Wednesday, June 12

Margaret Atwood misunderstands science, claiming slug sex, gay penguins and transgender fish prove humans can change biological sex

Canadian author Margaret Atwood schooled nobody on sex and gender, using terrible interpretation of science in failed attempt to prove sex is a spectrum.

Claiming that slug sex, gay penguins and a ‘transgender’ fish prove that humans can change biological sex, the Handmaid’s Tale author’s bizarre Twitter posts show a worrying lack of critical thinking and scientific knowledge.

Almost immediately, people told Atwood that such a basic misunderstanding of science, and conflation of sex and gender, was incorrect, misleading and irrelevant to any debate or discussion around intersex conditions or gender transition.

She answered these corrections with an odd series of posts claiming that “Um, there are gay penguins. There are hermaphrodites”, using a term considered to be misleading, stigmatising, and scientifically specious in reference to humans.

Margaret Atwood: Gay penguins and slugs somehow ‘prove humans can change sex’

Her comments come in the wake of yet another defence of women by Harry Potter author JK Rowling – who, this time, has warned that life-saving healthcare for trans kids could be considered “a new kind of conversion therapy”, a claim backed up by a recent BBC Newsnight investigation into the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic.

When a predictable line of correct scientific questioning emerged, full of genuine concern and using facts and strong evidence that will be familiar to anyone who’s engaged into discussions with abusive TRAs – Trans Rights Activists – online, Atwood used more bizarre claims about the animal kingdom in an attempt to justify biological sexual changes in humans.

“Those stuck on nature being immutably divided into M+F should delve into slug sex…Then there is the barramundi,” she claimed, making reference to a fish that changes sex from male to female once it reaches a certain age.

“An interesting fish”, she added, choosing not to elaborate on how this lone fish changing sex related in any way to adult humans wanting to change their gender.

“I’m really old,” she wrote in response to someone who rightly pointed out that sex is determined before birth and is not changeable. “I’ve seen what boys and girls are ‘supposed’ to behave like change a lot.”

This conflation of sex with stereotypical gender roles negated her earlier point that gender and sex were separate, and thus undermined her entire weird argument.

Rational people with scientific knowledge try and fail to convince Margaret Atwood of her views on slug sex.

While slug sex is something that other publications may have covered, using them to justify the dismissal of binary sex from human biology seems a very long stretch at best, disingenuous at worst.

Human biology is not the same as the biology of fish, slugs or penguins, and it is amazing that this needs to be clarified in the year 2020 to people who don’t seem to have grasped the fundamental elements of basic biological science.

Following these attempted ‘knockouts’, Atwood showed a clear lack of understanding of the issues at hand by stating that “so much of this seems to be about bathrooms.”

Owen Jones supported Atwood’s truly ridiculous and incorrect conflation of these many different issues and her poorly-thought out assertion that somehow the whole thing made total sense and explained transgender issues completely.

Whether Margaret Atwood’s assertions that humans, fish and slugs are more related than previously discovered remains to be seen, but it would certainly fly in the face of thousand of years of knowledge and change our understanding of the science of human biology overnight.

Why Atwood chose not mention cuttlefish, whose weaker males will disguise themselves as females in an attempt to mate without stronger males noticing, is unknown, but also remains irrelevant to human biology.

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