Just an ordinary TERF talking about biology


You wanna see reductive? She’s gonna give you reductive.

My first thought was, “Why are these aliens murdering us all, and why does she care what pile of corpses we end up in? And why are these aliens sorting us this way?” I mean, once we’re reduced to dead meat and tossed into rotting piles for some inscrutable purpose (Mulching into fertilizer? Animal fodder? Party decorations?) why are chromosomes even relevant?

There are also a few people wandering around with fragmented Y chromosomes and translocations that make this distinction difficult. I picture the aliens wandering around the heap of corpses sampling bits of tissue and being totally baffled by the occasional individual and flicking them off to — oh no — a third pile. Maybe that small third pile will be marketed as rare exotic meat.

Of course, if the aliens sorted by some other criterion, like penises, or size, or the presence of the A blood antigen, you could also throw them into two piles by setting your boundary values to whatever you want, and then find there are a few individuals who fall into boundary conditions. This is a pointless thought exercise.

Wouldn’t you know that this TERF also has strange ideas about evolution.

Using this same logic, we could say that humans evolved to be squishy, unarmored, and lacking in natural armament so leopards could eat them more easily. Everything has an evolutionary purpose, after all. As we all know, we men have testicles in a convenient external pouch to simplify extracting gametes with a biopsy needle. The predictive powers of evolutionary prophesying are truly astounding!

Comments

  1. says

    I thought men evolved external, vulnerable testicles so that when we tried to rape the ‘women who evolved smaller’ they could easily knee us in the balls

  2. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out a dissection protocol which results in piles of bodies / body parts is very reminiscent of that fake “alien autopsy” film of 1995: Chop up a “body” you’ve never seen before and carelessly toss the bits into trays.

  3. Stuart Smith says

    The first time I read that I misread it as “different pies,” and was wondering if the author thought everyone made their pies unisex, or just man-eating aliens. Piles doesn’t really fix anything, but it does slightly obfuscate the absurdity of it all.

  4. Artor says

    Those aliens are oddly specific about the ingredients in their “To serve man” recipe. Is the flavor really that different? I’d think they’d throw all the smokers in the reject pile instead.

  5. says

    Not sure aliens would sort by gender before sorting by species. Are they going to put all the males together? Just all the male humans dogs cats and cows in one pile? All the females in another. This person is aware that we aren’t the only animals on this planet. Seems she’s not just transphobic, she’s also speciest.

  6. cartomancer says

    I don’t think we need to worry. Once that tweet reaches the visual sensors of any passing alien species it’ll put the whole lot of them off from coming here.

  7. llyris says

    What’s really going to happen is that they’re going to show up, make some dumbarse assumptions about humans based on their own prejudices, and end up sorting the piles by eye colour or formation of pinkie fingers.
    Notwithstanding the species issues mentioned further up the thread.

  8. imback says

    Of course, not only aliens and leopards might consider us just as meat, but alligators too: “That was incredible. No fur, claws, horn, antlers, or nothin’…Just soft and pink.”

  9. says

    The mind boggles that skin color was considered a less-important arbitrary sorting characteristic than gonads… among aliens (who presumably have no engagement with human gonads, unless all of those warped pr0n stories are true). And how would clothing-at-time-of-capture figure into any disinterested observer’s sorting methodology? What would they make of eyeglasses, or wheelchairs?

    And that says far more about the peculiarity of prejudice — and the relationship between gross anatomical and socially imposed distinctions — than I can safely internalize, especially pre-caffeine.

  10. Saad says

    Or the aliens who are capable of intergalactic travel might be capable of realizing that things like genitalia, chromosomes, and gametes are just one way of classifying humans and just because you’ve made one pile containing dangly bits and one pile containing non-dangly bits doesn’t mean the individuals in each pile must all be like each other in some meaningful way.

  11. stroppy says

    Well, the ancient Egyptians counted the dead of their enemies in battle with piles of severed genitals (when it was decided that it gave a more accurate count than severed hands). Maybe they learned this from aliens who the used pyramids as landing pads, and the idea is that we are due for a return visit from space lizards because bible area 54 or something.

  12. says

    Some people sure do spend a lot of time and energy coming up with reasons why it’s okay to treat other people like shit. Imagine if they spent that time doing something useful.

  13. unclefrogy says

    what is wrong of just stopping at “I do not like “some kind of thing”. and leaving it at that instead of forcing everyone else to not like it and trying to destroy it?
    I do not like beets but I do not want to destroy all the beets nor prevent anyone else from eating them.
    uncle frogy

  14. jrkrideau says

    @14 unclefrogy
    I do not like beets but I do not want to destroy all the beets

    Let me think about that.

  15. says

    Current Terf discourse is all obsessed with defining women as things where men stick their penises to get them pregnant, which is, as evidenced above, the true purpose and “reproductive burden” of all women.
    They permanently define women in terms of suffering and oppression, and not just in terms of patriarchy, but especially in terms of biology.
    Apparently a cis woman’s reproductive organs and their functions are horrible things. Periods can only be talked about in terms of disgusting, smelly and horrible (terfs also live on a planet where cis women regularly forget to pack menstrual hygiene products and keep standing in the ladies room butt naked while they sob into their bloody knickers while washing them in the sink. And no, I didn’t make that one up, my mind is not that twisted), pregnancy and childbirth are both what defines us, but also a burden and a duty and true purpose in life.
    We were made to have penises stuffed up our vaginas, but at the same time, the ones with the penises were made to rape and hurt us. This is all somehow based on our biology. When feminisms battle cry used to be “biology is not destiny!”, they are turning it around and claim that yes, it is, that we can divide the world neatly into two piles of corpses, eh, two groups, men and women, and all men are like this, and all women are like that, and because we are like that due to biology, nothing has ever and will ever change.
    In short, Gilead is their Utopia, and I wished they weren’t also strictly against porn, because there they could probably satisfy their weird longings without coopting tons of non-consenting men and women.

    Chris 61
    Oh do shut up. How is it punching down to criticise somebody who claims that women evolved to be raped by men?

  16. Owlmirror says

    You’re punching down PZ.

    I’m curious as to what you think “punching down” even means, such that PZ’s post qualifies.

    As best I can tell, he expands on the dumbness of the ideas, not the person who posted them.

  17. aspleen says

    Her conclusion that male violence threatens women and that a woman can be raped and made pregnant without her consent is correct though. There still is and long has been an imbalance of power between men and women that’s based on the fact that males are able to physically overpower females. That this imbalance wasn’t specifically selected for by evolution is true, but the imbalance is something that affects women.

  18. says

    At this point that’s less a, conclusion than a non sequitur. Nobody ever denied that folks with uteri suffer from reproductive coercion. But “getting pregnant when they don’t want to” is something that happens fast more often in consensual sex than in rape, since there’s a lot more consensual sex around than rape.

  19. says

    A friend recently had a patient that was XXY. Which pile should that corpse go into?

    I’ve heard TERFS claim that trans would somehow diminish women or harm the struggle for equality, but I’ve never heard a coherent explanation of why. I would assume the opposite, a wider platform could only strengthen their position.

  20. says

    aspleen @#21

    There still is and long has been an imbalance of power between men and women that’s based on the fact that males are able to physically overpower females.

    Yes, sure. But the imbalance of power is caused mostly by social norms rather than by anatomy or average physical strength. Domestic violence is socially accepted in many cultures. In Russian there’s even a saying “the one who hits loves.” Rape survivors are humiliated by law enforcement, while rapists get bragging rights while talking with their buddies. Involuntarily pregnant people are often denied abortions. Sterilization and birth control is discouraged by religious authorities. Women are taught to not fight back, abstain from complaining, and blame themselves whenever they experience domestic violence. The society encourages young men to pursue well paid jobs while encouraging women to be housewives instead. In general, boys are taught to be assertive and girls are taught to shut up and listen to their male peers.

    Men being, on average, larger and stronger is not what causes women to lead worse lives than men. Males being able to physically overpower females is useful for oppression only in some circumstances and in societies with terrible social norms. Try beating up a woman in a society which protects women from domestic violence and punishes abusers! It’s no longer that simple. A wannabe bully being able to physically overpower another person results in them getting oppressed only in a society which fails to protect its physically weakest members and blames victims for their own suffering.

    In some societies there’s much more imbalance of power between men and women than in other societies. Such imbalance can be essentially eliminated with the right laws and social norms.

  21. says

    @#19

    Apparently a cis woman’s reproductive organs and their functions are horrible things… pregnancy and childbirth are both what defines us, but also a burden and a duty and true purpose in life.

    It would make more sense if people who perceive pregnancy as a burden and as a horrible thing just remained childfree. It’s OK if only people who want to have kids actually have them. So far humanity is very far from dying out due to low birth rates. Proclaiming that something you consider a horrible burden is also a duty and the purpose of one’s life is just twisted.

  22. says

    Giliell @ #19:

    Current Terf discourse is all obsessed with defining women as things where men stick their penises to get them pregnant, which is, as evidenced above, the true purpose and “reproductive burden” of all women.
    They permanently define women in terms of suffering and oppression, and not just in terms of patriarchy, but especially in terms of biology.
    Apparently a cis woman’s reproductive organs and their functions are horrible things….

    Fascinating. On the one hand, I’d thought that their version of essentialism would have to be one that celebrates all things defined as essentially “womanly.” On the other, it makes sense in that if they genuinely loved themselves they wouldn’t be so irrationally fucking hateful in the first place. Still, “trans women aren’t real women like us…also, real women like us are gross,” echoing the most reactionary Biblical and radical Islamic views, is…a surprising argument in 2020.

  23. nomdeplume says

    But surely the more important question is “which restroom would the aliens use”…

  24. dianne says

    Why would the aliens be fixated on that one chromosome? Maybe they’ll toss us into piles by chromosome number (46, <46, >46). If they consider chromosomes the important issue. They might prefer to sort us by height or eye color or CYP3A4 polymorphism.

  25. Alt-X says

    Women evolved to be raped easier?! WTF? What sh-t hole part of the internet are these people getting these ideas from?! Burn it with fire.

  26. chris61 says

    @29 dianne

    Maybe they’ll toss us into piles by chromosome number (46, 46).

    If they do that, they’ll have one real big pile and two itty-bitty piles. But my guess would be if aliens dissected us, as the tweet writer suggested, they would indeed sort us into mostly two piles based on the obvious differences in our sexual organs. With a smaller pile consisting of corpses that didn’t fit into one or the other of the two main piles. Those would likely be the pile choices because although not 100% clear-cut they are more clear-cut than height or eye color and more easily identified than CYP3A4 polymorphisms.

  27. says

    But my guess would be if aliens dissected us, as the tweet writer suggested, they would indeed sort us into mostly two piles based on the obvious differences in our sexual organs.

    This is stupid. While there are objective differences in human anatomy, you’re not just asserting that differences in anatomy exist. You’re not even merely asserting that if they cared about sexual anatomy there are only 2 possible piles that they could make.

    Without realizing it, you’re asserting that the only differences aliens could possibly care about are differences in sexual anatomy. In fact, we have no idea what anatomical differences aliens might care about. They could sort bodies in two piles based on whether the dissected human’s body had attached or unattached earlobes. Or they could sort bodies into two piles based on which bodies contained metallic or electronic implants, like artificial hips.

    And the sinister thing that you’re (presumably unintentionally) doing is assuming that because something matters to you it must matter to every conscious beings in the universe, even random space aliens with their own unique perspectives on life and what matters that – under your assumptions – would just happen to match up exactly with whatever the fuck you think is important.

    Congrats on your grandiose megalomania that predicts all persons must (naturally? due to socialization?) share your priorities. I’m sure that’s very comforting, believing that you know for sure exactly what’s most important in the universe.

  28. says

    @26 The fatal flaw in your reasoning is the assumption that they’re dealing in any sort of good faith. They’re not, of course. They’ll use anything they can to win the point of the moment and if it contradicts what they’ve just said, they’ll just claim freeze peach or talk about context.

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    chris61 @31: What CD said @32, but also;

    Funny that the tweeter conjured up aliens just stupid enough to supposedly make her point. You’d think that aliens would be far more scientifically sophisticated than to simply make piles of corpses based on one criterion that you happen to consider important. You know, they might actually want to study human behaviour before they kill us all. And who knows, maybe they would consider behaviour more important than genetics or anatomy.

  30. Saad says

    CD, #32

    They could sort bodies in two piles based on whether the dissected human’s body had attached or unattached earlobes. Or they could sort bodies into two piles based on which bodies contained metallic or electronic implants, like artificial hips.

    They may even sort us by whether we’re transphobes or not.

  31. dianne says

    Chris @31: Not as small as you’d think, especially if they look at, say, bone marrow cells. Lots of XY people lose the Y chromosome in their hematopoietic cells with age. And that’s not counting malignant and pre-malignant mutations…Also, why assume that they want equal piles? They may be looking for the rare, special ones, unlike the common mass.

    It’s also not clear to me that genitalia is an “obvious” difference. Why not breast size (and a fair number of cis men are A-D cups due to liver disease, obesity, etc)? Or height? Or weight? Or ratio of large to second toe size? Genitalia is an important distinguisher to humans, but it’s in no way the most obvious thing about the body, if you really look at it.

  32. dianne says

    Also…more easily identified than CYP3A4 polymorphisms.

    Nonsense. There’s nothing inherently more obvious about chromosomes as opposed to liver enzymes. Amino acids of non-terrestrial origin have been identified, suggesting that protein may be, if not invariant, at least possible in other parts of the universe. DNA, as far as I know, has not. So sequencing our proteins may be far easier and more intuitive for an alien than identifying our chromosomes. Again, the main reason for identifying chromosomes (and particularly sex chromosomes) as important is that they’re meaningful to our society. Aliens would probably not give two craps.

  33. Silentbob says

    I think this TERFist tweet sums them up.

    Why are so many women SUCH COMPLETE IDIOTS??

    If you were pretending to be a feminist, you’d think you’d notice when your tweets sound like they could have come from Elliot Roger or James Damore. Or that the fine print on your bioessentialist ideology says, © The Patriarchy, Fifth millennium BC.

    (And this is coming from people who routinely call trans people “misogynists”, even though I’ve never seen a trans person tweet anything remotely like that.)

  34. microraptor says

    I find it amusing that TERFs even appear to think that the way a hypothetical species of aliens chooses to categorize humans is an idea that’s actually worth serious consideration.

  35. says

    @39 microraptor

    They’re so MONSTROUSLY essentialist and fundamentalist that they have literally lost the ability to even imagine creatures that don’t have the same opinions as them.

    This is a deeper point than it sounds like at first: consider, with this unwavering inability to consider ideas other than their own, that they must therefore believe that trans people deep down AGREE with them, and this is part of the fuel for their hate, because in that case what reason could there be for us to exist other than malfeasance?

  36. says

    SC

    Fascinating. On the one hand, I’d thought that their version of essentialism would have to be one that celebrates all things defined as essentially “womanly.”

    Yeah, as annoying as what I always dubbed “Moongoddess feminism” is/was, that’s not it.

    On the other, it makes sense in that if they genuinely loved themselves they wouldn’t be so irrationally fucking hateful in the first place.

    I think that’s one part of the problem, but I’m also not letting them get away with self-hatred, because that would at least be a mitigating factor in their transphobia. I think they need to define womanhood like this for two reasons. First, while they rigidly want to enforce rigid gender stereotypes, they also have to pretend to be critical of gender. That’s why they call not afab people using make up “womanface”, trying to evoke blackface. Now, from an actual feminist viewpoint, the idea is that make up can be fun (yours truly has more eyeshadow that she can probably ever use), and should be a fun hobby that can be practised by everybody, while also being critical of how women are supposed to wear make up to look professional or “alive”.
    More important I think is that this is their only way to claim some magical sisterhood of all cis women regardless of other circumstances. Given the wealthy white background of many of their most prominent voices, there’s no other argument left for them. If all women are oppressed because of biology, then a poor trans woman writing a mean tweet about JK Rowling is punching up, despite Rowling being a powerful billionaire who probably no longer has to deal with periods and pregnancy scares anyway.
    It allows them to call a gay man a misogynist* flaunting his “childfree privilege” for suggesting that a vocal feminist might need to have some feminist conversations within her own family about housework and chores.
    *Not that there isn’t a special brand of misogynist gay men around…

    Andreas

    It would make more sense if people who perceive pregnancy as a burden and as a horrible thing just remained childfree.

    Yeah, but that would require transphobes making sense…

  37. Silentbob says

    @ 41 Giliell

    First, while they rigidly want to enforce rigid gender stereotypes, they also have to pretend to be critical of gender.

    Yes. Not to pick on this one person in particular that I linked to above – they’re fairly typical – but I see this shit all the time:

    TERFs: We’re “gender critical”; people should wear whatever they want it doesn’t change their sex.

    Also TERFs: OMG a man with a handbag and green flairs, Hur Hur Hur, Lolz, how embarassing!

  38. chris61 says

    It’s also not clear to me that genitalia is an “obvious” difference.

    Isn’t it? Obviously not a biologist.

  39. says

    chris61 seems to have an unhealthy obsession about people possessing dicks. The idea that hypothetical alien biologists would be equally obsessed is quite simply, ludicrous.

  40. blf says

    I note our transphobe (chris61) has not yet answered the questioned posed by several commentators, How is PZ ‘punching down’?

  41. says

    Cris61 has an unhealthy obsession with this blog and whatever goes on there. She’s on record for being on the wrong side of about anything, which actually seems to be her only consistency, because afaik she also minimises sexism, racism and misogyny, not to forget homophobia, just to tell us now that really, dicks and pussies are the one true way to sort people into neat piles of corpses. She still hasn’t explained how PZ is “punching down” here, an accusation she should be able to support with some evidence it it were true.
    I’m still a bit puzzled by our premise here. We get space aliens who are advanced enough to travel the universe, but who also really just want to murder us all, and when they have killed all humans they go through the effort to analyse our chromosomes and sort us into neat billions of people high piles according to the test results?

  42. chris61 says

    chris61 seems to have an unhealthy obsession about people possessing dicks.

    Actually since dissection was mentioned I was thinking more of the entire reproductive system. Internal stuff. You know, the stuff you only see when you dissect. It was another commenter who mentioned genitalia.

    I’m still a bit puzzled by our premise here. We get space aliens who are advanced enough to travel the universe, but who also really just want to murder us all, and when they have killed all humans they go through the effort to analyse our chromosomes and sort us into neat billions of people high piles according to the test results?

    I doubt they’d dissect all of us. Just enough to see that we mostly fall into two piles based on our anatomy and that those two piles mostly correlate with distinguishable chromosome complements. Since human biologists study sexual dimorphism in other species, I’d assume any alien interested in dissecting us would also be interested in that aspect of our species. The point I expect the tweeter was trying to make is that they sure wouldn’t be sorting us into genders after dissection.

  43. says

    @chris61 #43
    Obviously, these aliens aren’t biologists. If they were, they wouldn’t exterminate a species and then start studying its reproductive cycle.

  44. stroppy says

    PZ is a heavyweight
    Lis is a lightweight

    However, PZ is also a teacher and if he can make didactic use of a lightweight comment so be it.
    Also just about anything that involves aliens is fair game.

  45. chris61 says

    @49 blf
    The comment was intended for PZ. If you don’t consider this post punching down, that’s up to you. I may spell out my reasoning in one of my own spaces but to do so in PZ’s would be impolite.

    @50 LykeX
    Dissecting some members of a species is not the equivalent of exterminating the species.

  46. blf says

    chris61@52, I may spell out my reasoning in one of my own spaces but to do so in PZ’s would be impolite.

    Excepting Owlmirror@20, no-one else has explicitly opinionated on whether or not PZ is ‘punching down’ — and they gave their reasons for their opinion.

    So no. Try again. Multiple people have asked (I am neither the first nor the only one): How is PZ ‘punching down’?

    Also, addressing chris61, @20 astutely asked: What [do] you think “punching down” even means?

  47. says

    chris 61

    I doubt they’d dissect all of us. Just enough to see that we mostly fall into two piles based on our anatomy and that those two piles mostly correlate with distinguishable chromosome complements. Since human biologists study sexual dimorphism in other species, I’d assume any alien interested in dissecting us would also be interested in that aspect of our species. The point I expect the tweeter was trying to make is that they sure wouldn’t be sorting us into genders after dissection.

    You’re still starting with the idea that some super duper powerful aliens that can travel the universe start out by killing humanity and then for some reason feeling the need to sort 7 billion corpses into neat little piles. And that those piles would obviously be by genitals and that they would be ok with doing X amount of analysis and finding that things mostly correlate and then say “stuff this, that’s good enough”. The whole idea is ridiculous, which is obvious, but betrays the tweeter’s and your narrow focus on who and what humans are, presupposing some sort of meaningful uniformity of all people who have two X chromosomes and a vagina or something. As others have said, there’s tons of ways to sort people.

    The comment was intended for PZ. If you don’t consider this post punching down, that’s up to you. I may spell out my reasoning in one of my own spaces but to do so in PZ’s would be impolite.

    In other words, you don’t have an argument to make or a leg to stand on.

  48. says

    Dissecting some members of a species is not the equivalent of exterminating the species.

    I’ll give you, the OP only mentioned dissecting all of the adults, so I guess you could wait around and study the kids, once they’re grown.

  49. lumipuna says

    Imagine if aliens killed a planet’s worth of people and just then God showed up and confiscated the whole catch, saying, “OK, I’ll sort my own first”? The aliens would be so pissed.

  50. chris61 says

    @54 Giliel

    The whole idea is ridiculous, which is obvious, but betrays the tweeter’s and your narrow focus on who and what humans are, presupposing some sort of meaningful uniformity of all people who have two X chromosomes and a vagina or something. As others have said, there’s tons of ways to sort people.

    Of course the whole idea is ridiculous and of course there’s tons of ways to sort people but sexual dimorphism is certainly one of the more obvious ones. Especially since we’re all dead and unavailable for behavioral studies.

  51. Owlmirror says

    The comment was intended for PZ. If you don’t consider this post punching down, that’s up to you. I may spell out my reasoning in one of my own spaces but to do so in PZ’s would be impolite.

    I am honestly baffled as to how you think that offering moral criticism is not impolite, but explaining that moral criticism is impolite.

  52. says

    PZ’s post isn’t punching down because trans women have less social power, and the person PZ is critisizing is also punching. It’s reciprocal.

    I’ve seen transphobes try that on facebook, claiming I’m doing the male aggression thing when my political aggression is focused on their aggression.
    The result would be the transohobe gets to continue to describe trans people and supporters as “fanatics” (in the facebook example I’m thinking about) and more with their political aggression, and the people they are acting aggressive towards have no one but themselves.
    It’s pretty disgusting

  53. Owlmirror says

    The comment was intended for PZ. If you don’t consider this post punching down, that’s up to you. I may spell out my reasoning in one of my own spaces but to do so in PZ’s would be impolite.

    Can you at least explain the meta-reasoning you’re using? How, exactly, is explaining your reasoning impolite?

  54. Owlmirror says

    I have no problem explaining my own reasoning, nor do I think it impolite to do so.

    A “punch”, whether up or down, is an attack that is an insult or a gratuitous sneer. For example, when PZ first reviewed Stuart Pivar’s Lifecode, there were no punches: PZ criticized the work and pointed out its problems, but didn’t say anything insulting about Pivar. PZ was in academic mode at the time, and treated Pivar’s work to an academic analysis and criticism.

    But when PZ later (after Pivar ignored the critique and posted a boastful press release) called Stuart Pivar a “classic crackpot”, that was a punch — but it was a punch up, not down: Stuart Pivar was and is ludicrously wealthy and socially powerful. PZ’s “punch” had little or no effect on him.

    Calling attention to Donald Trump’s little hands, as happened in various news media in 2016, is a different example of a “punch”; something gratuitous and demeaning, often in a mocking tone. But again, it was a punch up: Trump was and is more wealthy and socially powerful than those mocking him. The “punch” might have been humiliating, but of no long-term social effect. It was also, of course, in response to Trump’s constant and continuous habit of punching down; his multiple gratuitous insults and bigotry against the disabled, Mexicans, women, less powerful political opponents, and so on and on and on for the vast punching nightmare of the past few years.

    PZ’s post above contained no punches at all because it didn’t attack the source of the ideas, just the ideas themselves. I don’t know how to state it plainer than that: There were no insults or gratuitous comments about the person posting these ideas, just pointing out that the ideas themselves were very confused.

  55. dianne says

    If you don’t start out with the assumption of sexual dimorphism and really look at human bodies, you don’t really end up with two neat and obvious piles. The difference between a large clitoris and a small penis is not really so great that you can clearly say that they must be different organs. Similarly, the aliens might have difficulty differentiating between a body with a vagina and one with undescended testes. As for secondary sexual characteristics, it’s hopeless: gynecomastia, post-menopausal facial hair, etc confound the issue hopelessly. As for chromosomes, good luck with that one! The thing most likely to be sortable is the uterus and prostate…and really neither of them is all that obvious. The aliens may simply conclude that the prostate bearers have some sort illness leading to an abnormal growth or that the uterus bearers are a younger version of human that haven’t shed their uterus yet.

  56. microraptor says

    dianne @63: Or they might be more interested in sorting humans by the presence or absence of a gall bladder, or the number of polyps found in the large intestine, or the number of teeth they had, the levels of plaque in their arteries, the number and type of electronic devices found on their person at the time of death…

  57. blf says

    Another way to sort humans which is usable by aliens (probably with the aid of some sort of translator): “Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.”

    One pile, probably dead, is in the ravine. The other “pile”, presumably alive, is on the other side. The dead pile sometimes includes the aliens.

  58. says

    @63 dianne

    Not even that. I think a very good case can be made that if aliens behave as we do, they would begin by observing the similarities rather than differentiation among members of a species, in which case they might well not think to draw a distinciton between the things we call prostates and Skene’s glands. If they pay enough attention to ontogeny, they might not consider a clitoris and a penis particularly different; they’re the same structure at slightly different sizes.

    In fact, i’ll go so far as to say that if we are going to be honest about what hypothetical aliens will call the most visible, obvious difference among humans… it would be skin color. So this whole extremely weird thought experiment undermines its own premise and in fact underscores that the things a being unfamiliar with humans would notice first don’t mean a goddamn thing.

  59. Anton Mates says

    Not sure what makes aliens preferable to God as far as imaginary arbiters of objective truth go, but:

    Why wouldn’t the aliens throw humans, cats, rosebushes and rocks into one big pile marked “MATTER?”
    Why wouldn’t the aliens arrange us into exactly the same intricate, glittering, multidimensional lattice of gender that we’ve already constructed for ourselves?
    Why wouldn’t the aliens do something else?

  60. says

    Abbycababra

    In fact, i’ll go so far as to say that if we are going to be honest about what hypothetical aliens will call the most visible, obvious difference among humans… it would be skin color.

    And they’d run into the exact same problem, because you can start with the palest chap in Norway and keep moving through Europe, hop the street of Gibraltar and keep going until you finally reach the Cape of Good Hope and never ever find a clear demarcation line. Your pale Norwegian will not stand out in Germany, but yours truly will neither seem out of place in Norway, Spain or Morocco.

  61. rydan says

    I really hate to agree with nutjob TERF but their hypothetical situation isn’t that crazy when you really think about it. Case in point we do exactly this with chickens. The “males” get ground up into bits and the “females” get stuck in a cage forced into a lifetime of slavery. And we make absolutely no distinction regarding the gender of said chickens. Virtually every female identifying rooster gets ground up into chicken nuggets and every male hen ends up laying eggs. And I think we can probably all agree the level of advancement between these hypothetical aliens and us is about the same as us and a chicken.

  62. dusk says

    How is it in any way controversial to suggest that if aliens were to sort humans into categories they would likely opt for biologically male and female, i.e. those required to create more humans? What a strange conversation.

  63. says

    Well, we’re made of meat!

    Then perhaps the aliens will separate us according to body fat percentage. Actually, that would explain why they’re killing everyone and chopping them up.

    Do fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers taste the same? Asking for a friend from out of town.

  64. says

    @dusk
    Why are you assuming that the aliens that just killed every adult human being on the planet have any interest in making more humans?

  65. dusk says

    I didn’t, just that it seems a fairly obvious option if they were going to categorize them in this bizarre scenario being discussed.

    Like all the biologists we have on earth tend to do when studying animals. Seems a bit of a reach to suggest that aliens could travel to earth but then struggle to tell the difference between a clitoris and a penis, for example,

  66. Saad says

    rydan, #70

    Virtually every female identifying rooster gets ground up into chicken nuggets and every male hen ends up laying eggs.

    What the hell are you talking about?

    And I think we can probably all agree the level of advancement between these hypothetical aliens and us is about the same as us and a chicken.

    Yes, if they wanted to feed their huge populations with human embryos and human flesh, then yes they would grind up the people who can’t get pregnant (this will include some women) and impregnate via rape the people who can get pregnant (this will include some men).

  67. John Morales says

    dusk:

    Like all the biologists we have on earth tend to do when studying animals.

    Animals are a small subset of extant organisms.
    If classification of life-forms were to occur, I doubt sexual dimorphism would be a major criterion.

    (And you exemplify the bias in the original claim; biologists are themselves sexed organisms, so of course they care about that sort of stuff)

    Seems a bit of a reach to suggest that aliens could travel to earth […]

    Indeed. Energy budgets and so forth.

    […] but then struggle to tell the difference between a clitoris and a penis, for example

    It’s not that they’d struggle, it’s that it’s a triviality. Why would they even care?

  68. Saad says

    Speaking of obvious differences, one pile might contain people with hair and one pile might be all bald people.

  69. dusk says

    @John fair enough, we were talking about humans though, and the fact it requires a male and a female for humans to reproduce is at least as likely to be the criteria used as anything else, as I said its a very strange conversation to be having and I don’t see how it is controversial to suggest such a thing. Sex seems the easiest criteria and would result in two equalish sized piles. They couldn’t use gender as they wouldn’t be able to tell. Same witjh skin colour, too many piles.
    Anyway I’ll go back to lurking, it was just a strange thread to read with my morning coffee.

  70. says

    @dusk
    I don’t follow. Why is it an obvious option to categorize people according to a quality you have no interest in?

  71. John Morales says

    Dusk:

    we were talking about humans though

    “if aliens invaded and dissected us” was the hypothetical, silly as it may be.
    I suspect interstellar travellers would (a) have no need to invade and (b) no need to dissect — because (a) plenty of resources abound, and (b) non-invasive imaging is something we primitives can already manage.

    Again: why would aliens think just like we do, as in: why would sexual dimorphism be a significant thing for them?
    One thing we can be sure of: they would not think anthropomorphically, not being anthropoids.

    [BTW, ‘criteria’ is a plural, the singular is ‘criterion’]

  72. dusk says

    @LykeX what do you mean? We don’t know what they are interested in its a hypothetical situation, I was merely stating that the groups/categories based on human procreation are at least as likely as anything else (assuming they want to study humans).

  73. says

    If someone already mentioned this I missed it, but wouldn’t this categorization by alien pile based on dangly bits or lack there-of mean that post-op trans-people would in fact generally be categorized against TERFs’ druthers?

  74. dianne says

    @Dusk: Aliens come to Earth. Maybe they don’t kill all humans, maybe they just bring a pathogen that kills all humans in the classic “oops” colonial power win. Even more unfortunately, that or another pathogen also destroys all evidence of human culture (books, internet, etc). Be that as it may, they have nothing but human bodies to go by when categorizing humans*. What makes it obvious to an alien with no concept of humanity and no a priori idea at all of how humans reproduce that both a sperm carrier and an egg carrier are needed to reproduce? Maybe they’ll look at our bodies, note that older people** are more less likely than younger ones to have gall bladders and decide that we reproduce by shedding our gall bladders. This theory will be supported by the finding of stones in the gall bladders, which will be presumed to be the embryonic form of humans***.

    *The question of why they want to do so is left as an exercise for the reader.
    **Telomere length is very important to their biology and looking at it first is inherently obvious to them so they have no problem identifying the approximate age of the corpses.
    ***Yes, it’s a little odd that they seem to have missed the actual fetal forms in the pregnant people they cut up, but see the history of paleontology before you reject the idea that they might have as implausible.

  75. dusk says

    @Dianne, that’s a lot of what ifs. Are you seriously suggesting that aliens that were advanced enough to master space travel would arrive on earth, see people (and wildlife) and not immediately observe two main different categories of adult humans? Or to do the maths on how procreation works for humans and 99% of other animal species on the planet? That seems a stretch. But OK I will agree that it is possible that aliens could visit earth and choose to categorise humans based on gall bladders, they may then wonder why one group (female sex) are more likely to have gallstones, and then notice that the same group are generally smaller with different dangly bits.

  76. Gregory Greenwood says

    The Alien movies have long since taught us that, if alien life forms like the late, great H R Geiger’s iconic creation actually existed, they would not care in the least about gender or dividing their human victims up into piles based upon any particular physical attribute such as genital organ structure – we would all be in just one big pile that would be marked ‘facehugger hosts’ if Xenomorphs bothered with writing.

    And the burden of parasitic ‘pregnancy’ would also be evenly shared among men, women, intersex persons, non-binary persons, and all arms of humanity in this scenario (say what you like about Xenomorphs, but they aren’t bound by gender norms to the degree we squishy humans are), and since Xenomorphs are larger and stronger than any human, it is obvious that we humans evolved to be so relatively physically weak so as to make it easier for Xenomorphs to overpower us and deliver us to Facehuggers for implantation.

    So yes, in a round about kind of way, congratulations to Lis on being less enlightened and tolerant than a (happily fictional) pharyngeal-jaw-toting, slime-covered exemplar of nightmare fuel.

  77. says

    “That’s a lot of ifs” says the person positing that invading aliens would have the same prejudices and perspective as them, would automatically even know what dimorphic sexual reproduction IS let alone impose the template on something, would see everything in the same electromagnetic spectrum, would not only clearly identify and recognize gonads in an utterly alien species but care deeply about big and small ones, would in fact exist at all…

  78. says

    Like this whole discussion is nonsensical (PZ’s original point), and absolutely nothing the “Two Meat Piles” crowd are saying makes any sense with a sane definition of “alien” at all, and only follows in any way if we assume that the invaders are not very alien at all, are in fact bumpy-forehead Star Trek human-but-for-a-decoration “aliens” from the ‘Planet of Hats’ where everyone wears ‘adult human female’ t-shirts and worships August Lord Linehan.

  79. says

    I don’t know if we will see a lot more of this level of complete loopydrawers nonsense from the TERF brigade but if we do I label it “terfio ad absurdum”.

    (please don’t hurt me, cartomancer)

  80. jefrir says

    Humans didn’t manage to pay close attention to plants’ reproductive organs until about the 18th century, and we depend on them to live. It’s entirely plausible that aliens just wouldn’t care about ours.
    And so what if hypothetical aliens or future archeologists or whoever would divide us up based on particular criteria? They are not the boss of us. They can be wrong, and we get to declare their opinions irrelevant, because they do not have the full information.

  81. dianne says

    Odd what will break people’s suspension of disbelief. Dusk apparently has no problem with the alien invasion and genocide followed by 8 billion autopsies thing, but the idea that the aliens may not think of reproduction the same way we do is too much for them. Why would the aliens even think that two sexes were needed for reproduction? Maybe they reproduce by fission. Maybe they have three sexes and are trying their best to figure out how to divide our corpses into three neat piles, one for each sex. Maybe they’ve reproduced in vitro so long they’ve effectively forgotten that there is any other way.

    Also “females” aren’t generally smaller, if your bucket of people is all of humanity. Race, nutrition during childhood, and randomness affect height to the point that if you divided humanity into the tall half and the short half you’d have only a small majority of women in the short half. Certainly not enough to think “ah-ha, short=less likely to have large penis/clitoris and external gonads”.

  82. says

    Dianne, didn’t you know, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that across the universe all sentient species have male and female, with the females being small and attractive and have tits, even if they are descendants of reptiles.
    Just imagine a world where the dominant sentient species are the descendants of what is similar to our birds of prey.

  83. blf says

    Just imagine a world where the dominant sentient species are the descendants of what is similar to our birds of prey.

    The mildly deranged penguin takes a bow.

  84. says

    Also “females” aren’t generally smaller, if your bucket of people is all of humanity. Race, nutrition during childhood, and randomness affect height to the point that if you divided humanity into the tall half and the short half you’d have only a small majority of women in the short half.

    Adding to that: humans aren’t really that dimorphic when you look at us compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, especially our closest relatives. In chimps the weight difference is a factor of 1.5, in orang utans it’s factor 2, same in gorillas.
    While sexist idiots like terfs, assorted transphobes, evolutionary psychologists and other misogynists seem to think that we started out as a species with no dimorphism and then evolved into a highly dimorphic species over, I don’t know, 500.000 years, with every perceivable difference serving an evolutionary purpose, it seems like the opposite is true.
    Another factor is that many of these supposed “dimorphic criteria” are just racist as fuck. This is why black women often have their femaleness called into question, or Indian women are being bullied for body hair and facial hair, and Asian men are emasculated and called effeminate.

  85. dianne says

    Huh. Would the aliens even recognize humans as a species, separate and distinct from other primates? They might think that humans were one sex and chimps another. Or humans were one sex and mice the other (or are two out of the three, etc.) Or they might think that pimples are the male of the species because they have an angler fish style of reproduction.

    Really, the TERF argument boils down to “it’s obvious to me, therefore it must be obvious to everyone, including non-human aliens and if you argue that it isn’t there must be something wrong with you.” It makes me wonder how they passed high school biology.

  86. aspleen says

    Given that sex is something that’s overwhelmingly common among vertebrates as well as other types of organisms, I’m sure aliens would have no problem figuring out that there are two sexes and that no, humans aren’t one sex and chimps another.

  87. aspleen says

    Oh, I’m presuming any aliens capable of reaching Earth are more than competent enough to sex spiders.

  88. dianne says

    Or sexing goldfish. Without knowing what you’re looking for or even if what you’re looking for is there. Also there’s no reason to assume that the aliens are vertebrates.

  89. blf says

    I’m presuming any aliens capable of reaching Earth are more than competent enough to sex spiders — more succinctly put as “[I was] turned into a newt. I got better.”

  90. says

    If as I suspect that aliens are related to fungi and reproduce by spores released from fine etended tendrils, then Saad @79 is clearly the most correct.

  91. Silentbob says

    zOMG I just realised the purpose of eels!

    these creatures are very mysterious and it took researchers a long time to figure out the basic facts about them that had stumped scientists from the time of Aristotle through to Sigmund Freud, the main mystery being that however many eels European researchers dissected, until very recently, they simply could not find their reproductive organs.

    They’re there to troll alien pile-makers!

  92. says

    Given that sex is something that’s overwhelmingly common among vertebrates as well as other types of organisms…

    The prevalence of something on our planet says exactly nothing about how aliens work.

  93. says

    @103 aspleen

    Oh, I’m presuming any aliens capable of reaching Earth are more than competent enough to sex spiders.

    “I’m ENTIRELY sure that any alien species capable of advances science must obviously think exactly like I do, but more so. After all, mine is the only real perspective, so it must be shared by every being across the universe.”

  94. says

    @99 dianne

    Allow me to direct your attention to my comment at #40. TERFery, like all conservatism, comes down to a calcificaiton of the brain. Like our pal aspleen here, they’re incapable of being aware that theirs is not the only real point of view, and regard everyone who professes otherwise as deluded or dishonest. In this case they can’t even imagine that hypothetical beings not even from this solar system will somehow possess the same expectations, warped basic Earth knowledge, and above all prejudices, as themselves.

  95. Silentbob says

    Y’know according to multiverse theory, somewhere there’s a planet like ours but on this planet they assign pronouns and names and clothes and hairstyles on the basis of blood type. You got your A names, and your B pronouns, and your AB clothes, and your O hairstyles, etc.

    And you just know on this planet there’s a Trans-blood Exclusionist insisting, “You trans-bloods can deny reality all you want, but when the aliens come, we’ll still all be sorted into four piles…”

    ;-)

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