Alice Dreger’s Middle Finger: Sex, Gender and Unhelpful Hair-Splitting

Is there a more controversial issue in the western upper middle class right now than the intersection of gender and sex? But partial conflation between what sex is and what gender is only part of the reason that so much people are talking past one another on these issues. Perhaps there are only two sexes—but there is more than one definition of sex.

Alice Dreger’s Middle Finger

What has prompted me to write this is a series of Twitter storms over Alice Dreger having the gall to say:

Dreger has spent the majority of her career protecting the rights of intersex individuals. Her early work as a scientist-activist helped turn the tide on the policy of sex reassignment at birth through corrective surgery (which she opposed, arguing that the later complications resulting from such reassignment are far worse than leaving a person as is). The medical community has since converged on her position. Lately, Dreger has stirred up further controversy through her research on Ray Blanchard’s transsexualism typology, which classifies two types of male-to-female transsexuals: homosexual transsexuals, who alter their appearance to attract men, and autogynephilic transsexuals, who alter their appearance because the thought of being a woman turns them on.

Dreger’s book Galileo’s Middle Finger covers all the background to this and to her career in general. I recommend anyone who isn’t aware of these issues to check it out. Alice is fair-handed in her discussion, and—unlike most people who oppose her—she has a proven track record of putting her career on the line for the rights of people who are being abused in the name of faulty science. If you are wondering how a scientist could become both hated and loved by people on both sides of a debate, take a look at her career trajectory.

Alice’s tweet was presumably prompted by ongoing discussions about whether the US Department of Health and Human Services can determine a person’s sex based on the genitals that person is born with. This is a rather straightforward issue if sex is binary, but intersex individuals, whose outward appearance does not fall within the traditional binary, really can’t be classified by their genitals. People born intersex can have a male penis but produce eggs; they can also have a vagina but have gonads which produce sperm. How do you classify these people by sex?

Enter the Categorical Fatalists

Since the Health and Human Services proposal came out, a number of popular articles in publications from Slate to the New York Times have seemingly come out against the notion of binary sex entirely. These pieces, highlighting the lives and biology of intersex people, claim that sex as a binary is not a biological principle. They are right, in that biological sex is difficult to determine in humans, but wrong, in denying sex as a binary biological principle. The lack of nuance in some of these thought pieces displays either a complete ignorance of the biological literature or a purposeful obfuscation of what sex is.

What Is Sex?

Unless you are a unicellular organism, sex is binary. You are either a male, a female or a pseudo-hermaphrodite with both male and female sex cells (true hermaphroditism, which involves two sets of functioning gonads, has never been observed in humans).

Sex is determined by which gametes an individual produces. The principle of anisogamy dictates that nearly all sexually reproducing organisms produce one of two types of sex cells: large gametes or small ones. There are multiple theories as to why this binary exists, but its universal presence amid all multicellular organisms (save some species of algae) suggests a strong selection for this principle among sexually reproducing organisms.

But this is not what Dreger is talking about.

Everyone has been quick to jump on Dreger because she has further stated that defining sex by any single term is both political and impractical. Such incredulousness has been expressed at this statement that Dreger has been exiled from the pantheon of heterodox, reality-acknowledging scientists (she recently won Heterodox Academy’s first Open Mind Award) and lumped in with the postmodernists.

To think that Dreger was denying the principle of anisogamy is a misunderstanding. Furthermore, to call her a categorical skeptic is nonsense. She is talking about things which are inherently political because they are the objects of policy decisions. In order to make a policy decision about sex, you have to determine which type of sex you’re talking about.

Sex and Gender and Sex Again

Dreger’s argument is not based on categorical skepticism, but full-blown scientific processualism. Processual thinkers use categories in a strictly pragmatic way, while categorical fatalists are far less processual than they make themselves out to be. People either tend to think in categories or they do not. In the programming world this is expressed through the analogy of mappers and packers. Mappers are able to use new information to update their conceptual frameworks, in order to map the overall layout of the structure of information. Packers, on the other hand, fear information loss and attempt to reinforce, rather than restructure, their conceptual frameworks.

This divide can be seen in the science of human population differences as they manifest through race. Race operates as a rather inconsequential, but useful, conceptual scaffold for processual folks like David Reich (who studies gene flow) and Jerry Coyne (who studies speciation processes), while a vast number of non-processual anthropologists pontificate in their ANTH 101 courses on the myth of race without ever acknowledging what it is that concepts of race really stand for (inconsequential conceptual scaffolds reflecting nested human population differences). We anthropologists don’t tend to be quantitatively minded: this is why we think categorically. In an attempt to be more processual, we become categorical fatalists—not realizing that we usually lack a processual framework to describe what’s really going on. But it’s not only anthropologists who think like this.

This type of thinking is present to a large extent in Debra Soh’s critique of gender concepts. Soh, who is by definition a categorical fatalist because she wishes to collapse gender into sex, believes that there are only two genders. I am not going to try and claim that this is a simple conceptual misunderstanding between sex and gender on her part because her argument—published in Playboy—was that our conceptualization of gender is a purposeful obfuscation of sex. This is where Soh’s lack of processualism is obvious because gender is not and was never meant to be a biological fact. Like the concept of an occupation, gender is one of Durkheim’s classic social facts, which “cannot be confused with organic phenomena, nor with physical phenomena, which have no existence save in and through the individual consciousness.”

As a social fact, gender is an attempt to account for at least four overall factors in human classification:

  1. Sex
  2. Sexual orientation
  3. Genital variation
  4. Outward behavior

Since cultural shortcuts lead to common classifications of observable things (these classifications are by definition pragmatic), societies around the world use gender in various ways, to explain variation around these typically bi-modal, biologically coded phenomena. In most cultures, gender is a tool for understanding variation that is difficult to fit into the innate bimodal variation of natural sex. I might agree with Soh that such conceptualization is rather unnecessary if we universally acknowledge variation in the top four factors (in which case we can just rely on a trimodal sex classification). This does not mean that non-binary gender is not real.

Gender is often used as a conceptual shortcut. For example, in many societies, gender is used as a proxy in order to remove homosexuality as a concept because, to those societies, homosexuality is abhorrent, intersex people are born wrong and sissy boys don’t get to be seen as men. According to this view, homosexuals do not exist in Iran because they automatically receive gender reassignment surgery. The kathoey or ladyboy phenomenon in Thailand is likewise a result of perceptions about homosexuals: the Thai terms for gay and transsexual are the same. As in Blanchard’s typology, this definition means that homosexual males in Thailand find it easier to live in society by presenting as women to their families.

There is nothing intrinsically freeing about gender fluidity, because it is often itself a constraint imposed by a culture in order to put people into its own categorical boxes. But gender is a social fact—and not always an oppressive one. We need a term to describe the variation around this social fact, which differs across cultures.

In the debate about which sex terms to use, I would class Dreger as a processualist—and those who claim that she is a categorical fatalist as the true categoricalists. Dreger is not referring to anisogamic sex. She is also not referring to gender. She is referring to the outward appearance of a person’s genitalia, the mismatch between these outward appearances and inner gonads, and the undeniable variation which exists around these things. What is the term we use for this rather different thing? It’s also sex.

Littlefoot Conceptualizations
Three conceptualizations for the classification of sex. Note the intersect between anisogamy and outward appearance in the second.

This conceptualization of sex is totally different from a discussion of gametes and homosexual transsexuals. Dreger’s statement is valid. To have to choose between definitions is political, and to pick based on anisogamy is impractical. This is not a case of categorical skepticism. There is a higher order non-scientific issue at stake here: which concept of sex do we use if two different things are both sex?

You can believe that the principle of anisogamy dictates that there are only two biological sexes, you can have a rather fluid concept of the gender spectrum, and you can also believe that there are more than two sexes. To fail to acknowledge this is to split hairs, which is not helpful.

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  1. Biological sex evolved to perpetuate species and permit adaptation. In normal development, the physical basis for reproductive behaviour is consistent with the biological sex. From this perspective, behaviours that do not lead to normal reproduction are errors. Society needs accommodations for all sorts of errors of development, but defining such errors as ‘normal’ is not necessary for this.

  2. I don’t understand the distinction between “processual” and “category-fatalistic” in this article, or its relation to thinking on gender and sex. Can someone explain to me?

    Skimming the comments after reading a little about Alice Dreger, it seems readers even have conflicting impressions about what Alice Dreger is about. This article lacks clarity for those who aren’t familiar with the academic debates and specific personalities involved in them.

  3. Biological development follows a complex map of multiple events involving multiple genes expression, cell multiplication, cell differentiation and cellular interactions leading to the formation of the final organism. All these steps are strictly regulated, but sometimes errors happen. For a developmental biologist, there are only two sexes in mammals, that produce either eggs or spermatozoa, both required to start the development of a new animal (including humans). This is critical for proper gene redistribution and recombinaison along the generations. All the intersexes are the results of developmental errors. Moreover, the large majority of “intersexes” (in the numbers used by activists) present mild anomalies of their genitals (like hypospadias where the orifice of the urethras is at a variable distance from the top of the penis, but these people are evidently male). On the other hand, there is no problem to consider that multiple genders (social constructs) exists. Using meaningful biological concepts in humanities and politics only lead to confusion.

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7200380

    Br J Surg. 1982 May;69(5):279-80.
    Ovulation in a cytogenetically proved phenotypically male fertile hermaphrodite.
    Parvin SD.

    An unusual case of true hermaphroditism is reported. The patient was a 32-year-old phenotypically male true hermaphrodite. Histology of his removed ovary suggested that ovulation had, at some time, occurred. He had also fathered a child and this is believed to be the first case of a cytogenetically proved true hermaphrodite who is fertile as a male.

  5. The reason we are talking about intersex conditions all of a sudden has nothing to do with intersex. There hasn’t been a sudden increase in people with intersex conditions. People with intersex conditions are not suddenly making demands that undermine the rights and protections afforded to people based on sex characteristics.

    Arguments about intersex conditions are a proxy for debates on transgenderism. It’s about throwing enough complications into the air so people can no longer see that having male bodied people compete against female bodied people in professional sports is making a mockery of women’s sports.

    It’s about not being able to say No to sending rapists to women’s prisons. It’s about not being able to say No to teenage boys who want to share a tent with girl guides and parents not being informed about it.

    It’s about children being put on puberty blockers because trendy parents think that’s the best way to deal with daughters who climb trees or boys who play with dolls.

    Dreger knows this. She’s very much been part of this debate.

    Words are polysemic but most of us know what we are talking about from the context of a debate. We know what ‘men’ and ‘women’ are when we are taking about rapists or about sterilising children who are biologically normal.

    Falling back on obscure definitions of sex when the debate isn’t really about sex anyway is a deliberate act of obfuscation.

    1. I agree with this one.

      I very much liked the article, because it challenged my own distaste I feel when I see people argue against two sexes.

      Still, the problem is not to recognize some intersex-sex, but that that debate very much feels like a procy for everything else transgender activists want are pushibg for. This despite that what Dreger and Moser say are technically true. Their arguments are just used for other ideas, which themselves are highly political.

      Still, I enjoyed the article, but also so this comment.

  6. Cody, how are we to know that “ANYTHING” (in shouty upper case) does not include anisogamy? Also, why do you assume “our best biological theories”, from whence sex is categorised as anisogamy, are not procedural? Do they not become “best” by being put through a procedural test? The experimental method? And following Quine, is it not the signature features of empirical theories that they are not ‘fatalistic’ about their categories — that there is no a-priori guarantee that we will never be better off revising our categories in the light of fresh empirical results? Are you substituting “fatalism” for ‘essentialism’ in order to avoid sounding postmodern, whilst nevertheless making the trademark postmodern claim that (sans any essence) we are all-at-sea when to comes *really* distinguishing one thing from another?

  7. Sexuality is complex and really suffers from an anthropologist’s study based more on fringe study and personal viewpoint devoid of brain research. Plus, sexuality is “all in the brain” with icing-on-the-cake hormonal influences and a teaspoon of rare genetic occurances added in, stirring a complex pot of what makes us each unique.

    For some reason psychiatry has eschewed fetishisms. Fetish impulses are real and a huge dilemma in which the brain manufactures a continuous loop causing strong desires much like an addiction.

    Why psychiatry has dismissed fetishism is a curious thing as it is a huge influencer of our sexual preferences and is formed early on, during childhood development.

    I appreciate the author of the article for sharing Alice Dreger. I’d never heard of her before the article and appreciate her acknowledgement and understanding of our sexual complexities.

    It takes brave people to come forward and share their viewpoints or personal sexual complexities that don’t adhere to ancient belief systems or cobwebby Jungian male/female stereotypes. However, it seems less a political argument that an upset in ongoing status quo beliefs based on various kinds of religious dogma…then again, religion is seeping into politics regarding sex gender and is presenting its own kind of middle-finger.

  8. Regarding “unhelpful” – this analysis ignores the substance of Dreger’s tweet, which was itself unhelpful.

    She was being *categorical* herself that the *categorical* definition of sex as binary was wrong; she wasn’t allowing for the first part of the following thesis:

    “You can believe that the principle of anisogamy dictates that there are only two biological sexes, you can have a rather fluid concept of the gender spectrum, and you can also believe that there are more than two sexes.”

    Dreger’s tweet *specifically* argues against the anisogamic binary understanding, which could also be thought of as one’s “reproductive sex”… unlike the author of this piece, who seems to understand that “sex” can have multiple definitions and that one of them is indeed binary (for a sexually dimorphic species), Dreger asserts a *single* definition of sex as non-binary, while failing to explain further.

    The tweet was rather unhelpfully constructed, and this reads like apologism/ventriloquism; I like Dreger’s work in general and I like that Areo has written in her defense, but something is missing in this analysis re: the substance, tone, & trajectory of her first tweet on this topic…

  9. Thank you for this great piece. I am very interested in something I call the “normative fallacy”, which sort of works like the naturalistic fallacy in reverse. The idea is that most people confine their ontology to normative commitments: “we ought not to think of sex as fixed and binary so as to accommodate intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming people”. Ethically, this seems like a sound position. Trying to argue that nature works that way and that sex is a social construct is trickier. First-wave poststructuralism can similarly be read as proposing a rather wise ethical maxim: e.g., “we ought not to think in terms of binary oppositions”, or “we ought not be think of mind as separate from body”. The problem again is that, as a matter of hard ontology and folk epistemology, the mind does work that way: people do intuitively categorize information binarily, and all children are intuitive dualists. In a project that weirdly began in Anthropology’s adoption of French poststructuralism and has now trickled outward to public culture, many people (now younger scientists) are busy trying to construct obscurantist ontologies that fit their postmodern ethics.
    I wonder when the disability movement will prompt us to think of sight and hearing as occurring on a spectrum (clearly, they do!) based on percentages of congenitally blind or visually-impaired people. The shift to a spectrum in this domain is likely not to be too controversial, unless activists start pitting the very notion and practice of sight as a violent exclusionary construct. This is sort of what happened with gender, then with biological sex. Reducing stigma and providing a cultural space to include people born with physical malformations or gender dysphoria is a kind and wise project that few will disagree with. But pathologizing a norm to elevate a statistical anomaly as virtue will necessarily alienate most people. Note again that the word ‘anomaly’ is not meant to be read with any positive or negative valence or moral judgment: it is a simple observation of a statistical distribution of traits. As it stands, the widely quoted 1% number of sex-ambiguous people (in addition to remaining small!), is a very generous ad hoc category that extends far beyond the (much smaller) rate of congenital intersex to include, e.g., “females with high amounts of male sex hormones”. Claiming that sexual dimorphism is a social construct on this basis is a very strange claim indeed.

    1. Biological development follows a complex map of multiple events involving multiple genes expression, cell multiplication and cellular interactions leading to the formation of the final organism.All these steps are strictly regulated, but sometimes errors happen. For a developmental biologist, there are only two sexes in mammals, that produce either eggs or spermatozoa, both required to start the development of a new animal (including humans). This is critical for proper gene redistribution and recombinaison along the generations. All the intersexes are the results of developmental errors. Moreover, the majority of political “intersexes” present mild anomalies of their genitals (like hypospadias where the orifice of the urethras is at a variable distance from the top of the penis, but these people are evidently male). Then, there is multiple genders, that can be more or less fluids and multiple. Using meaningful biological concepts in humanities and politics only lead to confusion.

  10. for your consideration: Websters defines a Human as “a bipedal primate mammal (homo sapiens)”. we can certainly agree that there has never been an instance of a human who was not a primate, or not a mammal. but there are a great many humans throughout history who (either by birth or by circumstance) are not bipedal. does this mean “bipedal” is not a useful attribute to help us determine what a human is, even though for the vast majority of us are bipedal? or does this mean that those of us who are not bipedal aren’t really human?

    I submit that neither of those are the correct conclusion, rather that it is appropriate that we define terms by averages rather than exceptions or outliers. because in the end most definitions can be picked away by exceptions all the live long day (as any parent of a bored child on a long car ride can no doubt attest). but if words are to serve any practical function in helping us describe, communicate or understand the world around us, we must allow them to be be general, and allow the context in which we use them to narrow in on specifics.

    I further submit that a working definition of “pedantic” might be “the act of seeking specific acknowledgements of all possible exceptions in the drafting of definitions of words”.

    1. I’m not sure there’s a definition of ‘human’ that includes all humans and excludes all other primates, yet I’ve never mistakenly fucked a monkey.

      It looks very much like Dreger is the one who sees the definition of sex as politically malleable.

      1. I took the “homo sapiens” in the parentheses of that definition as a specifier of type of primate.

        and how do you know you’ve never mistakenly fucked a monkey?

    2. A proper definition of terms relies on averages, not exceptions. Brilliantly put. This is a key point and very thorny question for ethics and politics. When outliers on either the “right” or the “left” sides of the Bell Curve drive the agenda (I leave the description of both ends to your imagination), we typically have different sorts of Tyrannies of the Minority. When the Middle rules, we typically have a mediocracy. Our societies have historically shifted from right, to middle, to left. Cleary, neither project works. What now?

    3. I would submit that our categories, when it comes to pretty much everything (but watch for those edge cases!) can EITHER be Complete OR Consistent, not both. We can have a consistent definition that covers the vast majority of cases, but fails in the edge case; or we can fit everything into the category, but at the cost of having an inconsistent definition (humans are bipedal except when they’re not).

      I’m inclined to go with the former. It works well most of the time, as long as people acknowledge its limits and don’t try to force *all* cases into it (*cough* lifeboat ethics *cough*). When you’re dealing with the edge cases, you need to be cautious and wise, as the saying about tomatoes being a fruit tells us.

      See also Scott Alexander’s take – http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-made-for-man-not-man-for-the-categories/

      1. I like this idea of “complete or consistent; not both” a lot. haven’t really had much time to think about it, but it rings a certain poetic verisimilitude with certain concepts in quantum physics. I realize that’s a superficial basis on which to evaluate an idea, but whether or not it ultimately stands up for me, I cannot help but find it irresistibly appealing.

        1. It’s Godel’s incompleteness theorem, so maths rather than physics.

          It’s worth remembering that maths models the world pretty accurately from subatomic phenomena to the shape of the universe.

          It’s worth remembering that maths models the universe pretty accurately from subatomic phenomena to the shape of the universe itself. If we throw out sex because our model isn’t both complete and consistent we might as well throw out maths and physics and go back to cowering in caves.

      2. That’s quite a good essay by Scott Alexander there at Slate Star Codex. But while he makes some credible arguments and interesting analogies, I think he’s pushing, rather too verbosely, many of those analogies well-past their breaking point, and reaching conclusions that simply aren’t tenable – at least in all cases.

        For instance, I think’s he’s justified in arguing that “An alternative categorization system is not [necessarily] an error”, and that “You draw [accurately or justifiably, or not] category boundaries in specific ways to capture tradeoffs you care about”. But the problem there, in both cases, is that, clearly, some “categorization systems” are better than others; are more reflective of the way the world actually works and not how one WANTS it to work; and that the choice of category names is not at all arbitary and is heavily dependent on the facts on the ground.

        And, more particularly, as I’ve argued elsewhere (A discussion on the Transgender issue), the operative principle to be used in defining categories should be, in many cases, the science of taxonomy. And the essence of that science is that one engages in “defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics”.

        And while, as Alexander suggests, some of those characteristics may well be exhibited by members of other categories (or classes), the specific combinations of them are, or should be (as the Wikpedia article on “Categorization” discusses in some detail), “clearly defined, mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive”. For instance, the category “prime number” – numbers that are divisible only by themselves or by the number one – includes many numbers which are odd, and one number which is even: a hierarchy of nesting categories.

        But while Alexander is also justified, to some extent, in suggesting that the transgender issue – the proximate cause for the battle royale over the definitions for sex and gender – is “just another category boundary dispute”, it is also clear that the choices we make in that case have some very problematic and quite sticky consequences for a great many people, many of whom are very vulnerable to those with an axe to grind. Which is why we shouldn’t be putting the political cart before the scientific horse – which is, maybe somewhat arguably, precisely what Alice Dreger and Cody Moser, to a maybe lesser extent, and company are doing: trampling on the “rights of people who are being abused in the name of faulty science”. Lysenkoism writ large – for which Dreger at least should be profoundly ashamed if not deeply mortified.

        Good fences – and good categories based on solid science – make good neighbors; sloppily defined or politically motivated ones, not so much.

        1. Scott Alexander is great, but he obviously *wants* to be on the side of transgenders, and that piece is uncharacteristically sloppy right when it matters.

          But it’s partly not his fault. He’s been confused by nominalism–rampant in our age–and erroneously thinks that natural kinds are just linguistic fictions. That is, he thinks that categorization schema are neither true nor false, just useful or not. That just isn’t true. Natural kinds are real things that have real properties independently of our purposes. Even if it weren’t convenient for us, there’d be a difference between vertebrates and invertebrates, between birds and bees, between canines and cats. Birds can’t mate with bees, for one thing. For another, all birds have a much more recent common ancestor than any bird and bee.

          And there are real differences between males and females, and those differences are independent of anything about our purposes. ‘Man’ is a term that applies to, and only to, adult, male humans; ‘woman’ is a term that applies to, and only to, adult female humans. Pretending that males can be women is either denying plain biological facts, or plain lexicographical ones, or both. No man can be a woman…though we can, if we want, start using the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ differently. But we *would* have to start using them *differently.* As is plain from the effort the PC left has to put into bullying people into changing their way of speaking. Changing our linguistic conventions won’t make any males into women…though eventually it *could* make them called ‘women.’ Which is different. In either case, though, nothing substantive will have changed.

          I don’t blame Alexander for botching this. He’s usually very intellectually honest…and it’s really hard to be honest about this issue, as it will get you cast out of polite society.

          1. Certainly agree that “Scott Alexander is great” – I’ve quoted him frequently – and I’m sympathetic to the idea of not blaming him for “botching this”. Although, as I suggested, I think he’s frequently overly verbose, and belabours the point while periodically – as with transgenderism – losing sight of some fundamental principles. Providing multiple examples to support an argument when they’re virtually identical isn’t too helpful, particularly when one has gone off the rails previously by making a number of untenable assumptions.

            And, as you’ve argued or suggested, many people have their hearts in the right place in being sympathetic to the plight of the intersex and transgendered. However, as one might or should expect, such good intentions tend to do little more than, proverbially, further paving the road to hell – of which there is no shortage of evidence. As Feynman noted, it is rather remarkably easy to fool ourselves.

            But, maybe more to your points, hadn’t thought of the issue in terms of nominalism before – bit of a fuzzy concept, for me at least – though it seems of some relevance. Though also, I had thought of it in terms of idealism and realism which seems to be related. However, somewhat offhand and as I suggested with my reference to categories (bit of a murky field in itself), one might argue that categories and classes – little more than a perception that different objects have various traits and attributes in common – might well qualify as the “abstract objects” that the Wikipedia article on nominalism refers to, i.e., the relationship between members of a class apparently being rather abstract.

            So I tend to agree with your argument that those “differences [between males and females, though other categories as well] are independent of anything about our purposes”. Steven Pinker in his How the Mind Works argued that:

            An intelligent being cannot treat every object it sees as a unique entity unlike anything else in the universe. It has to put objects in categories so that it may apply its hard-won knowledge about similar objects, encountered in the past, to the object at hand. [pg 12]

            No doubt many of the traits shared by members of a category aren’t particularly relevant in predicting behaviour patterns or responses to environmental stimulii, but many of them of course are. And there’s therefore quite a bit of justification for abstracting those, and naming the classes accordingly. As I argued in my Post Millennial article (above; Areo apparently doesn’t highlight the link [here again]), that is the essential principle of the science of taxonomy [link above]: i.e., “defining and naming groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics”.

            But those categories become virtually useless if the set of attributes and “shared characteristics” defining a category encompasses virtually everything under the sun. Which is, of course, precisely what Dreger and company are doing by insisting that sex is a spectrum without ever defining precisely what are the essential and defining attributes that differentiate between “male” and “female”; you may wish to take a look at my Medium post for an elaboration on the topic, The Imperative of Categories [link].

            But all of that is something that Dreger at least – particularly given her training [?] in the “Philosophy of Science” – should have a much better handle on, but clearly doesn’t. Hard not to see her as more a part of the problem than of the solution, at least in that area.

            In any case and in passing, like your “imagine a hand palming a human face forever” – entirely consistent with your handle. And probably of some relevance too. 🙂

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