Guest post: Wokeness in the latest issue of Science

January 5, 2022 • 10:00 am

The title of this post is mine (Jerry’s), and since there’s no word that has replaced “wokeness”—a word I construe as “performative social justice, often going to ludicrous extremes, that has little effect on society”—I’ll use that one. The articles below were called to my attention by reader Smith Powell, and his commentary was substantial enough that I asked him if I could post it (along with some additions that I’ll identify, like adding the screenshots). He gave permission, and so I’ll put it between the lines. My own additions and comments are in brackets with a “JAC:” beginning the note.

Smith Powell briefly discusses a book review and a letter to the editor that appeared in a recent issue of Science, giving his reaction to both. I’ve left in the “deadnaming” for the book review simply because many of you may have read the author, Riley Black, who was well known for science writing before transitioning to the female gender and taking the name “Riley Black”. Her piece turns out to be far more of a manifesto for inclusiveness than a book review, committing the cardinal sin of book reviewing: assessing a book that the author should have written instead of the one he did.

Commentary by Smith Powell

A recent issue (24 December 2021) of Science had two woke items of interest.  The first was a review of Dinopedia by Darren Naish. The review is called “Revisiting paleontology’s greatest hits”.  The second is a letter “Transgender rights rely on inclusive language” with multiple authors.

[JAC: Click on the screenshots, which may take you to the article. pdfs are available via judicious inquiry]:

The reviewer, Riley Black, is herself an author of books and many articles and blog posts on dinosaurs and she has written about a number of other science topics.  Until recently, Ms. Black was associated with Scientific American where she wrote for a blog entitled Laelaps.  She used to write as Brian Switek but came out as transgender and non-binary in 2019.

Ms. Black makes her point in the very first paragraph of her review [emphases mine]:

Dinosaurs garner esteem that is often reflected onto the people who search for, excavate and study them, and therein lies a fundamental problem with the ever-increasing number of popular tomes about the “terrible lizards” hitting bookshelves.  Even as the field of vertebrate paleontology pushes to become more inclusive, personages from decades past remain the only experts many members of the public encounter.  Although there is a trove of dinosaurian information to recommend paleontologist Darren Naish’s short encyclopedia Dinopedia, it does little to correct this antiquated view of who is, or can be, a paleontologist.

Ms. Black notes that Naish has written a “friendly and breezy tour of dinosaurs and what paleontologists have come to know about them.”  She further notes that the book is illustrated with Naish’s own drawings and that “the result is a solid primer on dinosaur science…”  Again, she makes her point when she writes, “Nevertheless, the book offers a view of modern dinosaur scientists that is practically petrified.

Ms. Black continues:

Naish includes profiles of a handful of paleontologists: Robert Bakker, Jack Horner, Halszka Osmólska, John Ostrom, Richard Owen, Greg Paul, and Paul Sereno. These figures were indeed pivotal in the dinosaur debates and discussions of the late 20th century, but Naish’s decision to focus on them, rather than on contemporary paleontologists, makes the book feel decades out of date rather than representative of modern dinosaur studies.  Aside from the gender imbalance, nonwhite scientists and researchers from the Global South are given short shrift.

[JAC: I’ve added the next indented section]

Naish’s book joins a number of recent titles that have failed to effectively convey the increasingly diverse practice of paleontology. I, too, have fallen far short in achieving equality and inclusivity in my writing.

There is no doubt that the Dinosaur Renaissance was huge for paleontology. Many of the children who were inspired by the museum exhibits, books, and films that debuted during that time are paleontologists or fossil fans still. But the height of that era’s dinomania was nearly three decades ago, when discussions about diversity and representation in the field often occurred in the background, if they happened at all. Paleontologists today openly consider such issues, as well as adjacent topics such as the ethics of collecting specimens and samples in other countries and the repatriation of illegally exported fossils.

Still, there is much work to be done. In a field in which even gender equity between white cisgender researchers has been difficult to achieve, now is not the time to reaffirm the male-dominated days as representative of where the field stands today.

Ms. Black gives no hints as to what debates and discussions have been prominent in the last couple of decades that should have been addressed by Naish, nor does she offer any examples of researchers who should have been recognized by him. Indeed, she notes:

Change is likely to come slowly.  Diversity in paleontology is currently highest among volunteers, students, and early-career researchers, all of whom are less likely to be conducting research that is covered by the press, and less likely to write books themselves.

But she does offer a mea culpa when she wrote above, “I, too, have fallen far short in achieving equality and inclusivity in my writing”.

In summary, it appears to me that Ms. Black thinks that Darren Naish has written a nice book on dinosaurs that is marred because it is not sufficiently woke.

[JAC:  I’ve added the excerpt below. I was appalled when I read the review, for it’s far more about the author failing to socially engineer paleontology than it is about paleontology itself. In other words, Black criticizes the book for failing to be the kind of book she wanted. But the kind of book she wanted would be far more about making paleontology more “inclusive” than about dinosaurs themselves. And Black doesn’t even name the advances or the BIPOC paleontologists that she wants to see represented, even after admitting that there are few of them. I suggest that Black herself write that book! The excerpt:]

Again and again, op-eds and sociological studies have pointed out that a lack of visible representation affects who goes into science and who is supported through its process, which, in turn, affects scientific theory and thought. It is time to start embodying the change we wish to see. Ensuring that popular accounts of paleontology reflect the field’s 21st-century practitioners would be a strong step toward this goal.

But “embodying the change we wish to see,” as Black has done, is not the same as imbuing every aspect of the world with a single change you wish to see.


The second item in this issue is a letter [above] that notes in the first sentence, “Inclusive language around sex diversity has never been more important”.  Do the authors mean “gender diversity”?  Apparently not, as they write:

It is important to recognize the context-dependent and multidimensional nature of sex.  Rather than privilege any characteristic as the sole determinant of sex, “male” and “female” should be treated as context-dependent categories with flexible associations to multiple variables (such as, but not limited to, genitalia, gametes, or karyotype). The usage of “male” and “female” should be explicitly defined in any given study.  Failing to do so promotes harmful language (such as “male chromosomes” rather than “Y chromosomes”) that attributes an essential “maleness” or “femaleness” to traits, obscuring the true biological mechanisms at work (e.g., the Tdf gene leads to testicular development, not to “being male”).  No one trait determines whether a person is male or female, and no person’s sex can be meaningfully prescribed by any single variable.

I am not a biologist.  I thought sex was very much bimodal with a very small percentage of indeterminant cases.  I guess I need a little help in understanding this issue. [JAC: Smith Powell is actually correct in his criticism. Sex is for all intents and purposes binary and bimodal, for it depends on whether the individual is capable, or would be capable, of producing eggs or sperm. There is only a tiny, tiny minority of people who, at birth, elude this dichotomy.]

I’m further confused as the authors continue:

Awareness of the distinction between sex and gender is another vital element to inclusive, quality research.  Conflating the two harms and invalidates gender minorities by implying that these distinct attributes are inextricably linked.

[JAC: It is the authors who are conflating sex and gender here. There is an accepted biological meaning of “male and female” in organisms that have two sexes. Yet in the first paragraph they mistake sex for “gender” when they say that sex is “context-dependent and multidimensional.” It is not.]

In conclusion, the authors write:

As scientists, we must push back against the misappropriation of biological terms by promoting precise language that focuses on the variables themselves (e.g., “menstruating people”) and acknowledging that people express these variables in ways that may not conform with a binary system of sex or gender.  This both creates a more inclusive environment for gender-diverse scientists and reinforces that sex is a context-dependent summary of a multidimensional variable space.

“Menstruating people”?  Isn’t that an example of conflating sex and gender?  I think I understand some of the words individually, but when they are put together as these authors did, I see a word salad with some words apparently not meaning what I thought.

JAC: Apparently it’s not sufficient to recognize that “gender”—the sex role or aspects of sex roles that people assume or behave according to—is indeed a spectrum. No, they want to distort biology itself by claiming that sex itself is equally continuous and a “spectrum.” This is a Lysenko-ist tactic to try to make nature conform to an ideology.

But I swear, I spent my whole career sorting fruit flies—thousands a day—and maybe once every six months I’d find one “gynandromorph”: a fly that was part male and part female (this happens rarely when an X chromosome gets lost during female development). These XO individuals, which must constitute less than 0.00001% of flies, are not a third “sex,” but a developmental accident. And they are invariably sterile.  For all the other flies, when I dissected one that looked like a male, it had testes and sperm. When I dissected one that looked like a female, it invariably had ovaries and nascent eggs.

Humans are no different.

50 thoughts on “Guest post: Wokeness in the latest issue of Science

  1. I think the point of a statement like the “Tdf gene leads to testicular development, not to ‘being male'” is to remove the association between testicles and being a male. Clearly, one can’t deny certain biological mechanisms, but one can deny that they are exclusively “male” or “female.” Obviously, then the person or animal can choose their gender. It sounds like a fallback position from denying sex is determined biologically.

  2. I am very confused. If there is not essential “maleness” or “femaleness” associated to same traits then the words lose their meaning. As for “menstruating people”, on top of finding it not particularly elegant, does it mean that when a bilogical female enters menopause she stops being whatever it is that is meant by that term? What a word salad.

    1. I think that works against your point. That is precisely why it is important to distinguish between ‘menstruating person’/’menstruating female’ and ‘woman’. I have seen too many people claim that humans who do not menstruate are not female. A) Post-menopausal women are still women. B) As to whether any menstruating persons are not women, well, I personally would not consider a 10-year old menstruating girl to be a ‘woman’, and neither would the courts. C) As to whether any menstruating persons are not female, I am not aware enough of true hermaphroditism to comment. I don’t know if it is possible that some true intersex hermaphrodites are able to menstruate.

      There are times when precision is more important than elegance. This is one. If you prefer a more elegant solution, we could go for the neo-Latin ‘menstruatrix’ (f) or ‘menstruator’ (m/c).

      1. Debating the use of woman vs female in this context is a distraction, confusing early onset menarche and menopause with a project to eliminate sex catagories. After all, people who believe in biological sex do not contend that femininity menstruates or experiences menopause.

        1. > confusing early onset menarche and menopause with a project to eliminate sex catagories

          There are times when sex categories are relevant, and times when they are not. Pretty much every week, I hear phrases like ‘our men and women in uniform’ rather than ‘our people in uniform’. I absolutely support mentioning sex when it is relevant, but when saying ‘our men and women in uniform’ creates an unnecessary focus on sex. It is not needed for the totality of the sentiment, and serves as a distractor. I also would not want people going out of their way to say ‘Our white people and black people in uniform’ or ‘our straight people and our gay people in uniform’ – for the same reasons. I am glad that militaries are generally integrated now – in terms of race, sex, and orientation – and we do not need the constant verbal reminder.

          Far too many people are now making the category error of claiming that the word for ‘people who menstruate’ is ‘women’. Yes, half of living female humans menstruate; but the other half are still female, whether post-menopausal women or pre-mense girls. Some, but not all, living female humans are people who menstruate.

          (Okay, I’m at just under the 10% ceiling. I’m shutting up now.)

    2. Of course there are: primary and secondary sexual characteristics

      Remember the debate about whether the Beatles wore wigs and some pundit thought that he proved they did because it was obvious that male hair couldn’t grow that long? “Feminine” traits such as long hair, shaved skin, having knitting as a hobby, wearing high heels and “masculine” traits such as smoking a pipe, wearing trousers, playing contact sports, eating meat rather than salad (just order a steak and a salad at a restaurant and don’t say what is for whom and chances are that the woman will get the salad and the man the steak) and so on are of course cultural conventions which can and do vary from place to place and from time to time.

      One could characterize the 1950s and earlier by saying that the rule was that gender must follow sex, that is, certain behaviour was deemed appropriate for men or women. Progressive, liberal, old-style left-wing, just good, intelligent people, starting in the 1960s, favoured the view that gender (defined as behaviour etc. as above) should be independent of sex, hence the long-haired male hippies wearing high heals in the 1970s (which in no way cast any doubt whatsoever on their masculinity).

      The current woke brigade seem to take the view that sex must follow gender, i.e. first gender is defined, assigned, identified with, chosen, whatever (which, of course, reinforces the reactionary gender stereotypes, which is why sensible leftists oppose them) and then claim, with no evidence, that sex somehow follows from that, or is not important, or is fluid, or whatever. I’ve even seen statements to the effect that the only reason girls are not as good at most sports is because less is expected of them and they are fed different food. Just a few years ago, stating something like that as satire wouldn’t work because people would think it was too over the top.

      If you want to keep up to date on such issues, follow Ophelia Benson’s blog, Butterflies and Wheels. Incidentally, she generally agrees with Jerry regarding so-called trans rights and so on (Jerry might be a bit more willing to compromise), but with regard to CRT and so on is way on the woke end of the spectrum.

  3. The Woke ignore the inconvenient fact that most people prefer the Gender that correlates with their Sex. Ignoring inconvenient facts seems to be the Woke’s best thing.

    1. Indeed. And they seem to oppose the oppressive idea that behaviour, fashion, things which are clearly social constructs and whether they are seen as masculine or feminine depend on where and when they are located, should be independent of sex. Back in the day, more men had long hair, for example, but not because of any idea of feeling female. By concentrating on “gender” as opposed to “sex”, the reinforce the gender roles of the 1950s and earlier which progressives manage to do away with until the woke, who are reactionary in this sense, want to turn the clock back (the only difference is that they thing that sex follows gender, rather than that gender should follow sex).

  4. I grasp what they are saying about “menstruating”, and as a statement, it’s not hard to understand, even you don’t think it’s the way things should be done. They mean, if you want to talk about the subgroup of humanity which menstruates, then refer only to the fact you’re talking about those menstruating, as a process itself, without reference to sex, gender, or anything of that category. Indeed, as pointed at many times, not all women (defined as commonly used) menstruate.

    I’m not advocating this system. But it’s comprehensible, and it makes more sense than the languages where nouns have grammatical gender and using the wrong gender with a noun is a bad error.

    1. Sure, one shouldn’t assume “women” is a synonym for “menstruating people”. But menstruating is inherently connected to sex, so I’m not sure there is a reference to menstruation that doesn’t implicitly refer to sex. It should be equally comprehensible to say “menstruating women”, as all menstruating people are women (or “females”, if you want to use the newfangled language where “woman” doesn’t mean “adult, human female”).

      1. The point is that the perfectly good word “women” has been given a new definition by the woke, so they come up with “menstruating people” which, as many have noted, is sort of supposed to be a synonym for the old “women” but isn’t really very accurate.

        For the woke, the whole point is that menstruation is not inherently connected to sex, since “trans men” can menstruate and, since the new dogma is that sex follows gender, they are obviously men (“transmen are men”—except that few if any want to compete in male sports).

        It is really important for sensible people on the left to call this out and not be quiet out of fear that they will be mistaken for Trumpists just because Trump also isn’t woke. We see that too often. In another thread here, someone who has a slightly different view than mine regarding abortion politics stated, with no evidence whatsoever and with evidence to the contrary easily available, that I must be religious. That is the same mindset which tolerates the woke, the mistaken assumption that everyone who criticizes the woke must agree on everything else.

        1. It’s a fundamentally ageist term, isn’t it, since a woman who lives long enough will go through menopause and no longer menstruate? What are they then? Are they a different TYPE of person? Are they a different gender or whatever the frack? It’s a one-D ten-T type problem.

          1. > It’s a one-D ten-T type problem.

            Could you elaborate? I don’t understand the reference.

            > It’s a fundamentally ageist term,

            It excludes younger and older living female humans (roughly half of living female humans, give or take, counting both ends of the age spectrum), so it could be said to be ageist in both directions. It also excludes female humans who are infertile for other reasons (can a person who has had a hysterectomy menstruate?). Basically, saying ‘the word for ‘menstruator’ is ‘woman” excludes all infertile female humans from the term ‘woman’, regardless of age. English just doesn’t have a word ‘fertilist’ (biased for or against humans who are fertile).

          2. All people who menstruate are female. This is not synonymous with “only people who menstruate are female.”
            Of course not all females menstruate. It does not logically follow that “all people who menstruate are female” implies that “all people who do not menstruate are not female”!

          3. Is there anything more ‘female’ than pregnancy and lactation?
            In general these females aren’t menstruating either. 😷
            ‘Mestruating person’ is not just an awkward and unwieldy term, it is slightly ridiculous.

      2. But you don’t need to refer to sex when discussing menstruation.
        Whether one should do so is a different matter.
        The whole system says to minimize sex-linkage as a matter of convention. As a language feature, that’s not at all outrageous.

        Do you know the debate over the “Miss/Mrs” to “Ms” changeover? There, formerly it was critical to know a women’s state of marriage as a matter of language. From one perspective, that’s downright weird.

        1. The analogy isn’t good because there is a point as to why marital status shouldn’t matter in most cases and thus shouldn’t be in the title. However, using conventional definitions, a person who menstruates is necessarily a woman, so the conventional sex is not avoided by this neologism.

        2. I donno. If you’re on the lookout for a mate, it’s useful to be able to exclude people “already taken” quickly. Hence, “Mrs.”, a ring, a dot on the forehead… Perhaps for our modern times we need something that takes into account the decline in marriage, but I still think the basic idea is socially useful.

          I agree with simplifying language, though, where the complexity serves no purpose.

          1. Two problems. First, Miss and Mrs. told about the status of women, but Mr. didn’t tell about the status of men. (Using “Master” as corresponding to Miss has been obsolete for decades.). Second, even those without the characteristics you mention might be engaged, or going steady, or lesbian, or just not interested. So the benefit is minimal. Also, some married women might be interested in casual sex. 🙂

    2. You’re complicating simple syllogistic reasoning. Simplified: all menstruating people are women, but only some women menstruate. Done.
      Being a woman is not dependent on menstruation.

      As Cleese’s logician says in his take down of Sir Bedevere:

      “All wood burns,” states Sir Bedevere. “Therefore,” he concludes, “all that burns is wood.” This is, of course, pure BS. Universal affirmatives can only be partially converted: all of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan. Obvious, one would think.”

  5. “No one trait determines whether a person is male or female, and no person’s sex can be meaningfully prescribed by any single variable.” Here, the authors are committing the univariate fallacy, which says we must distinguish between categories by using only one variable. This is obviously false, since we use many variables at once to differentiate categories like sex or ethnicity. Later on, they say that it is wrong to propose an inextricable link between biological sex and psychological gender. This is also false. A person’s gender identity is necessarily tied to their physical sex, as the gendered behavior we learn is an outcome of our sexual traits. Furthermore, sexual development in utero affects not only the gonads but also the development of the nervous system. We know that females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia have masculinized behavior, and we also know that the fraternal birth order effect may help explain many cases of male homosexuality. I suspect a similar developmental phenomenon explains why some people’s gender identity does not match their physical sexual characteristics.

  6. “menstruating people” as woke speak for ‘women’?
    There was a report in the press of a transman (beard and all on photo) who gave birth to a baby. The baby’s father was the transman’s partner. The transman refused to be put into the covil register as ‘mother’ of the baby, wanting just ‘parent’. How deluded can anyone be.

  7. Black’s review illustrates the demand that the subject of Paleontology itself be reformulated by the departmental DEI committee, and always include a Diversity Statement (like applications for faculty positions). The same trend can be observed in Genetics, Computer Science, Astronomy, Dentistry, etc..

    Our host’s experience in sexing fruit flies is a typical example of what will soon be labelled “Geneticist Fragility”. It was exemplified by the notion, pushed by the notorious racist Thomas Hunt Morgan, that his famous Drosophila “white” mutant had something to do with sex and things called “chromosomes”. This example of white empiricism will be eliminated from
    the subject matter (or at least “contextualized”), once Genetics is fully transformed into Genetics Studies. When that blessed day arrives, the concept of “phenotype” will be recognized as a social construct, and all language used in Genetics will be redefined by the DEI Committee.

  8. I thought that I understood the Sex and gender distinction.
    Sex means in-born anatomy, and gender is either a social construct or a chosen identity.

    This article says that the distinction is vital, and that we have a responsibility to use precise language. And yet I cannot figure out what this article means by the distinction? Can someone please clarify it for me?

  9. Having just finished reading Svante Pääbo’s book on the Neanderthal genome (thanks to the recommendation of a reader on this site), I used a Christmas gift card to order Tom Higham’s book “The World Before Us”, which I am now devouring. It’s amazing to me that archaeologists can identify the sex of individuals who lived tens or even hundreds of thousands of years ago, on the basis of very small amounts of DNA. Now it may be the case that these individuals didn’t “identify with” their biological sex, but we have no way of knowing that. The fact that a publication with the name “Science” is denying this basic fact of biology boggles the mind.

  10. JAC: It is the authors who are conflating sex and gender here. There is an accepted biological meaning of “male and female” in organisms that have two sexes. Yet in the first paragraph they mistake sex for “gender” when they say that sex is “context-dependent and multidimensional.” It is not.

    I think that they are not making a mistake here, they are doing it entirely deliberately. They want “gender” to be treated as primary with “sex” as being secondary. They are thus deliberately trying to overturn biological notions of sex, and as a start on that they argue that sex is “context-dependent and multidimensional”, a deliberate muddying of the water.

  11. There is an important classification error in there, thinking that all of palaeontology is about finding and describing dinosaurs. Then the next step outwards to to think about “vertebrates” rather than “dinosaurs”, recognising that the popular group of “big, toothy and dead” includes non-dinosaurs. And it goes several steps further until you get to the Ediacaran and Burgess faunas brought to popular attention by Gould and the Whittington “Great Redescription”. “Oh fuck, another new phylum!”, to quote a certain palaeontologist who disputes that the words ever passed his lips.
    Of course, that’s a carbuncle on the majority of palaeontology, which is concerned with micro-, nanno- (their spelling) and palynological palaeontologies. That’s the subject that pays for professorships, department and PhD scholarships. It’s purpose, overwhelmingly, has been to assist in finding oil and gas (consequence – PhD students are emerging into a devastated industry, and professors are going on gardening leave while their departments are repurposed for some other classroom science.
    Some of this complaint, being detached from reality, rather implies that “parachute palaeontologists” don’t get involved with local researchers, and don’t collaborate with them. Which is bullshit. Of course we provide the samples that are requested, and copies of the reports. And I’ve personally taken more than a few government-funded PhD students on their “this is how an oil rig works” and “this is where your samples come from” tours – some of them even stay a few hours to complete the first of their normal complement of 14 to 28 12-hour shifts. And in consequence … when we say back to them, “we need to decide on landing-off or continuing down this exploration well. Can we get the assessment of these (points at box of 20) samples in time for tomorrow’s morning planning meeting” … we get “Sorry, it is 17:05 on Friday ; pleas call back after 10:00 on Monday”. Which is why we then do a day’s paperwork at the prospecting office (who work on Saturdays), put the samples and paperwork into someone’s rucksack, and dispatch them to meet a palaeontologist (or company representative) in Heathrow T5 before coming home. Of course, this sometimes results in people being screamed at for 4 hours in Swahili in one direction, and in English in the other direction (this is why you get the paperwork right, the second time). But come Monday morning’s 07:00 planning meeting, we’ve got the data needed – or not, that being palaeontology.
    Leeds and Aberystwyth between them used to turn out more palaeontologists than Africa. Someone in Africa hasn’t been investing in the industry, and it’s not us “parachute people”.
    If I’d worked more in Asia, I’d have similar experiences from Asia. I can’t speak for South America or Oceania, but see no reason to believe it would be much different (the Australians do make a significant effort at developing their in-house capabilities ; which is why I haven’t worked there). Canada and North America have their own infrastructure adequate to their needs.
    We have contracts – part of the licensing contracts – compelling our cooperation with in-country resources – and we do it perfectly happily. If it means a 18 hour shift for me instead of a 12 hour one, well, that’s why I’d get paid. But in return we have a need for both background work in an area, as well as “hot shot” work while a well is active. Even a cheap rig costs in the region of 50,000$ /day, and an answerphone message telling us to call back on Monday is not acceptable.
    Well, I’d guess these countries will just not develop in-country palaeontology services. Too much investment required.

  12. One of the issues with trangender demands around the use of language is the slippery meaning of “gender.” Many here seem to have the same concept of sex and gender that I do: sex is biological and binary, while gender is learned behavior and varies across history and cultures. This is no longer the definition of those terms in the current trans debates. The concept of biological sex is itself being challenged as non-existent, and to be replaced with varying definitions of gender. This is where we come to demands of refering to “people who menstruate” instead of females or women who mensruate. Gender activists are on a path to eliminate a biological definition of sex and want all legal rights to pertain to self-identified gender. This is why (one example) some expect a right for a biological male with no surgical or hormonal changes to compete with “women” in sports. There are no “women” except what an individual claims their inner knowledge to be. Referring to “women” who mensruate is unacceptable to them because any number of potentially infinite genders may menstruate. It is important to watch what each writer seems to mean with the word gender, and note how even when the word is defined (often its def is assumed) they proceed to use the word in a different context with a new meaning.

  13. Until very recently “sex” and “gender” did mean the same thing, gender was just a polite name for sex (the property, not the activity), as in “gender reassignment surgery”.

    The approach seems to be:

    Redefine “gender” to mean something like what would previously have been called “conformity to gender stereotypes”.

    Conflate “sex” and “gender” anyway, ignoring the fact that you just redefined gender.

  14. Although there is a trove of dinosaurian information to recommend paleontologist Darren Naish’s short encyclopedia Dinopedia, it does little to correct this antiquated view of who is, or can be, a paleontologist.

    And in my review, I will discuss how this Black & Decker hammer is quite excellent at hammering, but disappointingly does not contribute anything to the BLM movement even though “Black” is in the name.


    A general sign of extremists is they recognize no agnosticism, no irrelevancy. No important thing can be about something else. It is either contributing to their cause (good), or it is not (bad).

  15. Regarding that Letter in Science, all three authors are trans women: Miyagi is a graduate student at Harvard; Guthman is a postdoc at Princeton; Sun is a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

    Like that execrable steaming pile in Paleobiology that was noted yesterday, this letter is not to be taken seriously as either criticism of our understanding of the biology of sex, or as an effort to discuss how language use affects research and researchers.

    Instead, that Letter should be read as credentials banking.

    The authors are getting ready to apply for faculty jobs, and this kind of science-adjacent advocacy is a necessary credential for passing the EDI screen at the first step in evaluating applications for assistant professor positions.

    It’s all sad and performative, but these folks are really just giving the universities what they say they want. So one can hardly blame Sun, Guthman, & Miyagi for writing a Letter like this. All of the incentives point in this direction.

    It also doesn’t seem to matter too much because I don’t think any of these unfortunate people has a snowball’s chance of getting a faculty job outside of some extremely woke incubator. Their twitter feeds and online bios emphasize labels like “anarchist” (Guthman), and feature selfies that basically say “back away slowly” (Sun).

    1. An aside. I think the day is coming when highly intersectional folks like Sun, Guthman, and Miyagi will apply for an academic position for which the job ad emphasizes EDI considerations, will not get an offer for the job (for all kinds of justifiable reasons like qualifications & experience), and will then sue the university for offering the job to a highly qualified applicant who was merely gay and white.

      The atmosphere among university research trainees now has a distinct aroma of entitlement, high expectations, and desperate stakes (because many of these folks could not succeed outside the protective woke bubble of the university). Especially in a litigious society like the USA, that combination seems likely to end up with everyone in court.

  16. What if there was a book on Dinosauria that covered the work of different paleontologists, but where those paleontologists happened to be racially diverse and gender diverse, and with stuff about young paleontologists as well (so it was also age diverse)? What review would be written then?
    I expect the review of the book would be only about how the author wrote this book with lots of human diversity. Again, the reader would come away with no idea about whether the book was any good.

  17. I know of Darren Naish, which has a terrific way of analysing perplexing fossils, criticizing fringe hypotheses such as birds not being dinosaurs or pseudoscience like cryptozoology.

    But I also know of Laelaps which I found early and commented on before it took too much of my time. As I remember it I was thanked at one time, perhaps for having parsed some evolutionary relationship into a cogent hypothesis or just for the interest. [This was before my bioinformatics studies.]

    I didn’t see the “reviewer non sequitur” coming.

  18. It has been around 20 years since Geoffrey Wheatcroft observed that the post-Leninist Left was no longer intellectually serious. The bathetic letter (“Inclusive language around sex diversity has never been more important”) and similar harangues prove that this deficiency has only gotten worse. At the same time, “Conservatism”—which once animated erudite and well-written pieces in National Review and Commentary—is now represented by the talk-show loudmouths, and Trump’s amalgam of incessant fraud with comic-opera fascism. What does the flight from reason on both wings of the US political distribution mean? Is the plague of irrationality one symptom when a civilization begins to slide into collapse? Was it like this in late imperial Rome, or 9th to 10th century Palenque, Uxmal, and Chichen Itza?

  19. Speaking of wokeness, here’s a new book worth reading:

    Charles Pincourt & James Lindsay: Counter Wokecraft: A Field Manual for Combatting the Woke in the University and Beyond (New Discourses, 2021)

  20. “Failing to do so promotes harmful language (such as “male chromosomes” rather than “Y chromosomes”) that attributes an essential “maleness” or “femaleness” to traits…”

    Don’t these authors recognize the diversity of chromosomal sex determination systems? Birds and many reptiles have sex determination of females by the ZZ/ZW system, and there are no so-called “Y chromosomes”. Their mammal-centric mindset is offensive and exclusionary, and promotes bias against transspecies-identifying individuals. I was designated a male human at birth, but I identify as a female indigo snake.

    [hopefully this reads as the satire it is meant to be]

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