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Just What Are Men and Women, Anyway?

Sometimes, the most important questions are the basic ones. Back in 2011, I argued that the most important question in the gay-marriage debate was “What is marriage?” The next year, Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Girgis published a book exploring just that question: What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense. But in the face of contemporary questions of transgenderism and gender identity, it turns out that we need to ask a yet more-basic question: what are men and women, and what makes them different?

To some of you, that question might seem obvious, even asinine. Nearly all of us have a working understanding of what we mean by “men” and “women.” Ironically, even people who believe that it’s possible to be transgender still affirm this: calling a man a “trans-woman” presupposes that we know what a woman is. In other words, what does it mean to say that a biological male is a woman?

I. Bad Answers to the Men and Women Question

Bear in mind, we’re looking for what it is that makes all men unlike all women. So here are some incorrect answers to the question:

  1. Using stereotypes to distinguish men from women: women may tend to be more nurturing and men more abstract-thinking, etc., but there are so many counter-examples to any stereotype that you can come up with that this is obviously not a workable answer.
  2. Using social norms to distinguish men from women: things like “women wear dresses, and men wear pants” are both stereotypes (suffering the same flaw as #1) and culturally-contingent: think Scottish kilts or female dress slacks as obvious counter-examples.
  3. Using hormones to distinguish men from women: men typically have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of estrogen, than women do. But testosterone and estrogen levels vary from individual to individual, and change throughout your life.
  4. Using sexual organs to distinguish men from women: This is an obvious difference, but it’s not a satisfying answer. A castrated man isn’t less of a man, after all, nor is a woman any less a woman if she’s had a hysterectomy or mastectomy. Plus, a small portion of the human family is born “intersex” (a poor term) with ambiguous genitalia.
  5. Denying that such a difference exists: Obviously, the fact that we can speak coherently of men and women means that we’re somehow distinct.

Nevertheless, while all of these answers miss the mark, all of them also have an element of the truth, which makes them attractive. So what would a better answer look like?

II. A Better Answer

Here’s what I think a better answer might look like:

  1. The essential distinction between men and women is genetic. All men have a Y chromosome (typically XY, although in some cases XXY or XYY), and no women have Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans.
  2. This genetic difference tends to express itself in different sexual organs. In rare cases, something impedes this from happening as it is ought to, or something happens to the sexual organs. But even in the case of those borned “intersexed,” there is a genetic sex: it just may be harder to tell.
  3. This genetic difference also tends to express itself in different brain chemistry, different levels of various hormones, and differences (big and small) in cognitive and behavioral development.
  4. Society also plays a role, and environmental factors can even impact hormone levels. It is not always easy to determine which social behaviors are attributable to social roles, or environment, or innate genetics. But most societies amplify the differences between the sexes by creating a set of gender roles.

The chief benefits of this definition of men and women are threefold.

First, this is what we have always meant by men and women, even before we knew what genes were. There was a recognition that there were real differences between male and female humans, present from birth, and we expressed these different types of humans with the terms ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ for children and ‘men’ and ‘women’ for adults (and ‘male’ and ‘female’ on the whole). Genes explain why these differences exist (and why unusual things sometimes happen in how the genes express themselves). Second, this is how we speak about non-humans. We can coherently speak of male and female mammals using a similar genetic distinction. Finally, this definition avoids two obviously-false extremes: the idea that men and women are interchangeable, and a sort of “Rambo and Barbie” reductionism.

III. The Implications for the Transgender / Gender Identity Question

The points above are much bigger than contemporary debates over gender identity and transgender issues. A lot of the ink spilled over the last few decades on issues like feminism could be aided by everyone having a clearer understanding of women and men and the differences between them (and especially, of which of those differences are innate and universal, and which of those are socially constructed, etc.). But while it’s not reducible to that question, I think it’s helpful.

We can both affirm that there really are fundamental genetic differences between men and women, and affirm that (for example) some women act and emote in conventionally-masculine ways, and may even have higher-than-average testosterone levels, etc. So it’s no surprise that there are people who don’t “fit” the social expectations for what a man or what a woman is like. That, of itself, is nothing new – terms like “tomboy” exist to describe this reality. And our response ought to be one of compassion and support, particularly if we’re Christians.

But having a coherent definition of “man” and “woman” does show why transgenderism is a non-starter. What I mean is this. If the claim were just “I’m a man who likes feminine things,” that would be a coherent idea. But if a biological male claims to be a woman, what does that person mean by “woman”? They can’t mean that a biological male is biologically female, because that doesn’t make sense. And if their understanding of what it is to be a “woman” is rooted in any of the types of definitions we explored in Part I, you can see why those don’t work.

So there’s something a bit deceptive in all of this. A person who believes in transgenderism cannot say that men and women are the same thing (since there would be nothing to “trans” if the two genders are the same). But they also cannot affirm that men and women are essentially different, since affirming that fact would make their own claim nonsense. So “transgenderism” relies on the language of “man” and “woman,” and even relies on the idea that the two are somehow different, while emptying those words of any actual meaning and refusing to define what this new meaning of “man” and “woman” actually is.

Joe Heschmeyer

Written by

Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • Stephen Edwards

    Very interesting. I like this approach. Something I've wondered about is if gender is an aspect of a person's soul. I suppose this article leans more in the direction that gender is biological, however the soul being the form of the body could cause the dna to form the way that it is. So I guess that is still an open question.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I think you can refine that a bit so that those two understandings overlap. On the understanding that the soul is the form of the person, the soul doesn't exactly cause the DNA to form a particular way (at least, it doesn't cause it in the sense of being an efficient cause). Rather, the form of the DNA is [an aspect of] the soul, because it is a perduring aspect of the form of the person.

      • Stephen Edwards

        I'm not sure what the difference is in what you described. I mean obviously the DNA is not literally the soul, the soul is immaterial.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I am saying that the (immaterial) form that an individual's DNA takes is literally an aspect of the soul. Do you disagree?

          • Stephen Edwards

            I guess it depends upon what you mean, if you mean the fact that it operates as XY, then sure.

  • David Nickol

    I think the above is just factually wrong, or as close to being factually wrong as it is possible to get in a matter this complex. I would refer readers to a blog post by Jimmy Akin—something I rarely do!—in which his option 5 in dealing with the issue of gender is basically the same as Joe Heschmeyer's:

    Treat genetics as the ultimate determiner of sex. In the case of an XX male, use surgery to supply female anatomy. In the case of an XY female, do the same to supply male anatomy. In the case of a defective chromosome pattern, use the presence of a Y chromosome as a determiner of maleness, so X and XXX and XXXX individuals are female and Y, XXY, and XYY individuals are male. Use surgery to correct any problems that exist.

    He comments on this option a bit later in the post:

    I am a bit doubtful that the Magisterium would ever sign off on option #5. One reason is that it is radically different than the ways of handling these situations that Catholic health care providers and moralists have had up to now when helping children with ambiguous sex. Similarly, we’ve been living since the beginning of the human race (or almost the beginning, anyway) with folks who have one outward sex even though a genetic test would raise questions about it. It seems asking an awful lot to mandate that a XY females or XX males undergo surgery to switch their outward sex. This is a burden that they’ve never been asked to undertake before (though, of course, one may point out that we’ve never had genetic tests before). [Boldface added]

    Because of a phenomenon called androgen insensitivity, there are people whom everyone would regard as women who are "genetically male"—that is they are XY females, something that Mr. Heschmeyer apparently is unaware of.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I get that Joe's proposal is inconsistent with what Jimmy Akin infers to be the likely position of the Magisterium, and I get that Joe doesn't grapple with the issue of androgen insensitivity ... but I'm still not clear on what part of Joe's piece you are identifying as "factually wrong"?

      • David Nickol

        . . . but I'm still not clear on what part of Joe's piece you are identifying as "factually wrong"?

        While the following is put forward as a proposal, to the extent that it is supposed to be accepted as a description of reality, I think it is fair to say it is factually wrong:

        The essential distinction between men and women is genetic. All men have a Y chromosome (typically XY, although in some cases XXY or XYY), and no women have Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans.

        Akin (correctly, in my view) refers to "XY females." That directly contradicts the statement by Heschmeyer that "no women have Y chromosomes." For all we know, some of the most notable women in history, including some of the great women saints, were "XY females."

        Given that sex determination by X and Y chromosomes was only discovered in 1905, and given that a distinction has been made between male and female since prehistoric times, it seems bizarre to me to define man and woman by chromosomes. It gets us exactly nowhere to answer the question "What is a man?" by saying "It is a human being with an X and a Y chromosome."

        Accepting Heschmeyer's "solution," we cannot really say anyone in history was a man or a woman unless we can obtain a DNA sample and do a genetic test. We cannot say with certainty, for example, that Teresa of Avila was a woman.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          For all we know, some of the most notable women in history, including some of the great women saints, were "xy females."

          I agree with that, but I think that the question at hand is precisely whether such "xy females" were/are essentially female. The fact that they were socially considered to be (and still are considered to be) female surely counts for something, but it doesn't seem to be entirely decisive.

          I think the whole idea of essences is that appearances can deceive, that there can be deeper realities (essences) lying beneath the ephemera of our perceptions. Most of us assume that what we perceive of a thing provides reliable clues as to its essence (most of us seem to be "realists" in this sense), but not that such clues are decisive (most of us seem to be "critical realists" in this sense).

          So, to me, it seems to come down to: what is a more reliable clue to the deepest reality of a person's gender: social perception and self-identification, or genetics? In most cases these two types of clues align. Where they do not align, I don't think it is entirely clear which type of clue is more to be trusted. However, it is certainly the case that genetic testing results are more stable and objective than are social perceptions, and that what is assessed through genetic testing is the most perduring aspect of our biology, providing consistent results from the moment of our conception until our death (and even beyond our death, until the molecules are denatured). It seems to me that this also should count for something.

          • David Nickol

            I can agree that both genetics and outward appearances (ie, secondary sex characteristics) should count for something. I think the important point is that it is really impossible to come up with definitive criteria to classify every human individual born as "really" a man or "really" a woman.

            Suppose an individual is born genetically XY but there are complications such as androgen insensitivity syndrome. She is registered on her birth certificate as female (as she absolutely would be). She self-identifies as a girl, she's raised as a girl, and when she reaches puberty, she has the secondary sex characteristics of a girl. However, she does not menstruate and has no uterus, and at that point, genetic testing reveals that she is XY. I think by Heschmeyer's proposed criteria, she is a man. This would mean she would not be permitted to marry a man (in the Catholic Church), since marriage is impossible between two men. Of course, she couldn't marry a woman in the Catholic Church, because Catholic marriage requires at least one act of "Church-approved" sexual intercourse. I think Jimmy Akin is correct that the Church (as opposed to Heschmeyer?) would consider such people women (as has been done since the beginning of human history) and permit her to marry a man in the Church. But if this hypothetical individual is not a woman, what is she? A transsexual created by nature?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think the important point is that it is really impossible to come up with definitive criteria to classify every human individual born as "really" a man or "really" a woman.

            I agree with this. I really only want to defend the idea that objective data (in addition to subjective feelings and social "constructs") are a clue to who we are and to what we are called to be in this world. I would also want to defend the fundamentality of male-female complementarity, but this is a vague (albeit profound) commitment and I don't claim to be able to make it precise in every instance. I would not want to defend any exception-less classification scheme.

            With regard to your (realistic) hypothetical person, I agree that Heschmeyer's theory, if correct, would have the implications that you elaborated for that person. Of course, the fact that the theory has both undesirable and non-traditional implications doesn't necessarily mean that it is incorrect, but it should give us pause.

            [ Originally detected as spam. Re-posting almost without modification. Apologies if this ends up resulting in a double post. ]

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have no desire to get mired in this sticky subject, since it is somewhat aside my primary interests on this site.

            Still, I would like to comment on the argument made that using the Heschmeyer theory might reclassify some famous women of the past as actual men.

            This objection does not seem disqualifying to his theory, since we are in the realm of bioethics here and, while the universal moral principles never change, our understanding of their application can sometimes change as our understanding of medical science and biology makes progress.

            For example, I understand that ectopic pregnancies could not be terminated according to Catholic moralists up until around 1940, when it gradually became evident that the condition was in itself pathological and could be justified under the principle of double effect. Thus, by the early 1950's, Pius XII specifically allowed excision of a pathological ectopic pregnancy, even though one of the undesirable unintended effects was the death of the unborn child.

            Thus, it was not the ethical principles that changed, but our understanding of the ethical significance of the procedure that changed so as to allow what was previously forbidden.

            By similar reasoning, assuming the Heschmeyer analysis is correct, one could reasonably follow its present scientific understanding and logic to whatever inferences follow from it, even though it was not applied in the past in similar fashion -- when we did not know the difference between XX and XY.

          • David Nickol

            Still, I would like to comment on the argument made that using the Heschmeyer theory might reclassify some famous women of the past as actual men.

            I think the point is that if we were to strictly follow Heschmeyer's rule that if a person is XY, then he is a man, we would have to acknowledge that we have been wrong since the dawn of history (and before) about who is a man and who is a woman. Unless a woman had a child, there could be no assurance that she was not an XY individual with CAIS. Role models for girls of strong women or even saints might actually have been men. As Jimmy Akin notes, it appears there are no magisterial pronouncements on the issue, but if we follow Heschmeyer, I think it would be necessary for certain people whom we now consider to be women to be genetically tested before allowing them to marry, and barring them from marriage if they do not pass a genetic test. Would you actually predict the Church would declare all XY individuals are men and take it to its logical conclusion? Do you see any sign of that in the Church today? Rarely do I find myself in agreement with Jimmy Akin, but I think he is correct to speculate that the magisterium would not accept his "option 5," which is basically Heschmeyer's position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since XY females, as I understand it, do not develop secondary sexual characteristics at puberty without the aid of modern medicine, it seems unlikely that marriage would have been an issue in times past.

            That said, though, who knows what other "special cases" may be "out there" to confuse the general rules? As I indicated earlier, I really hesitate to pursue an area on which I have such limited biological knowledge.

            Still, one thing we must always remember: Hard cases make bad law. Whenever you start changing the basic societal rules for special cases, you may find that you inherit the wind. I think that this is exactly what we are seeing now in the case of "same sex marriage." To accommodate the wishes of a very small percentage of society, we are in the process of disestablishing traditional marriage, which is the only natural method for replacing the species itself. But that is another story.

            We have long had problems with intersex cases, and society may or may not have handled them well. But if we blur the basic lines between the sexes --- as God made them male and female, we may inherit the wind. Whatever "solution" society comes up with had better remember the adage I just cited: Hard cases make bad law.

          • David Nickol

            Since XY females, as I understand it, do not develop secondary sexual characteristics at puberty without the aid of modern medicine, it seems unlikely that marriage would have been an issue in times past.

            This is factually incorrect. See the entry for Complete Androgen Insensitivity in Wikipedia.

            But if we blur the basic lines between the sexes --- as God made them male and female, we may inherit the wind. Whatever "solution" society comes up with had better remember the adage I just cited: Hard cases make bad law.

            First, of course, the various genetic anomalies that cause gender ambiguities and other problems are not human inventions. They are, for Catholics, from God. (Or am I wrong?)

            Second, I think you should address your dictum about hard cases making bad law to Joe Heschmeyer. He is the one who proposed a simply solution to a complex problem—a man is an XY individual. For the Church (or for society) to adopt that as a fact strikes me as going down the road to a dystopian society in which genetics is all that counts in judging individuals.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am happy to stand corrected on the details of the XY females and thank you for the clarification.

            I don't know that I would accuse God of being the direct cause of the genetic anomalies that we are discussing, since I would think that the real cause would be aberrations in the evolutionary mechanisms, which may be viewed as defects or degredations God permitted, but did not intend -- possibly consequent upon original sin, or simply the natural side effects of an evolutionary process. I am not certain that being male or female constitutes an essential quality of the human being, but rather may be an accidental difference.

            Joe Heschmeyer's theory is not a matter of hard cases making bad law in my judgment, since he is proposing a universal and simple rule to differentiate the simple division of the sexes. The "hard cases" would be the ones that are exceptions to the simple, traditional division of male/female -- not the division itself. He may have picked the wrong criterion, but that does not mean he is using hard moral cases to establish the universal criterion.

            "Hard cases make bad law" would be something like changing a traditional law in an essential way to accommodate a few seeming exceptions to the rule. This is the reverse. He is trying to keep the traditional roles clear and distinct, and not in a manner so as to accommodate the "special cases" that don't easily fit.

            Whether his solution is right, just, and consistently defensible is another issue.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "Hard cases make bad law"

            An elaboration of this adage would make for a good OP in its own right, in case you are looking for ideas for future posts.

            I remember a reporter challenging Bill Clinton on his support of policies against torture. "Well, but what would you do if a terrorist had codes to defuse a ticking time-bomb that would about to blow up a city, and nothing else was working?" or something like that. IIRC he said, more or less, that he would approve of torture in such a case ... but that one doesn't (or one shouldn't) design policy around such edge cases; those are instead situations where human judgement should override the normal policy (or so he argued). I thought that was a pretty reasonable answer. On that view, "hard cases make bad law" needs to be conjoined with something like "judgement and latitude are required in the application of the law", or something like that. Of course, that's still not entirely satisfactory, because a law that can be whimsically overridden is basically no law at all.

            To summarize, I think I probably don't have a very clear way of thinking about the relationship between moral principles, codification of moral law, application of moral law, and the role of human judgement. So, if an expert on moral philosophy were to offer some reflections on that, I suspect I could benefit from it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Reflecting on this whole discussion, what strikes me now is the evident fact that the "exceptional" case of the CAIS is exactly what proves the rule. CAIS persons have massive pathology evident, even to the point of greatly increased incidents of gonadal cancers.

            The simple fact that those who do not fall into the clearly male or female categories exhibit evident medical pathologies proves that they are not normal individuals. That means that if you try to adjust the rule to fit them you are indeed falling under the adage that hard cases make very bad law.

            I am not trying to solve the problem as to how we determine who is male and who is female at a theoretical level, but what is clear is that there is a clear difference between the two sexes, and that any deviance from the norm constitutes evident pathology.

            Pathologies are not how you determine what is normal and what should fall under the rule. Societal norms must be based on what is normal and not pathological.

            The fact that in rare instances mistakes are made or even can be such as to confuse the application of Canon Law does not prove anything -- except the fallibility of human knowledge. But such errors cannot be the basis for the construction of society as a whole. No one says, as far as I know, that the Church claims infallibility in its application of Canon Law -- just as the canonical process of annulment is clearly not infallible, but merely allows individuals to act with moral certitude that they are in conformity with natural law.

          • David Nickol

            Would you say, then, that there are a certain number of human beings who simply cannot be classified as either male or female?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, undoubtedly, there are some real problem cases. That is how nature works. Even Aristotle observed that nature tends to aim at a consistent end, and fails in a few instances "because of some corruption." In other words, something goes wrong. That is how the world works.

            But the point is that you do not turn the world upside down by trying to make what went wrong into the standard of what should be right.

            Will this cause some real problems for some people? You bet it will! But that happens to people in their lives for many different reasons, e.g., mental illness, getting hit by a car, et cetera.

            In most cases, like the CAIS, they probably go through life as a female and never even know there was a problem -- except they never get pregnant -- which happens even to perfectly "normal" females because of other pathologies, such as, not getting married! ;-)

          • David Nickol

            . . . .but what is clear is that there is a clear difference between the two sexes, and that any deviance from the norm constitutes evident pathology.

            Any deviance from the norm??? And how do we determine what the norm is?

            I remember my aunt's terrible handwriting. (She would be over 100 were she alive today.) She was left-handed, but that was considered a deviance from the norm in her schooldays, and so she was forced to learn to write right-handed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I could be wrong, but I would suggest that biological and medical science does a pretty good job at telling when an individual develops pathologies that deviate from the "correct" mechanism of the body. Those are signs that the symptoms evinced do not correlate with what is normal for a given sex.

          • Raymond

            "Catholic marriage requires at least one act of "Church-approved" sexual intercourse."
            It does??? Since when? So if I were injured in some way that I couldn't perform sexually, I wouldn't be able to marry the woman who loved and supported me through whatever passed for my recovery?

          • David Nickol

            So if I were injured in some way that I couldn't perform sexually, I wouldn't be able to marry the woman who loved and supported me through whatever passed for my recovery?

            That is correct. You could not marry in the Catholic Church if it were certain you could never perform sexually. Here is the pertinent section from the Code of Canon Law:

            Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

            As I understand it, in the case of injury, if there is even a possibility that sexual function will be regained, then marriage may be permitted.

          • Raymond

            I'm sorry, but this lack of compassion on the part of the Church reinforces my rejection of the Church and all religion.

            Is adoption not considered in the case of infertile couples?

          • Rob Abney

            How is it a lack of compassion? To answer that you will have to explain how you define marriage; the Church has provided a definition so that it can determine who meets the requirements for a lifelong union. In a similar fashion, I don’t think it would be compassionate to let someone fly an airplane if they didn’t meet the requirements, it would be dangerous for that person and a lot of other people too.

          • Raymond

            Consider these cases.
            A Catholic couple in their seventies whose original spouses have passed away, but because the woman has gone through menopause, she is unable to conceive. They are deeply in love, want to spend what remains of their lives together, and intend to be sexually active to the extent that they are able, but could not conceive.
            A young Catholic couple that has been engaged for several months, and has done all the things that the Church requires for young people to marry. But he is in the military, and before the wedding, he is deployed overseas. While on deployment, he receives injuries that cause him to no longer be able to father children, either naturally or through donation.
            Both of these couples love one another, love the Lord, are committed to one another, and intend to remain together for the rest of their lives, despite whatever challenges they have been presented with.
            According to the Church's definition of marriage, the Church would rightly refuse to marry them. I can't imagine much that would be more heartless.
            Oh, and the airplane pilot analogy is a total non-sequitur.

          • David Nickol

            A Catholic couple in their seventies whose original spouses have passed away, but because the woman has gone through menopause, she is unable to conceive.

            Please note that there has been some misinformation here from Catholics themselves regarding impediments to marriage. Sterility (infertility) is not an impediment to marriage. Your elderly couple can most definitely get married in the Catholic Church.

            A man and a woman who cannot for some physical reason have sexual intercourse with each other at least once cannot get married in the Church, but in the cases of injury and the like, if there is a chance that the injury or other condition may be overcome, the benefit of the doubt is given, and there can be a marriage.

            Absolutely nothing prevents a Catholic couple who are physically incapable of having intercourse from entering into a civil marriage and living together as husband and wife.

          • Raymond

            So the criteria is sexual intercourse and not conception? Interesting, but pretty weird. Sexual contact at least once, whether or not it could result in conception? That is quite a fine line between the two examples.
            And how does your last statement not constitute the Church turning its back on infertile couples and driving them away from the Church?

          • David Nickol

            And how does your last statement not constitute the Church turning its back on infertile couples and driving them away from the Church?

            Once again, infertile couples may get married in the Church! It is only couples who are physically incapable of having intercourse with each other who cannot marry in the Church.

            You might want to read the Wikipedia article on consummation. In some traditions (including Catholicism), in order for a marriage to be fully realized, in addition to the proper ceremony, the marriage must be consummated. That is, the couple must have intercourse with each other.

            Although I agree that the compassionate thing to do would be to allow a Catholic marriage ceremony in the extremely rare cases where couples want some kind of union but are incapable of having sex, given the understanding of marriage in the past by almost everyone, it is not at all crazy to deny marriage to those who cannot consummate the marriage. To those who believe marriages must be consummated, the wedding is only "Step 1," and consummation is "Step 2" (and in many ways, the more important of the two steps). It is not crazy when marriage is a two-step process to deny Step 1 to a couple who are incapable of making Step 2.

            Denying this hypothetical couple a Catholic wedding deprives them of nothing other than a Catholic wedding. They may still marry legally and live together and even adopt children if they so desire. If they are believing Catholics, they should understand that they simply can't get married in the Church. An unconsummated Catholic "marriage" is technically not exactly a marriage. It can be annulled if either or both of the parties wants out.

          • Raymond

            "it is not at all crazy to deny marriage to those who cannot consummate the marriage"
            That's a matter of opinion. If a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace" and the marriage ceremony is not as important as the coitus, that's weird weird weird. Particularly in terns of outward and visible signs of grace. Would an MP4 be sufficient, or would there have to be physical witnesses?

          • David Nickol

            and the marriage ceremony is not as important as the coitus, that's weird weird weird

            Marriage existed long before the Catholic Church came up with the idea of sacraments.

            A marriage is primarily a contract between the husband and the wife, and in the event that it is impossible to be married by a priest, Catholics can marry by ratifying their contract with each other before witnesses. It is speculating, but I would imagine in the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon, Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, who were stranded as youths on a desert island, could have made vows to each other and would have been validly married even without witnesses. Indeed, up until the Council of Trent (16th century), it was possible for a Catholic man and woman to enter into a private contract (clandestine marriage) and be validly married.

            The nature and history of natural marriage, Catholic marriage, and Christian marriage is a huge and complex topic. And by the way, in the "old" days, certain marriages (of some royal persons, for example) did indeed involve witnesses to the first act of intercourse between the husband and wife.

            There is an excellent book by Joseph Martos titled Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church I highly recommend for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into Catholic marriage or any of the other sacraments.

          • Raymond

            Yes, marriage did exist before the Church. But does that mean that the Church's God-given criteria for a valid marriage were not in effect before the Church described them? That is, are the Church's criteria ultimately relative?

            ":n the "old" days, certain marriages (of some royal persons, for example) did indeed involve witnesses to the first act of intercourse between the husband and wife." Do you approve of this practice, or do you think it is weird? And is documentation of consummation necessary today?

          • David Nickol

            But does that mean that the Church's God-given criteria for a valid marriage were not in effect before the Church described them?

            Well, the Church's regulations for sacramental marriage weren't in effect prior to baptism, since only baptized people can have a sacramental marriage.

            Mere "rules" for marriage (e.g., there must be a priest presiding, there must be X numbers of witnesses) didn't apply before the Church established them. It wasn't until the fifteenth century that it became absolutely necessary to be married by a priest. For the first several hundred years of the Church, Christians got married (and divorced) just like their non-Christian neighbors.

            However, I think that there are certain understandings about marriage that the Church would consider to go all the way back to the beginning (Adam and Eve), and the ability to have sex would be one of those factors.

            We probably think of marriage today quite differently than most people did up to about a hundred years ago. I would imagine in ancient times up until recently, the idea of a paraplegic with no possible capability of having sex entering into a marriage would have seemed "weird, weird, weird."

          • Rob Abney

            You are giving great explanations of Catholic marriage, the only thing that you seem to not understand is that a Catholic marriage is a sacrament, the couple is blessed with a supernatural grace and has gifts that “contractual” marriages can never provide.

          • David Nickol

            the only thing that you seem to not understand is that a Catholic marriage is a sacrament . . . .

            I am, of course, aware that the Catholic Church considers sacramental marriage to be a sacrament! However, you do not have to be married by a priest in a Catholic ceremony to have a sacramental marriage, and not all marriages performed by a priest are sacramental.

            A Catholic priest marrying a Catholic to a Catholic, or a Catholic to any baptized non-Catholic Christian is sacramental. A Catholic ceremony for a Catholic and an unbaptized person is a valid natural marriage but it is not sacramental.

            A valid marriage between any two baptized non-Catholics is a sacramental marriage if they were married in a Protestant church or even if they were married in a civil ceremony, no matter whether their denominations believe in sacramental marriage or not.

            So it is not just Catholic marriage that is sacramental. It is Christian marriage.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for those clarifications. To be even more precise, a sacramental marriage must be between a baptized man and a baptized woman.

          • David Nickol

            I was going to say that, but I realized that the OP and the ensuing discussion has demonstrated that it is impossible to adequately define man and woman. p:

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think matters are a bit better than that. I think you and I would agree that if you have someone with XX genetics and all the normal sex characteristics of a female, you have a female -- and, if you have someone with XY genetics and all the normal sex characteristics of a male, you have a male.

            The problem arises when any of these factors do not perfectly match in a given individual. Then you have some form of an intersex state -- for which, at present, someone has to work out a pragmatic solution. Whether you want to call this a "pathology" or simply say that something did not work quite right, in any case, these relatively rare cases are not the norm.

            The good news is that the vast majority of human beings appear to fall into either the clearly male or clearly female categories. Thus, in the vast majority of cases, we have a definition of male and female that will work.

          • David Nickol

            I am in basic agreement, and would simply add that to the best of my knowledge, both the Church and society in general do not go by the "Heschmeyer rule," and consequently deal with the rare instances of genetic anomalies on a case-by-case basis and not by genetic testing. To the extent that the OP recommends use of genes alone to determine who is a male and who is a female, it must be rejected.

          • Rob Abney

            True, It is rare that genes alone will be used to determine if someone is a man or a woman, but it cannot be completely rejected. One instance where it may be necessary is in a legal dispute such as “gender fraud”.

          • Raymond

            I imagine that the change in this idea is an improvement. I think there is an overwhelming preoccupation with sex, in the culture at large and in the Church, to the detriment of abiding love.

          • David Nickol

            I imagine that the change in this idea is an improvement.

            I don't know that the change is an improvement so much as an adaptation to a radically changed role for marriage in modern society. Marriage in the West today is quite different from marriage in biblical times, when marriage arrangements were made by the parents of the bride and groom, who themselves had little or no say in whom they were to marry.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems that you have drawn conclusions about the Church’s position on marriage based on misunderstanding. Maybe you’ll find other obstacles were also from misunderstanding, perhaps David Nickol can help you return!

          • Raymond

            While I seem to have had a misunderstanding of some of the Church's teachings on marriage, the clarifications that have been presented are worse than my misunderstandings. I have been discussing all this with Mr. Nickol already, and he has not persuaded me.

          • OMG

            Authoritative clarification can be found here: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/why-the-church-cannot-marry-the-impotent.

            DN's definition begs fuller description. There is nuance, depth, and logic behind the Canon Law. The law relates to the CC's understanding of marriage as a sacrament. Friendships and other deep bonds between persons may be nourished in other forms and commitments, but marriage in the CC view should be free and complete, a total gift of self, open to fruitfulness.

            Catholic marriage is a sacrament where both parties agree to gift one's self--body and mind--completely to the other so that fruitfulness may result (i.e., procreation of new life). Since certain impotency would not allow procreation of new life, the fruitful outcome is impeded and would serve as an impediment to the sacrament.

          • David Nickol

            Since certain impotency would not allow procreation of new life, the fruitful outcome is impeded and would serve as an impediment to the sacrament.

            If this were correct, then sterility (infertility) would be an impediment to marriage, which it is not. This is quite clear in the article to which you link, but your explanation above is in error.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We are really wandering far afield from God's existence now -- and natural law ethics cannot be adequately understood without foundations in philosophical psychology, metaphysics, natural theology, and other philosophical sciences.

            But, if we must go there, it is critical to distinguish between impotency and sterility.

            Without going into details, impotency is the inability to exercise complete normal sex relations. Impotency is a total impediment to valid marriage.

            Sterility neither invalidates marriage nor makes it unlawful, even between very aged persons -- provided that they can somehow consummate the marriage.

            Your comment makes that point correctly.

          • OMG

            Thank you for clarifying.

          • OMG

            Sorry for the confusion. Too hurried.

          • Raymond

            So does that mean that couples that are unable to procreate - for any reason, age or injury or whatever - can be refused marriage, or even ARE refused marriage? Sounds to me like a good reason for these couples to leave the Church.

            My son was married outside the Church, but he and his wife wanted to have their marriage renewed in the Church. When the pastor told them they had to live separately with no sexual contact for six months before they could be married in the Church, they said "never mind".

          • OMG

            Wishing I could find the article from "First Things." A year or so ago, there appeared an article from a young man who was in a situation similar to your son and his wife. Their initial thought was also similar. But they ended doing something different. The article may be of interest; I'm sorry not to be able to give you the complete reference. The result for the couple surprised them.

          • Rusty

            Correct.

        • If you don't mind me interjecting here. It appears that you're only begging the question here. The author is saying, as you correctly note, that male sex is defined as a human having a Y chromosome, and you're main point is only to assert that this fails to account for females that have Y chromosomes. But that's the very thing being debated here. The author doesn't agree that there are, in fact, any females with Y chromosomes.

          It'd be like me defining an electron as a particle with negative charge, and you come along and say that the definition is insufficient because I'm failing to account for electrons that are positively charged.

          And the fact regarding the discovery of sex chromosomes is irrelevant here. The point in time at which we determined how to biologically differentiate sex does not call into question said discovery. It remains the fact that most of the time, male and female characteristics, which allow us to (usually) correctly differentiate between sex without looking into one's DNA, are manifestations of that very DNA.

          As a comparative analogy, we didn't need to know the difference in molecular structure between the states of matter before we correctly differentiated them just by macroscopic observation.

          • David Nickol

            The author is saying, as you correctly note, that male sex is defined as a human having a Y chromosome . . . .

            Heschmeyer is proposing that the one, true test of whether an individual is a man or a woman is whether he is genetically XY and she is genetically XX. It is not begging the question to disagree with the test criteria he proposes. What it is my intention to do is to show that his proposed test classifies as males an unknown number of individuals who would have been (historically) or are today treated as females. Indeed, as I stated earlier, in the absence of genetic data, we cannot know for certain whether many women in history, including women such as Joan of Arc or Teresa of Avila were really women.

            I am certainly willing to acknowledge that most of the time, XY individuals are men and XX individuals are women. The question is what about the many other genetic possibilities. Heschmeyer is not, as I understand him, proposing a "rule of thumb." He is proposing a way to differentiate classify all human beings into one gender or the other. If an XY individual who has all secondary sex characteristics of a woman is "really" a man, can she be ordained a priest?

          • OMG

            DN asks: If an XY individual who has all secondary sex characteristics of a woman is "really" a man, can she be ordained a priest?

            No. An XY individual with secondary sex characteristics of a woman has chosen to express as a female.

            An XY individual does not develop secondary sexual characteristics unless medical intervention in the form of sexual hormones are administered. This Swyer syndrome is usually discovered only when the person seeks help when secondary sexual characteristics fail to appear. Medical investigation then discovers an absence of gonads--sexual organs (ovaries or testes). It is these gonads which secrete the sex hormones which lead to secondary sexual characteristics.

            So a person with XY (Swyer syndrome) will not express secondary female sexual characteristics unless he has chosen to receive estrogen and progesterone which are responsible for their development.

          • David Nickol

            An XY individual does not develop secondary sexual characteristics unless medical intervention in the form of sexual hormones are administered. This Swyer syndrome . . .

            You may be correct about Swyer syndrome, of which I know nothing other than what I just read (quickly) in Wikipedia, but that is not what I am talking about. The condition I have been discussing is called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS), and XY individuals with this condition will indeed experience puberty and develop secondary sex characteristics.

            No. An XY individual with secondary sex characteristics of a woman has chosen to express as a female.

            As noted above, this is not the case if the condition involved has CAIS. And in any case, it is precisely the point of the Catholic Church that it makes no difference how an individual chooses to express! A man remains a man and a woman remains a woman no matter how they dress, what hormones they take, and what kind of surgery they undergo. So if an XY individual with female sex organs, developed breasts, and other outward sexual characteristics is "really" a man because his chromosomes make him a man, then his gender should not be a bar to ordination. Now, it well may be that the Church (if it followed Heschmeyer) might consider there were other impediments to ordination for such people, but it could not say gender was a disqualifier, since if being genetically XY makes a person a man, he is a man whether he has breasts and female sex organs or not.

            I want to make it clear that while I have opinions about "transgenderism," I am not expressing them here. I am not discussing, for example, people who believe their true gender is different from their bodily gender. I am only discussing XY individuals who are born with female genitals and grow up believing they are girls. This, by the way, includes individuals with Swyer syndrome, who are born with female genitalia, although unlike CAIS individuals, will not experience puberty without hormones.

            Would you say it is wrong for an individual born with female genitalia and raised as a girl to "choose to express" as a female when she reaches the age for puberty? Is it wrong to administer hormones?

          • OMG

            While the XY condition is a basic one for priesthood, acceptance into seminary or ordination involves other factors too. A person of XY genotype person who chooses to express as a woman would likely not meet the criteria. I'm no expert on conditions for acceptance to seminary; however, it seems commonsensical and prudent that the selection process include an assessment of an applicant's agreement with current Church rule. If the rule is that only those of XY male geno-, pheno- and appearance need apply, the question begs answering: Why would those not meeting the criteria want to apply? Would such persons have the Church's interests at heart?

            Why would I apply to bake a wedding cake if I didn't have the recipe, all the ingredients, or an oven in which to make it happen?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            While the XY condition is a basic one for priesthood

            Whoa, time-out. The Y chromosome criterion is merely a proposal that Heschmeyer has put forward. It is not Church teaching.

            The catechism simply states that "the ordination of women is not possible". It is left vague what exactly it means to be a man or a woman. In most cases, of course, it is perfectly clear what that means, but it is not at all clear in these edge cases.

            (If I am wrong and there is an official Catholic teaching that states that "being a man" is absolutely equivalent to having a Y chromosome, please point me to it.)

          • OMG

            What other meaning could we ascribe to: "... the ordination of women is not possible..." except to say that only 'men' need apply? Heschmeyer proposes a definition for 'men.'

            So, the proposed definition is not in the Catechism. But the Church surely owns the freedom to decide, on the basis of genotype, phenotype, and any other exclusionary criteria, who it chooses as an ordinand.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But the Church surely owns the freedom to decide

            Of course she does, but the point is that she has not yet (and perhaps will not ever) decide(d) to use this criterion for deciding who is and who is not a man.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It might not be the exclusive criterion, but it might be eliminative -- assuming it were known in a relevant case.

            Granted, no one has yet here suggested any cases with male anatomy presenting in a purely XX instance!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, but the operative phrase in your comment is "might be". I was responding to OMG's statement that, "... the XY condition is a basic one for priesthood" (emphasis mine) which is, at present, unfounded.

          • David Nickol

            Granted, no one has yet here suggested any cases with male anatomy presenting in a purely XX instance!

            As it turns out, there are indeed XX males. So we have in this world a small but significant number of XY individuals with vaginas and breasts, and a small but significant number of XX individuals with penises.

            I am reminded of these lyrics from "Doin' What Comes Naturally":

            My tiny baby brother
            Who's never read a book
            Knows one sex from the other
            All he had to do was look

            So do we give all the weight to chromosomes, or do we give at least some weight to primary and secondary sex characteristics?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't see how we could possibly put all the weight on chromosomes, since for thousands of years we did not even know they existed and since most people will never even find out what ones they personally have.

            All we have had and do have mostly are secondary sex characteristics -- and I am fine with that in most cases.

            As I said, there will be problem cases inevitably -- but rules are made in society applicable to most cases. You just cannot pass laws, which are universal by nature, to address each and every case -- most of which entail evident pathologies that deviate from what nature intended (if you will forgive a teleological comment!).

          • David Nickol

            A person of XY genotype person who chooses to express as a woman would likely not meet the criteria.

            Could you define "chooses to express" here? In the case of CAIS, we have XY individuals who are born with female genitalia, listed as female on their birth certificates, are raised as girls, and when they reach puberty, develop such secondary sex characteristics as female breasts. Is there something wrong with them "expressing" as women? Is it something they have chosen? If they discover at some point that they are genetically XY, are they morally bound to "express" as male?

          • OMG

            No. No parameters for judging morality are suggested in my musings here. It is certainly obvious that each individual has the freedom of will, desire, and intellect to choose courses of action within his biological, family, social, cultural, and religious constraints. I also think it obvious that the Church should also have freedom to judge and to choose as she has and as she wills to do.

            Regarding AIS, the condition is extremely rare. There are no ovaries, uterus or fallopian tube, and the vaginal canal is often constricted. There are, in line with the XY genotype, testicles. These are usually internal but have failed to completely develop. Although external genitalia often appear to be more female, other persons present with more ambiguous external genitalia. Not every AIS person develops breasts. There is wide variation in the degree of ambiguity among them.

          • David Nickol

            The author is saying, as you correctly note, that male sex is defined as a human having a Y chromosome, and you're main point is only to assert that this fails to account for females that have Y chromosomes. But that's the very thing being debated here. The author doesn't agree that there are, in fact, any females with Y chromosomes.

            What I am saying is that I disagree with the author's definition—and note that it is a proposed definition—because it fails to include individuals that we do, indeed, consider to be women but nevertheless have a Y chromosome. Presumably Heschmeyer would argue that outwardly appearing women who are genetically XY are not, in fact, women. I am disagreeing. And I am pointing out that someone far more "conservative" than myself (i.e., Jimmy Akin) would not accept Heschmeyer's definition. Up until this point, XY females have married XY men in the Church, and it is doubtful that will ever change.

  • The labels "man" and "women" are simply insufficient to cover the aspects of humanity this article attempts to stuff into the labels.

    The major problems are the failure to distinguish between sex and gender, and more importantly they do not account for the lived experiences of millions.

    A biological label of sex, probably works pretty well with the genetic distinction you've indicated. But even this is not so straightforward, as indicated by intersex people or people who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery. Using this definition you will have "women" with beards and penises. Not very descriptive.

    A better way to look at these issues is use labels that reflect the diversity of people and that doesn't discriminate. Poeple with XX chromosones could be said to be genetically female, but even this is unnecessary, we can just say they have whatever chromosones.

    "Sex" is a term that will often match the genetic distinction, but not necessarily always. Some people have both xx and xy chromosones. It mainly is used to refer to people based on reproductive anatomy. The problem is that there simply is no absolute dividing line.

    A better approach is to speak of people genetically in that context, xx, xy, or in between.

    When talking about reproductive anatomy, talk about the anatomy. E.g. Brian has a penis, low testosterone levels, and a hairless chest, but a deep voice. (Presuming this information is relevant to something!l) What is the need to assign sexual anatomy into a binary construct?

    But generally you can speak of people who are genetically male, female, and people who have male/female sexual anatomy or a mix. A more useful way of talking about sex is the sex assigned at birth rather than demanding some absolute binary distinction .

    Gender is also a very complex and fraught subject. It can effectively be discussed as gender identity and gender expression which may or may not bear an association to sex assigned at birth, genetics or stereotypes.

    There is a range of labels that are useful and I think we can generally defer to people's preferences. Male, female, cis male, cis female, transgender, two spirit, gender non binary, and more.

    While these labels are evolving and take practice to understand and apply to individuals, as do pronouns, they much better reflect people's lived experience and diminish the discrimination that has been marginalizing trans people for centuries.

    I just don't think this conflation of sex and gender and forcing them into only two labels reflects reality or is respectful.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I appreciate and fully support the desire to treat people as individuals and not reduce them to labels. On the other hand ...

      Categorization has an important role to play. To shift to a different context where this may be more obvious: I'm sure we could find edge cases that make it difficult to sort out exactly which animals are human and which are not. Nonetheless, I suspect you would agree that we would not be well served by treating this vaguely perceived boundary as if it were in fact a non-existent boundary. All our conceptions about human dignity and human rights would just ooze away if we didn't maintain that some sort of boundary exists. This doesn't mean we have to reduce each animal to its human / non-human classification, as if that were all that one could say about a given animal (*) But it does mean that in describing the rich complexity of each animal life, there is an important human / non-human dimension to be recognized.

      (*) Of relevance to the OP, I think it also doesn't mean that we need to be able to classify every last animal with absolute certainty. We can instead live with the uncertainty and err on the side of treating all edge cases as if they were human, just as we can perhaps err on the side of respecting subjective self-identification in objectively complex gender cases.

      • >To shift to a different context...

        No thanks, this context is fine. I don't find your analogy applicable .

        I'm all for having effective labels where appropriate, but the idea of categorizing all humans as simply make or female based on chromosomes will not work and is disrespectful of many people.

        I'm not saying remove all labels. I'm actually saying use more . I'm saying think about the context, and use the appropriate label. For example, o e individual may have xx chromosome and be called genetically female to a physician, and have undergone surgery and identify as trans man on a dating site, have a gender identity and expression as cis male. If you just label this person as a woman you will offend them and confuse many.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          It's a bit unfair to suggest that I would propose to "just label this person as a woman". As I think my previous comment makes clear, I'm all for describing the complexities of the person's life as richly as possible.

          the idea of categorizing all humans as simply make or female based on chromosomes will not work

          Normal people don't want to gratuitously offend others, but whether a statement causes offense shouldn't be the final determinant of whether that statement is made. For example, your comment seems to suggest (rightly, I would say) that it is O.K. to refer to someone as "genetically female" if their genotype is XX. But what if that XX person was offended by the designation "genetically female"? Would that label then become wrong? What if someone has diabetes but they take offense at being referred to as a diabetic? Should the doctor pretend that the person is not a diabetic, in order to avoid offense?

          • It's the difference in context. I'm not sure you and I disagree. This piece does it says we should discard anything other than a binary dustindisti if if man and woman and ignore the entire transgender population.

            A better analogy would be if you are dividing a group by race and place everyone in two categories white and dark. First I can't think of many good reasons for having these labels but worse this binary requirement does not capture the diversity of the group and is very offensive.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This piece does it says we should discard anything other than a binary [distinction?] if man and woman and ignore the entire transgender population.

            No, it does not say that. It says that the labels "man" and "woman" have objective meaning, and it proposes a way to make the objective meaning of the label more precise. The OP does not say or suggest that people should be reduced to the labels and categories that apply to them.

            Your solution, as you said yourself, is to come up with even more labels. I see that as a move in exactly the wrong direction if what we are trying to do is recognize and appreciate the infinite mystery of each person's existence. Take your hypothetical "genetically female, male-expressing, cis man". It seems to me that you are trying to encapsulate the totality of this person's sexual nature by situating him or her at the intersection of these abstract categories.

            Rather than trashing the traditional labels and replacing them with a bewilderment of new ones, why not work from the starting premise that people are not reducible to their labels. If we use that as a starting point, we will perhaps be less afraid to work with our traditional labels and to make the traditional meanings more precise.

          • >No, it does not say that. It says that the labels "man" and "woman" have objective meaning, and it proposes a way to make the objective meaning of the label more precise.

            Ok, well here is a problem, words simply do not have objective meanings they have usages.

            Using "woman" to describe a trans man based on their genetics is confusing and disrespectful to the trans man and cis women, and I would say just about everyone.

            If you want to be respectful you should use terms that reflect lived experience and identity.

            Again there is no room in the piece for a distinction between sex and gender or for trans people.

            The piece states it's exclusion of trans people expressly and relies on its linguistic and genetic distinction as a justification.

            >But having a coherent definition of “man” and “woman” does show why transgenderism is a non-starter.

            In other words if all we look to in terms of sex and gender is genetics an for all individuals we can place them only into "man" or "woman" and dismiss any other experience if sex and/or gender.

            This attempt to marginalize and erase trans people is disrespectful reinforces historic discrimination and oppression .

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Ok, well here is a problem, words simply do not have objective meanings they have usages.

            Good point and I agree. Though, that said, usages aren't infinitely malleable. I think one of the linguistic terms of art is "semantic range", which seems to usually be established through evolving but not discontinuous tradition.

            If you want to be respectful you should use terms that reflect lived experience and identity.

            I do want to be respectful, and I understand that involves an appreciation and acknowledgement of people's lived experiences. But subjective experience isn't the only thing that needs to be respected. It can in fact be a sign of disrespect when we don't challenge people with the objective truth because we don't think they can handle it.

            Moreover, I think you should be very hesitant to assume that your strategy amounts to respecting the interior experiences all transgender people. Does every transgender person agree that it is non-offensive to refer to his or her post-surgery phenotype as a "gender"? And you seem happy to use the cis / trans binary classification. Are there not individuals who would be offended by the implication that they must be all cis or all trans? Isn't the lived reality sometimes more complex than that, with people feeling who feel that their interior disposition sort of matches their birth sex but not entirely?

          • >It can in fact be a sign of disrespect when we don't challenge people with the objective truth because we don't think they can handle it.

            What objective truth are you referring to?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I was speaking in generalities in that context, in response to your general remark that to be respectful we should use terms that reflect lived experience.

            However, to get back to the specifics of sexuality: Let's say for example, that a person's sex chromosomes are XY. And suppose that person tells you that he is absolutely certain that there must be a mistake in the genetic testing, because his lived gender experience is 100% an "XX experience". He is tested again and again, with the same result. Should we just say, "that really is something that only you can decide, and if you want us to refer to you as XX, we will do that"?

          • No. I don't think anyone actually disputes genes are what they have .

            But the situation you describe us not believable. Who has ever asked to be described as XX, or says they have a xx lived experience.

            Lets talk about real situations.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            [ Detected on first pass as spam. Second attempt: ]

            I'm not entirely sure that's as unrealistic a scenario as you say, but let's assume you are correct.

            On the assumption that you are correct, we could safely make this conditional assertion:

            If the word "man" were understood to mean "a human with XY sex chromosomes" then XX "transgender men" would readily acknowledge that they are not in fact men. (Because such an acknowledgement would simply amount to an affirmation of one's XX genotype, and by your hypothesis most people don't deny the validity of their genetic tests. )

            What this should clarify is that the debate has nothing to do with failing to capture the complexities of lived experiences or being disrespectful, or perpetuating (real) historical injustices. The debate simply has to do with what the word "man" means.

            So then we are back to the traditional semantic range of the word "man". And I know that we do need to speak of a range of meanings, and that there is some ambiguity there. But I think it is fair to say that all of the meanings within that traditional semantic range were understood to correspond to a dimension of a person's being that was perduring and at least partly objective, and that all those meanings correlated strongly with (but were not equivalent to) phenotypes that we now understand to be associated with an XY genotype. Based on all that, it hardly seems outlandish or offensive to propose that the word "man" means something like "a human with XY sex chromosomes".

          • >If the word "man" were understood to mean "a human with XY sex chromosomes" then XX "transgender men" would readily acknowledge that they are not in fact men.

            Sure. But if that meant the only other option was to be identified as a "woman" the this would be incredibly disrespectful, not to mention confusing.

            >What this should clarify is that the debate has nothing to do with What this should clarify is that the debate has nothing to do with failing to capture the complexities of lived experiences or being disrespectful, or perpetuating (real) historical injustices. The debate simply has to do with what the word "man" means.

            And I'm saying you can't have a debate over the definitions of man and woman without engaging in the complexities of lived experiences or being disrespectful, or perpetuating (real) historical injustices.

            You don't get to say " I'm just defining men as people with xy chromosones and that's not controversial for trans men who don't have those chromosones, they aren't men, they're women."

            >traditional semantic range were understood to correspond to a dimension of a person's being that was perduring and at least partly objective, and that all those meanings correlated strongly with (but were not equivalent to) phenotypes that we now understand to be associated with an XY genotype.

            Agreed. And this traditional semantic range is problematic as it erases and marginalizes people for whom this binary approach to sex and gender is unworkable .

            >Based on all that, it hardly seems outlandish or offensive to propose that the word "man" means something like "a human with XY sex chromosomes".

            Not outlandish but defenitely offensive. Also innacurate irrespective of your position as some people have both sets of chromosomes.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sure. But if that meant the only other option was to be identified as a "woman" the this would be incredibly disrespectful, not to mention confusing.

            But again, it's not like you would just identify someone as a woman and that's that, nothing more to be said. You could say (assuming one knew all these details; in general none of this would be any of our business anyway) things like: "She is technically a woman but it is complicated. She has gender dysphoria and she made the very understandable decision to undergo surgery and hormone therapy. And she finds it psychically painful to be referred to as 'her', so please refer to her as 'him' ... and she writes the most interesting short stories and loves chocolate chip ice cream and used to have a dog named Moppsie, etc, etc. "

            this traditional semantic range is problematic as it erases and marginalizes people for whom this binary approach to sex and gender is unworkable.

            I don't see how it erases anyone, because again, nothing prevents you from telling each person's story in as much complexity as you understand.

            By the way, I appreciate you engaging me patiently on all this. I believe that you wrote at some point that you work a lot with transgender people, and your compassion for your friends/clients comes through in what you write. I don't know any transgender people personally (so far as I'm aware), so I am learning from this and thinking things through more carefully than I otherwise would.

          • Thanks Jim, I think you've shown great respect and care in your comments.

            I learn about this topic for my work. Just a couple big things worth considering. One is what different ways to look at this larger topic, genes, anatomy, sex, and gender. Then consider what circumstances it's necessary to know information about each if the above characteristics.

  • David Nickol

    The question is, "Just What Are Men and Women, Anyway?" The evolving answer here appears to be, "Men are human beings who are genetically XY, and women are human beings who are genetically XX, but only as long as the XY and XX chromosomes function "normally" and result in a "normal" XY man or XX woman.

    The only way to determine if the XY or XX chromosomes have functioned "normally" is to look at the resultant human being and decide whether he or she is of "normal" gender. So the presence of the XY chromosomes cannot, in and of itself, answer the question of whether an individual is a man, and the presence of the XX chromosomes cannot, in and of itself, answer the question of whether an individual is a woman.

    It seems to me the answer given here to, "Just what are men and women, anyway?" is a little bit like answering the question, "What is an elephant?" by saying it is an organism that has all the genes and chromosomes of an elephant, normally developed. Or perhaps answering, "What does it mean for a man to have blue eyes?" by saying it means the man has the genes for blue eyes, and those genes express normally.

    • OMG

      This is a good summation of the discussion. We discussed and debated expressions of maleness or femaleness. We broadly side-tracked to whether individuals with certain expressions (due to genetic mutations) could, should or would and could should or would marry, be accepted for Catholic ordination, etc. We focused on the rare cases where expression of 'XY' secondary sexual characteristics and/or genitalia differed from the statistical 'norm' of such XY expression? (Norm is a neutral term not laden with judgment as in 'abnormal' or 'atypical.' )

      Heschmeyer suggested--in points I.3 and I.4--that looking at hormonal or genital expressions of maleness or femaleness were incorrect answers to the question.

      Heschmeyer's question was, "...what it is that makes all men unlike all women." Heschmeyer answered for the 'norm.'

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This sounds like a pretty useful explanation that would cover the vast majority of human beings. I suspect that we will always be left with some examples which are inherently problematic.

      As St. Thomas says in his Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 23, "Nature always tends to one thing, and therefore things that come from nature always come in the same way, unless they are impeded, which is infrequent."

  • I can accept that reasonable, intelligent people of goodwill can disagree with me in good faith about the vast majority of issues. Transgenderism is not one of them. A man who thinks or feels he is a woman is objectively wrong. Likewise for a woman who thinks or feels she is a man. Those who argue otherwise have about as much intellectual credibility as flat-earthers.

    • Michael Murray

      I'm not sure that the comparison with flat-earthers works. I would think that was a case of judging the available evidence differently.

      What we know about the mind seems to show that it's quite possible to have a serious mismatch between what a person feels inside and what external reality is telling them. Here is an example of people who are blind but deny it

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton%E2%80%93Babinski_syndrome

      These people are objectively wrong but I don't think that is because they have assessed all the evidence as to their possible blindness and come to the wrong conclusion. I don't think that showing them they are blind will change how they feel inside.

      • OMG

        Interesting. Wikipedia claims that Anton-Babinski syndrome "...is a rare symptom of brain damage occurring in the occipital lobe."

        How are those with Anton-Babinski similar to those whose genetics, sexual organs, and hormones are XY but who claim the female gender identity? If medical science pinpointed a similar cause or area of the brain responsible for gender confusion, would those affected with the condition accept the label?, Would a cause of 'brain-damage' frighten and offend?, or Would we hear sighs of relief at understanding?

        • Michael Murray

          Both groups of people appear to have a genuine mismatch between what they feel about reality and how reality actually is. That was the only point of my comparison. What the cause is I've no idea.

          The only person I've ever met for more than a few minutes who I later heard had changed from male to female gender was reportedly raised by parents who wanted a girl and raised them as one until they went to school.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Have we all forgotten the basic biological facts of asexual and sexual reproduction?

    Biology isn't based on what God did in Genesis, but on the basic fact that species who reproduce sexually divide into male and female and that the evolutionary purpose of this division is presumed to have survival value for the species -- and the species survives through reproduction.

    Thus, male and female are essentially divided as essential complements to the process of reproduction. They are not mere figments of someone's imagination and their objective respective roles are understood in terms of normal physiological organs and tendencies that achieve reproduction. Any deviation from these roles is usually discerned by medical science in terms of pathology.

    Thus, male and female are objective biological realities quite aside from any personal whims or proclivities of the individuals who express these realities.

    Should we find a biological cause which makes someone subjectively identify with the opposite sex, this aberrant drive is not a sign of its normalcy, but of its pathological nature. By definition, psychosis is a mental state in which a person cannot tell the difference between his delusions and objective reality.

    If I am a human being who is convinced, for whatever reason, that I am actually a hamburger, the question is do you put ketchup on me or hand me an Abilify?

    • David Nickol

      I find this offensive.

      Let us not forget that we are discussing issues here such as genetic anomalies or "gender dysphoria" that affect real people, often causing them great hardship and mental and physical suffering. No small part of their problems are because people who consider themselves "normal" fail (or simply refuse) to treat people whom they consider "not normal" because of so-called pathologies with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

      Individuals with genetic anomalies that affect their primary and secondary sexual characteristics are in no way psychotic, and people who find their gender identity at odds with their physical gender are also most definitely not psychotic and would not benefit from antipsychotic drugs. In fact, gender identity and gender dysphoria are far from being understood, and there is no agreed-upon course of psychotherapy or drug therapy to "cure" gender dysphoria.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I think there are two different things going on here. First, you have those who are in genuine intersex states and whose condition may even be so confusing as to render objective judgment as to their actual sexual identity problematic. In no way did I say that they should be treated otherwise than as persons deserving the fullest compassion and respect. Nonetheless, it would be a disservice both to them and to the truth not to recognize that these conditions constitute medical pathology, that is, something has gone wrong biologically.

        Second, we do have those who fall into the category in which their objective biological sex is not questionable, but who are convinced, either for biological or psychological reasons, that they actually belong to the other sex. I am not suggesting that these persons should be treated without compassion. But truth is truth, and their biological sex is not in question. There are psychological conditions in which, I understand, some would demand that surgery be performed to remove a healthy limb. This is not ethically permitted, since it is clear mutilation that cannot be justified under the principle of double effect. So, too, sex change operations, in my judgment, can be argued to fall under the same category.

        You may not appreciate the humor of my analogy, but the underlying truth is still conveyed. Compassionate treatment is indicated, but it is strongly arguable that surgical transformation into the opposite sex is problematic. I did not say to give those requesting sex change operations antipsychotic drugs -- any more than I would literally suggest putting ketchup on them. You misconstrue the terms of the analogy. It was simply a way of saying that some other method of handling the situation is needed than simply agreeing with the person that he is the wrong biological sex, which is clearly not the case.

        • David Nickol

          I did not say to give those requesting sex change operations antipsychotic drugs -- any more than I would literally suggest putting ketchup on them. You misconstrue the terms of the analogy.

          I would point out that earlier in your post, you said the following:

          By definition, psychosis is a mental state in which a person cannot tell the difference between his delusions and objective reality.

          None of the conditions under discussion here can be classified as psychosis, not even cases in which an individual believes he or she has a limb that is alien and desperately wants it to be amputated.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you look above to my reply to Brian, you will see this:

            "Regarding transgender persons, I realize that they know the biological sex of their bodies. You make a good point about them not necessarily being psychotic at all in that regard. In most cases, my statement might well not apply, and you make a legitimate point."

            This is a very controversial topic today, but the requirements of the principle of double effect needed to be met in order to justify a sex-change operation are daunting, especially since the surgical change remains at a relatively superficial and palliative level, so that the actual biological sex of the person has not really been altered.

            I am not trying to open up the huge amount of ethical analysis needed to do justice to this topic here, especially since the topic of the OP was merely about the difference between male and female.

    • Raymond

      So if science were to devise a surgical procedure that would change a person's sex organs AND enable those organs to function for procreation - that would be acceptable to the Church?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I cannot speak for the Church.

        Still, operations are performed to perfect and repair nature, not reverse a perfectly functioning body of a clear sexual type. A person's subjective psychological conviction that they are "in the wrong body" would appear to indicate a pathology somewhere else than in the perfectly normal body itself.

    • >Thus, male and female are objective biological realities quite aside from any personal whims or proclivities of the individuals who express these realities.

      Yes, but this description is underinclusive, even in a strictly biological sense as it fails to account for intersex individuals, or those who have both xx and xy chromosones .

      But the issue is not one in biology it is a social, psychological, and legal issue. your statements address only biological sex, and not gender at all.

      > By definition, psychosis is a mental state in which a person cannot tell the difference between his delusions and objective reality.

      Ok, but transgender people are not delusional they don't think they have organs and chromosomes they do not have. They have a gender identity that does not fall within traditional binary understandings of gender and which may differ from their sex assigned at birth .

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Please see my reply to David Nichol below with respect to intersex states, which are authentically biologically problematic.

        Regarding transgender persons, I realize that they know the biological sex of their bodies. You make a good point about them not necessarily being psychotic at all in that regard. In most cases, my statement might well not apply, and you make a legitimate point.

        Still, the point of my last paragraph was simply to indicate that the proper response to the transgender claim may not be massive mutilation of the body, but an alternate therapeutic route. When considering what is compassionate treatment here, it helps to look up exactly what had to be done in order to execute a complete sex change operation. It appears that many males hesitate to complete what is surgically needed.

        • You make the mistake of medicalizing this too much.

          Again, the error here is conflating genetics, anatomy, sex, and gender. Each have different dimensions and different terminology is helpful.

          >Transgender claim may not be massive mutilation of the body, but an alternate therapeutic route.

          Transgender "claims" neither require mutilation nor therapy. They just require respect and understanding.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just noticed in one of Jim (hillclimber)'s comments that you work with transgender people and want to say that I respect the dedication and sensitivity to their concerns that you show for that reason.

            Words are not sacrosanct and do serve different functions in different settings, as you rightly point out.

            And I concede that all persons are deserving of respect and understanding, especially if they are facing special social challenges not of their making.

            There are ethical dimensions to this whole subject which I could address, but that would take us away from the topic of what constitutes men and women.

          • Thanks for saying that. It's an issue that is still evolving. Worth taking a bit of a deep dive from the perspective of trans people with an open mind .

    • OMG

      I would give you both. Since I don't like ketchup, I'd order fish. No offense. :)

  • David Nickol

    Without getting into the issue of transgender persons, and dealing only with genetic variations, one could say a man is a human being who is genetically XY and/or has masculine primary and secondary sex characteristics, and a woman is a human being who is genetically XX and/or has feminine primary and secondary sex characteristics. This solves the problem of claiming that some men have breasts and vaginas (CAIS individuals) and some women have penises (XX males). This combines modern genetic findings with the common-sense judgment used from the dawn of humanity to 1905 (the year of discovery of genetic sex determination).

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This sounds pretty good, except that the conjunctive alternation of the "or" in each formula effectively makes the definition useless in those cases in which the primary and secondary sex characteristics contradict the genetic information. Those are precisely the cases that are problematic in that one would like to have a clear cut method of determination.

      But, by your definitions, if a person has XX genetic information, but male genitalia, you could define him as female because of the XX or as male because of the genitalia. Conversely, a person with XY genetics and female sex characteristics could be defined as male because of the XY, but female because of the female sex characteristics.

      Does this not make your definitions effectively completely useless?

      • David Nickol

        But, by your definitions, if a person has XX genetic information, but male genitalia, you could define him as female because of the XX or as male because of the genitalia.

        Don't try to confuse me this late at night! :P Have I misunderstood and/or?

        What I am saying is a person who is XX and has female primary/secondary sex characteristics would be a female, while a person who is XX and has male primary/secondary sex characteristics is a male. In other words, practically speaking, it would be primary and secondary sex characteristics that would be used to tell men from women, although you would rarely go wrong going by XX or XY alone. This is the way gender was necessarily determined until 1905, and for almost all practical purposes, is determined today.

        I can only imagine the hue and cry if the Heschmeyer rule were put into effect, and chromosomes were used to segregate males from females in places like public bathrooms and locker rooms. Who would want to explain to both students and parents that some of the girls in the girls' locker room would have penises, while some of the boys in the boys' locker room would have vaginas (and at puberty) developing breasts?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          When you used the "and/or" term, you made me think back to my grad school over half a century ago and what we learned in symbolic logic.

          There are two kind of "or" alternations: inclusive and exclusive. Inclusive is taken from the Latin "vel ... vel," meaning either one or the other or both. Exclusive is from the Latin "aut ... aut," meaning either one or the other, but NOT both.

          The expression, "and/or" is the inclusive alternation -- so that if a person were XX with male secondary characteristics, they could be both male and female at once, since either side of the equation could determine the sex!

          Clearly, you did not intend that. But when you clear the logic up, you no longer can claim to solve the CAIS type problem, since both criteria are met in that case.

          I am afraid you will simply have to allow that CAIS type problems remain in the intersex category for which there is no simple solution.

          What remains is what we have always employed, namely secondary sex characteristics that are clear. If they are unclear, we have an intersex state, and it remains a problem for which I, at least, have no immediate solution.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for this!

            I am now worried about anything I have ever written that had and/or in it and whether I used it correctly.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I'm sorry. I apologize for clarifying it. :(

          • David Nickol

            No need to apologize. Being wrong once every few years keeps me humble!

  • David Nickol

    I think that no one can say with any degree of certainty at the moment, but it seems quite possible to me that a genetic XY male who feels he is "a woman trapped in a man's body," or a genetic XX female who feels she is "a man trapped in a woman's body" may have the body of one gender with the "brain" (to vastly oversimplify) of the opposite gender. In other words, there may be a biological basis for "gender dysphoria," and the person experiencing it may be accurately reporting a biologically based mismatch between a "brain" that is one gender and a body that is another.

    If this is indeed the case, and there is no proof that it is not, the transgender person is most definitely not "delusional," nor is there likely to be any effective method of psychotherapy (or other kind of therapy) that will undo the biological/psychological sense of gender.

    Anyone who has read a book of case histories by Oliver Sacks (for example, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) will be aware that there are neurological conditions with much more bizarre effects than causing a person to identify with a gender not reflected by his or her own body.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      But now you are talking about cases in which the genetic information and the primary and secondary sex characteristics do coincide, which places the individual clearly, even by your own definitions, in a single biological sex.

      While it is possible that there is a brain function that causes the person to be convinced that he belongs to the opposite sex, as you indicate yourself, we are not presently in a position to say that this is certainly true. And, even if the brain is causing this, does this not simply present an intersex state of sorts?

      Moreover, we now must confront the ethical, medical, and societal questions as to what to do about it, if anything, in addition to being compassionate and understanding of the anguish caused to the individual experiencing this serious anomaly?

      • David Nickol

        While it is possible that there is a brain function that causes the person to be convinced that he belongs to the opposite sex, as you indicate yourself, we are not presently in a position to say that this is certainly true.

        We are not in a position to say it is certainly true, but we are not in a position to say it is false, either.

        And, even if the brain is causing this, does this not simply present an intersex state of sorts?

        Yes, sure. But it would mean that the person experiencing gender dysphoria is not delusional. If gender identity is genetic or heavily influence by genetics, then a person whose gender identity does not match his or her primary and secondary sex characteristics has a mind or brain (to vastly oversimplify) that is truly one gender and a body that is the opposite gender. I don't like the word pathology, but sure, something had to go "wrong," since the "normal" course of development would be for gender identity and primary/secondary sex characteristics to be of the same gender.

        I wish I could remember a clear example, but back when I was reading case histories by Oliver Sacks (the neurologist), it became clear to me that many human functions (such as vision) which seem unitary (if that is the correct word) actually function with many separate capacities working in harmony, and if one of those capacities fails, the results can be bizarre. For example, I remember the case of someone who could write but could not read. As I recall, Sacks himself could see perfectly well, but he could not recognize faces. Wikipedia tells us of this neurological disorder:

        Akinetopsia (Greek: a for "without", kine for "to move" and opsia for "seeing"), also known as cerebral akinetopsia or motion blindness, is a neuropsychological disorder in which a patient cannot perceive motion in their visual field, despite being able to see stationary objects without issue. There are varying degrees of akinetopsia: from seeing motion as a cinema reel to an inability to discriminate any motion. There is currently no effective treatment or cure for akinetopsia.

        Nobody really understands gender identity and gender dysphoria. Why should we expect gender identity to be as simple as looking down at one's body and saying, "I have a penis, so I am a man," let alone saying, "I am XY, so I feel like a man," or "I am XX, so I feel like a woman."

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I can understand your concern that persons who think that they are the opposite sex are not delusional about their own bodies sexual characteristics. On the other hand, the conviction that one is a "man trapped in a woman's body" or vice versa is an ontological claim about the substantial sex of oneself -- and thus raises the question as to whether it adequately corresponds to reality. If it does not, then I fear that there is no other word for that conviction than "delusional."

          I think we would both agree by now that this is a highly difficult topic, at the very least. As a Thomistic philosopher, I would have to insist on the substantial unity of the living person -- body and soul. As such, it seems one would have to really be either male or female -- assuming there is nothing wrong (no pathology?) in the living substance.

          The problem is that it is debatable whether sex is a property or per se accident of the organism, or, is it simply a quality or accident that is not essentially connected to the person. Moreover, that the material part of the human being can be defective is inherent in our corruptible material bodies.

          I think we all need to approach this topic with a great deal of caution, but I can see that even with the greatest caution and sensitivity, it is still a daunting task to resolve all aspects of the subject -- both theoretical and, even more so, at the practical level.

          You probably won't like some aspects the following reference, but it was released only after very careful study of the complexities of transgender problems. It is a Vatican decision made in 2002: https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican-says-sex-change-operation-does-not-change-persons-gender

        • OMG

          Sacks' well-written, provocative, enlightening and engaging book can be accessed online.

          While science could perhaps show structural brain change correlating to subjective experiences of gender mismatch, it cannot show which is cause and which is effect. In other words, thinking about mismatch could lead to the change in brain structure.

          • David Nickol

            First, we must admit that at the moment, so little is known about the biological basis of gender identity (if any) that we are working with almost no data. So I think your statement about cause and effect must always be considered as a possibility. But I don't see how you can predict with certainty that there will never be found in the human brain anything having to do with gender identity that is an effect of behavior rather than an influence or a cause. This would be particularly true if differences in brain structure can be found in very early infancy or even in the embryonic stage. Certainly you would not claim that there are no known brain states that can be shown to be causes and must always be considered effects.

          • OMG

            We do know that every cell within every brain structure contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Every cell of every structure of every person's brain contains an XX or XY within its nucleus. Therefore, an individual whose gender mind does not agree with his gender body must contend with evidence evinced by every cell in his body and brain. Not to say that things don't ever go wrong. I never say never.

          • David Nickol

            Here's a little snippet from an article: "However, some individuals carry a Y chromosome but are phenotypically female (46,XY females) or have a female karyotype but are phenotypically male (46,XX males)."

            So the 46,XY female has a vagina (and at puberty, develops breasts) made up of cells with XY chromosomes, and the 46,XX male has a penis made up of cells with XX chromosomes. Can a vagina really be made up of "masculine cells" and a penis be made up of "feminine cells"?

            The following seems to me to be a key point: It is not enough for genes just to be present. They must be expressed. Individual cells are not really male and female. Only an entire human organism is male or female. Any human being has thousands of genes that are not expressed (for example, no recessive gene will be expressed if it is paired with a dominant gene). If a person has a gene for curly hair and a gene for straight hair, he or she will have curly hair, since the gene for curly hair is dominant (or so some sources say, in any case). So a person with curly hair may have a gene for straight hair, only the gene for curly hair is expressed. The person does not have both straight and curly hair.

            A person may have a "male" genotype but a "female" phenotype. Or a person may have a "female" genotype and a "male" phenotype. A child of a tall mother and a tall father may have "tall genes," but if he or she is undernourished (to take one example) the result may be a short person. We don't look at the genotype and claim a short person with "tall genes" is actually tall. We look at the phenotype to describe the person, not the genotype.

          • Alexandra

            Regarding the 46,XX male, it is not an example of: "while a person who is XX and has male primary/secondary sex characteristics...",

            In order to produce male genetalia (even if underdeveloped), you need a Y chromosome or a fragment of the Y chromosome.
            So the 46,XX male cells do contain the Y chromosome (a fragment).People with this condition do not have two X chromosomes (like the female genotype), as I think you are suggesting. They have an X chromosome, and an " X/Y" chromosome (produced through recombination.) An incomplete X chromosome with an attached Y fragment.

            There's a small subset of 46,XX condition that produces ambiguous genatalia, whose genetic mechanism is unknown, and it's unknown if the Y chromosome may or may not be involved. However, they are not phenotypically male, i.e. that they fully appear "male".

            So far I cannot find an example where someone has an XX (female) genotype with male phenotype.

            Edited: added sentence

          • David Nickol

            Hi, Alexandra. You visit us too infrequently!

            So far I cannot find an example where someone has an XX (female) genotype with male phenotype.

            Check out the paper titled XX males without SRY gene and with infertility: Case report or do a Google search for "SRY negative male."

            But even setting aside the reports of SRY-negative 46,XX males, it seems to me you have to argue that in all the other reports of 46,XX males, one of the X chromosomes is not really an X chromosome, and explain why it is nevertheless identified as an X chromosome in the literature. Or I suppose you could argue that 46,XX males are not really male.

            The assertion we are debating, from the OP, is as follows:

            The essential distinction between men and women is genetic. All men have a Y chromosome (typically XY, although in some cases XXY or XYY), and no women have Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans.

            And yet we have reports of XX males and XY females. So the assertion from the OP is false.

          • Alexandra

            Hi David, finally got back to this!

            You visit us too infrequently!

            Aw, thanks, that's kind of you to say.

            First, the usefulness of Joe's Rule:

            The essential distinction between men and women is genetic.  All men have a Y chromosome (typically XY, although in some cases XXY or XYY), and no women have Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans.

            This rule applies to the majority of the billions of humans that exist and have ever existed, so much so that we can even genotype Egyptian mummies to determine their sex. The phenotypes that we recognize as differences in male and female does have a basis in the underlying genetics. So I don't need to do a genetic test to know I'm female, but my being female is due to not having any Y chromosomes. I am female because I inherited my father's X chromosome and not his Y chromosome. You are male because you inherited your father's Y chromosome.  
            Yes, there are some rare genetic exceptions-but which are identifiable as something phenotypically (developmentally), different from the norm. 

            As to your objection, - with a small modification, we have a universal rule that includes intersex cases. Modification in bold:

            "The essential distinction between men and women is genetic.  All men have a Y chromosome (typically XY, although in some cases XXY or XYY), and no women have active Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans."

            There are very few truly universal rules in biology. For example, we say all humans breathe air. But humans in the womb do not.
            Nevertheless, "humans breathe air" is still understood as a good biological rule. But in biology, exceptions to rules are understood. They occur all the time.

            Since there is a possibility to find an exception to the rule even as modified, (although scientifically no case has yet been shown to exist), we can rephrase the rule to not include cases of intersex. Thus:

            (Modification in bold.)
            "The essential distinction between men and women is genetic.  All naturally fertile men have a Y chromosome, and no fertile women have Y chromosomes. In other words, men are adult male humans and women are adult female humans.",  - something like that.

            In other words, Joe's Rule is a very good starting point to  address this complex issue.
            And the distinction between man and woman is fundamentally biological. Do you agree that it's biological?

            ______
            As to the intersex genetics:

            Thank you for the link and suggestion. It was incredibly useful
            to me.

            As to the example link you gave of an XX male Sry negative with normal male anatomy:
            First, XX SRY- males are infertile, thus not the normal male phenotype. (Normal male phenotype includes ability to produce sperm.) Second, that they aren't expressing the Y chromosome has not been ruled out. Scientifically, absence of detection (of the Y chromosome), does not automatically mean absence .
            For example, there has been a case found of a XX male genetic mosaicism (Thus only a subset of their cells contained the Y chromosome genetic material). It was discovered that even though they are categorized clinically as XX, they had and expressed the Y chromosome in a subset of cells. They would fall into the category of XX SRY- male had the right cells not been analyzed. The Y chromosome expression in a portion of their cells conferred the male phenotype, even though genetically for most of their cells, they are XX.

            But let's say for the sake of discussion a true XX male, with no Y chromosome at all, is scientifically determined. (Interestingly, there is a theoretical biological possibility that this can occur, since the genes downstream of the SRY pathway are on autosomal chromosomes). They will still be infertile- thus, phenotypically identifiable as different from the norm; as with all the other intersex cases. Thus, it would not undermine Joe's rule since it would be understood as a biological exception.

          • Alexandra

            You said:
            "it seems to me you have to argue that in all the other reports of 46,XX males, one of the X chromosomes is not really an X chromosome, and explain why it is nevertheless identified as an X chromosome in the literature."

            My guess:

            This is what the karyotype looks like: karyotype
            (Or google "karyotype image.")

            Note in the karyotype, the size of the X chromosomes compared to Y. In recombination, a fragment of the Y chromosome breaks off and combines with the X chromosome. The Y- fragment will be very small by comparison.

            The SRY negative or positive labels are there to indicate that we are not necessarily dealing with two normal X chromosomes.
            Also, since the genetic identification is done through chromosome karyotyping, further analysis, beyond the staining, is typically needed to identify the Y chromosome portion.
            This is because the X chromosomes is so much bigger than a Y chromosome, when the recombination of the two chromosomes occur, it will look, under the chromosome stain, like an X chromosome. (Or with whichever chromosome the recombination occured.) The Y fragment is so itty bitty, it's hard to see compared to the X chromosome. So you basically see and identify it (clinically) as the X chromosome, since it is the majority of the genetic material.
            However, a scientific test is then done, such as the PCR test (for the SRY gene)is done to establish the Y fragments existence; because there has to be a Y fragment somewhere (or mimicry of the fragment like our theoretical case of a true XX male) if you're getting a male phenotype.

            Because Y chromosome genetics determines male from female. :)
            And because men have itty bitty chromosomes compared to women. ;)

        • Michael Murray

          But it would mean that the person experiencing gender dysphoria is not delusional.

          What would delusional mean in this context ? Are you thinking there might be people who if you measured their brain gender (whatever that means!) it might match their body gender and so they are holding the opposite belief for some other reason.

          • David Nickol

            I think the word delusional is inappropriate in this discussion. Transgender individuals are well aware that their gender identity is in conflict with their physical bodies. To say one is a "female trapped in a male body" is a metaphor, not some kind of "ontological" statement. It is a matter of feelings. No one really knows how gender identity is determined, so it seems to me nobody can really say that a person with "gender dysphoria" is delusional. If you are physically male and feel you would be more at ease and more comfortable as a female (or the other way around), I don't see how that is being delusional. Some may express it verbally in a way that runs afoul of this or that philosophical view of reality. But that just means the explanation of it can be argued with. It doesn't mean the person is delusional in the psychiatric sense. I think changes in the DSM as it evolved took it from gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria. I suppose some would think that was for political correctness, but it seems to me to be more accurate.

            By the way, it was interesting in Altered Carbon how, when some people got new "sleeves," they changed genders. If I remember correctly, there was a husband and wife couple who both wound up as two men, and they seemed to see past the gender of the sleeves to their original attachment.

        • Michael Murray

          Why should we expect gender identity to be as simple as looking down at one's body and saying, "I have a penis, so I am a man,"

          In fact that would be a serious surprise given what we know about some mental health issues. Many phobias and anxieties could be eliminated overnight if mental states updated automatically to match reality.

          • David Nickol

            Good point. And we also know that people without mental health issues, probably for very good psychological reasons, are not fully in touch with "reality." For example, the majority of drivers rate themselves "above average." Mathematically, it can't be true. The rate of small-business failure is rather high, but each person who starts a small business must clearly be convinced he or she will beat the odds.

            I have quoted this excerpt from a book review of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives on Amazon.com many times:

            Begin with self-awareness, [Cordelia] Fine says, then manage the distortions as best one can. We owe it to ourselves "to lessen the harmful effects of the brain’s various shams," she adds, while admitting that applying this lesson to others is easier than to oneself. Ironically, one category of persons shows that it is possible to view life through a clearer lens. "Their self-perceptions are more balanced, they assign responsibility for success and failure more even-handedly, and their predictions for the future are more realistic. These people are living testimony to the dangers of self-knowledge," Fine asserts. "They are the clinically depressed."

  • Sample1

    ...transgenderism is a non-starter. What I mean is this. If the claim were just “I’m a man who likes feminine things,” that would be a coherent idea. But if a biological male claims to be a woman, what does that person mean by “woman”? They can’t mean that a biological male is biologically female, because that doesn’t make sense.

    This article does not adequately distinguish the differences between the words sex and gender. Because of that we get an instant zstrawperson: someone who says I am biologically/genetically male, a trans female and now also biologically/genetically female.

    So there’s something a bit deceptive in all this.

    Yes, yes there is. And I know why.

    Mike

    • Rob Abney

      It looks like a straw man argument from a dualist perspective but I’ve yet to hear a definition of gender that doesn’t include sex.

      • Sample1

        Thousands of Polynesian boys are singled out by their parents to be socially raised as girls. They are known as Fa’afafine. This is particularly prevalent when a family has no genetic daughters. Some boys embrace the conditioning into adulthood. I see a few locally. I also know one retired Coastguardsman who is now trans female.

        Do you think this is sinful? If yes, explain if harm is always present. If not, what is the big deal?

        Mike

        • Rob Abney

          There are too many variables involved for any speculation about sinfulness, but it is harmful to separate the body from the spirit- that always results in death.
          Have you ever considered asking the trans coastguardsman out on a date? That will tell more about your true belief about it being a big deal or not.

          • Sample1

            I really don’t get you Rob. We think so differently.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            It's difficult to communicate in comment boxes.
            I asked if the trans person was a potential date to try to get to your true beliefs. Similarly, a few weeks ago you were expressing that animals are friends. I'm curious if your actual actions line up with your compassionate words, and I'm not judging you based upon inconsistencies between your words and deeds since we all have inconsistencies. I enjoy our dialogue because it challenges me to examine my thinking.
            I only asked about the dating potential since I know you are single and have expressed a desire to date a lot. Maybe your reason for not dating the person has nothing to do with her transsexuality, if so then that topic is not pertinent.

          • David Nickol

            Have you ever considered asking the trans coastguardsman out on a date? That will tell more about your true belief about it being a big deal or not.

            Are you saying this because you yourself have negative feelings about transgender individuals, and you assume others do to? You seem to be implying, "You wouldn't really accept (or maybe have sex with?) a transgender person, because I sure wouldn't!"

          • Rob Abney

            No, I didn't say or imply any such sentiment. I consider transgender individuals to be Temples of the Holy Ghost just as Flannery O'Connor does.

      • It involves sex but is not the same as sex.

        I would define someone's sex as being based on their reproductive anatomy. An even more accurate term is "sex assigned at birth"

        Gender identity refers to an individual's sincere identity of gender which is their identification with roles, conduct, norms, traditionally associated with a binary understanding of sex.

        Gender expression is how an individual expresses gender to others.

        So you could have someone with XY chromosones only, so the genetics of "male", with typically male reproductive organs a penis and testicles, but whose gender identity is non-binary, but who may express as gender cis-female. And their pronouns are them and their .

        The circumstances one would ever need to know or label these are very narrow. But if you do, the above labels can capture this individual much better than just saying "man" which looking and interacting with the individual is absurd, and disrespectful.

        • Rob Abney

          It's not possible to discuss gender without referring to sex, all of your definitions demonstrate that.
          Your term "gender expression" seems to be more about eliminating barriers of traditional society, making men and women's roles interchangeable. That's fine except there are some specific reproductive actions that can only be done by a male or a female and are not interchangeable.
          I don't agree that it is disrespectful to look at someone and call him a man, the only classification more basic than that is to call him a human. I do admit that it would be awkward to assume someone is a man only to be told "no, I'm actually a woman".
          Who would you consider to be disrespectful if a man expressing himself as a woman befriended another woman and only revealed his true anatomy when they went into the shower at the gym?

          • >It's not possible to discuss gender without referring to sex, all of your definitions demonstrate that.

            More or less, but that isn't the point the point is they are not the same .

            >Your term "gender expression" seems to be more about eliminating barriers of traditional society, making men and women's roles interchangeable.

            No. There is a need for this term to describe the different things people are talking about. The most formal use of these terms comes from recognizing them as grounds to support claims of human rights violations.

            >except there are some specific reproductive actions that can only be done by a male or a female and are not interchangeable.

            Sure and these are sexual but not gender issues. Similarly there are gender issues that have nothing to do with reproductive anatomy.

            >I don't agree that it is disrespectful to look at someone and call him a man,

            Depends on the circumstances. If the individual is a trans woman it would be very disrespectful if you had just hired them and said "you are a man start acting and dressing like it"

            >Who would you consider to be disrespectful if a man expressing himself as a woman befriended another woman and only revealed his true anatomy when they went into the shower at the gym?

            No I don't see anything disrespectful there.

          • On reflection if in the circumstances one person believed the other would not know the other had a penis and they were about to get naked together and could reasonably think the other would be shocked or upset at this being revealed without notice, I think it would be respectful to give a heads up. I would tend to guess that it would be unlikely the friends would get to that point, but given people's hang ups about sexual anatomy I think it makes sense.

          • Rob Abney

            I replied before seeing your additional reflection.
            Would it be accurate to say that you would be in favor of replacing the terms “man” and “woman” with the terms “person with a penis” and “person with a vagina”?

          • No. My dispute is with conflating sex and gender and making them binary .

          • Rob Abney

            Would you say that sex is objective for the most part but that gender is subjective because it is based on how someone is acting?

          • The existence of sex organs and hormones and genes are objective facts and our assignment ofa sex based on them is somewhat objective.

            Gender identity is a subjective experience related to how an individual engages with their anatomy and gender stereotypes. Gender expression is the way someone plays gender in conduct and aesthetics, and is pretty subjective too.

            Similar to cultural or religious identity or even racial identity.

          • Rob Abney

            You are not very consistent in your assessment of what constitutes disrespectful behavior. You consider it disrespectful If I have just hired someone, and I thought he was a man by saying, essentially, I thought you were a man when I hired you. And yet conversely you consider it not to be disrespectful for a trans person to reveal male genitalia to a female friend without warning when the female friend would essentially say, I thought you were a woman when I shared this locker room with you. What criteria do you use to judge those situations in such contrast?

          • See my reflection below. Repeated here.

            On reflection if in the circumstances one person believed the other would not know the other had a penis and they were about to get naked together and could reasonably think the other would be shocked or upset at this being revealed without notice, I think it would be respectful to give a heads up. I would tend to guess that it would be unlikely the friends would get to that point, but given people's hang ups about sexual anatomy I think it makes sense.

            Are we now onto just criticizing my assessment of what is disrespectful? My feeling that it would not be disrespectful is that no one should be ashamed or shocked by someone else's anatomy. I don't see why anybody showering should be looking at others genitals and if the facility allows trans women in a shared shower and these two are using it, and the issue has never come up, I honestly don't think there should be a problem.

            But this is miles from the issue. I take it you've accepted my view on labelling? If not why aren't you raising that issue instead of this implausible hypothetical?

          • Rob Abney

            See my reply to your reflection, our comments are out of sync!

        • Phil

          Gender identity refers to an individual's sincere identity of gender which is their identification with roles, conduct, norms, traditionally associated with a binary understanding of sex.

          Gender expression is how an individual expresses gender to others.

          So you could have someone with XY chromosones only, so the genetics of "male", with typically male reproductive organs a penis and testicles, but whose gender identity is non-binary, but who may express as gender cis-female. And their pronouns are them and their

          In this case, gender is really something arbitrary and made up and has no real meaning whatsoever. There are really as many "genders" as there are people since each person expresses themself uniquely when considered as a whole person.

          This would make someone claiming to have a certain non-conforming "racial identity" perfectly reasonable. ("Racial identity" is even less tied to biology than gender/sex is, so having a non-conforming racial identity would be even more reasonable than a non-conforming gender identity.)

          And I don't know if that is something you'd think is also rational.

          • >In this case, gender is really something arbitrary and made up and has no real meaning whatsoever.

            Gender is certainly subjective, traditional, cultural, I don't know if I'd agree arbitrary.

            > There are really as many "genders" as there are people since each person expresses themself uniquely when considered as a whole person.

            More or less. I'd think of it more of a spectrum, with one end ( maybe the centre, being post-gender with really no gender expression or identity)

            >
            This would make someone claiming to have a certain non-conforming "racial identity" perfectly reasonable. ("Racial identity" is even less tied to biology than gender/sex is, so having a non-conforming racial identity would be even more reasonable than a non-conforming gender identity.)

            Exactly, i don't know about "more reasonable" but you can see with the issue if race how conflating gender with sex and insisting on a binary categorization is disrespectful and problematic. It would be like insisting everyone fits within a number of races. Imagine telling someone they weren't really black because their genes were wrong or they were too light skinned.

          • Phil

            Me: There are really as many "genders" as there are people since each person expresses themself uniquely when considered as a whole person.

            You: More or less. I'd think of it more of a spectrum, with one end ( maybe the centre, being post-gender with really no gender expression or identity)

            Which is why it would seem that this idea of "gender" is completely devoid of any real truth or meaning. It would be best in this case to replace "gender" then with "unique person".

            The question then is, what is the purpose of the term "gender"? The term of "sex" is pretty easy since it is based upon objective biology (obviously this means that it could be possible for there to be true biological intersex persons).

            Exactly, i don't know about "more reasonable" but you can see with the issue if race how conflating gender with sex and insisting on a binary categorization is disrespectful and problematic. It would be like insisting everyone fits within a number of races. Imagine telling someone they weren't really black because their genes were wrong or they were too light skinned.

            The point here was that we ought to categorize things as to how they actually exist, not how we feel that they should exist. When someone who is unhealthily underweight is struggling with anorexia looks in the mirror and feels fat, it is not loving to tell them, "Yes, you are correct".

            This does not mean that people do struggle with what psychologists call "gender dysphoria". And it is a real struggle. But to say that someone's psychological state determines how reality exists, or how it ought to exist, is not loving. It ought to be the other way around. Reality ought to determine what we believe.

            If I can claim to actually be a woman or African simply because I feel like it, then all connection to reality has been lost.

          • >Which is why it would seem that this idea of "gender" is completely devoid of any real truth or meaning. It would be best in this case to replace "gender" then with "unique person".

            No gender is more than binary but not that vague as defined earlier.

            >The question then is, what is the purpose of the term "gender"?

            Excellent question. I am not at all sure that it has any "legitimate" purpose. I think we'd probably be better off if it was irrelevant. But it isn't irrelevant because of many social and cultural reasons we have a host of things that fall into the gender spectrum and these are very meaningful to many people and we need to deal with them. For example, I will have to explain one day to my daughter why some ofo the aisles of toy stores are "girls" ailses or girls clothes. I see no good reason for this and a number of problems with it. But I can't just ignore it.

            >The term of "sex" is pretty easy

            Maybe not as easy as you think .but maybe less complex than gender.

            >The point here was that we ought to categorize things as to how they actually exist, not how we feel that they should exist.

            But sometimes how things are is how we feel they are. Or when people have a sincere belief. For example it is demonstrably the case that belief in a risen Christ is foolish, but it is not respectful for me to insist that Christians don't exist or are in some way pathological.

            >Reality ought to determine what we believe.

            I.agree that's why someone with say a female inclined gender identity is not in denial of her penis' existence or that theirt assigned at birth is male. That's why it is her gender identity that is different,not her sex. And they may express their gender or not. This may involve surgery and hormones or not. That's gender expression.

            To properly address reality we should use labels that effectively deal with the complexity. To insist there is only sex and that covers everything is to deny reality .

            Sure but Roger Whittaker is African nonetheless.

          • Phil

            Maybe not as easy as you think .but maybe less complex than gender.

            I mean, if it is based upon objective biology, it is not super hard. Yes, there are tougher cases where the body did not develop as it should have, but they are not very common.

            But sometimes how things are is how we feel they are. Or when people have a sincere belief. For example it is demonstrably the case that belief in a risen Christ is foolish, but it is not respectful for me to insist that Christians don't exist or are in some way pathological.

            No matter how much we feel that something is true doesn't actually make it true. 2 people can feel that 2 contradictory things are true, but logic dictates that only one can be correct. Therefore, how we feel does not intrinsically create how reality exists outside our mind.
            If things are how we feel they are, then you should give up your arguments against Christianity.

            If one's belief in something has no basis outside of personal feeling, then one should really honestly question it.

            I.agree that's why someone with say a female inclined gender identity is not in denial of her penis' existence or that theirt assigned at birth is male. That's why it is her gender identity that is different,not her sex. And they may express their gender or not. This may involve surgery and hormones or not. That's gender expression.

            This goes back to the idea of the term "gender" being devoid of almost all meaning. How does one know what it "feels" like to be a man or woman? What if the man who says he feels like a woman is simply mistaken, how he feels is what it feels like to be a man? How would he know?

            With gender being separate from sex, why does a man who feels like a woman want to get hormone therapy, and possibly get surgery and dress like a woman? Why can't a man who feels like a woman, look physically like a man and dress like a man, yet still say he is a woman?

            If those things are mere constructs, then saying one needs hormone therapy and/or surgery to be more like a woman is false, because those things are social constructs of what it means to be a woman.

            ----
            (And it is true that there are things that are in part, or wholly, social constructs when it comes to sex and gender...like how men and women dress in 2018 in America. Now that doesn't mean that *all* of dress is social construct. For example, it is well shown in the scientific literature that right from being a newborn, girls are more attracted to bright colors like reds and pinks, and boys are more attracted to darker colors, like blues.

            That seems to have a biological basis; just like baby girls beings more interested in human faces, and baby boys more interested in moving objects.)

          • BCE

            Hi Phil
            I think your perceptions are on point.

            I think Brian wants to be socially sensitive, and that he would be equally so with those who have Downs Syndrome, are blind, have missing limbs etc.
            The issue is to normalize, or insist a condition is just part of a normal
            "fluid" spectrum.
            Brian didn't invent the redefining of Gender. Today even clinicians
            discuss it as if it is separate from sex and so malleable as to be nonexistent.
            Understandable, a Dr can say to a women who has a hysterectomy
            ..."you are still a women" or to a man with no sex drive "you are still a man".
            But Gender is not separate from sex, the way Brian and social justice advocates, want it to be thought of.
            The way Brian insists it is, would imply genitals, glands and hormones, the brain and behaviors, evolved on separate enough paths, to
            allow Gender to be "subjective".
            There are systems. These systems integrate their components, any of which can be defective or maladaptive.
            Thinking Gender must be called "fluid" and "not binary" is saying
            we'd rather not label an aberration as such, because it is used to stigmatize (noble, but a misrepresentation )

            Some species are extremely dimorphic, others less so.
            Not because they are gender fluid, but because they don't rely on
            extreme displays to attract the opposite sex, use attractants, and/or gender difference is easily detected. (When not, outside the norm).

            Even Dawkin agreed gender, orientation, preference might
            be misaligned do to errors in imprinting.
            Not consciously, nor is it psychological.
            Rather there are windows of imprinting.
            The duckling that imprints on a cat, is responding normally, though the
            cross species attachment is aberrant.
            So evolutionary biologists like Dawkin theorize there are similar windows (for gender or orientation(when certain hormones circulating, or brain development ) when we identify our selves and others, but that some cue causes them to misalign.

            Following a book on Biologic Exuberance, labeling gender and orientation as "fluid" became popular and an oft repeated meme.
            Contrary to the book, just because field studies and animal handlers may see a range of behaviors, that does not mean the range is proof of normal fluidity.
            Rather that out of a drive, displaced behaviors occurs.
            Not just between the sexes, but cross species, and even with objects.
            We should recall Harlow's monkey.

          • David Nickol

            I think Brian wants to be socially sensitive . . . .

            How reprehensible!

            The issue is to normalize, or insist a condition is just part of a normal "fluid" spectrum.

            What is "normal" and what is a "normal variant" is really a matter of judgment, not exactly a matter of fact. Take left-handedness, for example. It is inevitably brought up, but it is an excellent example. Is it "normal"? Is it "pathological"? Nobody really understands why a minority of people are left handed, but unlike in the past left handedness is considered a normal variant. Is that some kind of copout?

            The way Brian insists it is, would imply genitals, glands and hormones, the brain and behaviors, evolved on separate enough paths, to allow Gender to be "subjective".

            Do you (or does anybody) have a deep enough understanding of evolution, genetics, and what can go "wrong" in gene expression to state the above as a fact? I don't think so! None of these things are well understood, but that doesn't stop people from feeling certain about their own opinions. Discussions like this aren't mainly about science. They are about ideology.

            And when discussing evolution, let's remember that we wouldn't be here without the accumulation of thousands (or millions) of errors. The mechanism of evolution is random mutation, that is, "abnormalities." Only after the fact do mutations become "validated" by natural selection. In one situation, a mutation could turn out to be detrimental, whereas in another situation, the very same mutation could contribute to the survival of the species.

            This is a bit of a non sequitur, but when I read these kinds of discussions I am always reminded of the end of the transvestite segment in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex in which Tess and Sam are discussing as they are getting ready for bed the fact that Sam's penchant for cross-dressing has been discovered not just by Tess but in a very public way:

            TESS: Sam, you should have told me, that's all. I would have understood.

            SAM: It’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to talk about.

            TESS: Sam, we’ve been married for years. I love you. You love me. You could have come to me and said, “Tess, I have a diseased mind. I’m a sick individual. I need help. I need treatment. I’m perverted. I’m unfit to function with normal, decent people. I would have understood."

          • BCE

            My reference to Brian being "sensitive" was intended to express, that I do not question his sincerity, and my position was not intended to mock or be critical of him.

            He expressed his view as if it is a fact. I was offering a different opinion.

            Your response demonstrates my point though.
            You have no idea how I feel. But unless speaking with emotional sensitivity one is reprehensible.
            One should not use "defective" heart valve.
            And yes, just so if, my integrity is questioned, this time that is cheeky

            In my evolutionary biology class, we were taught, it's an error to assume
            all traits, under some circumstance, would be a normal variation.
            (Like sickle cell and malaria) sickle cell is not considered a normal variation.
            You express another opinion.

          • David Nickol

            In my evolutionary biology class, we were taught, it's an error to assume all traits, under some circumstance, would be a normal variation.

            Of course, I never claimed that any trait could be considered a "normal variation" under some circumstance. My point is that what is "normal" and what is a "normal variation" is a matter of judgment, not a matter of objective fact.

            I think we could all agree that genetic anomalies that cause embryos to spontaneously abort in the first days or weeks after conception are not a "normal variations." However, it is almost certainly the norm! The most recent estimates (and among the lowest) I have seen are that early embryo loss occurs between 40% to 60% percent of the time after human conception. If the higher estimates are accurate, a "normal" pregnancy (statistically speaking) is one that ends far before a live birth.

            I think we would all agree that blue or brown are "normal variants" for eye color. Just because something is a matter of judgment does not mean there may not be wide agreement or even unanimity on many of the judgments.

            My point is that calling something "normal" is a tricky business, since it is often the expression of a (value/moral/aesthetic) judgment than a statistical one. Evolutionarily speaking, every genetic mutation that ever occurred was "abnormal." You can't call a random mutation "normal." The vast majority of people probably now agree that left handedness is a normal variation. Fewer probably agree that homosexuality is a normal variation. But these things are matters of judgment. One might ask whether genius is a normal variation. Genius is certainly not the norm. Is morning sickness "normal" for pregnant women? How about postpartum depression? What is the "normal" weight for an American man or woman? It depends on what you mean by normal.

          • >No matter how much we feel that something is true doesn't actually make it true.

            Obviously a false general statement. There are subjective opinions. These literally are true based on what people feel. Gender identity is one of them.

            >How does one know what it "feels" like to be a man or woman?

            That isn't what gender identity is. Its how one feels a connection with respect to social roles, fashion, conduct traditionally associated with binary sexes. Your problem is your insisting on using the terms man and woman in a vague and general way.

            Its more like a person with a penis feels uncomfortable in traditionally male roles, dress, behaviour, but comfortable and natural in traditionally female ones. The options for gender identity are not just man and woman.

            You can't be mistaken about your gender identity. Its like asking if you can be mistaken about your dream job.

            >With gender being separate from sex,

            It isn't, they aren't the same, but they are not unrelated.

            >why does a man who feels like a woman want to get hormone therapy, and possibly get surgery and dress like a woman?

            So that her body reflect who she genuinely feels she is and doesn't feel wrong and weird.

            >Why can't a man who feels like a woman, look physically like a man and dress like a man, yet still say he is a woman?

            He can,but because you are using such vague terms I don't know what you are really talking about.

            I can give you one example. A person with sex assigned as male at birth has a gender identity as non-binary, expresses as cis-male most of the time and sometimes cis female and sometimes fluid. This is a much clearer description.

            >What do you mean by "girls" and "boys" here?

            Please provide cites .I expect what you mean is babies with vaginas and wombs etc. No that isn't surprising so what. It isn't a gender tradition that sex assigned as girls prefer bright colours.

          • Phil

            Its how one feels a connection with respect to social roles, fashion, conduct traditionally associated with binary sexes. Your problem is your insisting on using the terms man and woman in a vague and general way.

            Why can't one who is a biological man simply act like what society says is "feminine" actions, roles, etc? Who cares?

            There would then be no need to take that next step and say they are actually a woman.

            So that her body reflect who she genuinely feels she is and doesn't feel wrong and weird.

            You just said above that gender has nothing to do what someone "feels" they are.

            Above Me:How does one know what it "feels" like to be a man or woman?

            You: That isn't what gender identity is.

            It seems you just contradicted that here. Gender really does have something to do with what one "feels" like then?

            Obviously a false general statement. There are subjective opinions. These literally are true based on what people feel. Gender identity is one of them.

            Sure, exactly, they are *subjective opinions* and would not be considered objective truths about reality.

            Like someone enjoying vanilla ice cream rather than chocolate ice cream. Great, vanilla ice cream being better than chocolate is not an objective truth about reality, it is one person's perfectly valid subjective opinion.

            And again, when you are talking about gender here, I just don't think it really has any substantial meaning whatsoever.

            I can give you one example. A person with sex assigned as male at birth has a gender identity as non-binary, expresses as cis-male most of the time and sometimes cis female and sometimes fluid. This is a much clearer description.

            The ironic part is that this description is I have no clue exactly yet what this means...very clear...I know!

            So let's be clear that sex is directly connected to biology. So one isn't assigned a sex. One simply is how they exist as male or female (or a true intersex).

            I guess I still don't know exactly what the purpose of the term "gender" is.

            I expect what you mean is babies with vaginas and wombs etc. No that isn't surprising so what. It isn't a gender tradition that sex assigned as girls prefer bright colours.

            I am speaking about biological women and biological men (i.e., "sex").

            And the point was simply that everything that we associate with men and women is not purely nurture and society. Part of it actually is that men and women are actually physically and neurologically different. They naturally lean towards certain things that may be different.

            But if a boy likes something more associated with girls, that doesn't make him any less of a boy.

          • David Nickol

            Why can't one who is a biological man simply act like what society says is "feminine" actions, roles, etc? Who cares?

            Sure, who cares? Nobody bats an eye in, say, high school, if a boy acts feminine.

          • Phil

            Sure, who cares? Nobody bats an eye in, say, high school, if a boy acts feminine.

            Yes, so let's throw out this whole arbitrary and meaningless idea of "gender identity", and be in relationship with unique and individual persons

          • >Why can't one who is a biological man simply act like what society says is "feminine" actions, roles, etc? Who cares?

            They can, some do. Some feel very threatened and intimidated from doing so. This is why we have needed human rights protection in the basis of gender identity and expression .

            >There would then be no need to take that next step and say they are actually a woman.

            What do you mean by "woman"? Certainly such individuals would not say they vaginas is that what you mean?

            "You just said above that gender has nothing to do what someone "feels" they are.

            Above Me:How does one know what it "feels" like to be a man or woman?

            You: That isn't what gender identity is."

            You misunderstood. What I meant is gender identity is about how you feel, but not about being in these vague binary categories of "man" or "woman". What you aren't appreciating is the complexity. Gender identity can be a whole spectrum from Cis gender, which is I think what you mean by man or woman, but also gender fluid, non-binary, post-gender.

            >Gender really does have something to do with what one "feels" like then?

            Gender identity does. Absolutely .

            >Sure, exactly, they are *subjective opinions* and would not be considered objective truths about reality.

            It is objective truth that people hold these subjective views. But their subjective nature does not diminish their value. Gender identity isn't a preference any more than sexual orientation is, or religious belief, or cultural identity.

            >Like someone enjoying vanilla ice cream rather than chocolate ice cream.

            Yes, but unlike what foods you love and those you detest, people aren't harassed, abused, and killed for their tastes in foods. But just like I can't choose to like brussel sprouts and it's an objective fact eating them is extremely unpleasant. People don't choose their gender identity.

            >The ironic part is that this description is I have no clue exactly yet what this means...very clear...I know!

            I'm not surprised many people are ignorant and this can easily lead to disrespectful behavior. There are many resources if you're interested.

            "So one isn't assigned a sex."

            No what "sex" you are us assigned to you moments after your birth based on a view of your external anatomy. This is often incorrect or lacks appreciation of the real situation. So it's better to talk about what sex you are assigned at birth rather than objective sex. Mm

            >I guess I still don't know exactly what the purpose of the term "gender" is.

            Me neither, really. But that's a much more complex discussion.

            "They naturally lean towards certain things that may be different"

            This is very much disputed as a recent parent I can tell you that the "nurture" starts before birth. Traditional gender roles and preferences are assumed and reinforced thoroughly.

            Please cite any science you think establishes this. I think you are massively overstating it. But it's certainly plausible that there are inherent differences associated with biological sex.

          • Phil

            Me neither, really. But that's a much more complex discussion.

            Yes, so if we are using a term like "gender" and "gender identity" that we really don't know what the point is, we should figure that out before using it.

          • I know what the point of using these labels us and what the labels mean. They are very important to respectfully discuss people's lived experience and expression and also how they may be discriminated against. Like I don't know the purpose of "race", a social construct too, we still need to deal with racism, and have an accurate vocabulary.

            As for the "purpose" in associating conduct, aesthetics, social norms in 2 exclusive cis-gender categories based on sex assigned at birth, I don't see the point, in reinforcing this project.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems as though you have lost your case for discrimination if every person is uniquely different and cannot be placed in any group. An individual is wrongly discriminated against when they are representative of a certain group. Women benefit from being a seperate group from men when they can show that a particular woman was discriminated against because she is a woman.
            In fact, it seems as if the large majority of transpeople are biological men who are taking on female identity. If we get rid of the distinction of men and women then the women will suffer the most.

          • >It seems as though you have lost your case for discrimination if every person is uniquely different and cannot be placed in any group.

            Those are not mutually exclusive.

            >An individual is wrongly discriminated against when they are representative of a certain group.

            No.

            > Women benefit from being a seperate group from men when they can show that a particular woman was discriminated against because she is a woman.

            Sex is a grounds for discrimination, but so is gender identity and gender expression. There are good reasons to have separate grounds, because these terms refer to different things.

            >the large majority of transpeople are biological men who are taking on female identity

            I don't see any reason to accept this and I don't know what you mean by "female identity".

            >If we get rid of the distinction of men and women then the women will suffer the most.

            No one has suggested this. Rather you need to use different words depending on whether you are talking about sex, gender identity, and gender expression. If you use only the terms man and woman and define these as being determined by genetics you will not be able to discuss the relevant issues respectfully or protect poeple on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.

          • Rob Abney

            What if a cake baker refused to bake a cake for a transperson? Would that qualify as discrimination or could the baker say he doesn't want to serve that specific individual?

          • If the person's gender identity or gender expression was a factor in the refusal if service I would call it discrimination.

          • Rob Abney

            Discrimination against a group? What are the characteristics of the group? You’ve said that gender identity is subjective, others have said it can change on a whim.

          • Which group? Gender identity is mainly subjectively, as us religion .

            Gender identity would have to be sincere, like religious beliefs only a limited scrutiny is appropriate. That is the objective aspect.

          • Rob Abney

            Courts have used scrutiny to determine if a person qualifies as being a member of a recognized religion, but according to your definition of gender identity and expression there cannot be similar scrutiny because the definition you've used applies to one indiviual never to a group.

          • No, a similar scrutiny is fine, but the level of scrutiny you are talking about is respectful testing of whether their view is sincere and in good faith.

            Courts give enormous subjective leeway to individuals and even corporations on "what counts" as a religious practice, clarifying that they will not allow litigation on whether something counts or not but will accept the subjective view of the claimant as long as it seems sincere.

            Accordingly we have things like preferences over what health benefits are provided to employees, whom to bake a cake for, whether or not one has a photo taken, and an insistence on building a hut on a balcony as religious practices that require accommodation. Even the wearing of a pasta strainer has passed muster. Certainly you would agree with this. That courts should not engage in questions such as which if any god(s) is(are) the real gods. Whether the real god does or does not require women not to be priests, or condone sane sex marriage?

            Similarly courts should not be engaged in whether someone's gender identity is objectively legitimate or cultural practice is bona fide.

          • Rob Abney

            the large majority of transpeople are biological men who are taking on female identity

            I don't see any reason to accept this and I don't know what you mean by "female identity".

            Today's headline: Two transgender athletes crushed a slate of biological girls at a Connecticut girl’s track championship last week....Also raising eyebrows over the big win, only months ago during the winter indoor season, Bulkeley was competing on the boys’ team, according to reports.

          • David Nickol

            It's no surprise you get your news from Breitbart.

          • Rob Abney

            Is that intended as an insult of me or of Breitbart? If the headline is untrue I would welcome a correction. Or are you just hoping to get me to shut up, as you've tried multiple times in the past? But the story is about the discrimination against women.

          • David Nickol

            Or are you just hoping to get me to shut up, as you've tried multiple times in the past?

            I can honestly say that getting you to "shut up" is the last thing on my mind. I read all of your comments, and it would be a loss were you to stop posting here. The site is about dialogue (or it's supposed to be), and in the rare instances when there is someone whose opinions I don't want to see here, I just ignore his or her comments.

            Regarding Breitbart, I do think Wikipedia is accurate when it says the following:

            Breitbart News Network (known commonly as Breitbart News, Breitbart or Breitbart.com) is a far-right syndicated American news, opinion and commentary website founded in mid-2007 by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, who conceived it as "the Huffington Post of the right." Its journalists are widely considered to be ideologically driven, and some of its content has been called misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist by liberals and many traditional conservatives alike. The site has published a number of falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and intentionally misleading stories.

            Although my first reaction to the story about the transgender athletes outperforming the "biological women" was probably the same as yours (it seems unfair), the intent of the headline and the story was clearly to appeal to those who are ideologically hostile to transgender people. Transgenderism may present some tough choices to those running high school authentic programs, and they may make unfortunate decisions in some cases, but that is not a reason to be hostile to transgender individuals.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the kind words.
            Although your Breitbart description may be accurate, it seems like a form of unnecessary discrimination to disagree with the headlines I posted just because of the source, especially considering that there was nothing inflammatory about the headlines.

          • What is your point?

          • Rob Abney

            Discrimination against women, clearly.

          • What is? Which "women"?

          • Phil

            What is the purpose of the term "gender" then?
            Would it not be better to just throw it out and have the term "sex" which is connected to objective biology and DNA?
            And because people are each unique, not all people that are the sex of 'man' or 'woman' will act exactly the same. Life goes on then.

            Even to claim that I am a biological man but claim the gender identity of "woman" would be to say that there are ways that a man and woman ought to express themselves, and I identify more with a woman than a man. But isn't the purpose of this progressive movement to say that there are no such things are true differences between men and women, and to say that any differences are socially constructed?

          • >Would it not be better to just throw it out and have the term "sex" which is connected to objective biology and DNA?

            The point of these labels is to be able to prohibit discrimination based on how someine identifies with respect to how they feel and express themselves in these social roles, attire, and so on traditionally associated with one of the two cis-gender binary options.

            For example, someone with a penis may identify as trans female and express as cis-female, have no interest in reassignment surgery. If this person is fired for how they dress, this is discrimination based on gender expression, how they dress, it has nothing to do with their genitals or chromosones.

            There really is not much call at all to use these terms in day to day society. They are useful for physicians and mental health professionals and for various activist communities.

            >Even to claim that I am a biological man but claim the gender identity of "woman" would be to say that there are ways that a man and woman ought to express themselves, and I identify more with a woman than a man.

            Not "ought" but stereotypical. Just like there are stereotypes about race, religion and so on. For example high heels. It is a stereotype that only people with vaginas wear stilettos, and years ago there was a similar stereotype about wearing pants for those with penises. If you have a penis and wear stilettos, we need a word for this other than to tie it to stereotypes inherently linked to biology. Instead of saying it's a man "dressing as a woman" we say his is someone gender expressing as cis-female or perhaps saying they have a gender fluid expression.

            The terminology is needed to dustdisting between things inherently linked to sex like pregnancy, and things that are associated with gender.

            >true differences between men and women,

            The terms men and women here are being used in such a vague way conflating sex and gender that I can't answer .

            Yes there are differences between people with different sexes and genders. The issue here is you miss the differences if you only have the two categories based on biology . People of the same sex can have different genders and vice versa .

          • Rob Abney

            If this person is fired for how they dress, this is discrimination based on gender expression

            Please describe how this is discrimination considering that everyone has a unique gender expression? There is not class of people being discriminated against only an individual.

          • Because they have suffered a detriment because of their unique gender expression.

            This is discrimination based on a prohibited ground, gender expression.

            Do you really not get this?

          • Phil

            Because they have suffered a detriment because of their unique gender expression.

            This is discrimination based on a prohibited ground, gender expression.

            Do you really not get this?

            The point you are having to prove is unjust vs. just discrimination. There is such a thing as just discrimination.

            For example, if a person wants to wear high heels in a factory, it could be perfectly just to fire them if they won't wear the proper footwear for the job, safety, etc.

            In a similar way, if a teacher is fired from a Catholic school because they begin to act in a way that is not consistent with the values of a Catholic school that they are asked to abide by when hired, then it could be just to fire them. If the person then claims that they were fired because of discrimination of their religion, then in some way that may be true because they weren't acting as a Catholic teacher ought to act and how they agreed to act when hired. The question is, was that discrimination just or unjust?

          • Phil

            When it comes down to it, with the discussion over transgenderism, there are 3 different views that we hear thrown around:

            a) You can be a "man born in a woman's body" (or vice versa). This would be a proposal that there is a biological basis for transgenderism.

            b) You can choose your gender based upon how you feel.

            c) Gender is purely a societal construction and doesn't really exist.

            The problem is that all 3 of these cannot be true simultaneously. And really only one could be fully true.
            So we are still dealing with the fact that the logical and rational underpinning transgenderism are not established yet, and ought to be if we are to move forward using reason and logic.

          • >So we are still dealing with the fact that the logical and rational underpinning transgenderism

            Who said gender was rational? What's rational about traditional gender identity or expression?

            I'd say gender is a social construction, and exists in that way. People's gender identity and expression aren't rational or logical but likely a mix of hormones, culture, upbringing, experience, and intent.

          • Phil

            I'd say gender is a social construction, and exists in that way. People's gender identity and expression aren't rational or logical but likely a mix of hormones, culture, upbringing, experience, and intent.

            If gender is purely a social construction, then it cannot have any connection to hormones or biology. Because if it did, that would mean it isn't purely a social construction, but has some biological basis.

            The point I am making is we have 3 competing views about gender which cannot all be true at the same time:

            a) You can be a "man born in a woman's body" (or vice versa). This would be a proposal that there is a biological basis for transgenderism.

            b) You can choose your gender based upon how you feel.

            c) Gender is purely a societal construction and doesn't really exist.

            If your view is (c), therefore (a) and (b) are false on your view.

          • I think we've been around this block several times. You can create categories.

            >Gender is purely a social construction, then it cannot have any connection to hormones or biology.

            Who said "purely"? Sex is an assignment made at birth usually by means of a superficial visual exam.

            When I say "gender" I mean the social and cultural norms and practices that people have traditionally associated with being one of two binary sexes.

            Sexes are not binary, neither is gender.

            Gender identity is how one feels personally with respect the gender. One might be on a spectrum from cis, identifying with traditional or stereotypical gender identity, to fluid, non-binary, or post-gender. Gender expression is how one lives gender through clothing and conduct.

            Yes, gender is socially constructed but, like any social construct, it can be affected by hormones and biology, just as traditional gender associations presumably have been.

          • Phil

            Yes, gender is socially constructed but, like any social construct, it can be affected by hormones and biology, just as traditional gender associations presumably have been.

            Of course, the social norms that are expected of the gender can be socially constructed in many ways, but it is perfectly rational to hold that just because you like do something that is traditionally associated with the other gender doesn't actually make you that other gender. You can be a man that

            The problem is that the view you present above is incoherent.

            If gender is socially constructed, then it cannot have an actual basis in objective biological reality.

            If gender has a basis in biological reality, hormones, etc, then it cannot truly be socially constructed.

            Which of these is what you are proposing?

          • >If gender is socially constructed, then it cannot have an actual basis in objective biological reality.

            It doesn't, I think I was pretty clear, it is socially constructed, but one's gender identity and exoreexpre can be affected by biology. There is nothing incoherent about that.

          • Phil

            t doesn't, I think I was pretty clear, it is socially constructed, but one's gender identity and exoreexpre can be affected by biology. There is nothing incoherent about that.

            So part of gender is based upon biology, correct?

          • One's gender identity and expression can be influenced by it, but gender is social construct not a biological one.

          • Phil

            One's gender identity and expression can be influenced by it, but gender is social construct not a biological one.

            If biology can influence someone's gender, and then gender is a social construct, this would mean that biology is also social construct then. Is that what you believe?

          • No, that does not follow, and it isn't what I believe.

            Give me an example of something you accept is a social construct .

          • Phil

            No, that does not follow, and it isn't what I believe.

            If biology is not a social construct, and biology influences gender, how is gender a social construct?

            Give me an example of something you accept is a social construct

            Sure, a male doesn't wear a "dress" in western society.

            Someone can have the gender of male and wear a dress.
            Wearing a dress doesn't make you a female.

          • >If biology is not a social construct, and biology influences gender, how is gender a social construct?

            As I said before,

            >When I say "gender" I mean the social and cultural norms and practices that people have traditionally associated with being one of two binary sexes.

            Gender is a set of cultural norms and practices.

            >Someone can have the gender of male and wear a dress.
            Wearing a dress doesn't make you a female.

            I'm not sure what you mean by male here, but I think you've got it. Wearing a dress is a social activity, or individual conduct, it's part of gender expression. What you're calling male, is the person's sex, which is biological.

          • Phil

            But how can biology effect gender, yet biology not be a social construct and gender be a social construct?

            That's doesn't make much rational sense.

          • Biology is a fact in reality and social constructs are affected by facts in reality. It makes perfect sense.

          • Phil

            Biology is a fact in reality and social constructs are affected by facts in reality. It makes perfect sense.

            If your view that Nixon was a part of watergate is based upon the facts of reality that Nixon was part of watergate, does that mean that your view that Nixon was a part of watergate is a social construct?

          • No but the fact that Nixon was a biological human affected the social construct of watergate .

          • Phil

            My point is that if biology is not a social construct and biology causes at least part of gender, then at least some part of gender is not a social construct because it is caused by biology.

            Does that make more sense maybe?

          • It does make sense but it's wrong. "Gender" is the sociak, psychological part. It's social actions, points of view, thoughts, conduct, that we historically relate to sex differences. It is not caused by biology at all, other than humans have this social construct and humans are biological.

            Gender identity and expression are different. They are affected, but not necessarily determined by biology, but much more by culture, social interactions, psychology, hormones, and so on. For example, a person may identify as a transfer woman because she was born with a penis, whereas if she was born with a vagina, she might identify as a cis woman.

          • Phil

            It is not caused by biology at all, other than humans have this social construct and humans are biological.

            Okay, so you are now saying that gender isn't caused and affected by biology at all, correct?

            I was just a little confused, because above you said: "One's gender identity can be affected by biology."

          • That is correct, because gender isn't the same as gender identity.

          • Phil

            Okay, so gender is based upon biology but gender identity is not, correct?

          • Nope, I'm not sure you're paying attention!

            Gender is a social construct, and is no more "based on biology" than politics is.

            Gender identity and expression can be affected by biology, but are not determined by it. These are social and psychological positions, opinions, not objective facts.

            What your DNA is, your levels or hormones are, what your anatomy is, are biological facts, they are objective. I would call these your sex, as opposed to gender.

          • Phil

            Gender identity and expression can be affected by biology, but are not determined by it.

            Okay, got it, sorry I just had it backwards on your view.

            I still don't know how something can be affected by biology, (which is not a social construct), yet gender identity still be completely a social construct.

            Rationally, I think you need to hold that at least part of gender identity is not a social construct if you want to say that it is affected by biology.

          • >yet gender identity still be completely a social construct.

            I never said it was, I said gender was a social construct. I've been clear all along that gender identity and expression can be affected by biology. For example having been born with a penis may cause you to identify as a trans woman.

          • Mark

            Not so fast...gender fluid people would take offense of any binary gender distinction of cis or trans male/female or the concept of a proclivity to gender identity. It is purely a fluctuating personal cognitive choice independent of genetic or biological or social constructs.

          • The gender identities I expressed above are not binary, they imy at least four gender identities, and I never meant to imply these were the only ones.

            >It is purely a fluctuating personal cognitive choice independent of genetic or biological or social constructs.

            I guess it could be, but I find that hard to imagine. Id find it pretty difficult to identify a gender identity absent any social construct. But I wouldn't want to impose any constraints on anyone's gender identity. I think my gender identity is very influenced by my hormones, and all kinds of facts about society such as fashion, sports .

          • Mark

            Okay, to clarify, it is to say it is a cognitive choice independent of another person's strong social constructs or of any weak social constructs. Strong social constructs are personal and do not rely on brute facts; mostly on language or social habits of any particular group. Brute facts such as genetics or anatomy don't exist in these types of social constructs. In other words it is a social construct that relies not on your or my reality or our social constructs or any natural phenomenon but on the thoughts of the individuals that makes the construct. For an extreme example a bus load of people all believe they were abducted by aliens and had unmentionable acts done to them could have an alien gender identity and it is a perfectly valid gender social construct. Anyways, the OP stands they may not want classified or boxed into any version of your or my social constructs regarding gender. Additionally consider it also allows some persons to not consider gender a personal reality outside of a language tool. Trying to understand gender identity that includes strong social constructs is tortuous and confusing and may just be impossible because we can't find any universal coherent language as the author attempts that some person wouldn't take umbrage.

            Edit: done

          • Sorry I don't really follow or glean from this what point you are making. I would say gender is a social contruct, as opposed to a biological fact. As noted gender is the set of attitudes, behaviour and so on in the realm of the same that have traditionally been associated with a binary division of the sexes. It is at essence social. Gender identity and expression are an individual's point of view on their own gender. I see no need to place any restraints on this, from cis to trans to post-gender. I'd agree they are subjective. But can be affected by biology. I'm convinced that my gender identity is strongly influenced by my testosterone. It might not be I suppose.

          • Mark

            >As noted gender is the set of attitudes, behavior and so on in the realm of the same that have traditionally been associated with a binary division of the sexes. It is at essence social.

            Not sure exactly what the sentence means; it may warrant editing or clarification.

            Edit: Is gender subjective in your definition?

          • gender is the set of attitudes, behavior, which have traditionally been associated with a binary division of the sexes. It is at essence social.

            > Is gender subjective in your definition?

            Yes, depending on what you mean by subjective. Gender expression and identity generally are a person's own comfort level with the conduct, expectations, apparel, that have traditionally been associated with a binary approach to sexes. E.g. we used to (and many still do) impose aesthetic, and behavioral expextatexpe and norms on people based on the second assigned with birth. While today many people object to this imposition, they still feel more comfortable identifying and expressing with a binary version (cis). Others have no comfort with any such categorization, others identify with both, all kinds of variations .

            This is my understanding, point of view .

          • Mark

            One more question BGA :) Is it more appropriate in your understanding/point of view to say "same gender attraction" or "same sex attraction"? Meaning should sexual attraction which as science defines binary or tertiary (intersex) a sexual attraction to a particular sex be better redefined as gender attraction? For example: if I were to see a transmale that I was attracted to based on my subjective gender attraction preferences displayed by this person without knowing the sex of the individual, it seems more appropriate to call that an opposite gender attraction or hetero gender attraction than a homosexual attraction, at least to me. I don't consider myself a homosexual anyways and it seems sex has nothing to do with my attraction. I would think that gender (subjective) attraction is what I have an not a sex (objective) attraction.

          • Just say "I'm attracted to that person" I don't see why you need to categorize it.

            In my understanding homosexuality or same sex, refers usually to people who are attracted to people who have the same sex assigned at birth, and there is little controversial about it.

            I think it's probably not as respectful to talk about someone having this or that "gender" rather people have various gender identity and expression.

            People can be attracted to all kinds of gender expression, among other things!

            Again, just my POV.

          • Rob Abney

            BGA, How's the new baby? Boy or girl?

          • Phil

            Gender identity and expression can be affected by biology, but are not determined by it. These are social and psychological positions, opinions, not objective facts.

            Can you clarify what it means for something to be affected by biology but not determined by it?

          • I will again. E.g. two people are born with brown hair, one person hates brown hair dies it bleach blonde and cuts it short. Another loves it, grows it long and never dies it.

            The hair each was born with was the same, it affected the hairstyle of each, but did not determine how each wore their hair, in fact it has opposite effects.

          • Phil

            E.g. two people are born with brown hair, one person hates brown hair dies it bleach blonde and cuts it short. Another loves it, grows it long and never dies it.

            Okay, so then using this example, that means that the person who dyed their hair blonde, would say that their actual hair color is brown.
            When in circles of people taking about hair, you will notice that they say, "yeah, but my actual hair color is brown".

            So in the same way, a transgender female would actually be male.
            Ultimately, what we identify wouldn't change the way actual objective biological reality exists.

          • >Okay, so then using this example, that means that the person who dyed their hair blonde,

            No I think they would say their hair is blonde but used to be brown, or born with brown hair. It would be silly to call someone brown-haired, if they had bleach blonde hair.

            >So in the same way, a transgender female would actually be male.

            No, their sex assigned at birth was male, their sex now is trans female. Their gender identity and expression may be anything.

            >Ultimately, what we identify wouldn't change the way actual objective biological reality exists.

            Correct. Which is why I speak of gender as a social, psychological issue, not a biological fact. Sex is a biological fact .

            Just like it is silly to call someone with bleach blonde dyed hair brown-haired. It is silly to call someone with a vagina and breasts, a man. Their sex assigned at birth is male, their sex now is trans female .

          • Phil

            I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

            My ultimate view is that our mind, thoughts, and psychology does not create how reality exists. We can think very many things that are not true about reality.

            When we, as a physical human being, come into existence every single cell in our body is either XX or XY, as long as we developed correctly. There are true intersex cases, of course.

            So if our cells are naturally XX, then we are a female. If our cells are naturally XY, then we are a male.

            --------

            Now if you are talking about "feminine traits" or "masculine traits", well then you have moved somewhat away from talking about straight gender/sex.

            But even so, general feminine and masculine traits can have biological influences.

            Like infant boys being more interested in moving things and darker colors like blues and grays. Or like infant girls being more interested in faces and colors like reds and pinks.

          • >our mind, thoughts, and psychology does not create how reality exists.

            I agree with that except for the thoughts themselves, that part of reality is caused by our brains/minds.

            >We can think very many things that are not true about reality.

            Exactly.

            >When we, as a physical human being, come into existence every single cell in our body is either XX or XY, as long as we developed correctly. There are true intersex cases.

            Right, so xx, xy, or something else. Though I wouldn't see why you would label intersex "incorrect" development. Different, rare, but calling someone intersex incorrect seems a little harsh.

            >So if our cells are naturally XX, then we are a female. If our cells are naturally XY, then we are a male.

            Sure, you can say that, but this not how anyone does it, the vast majority of people have no idea what their chromosomes are. So when someone asks me if the new worker, Leslie, is a man it woman, I should say, I don't know?

            Also this means in your view some people born naturally with penises are women and done with vaginas are men.

            All this I would call "sex".

            >you have moved somewhat away from talking about straight gender/sex.

            I would say I have moved from talking about sex, to gender. This is much less confusing.

            >But even so, general feminine and masculine traits can have biological influences.

            In a way, my way of thinking is that masculine and feminine are labels for traits and behaviours that many cultures have traditionally associated with a binary approach to sexes. In western society we have begun to think things like being caring and healing should not be considered a trait of having a vagina, or xx chromosones, and the same for courage and authority being more closely related to having a penis or xy chromosones.

            So where do you see infants with xy chromosones "being more interested in moving things and darker colors like blues and grays" ?

            >Or like infant girls being more interested in faces and colors like reds and pinks.

            How do you know this, and how do you know the cause is their chromosones?

          • Phil

            Yes there are differences between people with different sexes and genders. The issue here is you miss the differences if you only have the two categories based on biology . People of the same sex can have different genders and vice versa .

            What we are getting down to here is the fact that a person ought not be discriminated against because they are a unique person. And I completely agree.

            If a person whose sex is male, a biological male, desires to wear high heels, then have at it.
            A person can wear high heels without saying they have the sex of female or a different gender.

            Using a near meaningless term like "gender" just doesn't make sense.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have no intention of getting directly into this hot topic, but I just ran across a news item from Oslo, Norway, where a twenty year old woman named Nano claims that she is a cat trapped in a human body.

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3419631/Woman-says-s-CAT-trapped-human-body.html

            The thought that went immediately through my mind was, "Would she qualify for species reassignment surgery?"

            No, I am not just trying to be funny here. The implications of immanent logic need to be addressed in every context.

          • This kind of comment betrays your utter ignorance and disrespect for this s issue. Inform yourself.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Quite the contrary, I am putting this fact out as part of what your dialogue about these issues must consider.

            It is a fact that people seek sex reassignment surgery for reasons that appear, at least on the surface, analogous to what this woman's position might logically imply. They are convinced that they are misplaced with respect to their biological body.

            All I am asking for is that this datum be integrated into a complete explanation of what ought to be the correct policy and ethics here. You have a perfect right to explain why this datum is totally irrelevant.

            If this is disrespectful of the issue, then is it not disrespectful of the woman who thinks she is a cat to say her issue is somehow so irrelevant? She firmly believes she is a cat. Does the fact that her condition is considered a psychological disorder called species dysphoria mean that her claim should be taken with any less respect than those having transgender convictions? If you can explain the exact difference, that would help illuminate the issue and, perhaps, help bring greater understanding to those whose sensitivities you are concerned about.

            I am not saying you should abandon your sensitivity to the issues here, but merely that the logic of what is entailed should be sought out with a concern for truth.

            If someone mocks God and raises what seem to me to be outrageous objections to his existence and nature, I do not take personal offense -- even though I love God personally. Rather, it is my task -- if I have the time and talent -- to try to explain why this objection is not valid and to explain what I think to be the truth of the matter.

          • David Nickol

            All I am asking for is that this datum be integrated into a complete explanation of what ought to be the correct policy and ethics here. You have a perfect right to explain why this datum is totally irrelevant.

            You're the philosopher and I'm not, but it strikes me there's something way off about your position here. It does not seem reasonable, in a discussion about one specific topic, to demand that those defending a certain position also defend (or even comment on) different but (allegedly) related positions, particularly extreme or bizarre ones. In order to take transgenderism seriously, it is not necessary to have a framework in which to address every instance of "dysphoria."

            Neither BGA nor anyone else who holds a position on transgenderism is required to take a position on "species dysphoria." That is particularly true in that "gender dysphoria" is an official diagnosis of the psychiatric community (in the DSM 5), and "species dysphoria" not only is not, but is ill defined and apparently an invention loosely based on the "gender dysphoria" concept.

            You have a perfect right to explain why this datum is totally irrelevant.

            I am not sure what totally irrelevant would be, since everything on earth is related in one way or another. But it seems to me it is quite irrelevant. The discussion is about gender, not about species. They are two quite different things. That really is all that need to be said.

            She firmly believes she is a cat.

            Did you actually watch the video? The woman struck me as at best eccentric. Her interest in catlike behavior is very shallow and difficult to believe—for example, she claimed to like sleeping in sinks and on windowsills. That clearly is more whimsy than reality. She may not be engaging in a total hoax, but if she firmly believed she was a cat, why did she speak English and walk on her hind legs for most of the interview?

            In any case, it is a distraction in discussions of gender dysphoria and transgenderism to get derailed into discussing anything that is only notionally related. It is at best (it seems to me) much like making a slippery slope argument. If we let a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman, what's to stop a woman from marrying a horse or a man marrying a tree?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I guess I should remind you that my initial comment merely pointed to the news item about the woman who thinks she is a cat and the question that went through my mind. I drew no conclusions, but suggested that the logic of the situation should be explored.

            In reply, I am accused of showing "utter ignorance and disrespect."

            My reply to that comment sought to explain why those discussing the transgender topic might want to address the item I brought to their attention.

            Now you ask me to defend the relevance of my later comment.

            Prescinding from the details that may well move the practical argument about transgenderism one way or another, there is a philosophical question that I would think should be addressed -- at least in the abstract.

            What do you do in a case where someone has no empirically verifiable sign that they are what they claim to be? Be it a perfectly normal biological male who thinks he is female, a perfectly normal biological female who thinks she is a male, or a perfectly normal biological human who is convinced she is a cat? By "perfectly normal," I include even respecting brain structure and chemistry -- assuming that can be assessed. Whatever is empirically verifiable.

            Do you follow what the person thinks and, perhaps, even attempt to change the biology to comport with the belief? Or, do you consider the biology determinative and ignore the belief claim?

            It seems to me that following the belief claim corresponds to philosophical idealism, whereas following the biology corresponds to some form of realism.

            In any case, there seems to be a valid analogy between the cases that would deserve careful evaluation. Granted that one deals with sex and the other with species, but the analogy is based on a comparison of belief to biology, which is found in all three cases.

            Now, I am NOT saying that actual cases of transgenderism fall under such an ideal hypothesis. So, please no one take offense at this as well by saying I am prejudging the legitimacy of transgender concerns. If there are no such cases as I describe, then this becomes merely an exercise in testing a philosophical hypothesis.

            Again, I encounter far more ludicrous claims against the classical conception of God -- claims based on total ignorance of the principles involved. The correct answer in many cases is simply to point out that the hypothetical objection to God happens to be totally contrary to fact. I would hope that if the hypothetical question I post above has no factual relevance, anyone is free simply to point that out and get on with the discussion -- without, hopefully, becoming disturbed by even the mention of the question.

          • Michael Murray
          • David Nickol

            Thanks! You and Dr. Bonnette are very helpful. :p

          • Rob Abney

            You're concerned about a slippery slope argument but to me it seems inevitable when the subject in question is based on subjectivity rather than objectivity. The OP attempted to detail objective characteristics that determine whether a person is a male or a female. The skeptics such as BGA admitted that gender is subjective and can be uniquely expressed by every individual. Uniqueness includes extreme categories such as expressing oneself as a cat or a puppy or a paraplegic.
            I do consider this to be a useful and compassionate conversation. What is not compassionate is to encourage individuals to live as if their extreme choices won't be detrimental to themselves in many ways. It woild also not be compassionate to ridicule such individuals, and even though puppy-boys are startling to see, no one here made fun of them.

          • Alexandra

            Hi David,
            (Still working on a response to your previous comment to me, sorry for the delay, not ignoring it).

            Dr. B. makes a valid point, and it is quite relevant to this discussion.

            In every other case where a person thinks they are something contrary and/or other than their own biology; be it age, race, species, weight, etc. - biological information is a relevant factor. Why is gender dysphoria the exception (and the only exception). What is the rational for this inconsistency?

          • David Nickol

            The "straw man" accusation is overly popular here, but I am afraid I'm going to trot it out myself. I don't think the best or most accurate way to describe, say, a transgender woman is to say she is a woman trapped into a man's body, and I don't think the eccentric woman in the video truly believes she is a cat. To take such statements at face value rather than to see them as more metaphorical is to turn them into straw men.

            I've just taken a look at the information of the American Psychiatric Association on gender dysphoria and do not see a problem:

            Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender. [boldface added]

            The APA doesn't use the language of a man (woman) trapped in a woman's (man's) body. They do not deny the physical gender of people with gender dysphoria. In fact, the term "gender dysphoria" (and the diagnostic criteria) gives clear acknowledgment to the physical gender and basically translates to something like "extreme discontent with one's physical gender." The APA differentiates between physical gender and "gender identity."

            Would you deny that gender identity is an actual phenomenon? Or that some people have a deeply rooted and unshakable feeling that the gender they identify with is not their physical gender? And do you know why it is the case that some people have a gender identity that does not match their physical gender? Do you know for a fact that is not something biological?

            Finally, here is another excerpt from the APA site:

            Gender dysphoria is associated with high levels of stigmatization, discrimination and victimization, contributing to negative self-image and increased rates of other mental disorders. Transgender individuals are at higher risk of victimization and hate crimes than the general public. Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria are at increased risk for suicide.

            I think many of us here are aware that there are a whole host of people (many, but not all, of which fall into the LGBT category) who are feared, ridiculed, laughed at, or scorned by "normal" people, and this endless debate seems a lot like "piling on." Coming from Catholics particularly, it seems like an excuse for denigrating people who have enough problems already.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you seem not impressed by the case of the woman who thinks she is a cat, let me give you a different example.

            Here is the case of a woman who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and degrees from Cambridge and Stanford, enjoys skiing and is happily married to another woman -- but who wants to have surgery so she can become a paraplegic:
            https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/chloe-jennings-white_n_3625033.html

            I raised the question in the abstract in another comment -- asking whether one should follow the biological reality or the psychic demand in cases where the two claims contradicted each other. It is a legitimate speculative ethical question.

            In the case of gender identity, you asked, "Do you know for a fact that [it] is not something biological?" The problem is that an ethical decision of this magnitude cannot licitly be based on a very remote possibility. One can only act in such cases when the decision is based on morally certain data, meaning that one is sure of the facts beyond a reasonable doubt.

            If one is to resolve these sorts of issues rationally, then some explanation must be given as to why there is a difference between the case of transgenders seeking sexual reassignment surgery and Dr. Jennings-White who wants surgery to make herself a paraplegic, which she claims is a perfectly healthy outcome. Rather than granting her request, the medical community labels her as having "body integrity identity disorder."

            Yet, you describe this legitimate speculative philosophical and ethical inquiry in terms questioning its very validity -- depicting it as "this endless debate" that "seems a lot like "piling on." Moreover, you speak of it as "Coming from Catholics particularly, it seems like an excuse for denigrating people who have enough problems already."

            May I ask what is wrong with having this question "coming from Catholics?" Does not this remark betray on its face an anti-Catholic discriminatory attitude? Or is it a simple way to ignore some two thousand years of Catholic philosophical and theological wisdom?

            And why is it not kosher to ask a legitimate ethical question of this type? Why are matters dealing with sexual ethics that enter this sacrosanct area not subject to the same critical analysis that other philosophical and ethical matters are given? Is it possibly because even the possibility of dissent in this area would not be considered politically correct?

          • David Nickol

            I raised the question in the abstract in another comment -- asking whether one should follow the biological reality or the psychic demand in cases where the two claims contradicted each other. It is a legitimate speculative ethical question.

            Is it your contention, then, that it is helpful in answering questions about gender dysphoria to broaden the discussion to include "trans-speciesism" and "body integrity disorder"? I would point out that gender dysphoria is a medically recognized diagnosis (in the DSM 5) and that the other two are rare, little understood, and little studied phenomena without "official" recognition. It does not seem at all helpful to broaden a discussion about gender dysphoria to include other phenomena on the theory that every phenomenon involving "biological reality" and "psychic demand" are completely analogous and can all be decided with one principle.

            Suppose a child is born with big flappy ears and an overly large nose, and he is mocked mercilessly by other children. Are we going to decide that no body modifications are ethically permissible because we do not believe in amputating limbs in cases of body integrity disorder? It just seems totally unproductive to me to try to come up with a single principle to cover every possible case.

            By the way, it is not exactly clear what is being debated here. I am not, for example, necessarily arguing in favor of surgery in cases of gender dysphoria. It's a difficult issue. But should I approve of surgery for a transsexual, that certainly would not automatically make me in favor of amputating limbs in cases of body integrity disorder. It seems the best we can do in the early stages of our understanding is look at each case on its own merits.

            Yet, you describe this legitimate speculative philosophical and ethical inquiry in terms questioning its very validity -- depicting it as "this endless debate" that "seems a lot like "piling on."

            I am not referring to the "legitimate speculative philosophical and ethical inquiry" into issues of transgenderism, body integrity disorder, and "trans-speciesism." I am referring to this particular OP and the ensuing "debate" in this thread. In my opinion, the OP was a poor starting point for a meaningful discussion, and the ensuing debate has not been particularly enlightening—except for my own contributions!

            May I ask what is wrong with having this question "coming from Catholics?" Does not this remark betray on its face an anti-Catholic discriminatory attitude?

            That was an unfortunate statement, and I will retract it. But if I were to try to recast the underlying thought, it would probably be almost as objectionable to many here. I have posted on Strange Notions for many, many years now, and it has morphed into a site where the only opinions we get from Catholics are from the most "conservative" end of the spectrum. This is the site for Catholicism in the mould of Catholic Answers, EWTN, First Things, and The National Catholic Register, not of Commonweal, America Magazine, or The National Catholic Reporter. And I may be overly sensitive, but with it seems to come a certain animus against members of the LGBT community. It just seems to me an insult to those struggling with gender issues to compare them to people who think they are cats or even to people who want certain kinds of disabling surgery. What seems to be missing here (or so it seems to me) is the compassion deserved by people who are struggling with strange and unusual problems to which there are no easy solutions. People here don't seem to be able to imagine what it would be like to like to feel they are of the "wrong" gender or feel that an arm or a leg is alien to the rest of their body. Suppose we grant (merely for the sake of argument) that all of these issues under discussion are problems of mentally ill individuals. Is there no compassion for the mentally ill? I anticipate the answer from you will be that it is doing no favors to the mentally ill to amputate limbs they feel are alien to them. But what is your solution? The problem is that (like most of human behavior) the things under discussion here are not at all well understood. The attitude here seems to be that the answer to, say, gender dysphoria is "therapy." But the unfortunate fact is that there is no therapy to "cure" gender dysphoria. Maybe someday there will be, but until that day there are no easy solutions, and people are suffering terribly.

            By the way, it is not clear to me whether the reports of a Vatican position on transgenderism have been debunked or not. There was talk of a document sent to bishops that said gender reassignment surgery could conceivably in some cases be permitted if it would relieve the suffering of the individual. However, such individuals would still for all practical purposes (marriage, ordination, sexual relations) not be considered to have changed genders. That does not seem to me to be a wholly unreasonable position, although I think enforcement of it would lead to unnecessary hardships (as, say, in the prohibition of marriage after divorce).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The very complexities you well describe are the reason I did not wish to get involved in this debate in the first place. I do think that adding examples of divergence between biological reality and psychic demand helps in the sense that it shows the possible wider context of the question. In fact, one has to explain also how gender dysphoria differs from many other psychological conditions in which a person has delusions that are contradictory to his reality conditions. I know that may sound like an inflammatory suggestion, but if one is to justify a certain course of action, all such potentially parallel situations must be considered.

            The fact that gender dysphoria is a medically recognized condition does not totally overwhelm me, since I am well aware that political and social influences can somehow miraculously “change” the criteria for diagnosis at times. I think it was the American Psychiatric Association as well that traditionally held homosexuality as entailing a “diagnosis”, until suddenly a majority changed their views as societal changes took place – even though a large number of psychiatrists strongly opposed this change. Medicine, like physics, is not a matter of mere consensus. The fact is that what matters is not exclusively what physicians think about a possible medical condition when you are trying to determine its ontological and ethical implications.

            What matters is the truth.

            Nonetheless, I see no ethical objection to cosmetic surgery under acceptable circumstances. These do not appear to include amputating a limb, but certainly one may do precisely that to excise, say, cancer from the body. There is a need for ethical principles, or else, you wind up with utilitarianism which can justify virtually anything. Show me someone with no universal ethical principles and I will show you someone I would not trust to be a babysitter. This does not mean, though, that circumstances have no bearing on the liceity of an act, since they can make an otherwise good act into a bad one.

            I agree with you that the question of transsexual surgery is complex. And I am aware of that rumored Vatican private paper to the bishops. Authentic or not, it did sanction such surgery in some cases based on application of the principle of double effect, which in no way compromises universal principles against mutilation of the body. Then, at the end, it appeared to possibly reverse itself based on alleged new information that the surgery might do the patient more harm than good in the long run.

            The complexity of these types of questions, and their potential for new medical information changing the analysis, are among the reasons I prefer to stick to metaphysics. Nonetheless, have you read the actual details of what is entailed for the patient in these surgeries? I have. They would give me grave pause before proceeding, simply because of what must be done to the body to produce even the needed changes in appearance. I could be very wrong, but I suspect that some of these details may be making a good number of the male to female patients hesitate long and hard before having the “final change.”

            Still, you are absolutely correct about there being no excuse for failure to be compassionate toward those suffering with both their difficult conditions and the insensitive reactions of many in society to their plight. And yet, what is objectively the right thing to do is what really matters for society as a whole. Moreover, ethics is not subject to what always “feels right” or is “least disturbing.” We need to be able to have our discussions about the rightness or wrongness of a moral act or social policy without being unduly overwhelmed by the tragic experiences of individual persons.

            One must never forget the maxim that hard cases make bad law.

            Whether the Catholics you encounter belong to the more orthodox elements within the Church or those who do not take Church doctrine as binding, there is never an excuse for lack of compassion. We must never forget that Christ caused much scandal by keeping the company of sinners.

            Still, he insisted that, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

          • Alexandra

            I was not referring to the cat lady, per se.
            Since you asked:
            clinical trans species
            (Although it may not be comparable, many of the patients are experiencing psychosis, and/or the condition is not necessarily permanent.)

            This is what I said:
            "In every other case where a person thinks they are something contrary and/or other than their own biology; be it age, race, species, weight, etc. - biological information is a relevant factor. Why is gender dysphoria the exception (and the only exception)."

            This is how Dr B. framed the delimna:
            "Do you follow what the person thinks and, perhaps, even attempt to change the biology to comport with the belief? Or, do you consider the biology determinative and ignore the belief claim?"

            So we have "biology" and we have "belief".
            So the main question is- under what conditions do we go with "belief" over "biology", and most importantly, why?

            You said:
            "The APA differentiates between physical gender and "gender identity."
            It does. But between the two, it promotes nonbinary gender as reality, over the assigned sex.

            Thus the transgenders "belief", the psychologists say should be affirmed as healthy and normative here:

            Implied here:
            From the APA guideline: (my bold)

            A nonbinary understanding of gender is fundamental to the provision of affirmative care for TGNC people. Psychologists are encouraged to adapt or modify their understanding of gender, broadening the range of variation viewed as healthy and normative. By understanding the spectrum of gender identities and gender expressions that exist, and that a person’s gender identity may not be in full alignment with sex assigned at birth, psychologists can increase their capacity to assist TGNC people, their families, and their communities .

            APA guidelines

            And affirmed in practice.
            (From the APC guidelines, my bold) "Trans-affirmative practice is the provision of care that is respectful, aware, and supportive of the identities and life experiences of TGNC people"
            So the transgender is treated as if their "belief" is reality by psychologists and doctors. For example, transgender children are being given puberty blockers.

            So "belief" over "biology".

            There is no other group of people who have normal, healthy bodies where we medically interfere with their biological development (outside the womb). Why the exception?

            This is done despite the fact that psychologists know " that not all youth will persist in a TGNC identity into adulthood. "- (APC guidelines), and causes other detrimental changes ; such as, it may render them infertile. And despite not knowing what causes gender dysphoria.

            Something to consider:- stories of people who have detransitioned

            "Many detransitioners feel that during the process leading up to their transition, well-meaning clinicians left unexplored their overlapping mental-health troubles or past traumas. Though Max’s therapist had tried to work on other issues with her, Max [a detransitioner] now believes she was encouraged to rush into physical transition by clinicians operating within a framework that saw it as the only way someone like her could experience relief. Despite the fact that she was a minor for much of the process, she says, her doctors more or less did as she told them.
            Over the past couple of years, the detransitioner movement has become more visible. "

            Here's another example of an exception being made for transgenders :

            There's a condition called apotemnophilia:

            (from Wiki)

            "Body integrity identity disorder (BIID, also referred to as amputee identity disorder and xenomelia, formerly called apotemnophilia) is a proposed disorder in which otherwise healthy individuals perceive one or more of their limbs or organs as alien to the rest of their body and wish to have it amputated."

            And there was a surgeon who did do amputations.

            He was stopped. (Rightly so.)

            However, transgenders (who have wombs) are allowed hysterectomys.
            Now one may argue removing a healthy internal organ is not the same as removing a healthy limb.( I don't see why, but I'd be open to hearing an explanation.) But is there a difference ethically? Why is it allowed in one case and not the other?
            "Belief" for one group, "biology" for the other.

            So, transgenders, as far as I can tell, are the only group allowed (psychologicaly, medically) "belief" over "biology". Why? Why the exception?

            You said:
            " and this endless debate seems a lot like 'piling on '"

            There's an endless debate because there are so many controversies involved: puberty blockers on children, surgeries and removal of healthy organs, limits of biological truth, compelled speech and speech evolution, definition of man and woman, mental illness definitions, gender and gender spectrums definitions, and so on and so on.

            You said:
            "Coming from Catholics particularly, it seems like an excuse for denigrating people who have enough problems already."

            I stand against any denegration, insult, or mocking of anyone. And vulnerable minorities should be treated with extra sensitivity.

          • David Nickol

            Dr. B. makes a valid point, and it is quite relevant to this discussion.

            I still don't see the relevance of one and only one woman in a two-year-old video who claims to believe she is a cat to a person with gender dysphoria. What it looks like to me is an attempt to trivialize the issue of gender dysphoria and depict transgender individuals as whimsical or foolish.

            Show me a real, documented phenomenon of "trans-speciesism" and I will be glad to take it seriously, but you and Dr. Bonnette seem to be investing one lone video with no verification or follow-up information with far too much importance to take seriously. There are all kinds of questions and observations one could make. As one article I read pointed out, why would a cat born in a human body have cat hearing and cat vision? Would she willingly submit to a test of her vision and hearing to confirm her claim? Does she eat cat food? She hasn't caught a mouse yet, but do you think she would eat it if she did?

            The "reporter" made no effort whatsoever to verify or test the woman's claims. It was not in the least a serious attempt to report something as news.

            I'm going to repeat it again. How in the world can serious people make anything at all out of one two-year-old YouTube video?

          • >If this is disrespectful of the issue, then is it not disrespectful of the woman who thinks she is a cat to say her issue is somehow so irrelevant?

            Its irrelevant because we are discussing difference in human sex, not differences between extremely different species .

            We have intersex people who do not fit within one of the binary sexes but are indistinguishable.

            When you find someone who is genetically half cat, or where surgery could successfully and socially allow someone to live as a cat we can talk.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But the classic case of gender dysphoria has nothing to do with intersex states. Rather, they are cases in which someone is clearly of one sex and is convinced that he belongs in the radically opposite sex.

            All analogies entail both differences and similarities. While there are differences between the cases considered, what is the same is the person being convinced he belongs in a radically different state than his clear biology dictates.

            Then also, we must consider the case I mentioned elsewhere of the well-educated woman who wants surgery to become paraplegic. Again, not exactly the same in the details, but the same in principle.

            As to surgery being successful in gender dysphoria, one has to note that a normal human being can reproduce, but the surgery instantly sterilizes the participant.

            Nonetheless, you are doing all I was asking -- namely, addressing the example I brought up and attempting to explain how it fits or does not fit into the discussion at hand. For that, I thank you.

          • David Nickol

            Then also, we must consider the case I mentioned elsewhere of the well-educated woman who wants surgery to become paraplegic.

            Not important, but what does education have to do with it? Do we expect poorly educated people to be more likely to want to be paraplegics?

            In any case, I think there is a very good possibility you are grouping together phenomena that have only the most superficial of similarities. Also, in the cases of "trans-speciesism" and "body integrity disorder," you are using as your sole source of information two freakish cases from social media instead of actual medical information on the alleged conditions. The well-educated would-be amputee doesn't seem to believe her legs are alien appendages that distress her. She just wants to live as an amputee (which she more or less does). Compare that to Oliver Sacks's book about his own personal experience of feeling that a badly injured, but healing, leg was alien to him. Sacks looks at the phenomenon as a neurologist, and it seems to me many if not most cases of so-called body integrity disorder probably involve neurological rather than mental or psychiatric problems.

            By analogy, there are all kinds of skin rashes, but some are caused by toxins (poison ivy), some by localized bacterial infections, some by viruses, some by parasites, some by allergens, and some have as yet unknown causes. If you lump them all together as skin rashes and claim they are all analogous, that doesn't get you very far in dealing with any specific case. (I hear, though, that the dermatologist's rule is, "If it's wet, dry it. If it's dry, wet it. And when in doubt, use steroids.")

            So I suspect we may be lumping together phenomena that may be in some cases learned behavior, in other cases neurological, in some instances hormonal, in others purely psychological, and perhaps in many instances a combination of two or more of those factors.

            It is interesting to note (I think) that many drugs seem to increase thoughts of suicide. I don't think anyone knows why. Some drugs are known to cause, in rare cases, compulsive gambling. Some people have paradoxical reactions to drugs, for example becoming agitated when given tranquilizers. It may very well be that no two individuals experiencing one of the phenomena discussed above are the same. And there may be no "cure" for a great many of the kinds of individuals we are talking about. It is clear what solutions you do not endorse. But what do you propose a transgender individual should do about his or her plight? And what do you propose the parents of a transgender child should do?

            It seems to me what you and others here are doing in the case of transgender individuals and alleged "analogous" conditions is reducing complex phenomena to the simplest terms and implying that somehow we should approach them all in the same manner. I agree that moral principles are important, but look how many exceptions there are to basic principles like the Fifth Commandment. Not only is the simple command not to kill extremely complicated in real-life situations, there is still (after two thousand years of Christianity) disagreement at very high levels—for example, Pope John Paul II on capital punishment versus (if I remember correctly) Cardinal Avery Dulles.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hope that you remember that all I did initially in this discussion was to say I did not wish to get into this hot topic, but was posing a question as to whether the example of the "catwoman" was relevant. Later on, I also raised the example of the woman wanting to be surgically rendered paraplegic.

            You and BGA have addressed those issues, which is what I was proposing. Regardless of whether they constitute a real parallel or not, the underlying ethical and social issue remains.

            >" But what do you propose a transgender individual should do about his or her plight? And what do you propose the parents of a transgender child should do?"

            I called this a "hot topic" for good reason. Clearly, these cases are complex and heart rending, both for the individual and for parents of such children. Because of the complexity of the situations, psychologically, socially, medically, and ethically, I did not want to directly enter that topic -- although I empathize with those whose personal situations make it unavoidable.

            I do have serious reservations, though, about advocating sex change surgery for multiple reasons. Having read the details of what is done, I would personally be very hesitant to submit to it myself. It is not a magic transformation with no medical consequences, nor is it a perfect and complete procedure. Consider the actual details which can be found on the internet.

            I have even more reservations about governments criminalizing the judgments of parents who oppose submitting their underage children to transgender programs or even sex change surgery. This is actually happening in some countries today -- apparently including Peru and even Ontario as I understand it!

            We both know of the "alleged" Vatican directive to bishops that seemed to allow such surgery, based on double effect, but then seems to hesitate at the end for the same reasoning.

            The example you gave of "exceptions" to the Fifth Commandment are not exceptions at all, since it is not a question whether "killing" is licit, but only of killing the innocent. There is no disagreement between St. John Paul II and Cardinal Dulles in principle. Dulles was only trying to explain what he believed the Pope actually intended -- namely to reduce the use of capital punishment as much as possible.

            As you say, ethics is complicated -- which is one reason I intend to put more of my efforts into other areas of speculation.

            Let me say one thing though. Cosmetic surgery can be justified in many instances. Mutilation is morally wrong -- unless justified by the principle of double effect, which few people understand adequately and fewer yet know how to apply perfectly. Having ears pierced for earrings is actually mutilation, but is justified for beauty reasons that are proportionate and licit in themselves.

            So, too, it was argued in that "alleged" Vatican paper that double effect allowed massive mutilation of sex change surgery if the suffering of the patient justified it and if the results were successful. Later on, that same paper raised questions about the total success of such surgery.

            All these are complex matters, as I think you can see.

          • >Regardless of whether they constitute a real parallel or not, the underlying ethical and social issue remains.

            No, there is no parallel and your raising the both in this context shows at best you are ignorant, at worst transphobic.

            There are certainly social issues of discrimination and persecution of trans people.

            I do not think there are particular ethical issues with sexual reassignment surgery generally. As with many surgerie and medical procedures is it is not always clear whether the treatment will be successful or worth the risks. But this surgery has been practiced for decades and has become more and more common because of its success.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I put the original dilemma regarding what ought to be done in the case of sexual reassignment surgery:

            "Do you follow what the person thinks and, perhaps, even attempt to change the biology to comport with the belief? Or, do you consider the biology determinative and ignore the belief claim?"

            You can deny any parallel to the case of the woman wanting surgery to make her paraplegic, but that does not make you right.

            Since you are an atheist who has no acceptance of natural law ethics, of course, you see no ethical issues involved in this kind of issue. You have no concept of God creating natures, nor of man having any obligation to respect those natures or their purposes. You have no concern about the proper application of the principle of double effect in evaluating the liceity of this or any other type of surgery.

            It is precisely because I am aware of how little most people know of natural law and double effect that I stated clearly at the outset that I had no intention of delving deeply into this “hot topic.”

            As for your claim about the success of sex change operations, I suggest you read carefully the linked article on this topic, which shows the actual negative consequences of this surgery – including the fact that tragically high numbers of transgender people attempt suicide. Before you attempt to explain away that statistic as simply the product of discrimination, I strongly suggest you read the entire piece that shows why that explanation is untrue as well as many other reasons why this surgery is anything but successful: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/02/16376/

            I was merely raising the possibility of parallel cases that should be considered. If you do not see any need to consider them, that is your choice.

          • David Nickol

            It is not clear to me what everyone is arguing about! Is it the entire phenomenon of transgender individuals, or is it the moral permissibility of sex reassignment surgery? It seems to me one can have extreme reservations about (or even oppose) sex reassignment surgery and yet support almost everything else transgender advocates want. Many transgender individuals never have the "final" surgery, whether out of personal choice or lack of the money to pay for it.

            You can deny any parallel to the case of the woman wanting surgery to make her paraplegic, but that does not make you right.

            We have (or we think we may have) a reasonably authoritative opinion from the Vatican to the effect that sex reassignment surgery can be morally acceptable if it ends the suffering of those with gender dysphoria. That is a moral position right there that you seem to disagree with. Whether such surgery actually does alleviate the suffering may be an open question, but that is an empirical matter for psychotherapists to determine, not for ethicists. So if all the various examples you claim to be analogous actually are analogous, can we not claim that the Vatican position on body integrity dysphoria should be that if surgery is the only way to end an individual's suffering, then it is licit?

            It seems to me that you hold that there should be one and only one answer to the question of surgery in all cases—gender dysphoria, body integrity dysphoria, and "trans-speciesism" (if such a thing can even be said to exist)—in which a person is mentally at odds with his or her physical body. If that is true, and the Vatican approves sex reassignment surgery under any circumstances, no matter how hypothetical, then it would seem amputation of a limb would be morally licit under similar circumstances.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not start this discussion, so I cannot say what is the original topic. Most of my remarks are directed at sexual reassignment surgery.

            As to that alleged Vatican document, two points: (1) if you check the end of the story again, I think you will find that there is a shift against allowing the surgery, based on new data thought to make it less beneficial, and (2) nothing at this level constitutes the ordinary Magisterium, and thus we are not dealing with official Church teaching binding on Catholics.

            Regarding the ethical liceity of the surgery itself, the rationale for that alleged "maybe" Vatican opinion was based on the principle of double effect, which is pretty complex in itself.

            It is not based merely on the success of the outcome, but also on other rules, including: (1) that the act itself cannot be intrinsically evil; it must either be good or neutral, (2) the good effect cannot flow out of a bad effect, (3) the good effect alone is intended, and (4) there must be due proportion between the good effect and the bad effect(s).

            The complexity of application of this principle of double effect alone makes it difficult to render an easy verdict on the ethics of this surgery. I take several days in an ethics course to explain all of this, which is why I was not eager to get directly into the debate here -- and merely brought up a couple other cases for consideration as to relevance.

            There is no doubt that one can amputate a limb to save the life of a person, since what one intends is not the mutilation of the body, but the removal of a threat to the life of an individual. On the other hand, direct abortion to save the life of the mother is not licit, since an intrinsically evil act is used as a means to a good end. I don't want to debate all these cases, but mere wish to show that there is a level of complexity in these cases -- including sexual reassignment surgery.

            One thing to note is that all surgery entails some form of mutilation, and mutilation as such is morally wrong. That is why such co-principles as proportionate good and evil must be weighed.

            The complexity and distinctions between each case constitutes the reason that amputation of a limb might not be justified in, say, the case of a mental delusion, but definitely would be sanctioned in the case of, say, gangrene that is extensive in the limb.

            Natural law ethics is not situation ethics, which is itself a form of utilitarian ethics. Natural law has genuinely universal principles that admit no exceptions, but are still applied to concrete cases and sometimes permit certain acts which, though complex, do not violate those universal rules. That is where double effect comes in a tends to confuse those not familiar with its rationale.

          • Rob Abney

            In my opinion we are arguing or discussing the general underlying principles that are involved when we consider the title of the OP, "what are men and women anyway". Some of us think they are either one of two choices, others think they can be one of an unlimited number of choices. I think the first option has objectivity and the second option does not. But I also think the first option also has subjectivity but the second option doesn't seem to have any objectivity. I think the objectivity is there for a purpose, and that purpose is the continuance of the species, a very meaningful purpose. The second option could be said charitably to have as its purpose, happiness, not quite ss important.
            But here's a good video that you might enjoy, I don't think that you'll find it biased but I could be wrong. https://vimeo.com/266942512

          • David Nickol

            Please be aware that in "dialogue" with people who disagree with you because they are on a different part of the political spectrum, citing documents or linking to articles or videos from conservative ("right-wing") advocacy organizations is unlikely to be much help.

            I like to think of myself as examining "both sides," so I am quite familiar with the Witherspoon Institute, which is the source of the video you linked to. The "authorities" quoted in the video (Ryan Anderson, Christopher O. Tollefsen, Roger Scruton) are either themselves members of the Witherspoon Institute (the first two) or noted conservatives (Scruton). I have read a fair amount by Anderson and Tollefsen on the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and I actually recently bought Scruton's new book (Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition). So it is not the case that I am adverse to reading or viewing material that I am more than likely to disagree with. In fact, I seek it out.

            However, it strikes me as bizarre that you would imagine I would not find a video from a conservative, anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage advocacy organization unbiased. Of course it is biased, just as would be material from a LGBT advocacy organization.

            By all means, call attention to whatever material you think makes your case, but don't try to pass such material off as anything other than advocacy by groups that are dedicated to promoting their agendas and political missions.

          • Rob Abney

            Did you watch the video? Can you tell me it is biased without even viewing it? That sounds like prejudgement to me. I would think that you could give some people credit for being informed about a subject even when they come to a conclusion that is opposed to yours, I thought you were more fair minded than that.

          • David Nickol

            Did you watch the video?

            Yes,, I did. How else would I know the speaker quoted Anderson, Tollefsen, and Scruton if I hadn't watched it.

            Can you tell me it is biased without even viewing it?.

            Absolutely! Although to be 100% fair, "biased" was not exactly the most neutral word I could have used. The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative advocacy group. It has a point of view that it seeks to promote. It has a political orientation—conservative. It does not seek to present information in an evenhanded manner and expect readers or viewers to make up their own minds. It attempts to persuade. There is, in principle, absolutely nothing wrong with advocacy groups. But the very reason they exist is to take particular stands on issues and attempt to persuade people to agree with them.

            I would think that you could give some people credit for being informed about a subject even when they come to a conclusion that is opposed to yours.

            I wouldn't say the video, or the Witherspoon Institute itself, is uninformed. My point is that they have a particular point of view with a definite political and philosophical orientation that they are interested in promoting. The same is true for gay-rights organizations and transgender-rights organizations.

            I thought you were more fair minded than that.

            I think I am pretty fair minded—I certainly try to be. What I am not is naive. I don't think that presenting material here from gay or transgender or left-wing advocacy organizations as if it were "fair and balanced" would constitute reasonable dialogue.

          • Rob Abney

            You have once again said that you don’t want dialogue, you want to kill the messenger and ignore the message, you’ve used this technique on me at least 6-7 different times.
            If you did watch the video and if you are fair-minded then comment on the substance, and if it is biased then we can discount it. I don’t think it is biased, I didn’t know it was from the Witherspoon site, it was presented as a link from their page. I was on the page following a link that Dr. Bonnette provided.

          • David Nickol

            You have once again said that you don’t want dialogue, you want to kill the messenger and ignore the message, you’ve used this technique on me at least 6-7 different times.

            If this is accurate—and apparently Dr. Bonnette's upvote indicates he, too, thinks it is—than I must not be posting here in good faith. Consequently, I will no longer participate on Strange Notions.

          • Rob Abney

            That's unfortunate, but I don't accuse you of not posting in good faith. I always look forward to your opinion on the substance of the conversation.

          • David Nickol

            It is too late at night for a detailed critique of the linked article in The Public Discourse, but here is perhaps the most outrageous (and unsupported) claim:

            Advocates and trans-clients fear that if a psychologist or a psychiatrist looks too deeply into the patient’s psyche they could discover the presence of a disorder that, if properly treated, would take away the dream of sex change, a fantasy they nurtured most of their lives.

            On what does the author base this claim?

            The Public Discourse (Witherspoon Institute) is not a source of unbiased information on LGBT issues. Neither, of course, is Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, or the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. Advocacy organizations for both sides have their place in a debate such as this, but it must be remembered that they are advocacy organizations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are quite correct.

            You still might like to take a look at my response to Brian Green Adams on this question of studies and advocacy groups given above.

          • Michael

            As for your claim about the success of sex change operations, I suggest you read carefully the linked article on this topic, which shows the actual negative consequences of this surgery – including the fact that tragically high numbers of transgender people attempt suicide.

            Numerous studies show that sex reassignment surgery helps treat gender dysphoria: http://www.cakeworld.info/transsexualism/what-helps/srs

            Why do you regard the Public Discourse article as more accurate than so many studies?

          • >"Do you follow what the person thinks and, perhaps, even attempt to change the biology to comport with the belief? Or, do you consider the biology determinative and ignore the belief claim?"

            It entirely depends on the circumstances after many months or years of counseling. The question is whether the surgery will be a net benefit. Whether it will be worth it to relieve the suffering.

            There are tremendous ethical issues with this decision, but they have been addressed, many years ago. I do not see an ethical problems for the medical community to provide a treatment that has been successful for decades in improving people's lives. You have theological concerns, clearly: ". You have no concept of God creating natures,"

            Correct because this god doesn't exist and in a democracy you don't get to impose your theology to prevent peooke from getting medical treatment.

            >It is precisely because I am aware of how little most people know of natural law

            I'm not ignorant of your religious beliefs and ethics. But they are wrong and dangerous. Please do delve into this. Learn about the actual experiences of trans people.

            I read the article and I'd seen it before. All it does is recognize the very diffcult challenges trans people face. Its problem is that it uses no control. It does not compare the outcomes of those who want the surgery and get it to those who want it and are denied it.

            The article is from a biased Cathic source and is fatally anectodal. Did you really expect me to be so gullible?

            They are not parallel, as is obvious.

          • Rob Abney

            in a democracy you don't get to impose your theology to prevent peooke from getting medical treatment

            Yes you do, if the "relativism of the many" is in the majority, as oppsed to a republic where decisions need to be based on objective reasoning.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I am glad to see you finally flushing out the essential basis for our disagreement about how to approach the ethics involved here.

            You may deny that God exists, but that will not make him go away. I might be more impressed by your denial of God's existence had I not myself written a book on the proofs for his existence. https://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Proofs-Gods-Existence-Necessarily/dp/940118187X

            And no, I don't expect that will impress you either. But it does make my own perspective different from yours.

            And my concerns are not "theological," but ethical -- based on pure reason that leads to God's existence and natural law. Yes, I realize you are an atheist and deny any basis for natural law based on God's existence.

            Please note that I have not even made a final judgment about the ethics of this type of surgery, and certainly have not proclaimed that it should be made illegal.

            The only illegality of which I know is those jurisdictions which make it illegal even to give treatment to people who want to reorient their own sexual inclinations to that of their biologically assigned sex.

            How much "sensitivity" is being shown to them?

          • Quality of Life in Transitioned Trans Persons: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Cohort Study.
            Medical [gender affirming interventions] are associated with better mental wellbeing but even after successful medical transition, trans people remain a population at risk for low [quality of life] mental health, and the nonbinary group shows the greatest vulnerability.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29850582

            Healthcare costs and quality of life outcomes following gender affirming surgery in trans men: a review. Multiple studies have shown the positive effect of gender affirming hormonal therapy and gender affirming surgery on quality of life of trans persons and several studies describe an increase in their psychological wellbeing. In addition, satisfaction rates after gender affirming surgery are high and surgery is rarely regretted.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28972413

            Surgical Satisfaction, Quality of Life, and Their Association After Gender-Affirming Surgery: A Follow-up Study.
            Postoperative satisfaction was 94% to 100%, depending on the type of surgery performed. Eight (6%) of the participants reported dissatisfaction and/or regret, which was associated with preoperative psychological symptoms or self-reported surgical complications (OR = 6.07). Satisfied respondents' QoL scores were similar to reference values; dissatisfied or regretful respondents' scores were lower. Therefore, dissatisfaction after GAS may be viewed as indicator of unfavorable psychological and QoL outcomes.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28471328

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So now we come down to a contest between research studies. Not that this determines the ethics of the basic matter anyway, but here are a couple points to consider.

            First, here is a report based on more than one hundred international studies. Although it dates from 2004, it was done with decades of prior clinical data to consider: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/jul/30/health.mentalhealth

            It concludes: "The review of more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals by the University of Birmingham's aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective."

            Moreover, "Its review warns that the results of many gender reassignment studies are unsound because researchers lost track of more than half of the participants. For example, in a five-year study of 727 post-operative transsexuals published last year, 495 people dropped out for unknown reasons."

            Indeed, in the very Pub-Med study you yourself refer to above, your own selected study's abstract reports: "Of 546 eligible persons, 201 (37%) responded...."

            Indeed, the University of Birmingham's report I cite above reports this comment by one of the researchers: "Dr Hyde said the high drop out rate could reflect high levels of dissatisfaction or even suicide among post-operative transsexuals."

            I think the best we may be able to conclude on the utilitarian ethical claim that these surgeries are successful is that the jury is still out. I am not conceding that this will be the final verdict, since, as Dr. Hyde notes, there is good reason to be suspicious -- and I certainly reject a purely utilitarian standard for ethics, since it amounts to the clearly immoral dictum that the end justifies the means.

          • >a purely utilitarian standard for ethics, since it amounts to the clearly immoral dictum that the end justifies the means.

            This isn't utilitarianism and you know it.

            This post is about labels and we've moved onto medicalizing trans issues. You posted a non scientific piece of Catholic propaganda.

            I then looked for ten minutes on public med and the first three studies I found were positive. Ok. But none of the actual outcomes matter right because this violates natural law? Or your interpretation of it, based in your metaphysics. So who cares if these people benefir from the process?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Utilitarian ethics maintains that what is morally good is that which produces the greatest good for the greatest number.

            That means that there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad act, such as murder. Therefore, if circumstances justify it, murder could be a morally good act.

            Therefore, the good end, whatever it may be, could justify what most people would consider a morally evil act, murder. That is precisely why utilitarianism allows that a good end could justify an evil means, which I merely shortened to say that the end justifies the means. That IS utilitarian ethics.

            Hitler could argue that his desire to purify the human race justified the Holocaust. You might object to the "goodness" of his intended end, but if he sincerely believed it, according to utilitarianism, he would be justified.

            That is why utilitarianism is essentially no ethics at all, since it can, in principle, justify anything.

            This is also why natural law ethics is not based on merely the apparent success of some action, but must test the intrinsic nature of the means used to obtain that end.

            As John Dean famously testified before Congress during the Watergate Hearings, "The end does not justify the means."

          • David Nickol

            But the Vatican opinion (which may or may not be authentic) said that sex-change surgery could be acceptable if it alleviated the individual's suffering. That was certainly not a conclusion based on utilitarian ethics. As you argue (if I understand you correctly) the permissibility of sex-change surgery depends on double effect. That being the case, there has to be a good effect of sufficient magnitude to justify it. That good effect would be to relieve the suffering of transgender individuals. So it is important to know whether the surgery in question has a reasonable chance of relieving suffering. That is not utilitarianism. So studies of outcomes are relevant.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are right that it is not utilitarianism, provided the other required criteria of double effect has been met.

            That "Vatican" opinion appears to assume that they have been met, and so, proceeds to examine the successfulness of the outcomes. Since it is not an authentic magisterial document, the judgments about the other criteria could well be simply wrong. The whole issue is quite complex for many reasons, and that is one reason I hesitate to make a formal judgment about this type of surgery.

            But, yes, assuming the other criteria are met (of which there are a number), the success of the surgery is relevant. That is also precisely why I am concerned about the number of patients who fail to take part in the follow up studies.

          • >Utilitarian ethics maintains that what is morally good is that which produces the greatest good for the greatest number.

            So not "the ends justify the means" then right?

            And no that is a simplistic characterization. A better one is, the moral act is one that maximizes human well being.

            >That means that there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad act, such as murder.

            You're using loaded language here to distort. Murder is not an act it is a crime. It comprises an act, intent and lack of justification. In other words "murder" means a wrongful killing. The act is the killing, which can and cannot be immoral depending on the circumstances.

            >Therefore, the good end, whatever it may be, could justify what most people would consider a morally evil act, murder.

            It wouldn't be murder then, but I'm sure you agree with that statement when considering for example the multitudes killed by god and the genocides he ordered?

            >Therefore, the good end, whatever it may be, could justify what most people would consider a morally evil act, murder.

            Well, obviously not. The so-called purity achieved would not outweigh the Holocaust.

            >That is why utilitarianism is essentially no ethics at all, since it can, in principle, justify anything.

            Again patently wrong, even on your straw man description. Something that produces anything but the greatest good for the greatest number would not be justified.

            >but must test the intrinsic nature of the means used to obtain that end.

            What intrinsic nature of what?

            >"The end does not justify the means."

            Except when it does, and this happens all the time. Vaccinations hurt but being immune justifies this. Incarcerating people will be unpleasant and costly, but will protect many more. And so on...

            And to paraphrase another Watergate quote, except when God does it, it is not immoral. Whether it be writing laws calling on parents to stone children to death, torturing Job on a bet with the devil, killing every first born Egyptian because he made Pharaoh not let them go, ordering Abraham to kill his child, and exterminating all life on earth save one boatload. I guess none of those things is against natural law? They don't depend on whether tne consequences justify them?

            Anyway let's take one last pass we're miles from gender and sex labels.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, you have the ethics so misunderstood here that I don’t know where to begin.

            Utilitarianism does necessarily imply that the end justifies the means, since your very definition of a morally good act as “one that maximizes human well-being” implies that if an act really maximizes human well-being, then it really does not matter what the character of that act may be, including murder.

            I did not say “killing” in my comment. I said murder. Properly defined, everything I said was correct. Murder is defined as the unauthorized and deliberate taking of innocent human life and it is intrinsically wrong. This means it can never be justified by your “good end” of “maximizing human well-being.”

            While the term "unauthorized" properly belongs in the definition to include the special case of God, most people will happily go with the meaning of "deliberately taking an innocent human life." Let us avoid the red herrings.

            Besides, unless you are the God whose existence you deny, how do you know what “maximizes human well-being.”

            Hitler had a different notion than we do, but how can we be sure that what he did might not somehow have aided the human race – however bizarrely – in the long run. The truth is that you as well as I clearly understand how heinous the Holocaust was in its very nature and that nothing on earth could ever justify it.

            It was an “intrinsically evil” act – precisely the sort of thing than natural law ethics forbids, but which eugenicists, such as Margaret Sanger, have used to make sure they “maximize human well-being” by eliminating the social groups they find somehow offensive.

            This is why I said and will defend that utilitarianism is no ethics at all. With it, you can justify anything you want – provided you convince yourself that you are “maximizing human well-being.”

          • Yes, where the end maximizes human well being including a consideration of any harms in the ends, I agree the ends justify the means and this is what utilitarianism advocates. And who would disagree?

            But obviously this is very different than saying any end justifies any means which is the negative implication of your comment.

            >Properly defined, everything I said was correct. Murder is defined as the unauthorized and deliberate taking of innocent human life and it is intrinsically wrong.

            I don't accept that definition. Murder can be committed against very guilty people as well. Also an authorized killing can also be murder. Murder is the label we use to speak of unjustified killing. As such it will always be unjustified and gratuitous and can never be necessary to maximize human well being. Therefore utilitarianism would never consider it moral. It is not intrinsically immoral, it is immoral by definition.

            I would go further and say that even if a god exists and approves for a killing that is not in self-defence, or necessity, such as the killing of Amalakite infants, this is immoral.

            >Besides, unless you are the God whose existence you deny, how do you know what “maximizes human well-being.”

            I have to make my own assessment based on the information I can gather.

            >how can we be sure that what he did might not somehow have aided the human race – however bizarrely – in the long run

            We don't, but there is no reason to think it would and dozens of millions of reasons to think it wouldn't.

            >nothing on EARTH could ever justify it.[emphasis added]

            But I can go further and say nothing at all could ever justify it. You need to say it is intrinsically immoral except when God authorizes it.

            >With it, you can justify anything you want – provided you convince yourself that you are “maximizing human well-being.”

            True, but the same goes for any ethical framework. With natural law you can justify anything you want too by saying it is your assessment that it is ethical by natural law and authorized by a deity. You will say you can be objective about it and I will say I can be objective about what maximizes human well being .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"With it, you can justify anything you want – provided you convince yourself that you are “maximizing human well-being.”
            [DB}
            "True, but the same goes for any ethical framework." [BGA]

            Case closed.

            All that I must do is show that this is not true of natural law ethics.

            Anyone who actually knows natural law ethics knows that intrinsically evil acts, such as murder, can never be justified.

            >"Murder is defined as the unauthorized and deliberate taking of innocent human life and it is intrinsically wrong." [DB]

            "I don't accept that definition." [BGA]

            Were not you ever taught that you cannot argue with a definition? If this is the definition that natural law ethics gives -- and it is, then that is what it is.

            You will never find a natural law ethician who would allow that there are any circumstances whatever that would allow such an act to be morally justified.

          • Ok. Thanks, I'm sorry your moral framework allows for genocide and torture. Mine considers these always immoral. I hope you find enlightenment.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you hold that some things are "always immoral," then you are not a utilitarian. You have some universal moral principles that admit of no exceptions.

            Welcome to the wonderful world of natural law ethics. :)

          • No, utilitarianist can accept somethings as always immoral be cause they will always cause more suffering than they can cause well being.

            I think you are smart enough to recognize this.

            Further if I were a natural law ethicist I could never accept anything as always immoral, because God could authorize it, as he did when ordered children to be killed. You haven't answered that.

            You're natural law would actually be the arbitrary whim of a deity. And a bloodthirsty one at that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"No, utilitarianist can accept somethings as always immoral be cause they will always cause more suffering than they can cause well being."

            The logical defect in your statement is that you can never then say anything is "universally immoral" such as the example you gave earlier of torture. Many have argued that torture needed to make a terrorist tell information needed to stop a nuclear attack would be justified. You never know what will actually produce the "maximum human well being." You do not have a coherent and consistent ethical standard.

            Worse yet, you totally misunderstand natural law.

            God could never authorize murder or adultery or odium dei as morally licit.

            Properly defined, murder is never licit. For a human being to deliberately take the life of another innocent human being (without acting on the authority of God himself) is never allowed. Nor would be adultery. Nor hatred of God.

            You are confusing positivist ethics with natural law. Luther, for example, said that God could authorize adultery or make two plus two equal five. That is what you are talking about -- where the law is whatever God wills, no matter the lack of intelligibility.

            Natural law is based on the eternal law, which is God's plan for his creation. It would be self-contradictory for God to establish a plan of nature -- and then sanction the violations of his own plan.

          • >The logical defect in your statement is that you can never then say anything is "universally immoral" such as the example you gave earlier of torture.

            I take your point on this. But I think the standard is perfectly coherent, though obviously there are epistemological issues in assessing harm and flourishing.

            >God could never authorize murder or adultery or odium dei as morally licit.

            Sure but this is just saying God would never authorize that which he hasn't authorized .

            >Properly defined, murder is never licit. For a human being to deliberately take the life of another innocent human being (without acting on the authority of God himself) is never allowed.

            But killing innocent human life is allowed. On my morality taking human life is never allowed unless out if self defence or duress. For you any killing if innocent humans may be authorized for reasons known only to the God you believe in. God has authorized genocide, and the stoning to death of one's children for drunken disobedience.

            So instead of making meeting the epistemological challenge of utitarianism, you have to meet the insurmoubtable epistemological problem of figuring out what god has authorized. And we know God what suffering god has not authorized in the past but refrains from preventing. God does not save millions of children from disease for reasons we cannot begin to fathom. So we are in no position to determine whether he has authorized anything.

            Notwithstanding the other enormous challenge of establishing this God exists in the first place!

            But contrast assessing relative harm and flourishing is in most cases quite straightforward.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your problem is that that "pesky" God does exist and has created a natural world with given natures he expects us to respect and use rationally.

            When we pervert and misuse our own natures we run afoul of natural law and even God cannot sanction the misuse and contradiction of our own human natures. That is what natural law is all about.

            Just like two plus two cannot equal five, even for God.

            I know it rankles many to think that God actually has the power to give and take life, but if he does give it as a gratuitous gift, he does us no injustice by calling us back home to judgment and reward or punishment for our lives. The innocent he does not harm in the long run. You know not how he cares for those whose lives are short here but everlasting hereafter. And if you think you do, then you are claiming to be more all-knowing than God.

            What you are doing is simply raising the problem of evil, which is another topic. But we many times permit evil ourselves for what we understand to be greater longer term benefits. Just as we go to the dentist so we don't have our teeth fall out.

            The real problem is that you do not confront the utter lack of coherence of utilitarianism and its ethical sisters.

            You either have to grant that some things are intrinsically immoral or not. If so, they can never be allowed, and then you are no longer a utilitarian. If not, then your so-called ethics permits any possible atrocity -- provided the end result appears good enough to "justify it."

            There is no logical way out of this box, except to say that somehow you will personally know the right thing to do when it confronts you. You then become your own ethical God.

            That is why you say, "On my morality taking human life is never allowed unless out if self defence or duress."

            Well, that is "your" morality. What makes it correct? Why do you hold it? What if you change your mind? Who or what authorizes "your" morality? And, since there is no God to lay down any rules of the game, what prevents you from changing "your" morality if you find a circumstance in which it no longer produces the "greatest happiness for the greatest number?"

            That last problem has always been the Achilles heel of utilitarianism or situation ethics -- and that is why I say it is no ethics at all.

            Show me a person who tells me that he has no universal ethical principles and I will show you someone I would not dare hire as a babysitter.

          • Show me a person who tells me that he has no universal ethical principles and I will show you someone I would not dare hire as a babysitter.

            I've been a parent. All I would ask is that the babysitter's ethical principles be the same as mine. If they were, I'd know my children were safe, no matter what the babysitter thought about the origin of those principles.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, it sounds like both you and your babysitter do have ethical principles, since you want that "the babysitter's ethical principles be the same as mine."

            My problem is with a babysitter who has "no universal ethical principles," as I said above.

          • My problem is with a babysitter who has "no universal ethical principles," as I said above.

            And my problem is with your apparent equation of "no universal ethical principles" with "no ethical principles."

          • >Your problem is that that "pesky" God does exist and has created a natural world with given natures he expects us to respect and use rationally.

            No, I mean I honestly don't believe that is true. Nor do I see why a God-given nature would entail a a prescribed behaviour.

            To me, I use the term moral, to refer to behaviour that furthers human well-being. It just makes no sense to me to have any other overriding goal of human conduct.

            >it rankles many to think that God actually has the power to give and take life,

            No this doesn't rankle. If such a god exists, it would have whatever power it has. You can keep repeating your theology, but it doesn't make it true .

            >The real problem is that you do not confront the utter lack of coherence of utilitarianism and its ethical sisters.

            You know darn well utilitarianism is coherent. You don't need to agree with it. As a Catholic I wouldn't expect you to. But saying it is logically inconsistent just makes you look silly.

            >You either have to grant that some things are intrinsically immoral or not.

            I grant no act is intrinsically immorral.

            >If not, then your so-called ethics permits any possible atrocity -- provided the end result appears good enough to "justify it."

            You got it. Like if it really were the case that there would be more human suffering if we don't drown all humans but one family. Or if we eradicate one ethnicity. But I just cannot conceive of any plausible circumstances that would make that true.

            >There is no logical way out of this box, except to say that somehow you will personally know the right thing to do when it confronts you. You then become your own ethical God.

            But this is not a criticism of utilitarianism. It applies to all moral systems. I need to assess whether it will on balance enhance well being .you need to assess whether it is consistent with Gods commands.

            Difficult for you because God may order you to kill your child or commit genocide. All you can do is try and assess if it's really god. How do you do that? I guess you've decided that God would never tell you to cheat on your wife, but he may lawfully ask you to kill a baby?

            >Well, that is "your" morality. What makes it correct? Why do you hold it?

            I can't prove the goal of trying my best to always further human well-being. Do you disagree with that goal? I hold it because of intuition and self interest. It just feels right and I want to live in a world where everyone acts that way.

            >What if you change your mind?

            Then I change my mind.

            >Who or what authorizes "your" morality?

            No one authorizes it, it is what I feel and believe.

            >what prevents you from changing "your" morality if you find a circumstance in which it no longer produces the "greatest happiness for the greatest number?"

            Well if I stop being a utilitarian, say if I favour virtue ethics, then I will presumably have some reason to. But I don't change my mind because l cannot think of a morality that is better. It really is the case that what I call morality really is just a label for my strong intuitive feelings about human well being. My adversion to natural ethics and virtue ethics is a strong adversion to doing something that will be more harmful to people because it upholds a principle. I simply would like to the SS if they asked if I had Jews hidden in my house.

            I make no bones about the fact that this goal of wellbeing is subjective . (And it is maximizing overall well being not the "greatest happiness for the greatest number?")

            But I do have a universal ethical principle, that all conduct maximizes human well being.

            Just because you believe your ethics are objective doesn't mean you too won't change your mind. Many theists do, some of whom are priests and other clergy.

            Take is easy .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I appreciate your candor.

            In summary, your “ethics” has these properties:
            (1) You “grant that no act is intrinsically immoral.”
            (2) You hold it “because of intuition and self-interest.”
            (3) You hold it because “it just feels right.”
            (4) You admit that you could “change [your] mind.”
            (5) It is just what you “feel and believe.”
            (6) It is based just on your “strong intuitive feelings.”
            (7) You admit that your “goal of wellbeing is subjective.”
            (8) And, your only “universal ethical principle” is “that all conduct maximizes human wellbeing.

            What you describe here is hardly an ethical system, but a purely subjective, relativistic, and changeable intuitive feeling that the only thing that matters is that conduct “maximizes human wellbeing.” You admit that this leaves you in the position of saying that “no act is intrinsically immoral.” None at all.

            The only shred of an ethical “system” about this is your concern for maximizing human wellbeing – whatever that is supposed to mean, since you fail to define it. The original utilitarians, Bentham and Mill, had the same problem, since they disagreed between themselves as to how to measure real happiness. And the basic flaw is that there is no way even to determine what produces the maximum wellbeing for man if there is no objective common human nature and agreement on what is the objective measure of human wellbeing.

            You have just proven, once again, that any attempt to build an ethics without an objective framework in which to judge ethical actions is a waste of time, since different people will disagree about the best outcomes. It is relativism in action. It is whatever you want it to be at a given time. That is why I said it is no ethics at all.

            Traditional natural law ethics begins with the recognition that God does exist, that his creation represents a plan for nature and for man – that man has an objective nature and that some actions are suitable for that nature, others not. Classical ethics maintains that man has an objective last end and that it is not in this life, because man has a spiritual and immortal soul, so that his primary objective in life is not the same as that of a gorilla – seeking what pleasures of mind and body he can attain for as long as he can.

            All this shows the great importance of this website in debating whether God exists and his relation to the world. Until you determine the objective answer to some of these questions, debates about ethics are as useful and getting your advice from a television talk show.

          • >What you describe here is hardly an ethical system, but a purely subjective, relativistic, and changeable intuitive feeling that the only thing that matters is that conduct “maximizes human wellbeing.

            Well it is obviously an ethical system. The standard of whether something is considered ethical is whether it advances human well being. I have not heard you say that this is a problematic goal of an ethical system.

            As for the foundation of this goal, I see no way to objectively arrive at an overriding goal. But while this goal is subjective, it is not arbitrary or unreasonable. As human beings we all have an interest in our well being, and as social animals with inherent evolved needs and feelings it makes great sense for us to further the well being of all of us as much as possible.

            But of course even if the goal of morality is to conform with natural law, this does not make it objective. It just pushed the issue back to instead of why is lying wrong to why is non conformity to natural law wrong? And I don't accept that because God is very powerful or god is god, why would those things mean goodness?

            Yes I cannot say any act is intrinsically immoral. This means that morality doesn't depend on an arbitrary classification of moral and immoral but on well being. And I am fine with that. Killing is not intrinsically wrong. Hurting a child us not intrinsically wrong. Killing all the first born if a geographical area is not intrinsically wrong. Drowning all of humanity but one family is not intrinsically wrong. And natural ethics agrees. But I suppose it says lying to Nazis to save a thousand Jews is intrinsically wrong. Saving a woman's life by aborting a doomed fetus is intrinsically wrong. Saving a million people from a nuclear bomb rather than waterboard a terrorist is intrinsically wrong.

            Relativistic my morality is not. I have chosen my moral framework carefully and in my view it applies to everyone.

            And while the goal of utilitarianism is admittedly subjective, in practice it is not. In many if not most cases we can objectively assess whether well being is advanced.

            >The original utilitarians, Bentham and Mill, had the same problem, since they disagreed between themselves as to how to measure real happiness.

            But this it would appear is much easier than assessing what god exists, what he wants, and what his commands are. Not even Catholics agree on this.

            >And the basic flaw is that there is no way even to determine what produces the maximum wellbeing for man if there is no objective common human nature and agreement on what is the objective measure of human wellbeing.

            Actually it is pretty easy to compare most cases of relative assessments of wellbeing and harm. It is only in rare and unlikely moral dilemmas where this is a problem. It is not unclear that giving a child a vaccine maximizes well being .That not killing someone for giving you a dirty look advances well being more than the opposite. But moral dilemma exist. I've noted a few above for Catholics.

            > without an objective framework in which to judge ethical actions is a waste of time

            It isn't. If I am right and there is no objective goal as you believe, wouldn't you agree utilitarianism is a good idea?

            >since different people will disagree about the best outcomes.

            But people disagreeing in outcomes still happens in all ethical frameworks. Especially modified divine command theory. Compare your ethics to those of Mormons, Salafists, the thousands of versions of Christianity. Who are you to say that all people should never get a blood transfusion. Don't you realize this is against the natural law?

            >Traditional natural law ethics begins with the recognition that God does exist,

            I know. This is one of the reasons I take that question very seriously.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hoped I had explained why your ethical goal of “maximizing human wellbeing” is very problematic – for the simple reason that you have to determine first what it means to "maximize human wellbeing" and your “system” has no means to do that. That is why I pointed out that even the founders of utilitarianism, Bentham and Mill, could not agree on how to measure human happiness. You need some objective standard and your “system” provides none.

            >"As for the foundation of this goal, I see no way to objectively arrive at an overriding goal. But while this goal is subjective, it is not arbitrary or unreasonable. As human beings we all have an interest in our well being, and as social animals with inherent evolved needs and feelings it makes great sense for us to further the well being of all of us as much as possible."

            The goal of morality is not to conform to natural law, but to assure ultimate human happiness – just like your goal is! The difference is that natural law needs to be understood as the guide to those human acts that will attain that goal. The problem is that if you cannot even define what fulfills the goal, you certainly cannot discern the necessary means to attain that end.

            What I was trying to explain is that you simply cannot determine which acts will lead to human happiness unless you first study man’s nature. You cannot make a car run right if you do not know the nature of a car.

            That is the role of philosophical psychology – which shows, among other things, that man is not a mere animal with needs for pleasure and entertainment, but a creature of God with a spiritual soul that will never be fulfilled short of directly knowing and loving the infinite good which is God himself. This cannot be achieved in this mortal life, since this life never offers complete happiness. No matter how much pleasure, wealth, power, etc., we get, it is all eventually lost through death. Therefore man’s final goal must be attained in an afterlife which is assured because of the spirituality of the intellectual soul, which is also proven in philosophical psychology.

            The only things you seem to think are “intrinsically wrong” are things that appear to be “extrinsically wrong,” such as failing “to save a million people from a nuclear bomb rather than waterboarding a terrorist.” That is just another way of saying that the good end justifies the means, whatever it may be.

            Your ethics is not relativistic because it fails to apply to every person, but because it fails to recognize that certain acts are evil by their very nature and can never be justified by a good intention or end. The examples you give of apparent moral inconsistency “for Catholics” are simply either misapplications of natural moral law or examples of things God can do, but man cannot (such as taking an innocent life).

            Some of your “ethical problems” are simply part of the “problem of evil,” which should be the topic of another paper. You give too many alleged examples to explain them all. But, for example, you say that “lying to Nazis to save a thousand Jews is intrinsically wrong” according to natural law. Do you know the natural law explanation of lying? This entails a complex understanding of how language is properly used to communicate (ala L. Wittgenstein) as well as to whom complete truth is owed.

            Frankly, I cannot give an entire course in ethics in this thread. But the devil is in the details and requires a careful grasp of how natural law respects human nature in all circumstances without ever allowing exceptions to genuinely universal principles, in particular, the universal negatives such as not to fornicate, murder, lie, steal, and so forth. What you think are violations of these rules are simply cases where they do not apply.

            For example, the rule not to murder does not mean no killing, but no taking of innocent life by a mere human acting on his own authority. Self-defense, just war, and capital punishment are NOT exceptions to the rule, but cases where the rule never applied in the first place.

            I sense your being scandalized by the seeming claim that God can do anything because he is powerful enough to do it, but that also is a complete misunderstanding of why God has certain prerogatives we do not and how he is no less good for exercising them – again, the problem of evil.

            Again, saying that in most cases, it is relatively easy to determine what maximizes wellbeing does not give you a universal rule. Even your “easy” case of giving a child a vaccine may be problematic, as evinced by some of the evidence of harm done by vaccines to the overall immune system respecting resistance to adult cancers. It is intellectual hubris to think we always can figure out what is right just be estimating the ultimate effect of an action. Besides, if we violate natural law, the sin of doing so itself corrupts the intended end.

            Finally, you correctly observe that natural law begins with the recognition that God exists. For, if God does exist, all purely subjective standards must conform to the order of nature God created. This is not arbitrary command theory, but a realization that things will work best only if nature is “used as directed” – just as your car won’t last long if you maintain it “subjectively,” instead of following the owner’s manual placed in the glove compartment by the manufacturer.

            This is also why an objective science of ethics cannot be properly understood without learning the prior philosophical disciplines of metaphysics and natural theology, where the existence and nature of God are proven, as is his true relation to the created world.

          • >for the simple reason that you have to determine first what it means to "maximize human wellbeing" and your “system” has no means to do that.

            Of course it does. It has all the objective evidence of health, it has all human experience of suffering, it has the ability of empathy. Human suffering and well being are known first hand and we are in a good place to make these assessments, most of which are uncontroversial.

            Contrast this to trying to understand the relative importance of gods laws. Is it worse to lie to the Nazis or let this family be gassed? We can easily assess the human well being here but not what god intends.

            >The problem is that if you cannot even define what fulfills the goal, you certainly cannot discern the necessary means to attain that end

            Easily in most cases. Its what we do all the time. But utilitarianism can better than "natural law" ethics.

            >you simply cannot determine which acts will lead to human happiness unless you first study man’s nature

            Never said you could. Luckily we have the disciplines of medicine, psychology, sociology, as well as every human's own extensive experience.

            >philosophical psychology – which shows, among other things, that man is not a mere animal with needs for pleasure and entertainment, but a creature of God with a spiritual soul that will never be fulfilled short

            That is not the case. There is no God. You don't just get to assume this. Actual psychology has no need for a god.

            >Therefore man’s final goal must be attained in an afterlife

            Unless there is no afterlife, in which case this is extremely misguided.

            >That is just another way of saying that the good end justifies the means, whatever it may be.

            Well now here you really have shown your bias. We started this conversation on ethics because you made a similar mischaracterzation of utitarianism. And despite this being intro level ethics, and our agreement that this was a wrong description, you repeat this again. Shame.

            >But, for example, you say that “lying to Nazis to save a thousand Jews is intrinsically wrong” according to natural law. Do you know the natural law explanation of lying? This entails a complex understanding of how language is properly used to communicate (ala L. Wittgenstein) as well as to whom complete truth is owed.

            Too bad your ethics can't just provide an answer to this problem. Or maybe the answer is one you aren't comfortable with.

            >the devil is in the details and requires a careful grasp of how natural law respects human nature in all circumstances without ever allowing exceptions to genuinely universal principles, in particular, the universal negatives such as not to fornicate, murder, lie, steal, and so forth. What you think are violations of these rules are simply cases where they do not apply.

            In other words you will redefine these terms and argue in the circumstances that it isn't lying etc.but in the end what always ends up happening is you maximize human well being .

            >
            I sense your being scandalized by the seeming claim that God can do anything because he is powerful enough to do it, but that also is a complete misunderstanding of why God has certain prerogatives we do not and how he is no less good for exercising them – again, the problem of evil.

            I'm not scandalized, I just don't accept a rule or order is good because of the power of the one making it.

            > It is intellectual hubris to think we always can figure out what is right just be estimating the ultimate effect of an action.

            But no one is thinking we can do this. We recognize that we are doing the best we can, to achieve the best outcome. What more can anyone do? What you seem to object to is that the best is not always the outcome where human well being is maximized? Please answer this question.

            >This is not arbitrary command theory, but a realization that things will work best only if nature is “used as directed” – just as your car won’t last long if you maintain it “subjectively,” instead of following the owner’s manual placed in the glove compartment by the manufacturer

            This is a helpful point, but "as, directed" is different than ethical. Gods directions are not ethical for any reason, they are no standard they are arbitrary, goodness just is whatever god intends. When this is stoning children to death this is good. Unless they are directed to some goal, but they can't be because then that would be the goal of ethics, not conformity with the law.

            So even if there is a deity you still need to demonstrate why his laws are morality. If we just get to pick the goal, I'm going with well being, because this fits with my moral intuitions.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What is clear is that your philosophy is essentially materialistic and your epistemology, even for ethics, is scientistic.

            This means that you really have no way of placing any moral value on anything. If you don’t like your ethics, you will change it. It is all completely subjective for you, as you admit.

            If there is anything to the meaning of ethics, it is that it entails some real sense of obligation -- that we don’t just get to pick and choose. But you have said clearly that you can “change” your ethics, that they are “subjective,” and that they are evaluated in terms of human physical and psychological wellbeing alone.

            If there is no God above yourself, then all your “obligations” are merely imposed upon yourself and can be changed at whim – including your whole ethical system. This means your “ethics” lacks the essential content of the traditional meaning of ethics, namely, that it is a binding in conscience obligation – from which we have no appeal.

            You also assume what you seek to prove. How do you know, not subjectively, but objectively, that in which genuine human “wellbeing” consists? Your materialist assumptions define wellbeing solely in terms of this world’s relief from suffering and attainment of pleasure. What if you are wrong?

            You will never know the answer because you reject all traditional proofs for God, the spiritual nature of the human soul, and the relationship of human acts to a last end beyond this life. Don’t call all these mere “assumptions” until you address each proof and show why its premises and inferences are invalid.

            In a totally materialist world, there really is no basis for ethical values. Since when does an atom, molecule, or any biological complex really deserve to have ethical value? Since when do purely material entities at the lower levels have any rights, freedom, dignity, or responsibilities? Since when to cockroaches have any? If man is essentially nothing but a highly-developed cockroach, what is the basis for our human dignity, rights, freedom, and responsibilities? Purely arbitrary social conventions? Based on what?

            Conversely, if we arbitrarily assign such “human values” to ourselves, then why not to chimps as well? If chimps, then why not dogs? If dogs, why not rats? If rats, why not cockroaches as well? And atoms?

            I don’t know if you are an American, but we just celebrated our Independence from Great Britain. And in our Declaration of Independence, we clearly asserted where our human rights and values came from when we said, “We are endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

            Good luck finding the rational basis for any of these basic human and ethical values without “our Creator.”

            The Founding Fathers couldn’t.

            Edit: Oops! I just found that Facebook found hate speech in the Declaration of Independence! Guess we cannot use it anymore? ;-)
            https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/4/facebook-flags-declaration-independence-hate-speec/

          • >your philosophy is essentially materialistic

            Irrelevant.

            >and your epistemology, even for ethics, is scientistic.

            No, nor have I implied this.

            >This means that you really have no way of placing any moral value on anything.

            It wouldn't mean that, and I do clearly place moral value on human life and flourishing.

            >If you don’t like your ethics, you will change it

            No, and never implied. Its not about what I like, it's about my moral intuitions and values.

            >If there is no God above yourself, then all your “obligations” are merely imposed upon yourself and can be changed at whim – including your whole ethical system

            Anyone can change their ethical approach and this has nothing to do with whether a god exists. After all you believe this god exists and accept that I can change.

            I cannot change my moral intuitions or values at a whim, I don't think I can change them at all. I would need to be convinced that there is a more compelling factor to be an overidding guide for human conduct than human well being.

            This is not whimsical and it is rather insulting you would think it is, given our discussion.

            >This means your “ethics” lacks the essential content of the traditional meaning of ethics, namely, that it is a binding in conscience obligation – from which we have no appeal.

            No, as I said above, while I cannot prove an objective absolute foundation for well being utilitarianism does impose obligations and is binding on all humans.

            >but objectively, that in which genuine human “wellbeing” consists?

            The term well being here refers to human health and happiness, and reducing suffering. These can be objectively observed.

            >What if you are wrong?

            I don't understand what if I'm wrong that what I want to advance is the goal of reducing suffering and increase flourishing?I don't understand.

            >Don’t call all these mere “assumptions” until you address each proof and show why its premises and inferences are invalid.

            I don't call them assumptions. I have addressed them in each of your posts and elsewhere.

            >In a totally materialist world, there really is no basis for ethical values. Since when does an atom, molecule, or any biological complex really deserve to have ethical value?

            They don't, materialism is a metaphysical perspective on the number and nature of fundamental substances that exist. Ethics are not fundamental. When material develops minds capable of self awareness and an interest in their well being, they become subject to ethical issues.

            >If man is essentially nothing but a highly-developed cockroach

            Humans are not they are very different.

            >Good luck finding the rational basis for any of these basic human and ethical values without “our Creator.”

            I don't need luck, I have found it in evolution and in the development of human society and cultures, no creators required.

            FYI I'm Canadian so your recourse to revolutionary leaders is not persuasive. And punting the origin of values to a creator does nothing to establish a basis for them to be obligations or "good" it just says a creator picked them and by definition they must be arbitrary or devoid of content.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I knew from your spelling that you were not American, but was not sure which of the English-speaking countries you were from. Nothing personal. I have a daughter who is Canadian.

            I am not too sure about your consistency:

            >If you don’t like your ethics, you will change it DB

            "No, and never implied" BGA "Anyone can change their ethical approach..." BGA

            There are two meanings to "obligation" here. Your only ethical "obligation" is to your own chosen commitment to utilitarianism. But the traditional meaning of obligation is that there is a transcendent basis for ethics that does not proceed from human acceptance and that entails ontological sanctions for its violation. That is why having such values "endowed by our Creator" matters.

            The real problem is that you can say that humans are really superior from animals because they evolved minds, but all this really does not create the objective force of an ethical system, since we still must give our personal consent to abide by these "values." (And it IS a materialist ontology to say that we can "evolve" a "mind.")

            The traditional concept of ethics does not depend on us binding ourselves to standards we ourselves choose to recognize. Ethics has always implied a law of conscience binding all men, regardless of human consent. You can give "ethics" a new meaning, but that does not reflect what the term traditionally has meant.

            I would be the first to say that the science of ethics depends for its proper understanding on a proper understanding the the ontological framework in which it arises, that is, truths about God and human nature and man's last end -- all of which you totally reject because of your positivistic approach to truth and your commitment to atheism.

            That said, you may have the last word -- since ethics without metaphysics is a fool's errand.

          • BCE

            Please don't think I am glib. I realize this effects people in profound ways. So don't confuse my confining my comments to certain issues, as indifference. I think you are unfairly doing some of that to Dr B.
            I am reluctant to use my personal experiences; let me just say, when speaking about grave human concerns, some [ may ] ask about things or contribute in a matter-of-fact manner, which in no way reflects
            their interior feelings about the people involved.
            "a body was found, the victim is a 22 yr old female, her body badly decomposed... "

            You insist gender must be thought of as separate from sex(m/f) and not binary.
            Not that anyone needs a semantic lesson, but as much as I can
            recall, "gender" as you use it , has only been used to describe
            interior feelings, largely after the publishing of 'Biological Exuberance'.
            Before that "gender" meant male/female.
            Whereas many things that come in two do not have one word for the set or add [s], others have a separate word.
            What's my point?
            Why should I except the co-opting of the word "gender" ?
            when gender never meant internal self expression and self identification.

            Why do you insist "gender" is a "spectrum" and "fluid"
            It seems like advocates for the "fluid" meme, in an effort to
            end stigma and social persecution, insist on "fluid" to mean
            all expressions are normal. (and they challenge anyone's right to define normal, and even question the ethics of those that do)
            Often the word "normal" is challenged "whose to say what's normal..."
            I understand the sociological implication of words and the history of how they are used, so now "normal" is a hot button word, but there is a normal or typical value for every other condition, and an abnormal or atypical one. So sickle cell is not a typical "normal" trait.
            We must protect the rights of people, but biologist, neurologists, evolutionary psychologists don't know that none congruent identities
            are just mere variations and not an atypical, anomaly. They can't call it
            normal.
            So again, why insist self identifications are "normal" variation?
            Can you except arthritis is not normal?
            Do you have some proof or theory why "gender" (your use of it) is an exception.
            Now before you say "what's" my point? then think I'm reprehensible:
            my position is not to make people feel bad or excuse discrimination,
            but why should I except your position? And why, instead of focusing
            on human rights, do atheists focus on gaining agreement for
            "gender fluid"?
            It makes me suspicious that they have such a deep seated
            angst about words (which is justifiable based on bigotry),
            but it's not scientifically objective at this point given the lack of evidence.
            I've read articles about tribal "two spirits"
            It seems, in the absence of social stigma, those individuals do well.
            Are you concerned that despite some trans wanting hormones and surgery, that's just an extreme reaction to our cultural bias?
            Since tribal people coped well, Is it ethical to promote hormones and surgery if it's our culture that drives people toward those measures?

            Social Advocates seem reluctant to allow medical research.
            Though it might not be psychiatric, does not mean it's not
            neurological, congenital, or imprinting error.
            Do you support research?

          • >You insist gender must be thought of as separate from sex(m/f)

            I don't. Just not the same as sex, the two are related .

            >and not binary.

            Yes.

            >"gender" as you use it , has only been used to describe
            interior feelings,

            That would be a gender identity .

            >Before that "gender" meant male/female.

            Sure words have multiple meanings and these change. Which is why discussions like this are important .

            >Why do you insist "gender" is a "spectrum" and "fluid"

            I do not. People have different gender identities and express this differently. There are not just two approaches to gender, and for some it is fluid.

            Yes I would be one of those people who would reject efforts to have gender norms. I don't see why it can't be just up to the individual .

            >It seems, in the absence of social stigma, those individuals do well.

            True.

            >Are you concerned that despite some trans wanting hormones and surgery, that's just an extreme reaction to our cultural bias?

            No.

            >Is it ethical to promote hormones and surgery

            Not sure what you mean by promote. Its ethical to offer this if there is good reason to believe such measures will significantly improve people's quality of life .

            >Do you support research?

            Yes, if it's ethical .

          • Sample1

            Excellent post. I’m strongly inclined to think all morals, faith-based and non-faith-based, human or non-human animal, are entirely subjective actions.

            Mike
            Edit: this reply is meant to follow your post below that ends with, “take it easy.”

          • Michael Murray

            "Do you follow what the person thinks and, perhaps, even attempt to change the biology to comport with the belief? Or, do you consider the biology determinative and ignore the belief claim?"

            Why would you necessarily give the physical biology precedence over the mental biology ? If we understood what creates the mental belief we might discover that for some individuals the mental belief is correct and the process that creates the matching body has gone wrong.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I thought those were questions. I do not recall giving a definitive judgment one way or the other between the alternatives.

            I did point to the complexity of the decision in terms of natural law ethics. Any surgery is a form of mutilation which must be justified by application of the principle of double effect, which entails careful application of several rules.

            One of the rules -- although not necessarily a deciding one -- is whether the result produces at least as much good as it does harm. I expressed concerns about this criterion being met, but again realize that the measurement of outcomes is itself complex.

            I have expressed concerns about the extreme mutilative nature of the surgery itself and would suggest that anyone wondering what I mean to look up the details on the internet. It may explain why some people do not appear to opt for the surgery's final steps.

          • Michael Murray

            I thought those were questions. I do not recall giving a definitive judgment one way or the other between the alternatives.

            I was just wondering if in those questions you were trying to separate "biological" as somehow physical and distinct from "beliefs" and "thoughts". For me of course it's all biological. In Catholic theology does the soul carry a a gender ?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You raise an excellent question about whether the soul carries a gender. But I must insist that that question is NOT theological, but philosophical. For some reason, many people think one is doing theology the moment God or the human soul is mentioned. Aristotle was a good pagan and not a theologian. But he deals with first movers (God?) and the human soul.

            Anyway, the soul as such is neither male nor female. Still, it never really exists "as such," but rather as animating a particular human body, which is either male or female.

            After death, the spiritual soul would no longer in itself be male or female, but one might argue that it now bears a relationship to a human life that it led as male or female. Moreover, upon the resurrection (which IS a purely theological belief), that relationship would once again be concretely realized in the formation of a body whose composite substance, the living human being, would necessarily be male or female.

            That is the best speculative answer I can give to you.

          • David Nickol

            Anyway, the soul as such is neither male nor female. Still, it never really exists "as such," but rather as animating a particular human body, which is either male or female.

            Yet the Catechism says the following:

            366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

            Is statement that the soul "separates" from the body and then is later "reunited" with the body entirely metaphorical? Is the belief that the soul goes to purgatory (or hell) after death entirely metaphorical? If the soul never really exists "as such," how can it separate from the body, go somewhere until the end of the world, and then be reunited with the body.?

            Mark 8:36 in older translations talks about a man losing his soul. But the translation in the NAB is as follows:

            What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

            If I had been at my grandfather's deathbed and later said, "He heaved one last sigh and the life left his body," I wouldn't mean that life literally separated from his body, went somewhere else, and awaited a reunion. If "soul" equals "life," then it makes sense to speak of the soul leaving the body. But if the soul is "the form of the body," then there is certainly some confusion.

            I acknowledge, as always, that God (if he exists) can do anything, so the idea of eventual resurrection presents no problem to me at all. But with the soul leaving the body, I think we're in "square circle" territory.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear I may have accidentally misled you by saying that the soul never really exists "as such." I did not mean that it does not exist, but that it never exists "by itself" prior to the beginning of life. It is created at the first moment of conception and becomes the form of the body, the substantial form animating and specifying the prime matter, in that selfsame act.

            I concur fully with what the CCC says as you cited it.

            Yes, of course, it exists separately from the body after death and in heaven, hell, or purgatory prior to the resurrection, when it then animates the resurrected body again for all eternity.

            I apologize for my wording being that ambiguous!

            Edit: Let me explain what the phrase, "as such," really meant. It meant "considered in itself."

            Considered in itself, obviously, spirit has no sex, since sex is a biological quality pertaining solely to material beings. It for the same reason that angels and God have no sex. We have traditionally called them by masculine pronouns for reasons I won't go into here.

          • Rob Abney

            That is very close to believing in a soul that forms the body. Are you reverting?

          • Michael Murray

            No sorry Rob. As far as I'm concerned the internal feeling that I'm male is just physical patterns in the brain. How they relate to the fact that physically I'm male I don't understand.

            But I'm not assuming that the feeling of maleness would create the physical maleness. I would rather expect that there is some developmental process that causes both the mental and physical maleness. If that is true then that process might start out as if I was going to become male and fail to either create the appropriate mental state or the appropriate physical state. I just don't see that one has to take primacy over the other.

            EDIT: This is what I meant by "the process".

          • >Rather, they are cases in which someone is clearly of one sex and is convinced that he belongs in the radically opposite sex.

            Nope.

            >what is the same is the person being convinced he belongs in a radically different state than his clear biology dictates.

            Yes, but this is like saying a child playing with his food is like the construction of the Panama Canal because both are interested in changing the arrangement of matter.

            Again the example you brought up is highly disturbing and illuminates your ignorance and disrespect. I don't expect you to get that until you make a true effort to understand what it really means to be transgender.

            I'm being polite and restrained, but what you're saying feels to someone who is transgender, probably like someone saying all Catholic clergy are given to child molestation, many just haven't been caught. There must be something about Catholicism that draws these predators in and the church is organized to protect and hide this.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I will ignore your accusing me of "ignorance and disrespect," which is not in keeping with the guidelines of this web site, and simply request that you read my reply to David Nickol immediately below his comment below this one.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems to me that you have a disrespectful attitude toward cats. Why is it acceptable to express your gender as any variety of male and female but not as an animal. What gives humanness superiority?

          • Yes I have no problem with disrespecting cats.

            Because an animal is not a gender it's a species.

            You have to be human to have human rights. Extending rights to other animals is worthy of discussion but definitely a tangent here

          • Rob Abney

            Interesting, you've taken a different approach than I expected, because most atheists do not see humans as superior to other animals. But you seem to be acknowledging a superiority or else you wouldn't be against a transition to another species. I agree that it would be a step down because the person would be giving up their freedom and also their duties. Non-human animals have very little freedom and few duties especially compared to humans.
            That is also why I don't believe we should celebrate or encourage transgenderism, because it represents giving up freedoms and duties. It almost always forgoes being able to reproduce and the duties that then go along with that ability. Duties that are essential to our society.
            I could say that it doesn't matter if a boy dresses like a girl or a man like a woman but it does matter, it confuses the person as well as his social circle and it is ultimately anti-life.

          • >because most atheists do not see humans as superior to other animals

            I didn't say superior. Define what you mean by superior.

            >It almost always forgoes being able to reproduce

            This is only people undergo sexual reassignment surgery, which is a subset of trans people. And I'm not even sure that it is true of all of this subset, but if it is, it is a choice that needs to be weighed, and obviously an individual choice. Further the likelihood of someone who would rather transition, having children sexually is unlikely, and parenthood is by no means foreclosed.

            >It confuses the person as well as his
            social circle and it is ultimately anti-life.

            It isn't at all confusing, it is difficult to discuss if you refuse to accept the reality that gender is more complicated than the binary fantasy you seem to cling to. There is nothing "anti life" about it.

            Accepting the reality of transgender people allows them to live without or with less suffering, shame , and denial. It is very much more conducive to a free and equal society.

          • Rob Abney

            Let’s replace “gender” with “fashion”.

          • >a person ought not be discriminated against because they are a unique person. And I completely agree.

            I do not, wrongful discrimination is detrimental conduct on the basis of grounds that we do not want to see marginalized or oppressed. There may be many reasons to cause detriment to people based on unique characteristics .

            >Using a near meaningless term like "gender" just doesn't make sense.

            It isn't meaningless and it makes a great deal of sense.

          • Phil

            It isn't meaningless and it makes a great deal of sense.

            Above you had said you didn't really know the purpose of the term gender.
            See comment: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/just_what_are_men_and_women_anyway/#comment-3936297470

            ----

            In the end, my entire point is that no person should be unjustly discriminated against. But trying to rationally defend a concept like "gender", that isn't something I could do.

            If "sex/gender characteristics" are all arbitrary and purely societally created, then any characteristic can rationally go with male or female. So a person born female, who claims to express themself as male doesn't make sense because all the characteristics are arbitrary anyways and have no connection so any sex/gender.

          • Purpose and meaning are different things. And I said I didn't know the purpose of gender not the term gender. These are important distinctions .For example race also is a social construct with really no legitimate purpose, but the term still has meaning and someone's racial identity may be very important to them as is prohibiting discrimination based on race.

            >If "sex/gender characteristics" are all arbitrary and purely societally created, then any characteristic can rationally go with male or female.

            Not arbitrary, but yes. And this happens all the time. Pants used to.be for men only. Men used to wear makeup, pink used to be associated with boys .

            >So a person born female, who claims to express themself as male doesn't make sense because all the characteristics are arbitrary anyways and have no connection so any sex/gender.

            But they do. Society and culture assign all kinds of behaviour, aesthetics, jobs, and so on with sex assigned at birth. Many stores in fact the majority do not sell any clothingti babies without explicit gendered symbols if not direct statements about what gender expression the child is. Its crazy.

          • Phil

            But they do. Society and culture assign all kinds of behaviour, aesthetics, jobs, and so on with sex assigned at birth. Many stores in fact the majority do not sell any clothingti babies without explicit gendered symbols if not direct statements about what gender expression the child is. Its crazy.

            My point here was that if all the characteristics of males and females actually have no connection to reality and are purely arbitrary, then someone who says that they were born male and want to express themselves as female makes no sense.

            This is because there wouldn't actually be any objective connection to reality about what it means to express themselves as male or female.

            In truth, if someone wants to say that people should be comfortable if a woman wants to act or dress in a way that has arbitrarily been assigned as "male" then we should be comfortable with that (and vice versa). I'm pretty okay with that in general. But to say that this means that that person is actually a man doesn't make sense.

            What is truly at issue is saying that a man or woman can actually become a woman or man. That just doesn't acknowledge the truth of reality when saying that that can happen.

          • >My point here was that if all the characteristics of males and females actually have no connection to reality and are purely arbitrary, then someone who says that they were born male and want to express themselves as female makes no sense.

            Sure but a lot of thing don't make logical sense about human psychology. Similarly there is no biological basis for race. And yet many people do place great importance on their own racial identity and it is also important to have respectful language in talking about racialized individuals, and not discriminate based on race .

            >What is truly at issue is saying that a man or woman can actually become a woman or man.

            I can't respond to this because I'm not sure what you mean by "man" and "woman" here. If you mean anatomy, I agree with you. If you mean in the way they dress and behave I don't.

            It is simply not the case that someone with male anatomy who wants gender affirming surgery wants to be a biological woman. They want to be a trans woman. Get it yet?

          • Phil

            Sure but a lot of thing don't make logical sense about human psychology. Similarly there is no biological basis for race. And yet many people do place great importance on their own racial identity and it is also important to have respectful language in talking about racialized individuals, and not discriminate based on race .

            Then my point is lets use reason and logic about this.

            I agree that "race" has a lot of construction behind it. Sure, there are some biological differences that can be used to create these different categories of "race", such as skin color. If there weren't any differences whatsoever between what people call different "races" it would be a perfectly irrational and arbitrary term.

            But just as it doesn't make sense to say that I identify as Asian, it doesn't make sense for me to say that I identify as a woman.

            Now, again, that doesn't mean that people don't struggle with gender dysphoria. People obviously do, and we need to be sensitive to that. But the antidote to working with a man who struggles with gender dysphoria is not to say, "yes, you are actually a woman, and you should get hormone treatment and surgery".
            That is why we don't tell someone who is struggling with anorexia who keeps telling everyone and themselves that they are overweight (when they clearly are not) to go on a diet and maybe even get surgery.

          • >Sure, there are some biological differences that can be used to create these different categories of "race", such as skin color

            Exactly. But you need to be clear when you are speaking of skin colour or ethnicity, if you just use the term race, you will be too vague and potentially invoking all kinds of baggage.

            >But the antidote to working with a man who struggles with gender dysphoria is not to say, "yes, you are actually a woman, and you should get hormone treatment and surgery".

            This isn't what happens though. Gender Affirming Surgery doesn't do that. It says for example, my sex assigned at birth is female, this can never change. But my anatomy makes me feel uncomfortable and causes a great deal of suffering. I don't identify with really any of the traditional roles of women or conduct, but I do for those as men. After months or years of counseling, my anatomy still just feels wrong. There is a surgery that is not without issues that many have felt very effective at allowing poeple to feel much more comfortable. I've had that surgery, my sex assigned at birth is still female, my gender identity is trans male, my gender expression is gender neutral and at times cis male.

            >That is why we don't tell someone who is struggling with anorexia who keeps telling everyone and themselves that they are overweight

            This is an innapropriate analogy. Those who continue to pursue a thinner body with anorexia will die. This is the opposite of gender affirming surgery which is rarely regretted .

          • Phil

            This is an innappropriate analogy. Those who continue to pursue a thinner body with anorexia will die.

            It would be appropriate because the analogy is all about seeing reality as it actually is. Whether one is male or female is objectively determined with how reality is (again, reality also says that true biological intersex is possible).

            How a certain culture and time chooses to express that male or femaleness can be somewhat arbitrary many times.

            I think that the transgender idea is slightly misguided because it is affirming that there is a certain way of how a man or woman ought to act and dress. And if you don't fit into that category then there must be something wrong with you. The answer is there is nothing wrong with you.

            This isn't what happens though. Gender Affirming Surgery doesn't do that. It says for example, my sex assigned at birth is female, this can never change. But my anatomy makes me feel uncomfortable and causes a great deal of suffering. I don't identify with really any of the traditional roles of women or conduct, but I do for those as men. After months or years of counseling, my anatomy still just feels wrong.

            "My anatomy feels wrong" speaks towards the underlying psychological and mental struggles. That is why turning towards one's body and saying, "There is something wrong with it" is so troubling. Because if the body developed healthily as it ought to have, then then is nothing objectively wrong with it.
            Again, that is the anorexic saying, "there is something wrong with my body, my body feels wrong".

            This is an innapropriate analogy. Those who continue to pursue a thinner body with anorexia will die. This is the opposite of gender affirming surgery which is rarely regretted .

            I'd be careful before we make solid conclusions because this is a very new and budding area of research. It is only 10, 15, 30, 40 years from now that we will be able to see the broad range effects of hormone treatment and surgery.

            For example, a hospital who did gender reassignment surgery shut down its program after it discovered after over 20 years of following past patients that physical surgery and/or hormone treatment didn't actually help, to any statistical significance, the underlying psychological problems of gender dysphoria.

          • These are different conditions with different outcomes and treatments.

            > Whether one is male or female is objectively determined with how reality is (again, reality also says that true biological intersex is possible).

            No. Whether one has male or female sex organs is an objective question. Whether one is male or female is vague question that engages gender as qell.

            >because it is affirming that there is a certain way of how a man or woman ought to act and dress

            No, it isn't.

            >And if you don't fit into that category then there must be something wrong with you.

            Definitely not.

            >It is only 10, 15, 30, 40 years from now that we will be able to see the broad range effects of hormone treatment and surgery

            It has been that long, longer actually.

          • Phil

            No. Whether one has male or female sex organs is an objective question. Whether one is male or female is vague question that engages gender as qell.

            And this is probably where we reach our impasse. Whether one is male or female is directly connected to physical biology. (What arguments could be made that one is male or female based upon how they "feel" is hard to make sense of.) Male and female sex organs are part of the biology of male and female, but not the only thing. Obviously there are many more genetic differences, brain differences, etc, between male and female biology. To somehow detach male and female from objective physical reality seems quite irrational to me.

            Health and medicine is interested in keeping the body functioning well and properly. If a male or female body is functioning well, then I would argue that it is not healthy to destroy that body.

            Again, this is not to say that people do struggle with gender dysphoria. They do, and we need to be sensitive to that. But affirming the psychological belief that someone is not the sex they were born and that which their body naturally is oriented towards is not ultimately oriented towards keeping the body functioning as it ought to.

            In short, it seems like gender dysphoria has a large psychological/mental/emotional component, possibly even as one of the primary causes, so I wonder if starting there does not make the most sense for health professionals dealing with patients with gender dysphoria?

          • David Nickol

            Do you imagine that if someone presents to a psychiatrist or a psychologist with all the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria, the psychiatrist or psychologist says, "Okay, let's schedule you for surgery"?

            Can you present any evidence for your position about the cause of gender dysphoria or any evidence for an effective treatment to ameliorate it?

          • Rob Abney

            From International Journal of Transgenderism (do you accept this journal?): The main psychiatric approaches to treatment for persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria are psychotherapy or supporting the individual's preferred gender through hormone therapy, gender expression and role, or surgery.

          • Phil

            Can you present any evidence for your position about the cause of gender dysphoria or any evidence for an effective treatment to ameliorate it?

            As I mentioned, there have been programs going for decades that did hormonal treatment and surgery, and as they followed these people over decades they found that these treatments didn't take away the underlying psychological feelings of "gender dysphoria" to any statistical significance. They then stopped doing the gender re-assignments and surgeries.

            Part of the problem is we just don't have a ton of good data yet, so we need to be careful. It is a shame that this has become so politicized so quickly. We really need to let science do its thing without the political pressure.

            I think we need to slow down specially when it comes to giving hormones to those pre-puberty and doing any sort of surgery to young people.

            I am no expert on this, but from the looks of it, I'd put good money that the source of gender dysphoria is more psychological than it is physical (similar to anorexia). Hear me out though, this doesn't make it any less of an issue. It just means that hormonal treatment and surgery may not be the best way to deal with this.

          • When someone says "man up". They are not referring to biology. The song "I feel like a woman" is not about peeling like you have a vagina. The men's section of a store is not devoted to things related to having balls and a ding dong. The fact that there is a "girl's" section of the baby store that had only pink purple and white and the "boys" has none of these, man-sized, manwich, women's work, "wearing the pants" are but a few of the uses of these terms that have nothing to do with biology.

            We live in societies flooded with roles and expectations imposed from before birth and after death that impose gendered norms on people.

            Yes, these norms affect us, yes biology playsva role. And yes some people have no use for them. Others feel very strongly, inherent, natural and overwhelming connections to these norms even if their genitals aren't the ones traditionally associated.

            To think that one term man and woman works any more of r just refers to sex assigned at birth is just ignorant at this point.

            You want to consider people only based on their chromosomes or their genitals? How many people do you know what this is?

            No, you go by how they look, dress, and act .and as for intersex, gender fluid, cross dressers, and other transgender people you will just pretend they don't exist or are sick.

            You want to refer to them by categories that you are comfortable and is informed by a religion that was once so obsessed with categorization everything that it banned eating meat on Friday for centuries.

            All I can say is if you care not to be on the wrong side of history here really try to inform yourself on thus. Listen to trans stories.

            These people are not doing this on a whim. They aren't unaware of the myths and desperate need to Pidgeon hole into a binary system based on their junk. They aren't in denial of their anatomy and what surgery means.

            This is who they are. Really.

          • Rob Abney

            Mother and Father are two terms you avoided. You may consider them to be social constructs but they are definitely bound to biology. Only a female with female genitalia can give birth and be a Mother.

          • Depends on the context. Sometimes these terms have nothing to do with biology .

          • Rob Abney

            When is that? Is it when the terms are used to represent something other than the real meaning?

          • For example if you are adopted and you use these terms they are not due to biology .or if your mom is a trans woman .

          • Rob Abney

            What are the requirements to be called mom? Do you even have to have a kid?

          • No, ask Maurice Boucher. People use words however they want .

          • Rob Abney

            Some people use words however they want but they are not taken seriously because no one could ever know what they might actually mean. I would be surprised if you or anyone consider the term “mom” to apply in the same way to the killer you put forth as a mom to the woman who gave birth to you.

          • I do

          • Rob Abney

            I’m sure that your Mom would not be happy to hear such a profession.

          • I don't. But you didn't ask about the terms I use to describe the woman that gave birth to me. You asked whether I thought the terms mom and dad necessitated a biological connection. I said depends on the context you asked for the context and I provided it .

          • Phil

            I guess maybe the primary question would be, does "gender" have any intrinsic objective connection to any part of physical reality?

          • I'm not sure what you mean.

          • Phil

            I'm not sure what you mean.

            I don't know quite how to re-phrase it. I'm simply wondering if there is any intrinsic objective connection of "gender" physical reality?

            Is it merely a subjective arbitrary reality, or can we objectively discern "gender"?

            In short, I'm trying to get at the fact that "gender identity" seems to be a pretty bankrupt term with no real meaning and possibly ought to be abandoned.

          • Phil

            I guess what I am also getting at is the fact that someone feels "not fully like a man or women" doesn't make them any less a man or woman. They are still a man or woman whether or not they feel like it. That is where we have to deal with the psychological, mental, and emotional struggle.

            Does that mean that we need to to not judge those that don't act like a "stereotypical man or woman", of course. But we need to also say, that doesn't make you any less a man or woman. We need to help people be comfortable and love *who they are*. It is a great shame that people don't like and are not comfortable in their own skin.

  • Sample1

    I’ll take a crack. Men and women are anything human beings define men and women to be.

    Sex between men and women is just one evolutionary method for the survival of genes.

    Mike

    • Rob Abney

      Men and women are defined by human beings but the definition is based on what a large majority consider to be objective requirements not necessarily what an individual subjectively professes.
      Sex between men and women seems like the best way to propagate genes, what are other methods that you are promoting?

      • David Nickol

        Sex between men and women seems like the best way to propagate genes, what are other methods that you are promoting?

        There is a lot more to life than reproducing. If you believe reproduction should be maximized, then why do you believe in a Church that mandates celibacy for its clergy?

        And why does the Church require that any couple that wants to get married must be capable of having sexual intercourse, even if they are sterile? It is because sex is not merely for procreation, but also for bonding (that is, its "unitive"), or am I wrong?

        I think the teachings of the Church on sexuality would probably carry a bit more weight with those who are not Catholic if those teachings were not rejected by most Catholics themselves. Of course, the fact that so many Catholics do not accept the Church's teachings on sexuality does not make those teachings untrue. But if the Church can't convince its own members, how can it hope to convince "non-Catholics"?

        ADDED LATER: By the way, I should add that I can't go along with the statement "Men and women are anything human beings define men and women to be." Which human beings get to do the defining? And what if there is a disagreement over who is a human being?

        • Rob Abney

          I'll address one of your points for now, humans do decide whether someone is male or female, and for nearly every person that decision is accurate and is agreed to by the vast majority of humans. When the distinction is questionable then there are a variety of humans in positions with the authority to make the decision such as doctors, parents, teachers, counselors, judges, clergy, and spouses/potential spouses, and/or the person who is in question. It depends on the situation, in a Catholic context a potential spouse will need to know definitively if the person is of the opposite sex.

        • OMG

          Good questions. From the words of one who met Jesus 40 days after his birth: Jesus would be a sign of contradiction. His life, teachings and their consequence would not be understood or accepted by all. Indeed, He was put to death for his words.

          Why would men accept celibacy? Faith that the idea furthers God's will, and freedom to make that choice. The call to celibacy is one which priests (and other vowed celibates and virgins) deliberate, discern, contemplate, etc., for many years; it represents a call unique, difficult in nature, and rare. Men and women freely choose the call to further their understanding " of the kingdom of God." Jesus (Matthew 12:19) speaks to those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom.

          I don't profess expertise in my ability to explain why the Church wants married couples to be able to procreate, but here's a try. "Be fruitful and multiply" were the first words of God to His creation--men and women as well as animals. These words preceded the giving of the Ten Commandments. It is in the nature of male and female to seek unity through the complementarity of our bodies; to seek ultimate acceptance and compassion of our goodness as well as forgiveness for our wounds in the arms of a loving other. This naturally gives rise to have more of the same--the multiplication of such goodness through reproduction.

          The desire to have and to raise children, despite the travails of that undertaking, is strong. St. John Paul II may provide further answers in his "Theology of the Body" for those interested.

          • David Nickol

            I don't profess expertise in my ability to explain why the Church wants married couples to be able to procreate, but here's a try.

            Here again, you are contributing to the confusion over the inability to conceive and the inability to have sexual intercourse. The Catholic Church does not require that couples must be able to conceive in order to get married in the Church. Women who are past childbearing age, or women who have had hysterectomies (for legitimate reasons), or men with sperm counts of zero are welcome to get married in the Catholic Church.

          • OMG

            I don't see the confusion you see here. I do understand that you may question my statements since a day or so ago I erred in one. It is admirable that one question much and try to achieve a charitable truth in conversation. I agree that often my hurry leads me to not edit my writing (despite a credential to teach it!). My constructions, my thought is often obtuse and not clear. Sometimes I am not considerate of my audience; not knowing much about my audience, I often fail to understand their way of thinking or their questions.

            That said, I have re-read my post of today more than once. I do not say, as you say I do: "The Catholic Church does [not] require that couples must be able to conceive in order to get married in the Church." If you could please show me the nuance where my meaning slants that way, perhaps I can edit so there is less confusion. Thanks!

          • David Nickol

            The only thing that is really important—to both of us, I think—is that its clear to everyone that the Catholic Church does not consider sterility/infertility to be an impediment to marriage. Women past childbearing age may marry. Men with a sperm count of zero may marry. If we agree on that, which I am confident we do, then all is well!

          • OMG

            We do. So now that we're 'united' in that, may I ask what you understand to be the meaning of 'fruitful'?

          • David Nickol

            I presume you are referring to Genesis 1:28, and the NAB translation is to "be fertile and multiply," so I don't think there is any ambiguity in what the text is saying. But how to interpret the text?

            According to the reading I have done, which is by no means extensive, within Judaism it is considered a "commandment" (binding on men, but not women), and in ancient Judaism it was interpreted to mean married couples should have as many children as possible. According to some it should be a minimum of one boy and one girl, and according to others it be three children (so as to increase population).

            However, in Christianity a high value is placed on virginity and celibacy, so it is impossible to have a religion in which God commands people to have as many children as possible and also tells them that it is better to be celibate than to marry.

            Remember that in Genesis, the command is given to the first created humans, and it includes the command to "fill the earth and subdue it." Is it a binding command to everyone alive today? With the world population now at 7.5 billion, certainly we cannot imagine that everyone is under an obligation to have as many children as possible!

            Pope Francis said recently that Catholics are not expected to "breed like rabbits."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have no great desire to immerse myself in much of this somewhat off topic discussion, but I cannot resist making one comment.

            There are two extremes here: (1) complete celibacy, and (2) having as many children as possible.

            The Church does not advocate complete celibacy for all, and thus there is no threat to replacing the race simply because a few people become priests and nuns. First of all, celibacy does not apply to all rites of the Catholic Church, but primarily to the Latin Rite. And it is viewed as a higher calling that disposes the individual better to serve by not being concerned at the same time with the needs of a family. I think you know the text in St. Paul where he points this out. Given the sex saturated secularist society in which we live, there is little to worry about the race dying out because of "excess celibacy!"

            As to having as many children as possible, I am sure you know -- even as you quote Pope Francis -- that the Church does not mean by that "breeding like rabbits." The Church has long allowed natural family planning, which allows for good and serious purpose, the use of non-contraceptive means to limit the number of children.

            While this method is mocked for not being fully effective (nothing really is), it can be an effective method of spacing that would automatically limit the number of children to far less than "as many as possible."

            This in no way permits husbands and wives to avoid making certain that their effort to limit children is based on sincere and rational judgment of what is reasonable, and not merely on an irrational pursuit of pleasure and materialism. And, of course, it does not permit the use of methods that are intrinsically against the nature of the marital act.

            As to the concerns about there being 7.5 billion souls on earth, the problem has ever been one, not of overpopulation itself, but economic underdevelopment. The most densely populated countries on earth include many of the European countries where few people are starving last time I checked.

            And now we see that China has finally become so frightened of the horrendous consequences of its population control policies that it intends forthwith to drop all limits on the size of families:
            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-21/china-said-to-consider-ending-birth-limits-as-soon-as-this-year

          • OMG

            Leave it to PF to answer so many big questions with such simplicity! Thank God his opinions do not represent Church teaching, right?

            The idea of fruitfulness about which I was wondering--curious about whether you shared any of my conception of it--is whether you saw in it any sense of male/female identity, unity and procreation in relation to Christianity. I see fruitfulness as a type of procreation, and I do not see the words " fertility, procreation, fruitfulness," as solely material. Rather these words imply some generative, some procreative furtherance of the image and gift of God. How do that...This can be done, without contradiction, in the priesthood or in vowed celibacy as well as within the sacrament of marriage lived as sacrament. I urge you to some day pick up 'The Theology of the Body.'

            In terms of fulfilling the earth and subduing it, I believe those words were spoken prior to the original sin, so it's difficult to fully comprehend their applicability today (since both I and creation suffer sin's effects). In any case, the subduing was a command to man in a perfect world. Today it seems our problem with the world is beyond subduing (but with God's help).

            Closing off for the evening. Hope yours is a good one.

          • David Nickol

            Leave it to PF to answer so many big questions with such simplicity! Thank God his opinions do not represent Church teaching, right?

            I think Pope Francis was saying nothing at all new or controversial when he said Catholics are not expected to breed like rabbits. My only complaints about Pope Francis is that he is way too conservative!

            I urge you to some day pick up 'The Theology of the Body.'

            I would say thank God that Pope John Paul II's opinions do not represent Church teaching! :p

  • SpokenMind

    First, I have empathy for anyone who has, for lack of a better expression, atypical DNA. Also I have empathy for anyone who suffers any mental condition, however it is caused. In my opinion, such situations would be a difficult cross to bear.

    Is it possible that everyone is biologically male or female based on their DNA, however, there is a tiny percentage of the population with an imperfection in their DNA? Could an “XY female” be a male with a genetic defect, similar to someone with a DNA anomaly that causes extra toes? Could an “XX male” be a female with a defect, somewhat like someone with a DNA error that causes an arm to be missing?

    Is it possible there is another group where people’s DNA is fine, but their self-perception does not match up with physical reality?

    Whatever the case, the confusion this would cause (the expression of ambiguous/different gender) to such individuals is understandable.

    Peace.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Yours is a most impressive reply and analysis -- excellently argued and well documented.

    • Alexandra

      Thank you Dr. B. That means a lot to me coming from you.

      But my reply has been incorrectly labeled "spam", and been removed. I've sent a message to Brandon. I know others have had similar problems.

      • David Nickol

        Your message is still available (to me, anyway) if you click on the words "Show comment" in the placeholder "This comment is awaiting moderation. Show comment." I think there is a limit to the number of "naked" URLs included in a message—that is, URLs simply given as text rather than embedded using HTML tags.

        I look forward to spending some time analyzing your arguments, but I want to make one emphatic comment here. You say in your reply to me

        Dr B. is not being ignorant (quite the opposite),- the freedom to ask questions is essential to a healthy intellectual debate.

        I have never accused Dr. Bonnette of being ignorant, nor would I ever do so! Those who are not reading every message in the thread may not be aware that your remark in this regard is in response to a remark by another commenter.

        • Alexandra

          Thanks for the info.

          I'm sorry about that.
          I will remove that part once I can edit the comment. The spam block doesn't let me modify the comment, right now.

          Edit to add: Spam block is now lifted and comment modified.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Spam? I would rather consider it carefully done scholarship.

  • Phil

    Hey Jeremy! I appreciate your support so much! I definitely do my best, though I will say, Thinker's challenges give me new insight into what arguments truly work and which only seem to work (Dr. Feser has already nailed many of these when I've re-read some of his recent stuff and he makes these points that I've learned along the way).

    In regards to books:
    -"The Last Superstition" (Feser) is a good intro book to Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) philosophy specifically aimed at the New Atheist community of a few years back. It engages the specific thoughts of the times well.

    -"Scholastic Metaphysics" (Feser) is a great in-depth intro to A-T philosophy. If you are ready to dive in, this is a great one.

    "The One and the Many" (Norris Clarke) was a "textbook" for my undergrad metaphysics class. If you read Feser's book above and this one, you will have a great overview of A-T.

    Some other books I've enjoyed:
    -"Life, The Universe, and Everything" by Ric Machuga
    -"Wonder of the World" by Varghese
    -"Real Esssentialism" by David Oderberg

    That should get you going! But again, if I could suggest just two (if you really feel ready to dive in) it would be "Scholastic Metaphysics" and "The One and the Many".

    Enjoy!

    And another question: how do you manage to remain steadfast in your faith while debating people like The Thinker, who can be quite staunch in their rejection of God and religion?

    Two Things: The Eucharist (both receiving at Mass as often as possible and Adoration) and Momma Mary.

    Those are the two pillars that we must always moor ourselves and the Church to, especially during these tumultuous times as St. John Bosco is well-known to have expounded from a dream of his.

  • Phil

    Have you read Thinker's scathing review of the book? And what do you think of it?

    I haven't actually. Though, we have had a lot of discussion of A-T principles in our discussions, and he sometimes just doesn't quite understand what Feser and A-T says specifically, or based upon his misguided metaphysics he makes arguments seeking to show that Feser is wrong.

    But if one can show that his metaphysics he bases his argument on is wrong, then the argument against Feser and A-T goes away.

  • Phil

    Great to hear that you ordered the book! Take your time reading through it and be patient :)
    I've been studying metaphysics for about 8 years and have several degrees, but I don't consider myself and expert by any stretch of the imagination.

    ----
    I'll just throw out a few things in regard to the link you sent:

    One problem that I’ve always had with the contingency argument, as traditionally formed, is that it doesn’t tell you why a universe or contingent reality is expected on theism. It’s far from clear why theism predicts a universe like ours, and it’s even less clear why God would create a physical universe. In fact, a physical universe is entailed by metaphysical naturalism, but it’s not entailed by theism. On theism, if anything, we would predict the exact opposite of a physical universe. What this means is that even if theism predicts a contingent reality, it doesn’t predict a contingent reality that is filled with physical things. One might object at this point and say something like, “The point of the contingency argument- at least as it has been used for the most part- is not to ask whether theism predicts a contingent reality. You missed the point.” On the contrary, I don’t think I’ve missed the point; instead, the person who says this is missing the point-my point. My point is that if one is positing such an argument that doesn’t contain predictions, it’s hard to take it very seriously; we should test a hypothesis against reality.

    The argument from contingency is seeking to rationally explain what does exist, namely, a contingent universe.

    It is mainly rationally explaining vs. "making a prediction", but it could be said it is making the "prediction": If non-contingent God doesn't exist, then the contingent universe doesn't exist. The universe exists, therefore, God exists.

    The second problem I’ve had with the contingency argument has to do with applying the argument to an eternal multi-verse. William Lane Craig has said, “With an eternal multi-verse, we can still ask why it exists instead of not existing”. One issue is that it’s not plain how we could know that there isn’t some necessary part of reality embedded in the multiverse. Secondly, it’s also not clear why an eternal multiverse would need further explanation. One might object that God can act as the sustaining cause of the universe. However, it seems false to say that everything needs a sustaining cause, or one should at least give us a reason to think so. Furthermore, if theism is true, God can stop sustaining the universe at any moment. On naturalism, however, there is nothing to knock the universe out of existence.

    A physical multi-verse would also be contingent, and therefore a non-contingent explanation would be necessary.

    Clearly, it’s logically possible that the universe didn’t exist, and the same thing applies to God.

    That which is non-contingent is that which exists by its very nature, it is existence itself. Therefore existence itself must necessarily exist.

    That is, why would God even create anything at all?! Naturalism entails that there is a part of concrete reality that isn’t God. Theism does not entail this! Seriously, the problem of non-god objects (PONGO) is the evil twin to the argument from contingency. In my experience, I’ve had some theists laugh at the problem and insist it was silly. On the contrary, there is nothing silly about PONGO at all. It’s quite normal for people to ask, “Why would God create anything at all?”. In fact, it would be silly for someone NOT to ask this question.

    Not a problem with the argument from contingency. We conclude that God exists and then ask the further question of why would God create and why this world. Those are both further questions.

    My fifth problem with the contingency argument has to do with the principle of sufficient reason. The PSR says that every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence. I, however, don’t know whether that’s true. I don’t know if it makes sense to ask for an explanation for every single thing, specifically things that exist eternally (which would make the PSR explanatory overkill)

    See Scholastic Metaphysics for a defense of the PSR.

    My sixth problem with the argument is the demand for an explanation for the totality of contingent things. For one, it’s not apparent that God isn’t contingent; there are some theists (like Richard Swinburne) who think that God is a contingent being. Secondly, and more importantly, asking for an explanation for the totality of all contingent things might very well be meaningless or incoherent-it might be like asking, “What’s north of the northpole?” or “What does yellow sound like?”.

    The whole argument from contingency necessitates that what is non-contingent is what we mean when we say "God".

    To his second point, a contingent entity defined is a being that doesn't contain the reason for its existence within itself. Therefore contingent things must have a cause for their existing outside themself, or they wouldn't exist.

  • Phil

    The simple answer would be that just because something cannot be determinately predicted doesn't mean it doesn't have a reason for its existence. Those are separate issues.

  • Phil Tanny

    Oh dear, I do apologize, but it must be said that the Catholic Church has surrendered it's ability to speak with moral clarity on sexual issues.

    On other important issues, such as for example, service to the needy, the Church still stands tall as a moral example. We might recall that Catholic Charities is the 2nd largest provider of social services to the needy in the U.S., topped only the federal government. This is an impressive accomplishment which merits much more public focus.

    But when it comes to sex, anything having to do with sex, the wisest most productive thing Catholics can do is sit down and be quiet. Every single time any Catholic makes public statements about sex all it does is remind everyone of some very unfortunate crimes against the innocent, and commit further brand damage on the Church.

    Be wise. Be patient. And be quiet (about sex). Give it a century, and the time for Catholic sex sermons will come again. Ok, not in your lifetime, but sooner or later.

  • Phil Tanny

    So it’s no surprise that there are people who don’t “fit” the social
    expectations for what a man or what a woman is like. That, of itself, is
    nothing new – terms like “tomboy” exist to describe this reality. And
    our response ought to be one of compassion and support, particularly if
    we’re Christians.

    Compassion and support are surely an improvement over squabbling over definitions. We might be a bit wary of even these seemingly constructive concepts though, as they often are a front for a kind of morally superior snobbery. You know, "those poor trans people, they are so sick, we will pray for them from our superior position etc."

    Here's what all of us could do in relation to gays, trans, and while we're at it, everybody else too. Mind our own business.

    We've seen with our own eyes where the Catholic obsession with sex can lead, and it's not pretty. Wanna be Catholic clerics would be more credible if they focused their attention on the sexual issues within their own community.