Guest post: Sometimes, people are just wrong

Originally a comment by Enzyme on A trouncing.

Note the sleight of hand from Sally Hines about how other cultures have “recognised” that sex is not binary.

To say that they’ve recognised it is to say that it is the case, otherwise there could be no recognition. But these other cultures having divvied up the world in another way is what Hines presents as evidence that sex is not binary. And that’s question-begging. In effect, she’s saying that we’re entitled to say that sex is not binary because other cultures have recognised it as such; but they can only have recognised it as such if it is, in fact, not binary. This point stands whatever we happen to think about sex and sex-categorisation.

Another, related, point: what entitles these other cultures to say that sex is not binary? Presumably, it’d be some appeal to a fact of the matter. But if that’s the case, we have two competing sets of claims: one built around sex’s being binary, and another built on it’s not being binary. The competing merits of these claims could then be assessed.

I will not offer odds on which set of claims is the more likely to be truth-tracking. And their truth-trackingness has nothing to do with which culture is making it. Sometimes, people are just wrong.

(And sometimes, they’re misrepresented by dimwit sociologists. But I digress.)

Maybe Hines is being sloppy with language: maybe “recognised” is the wrong word to use. But in that case, it’s not at all clear what she’s on about.

But that much we’d all guessed anyway.

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