for that is external, and has nothing to do with physical or internal signals.

Expand full comment

JGB: "A related issue bothers me, still: if gender - which has a solid basis in physical evidence - is fluid, then why isn't race - which CRT claims is a mere social construct - also fluid?"

I wonder what you mean, precisely by "gender". Seems that, unfortunately, many people think it is more or less synonymous with "sex". But the more rational and credible definition is that endorsed by Wikipedia's article titled "Gender" - even if most of their articles having anything to do with the topic show pretty much the same degree of "ideological capture" as what is exhibited by Stonewall:

"Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to femininity [set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls] and masculinity [set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with men and boys] and differentiating between them."


Some of those "attributes" and behaviors are clearly "socially constructed" - for example, pink and blue clothes for babies. But many of them are brute facts and anything but "socially constructed because they are derived from or heavily influenced by biological factors - for example, a larger number of neurotic women than neurotic men, and a larger number of violent men than violent women.

So, sure since some aspects of gender are "socially constructed" that means someone can change their genders from a masculine form to a more feminine one - transwomen or male transvestites putting on a dress for example. Of particular note from the Wikipedia article on Gender is the late Justice Scalia's illuminating analogy:

"Gender is to sex as feminine is to female, as masculine is to male."

A dichotomy that many refuse to consider which causes no end of confusion, quite unnecessary acrimony, and devastating grief.

But neither sex nor race really qualify as "socially constructed" - except maybe in the narrow sense that all word definitions are "socially constructed". Moses didn't bring the first dictionary down from Mt. Sinai on tablets A through Z. We are the ones who create those definitions - often based on solid logical, philosophical, and utilitarian reasons - which often denote brute facts. We CAN change the definitions, but we can't change those facts.

And the biological definitions stipulate that to have a sex is to have functional gonads of either of two types - a binary. However, on the basis of one fairly solid definition for "race" - "a group or set of people or things with a common feature or features" - one might reasonably say that "race" constitutes a wide ranging, continuous, and well-populated spectrum:


Fairly easy to determine if a person is male or female - or neither. Rather more difficult in the case of human races where the physical or genetic defining traits of each of hundreds if not thousands of "races" are not easily quantified. Fairly decent elaboration on the concept here - a discussion and quote of, along with link to an article in Genome Biology on "Characterizing the admixed African ancestry of African Americans":



Expand full comment

A number of people liked my comment because they "Got it." It is time to proclaim success and move on - I won't criticize those who clearly missed the point (but I will feel bad for them)

Expand full comment

🙄 "got" what? And so what if they agreed? That two people agree that Jesus walked on water only proves both are madder than hatters.

Given that you apparently "think" that "gender ... has a solid basis in physical evidence", one might reasonably surmise that you "think" that "sex" and "gender" are synonymous, that the two words mean the same things. A reasonable conjecture since you're apparently unwilling or unable to say precisely what you mean by either term despite me explicitly asking for that.

And then you suggest - with your "social constructs about the nature of women" - that "woman" itself is such a social construct. The only coherent and useful definition for "woman" is as a sex, as an "adult human female (sex)" - not at all a social construct since there are objective criteria to qualify as a female.

But many of the woke and their "useful idiots" claim that "woman" is a gender, and the only coherent conception as such is, more or less, "anyone who looks like they might be 'adult human females' [AKA 'women']". The word simply cannot mean both, at least simultaneously, or unless one "thinks" that sex and gender are synonymous.

Although your blathering on about "White Hegemony" suggests that you're a charter member of the Woke tribe peddling what is little short of postmodernist claptrap. No doubt that there are more than a few "warts" on Western Civilization but I don't see you making any plans to move to more "enlightened" environs - like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan ...

You may wish to reflect on Sagan's quip:

"The well-meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit."; Broca's Brain, page xii;

Expand full comment

I notice that the folks who see the inherent inconsistencies are able to clearly and concisely express their point:

It is odd that the woke community considers sex - which has a strong biological basis - as more fluid than something like race - which has a much weaker (or non-existent) basis in biology.

The defenders of the woke community do not seem to be able to express themselves without clumsy articulations and logomachy. Most of us suspect that when ideas are expressed in such a convoluted and inaccessible manner it is to conceal that there is no "there" there. The entire woke camp sounds like politicians or corporate flaks explaining away scandals - but unlike the woke, politicians and corporations don't sound like they hate America.

I feel sorry for the woke camp because they are losing the PR war and getting worse at influencing outsiders whereas hate-mongers like White Supremacists are getting better at it. Across America, voters are asking their elected leaders to cut funding to Universities and School Districts that embrace woke principles - especially departments that appear anti-American. The woke are so out of practice communicating with outsiders when they try to explain themselves they just make things worse.

Tsk. Tsk.

Expand full comment

JGB: "It is odd that the woke community considers sex - which has a strong biological basis - as more fluid than something like race - which has a much weaker (or non-existent) basis in biology."

Not quite sure if and how that passage, and your comment in general, addresses or criticizes me or my arguments, but I'm more or less glad to see that you've apparently clarified that it is "sex" that you think has "a strong biological basis" - particularly as opposed to race.

However, I think the essential difference there is that - by definition - sex is a binary - male or female depending on the type of functioning gonads we have - while race is a diverse and well-populated spectrum - depending on a wide range of physiological traits that are not easily quantified short of measuring genotypes. There ARE significant physiological and genetically determined traits among humans - different "phenotypes" - that are shared by different but large segments of the entire species which undergird and define the concept of different races.

But, analogously, much easier to determine, on the one hand, if a colour is red or blue, or, on the other hand, if it is any one of a myriad of named and unnamed colours in between those two. For some relevant details, see:





JGB: "The defenders of the woke community do not seem to be able to express themselves without clumsy articulations and logomachy."

I'd probably agree with much of that, although I think a large part of that is their reluctance to define their terms - largely why I often quote Voltaire's quip: "if you wish to converse with me, define your terms". But some justification to argue that part of that reluctance is some "prior commitments", as Kathleen Stock once put it, to untenable premises - which is part and parcel of the "thoroughly dishonest debate" over transgenderism. See this post and my comments thereon:


However, I'm not sure that your allusion to logomachy is entirely justified since, as per Voltaire, the essential starting point is our definitions, the axioms of our discourse. If we can't agree on those then we sure won't be able to agree on any policies that follow therefrom.

Somewhat apropos of which, and of the Michael's post itself, you may wish to look at Walsh's recent YouTube video and the New York Post article he refers to:



I think Walsh is more or less barking up the wrong tree with his "warp versus evolve" idea, but there are still some stones to throw at the NYP for their arguments. Basically, the NYP is also apparently peddling the "family resemblances" definition of "woman" - anyone with bewbs, regardless of whether they have ovaries or testicles under the hood, is, ipso facto, a woman. A definition which basically boils down into a gender - which is, of course, an entirely different kettle of fish from a sex (functional gonads).

You may also wish to take a gander at my top level comment about Michael's own use of Wittgenstein's "family resemblances" and my use of polythetic categories for clarifying that idea, that dichotomy.

Expand full comment

Look at the Plato vs Aristotle arguments about What is a chair?. Plato sees it as a concept, Aristotle as a form. You could use the same for What is a woman?. But what is missing is function. Using the the concept of a chair I can create the form of a chair, but out of Jello. So I ask, Is it a chair? It may match the concept of one and even have the form of one but if you can’t sit on it…

I guess what I am trying to say is that a concept or a form of anything is not what it is unless it can, at some point after its creation, can function as such on its on. Yes, a boy can’t produce sperm, but allowed to grow he has every expectation to be able to produce them. There are always anomalies such as medical conditions, that “interrupt” the process. But the initial intended form and the expected function is the mainstay for me. And I include the early pre-functionality and post-functionality as well. A girl can’t can’t have a baby until puberty sets in. Then can’t after menopause. But that is the hallmark of a fully functioning woman. Note I said fully because if there is an issue that interrupts the full concept of a woman (or even a man for that matter) it does not negate the definition of one. A person naturally grows old and loses body functions over time. I see function as an active timeline with hallmarks and expectations. I can’t see how you can imitate something, drop it on the timeline of the prototype and accept it as the real thing. I have a lab coat, I put an MD after my name and I read a few books on first aid, skip to the back end of the timeline after all the boring medical school training, so I am now a doctor? Good or Bad?

On the other hand, I also have a large shrub carved into the shape of a bike. And even though passerby's may say, “Look at the bike.”, it doesn’t mean I can race it in the Tour de France.

Just my point of view on the matter.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your thoughts. I watched the discussion between Walsh and Grzanka and was frustrated for a couple reasons: 1. Grzanka should have had better answers, and he was clearly flustered because he didn't so he was on the defense. 2. Walsh is asking a social scientist philosophical questions. Yes, he should have been able to answer better, but as you've articulated above, the question of what makes something that thing or not is a question philosophers have been wrestling with for thousands of years, and I don't expect the average social scientist I speak to to be an expert on that. He should go talk to a philosopher who specializes in gender theory, if there are such people.

Expand full comment

Aniello: "I guess what I am trying to say is that a concept or a form of anything is not what it is unless it can, at some point after its creation, can function as such on its on."

Quite agree with "can function as such". You might enjoy an oldish essay at Psychology Today by Robert King on that point:

"No one has the essence of maleness or femaleness, for one simple reason: Since the 17th century, what science has been showing, in every single field, is that the folk notion of an 'essence' is not reflected in reality. There are no essences in nature. For the last three hundred years or so, the advance of science has been in lockstep with the insight that is what really exists are processes, not essences."


Aniello: "But the initial intended form and the expected function is the mainstay for me. And I include the early pre-functionality and post-functionality as well."

Don't think that holds much water. Looks like you want to have your cake and eat it too. You can't very reasonably or logically insist on "can function as such" and then turn around and say that "can potentially function as such some time down the road" or that "used to function as such some time in the distance past" both qualify as "membership dues".

Think that your analogies with MDs and bike-shaped scrub are more credible and useful. That something or someone may look like an MD, a bike, a female, or male doesn't mean they actually meet the requirements for category membership. Requirements which often include being able to function in particular ways - perform the functions of a doctor, transport via pedal-power one or two people, or produce (right now) sperm or ova for the process of reproduction. Absent those functions, those people or things are only nominally doctors, bikes, females, or males - for reference purposes only - at best.

Sure a lot of people these days who are unclear on the profound differences between substance and appearance, between "being X" and "identifying-as X", between reality and illusion. As I described in my Medium essay on the topic:


Expand full comment


What I was trying to say is that, for argument sake, if born a male, the expectation of performing along norms is pre set. If you have a medical issue that causes you to lose your ability at 6 years old to father a child, it does not cancel out your maleness. So when born a male, there is no expectation to perform along norms for a female, altered or not. So like a Hollywood set, it may look like a city street but the intent of function never existed in the first place.

I don’t know it this helps to clarify my thinking.

Expand full comment

Aniello: "If you have a medical issue that causes you to lose your ability at 6 years old to father a child, it does not cancel out your maleness."

Not quite sure what you mean by "maleness" but if you think it means "being a male" then one has to ask what you think "male" actually means. If you accept the standard biological definition for "male" - i.e., "produces sperm" (right now, on a regular basis) as I have indicated in my top level comment (https://michaelshermer.substack.com/p/what-is-a-woman-anyway/comment/7630788) - then it necessarily follows that a person who lost the "ability at 6 to father a child" is, ipso facto, not a male.

Too many are desperately if not pathologically committed to the "idea" that every human, that every individual of every sexually-reproducing species has to be a member of one sex or the other. But, as I had indicated in that top-level comment, philosopher of biology Paul Griffiths argues that is simply incompatible with the standard and commonly accepted biological definitions for the sexes by which to have a sex is have functional gonads of either of two types. The logical consequence of which is that those who have neither type are, ipso facto, sexless:


But since you seem to have some familiarity with the philosophical lingo, you might want to take a gander at an article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - a decent site with any number of illuminating articles, many of which have a great deal of relevance to the transgender issue, one in particular addressing the dichotomy between essential and accidental properties:

"... an essential property of an object is a property that it must have, while an accidental property of an object is one that it happens to have but that it could lack."


For example, the "essential property" of the category "teenager", the necessary and sufficient condition for any human to qualify as one is "being 13 to 19 inclusive". But there is a myriad of "accidental properties" - race and sex for example - associated with that essential property, some of which may more strongly correlate with being in that state - general immaturity and bad skin conditions for examples.

Similarly with "male" and "female". The essential properties of those two categories are "produces sperm [right now, on a regular basis]" and "produces ova [right now, on a regular basis]", and the "accidental properties" of which are, likewise, a myriad of properties, some of which are more common to, or typical of one sex than the other. For an example of the latter, see this "joint probability distribution of agreeableness by sex":


There is a larger number of "agreeable" "adult human females" [AKA "women"] than there are agreeable men - on average. But one doesn't have to necessarily be particularly agreeable to qualify as a human female: "agreeableness" is an accidental property that correlates more strongly with "female" than with "male", but it's not an essential one.

In addition to which, one might reasonably say that "agreeableness" is a more feminine trait than a masculine one, that agreeableness is a factor in the multidimensional spectrum of gender. Though I'm not sure that those terms - "feminine" and "masculine" - are particularly or necessarily flattering. For instance, one might also say - since there is a larger number of neurotic women than neurotic men, and since there is a larger number of violent men than violent women - neuroticism is a more feminine trait than a masculine one, and that violence is a more masculine trait than a feminine one.

In any case, one might also say that "male" and "female" are not essential properties of the category "human" but only "accidental" ones since one can be male or female or neither while still qualifying as human.

Expand full comment

Yes, you either are or are not between the ages of 13 and 19, which makes you a teenager and a member of the set. It is a factor of age. Having acne is of no importance nor is it a requirement to be included in the set. As with the comment about “feminine” and “masculine” with reference to neurosis and violence is of no use either. The number of people who play First Person Shooter games like Call Of Duty is nearly equally divided between male and female. These “tend to” statements are what we used to refer to as CYA Weasel Words; it MAY but then again MAY NOT. So if it does, I’m right, if it doesn’t I’m still right.

This may better explain my thoughts…

First this comment for Psychology Today-

“Each human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes that carry DNA within their nucleus. The X and Y chromosomes, commonly referred to as the sex chromosomes, are one such pair. They determine the biological sex, reproductive organs, and sexual characteristics that develop in a person. Female (XX) mammals inherit one X chromosome from each parent, but males (XY) receive an X from their mother and a Y sex chromosome from their father.”

Now look at it for a “mathematical algorithm” point of view ( and just to be clear, I am using this definition: In basic terms, an algorithm is a set of well-defined steps or rules that you need to follow to obtain a pre-determined result.)

XY (a)=XX

What is (a)?

Same with :

XX (a)=XY

What is (a)?

(a) is NOT = to “because I say so”. You can’t “will” this answer. No matter how much sand you pour on your front lawn in Omaha it will never be beachfront property. Now, if you want to pretend to live on a beach, go ahead. As long as there is no skin off my nose, I don’t have a problem. But I am not obliged to accept it as such. If the sand starts blowing into my front door, then there is an issue. And I should not be the one to modify my behavior (just keep the front door closed) so you can claim to live on the beach.

And NO I am not claiming that being trans is a problem, but it you require anyone to modify their belief system for ANY reason for the sole need to “justify” someone else’s modified belief system, I see that as the problem. If I choose to ignore it as a problem, or even accept it, that is my privilege alone and not a requirement you can place on me.

The idea that a male is only a male if he produces sperm makes no sense because not all males produce sperm, and likewise with females. This is not the base believe statement and one needs to step back another level before you reach it. That base is that all males carry the XY pair regardless of the ability to produce sperm. Same with females and the XX pair. I believe this is a far more solid foundation for a definition of one’s sex and I can’t think of another level below that can be used as a foundational statement that holds up. Putting aside nearly every anomaly that can disrupt egg or sperm production, it allows for the definition of a person’s sex to be constant after conception regardless of ability to reproduce. After all, 1.3 million women go through menopause every year and more lose the ability to give birth for all kinds of medical reasons. That does not cancel or change their sex. Men have ED issues. Does their sex get cancelled or changed, then have it restored with a blue pill, then lose it again a few hours later?

Thanks for the interesting discourse.

Expand full comment

Aniello: "Having acne is of no importance nor is it a requirement to be included in the set. As with the comment about 'feminine' and 'masculine' with reference to neurosis and violence is of no use either. .... These 'tend to' statements are what we used to refer to as CYA Weasel Words ...."

Glad you apparently appreciate that "having acne" is only an "accidental property" of the category "teenager". But your " 'feminine" ... no use either" and your "CYA Weasel Words" suggests you don't really realize that "feminine" and "masculine" are likewise "accidental properties" of the categories "male" and "female", that the former merely correlate, to a greater or lesser extent with the latter: some males exhibit more feminine traits than typical, and some females exhibit more masculine traits than typical.

Fairly decent, if seriously flawed, analysis of "gender identity" here that speaks to that point:

"Therefore, several publications and meta-studies by Rippon, among others, have described individuals as a patchwork of stereotypically 'masculine' and 'feminine' traits and challenge the notion of a gendered brain (Rippon 2019). The implication of that analysis is that no single behaviour or cluster of traits are typically and unambiguously male or female, and none can be regarded as a robust marker of femaleness or maleness."


But the question still remains - in both your argument and that at The Electric Agora - as to what are the "necessary and sufficient conditions" for sex category membership.

Aniello: " ' mathematical algorithm' point of view .... XY (a)=XX ...."

Haven't the foggiest idea what you're getting at there. But since you brought up mathematics - a useful touchstone - you might want to read up on axiomatic systems since the biological definitions for the sexes are essentially axioms of that science:


Aniello: "The idea that a male is only a male if he produces sperm makes no sense because not all males produce sperm, and likewise with females."

You don't seem to realize, or want to consider that the biological definitions are stipulative definitions, that they are "biological axioms", that they assert that, by definition, "male" and "female" denote those individuals with functional gonads of either of two types. That those with neither are, ipso facto, sexless:


You may wish to read my top level comment (linked to above) which quotes the same source as does The Electric Agora:

"Female: Biologically, the female sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [right now, on a regular basis] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems.

Male: Biologically, the male sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [right now, on a regular basis] the smaller gametes in anisogamous systems."


"produces sperm" and "produces ova" are the "necessary and sufficient conditions" for category membership, are specifications of "the properties that an object needs to have in order to be counted as a referent of [those terms]":


As "being 13 to 19" is the essential property of "teenager"; it's the necessary and sufficient condition for category membership.

Aniello: "This is not the base believe statement and one needs to step back another level before you reach it. That base is that all males carry the XY pair regardless of the ability to produce sperm."

And your evidence for and citations justifying that claim are where? It's not the XY pair that determines whether an organism is male or female since many species have entirely different chromosomes or reproductive systems while still having males and females - i.e., those who produce sperm or ova:


In addition to which, you may wish to read in some detail that "Academic OUP" article linked above on "Gamete competition, gamete limitation, and the evolution of the two sexes".

Aniello: "I believe this is a far more solid foundation for a definition of one’s sex ...."

We don't get to make up our own definitions - as we don't get to decide to drive on any side of the road we want whenever we want. The standard biological definitions, biological axioms stipulate that to have a sex is to have functional gonads of either of two types. That some people might be "offended" at being deprived of their sex category membership really doesn't cut a lot of ice, really isn't worth a pinch of coonshit. As Stephen Fry memorably and pithily put it, "so fucking what?":


Aniello: "Thanks for the interesting discourse."

De nada. This is definitely one of the more fruitful and intellectually honest conversations I've had on the topic, though still a long ways from being perfect. As Marco Del Giudice of the University of New Mexico put it, the "ideological bias" in anything to do with "sex and gender" - on all sides of the issue - is pervasive, and pernicious if not pathological:

"On a deeper level, the ‘patchwork’ definition of sex used in the social sciences [and by Hilton and Company] is purely descriptive and lacks a functional rationale. This contrasts sharply with how the sexes are defined in biology. From a biological standpoint, what distinguishes the males and females of a species is the size of their gametes: males produce [present tense indefinite] small gametes (e.g., sperm), females produce [present tense indefinite] large gametes (e.g., eggs; Kodric-Brown & Brown, 1987)"


Particularly "imperfect" because you clearly subscribe to that "patchwork definition of the social sciences", and generally seem reluctant, if not adamantly unwilling to consider the flaws and limitations in that argument.

Expand full comment

I suppose that by rejecting objective, evidence-based truth we can now claim fluid truths based on feelings and emotion. Anything we want to be true is indeed true--because we want it so. How empowering is that?

Like with most social absurdities, South Park skewered self-defined human categories, including "identifying" as a dolphin, complete with species reassignment surgery. While silly, this does provide an interesting test. If someone who refuses to define (or impose a definition of) a woman, thinks that a person claiming to be a dolphin might be crazy, then they have no logical standing.

But then again, logic is old-fashioned, patriarchal white supremacy, right?

Expand full comment

Michael, excellent piece! About three years ago I tried to express ideas similar to yours in an online discussion forum, but I was pummeled or harassed by a group of 6-7 radical gender identity advocates. You would think that I had blasphemed a god. Thanks for your rational, articulate, and courageous discussion of the topic.

Expand full comment


Nice job as always, Michael.

In my Biology class, I was asked why I wasn't using AFAB and AMAB (assigned female or male at birth). I replied, "Why should biology change its terminology for male and female because Trans political activists say they should? Isn't the whole point of science, which we have been discussing all year, to remove opinion, feelings and especially political bias from our understanding of how the world works? We want explanations of the natural world that work for everyone, in all cultures and at all times, not political correctness. Biology can easily define, "What is a woman?" and "What is a man?" If your body makes eggs, you're a woman. If your body makes sperm, you're a man. What you do after that is usually social construct, sociology, psychology and sometimes outlier hormone levels and, perhaps, brain chemistry.

And the young woman went on, "But you make it sound like it's a choice". I replied, "What would you need, biologically, to determine that it is not a choice? You would need DNA and biologists have been searching for "the gay (or trans or any alternative sexuality) gene" for decades and there is none. Outlier hormone levels, too much testosterone for a female or too little testosterone for a male can certainly affect brain chemistry, possibly brain structure and sexuality. In a population of almost 8 billion, these outlier hormone levels are rare. Trans political activists may want the certainty of, "I was born this way", but, regardless, everyone should be respected for their feelings and choices and no one should be bullied."

Expand full comment

Thank you for explaining so succinctly to your class why it’s important to not use the AFAB AMAB language. I’m worried about the science and medical community with this nonsense.

Expand full comment

MedicineMan: "If your body makes eggs, you're a woman. If your body makes sperm, you're a man."

Indeed. At least if we define "woman" as "adult human female" and "man" as "adult human male" - as most reputable dictionaries and encyclopedias do:



However, the problem is that many sources also use "man" and "woman" as genders - as words that signify those who merely look like the typical "adult human males" and like typical "adult human females" while not at all meeting the "necessary and sufficient conditions" for membership in those categories, i.e., functional gonads of either of two types:

"man (noun): 1.5 A person with the qualities traditionally associated with males, such as bravery, spirit, or toughness."


"Among those who study gender and sexuality, a clear delineation between sex and gender is typically prescribed, with sex as the preferred term for biological forms, and gender limited to its meanings involving behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits. In this dichotomy, the terms male and female relate only to biological forms (sex), while the terms masculine/masculinity, feminine/femininity, woman/girl, and man/boy relate only to psychological and sociocultural traits (gender)."


Some justification to differentiate between sex - basically, our reproductive abilities and those of millions of sexually reproducing species - and gender - basically, the "behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits" that typically correlate with our sexes.

But those words really can't mean both sex and gender, at least simultaneously - "from contradiction, anything follows":


Although a further complication is that many transactivists and their "useful idiots" desperately want to use "male" and "female" as genders - sort of a fraudulent bait-and-switch:

"In humans, the word female can also be used to refer to gender."


Expand full comment

For 64,999 out of 65,000 people, sex and gender are synonyms.

According to peer reviewed medical statistics there are about 5000 gender dysphoric people in the USA. “Trans” activists say there are five million.

Unless you accept self-reporting from mentally ill teenagers over scientific studies, it’s hard not to conclude that the “trans” are 99.9% fake.

Expand full comment

Wish Michael Shermer and Dr. Steven Novella (New England Skeptical Society - NESS - Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast) would discuss this subject and perhaps others. Both would approach topics from the perspective of science/reason but I gather from listening to both that they may have nuances of disagreement.

Dr. Shermer, please invite Dr. Novella and any/all members of has podcast group (rogues they call themselves) on your podcast and/or ask to come on theirs. Unless there is some code of silence on such, please let your audience know if the offer is declined.

Expand full comment

Agreed, I think that would be an interesting debate.

Expand full comment

Steven Pinker has said that, just as at the North Pole movement away in any direction is "south", Harvard/academia is the "Left Pole" and any disagreement from them is "Right".

I wonder if SGU/NESS sees Shermer's brand of Skepticism as tainted by his giving varying viewpoints a hearing - the "both sidesism" charge.

Expand full comment

Big fan of Pinker - read his Blank Slate and How the Mind Works; fascinating & informative.

But nice analogy with "any direction is south"; reminds me of the "Not Invented Here Syndrome":

"Not invented here (NIH) is the tendency to avoid using or buying products, research, standards, or knowledge from external origins. It is usually adopted by social, corporate, or institutional cultures. Research illustrates a strong bias against ideas from the outside. ....

As a social phenomenon, this tendency can manifest itself as an unwillingness to adopt an idea or product because it originates from another culture, a form of tribalism and/or an inadequate effort in choosing the right approach for the business."


Expand full comment

Berkeley: "Wish Michael Shermer and Dr. Steven Novella (New England Skeptical Society - NESS - Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast) would discuss this subject ...."

Not sure that that would be workable - East is East and all that, particularly given the short shrift given to Abigail Shrier's "Irreversible Damage":


Not to say that Shrier's argument is beyond reproach - a notable failing being that she apparently insists that sex and gender are synonymous which is more or less contradicted by many sources, including the British Medical Journal:


But Novella's "Science-Based Medicine" (ha!) also had a post by Harriet Hall where she insisted that sex is a spectrum - something that SBM still apparently subscribes to:

"Sex is a spectrum on several axes:

Science has not been able to categorically distinguish a male from a female. There’s no one simple test to determine whether an individual is a woman or a man. It’s not an either/or dichotomy, but a multidimensional spectrum on several axes, from the biological to the social to the psychological."


But I'll certainly endorse the idea that something in the way of a "Summit Conference on Sex and Gender" is urgently required. Seems that every man, woman and otherkin - and their cats, dogs, and gerbils - has a different definition in mind for both sex and gender. ICYMI, I try to connect the dots and argue, in part, that the most coherent concept of gender is as a multi-dimensional spectrum:


Of particular note is a link to and discussion of someone else - Lisa Selin Davis - calling for the same sort of "Summit":

"Which brings me to my plea: Could each side stop escalating and instead come to the table so we can talk about what’s best for these gender dysphoric kids?"


Don't think we have a hope in hell of agreeing on any policies if we can't even agree on our definitions; that's the starting point, those definitions have to be our common reference points. As Voltaire put it, "If you wish to converse with me, define your terms."

Expand full comment
Jul 12, 2022·edited Jul 12, 2022

Studies show that 80% to 95% of gender-dysphoric children eventually grow out of their dysphoria and become comfortable with their bodies after puberty if there is no hormonal or surgical intervention.

Moreover, those who undergo sex-reassignment surgery commit suicide at 19 times the rate of the general population, and almost double the rate of transgender-identifying adults overall.

There is GREAT danger in giving hormone treatments and puberty blockers and surgery to kids between 8-19. Which many states have procedures to encourage.

Probably most of you are familiar with the informative web site

Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans (PITT)

Expand full comment

the claims of transgender activists are confusing because they are philosophically incoherent. Activists rely on contradictory claims as needed to advance their position, but their ideology keeps evolving, so that even allies and LGBT organizations can get left behind as “progress” marches on.

At the core of the ideology is the radical claim that feelings determine reality. From this idea come extreme demands for society to play along with subjective reality claims. Trans ideologues ignore contrary evidence and competing interests, they disparage alternative practices, and they aim to muffle skeptical voices and shut down any disagreement.

Expand full comment

Nice integration of Wittgenstein’s idea of family resemblances, a very useful perspective and framework. Of some related interest and relevance is that the Wikipedia article on the topic notes the idea’s earlier “presence in taxonomy where they are known as a polythetic classification”:


The linked article by Rodney Needham elaborates somewhat on that earlier provenance:

“The present article reports the discovery that, by a remarkable convergence of ideas in the past decade, family resemblance predicates had already been adduced in certain natural sciences under the term 'polythetic classification'.”


Needham provides some scientifically accurate, precise, useful and quite welcome elaborations on the nature of polythetic (previously ‘polytypic’) categories along with their complements, the monothetic (previously ‘monotypic’) categories:

“This concept, which significantly Beckner remarks is 'not restricted to biological theory' (Beckner 1959: 21), is contrasted with that of 'monotypic' classification, from which we may best approach its meaning. 'Monotypic' is a concept 'defined by reference to a property which is necessary and sufficient for membership in its extension' (23) ; i.e., it is equivalent to the traditional common-feature definition of a class. A 'polytypic ' class, on the other hand, is formally defined (22) as … [large number of unspecified properties, none of which are possessed by every individual in the category]”

Belgian virologist Marc van Regenmortel, in his essay on classes and categories used in virus classifications, has a nice graphic that clearly and simply shows the difference between the two types of categories:



However, as something of a fly in the ointment, Needham emphasizes that polythetic categories basically boil down into spectra where each of the members of the category constitutes what is, in effect a sequentially numbered colour in the spectrum:

“If the n [the number (of category members)] is very large, it would be possible to arrange the members of [the set] K along a line in such a way that each individual resembles his nearest neighbors very closely and his furthest neighbors less closely.”

Although one doesn’t really need “n” to be “very large” – there are discrete spectra with a very limited number of members in the specified range. All one really needs is two end points and one or more individuals between them.

But arguing that “male” and “female” are spectra is hardly something that is likely to find much favour with most biologists worth their salt, particularly since the categorization is likely to be so vague as to be largely useless.

Which is largely why I objected several years ago, in a response to biologist Colin Wright on the now-defunct Letter-Wiki platform, to the rather idiosyncratic and quite unscientific definitions for the sexes that he and biologists Emma Hilton and Heather Heying were peddling in a letter-to-the-editor published by the UK Times (hardly a peer-reviewed biology journal):


More particularly, Hilton’s tweet summarizing the criteria that they claimed, in the Times letter, determine sex category membership:

"Individuals that have developed anatomies for producing either small or large gametes, regardless of their past, present or future functionality, are referred to as 'males' and 'females', respectively."


But their definitions for “male” and “female” basically boil down to polythetic categories since no member has “past, present, [and] future functionality” – they’re THREE mutually exclusive states or properties, each of which confers category membership.

However, the standard biological definitions – endorsed by dictionaries OED and Lexico, by Wikipedia, by various biological journals including the Journal of Theoretical Biology, and by various authoritative biologists and philosophers of biology – stipulate that the sexes are monothetic categories, the “necessary and sufficient conditions” to qualify as members being the possession of functional gonads of either of two types; those with neither are thereby necessarily sexless:




"Female: Biologically, the female sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems.

Male: Biologically, the male sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the smaller gametes in anisogamous systems."


Diddly-squat in any of those definitions about any “past or future functionality”. They’re all about being able to reproduce – right now – because one has the ability to produce – right now – the gametes that are the essential elements in any sexual reproduction. Nice summary of that by Paul Griffiths – university of Sydney, philosophy of science and biology, co-author of Genetics and Philosophy – in an Aeon article:

"Nothing in the biological definition of sex requires that every organism be a member of one sex or the other. That might seem surprising, but it follows naturally from DEFINING each sex by the ability to do one thing: make eggs or make sperm. Some organisms can do both, while some can't do either [ergo, sexless]."


But a serious social problem – which Griffiths goes into some detail on – that the biological definitions are profoundly antithetical to and seriously conflict with the structure-absent-function definitions of Hilton and company. Very nice summary of that conflict – basically between monothetic and polythetic definitions, respectively – by Marco Del Giudice of the University of New Mexico:

"On a deeper level, the ‘patchwork’ definition of sex used in the social sciences [and by Hilton and Company] is purely descriptive and lacks a functional rationale. This contrasts sharply with how the sexes are defined in biology. From a biological standpoint, what distinguishes the males and females of a species is the size of their gametes: males produce [present tense indefinite] small gametes (e.g., sperm), females produce [present tense indefinite] large gametes (e.g., eggs; Kodric-Brown & Brown, 1987)"


Expand full comment

Pretty much every word or term is fuzzy, or ambiguous, or dependent on context. Except in math (what is a square?) and perhaps aspects of physics (what is an atom?) or chemistry (what is a molecule?).

Certainly when it comes to fuzzy concepts like Truth, Reality, Knowledge, Fact, Freedom, Soul, God/Divinity, Mind, Friendship, Love, Virtue, Consciousness, Good/Bad, Morality/Ethics, Free will, Self, Creativity, Time, Supernatural, Conservative/Liberal, Honesty, Society, and so on.

It is liberating to let go of the notion that everything has, or must have, a precise meaning/essence. This will facilitate discourse and reduce strife of all kinds.

However, it is useful in a given discussion to define key terms for the purposes of (ftpo) that discussion. If agreement on that can't be reached then it is pointless to continue the discussion. The parties will be talking past each other possibly without even realizing it.

Expand full comment

I totally agree. I will add, even in physics and chemistry, when one zooms in close enough things get fuzzy again, especially on the quantum scale. While we can define what an electron is, most physicists would say an electron exists in all possible locations until it is "measured". Maybe this isn't the same, I'm just writing as I think.

Defining terms is so important in conversation, I wish people were willing to do it more and not see it as a threat. I've often encountered people (mostly online) when I politely ask for them to define a term so I can understand what they're saying, often reply as though it's an unreasonable, irrelevant question. 🤦🏻‍♂️

Expand full comment
Mar 17, 2023·edited Mar 17, 2023

An electron, although not precisely definable or understood, or visualizable, is, however, unambiguoysly what it is, quite independent of humans. That is not so with concepts like truth, reality (etc). We may ask: What do we really mean by truth, or reality (etc.). But it will depend on context and opinion among other things. That is fundamentally not so with fundamental particles.

Expand full comment

So many people confuse sex and gender. Sex is about (the design plan for) gamete size, as noted in the article. Gender is a separate axis and is not discrete, it's continuous. "Male" and "female" are sex descriptors, "man" and "woman", "masculine" and "feminine" and so forth are gender descriptors.

Expand full comment

The pickle jar joke did seem very tongue-in-cheek. Most people in general, regardless of political persuasion, seem to have lost the ability to appreciate irony or satire. Humor, and in particular these types, are an evolutionary adaptation to the tragedy of existence, ie they make it bearable, and even, enjoyable. I may not agree with Walsh' politics on many levels, but his movie revealed cognitive dissonance in trans ideology that require discussion.

Expand full comment

It was astonishing how openly dishonest the “trans” people were. That one academic (Grzanka?) actually said that seeking truth is “transphobic.”

Expand full comment

What is a helium atom?

Atoms are binary. They are either intended to be hydrogen or helium. We can't scrap this truth just because of a handful of exceptions. (About 1% of the atoms in the universe are different from H or He).

Expand full comment
Mar 17, 2023·edited Mar 17, 2023

When a single helium atom is shot toward two slits, is it a particle or a wave? Can it pass through both slits at once or must it choose? Where is the edge of the atom that separates it from a vacuum? Of course, while certain characteristics of atoms are fuzzy, to your point, the difference between hydrogen and helium are the number of protons in the nucleus. Why did humans decide that deuterium is hydrogen and not its own element, since it has a different number of neutrons in the nucleus? While there is beauty in the patterns and structure of the periodic table (of which there are many forms), humans decided where to draw the line between what constitutes one atom/element versus another.

Expand full comment

And humans decided that, despite their rarity, the small fraction of atoms other than H and He are actually worth recognizing and appreciating. Humans can admit that about gender as well, if we set our minds to it.

Expand full comment

To believe that a man can, in reality, become a woman requires the same kind of magical thinking as a belief in god. In the US, both beliefs are protected by the First Amendment as is my view as an atheist that they are religious nonsense.

Expand full comment

Interesting thoughts though I'm not sure I'm following because it seems like you're presupposing definitions for "man", "woman" and "God". Not knowing what they are makes me unable to determine if I agree with you or not. If you could define those terms that would be helpful. For instance, I'm a Christian but the way most Christians I know define "God" is not a god that I believe exists either. Am I an atheistic Christian?

Expand full comment