Curating Content To Support Learning About Humanity's Transition

This content was posted on  13 Jul 20  by   GameB Collection  on  Reddit Community
A narrow and broad point on Jim Rutt Show Ep 64 (Colin Wright on The


In the episode, u/jimrutt talks to a Quillette guy (etc) about binary biological sex as an ontological fact.

As good faith disclosure, similar to the prior episode with Men’s Rights (ish?) guy Jack Murphy, I have a reflexive distaste for two straight white men, paragons of majoritarian power in our society, pontificating on issues connected to harm of marginalized groups who do not share that status.

That said, in the spirit of Rule Omega, I want to offer 2 thoughts after much reflection: one narrow, specific to the issue at hand, and one broad, related to meta-sensemaking divergences of this sort.


My overall reaction to this particular discussion:

Why are these fellas so fervently invested in the ontological certainty of binary “biological sex”? It strikes me as a strange fixation.

Why die on, or even defend, this hill?

The whole issue seems to be petty semantic / taxonomic hairsplitting, which is why I suspect ulterior motivation.

The issue per se hardly seems to warrant the impassioned testimony of two adults secure in their cherished manhood.

Narrow point: why not sex as spectrum?

  1. Both men are fine with the concept of gender identity as a spectrum
  2. Self-identified trans folks make up roughly 0.3%-0.4% of that spectrum
  3. Intersex folks seem to make up a similar % of the population (referring to the table of intersex conditions, not the 1.7% figure)
  4. Why does this not make ‘biological sex’ at least as much of an empirical spectrum as gender identity?

Further: What scientific truth or utility is lost in making this simple, subtle allowance?

I don’t see any claims that this spectrum is a uniform distribution (surely is more of a barbell, like “gender”). But it is a distribution, at least on the same order of magnitude as gender identity, no?

If instead “biological sex” is simply determined by “primary sex organs” (testes / ovaries), then “True Hermaphroditism” is apparently 2 orders of magnitude less prevalent than all intersex conditions (.001%) , yet still more prevalent than albinism. Do we also write albinism to zero?

Anyway, as mentioned I’m fundamentally uninterested in this particular debate other than as an entree into a broader exploration of sensemaking divergences.

Broader point: why this battle? On sensemaking divergences

There is of course Arnold Kling’s eminently useful “3 languages“, which elucidate so much of typical communication breakdowns between even good-faith debaters across political tongues.

Here, there is an obvious clash between:

  • progressives, who’s prime imperative is to protect against oppression of the at-risk group (trans, nonbinary, intersex)
  • and conservative-libertarians (on this matter) who see the primary imperative as either defending science (aka western enlightenment’s civilization) or academic/professional freedom.

I believe this subsumes the whole of the prior issue.

But I will add my own (progressive) principle, the Platinum Rule, which is:

As a moral policy, empowered groups should to defer to disempowered groups on marginal issues, especially when there is no harm in doing so, but doing otherwise might perpetuate harm, marginalization, etc.

And let me sketch one potential logic of the progressive tongue on this issue that might accord with the podcast speakers:

  1. Yes, science is the foremost empirical apparatus we have to understand ourselves & the world. It is not infallible, but is mostly, eventually self-correcting.
  2. However, as these self-corrections play out, the intervening consensus is typically infused with the biases and power dynamics of the larger society. (As Jim mentions, let’s read our Kuhn)
  3. On the subject of biological sex, perhaps this fact and the marginal ambiguities mentioned above are grounds for some intellectual humility around the strictly binary conception of sex, which are entangled with an ethical imperative to protect the implicit at-risk group.

#3 Stated simpler:

Maybe we have more to learn about the complexity of biology, even if a “Newtonian physics” of binary sex seems perfectly valid, productive & sufficient today.

Or maybe not: maybe the binary sex model is ontologically correct. But maybe we owe it to those humans who definitely exist outside of that model to make a space for them in it, to mitigate harm they already face from marginalization & de-legitimization of their existence. Why not?

Post Script

I’d be interested in u/jimrutt and his guest’s response to both the narrow & broad point, but particularly the broad point.

In the episode they do discuss how biology is not destiny, so I would guess that they don’t believe a (scientifically useful) model of dichotomous biological sex as a concept should or does cause harm. My reply would be: but it might, & what is the harm in simply allowing for some complexity here? Libs might outlaw penises?

Also interested in any other Game B’er thoughts here.

submitted by /u/3m3t_
[link] [comments]

Tagged with :

Scroll to Top