Author Topic: Sex as binary or spectrum  (Read 2066 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2017, 03:05:47 PM »
so accept that the semantic argument is just a black hole of futility and move on.

No.  See how well discussions go when you tell other people what to think and do?

Okay, so you believe that Bill Nye's explanation fits the scientific definition of a spectrum?  I'm not sorry that telling why your position is wrong offends you.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2017, 03:07:48 PM »
The fact is, no matter how atypical, transgender people, people who are clearly not well defined by one gender or another, exist.  And we need a social, legal and biological framework to deal with that reality.  In any other area of science, the clear demonstrations of exceptions to a rule or framework means that framework is wrong.  Regardless of whether it makes us feel more comfortable, or if it applies to most people, the fact of transgender people existing proves that the gender binary is wrong, or at very least, the binary is an incomplete theory of sex and gender.

What hogwash.  Lots to respond to from other people, but the duckbill platypus does not make the category of "bird" obsolete.  Sometimes the exceptions are of such small number that they can very easily be viewed and explained best as exceptions rather than as equal or distinct categories.  Transgender people have no such claim by virtue of their existence.  That does not mean that such categorizations should not exist, but that your "logic" here is more "feels" than "reals."

Your analogy doesn't work.  I am not saying there is no such thing as male or female, just that we need an expanded definition of gender that moves past binary, just as the platypus helped expand notions about evolution and speciation.  I don't argue that male and female are not still useful concepts.  It's like how relativity is an expansion of Newtonian mechanics.  Newton's notions were proven wrong, but they were still useful approximations.

Okay, so then I guess I need clarification as to what your point is.  When you say "expand" here, do you mean that we accept that hermaphrodites and intersex people exist?  Done, no argument there.  But I doubt that's what you're saying, so I guess I'd rather hear from you what exactly you mean.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline The Latinist

  • Cyber Greasemonkey
  • Technical Administrator
  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *****
  • Posts: 5191
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2017, 03:19:03 PM »
so accept that the semantic argument is just a black hole of futility and move on.

No.  See how well discussions go when you tell other people what to think and do?

Okay, so you believe that Bill Nye's explanation fits the scientific definition of a spectrum?  I'm not sorry that telling why your position is wrong offends you.

I'm not offended by your telling me why my position is wrong, I'm angered by your telling me what to "accept" your position and "move on."
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2017, 03:26:02 PM »
so accept that the semantic argument is just a black hole of futility and move on.

No.  See how well discussions go when you tell other people what to think and do?

Okay, so you believe that Bill Nye's explanation fits the scientific definition of a spectrum?  I'm not sorry that telling why your position is wrong offends you.

I'm not offended by your telling me why my position is wrong, I'm angered by your telling me what to "accept" your position and "move on."

Yeah, didn't ever say that.  I have said multiple times that arguing the semantics of the definition of spectrum is a lost cause because the scientific usage is not what is being used here by anyone.  It's always by analogy.  And I'm refusing to go into the semantic argument as a result.  Full stop.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline superdave

  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *******
  • Posts: 5199
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2017, 05:39:00 PM »
Mainly I think the presence of transgender and intersex people are evidence for the modern notion of sex and gender being dissociated things that just happen to match most of the time, and the notion that intersex people could be considered a third sex, though i this case, I am using intersex as a catch all term for a wide variety of conditions.
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #20 on: May 05, 2017, 09:42:53 PM »
Mainly I think the presence of transgender and intersex people are evidence for the modern notion of sex and gender being dissociated things that just happen to match most of the time, and the notion that intersex people could be considered a third sex, though i this case, I am using intersex as a catch all term for a wide variety of conditions.

Would I be inaccurate in saying that these "intersex" individuals would not be okay with a single third catch all label?

It appears also that many of them want inclusion into one of the main labels that do not really apply to them.  I mean no stable, sane, or consistent alternative has been supported by those not covered by the binary set.  So if the whole point is that this is a simplification for practical reasons, then the alternatives fail to provide that.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline Caffiene

  • Stopped Going Outside
  • *******
  • Posts: 4816
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2017, 02:32:29 AM »
Caffiene, I tried to respond to each of the different segments of our disagreements in separate posts to avoid the large quote block chain.  Collapsing it all back into a single post really defeats that purpose.

Im not sure what you mean by "large block quote". Im fine with separating posts if necessary, I just didnt see what the purpose is. (For the record, my own tendency when posts starting getting long is to just manually insert quote markup where necessary, and to use double paragraph breaks when I switch to what I consider a completely separate point)


Well to be clear, a "spectrum" is still a single axis scale.  Once you start plotting data along two or more axis the notion of a spectrum no longer applies

Doesnt that explicitly refute the idea that sex cant be a spectrum? You are essentially saying that a spectrum covers any continuous set without regard for how it clusters. To say that sex isnt a spectrum because of clustering, is introducing and claiming relevance of a second axis when youve stated that a second axis is not relevant to the notion of a spectrum.

I disagree with your wording that spectrum "no longer applies" as though a set which can potentially be measured in regard to a second axis is suddenly ineligible to be considered a spectrum. A number of examples of usage, including in scientific disciplines, have already been given where a continuous set is plotted against frequency of occurrence and still labelled as a spectrum. Emission spectra, black body spectra, etc. Your wording would disallow these examples and goes against common usage both in layman use and in scientific disciplines.


Okay, so you believe that Bill Nye's explanation fits the scientific definition of a spectrum?

Not to answer for him, but this is the first time its come up - why do you believe there is such a thing as the "scientific definition" of spectrum that is meaningfully different from the common dictionary definition? And why do you believe Nye was using this different definition rather than the common dictionary use?
[Lurk Mode Disengage]

Online SkeptiQueer

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6278
  • DEEZ NUTZ
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2017, 04:41:58 AM »
This right here is the most honest and scientific take on the subject I have ever seen.



Did you read the first article that was linked in the comments?

http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943

It's not exactly a radical takedown on anything, just an examination of the issues with sex (separate from gender) and with the hard insistence on the binary, not limited to but certainly including the surgeries conducted on babies and the issues with the treatment of (according to the article) as much as 1% of the population who may be directly harmed by medical treatments, such as giving specific hormone therapies to someone who has ovaries and testes.

WRT the video itself, I haven't seen anything from Nye saying sex (as in biological sex) is a spectrum. The Ice Cream video was pretty clearly talking about sex (the act of sexual intercourse) and echoes the prevailing theories most commonly attributed to Kinsey and the like. As a person who likes to make the pee-pee touch with men and women, certainly that's not in doubt. As such, it seems like the video starts off by beating up the shadow of a strawman.

Secondly, Nye did talk about the gender spectrum. That's pretty clearly a thing that exists. gender is largely a social construct of a feedback loop, as evidenced by the varying expressions of gender throughout the world and the existence of third and even fourth genders in more than one subculture, and the existence of transgender and genderqueer people today in western culture. This has little or nothing at all to do with sex. This is important, because conflation of sex and gender is akin to the conflation of evolution and eugenics; a tactic used by ideological opponents of one to try to misrepresent the other.

About 1:19 or so, the (author? speaker?) states (after the clinical definition of sex, not gender) that we need to think of sex as something that exists independent of the human mind and perception. We then move to the EM spectrum analogy. Then we get to the problem wherein we're asked to imagine how a species unfamiliar with sexual dimorphism would classify humanity. Datapoints are referenced: breasts, neotonous faces, heighht, musculature. I could make a crack about men having breasts, but I'd rather point out that the presenter several times over makes sure to mention that while the correlations of the dimorphic traits do tend to align along the binaries, they do not always do so. In other words, there is a spectrum that tends to align along major data points. The Latinist I believe made the point about blackbody radiation, but one could point out that stars also emit a spectrum of light that tends to cluster around major points (which is how we identify their color) and that depending where you are in the world, the light available to you may also be a spectrum clustering around a few major frequencies.

We go on to talk more about blood chemistry, correlations to genetics (ignoring the variations on XX/XY that do exist) and the presenter sums up by talking about mapping these correlations on a graph. This is the very definition of a spectrum. I don't want to thump my big dictionary on the table, but the word "spectrum" has, beyond its meaning in light, been braodly used to describe the range of things between two major points of clustering. For example, the political spectrum is discussed in terms of left and right or authoritarian and libertarian, knowing that people tend to cluster around two main points. The spectyrum of sexuality talks about where people fall with 100% heterosexual/no homosexual urges on one end and 100% homosexual/no heterosexual urges on the other end. The graph shown is 100% made up (admitted by the presenter in the comments) but nonetheless the fact that is it not two single-point columns with zero values outside the two columns means it is a spectrum. For reference, here's the spectrum of self-reporting of sexuality in the US (standard caveats apply):



So again, we have two major datapoints, completely heterosexual and completely homosexual, and we have values that are neither and exist in between. This too is descriptive of a spectrum.

There's a brief explanation that we'll see values outside that, and then the presenter goes back to the visible light spectrum, specifically calling out the rainbow. Now, I have 1 college-level chemistry class, but I do recall a series of experiments that involved looking at and recording the emission spectra of particular elements as a way of identifying them. Contrary to what the presenter claims, the use of "spectrum" does not rely on an equal distribution. I'll be very clear, at time mark 5:00 to 5:09 the presenter says "the term spectrum is kind of misleading here because when we look at the spectrum of visible light we usually see the rainbow of equally distributed colors, but probability and prevalence is not equally distributed across combinations of sexually dimorphic traits." I want it to be clear what exactly I'm referring to when I call the presenter on this bullshit.

This is the emission spectrum of hydrogen. Is it not equally distributed. In fact, there are three distinct points and almost nothing anywhere else.


This is the emission spectrum of iron, notice again there are lots of gaps, and not at all an equal distribution, yet this is a spectrum of light.


So, much like Ken Ham does with the term "theory" the presenter is fundamentally misrepresenting the definition of a scientific term by appealing to an inaccurate common understanding and ignoring any others. I do not presume to know whether it's intentional or not, but the argument is founded on the false premise (again, stated in the latter half of the 5:00 to 5:10 segment) that a spectrum means an equal distribution of light. Further, because I'm feeling feisty, here's the emission spectrum of the star we all lovingly know as Sol emits:


None of that is equally distributed at all! In fact if I remember by highschool stats class (give me a break, it was 2006) that more resembles a Poisson distribution than either an equal distribution or a bimodal distribution. I realize I'm really hammering this one point, but this is sort of the lynchpin of the entire video.

Secondly, the presenter states that there are a finite and discrete number of sexually dimorphic traits and that it rules out the possibility of sex being a true continuum. [5:25-5:40] This is the textbook definition of a moved goalpost, since a continuum may or may not be the same as a spectrum depending on which operational definition you use. In math it can entail an infinite set, in physics [as explained top me by an engineer over an overpriced beer] it's the understanding of the behavior of particles as a mass rather than individually, and so on and so forth. Again, we're cherry-picking a definition that fits the argument rather than examining the idea. This could all be avoided by not using the word continuum and sticking with "spectrum" but that takes us back to "spectrum" not being limited to an equal distribution as the presenter claimed.

Around 6:40 or so the presenter claims that males that possess features closer to the female end of the male spectrum (physically smaller, breasts, smaller hands) aren't considered less male. This is bullshit. If I need to back this scientifically, i will, but the entire premise of much of our comedy and slurs centers around the idea of a man being less man if he is not big, strong, muscular, deep-voiced, and otherwise does not conform to traditional heteronormative maleness. Gay men especially are considered less male the more flamboyant and feminine we act, and all of the great slurs against men revolve around insulting the man's masculinity, sexual characteristics (penis size, balls), accusing the other of homosexuality, or straight up feminizing (bitch, pussy, etc).

Then at 7:12 or so we have another premise: 'surely it must be possible to divide humans into sexual categories that exist in nature independent of some human or alien's perceptual schema.' After just admitting that aliens may well, if they had no prior agenda, assign a broader spectrum of sexual categorization than just the binary, why is it certain that is must be possible to do otherwise? It's possible to divide everything in existence into the categories of "Potato" and "Not Potato". In fact it is indeed possible to define human sexuality in far more ways than just the human schema. We could divide all humans into sexual categories based on their ranges of testosterone. This would result in three sexes, with what we typically consider men and some high-testosterone women split among two groups and "normal" range women in a third. We could assign the categories of "has a womb" and "has no womb" but you're still going to get dicks in both categories, although you'll also have those with no dicks in both categories. You could go the other way, "has testes" and "does not have testes" but you'll end up with various permutations of dicks, vaginas, and ovaries in both categories. The question is not whether we can divide in such a way as to be useful. The answer is a conditional "yes" with the condition being "depending on what you want to look at."

The presenter suggests a division based on reproductive role. This creates three categories of "male" and "female" with the addition of "neither" (unable to reproduce in either role) and may even result in a fourth "maybe if we science hard enough" for those who produce sperm but don't have a means to deliver it or those with a functional womb but no eggs.

After some waffling about why intersexed and homosexual people exist (I'll contain my fury at the ignoring of queer people in general) we get the statement (paraphrased) [time 9:50 to 10:10] "just as we cannot look to nature to determine how many colors there are, nature doers not tell us where to delineate the sexes." In the words of Circa Survive, Stop The Fucking Car. Earlier in this video the presenter claimed there was a discrete and finite number of sexual arrangements, but now without any reasoning as to why we're told that we must definite a "male " and "female" distinctively. This is yet another case where a statement is made that has no backing for the rest of the video. After a lot of examination that should lead to the conclusion that sex can be defined as a spectrum and that general classifications may or may not be useful depending on the criteria, suddenly the presenter is insisting on a binary without explaining why. The presenter gores on to detail that (paraphrased) "nature does not give us rigid guidelines for what constitutes ambiguous genitalia, therefore a binary works just fine." Again, and as noted by others in this thread, works just fine for whom? According to what? The presenter claims that strict gender binary is "easier" because it "makes sense of reality" and "requires little cognitive effort." Forgive me for being a bit of a fuckstick here but that sounds a great deal like just feels>reals. The onl;y given justifcation is that considering the needs of intersexed people is hard. [9:50 to 11:00]

TL:DR a series on unsupported premises culminating in a declaration that "strict sexual binary is right for reasons I decided on but did not demonstrate in the video."

I'm not an English teacher, but if this was turned in as a persuasive essay it would get at best a C for the conclusion not being supported by the entire rest of the work, and for the series of non-sequiturs made in the process. Probably a D, but I recognize that I'm a bit of a curmudgeon.
HIISSSSSSSS

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2017, 12:32:36 AM »
Caffiene, I tried to respond to each of the different segments of our disagreements in separate posts to avoid the large quote block chain.  Collapsing it all back into a single post really defeats that purpose.

Im not sure what you mean by "large block quote". Im fine with separating posts if necessary, I just didnt see what the purpose is. (For the record, my own tendency when posts starting getting long is to just manually insert quote markup where necessary, and to use double paragraph breaks when I switch to what I consider a completely separate point)


Well to be clear, a "spectrum" is still a single axis scale.  Once you start plotting data along two or more axis the notion of a spectrum no longer applies

Doesnt that explicitly refute the idea that sex cant be a spectrum? You are essentially saying that a spectrum covers any continuous set without regard for how it clusters. To say that sex isnt a spectrum because of clustering, is introducing and claiming relevance of a second axis when youve stated that a second axis is not relevant to the notion of a spectrum.

I disagree with your wording that spectrum "no longer applies" as though a set which can potentially be measured in regard to a second axis is suddenly ineligible to be considered a spectrum. A number of examples of usage, including in scientific disciplines, have already been given where a continuous set is plotted against frequency of occurrence and still labelled as a spectrum. Emission spectra, black body spectra, etc. Your wording would disallow these examples and goes against common usage both in layman use and in scientific disciplines.


Okay, so you believe that Bill Nye's explanation fits the scientific definition of a spectrum?

Not to answer for him, but this is the first time its come up - why do you believe there is such a thing as the "scientific definition" of spectrum that is meaningfully different from the common dictionary definition? And why do you believe Nye was using this different definition rather than the common dictionary use?

See and here's the issues.  You took that first quote out of the context of the post it was responding to, you then expand my statement about a characteristic that would disqualify something from being a spectrum and assume that all else then is a spectrum to me, then you make an argument based on that assumption while simultaneously asserting that the underlying statement wasn't accurate.  You're clearly not intending to misrepresent my position, but it's the end result.

As to the Nye spectrum thing.  He goes over the four things that he considers aspects of the sexual spectrum in his episode, which is sadly behind a Netflix paywall.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2017, 12:34:49 AM »
Holy shit Skeptiqueer, I'm gonna have to read through all that tomorrow.  I know my brain isn't up for it right now.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Offline Johnny Slick

  • "Goddammit, Slick."
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • **********
  • Posts: 11990
  • Fake Ass Skeptic
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2017, 01:08:06 AM »
To SQ: Yeah, that is *exactly* why I didn't get into this thread (well, one of 50 reasons): the premise of the thread is flawed. I don't really think many people at all are talking about spectrums WRT sex. They're talking about it WRT gender. I felt like this was probably a gotcha all along, given that the difference between sex and gender has been explained ad nauseum elsewhere on these fora.
Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Online SkeptiQueer

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6278
  • DEEZ NUTZ
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2017, 09:11:53 PM »
To SQ: Yeah, that is *exactly* why I didn't get into this thread (well, one of 50 reasons): the premise of the thread is flawed. I don't really think many people at all are talking about spectrums WRT sex. They're talking about it WRT gender. I felt like this was probably a gotcha all along, given that the difference between sex and gender has been explained ad nauseum elsewhere on these fora.
The video falls into the trend of taking the appearance of rationalism or skepticism, using science words and structured arguments and then ignoring all that when it comes to proving the thing you want to be true. This is especially pernicious in video form because a video is a format made for the Gish Gallop. I think that post about a 12 minute video took me 2.5 hours to put together, and there's still typos. If I was sober, knock off 30 minutes or so, but still it's taking me about 10 minutes to address one minute of video between all the rewinding, typing what was said, running down the truth or fiction of a statement. Frankly if I wasn't intimately connected to the GSM community I don't know that I would have taken all the time to investigate the various statements, and if I hadn't done Gen Chem last semester some of he spectrum stuff would have slipped me right by.

I hate trying to learn things from video or podcasts because it's the least-checkable way to present facts. Imagine an hour long video, and trying to fact check it. That's 5 hours of work if you're familiar with the material and arguments, and longer if you aren't. 
HIISSSSSSSS

Offline Mr. Beagle

  • Frequent Poster
  • ******
  • Posts: 3708
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #27 on: May 07, 2017, 10:21:56 PM »
One bit of advice I learned from a statistician was that, whenever you see anything that looks like a Normal distribution or similar, first assume that you are seeing the results of multiple natural distributions and the Central Limit Theorem. In this view, there are few real Normal distributions in nature. Rather there are a lot of Poisson Distributions and Binomial distributions that, when you mix them all together, start to look Normal. Cell mitosis, to my understanding, for instance, looks very Poisson when you try to predict
how many cell divisions will occur in X minutes, unless you have a very large sample.

So in the case of sex, you have lots of primary and secondary sexual characteristics, some genetic, some hormonal, some developmental, each with it's own unique natural distribution, say, 99.99% outcome A and 0.01% outcome B , but they all get mashed together to appear, usually, as XX Normal and XY Normal. But each of us likely has one or more sex-related characteristic that is "Not Normal." I can think of a couple in myself.

So there is a Normal XX height distribution and a Normal XY height distribution, but because there are dozens of non-normal causes all mashed together.

So "spectrum" is a poor word choice here because there are so many sex-related, independent or interdependent, characteristics that make us individually who we are.
Mister Beagle
The real world is tri-color

Offline Andrew Clunn

  • Deleted
  • Poster of Extraordinary Magnitude
  • *
  • Posts: 15689
  • Aspiring Super Villain
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #28 on: May 08, 2017, 12:28:13 PM »
Skeptiqueer, this was in relation to sexual identity not sexuality (as in attraction).  The conflation isn't really your fault since there's been quite a bit of FUD regarding whether we're talking about biological sex, gender, etc...  The topic here is sex.  Biological sex.

EDIT -

I'm not trying to dismiss your long and well formed post.  It's just that the vast majority of its points seem based on a presumption that something other than biological sex is being discussed here.
I'm just the victim of my cognitive privilege

Online SkeptiQueer

  • Too Much Spare Time
  • ********
  • Posts: 6278
  • DEEZ NUTZ
Re: Sex as binary or spectrum
« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2017, 01:14:00 PM »
Skeptiqueer, this was in relation to sexual identity not sexuality (as in attraction).  The conflation isn't really your fault since there's been quite a bit of FUD regarding whether we're talking about biological sex, gender, etc...  The topic here is sex.  Biological sex.

EDIT -

I'm not trying to dismiss your long and well formed post.  It's just that the vast majority of its points seem based on a presumption that something other than biological sex is being discussed here.

Well now I know you didn't read it before dismissing it. There's one paragraph that talks about the video not actually addressing what Nyte was talking about, and one graph that touches on the issue of sexuality while exploring the notion of a spectrum. The rest of it does not, and nobody who read past the second paragraph or in fact to the end of it would come away with the notion that I was under the impression that the video was about sexuality.
HIISSSSSSSS

 

personate-rain