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Tags biology , gametes , lexicography , pedantry

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Old 13th September 2022, 02:08 PM   #1
d4m10n
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Lightbulb Strict biological definitions of male/female

Resolved: Hilton, Wright, & Heying are essentially correct about what makes a mammal either female or male.



Attachment 46972
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Old 13th September 2022, 02:32 PM   #2
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Yes. That's the biological definition of male and female.

But those two words have meanings and resonance in contexts other than the representation of strictly biological terms. Which is why, for example, a transman can (in most progressive jurisdictions) apply to amend his passport's "sex" field to read "male". And it's also why transgender rights legislation usually has to include the possibility that (again, for example) the term "female" can - in certain circumstances - be deemed to be an aggravating offending factor if it's wilfully directed towards a transman.
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Old 13th September 2022, 02:57 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
But those two words have meanings and resonance in contexts other than the representation of strictly biological terms. Which is why, for example, a transman can (in most progressive jurisdictions) apply to amend his passport's "sex" field to read "male".
Admiral_Akbar.gif

Ok, but seriously, I'm not going to get into a debate about transgender policy here when you know perfectly well we already have a thread for that.

I would be happy to get into a linguistic debate, however. What should "male" be taken to mean on that passport? Is it just giving airport security folks a pronoun hint, or is it something more?
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Old 13th September 2022, 04:17 PM   #4
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I'd think that what they might expect to behold upon a strip search should be pretty high on the priority list. Or at least some kind of written "heads up" code so they know they aren't dealing with someone in disguise?
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Old 13th September 2022, 04:20 PM   #5
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It seems to me this is a thread for Steersman, to take his monomanical argument about the "biological definitions" of male and female which are used by no biologists at all (and indeed no people at all other than Steersman) away from the other two threads he was cluttering up.

If he comes here we can have Round 23. If not, there probably isn't much point.
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Old 13th September 2022, 04:23 PM   #6
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Perceptive as ever.

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Old 13th September 2022, 07:34 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Resolved: Hilton, Wright, & Heying are essentially correct about what makes a mammal either female or male.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...chmentid=46972

Attachment 46972


I may let that triumvirate know that their letter to the Times - clearly a credible biological journal of some repute ... - is a hot topic of discussion in this neck of the woods ... Or you could do so if you were so inclined, particularly since I no longer have a Twitter account. Although none of them seem particularly enthusiastic about trying to defend their "thesis" - I've even had my comments at Heying's Substack deleted for challenging it:

https://humanuseofhumanbeings.substa...heather-heying

No intellectual honesty, no courage of her convictions.

But to get into the meat of your debate question, even if a minor aspect of it to begin with, it seems that your "essentially correct" is a bit of waffling - is it a stipulative definition? An intensional definition that specifies necessary and sufficient conditions for sex category membership?

Somewhat more importantly, I don't see anything that specifies that that definition applies only to mammals. You willing to extend that to all members of all sexually-reproducing species?

However, assuming that they are stipulative and intensional definitions, one of the biggest, though not the only flaws in it is that, as I've argued, it basically boils down into a polythetic category - which constitutes a spectrum.

As Belgian virologist Marc Van Regenmortel put it, a polythetic category is “defined by a variable set of statistically covariant properties, none of which is a defining property necessarily present in every member of the class". Which is intrinsically antithetical to the standard biological definitions for the sexes which are, each, monothetic categories: “defined by one or a few properties that are both necessary and sufficient for membership in the class”.

https://www.researchgate.net/publica..._virus_species

Regenmortel's essay has a graphic and text that gives some details on the salient differences:



I had been working on an elaboration of that dichotomy for a Substack post, largely in response to Michael Shermer's post on the concept of family resemblances which also boil down into polythetic categories and spectra. Though I think he's seriously barking up the wrong tree and have said so in a comment there:

https://michaelshermer.substack.com/...omment/7630788

However, somewhat more importantly, I had used Regenmortel's graphic to illustrate the concept a bit more clearly by considering two "families" - Sally's and Mike's:




Sally's family is explicitly a polythetic category - each family member has 3 of the 4 properties - A, B, C, & D - but none them are present in each and every family member. Mike's family, on the other hand, can all be put into the monothetic category M1 because they all share the properties E & F.

But of note in Sally's family is that there is a binary representation of the properties held by each family member over on the left-hand side: 1110, 1101, 1011, & 0111. Which is what makes Sally's family into a spectrum.

Fairly decent article here by Rodney Needham, and a quote from it that justifies that "spectrum" conclusion, even if you have to read between the lines a bit:

Quote:
“If the n [the number (of category members)] is very large, it would be possible to arrange the members of K along a line in such a way that each individual resembles his nearest neighbors very closely and his furthest neighbors less closely.”
https://ia802701.us.archive.org/2/it...nsequences.pdf

Though technically, one really only needs 3 "category members" to qualify as a spectrum.

In any case, the sexes as polythetic categories - and thereby as spectra - is maybe not a fatal flaw - at least right out of the chute - but it does justify at least raising an eyebrow. Particularly when Heying, Hilton, and Wright have been throwing stones at those who've also been championing the sexes as spectra.
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Old 14th September 2022, 12:10 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
Yes. That's the biological definition of male and female.

But those two words have meanings and resonance in contexts other than the representation of strictly biological terms.
Yes, that's true, but the context for this thread is the biological, so that's technically off-topic. Not that I would likely bust your chops for doing so ...

However, I think it also speaks to two generally very different modus operandi for defining terms in the sciences and humanities so it seems worth addressing in some detail. Not least because it underlines the rationale for the "strict biological definitions for the sexes" that is the topic de jour.

But more particularly, it seems that the objective of transactivism - and of its fellow-travelers and "useful idiots", is, by intent or inadvertently, to replace the biological definitions for the sexes, or even those of the OP, by a rather toxic amalgam of those definitions with those extraneous "meanings and resonances" that you spoke of. If that were not the case then they wouldn't try to use those terms - "male" and "female" - to denote genders and gender identities. At best that is going to oblige every one else to qualify each and every use of those words, e.g., "male (sex)", & "female (gender)".

If they had any intellectual honesty then they would leave "male" and "female" as sexes and use "masculine" and "feminine" as genders and gender identities. As the late Justice Scalia argued:

Quote:
The word 'gender' has acquired the new and useful connotation of cultural or attitudinal characteristics (as opposed to physical characteristics) distinctive to the sexes. That is to say, gender is to sex as feminine is to female and masculine is to male.
https://tile.loc.gov/storage-service...srep511127.pdf

But it's not just transactivists themselves that are "guilty" of that crime. More than a few ostensible scientists and philosophers are in there like dirty shirts trying to muddy the biological waters by mashing everything but the kitchen sink into the terms "male" and "female". There's the aforementioned Michael Shermer - who should know better - and the somewhat earlier Steven Novella at his sadly misnamed "Science-Based Medicine". From the latter's post on "The Science of Biological Sex" (what a joke):

Quote:
First we need to consider all the traits relevant to sex that vary along this bimodal distribution. The language and concepts for these traits have been evolving too, but here is a current generally accepted scheme for organizing these traits:
  • Genetic sex
  • Morphological sex, which includes reproductive organs, external genitalia, gametes and secondary morphological sexual characteristics (sometimes these and genetic sex are referred to collectively as biological sex, but this is problematic for reasons I will go over)
  • Sexual orientation (sexual attraction)
  • Gender identity (how one understands and feels about their own gender)
  • Gender expression (how one expresses their gender to the world)
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the...iological-sex/

What a dog's breakfast. But the only traits "relevant to sex" are, by the standard biological definitions, functional gonads of either of two types, or, by the "Heying-Hilton-Wright Hypothesis" (hereafter HHWH), some past, present, or future "functionalities". All the rest is largely irrelevant to the question of defining those categories.

However, that process - both by transactivists and their "useful idiots" like Shermer & Novella - underlines in spades the profoundly contradictory and incompatible modus operandi of the sciences and the humanities. Fairly decent summary of that dichotomy and that problem in an article from Cambridge Core:

Quote:
Taxonomic definitions in social science, with firms, markets and institutions as case studies

The social sciences are plagued with severe and unresolved problems of definition. Although there will always be some ambiguity and fuzziness, there is a failure in some parts of social science to develop adequate common understandings of terms. Some scholars have argued that definitional tasks should be abandoned. Yet without workable definitions, science can make little progress. ....

Among and beyond those that attempt definitions, there is little discussion of their possible nature and requirements. There is little recognition that several different types of definition have been identified in philosophy. It is sometimes suggested that definitions should express everything vital about the phenomenon defined. Such a task would be impossible, and is refuted by examples of effective taxonomic definitions, such as ‘a mammal is a clade of animal where the females suckles their young’. This parsimonious but effective definition omits numerous vital features of mammals.

Taxonomic definitions identify the minimum number of properties that are sufficient to demarcate one group of entities from all other entities. Their role is to demarcate the kind of entity to which a label refers, not to express in detail the nature of that kind.
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journ...89FAC0D0FE49C8

That is what the "strict biological definitions" - though generally not those of the HHWH - are trying to do. That's their rationale and intent: to clearly "demarcate the kind of entities" to which the labels "male" and "female" refer. And for very sound philosophical, logical and biological reasons.

The objective is not to include every last trait that correlates in the slightest degree with (present) reproductive abilities. Mashing everything but the kitchen sink into those definitions - or transmogrifying them into distorted replicas as with the HHWH - makes them meaningless and virtually useless for many of the quite important tasks of biology.

Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
Which is why, for example, a transman can (in most progressive jurisdictions) apply to amend his passport's "sex" field to read "male". And it's also why transgender rights legislation usually has to include the possibility that (again, for example) the term "female" can - in certain circumstances - be deemed to be an aggravating offending factor if it's willfully directed towards a transman.
Sad state of affairs when speaking the truth can be deemed illegal ...
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Old 14th September 2022, 12:51 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
It seems to me this is a thread for Steersman, to take his monomanical argument about the "biological definitions" of male and female which are used by no biologists at all (and indeed no people at all other than Steersman) ....
Really? Parker (FRS) and Lehtonen don't count as biologists? Latter at least seems to have a fairly credible CV according to Google Scholar:

https://scholar.google.com/citations...sortby=pubdate

Though it's maybe somewhat "unfortunate" that so few biologists have gotten the memo that the folk-biology definitions for the sexes have been replaced by more philosophically, logically, and biologically coherent and useful ones. Even if there's still something of a puzzle that Google/OxfordLanguages put those biological definitions front and center. Particularly given the assumption that no one - and no biologists other than Parker & Lehtonen, of course - has made any use of them at all ...





But something from that Cambridge Core article that you might find of some interest or relevance:

Quote:
But outside mathematics, there are problems with purely stipulative definitions. Words (and perhaps even symbols) typically connote prior understandings. It is difficult to get rid of all this baggage of meaning. Science involves rhetorical persuasion in a social community (McCloskey, Reference McCloskey1985). The persuasive task becomes more difficult if we ask every reader to expunge all preconceptions and pre-associations, and adopt a number of terms with strikingly novel meanings.

Hence, as Robinson (Robinson1950: 80) argued: ‘The supreme rule of [definitional] stipulation is surely to stipulate as little as possible’ (original emphasis). Similarly, Aristotle wrote in his Topica (Aristotle 1853: II, 2): ‘we ought to use our terms to mean the same things as most people mean by them.’
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journ...89FAC0D0FE49C8

Though I hardly think that the biological definitions - those of Parker & Lehtonen, of Google/OED - are merely "purely stipulative". They rather clearly and pointedly underline the connection with actual reproductive abilities. Which seems to be of longstanding understanding.
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Old 14th September 2022, 05:34 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
But to get into the meat of your debate question, even if a minor aspect of it to begin with, it seems that your "essentially correct" is a bit of waffling - is it a stipulative definition?
No, it's descriptive rather than prescriptive, aimed at describing how certain specialists use the language of sex.

Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
An intensional definition that specifies necessary and sufficient conditions for sex category membership?
Nope, understanding the sufficient conditions requires loads of background knowledge which goes unstated in the definition itself, such as which bits of anatomy support production of which gametes.

Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Somewhat more importantly, I don't see anything that specifies that that definition applies only to mammals. You willing to extend that to all members of all sexually-reproducing species?
Only anisogametic species.

Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
However, assuming that they are stipulative and intensional definitions...
AFAICT it is neither.
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Old 14th September 2022, 06:51 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
However, assuming that they are stipulative and intensional definitions, one of the biggest, though not the only flaws in it is that, as I've argued, it basically boils down into a polythetic category - which constitutes a spectrum.

...

Sally's family is explicitly a polythetic category - each family member has 3 of the 4 properties - A, B, C, & D - but none them are present in each and every family member. Mike's family, on the other hand, can all be put into the monothetic category M1 because they all share the properties E & F.

But of note in Sally's family is that there is a binary representation of the properties held by each family member over on the left-hand side: 1110, 1101, 1011, & 0111. Which is what makes Sally's family into a spectrum.

As has been explained to you by others in other threads, a spectrum requires a measure. You have invented a supposed measure (the binary numeral formed by the boolean values of characteristics 1, 2, 3, 4) but the measure is poorly defined and unjustified by the scenario given. Characteristic 1 weighs twice as significantly in establishing a position on this "spectrum" as characteristic 2. Why? Characteristic 2 weighs twice as significantly as characteristic 3. Again, why? Characteristic 4 has one eighth the significance of characteristic 1, and is only able to affect an individual's positioning on the spectrum relative to other individuals with identical characteristics 1, 2, and 3; why is characteristic 4 considered at all, instead of disregarding it and assigning, say, a 1010 individual and a 1011 individual the exact same position on the spectrum?

The sum of the boolean values of the four characteristics, which gives the four characteristics equal weight, is a different possible measure, and just as justified. By that measure, the four example individuals A, B, C, and D all occupy the same position on the spectrum. But a 0111 individual would rank significantly "higher" on that "spectrum" than a 1000 individual, the reverse of the result of your supposed binary representation "spectrum."

Your assertion that an enumeration of three or more polythetic characteristics are sufficient to constitute a spectrum is falsified. Where's the mapping, and how is it justified?
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Old 14th September 2022, 07:17 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post

However, assuming that they are stipulative and intensional definitions, one of the biggest, though not the only flaws in it is that, as I've argued, it basically boils down into a polythetic category - which constitutes a spectrum.

As Belgian virologist Marc Van Regenmortel put it, a polythetic category is “defined by a variable set of statistically covariant properties, none of which is a defining property necessarily present in every member of the class". Which is intrinsically antithetical to the standard biological definitions for the sexes which are, each, monothetic categories: “defined by one or a few properties that are both necessary and sufficient for membership in the class”.

https://www.researchgate.net/publica..._virus_species

Regenmortel's essay has a graphic and text that gives some details on the salient differences:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...13772b6449.jpg

I had been working on an elaboration of that dichotomy for a Substack post, largely in response to Michael Shermer's post on the concept of family resemblances which also boil down into polythetic categories and spectra. Though I think he's seriously barking up the wrong tree and have said so in a comment there:

https://michaelshermer.substack.com/...omment/7630788

However, somewhat more importantly, I had used Regenmortel's graphic to illustrate the concept a bit more clearly by considering two "families" - Sally's and Mike's:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...13b31d35a5.jpg


Sally's family is explicitly a polythetic category - each family member has 3 of the 4 properties - A, B, C, & D - but none them are present in each and every family member. Mike's family, on the other hand, can all be put into the monothetic category M1 because they all share the properties E & F.

But of note in Sally's family is that there is a binary representation of the properties held by each family member over on the left-hand side: 1110, 1101, 1011, & 0111. Which is what makes Sally's family into a spectrum.

Fairly decent article here by Rodney Needham, and a quote from it that justifies that "spectrum" conclusion, even if you have to read between the lines a bit:



https://ia802701.us.archive.org/2/it...nsequences.pdf

Though technically, one really only needs 3 "category members" to qualify as a spectrum.

In any case, the sexes as polythetic categories - and thereby as spectra - is maybe not a fatal flaw - at least right out of the chute - but it does justify at least raising an eyebrow. Particularly when Heying, Hilton, and Wright have been throwing stones at those who've also been championing the sexes as spectra.
I disagree that a polythetic category definition implies a spectrum. I think there are two conflations you are making. One is equating formal polythetic definitions with spectra and the other is conflating the 'patchwork definition of the social sciences' with the developmental pathways definition of Hilton, Wright & Heying.

There are two senses in which genderists argue that sex is a spectrum. One is to use 'intersex' conditions to imply that there are literally more than two sexes, and to exaggerate the frequency of such conditions, as well as the inability to categorise them as disorders of one of two developmental pathways. The other is to conflate characteristics associated with sex that are bimodally distributed, with overlap between males and females, with the defining attributes of sex.

In neither sense does a polythetic definition of sex imply a spectrum. A formal polythetic definition is a form of intensional definition in which there is no single feature that must be present for category membership, but some combination of features is used. In fact, a polythetic definition of sex in which individuals can be placed into categories based on features that indicate one of two pathways that support production of one of two types of gamete is exactly the opposite of the ‘sex is a spectrum’ argument. The spectra argument states that individuals cannot be placed into a category if there is no feature that all members currently share (which is also what you are arguing). This is then used in an attempt to abolish category boundaries.

The ‘patchwork/spectra’ definition tries to deconstruct sex into a collection of characteristics in which none is definitive, therefore attempting to portray classification of sex as arbitrary and the binary model as a social construction. In contrast, the developmental pathways definition does identify gamete production as the distinguishing feature of the two sexes, relating the existence of males and females to reproductive function within an evolutionary framework. Starting from this, it identifies which features explain the pathway that leads to the production of each type of gamete under normal circumstances and distinguishes those features from characteristics that are not part of the sex-determining pathway. Rolfe provided a good explanation of this in the other thread.

In the developmental pathways model, for example, one cannot include ‘gender identity’ as an aspect of sex and argue that it should take precedence over other features, because gender identity has nothing to do with gamete production and is at best a poorly defined characteristic that tends to correlate with it.
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Old 14th September 2022, 12:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
No, it's descriptive rather than prescriptive, aimed at describing how certain specialists use the language of sex.
In your entirely unevidenced opinion. Definitions ain't of much use if a plethora of such "specialists" are using wildly contradictory definitions for the words in play. You might note again a relevant passage from that Cambridge Core article:

Quote:
But some contested terms in social science conjure a chaos of contradictory meanings.
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journ...89FAC0D0FE49C8

No wonder so much of "social science" is such a joke. That "chaos" probably contributes substantially to the so-called "replication crisis".

Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Nope, understanding the sufficient conditions requires loads of background knowledge which goes unstated in the definition itself, such as which bits of anatomy support production of which gametes.
That may well be the case for the HHWH schlock - another of its many flaws. But for the standard biological definitions of Parker (FRS), Lehtonen, & Google/OED, the "sufficient conditions" are manifestly obvious and easily demarcated: functional gonads of either of two, and only two types.

Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Only anisogametic species.
I stand corrected:

Quote:
Sexual reproduction is a type of reproduction that involves a complex life cycle in which a gamete (haploid reproductive cells, such as a sperm or egg cell) with a single set of chromosomes combines with another gamete to produce a zygote that develops into an organism composed of cells with two sets of chromosomes (diploid).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_reproduction

Though some evidence to suggest that anisogamy is more frequent than the isogamous alternative:

Quote:
Anisogamy is a form of sexual reproduction that involves the union or fusion of two gametes that differ in size and/or form. The smaller gamete is male, a sperm cell, whereas the larger gamete is female, typically an egg cell. Anisogamy is predominant among multicellular organisms.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anisogamy

Bonus link in the citation there to biologist Lehtonen ...

Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
AFAICT it is neither.
Opinion noted ...
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Old 14th September 2022, 01:08 PM   #14
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What's your source for OED now that Lexico has passed on?
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Old 14th September 2022, 02:02 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
As has been explained to you by others in other threads ....
"Johnny, as has been explained to you dozens of times, 'the whole substance of bread [has been changed] into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine [has been changed] into the substance of the Blood of Christ' ..."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation

Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
... a spectrum requires a measure. You have invented a supposed measure (the binary numeral formed by the Boolean values of characteristics 1, 2, 3, 4) but the measure is poorly defined and unjustified by the scenario given.
Yes, but so what? The only thing required for ordering a spectrum is that there is some measure by which A is closer to B, and by which C is closer to D. In the case of Sally's family, maybe the traits in question are particular physiological traits such that some are more readily apparent than others, or apply to different parts of the body.

The mapping is context dependent; the discrete - and mutually exclusive - family members are intrinsic to the concept of polythetic categories.

Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
.... But a 0111 individual would rank significantly "higher" on that "spectrum" than a 1000 individual, the reverse of the result of your supposed binary representation "spectrum."
Not quite sure how you reach that conclusion ...

Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Your assertion that an enumeration of three or more polythetic characteristics are sufficient to constitute a spectrum is falsified. Where's the mapping, and how is it justified?
LoL. Ipse dixit. "Get behind me Satan, I adjure thee ..."

The mapping, and the ordering, is context dependent, but that there are discrete and mutually exclusive sets of criteria that each qualify some individuals as family members is intrinsic to the concept of polythetic categories.

Though I'll concede that the concept of "necessary and sufficient conditions" gets a bit murky, particularly for polythetic categories - "philosophers" in general doing a sloppy job of drawing the necessary distinctions; see:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/n...ry-sufficient/

But in the case of Sally's family the "necessary and sufficient conditions" are EITHER "A and B and C and not-D", XOR "A and B and not-C and D", XOR "A and not-B and C and D", XOR "not-A and B and C and D".

Either one set is sufficient, but at least one set is necessary for category membership. Which is more or less exactly the case with the HHWH schlock:

Quote:
Either:
  • structures with future reproductive functionality (functional gonads), or
  • structures with current reproductive functionality, or
  • structure with past reproductive functionality.
Past, present, and future are intrinsically mutually exclusive. Rather a stretch to see how a prepubescent "child" can be said to have any present or past reproductive functionality. Same thing with the other possible cases.

Gesturing hypnotically, like Mandrake the Magician, towards "structure" obscures the fact that the structures in question are profoundly different. Like saying that all colours are all the same because they're all in the range (a spectrum) of wavelengths from about 380 to about 750 nanometers.

Bloody ridiculous; profoundly and egregiously unscientific if not odiously anti-scientific; Lysenkoism writ large.
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Old 14th September 2022, 02:27 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
I disagree that a polythetic category definition implies a spectrum.
Well, you could always take that up with the author of that paper, Rodney Needham ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Needham

Though I don't see that you've provided any explicit refutation - with facts and figures - of that assertion of his.

But neither he nor I are the only ones reaching that conclusion. For examples, see:

Quote:
This may accommodate permissible variations along single-axis spectra running between the notionally fixed nominal categories.
https://www.ufz.de/export/data/globa...emporality.pdf

Quote:
Spectra and categories. The role of 'nosographic disorganizer'
https://www.researchgate.net/publica...isorganizer%27


Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
I think there are two conflations you are making. One is equating formal polythetic definitions with spectra and the other is conflating the 'patchwork definition of the social sciences' with the developmental pathways definition of Hilton, Wright & Heying.
I'm certainly not saying they're identical. But they share the trait of basing their category membership on a range of properties - intrinsically spectra.


Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
In the developmental pathways model, for example, one cannot include ‘gender identity’ as an aspect of sex and argue that it should take precedence over other features, because gender identity has nothing to do with gamete production and is at best a poorly defined characteristic that tends to correlate with it.
Again, I am most certainly not arguing for including "gender identity" or any of the other traits that transactivists and their "useful idiots", like Shermer and Novella, want to mash into the definitions for the sexes. I am explicitly arguing for a monothetic definition by which each sex - of all sexually-reproducing species (anisogamic) - has a single necessary and sufficient condition for category membership: functional gonads of either of two types.
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Old 14th September 2022, 02:32 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
What's your source for OED now that Lexico has passed on?
Oxford Dictionaries:

https://premium.oxforddictionaries.com/words/help

They seem to be separate from OED - I had signed up for a month's membership there only to find that their definitions do not match those of Oxford Dictionaries themselves:

https://languages.oup.com/dictionaries/#oed

Though OED's definition for "sex" itself seems to match the Premium's version: (ETA)

https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/176989#eid23485946

So I'm not sure what's going on there - I'd sent a support request to OED which wasn't all that helpful. Stay tuned for further developments ...

Last edited by Steersman; 14th September 2022 at 02:38 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 14th September 2022, 03:18 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Well, you could always take that up with the author of that paper, Rodney Needham ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Needham

Though I don't see that you've provided any explicit refutation - with facts and figures - of that assertion of his.
Given that he died in 2006, I don't think taking it up with him is a realistic possibility.


“If the n [the number (of category members)] is very large, it would be possible to arrange the members of K along a line in such a way that each individual resembles his nearest neighbors very closely and his furthest neighbors less closely.”

This is describing within-category variation. Such variation exists regardless of whether or not a monothetic intensional definition of category membership is used. Even if all category members share a feature (e.g. current production of one type of gamete), they will vary on other features and could still be ordered in terms of their family resemblance. It's true that in with your monothetic definition where will be one feature they all share, and with some polythetic definitions it may be possible that some members have no defining features in common (although this can quite easily be avoided in the way membership is defined).

Consider that in your proposal there are three categories: male, female, and sexless. The 'sexless' category contains many members that have nothing in common except 'not currently producing gametes that can be used to create offspring'. Although these category members have one feature in common, the category has no explanatory or predictive value, compared to a category that contains all the members of a sex class (future, present and former producers of one gamete type). The variability amongst your sexless category will be larger and members will share less features in common on average.
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Old 14th September 2022, 03:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
https://metro.co.uk/2022/09/12/andre...form-17357991/

"Prince Andrew was heckled as he joined his brother King Charles in a procession behind their mother’s coffin.
The disgraced Duke of York, who stepped back from his royal duties amid outrage at his relationship with paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, followed the hearse carrying the Queen’s casket as it slowly moved down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
‘Andrew, you’re a sick old man,’ someone in the dense crowd of people shouted."

The male in question [w]as arrested. Like the female arrested for displaying a sign protesting the monarchy, the arrest is likely a common-law one, where the police can arrest someone for their own safety, usually to protect an individual from the baying crowd.

This is from a post in another thread. Nessie is a former police officer and tends to describe random people as "a male" or "a female". I wondered if policemen might now be being re-educated out of this habit, along the lines of "did you just assume my gender?" and what on earth do you do when an obvious male is wearing a dress? However Nessie said that on this occasion he was simply quoting the language used by the (contemporary) source.

Do you think cops always do a complete fertility examination before describing people in their notebooks?
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Old 14th September 2022, 07:20 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Quote:
Needham: “If the n [the number (of category members)] is very large, it would be possible to arrange the members of K along a line in such a way that each individual resembles his nearest neighbors very closely and his furthest neighbors less closely.”
This is describing within-category variation. Such variation exists regardless of whether or not a monothetic intensional definition of category membership is used. Even if all category members share a feature (e.g. current production of one type of gamete), they will vary on other features and could still be ordered in terms of their family resemblance. It's true that in with your monothetic definition where will be one feature they all share, and with some polythetic definitions it may be possible that some members have no defining features in common (although this can quite easily be avoided in the way membership is defined).
That's like saying the visible spectrum of light with wavelengths from about 380 to about 750 nanometers is just "describing within-category variation" .... Each of the colours are still "members" of that category - "visible spectrum" - because they exhibit a property that exists within a specified range.

Same thing with polythetic categories, even if the ordering and end-points are somewhat subjective or context dependent.

But while, as you argued, even with monothetic categories, there are going to be many variations in traits other than the defining ones, the point is that those traits and variations are totally irrelevant to the question of whether individuals are members of the defined categories or not.

Maybe Mike's family each have totally different heights that are clearly ordinal - not categorical as per Emily's or her cat's requirements - that can be used to create a spectrum. And maybe Sally's family are all of a single height that could be used to create a monothetic category. But those traits are NOT part of the definitions for the categories in question.

Some complex questions there as to how and why we categorize, and which traits we use to define those categories, ones I'm still trying to get a handle on. But there is some rhyme and reason to the process, some fundamental philosophical, logical, and biological principles in play which both the overt "spectrumists" - like Novella and Shermer - and the "sneakier" and less intellectually honest ones - like Heying, Hilton, and Wright - are trying to ride roughshod over.

But a couple of quotes that at least suggest some of those principles:

Quote:
Categorization is grounded in the features that distinguish the category's members from nonmembers. Categorization is important in learning, prediction, inference, decision making, language, and many forms of organisms' interaction with their environments.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorization

If there are few or not-easily-discernable differences between categories - which is the upshot of the spectrumists' "arguments" - then they generally become useless for much of anything. You really might want to try a close reading of that Cambridge Core article.

Quote:
In biology, taxonomy (from Ancient Greek τάξις (taxis) 'arrangement', and -νομία (-nomia) 'method') is the scientific study of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms based on shared characteristics.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy_(biology)

Kinda think that billions if not trillions of members of literally millions of sexually-reproducing (anisogamic) species sharing two quite distinct traits - "produces ova" and "produces sperm" - is of substantially more value in defining categories than is whether some in one of those species wear dresses and some wear pants ...

The relevant principle of taxonomy seems to be to start with those traits that show the widest differences among the largest populations, and then to work down from there. Like gamete types - trillions of members in each type - then to chromosome types (XY, ZW, XO, ZO) then to variations within each of those:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-determination_system


Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Consider that in your proposal there are three categories: male, female, and sexless. The 'sexless' category contains many members that have nothing in common except 'not currently producing gametes that can be used to create offspring'. Although these category members have one feature in common, the category has no explanatory or predictive value, compared to a category that contains all the members of a sex class (future, present and former producers of one gamete type). The variability amongst your sexless category will be larger and members will share less features in common on average.
Ipse dixit. For one thing, it's relatively easy to "predict" that members of the "sexless" category are not good candidates for starting a family with. Not quite sure what "predictive value" you think there is in mashing together those with and without any reproductive function - particularly that couldn't be done better and more efficiently by using different labels, like "penis-haver" and "vagina-haver".

But you're still doing pretty much what many of the TRAs and many feminists are trying to do: shoehorn the social-justice "foot" into the "glass slipper" of biology:

Quote:
This suggests to Stone that sex is a cluster concept: it is sufficient to satisfy enough of the sex features that tend to cluster together in order to count as being of a particular sex. But, one need not satisfy all of those features or some arbitrarily chosen supposedly necessary sex feature, like chromosomes (Stone 2007, 44). This makes sex a matter of degree and sex classifications should take place on a spectrum: one can be more or less female/male but there is no sharp distinction between the two.
"arbitrary" ...

https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/...exClaSolMatBio

The "predicative value" of the biological definitions comes from the fact that probably millions of sexually-reproducing (anisogamic) species - and billions if not trillions of members of them - share the traits of "produces sperm" or "produces ova". The "predictive value", for one example of probably hundreds, of being able to use animals for testing various drugs that show variations by gamete type produced seems substantially more valuable than "predicting" that those among one of those species who wear dresses probably aren't sporting penises under the hood.
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:59 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
... and what on earth do you do when an obvious male is wearing a dress? ....
Clearly a woman ...

That's the problem - see MW's usage note:

Quote:
In this dichotomy, the terms male and female relate only to biological forms (sex), while the terms masculine/masculinity, feminine/femininity, woman/girl, and man/boy relate only to psychological and sociocultural traits (gender).
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dict...gender#usage-1

"male" and "female", and "man" and "woman" are being used for both the "biological forms" and for the "psychological traits" completely divorced from the reproductive traits. Hence the justification for drawing a line in the sand with the stipulative definitions of Parker & Lehtonen.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Do you think cops always do a complete fertility examination before describing people in their notebooks?
Do you think they check if those people "have developed anatomies for producing either small or large gametes, regardless of their past, present or future functionality" - as per Hilton's tweet - before referring to them as "males" and "females" - respectively? Do you think most people have a clue what those "anatomies" might be?

Makes your question something of a red herring. Regardless of whether we settle on the Heying-Hilton-Wright Hypothesis (HHWH) or go with the biological definitions of Parker, Lehtonen, & Google/OED, people are still going to judge based on "proxy variables", on the basis of secondary traits that are part of the quite erroneous "family resemblances" conception of the sexes.

The issue is whether the stipulative definition of HHWH is "essentially correct about what makes a mammal either female or male". Apart from the many problems caused by leaving most sexually-reproducing (anisogamic) species out in the cold with it. But despite Damion's claims to the contrary, that is precisely what it is:

Quote:
A stipulative definition is a type of definition in which a new or currently existing term is given a new specific meaning for the purposes of argument or discussion in a given context. When the term already exists, this definition may, but does not necessarily, contradict the dictionary (lexical) definition of the term. Because of this, a stipulative definition cannot be "correct" or "incorrect"; it can only differ from other definitions, but it can be useful for its intended purpose.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stipulative_definition

And the fact of the matter is that the definitions of the HHWH flatly contradict the "dictionary definitions" that Google uses (Oxford) since neither they nor any other source says anything at all about "past, present, or future functionality":



Whether such definitions are, in effect, used by some biologists, it is still the case that HHW are "giving a new specific meaning (for 'male' and 'female') for the purposes of argument or discussion in a given context".

Seems to be some urgent necessity for such stipulative definitions from the biological community - too many are pussy-footing around calling a spade a shovel. Which only gives free rein to the charlatans and the grifters, to the deluded and the political opportunists, the result being a myriad of definitions for the terms in question such that they are all now more or less meaningless - and therefore quite useless.

Hilton and Company may well be commended for at least taking the bull by the horns, for drawing a line in the sand, even if I think their solution is very badly flawed from the get-go.
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Old 15th September 2022, 04:40 AM   #22
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The story so far

"We need terms that denote sex apart from gender, for obvious reasons I won't go into here."

"Agreed. So what do you propose?"

"Well, 'male' and 'female' seem like a good idea at first glance, but not everybody actually has a working reproductive function."

"Why don't we just use the structural definitions of those terms, instead of the functional ones? That's what everyone is already doing anyway."

"Can't do that. It leads to confusion."

"Confusion about what?"

"..."

"Sorry, I didn't catch that. Confusion about what?"

"..."

"Okay then. Let us know when you figure it out. Meanwhile, we're all going to keep using the structural definitions."

"YOU CAN'T DO THAT. IT WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS."

"Solutions, my dude. It causes solutions."
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Old 15th September 2022, 05:13 AM   #23
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^

In a nutshell.
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Old 15th September 2022, 05:25 AM   #24
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Alternatively

"This woman must have been impregnated by a functional male."

"How can you tell?"

"For one thing, she's pregnant."

"But this doesn't account to all the other species on the planet. What about parthenogenesis?"

"Why would we be concerned about parthenogenesis in humans?"

"SEE? CONFUSION."
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Old 15th September 2022, 05:42 AM   #25
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This entire argument is like an engine revving in neutral. Lots of noise and energy, advancing not an inch.

Steersman repeats his position. Other members take it apart and explain why they don't agree and why he is fundamentally talking nonsense. Steersman repeats his position with added snark.

Rinse and repeat.
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Old 15th September 2022, 05:53 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
This entire argument is like an engine revving in neutral. Lots of noise and energy, advancing not an inch.

Steersman repeats his position. Other members take it apart and explain why they don't agree and why he is fundamentally talking nonsense. Steersman repeats his position with added snark.

Rinse and repeat.
And even longer and more convoluted 'explanations'.
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Old 15th September 2022, 08:42 AM   #27
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Here's 25 cents' worth of opinion:

When I encounter a tranny, intact or surgical, I feel helpless compassion for a poor creature. I don't reveal this by words or actions, or at least I hope I don't.

If one of them wants to talk about his or her condition, I stay quiet. My feelings at such times -- pity, embarrassment, revulsion (can't help it, sorry), discomfort, bafflement, weariness -- are not their concern and are not things to burden them with. Christ, I hope I'm a better man than that!

But I seldom even see trannies, and no wonder. They're a tiny minority throughout the world, and can't possibly have any effect, good or bad, on society.
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Old 15th September 2022, 09:08 AM   #28
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Sackett, that post has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of the thread.
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Old 15th September 2022, 09:22 AM   #29
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Extra points for being gratuitously offensive tho.
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Old 15th September 2022, 09:26 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Okay, I'd be interested to know if you're seeing the same example sentences which I'm seeing on my library version of the OED.

postmenopausal, adj.
1949 M. Mead Male & Female viii. 180 In Bali..the post-menopausal woman and the virgin girl work together at ceremonies from which women of child-bearing age are debarred.

prepubescent, adj.
2001 Spectator 17 Nov. 26/3 Tony [Blair] reading chunks of the manifesto to a class of bored prepubescent girls, one of whom put her jumper over her head in despair.

infertile, adj.
1753 J. Hanway Hist. Acct. Brit. Trade Caspian Sea I. xl. 266 A defect..in one man, could render only one woman infertile.

barren, adj.
1751 J. Jortin Serm. (1771) I. ii. 22 His wife Sarah being barren.

I've highlighted a few nouns in these example sentences which refer to people whom I'd feel free call female, even though they are most likely not producing viable gametes. How does this square with your earlier claims about the OED?
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Old 15th September 2022, 11:25 AM   #31
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You already got your 25 cents' worth, but

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Sackett, that post has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of the thread.
I said it was opinion. I should've called it subjective reaction.

Even worse than being OT, it's my contribution to both of the gender threads, which are peculiarly barren thrashings of weeds.

If I'm gratuitously offensive, good. I would never want to offend by accident.
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Old 15th September 2022, 11:38 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
"This woman must have been impregnated by a functional male."

"How can you tell?"

"For one thing, she's pregnant." ....
Strawman, if not egregious intellectual dishonesty. Wouldn't say anything of the sort.

Though by the standard biological definitions of Parker, Lehtonen, & Google/OED (SBDPLGO), "functional male" is redundant - if a person is a male then, ipso facto, they're functional.

It's only the HHWH that requires that further qualification ...

See the "confusion"? ...
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Old 15th September 2022, 11:44 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Strawman, if not egregious intellectual dishonesty. Wouldn't say anything of the sort.

Though by the standard biological definitions of Parker, Lehtonen, & Google/OED (SBDPLGO), "functional male" is redundant - if a person is a male then, ipso facto, they're functional.

It's only the HHWH that requires that further qualification ...

See the "confusion"? ... : rolleyes :
Right, well, we'll all keep using the structural definition, which neatly avoids all of the confusion you've tried to create thus far.
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Old 15th September 2022, 11:59 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
This entire argument is like an engine revving in neutral. Lots of noise and energy, advancing not an inch.
Don't think you're paying attention - being charitable; the devils are in the details.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Steersman repeats his position. Other members take it apart and explain why they don't agree and why he is fundamentally talking nonsense. ....
Which "position"? What has been "taken apart"? How so? Where?

The "disagreement" that "a polythetic category definition implies a spectrum"? I've given chapter and verse - solid quotes from well-regarded authorities - justifying the claim. A refutation? Crickets.

That the HHWH isn't a stipulative definition, even if a badly flawed one? Again, chapter and verse supporting the case. Refutation? Crickets.

That "a spectrum requires a measure"? That one can't use "categorical variables"? More BS. A refutation of the contrary? Crickets.

Methinks you've got your thumbs - to the elbows - on the scales. Or you've got your hand stuck in a monkey trap. Seems you're so desperately committed to the "idea", to your article of faith that "everyone has to have a sex" that you're unwilling or unable to see that that is, at the very least, contingent on the definitions we choose for the categories "male" and "female".

Bet you couldn't even say "sexless" if your life depended on it - much less assert that it is at least applicable to some members of some sexually-reproducing (anisogamic) species.
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:02 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Right, well, we'll all keep using the structural definition, which neatly avoids all of the confusion you've tried to create thus far.
Only in your entirely unevidenced opinion, only because you insist on sticking your head in the sand.
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:24 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Only in your entirely unevidenced opinion, only because you insist on sticking your head in the sand.
No, it's pretty obvious nobody is confused by the structural definition or how it's applied to common real-world scenarios. Even you aren't actually confused by the structural usage.
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:30 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
No, it's pretty obvious nobody is confused by the structural definition or how it's applied to common real-world scenarios. Even you aren't actually confused by the structural usage.
More opinions, more entirely unevidenced "feelinz" - you have any facts and figures to back them up?

Quote:
“We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.” —MARK TWAIN, “Corn-Pone Opinions” (1901)”
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/901...and-we-mistake
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:36 PM   #38
Myriad
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
Only in your entirely unevidenced opinion, only because you insist on sticking your head in the sand.

Given that you do not get to decide which definition we or anyone else uses, how would you like to proceed from here?
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:47 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Steersman View Post
More opinions, more entirely unevidenced "feelinz" - you have any facts and figures to back them up?
Seriously, Steersman, confusion about what?

If I use the structural definition in everyday life, what things might leave me confused? What things might confuse others? Give an example. Confusion about what?
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Old 15th September 2022, 12:54 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Okay, I'd be interested to know if you're seeing the same example sentences which I'm seeing on my library version of the OED.
<snip>

Quote:
infertile, adj.
1753 J. Hanway Hist. Acct. Brit. Trade Caspian Sea I. xl. 266 A defect..in one man, could render only one woman infertile.
I've highlighted a few nouns in these example sentences which refer to people whom I'd feel free call female, even though they are most likely not producing viable gametes. How does this square with your earlier claims about the OED?
Same thing, at least the "infertile"; I assume the others will correspond. En passant, I subscribed to the "Oxford Dictionaries Premium" - princely sum of $19.99 for the year:

https://global.oup.com/academic/prod...lang=en&cc=ca#

Of note is that they pretty much endorse the stipulative and intensional definitions of Parker & Lehtonen for the sexes, eg, "male":

Quote:
male (adjective): Of or denoting the sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring
https://premium.oxforddictionaries.c...sh/male#male_1

Though they don't seem to provide any way of posting a share link, but your library link may provide access.

But, more importantly, I kinda think you're barking up the wrong tree. That old definitions and uses may conflict with newer stipulative definitions pretty much means diddly-squat.

Quote:
A stipulative definition is a type of definition in which a new or currently existing term is given a new specific meaning for the purposes of argument or discussion in a given context. When the term already exists, this definition may, but does not necessarily, contradict the dictionary (lexical) definition of the term.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stipulative_definition

So what if there's a conflict? The issue is whether the new definition has some utility, maybe in reducing the "confusion" associated with such contradictory uses? You seem desperately committed to an adamant refusal of any necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in the sex categories. That is what opens the door to the depredations of the charlatans and grifters, to the deluded and political opportunists, to the unscientific and anti-scientific.
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