Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On further denying reality: Do sexual ambiguities support the distinction between sex and gender?

Our old friend Josh Rosenau of the National Center on Science Education (NCSE) exercises his idea of science (although perhaps 'exorcising' might have captured my meaning better) on the question of the meaning of the new political term 'transgender." Normally, the NCSE occupies itself in going around the country giving finger-wagging lectures on how creationism isn't science. But Rosenau lives a double life, on one day condemning creationism for not being science, and on the next championing political ideas masquerading as science--and feeling very scientific as he does so.

Someone really needs to keep him in his little laboratory so that he doesn't wander so far off in the logical wilderness that he can't find his way home.

I had made light of the idea being espoused in higher education circles (and, incidentally, the term 'higher' in the expression 'higher education' must now be taken in its pharmaceutical sense) that people can simply change their sex by deciding to be something else.

Josh the Science Man, however, abandoning the standards he claims to apply to other scientific issues, seems himself to be as intoxicated by the idea of "transgenderism" as the silly postmodernists that came up with the concept.

Rosenau--and another commenter on my blog--invokes cases like that of Caster Semenya, as evidence for the idea that one's sex can differ from his or her gender. Now, I hesitate to try to explain fine logical distinctions to Rosenau, a proud practitioner of the fallacies of guilt by association and undistributed middle, so maybe I should just ask him the question: What does the case of Semenya have to do with the question of whether sex differs from gender?

The case of Semenya, the athlete whose actual sex came into question because of her masculine characteristics, has nothing to do with a difference between sex and gender; it has simply to do with whether she's a male or a female. It says absolutely nothing about whether sex and gender are different categories of things.

Here's what the "transgender" advocates do: Whenever you question the legitimacy of terms like 'transgender', which, used the way it was used in the article I was criticizing, are political in nature. It's as if someone were to say that they believed that race and ethnicity were not distinct categories, and someone (I'm picturing Rosenau here) responded, "How can you say such things when there are people whose racial makeup is ambiguous?"

Does racial ambiguity support the idea that there is a difference between race and ethnicity? I strongly suggest to Rosenau's colleagues that they refrain from divulging to him the existence of such natural phenomena as mules, lest he conclude from their existence that biological species must therefore be distinguished from zoological groupings.

But Rosenau's remarks do prove one thing: there is a definite distinction to be made between being a science graduate student and being a logician.


Art said...

Martin, you are aware that there are places on earth where you would be considered to be effeminate and confused of gender, aren't you?

Martin Cothran said...

You mean because I liberally allow questions having little to do with the point of my posts on my blog?

Isaac said...

I very much miss these discussions in class Mr Cothran.