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Physicist Sean Carroll Doubles Down on Sex Pseudoscience
Last month physicist Sean Carroll came under fire on Twitter for responding to my tweet stating that “Biological sex is real, immutable, and binary” with a snarky response that “Actual science would like to have a word,” accompanied by a widely debunked figure from a 2017 Scientific American article on the so-called “sex spectrum.”
Despite being publicly called out for spreading misinformed pseudoscience by prominent biologists like evolutionary biologists Jerry Coyne and Heather Heying, developmental biologist Emma Hilton, and others, Carroll doubled-down on his claims during an “Ask Me Anything” episode on his podcast last week by saying that “the actual substance of what I’m saying, I think is 100% correct.”
In his attempt to defend his views, Carroll demonstrated not only how science can be distorted when certain truths (e.g. the sex binary) are deemed politically taboo, but why physicists should probably stick to physics. I don’t think the topic of biological sex is particularly complicated once you understand the basics, but Carroll’s reasoning and the terms he uses shows that his understanding of biology is rudimentary. For instance, he frequently conflates a person’s “sexuality” (i.e. sexual orientation) with biological sex, and dances between social and biological concepts of sex. Thinking clearly requires proper partitioning of concepts, which Carroll failes to do.
Human sexuality is complicated. It just is complicated. Of course, we all know from high school biology that there are chromosomes, XX or XY, in general, for what we typically identify as women and men. But there’s other combinations, there can be different sort of people can be XXY and things like that. And then it’s not just your genes, there’s development, there’s hormones, there’s the final product, there’s the primary sexual characteristics, there’s the secondary sexual characteristics, there are characteristics of people that are weakly but nevertheless definitely correlated with biological sex, like how tall you are, or the depth of your voice or things like that.
Paragraphs like this are all too common among gender activists, and its purpose is to try and make things appear much more complicated than they are. But the important fact to remember is that all of this variation among bodies is totally irrelevant to the number of sexes there are in humans. The prevalence of so-called “intersex” conditions is also irrelevant to this question. At the end of the day, since there are only two types of gametes (sex cells) that a person’s anatomy is able to be organized around to produce, there are only two sexes. This is still true even in species where there are true hermaphrodites, because being both male and female at the same time is not a third sex!
Carroll says that the insistence that sex is binary due to there being two types of gametes is nothing more than “a term of art in biology” and makes “for a weird dating profile.” Again, this is adding an irrelevant social layer to matters of biology.
Ultimately, Carroll’s blunders are too numerous to cover here, so stay tuned for a more thorough breakdown of Carroll’s mistakes in a stand-alone article coming soon.
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