Monday, 19 December 2016

Jerry Coyne on sexual dimorphism and the “Gender” issue of National Geographic

Heya everybody,

After a long hiatus (work and private life tends to get in the way of my interests and hobbies), a gentle prodding by my friend Alexandra and some articles on Prof. Jerry Coyne’s website finally got me back to look after my blog and website.

Jerry Coyne, of course, is of new atheism fame, host of the "Why evolution is true" website and one of my favourite web personalities. I have been following his website (he doesn’t like it when you say blog) for years, and generally agree with his opinions, since they are fact-based and well reasoned.

He just published two short website articles on sexual dimorphism (here and here), which I found a very good summary on the public discussion about gender differences.

He argues that sexual dimorphism (differences between men and women), which exists clearly when you compare male and female bodies, also extends to behavioural differences. This is of course, the old nature or nurture debate – are we born a blank slate, and our behavioural traits, our personality, the things that make us an individual, are completely culturally and socially induced, or do they have a basis in our biology, in the way our brains have evolved? From the evidence I have seen, I firmly believe it’s a mix of both, and common sense seems to agree with that.

However, this causes problems for some who insist that men and women must be exactly alike in all respects, and that behaviour and psychology of human males and females are identical. Any differences we notice in everyday life is only a result of society and culture. This often goes along with blaming men or the patriarchy to create and enforce gender differences to keep women in their place. Unfortunately, this view sometimes goes hand in hand with a rejection of transsexual people, for they are seen as somehow misguided and enforcing the gender dichotomy, or worse.

Like I said before, from a scientific view, the debate has been settled – there are many studies on human newborns and on animals that show behavioural gender differences. Have a read at what Jerry Coyne says about this topic and the social discourse about it.

In a separate article called National Geographic publishes “gender” issue, still doesn’t satisfy SJWs, Prof. Coyne writes about the January 2017 of National Geograpic, which is about gender. I haven’t read it, but I will!

In the article, Jerry Coyne argues that the gender spectrum is not much of a spectrum, as more than 95 % of people fall in one of the two categories male and female (the rest being homo-, bi- or transsexual).

I think this is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, he makes a category error in conflating different aspects of human sexual identity, namely gender and sexual orientation and secondly, I think it’s largely a question of definitions or semantics.

If you class people into categories, then naturally the vast majority will fall into either the "male who is sexually attracted to females" or the "female who is sexually attracted to males" classification. If that wasn’t the case, then evolution by sexual reproduction would have done a pretty shoddy job, I think. However, this doesn’t mean there can’t be a gender spectrum.

If we measure sexually dimorph characteristics, i.e. the differences between men and women, including psychological and behavioural traits, and try to quantify them (very easy to do with height, for example), the result will be a normal distribution or a bell curve that has different peaks for men and women.

But this is true for every sexually dimorphic trait, and there are many of them. Any individual is made up from a combination of such traits, which make up his or her sexual identity. It’s this combination that makes up the gender spectrum as I see it. There is probably not a single person whose sexually dimorph traits all register at exactly the average value for the female population, and the same goes vice versa for men, of course. I don’t think the word spectrum implies an even distribution of parameters, it simply means there is a range between two extremes.

I fully agree with Jerry Coyne on the rest of the article, where he is taking some "social justice warriors" to task for having problems with the two covers of the magazine. Have a read, it is quite symptomatic for the challenges transsexuals face, even in a feminist and liberal culture. Transsexual women are still not seen as women and individuals can still not wear what they like. We still have lots of work to do to make this world a better place!

Have a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year! Peace and Light ✨

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