Thanks for clearing up that reasoning

If you haven’t noticed, the whole Republican raison d’etre has been distilled down to one thing: ramping up the culture war. Once it was semi-benign because it was stupid (the War on Christmas, for instance), but now it’s escalated because their target isn’t a mythical being, it’s real humans, and specifically, the “T” in LGBTQ. We can thank a Canadian for spelling it all out for us. It’s religion. Here’s Jordan Peterson telling us he thinks the male and female distinction is more fundamental than up and down, and tracing it all back specifically to the book of Genesis, where God created us, male and female.

Transphobes have a divine transcendent value now. Like god-soaked Peterson, they are going to be justifying their bigotry with the Bible, and they’re going to be increasingly blatant about it. I made a mistake backing away from the atheist movement, since right now it’s clear that trans rights are an atheist issue. (I’m going to get so much hate mail from atheists for saying that.) And Peterson is a fundamentalist fanatic.

Also, the stupid, it burns. Seriously? Using “up” and “down” as an example of a categorical binary? Think, guy, if you can with your drug-addled constipated brain.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Some vertebrates switch gender as they grow.
    Also, DeSantis has been so indifferent to the rising house prices and the energy costs in Florida that the Miami Herald offered a scathing criticism of him recently.
    If you are not good at doing anything, you can always stir up a smoke screen with culture war issues.
    For DeSantis, that may be the only remaining option.
    If he ends his term as governor 2026 he will be forgotten by the 2028 presidential election.
    To avoid fading he must leverage his position as governor into a chance at the presidency 2024 and he has no tangible successes to brag about.

  2. Ed Seedhouse says

    Well, there’s a hell of a lot bigotry in that old bible that today’s bigots can use to “justify” their own.

  3. says

    Peterson is pandering. In the past he’s made statements that indicate he’s an agnostic if he’s anything. I’m sure if you were a masochist you could find pre-fame statements from Peterson where he talks about God as some sort of Jungian archetype, and not an actual being.

  4. ardipithecus says

    It was my understanding that god stopped making people 6000 years ago, and it was people making people since then.

  5. says

    Seriously? Using “up” and “down” as an example of a categorical binary? Think, guy, if you can with your drug-addled constipated brain.

    Yeah, apparently he has not bothered to ponder what happens when two people on opposite ends of the planet both point down. We need to bring back that Jeff Foxworthy show (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?) and see how well Peterson does on it. (Yes, I know that would not be a reasonable measurement of intelligence. The point is this seems like grade-school-level knowledge he’s failing at.)

  6. robro says

    Nothing new under the sun. Racists have used the Bible to justify bigotry for as long as I can remember…you know, “Mark of Cain” or is it “Curse of Ham” (aka “Curse of Canaan”). No matter. When I was a kid these stories were commonly invoked around the dinner table when talk turned to the subject of “uppity” Black people, which it did a fair amount in the mid-50s and on.

  7. kome says

    I would suggest that the Republican culture war was never semi-benign. Their culture war gave us the myth of the welfare queen, absentee black fathers, and broken windows police policies. They gave us the war on drugs, an onslaught of anti-abortion advocacy for nearly 50 years culminating in the Dobbs decision most recently, and constant deregulation for firearm ownership that has led to the epidemic of mass shootings. I agree that their culture war is ramping up, and it’s pretty much all they’re bothering to campaign on anymore, but it was never relegated to just stupid talking points like the war on Christmas. They’ve always been targeting real humans: blacks, women, Jews, immigrants, and queer communities. Targeting the trans community specifically, and with the same anti-Semitic groomer rhetoric the Nazis used throughout the 1930s, isn’t anything other than a continuation of the genuinely terrible direction conservatism leads societies.

  8. says

    When he talks about “the T,” he looks at first like he’s going to make a T with his hands for some purpose, but then he doesn’t – he just puts one hand on top of the other. This incongruous gesture bothers me immensely.

  9. killyosaur says

    Seriously? Using “up” and “down” as an example of a categorical binary? Think, guy, if you can with your drug-addled constipated brain.

    Nobody tell him about qubits and the blochsphere! it’ll blow his tiny mind!!! Hell there are more than 2 types of quarks, and all directions are relative, especially once you get off the planet :P

  10. raven says

    And Peterson is a fundamentalist fanatic.

    You are giving Peterson way too much credit here.

    .1. Peterson is a garden variety hate merchant and conperson. He just repeats the fundie xian/right wingnut’s hate back to them for money.
    He needs money like we all do and Peterson can’t do anything else these days. He was tossed by the U. of Toronto and his license to practice is being questioned.

    .2. Peterson hates atheists and has said so often
    No big deal, Peterson quite literally hates everyone. He is a hate merchant, after all.
    A list of his hates would be especially women, gays, Trans, educated people, progressives, Muslims, nonwhites, nonxians, wokes, and I’m sure I’ve left some groups out.
    It is most of the humans alive on the planet today.

    That doesn’t make him a fundie xian though.
    The fundie xians are just the haters that he gets his hate targets from and then sells back to them.
    Probably, Peterson just believes he needs money and is incapable of doing anything worthwhile and productive these days.
    He is a former drug addict that almost died on a ventilator in Moscow and it shows.

    .3 If you look at Peterson’s career, he was just a conperson from the beginning and that is all he ever did.
    It eventually caught up to him when the educated people that were in positions to employ him finally saw through him.

  11. nomadiq says

    Up and down as a categorical binary is quite dumb for a couple of reasons. Principally, the notion of what is up versus down is completely relative while also being set by convention. Why is Australia ‘down under’? Sorry, as an Australian, Canada can’t be any further ‘down there’, wherever down is suppose to be. The only way ‘down/up’ works is by setting a single zeroed reference point. Hemispherical chauvinism sets the northern hemisphere as ‘up’ and the North Pole as the zero point of up. That is up/down can only work by setting a single zero point, a point where one can go no further. Another example, up/down works with a single zero point that declares that ‘center of the earth is down’. At least this example has some objectivity to it due to geometric reasons. There is a single point of ‘no more down’ at the center of the earth, while many points could be considered ‘the most up’, at least when referencing things from an earth-centric perspective. But only from an earth-centric perspective. Any dichotomy, to be consistent, needs a zero point that can somehow be justified and that justification will always have a context.

    Now for the kicker. How does one set a single zero point for gender? On what objective basis? Hint: you’re not allowed to assume you yourself is the zero point from which everything else gets defined.

  12. raven says

    Here’s Jordan Peterson telling us he thinks the male and female distinction is more fundamental than up and down…

    This is just cosmically dumb.

    The male and female distinction isn’t even close to what we are as humans.
    More fundamental is that we are bipedal. Intelligent tool users. Social omnivores. Self aware, conscious beings. People with a lot of hobbies and cats.

    As humans and for each individual, we are far more than just our sex chromosomes and genitals.

    Even if you agree that the male and female distinction is one of the basic ones for humans, it is still so what. If you try to unpack (parse) this, you get a big zero.
    This has nothing to do with Trans people!!!

    Fundie xian conperson: “It means Trans are unnatural, against nature, and against god’s plan.”
    Clothes are against nature. So is driving a car. Using a computer to access the internet.
    Most of what us modern humans do every day is against nature.

    FWIW, nature doesn’t care at all though.
    We don’t live our lives for an abstract concept that has no awareness.

  13. StevoR says

    @ ^ Raven : Youmean like god or the abstract future yet to eb bazillions rlibing in the Milky Way .and Amdromeda galaxy and beyond in that silly Sillicon Valley cult ideology thingy?

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Crocodiles -or was it turtles- get different gender depending on the temperature the eggs are subjected to while incubated. This gives conservationists a lot of trouble as it is no help if they end up breeding only males.
    So temperature is fundamental!
    And as I mentioned earlier, some fish transition from one gender to the other as they grow.

  15. StevoR says

    OH FFS! You mean like god(s) or the abstract future yet to be bazillions living in the Milky Way still heading to infinity and beyond .. ad nasueam .. Plus their sily SF AI version of the.. debbil sorrry basilisk thingy.

    @@7. birgerjohansson (again) & my #15: There wa sof course the Noah and his sons tale although that was really more about one son and excusing slabvery ever afterwards & really pretty ugly..

  16. drsteve says


    As someone who would never have become a such a good cisgender atheist without being eaten by trolls like Rowling if not for following Pharyngula for the last decade, decade and a half, I ask you to please consider this comment a mild dose of love mail antidote.

    Thank you and good morning!

  17. StevoR says

    @ 23. birgerjohansson : Yup. Artificially created by unnatural artificial human selection from wild legumes.. legumes gone wild or just different species seen there?

    FWIW. the Acacias (Wattles) are in the leguminosae / mimosae family too and also have very bean and pea like pods and fruit albeit with some twists – and in the case of A paradoxa (Kangaroo Thorn – polite commion name*) to name one I mean twists on that theme. Many wattle seeds are edible though not sure you’d call them “peas” exactly – and can be used in flour with some very nice bushtucker recipes around.

    See :

    See photo of them here – also hairy and not very green at leats at this piont intheir development :

  18. robro says

    StevoR @ #26 — I would happily trade the stand of 20+ foot tall Acacias in my neighbors yard for some actual peas. These things are in full bloom right now and their pollen is everywhere. Please note that according to the Marin County fire department, these things are supposed to be banned due their flammability but no one has pushed the owner (who is absentee now) to do anything about it. However, sneezing is happening.

  19. remyporter says

    I’ve recently been doing a crash course in navigation systems for space, so the whole “up/down” dichotomy is personally a very very hilarious statement.

  20. says

    I can make this more complicated, and now have a puzzle. I think I have potential phenomena connected to how we process some of these things, but not up/down.

    I think I managed to connect a “primitive reflex” to a left arm and neck tic.
    And my whole life I have verbally tripped over left/right, east/west type distinctions. Not up/down.

    Now I want to hunt for the potential neurological basis for some up/down programming.

  21. chigau (違う) says

    I think gravity makes up/down unambiguous.
    In a weightless environment up and down would be just as arbitrary as east and west.

  22. says

    @chigau 30
    Maybe the sense of gravity and acceleration is connected to up and down. That is an interesting thought.
    Does it it have an equivalent reflex though and what could it be? Up/down could be earlier in terms of when initial parts are set up and commence ticking.

  23. whywhywhy says

    male and female distinction is more fundamental than up and down

    Simple proof that up and down is definitely more fundamental:
    Gravity has no awareness of whether one is male or female; cis or trans; or whatever dichotomy one wishes to impose on humans. Gravity acts the same and only cares about mass and distance. Flipping the script, all males and females have to concern themselves with gravity simple to move in this world. Thus ‘up and down’ is definitely more fundamental. Gravity has also been around longer than a distinction between male and female.

  24. says

    @whywhywhy 34
    When I go hunting for sources I’m going to conceptually begin with embryos floating in the ocean. We’re more than a billion years ago in terms of molecular systems at that point. Penises and vulvae get added on after that.

  25. René says

    For every point one considers UP (vs any point one considers DOWN) there are myriads points MORE UPPER. Which is why the distinction is NOT BINARY. (Which is PZ’s point, IMO)

  26. etfb says

    PZ, I’m a fan, really I am, but sometimes you say something and it’s just so foolish, so wrong-headed, so clearly false that I have to get up on my hind feet and protest.

    Jordan Peterson’s brain is many things, but it is not constipated. Noting the about of shit it produces, I think the exact opposite is true.

    I assume I can trust you to publish a full retraction and apology? Of course I can!

  27. unclefrogy says

    calling cultural wars is the right way to characterize it. 200 years ago the conservatives did not have to go to all the trouble of trying to make their argument seem rational. They could go directly to the moral argument the things that they deemed good were good and the things they saw as bad were sinful as decreed by god as declared by the church. It is about authority and who wields it. As the christian mythology shows the first the “original sin” was one of disobedience of the command authority of the god.
    all of the “cultural war” issues are at the root control issues mostly concerning things that are often arbitrary differences and as important to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as table etiquette .

  28. unclefrogy says

    further the differences between people their tastes and likes and dislikes creates a serious problem for people who are so thoroughly conditioned to conformity and obedience to authority. They seem to think that if someone does something that they do not like that if the other is allowed to continue to do it that they will be forced to do it as well.
    their reaction resembles the reaction of abuse victims often way out of proportion to actual events.

  29. says

    Now that I think about it neck + arms + legs with left and right and the . They all make sense with the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex. We don’t use legs for that much, but I do use my head to indicate direction. Also I don’t mix up north/south as well as up/down relative to right/left and east/west. That’s quite a set of symbolic connections to sort out.

  30. StevoR says

    @22. birgerjohansson :

    Crocodiles -or was it turtles- get different gender depending on the temperature the eggs are subjected to while incubated. This gives conservationists a lot of trouble as it is no help if they end up breeding only males.
    So temperature is fundamental!

    Yes. Both those and more. See :

    (1 complimentary free article )

    Plus :

    With same applying for at least one species of alligator (mississipienis) and a large number if not all reptiles generally. (NB. Some skinks & snakes give birth to live young..)

    See also :

  31. StevoR says

    PS. I don’t know if we’l ever be able to determine this but given the prehistoric ancientness of those reptile limeges and their evolutionary descendents it occurs to me that heat determining the sex of the individual hatchlings could very well have been true for the Dinosauria and Pterodactyls and those other Mesozoic flying and marine reptiles that laid eggs -which Icythosaurs didn’t – too.

  32. StevoR says

    @46. Excerpt in case people ahve exceeded their artilce limit & can’t read that first link :

    Researchers are trying to pour cold water on the increasing number of female sea turtles being born due to rising temperatures. The gender of sea turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature of their nests, with warmer temperatures producing more females than males. Researcher Melissa Staines from the University of Queensland said rising global temperatures as a result of climate change had serious implications for the species.

    “The potential problems we see with climate change is that as air temperature increases, so will sand temperature, and more females will be produced,” Ms Staines said.

    “Males are produced at temperatures under 29 degrees Celsius – we begin to see thermal stress and deaths in early embryos at 32 degrees, and complete clutch fatality at 36 degrees.”

    Ms Staines said previous research in 2018 found 99 per cent of sub-adults and juvenile green turtles in the northern Great Barrier Reef were female, and 87 per cent of adults were female.

    So she set out to try to manually tip the scales back towards a more even split in the genders by lowering the temperature.

    “When it rains, we see a reduction in temperature, so I thought that if we replicated that process with sea water, we could reduce the sand temperature in a similar manner,” she said.

    “[We] hoped the sand would reduce to 29 degrees to get a mixture of males and females,” she said.

    Source :

  33. birgerjohansson says

    Trickster goddess @ 37
    Film poster ca. 1979:
    “In space no one can hear you scream… objections about fluid genders “

  34. birgerjohansson says

    Brony @ 32
    The flat-Earthers say “gravity” is just acceleration. So “up” and “down” is just an arbitrary choice by the gnomes who are pushing Earth upwards.
    And besides up, down, left, right, forwards backwards for navigating the three dimensions there are apparently a bunch of other dimensions that fortunately are rolled up at very, very small scale or the macroscopic universe would be very messy.

  35. says

    Last one. I don’t know if I want to chase this one past this. The last bit sums it up.
    “A Screen for Gene Paralogies Delineating Evolutionary Branching Order of Early Metazoa”
    It’s not gravity focused, but that seems to be associated with stretching detection and many mechanisms.
    “Mechanosensory, chemosensory and photosensory responses are universal among single and multicellular organisms and can be related to the evolution of specific proteins enabling already single cells to respond to mechanical, chemical and photic stimuli. For example, opsin proteins evolved in single-celled ancestors of metazoans (Arendt 2017; Feuda et al. 2012) and many single cell organisms can sense light, gravity and several chemical stimuli with dedicated sensors (Swafford and Oakley 2018). While the history of chemical and photic senses and the formation of specialized cell types and integration into appropriate organs in metazoans has been driven by the molecular insights into the molecular transducers (Arendt et al. 2016), mechanosensory transduction has seen less progress due to uncertainty of consistent association of a specific mechanotransducer channel across phyla (Beisel et al. 2010). On the one hand, mechanical sensation is clearly present in all single cell organisms to function as safety valves to release intracellular pressure sensed as tension in the lipid bilayer and was proposed as a possibly unifying principle of mechanosensation (Kung 2005). Follow up work showed a multitude of channels associated with mechanosensation (Beisel et al. 2010; Delmas and Coste 2013) arguing against a single unifying evolution of mechanotransduction. Indeed, several families of mechanosensory channels have been identified whereby pores open as a function of lipid stretch or tethers attached to extra-or intracellular structures (Cox et al. 2018a,b).

    Simply speaking, no single molecule has been identified to be associated with all mechanotransduction across phyla…”

  36. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    To the extent that up and down is a valid dichotomy, it surely predates male/female in its appearance in history. Up and down being (arguably) an intrinsic property of (certain parts of) space and time, being there since the big bang, but male and female took billions of years after the big bang to appear.

  37. erik333 says

    Petersons reasoning is so powerful that it unconstrained by mere reality or time. Whatever story you can make up is more real than reality, and trancendant with respect to time. If sex is more fundamental than up or down in his story, and reality disagrees… then reality is wrong because the story is a better truth.

  38. says

    I’ve noticed a lot of transphobes, even those who claim to be atheist, say things along the lines of “biological sex is what gametes your body is designed to produce. If you’re [some slur for trans or intersex people] then your body might not be working as intended, but it’s still designed to produce either sperm or ova.”

    It all comes back to creationism.