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Woke Creationism is Creationism: A Review of 'Binary: Debunking the Sex Spectrum Myth'
Zachary Elliott, Paradox Press. 213 pp.
The popular progressive notion that ‘sex is a spectrum’ is “pseudoscience” that “fails basic scientific standards,” Zachary Elliott writes in his new book, a publication of his Paradox Institute. “Like other pseudoscience, the sex spectrum misuses scientific knowledge to make its arguments seem robust.”
Data is always the downfall of the spectrum supremacist. “Sex spectrum proponents fail to define the axes of their ‘spectrum of sex,’” Elliott notes. “Measurable units are never given, nor is it explained exactly how an individual can be accurately plotted on the distribution.”
In a series of ten chapters, each focused on a separate example of popular misinformation about the supposed ‘sex spectrum’ from people who ought to know better, Elliott shows how these hucksters all use the same single set of deceptive tactics to divorce human sex from humanity’s evolutionary past.
“Redefining the sexes requires the rejection of fundamental observations from biology, whether it is the universality of male and female as distinct reproductive functions to their differentiation and development in the womb,” he writes. For “if the sexes did not exist, then none of us would exist as we know it, since we each originate from the combined genomes of a male (our father) and a female (our mother).”
Like the arguments of creationists who build theme parks around full-scale replicas of Noah’s Ark, the sex spectrum arguments are “species chauvinism.” They infer that humanity is different from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Male and female phenotypes are “older than humans, older than most planet and animal species, older than most marine life, and even older than the brain itself,” Elliott says. “This means they are some of the most primal systems that exist on our planet.”
It is the reason so many species exist on earth. The two-sex system is “so efficient for reproduction and producing genetic diversity that it has evolved independently in nearly all lineages of multicellular organisms,” Elliott writes.
Dimorphism of sex is “mathematically inevitable” in evolution. Altogether, 95 percent of the 99.9 percent of animal species that reproduce sexually are gonochoric, i.e. male or female during their entire life-cycle.
Sexual reproduction requires specialized cells, ovum and sperm. There is no third human gamete because there is no third human sex. Nature settled on the division of resources between these gametes billions of years ago: the ovum are large and slow and full of energy, the sperm are small and fast and contribute nothing more than half the DNA.
Humans are part of this world. Therefore, in order to pretend that humans are still part of the natural world, ‘sex spectrum’ pseudoscience turns right around from this position and projects human ideas of identity onto species. This is called ‘anthropomorphism,’ and in the 20th century it was associated with the pseudoscience of Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet communist.
You see, a bible is hardly necessary to hold fantastical beliefs about human evolution. Elliott does not delve into the history because that is our job, here.
The argument that ‘sex is a spectrum’ relies on four rhetorical strategies, Elliott explains, and they usually come in the same order.
Often, the arguments come in the form of a ‘gish gallop,’ the argumentation technique made famous by creationist Duane Gish. A firehose of misleading facts and outright misinformation is meant to intimidate the casual witness into accepting a defective argument.
First, sex is always redefined as a mix of secondary traits detached from reproduction and evolution. “The sex spectrum is purely descriptive at best without any understanding of what reproductive function these interconnected traits serve,” he writes.
Science has gotten in trouble this way before. Botanists classified plants according to their appearance, since they knew nothing about DNA, and now genetics are rearranging everything in the catalog of plant species.
A human body is thus reduced to parts. Samples (people) are categorized by “what bodies look like” rather than “what reproductive function bodies serve.” Disembodiment is the point of this. Sex becomes immaterial, therefore subjective rather than objective, even suggestive of a gendered soul or spirit-being.
Second, sex spectrumists invoke so-called ‘intersex’ conditions, or disorders of sexual development. Elliott comes closest to a scathing tone in his request that activists and organizations “stop using medical conditions such as DSDs in political arguments about an urelated group,” namely people identifying as transgender.
Elliott is being too kind. This obvious attempt to shoehorn one very different group, with a very different agenda, into a broad category of people with diverse congenital conditions, for political purposes, is easily the single most noxious portion of the ‘sex spectrum’ argument.
It “stigmatizes atypical bodies by categorizing them as neither male nor female,” Elliott writes. Rather than improve outcomes for people with DSDs, it “increases the chances of genital mutilation.”
Their “conflation of human variation and medical conditions with additional sexes does much more harm than good, spreading pseudoscientific beliefs about male amd female while othering those with medical conditions in the process.”
Third, the sex spectrum argument will conflate sex determination mechanisms across species with sex itself. Finally, the sex spectrum argument conflates sex characteristics across species with sex itself. This is where the clownfish and seahorses arrive to the circus. Fungi have a profusion of mating types, yes, and the sex ratio of alligators depends on the water tempterature, sure. Still: from asparagus to beetles to mushrooms, there are only two sexes. Elliott covers all of these bases, always with citations, always with dexterity.
Having destabilized the science of sex, the spectrum is now proposed as a continuum — a sliding scale from GI Joe to Barbie, because once sex is subjective, it is also socially constructed, and then we can be badgered into participating in falsehoods.
Elliott notes that the spectrumist argument normally proceeds from biology first to society and politics last. The ‘sex spectrum’ is therefore ultimately a liberationist political formula that promises a utopia in which “one’s internal sense of self is the most accurate parameter for sex.”
Put another way, the sex spectrum argument is creationism for the self-created. Per Lucy Tatman, this is poly-monotheism, a heresy in most faith traditions and a unique feature of ‘gender identity’ belief.
Every person is supposed to figure out what sex they really are, by and for themselves, and then the rest of us are expected to go along with it because their “arguments … sound complex, scientific, even profound, and this makes them easy for people to believe,” Elliott says.
Gnostic splitting (see: Cluster B) takes place here. Opponents are cast as backwards and immoral. “There is no other option than agreement with the principles of the sex spectrum if you are to be viewed as both scientifically educated and virtuous,” Elliott writes. Evolutionary biologist Bret Wienstein calls this “idea laundering.” Moral impulses, prejudices and opinions are portrayed as objective scientific knowledge.
Elliott calls the sex spectrum a “belief system.” We must refuse to participate in it. “We must also spread a truthful and scientific vision for the future in its place,” he writes, “a return to our biological roots” and away from disembodiment.
Elliott takes apart viral Twitter threads, science articles, and perhaps most importantly that awful Scientific American graphic that uses intersex conditions to portray sex as a spectrum.
Misleading by design, “its inaccuracy does not lie in the contents of the boxes themselves, because these boxes communicate facts about each condition. Rather, the falsehoods are found in the placement of the disorders on the entire chart.”
Instead of smashing stereotypes, “the authors had a predetermined idea of where the disorders should go and arranged them between ‘typical biological female’ on the left and ‘typical biological male’ on the right.” Stereotypes are transmuted into scientific categorizaiton. This produces absurdities.
For example, take Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). It is placed to the right of XX male syndrome. This means XX male syndrone is “more female” than CAH. Why is this absurd? Because it implies that XX males, who have testes and a penis, are “more female” than women with CAH, who have ovaries, a uterus, vagina, vulva, and a slightly masculinized clitoris. Why is someone with a male reproductive system closer to the “female” side of the spectrum than a person with a female reproductive system?
Elliott also demolishes the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling. Her infamous 2000 paper proposing the existence of five different human sexes is never cited for that purpose. Instead, she spawned the internet myth that ‘intersex people are as common as redheads.’
Going through Fausto-Sterling’s fabricated statistic one DSD condition at a time, Elliott exposes the fraud in just a few pages. “When we take the authors’ statistic of 1.728% and subtract out all the conditions that result in newborns who are clearly male or female, we arrive at 0.01%,” he concludes. “This is far, far lower than the 1.728% of live births the authors propose are ‘in between’ sexes, more than 100 times lower!”
Worse, the consequences of Fausto-Sterling’s scientific dishonesty are “clinically problematic, because it lumps together a vastly heterogenous group of conditions with unique causes and effects.”
“Every sex spectrum argument ironically creates this unintended outcome: by upholding human-centric, scientifically incorrect definitions of male and female” they “further a rigid socially constructed definition,” Elliott writes. He is perhaps giving the arguers too much credit for good intentions.
Zachary Elliott has not tried to answer every pseudoscientific argument made by queer theory and gender identity. That book would be hundreds of pages longer than this one, perhaps thousands. Already, Elliott sometimes has to recall points already made because certain bad arguments appear so often. This is not annoying, however, because he is always concise.
Binary: Debunking the Sex Spectrum Myth has precisely filled an important space on the skeptical bookshelf. Moderate in tone, Elliot leaves aside the politics and polemics of the spectrumists and gets straight to the facts, for they are enough on their own.
The new creationists are just as dishonest as the old ones. The difference is that the new bunch of zealots are following a set of intuitional beliefs, whereas the old bunch of zealots had institutional beliefs. Both types of creationist pursue salvation through pseudoscience. To meet the challenge of sex spectrum creationists, we must first name and categorize the phenomenon. After all, that is how science works.
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