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Three in 10 UK scientists believe sex isn’t binary

Not a scientist (probably). Credit: Getty

March 4, 2024 - 11:10am

For thousands of years, the fact that human beings come in two sexes was obvious and unquestioned. Now, almost three out of 10 British scientists have said in a poll that they don’t believe sex is binary. Almost two-thirds believe that “gender” is fluid, whatever that means.

It’s the equivalent of discovering that a sizeable proportion of scientists believe the earth is flat or fairies exist at the bottom of the garden. And it should worry us because of all the policies which are being pushed by people who promote the fiction that biological sex is not fixed.

Destroying the sex binary is central to gender ideology, which is why it’s always been a key demand of trans activists. If there is anywhere this unscientific nonsense should be challenged, it’s in universities, yet only 58% of academics in the survey agreed with the statement “sex is binary”. A full 29% disagreed, while 13% claimed to have no view or preferred not to answer.

More than half the almost 200 scientists who took part in the survey, conducted by the Telegraph and Censuswide, had been educated to PhD level. Even more astonishingly, 13% were in medicine and 12% in life sciences. If people don’t accept as basic a fact of life as the division of human beings into two sexes, it’s hard to see how they can claim to be doing science at all.

If sex is not immutable, it means people can in essence define themselves at will — and insist that everyone else goes along with it. We’ve already seen the consequences as male sex offenders demand to be housed in women’s prisons and male athletes take medals and prize money from biological women.

The confusion between sex and gender is equally alarming. “Gender” is used in so many ways, including as a synonym for sex, as to be pretty much meaningless. If almost 64% of scientists regard it as “fluid”, it would be interesting to hear their definition of the word.

Allowing the confusion to continue has real-life consequences. Some people, including many women, want to be treated by a doctor of the same sex. Yet the General Medical Council recently admitted that, under pressure from trans activists, it no longer collects data on the sex of doctors, only their “gender”. This means that trans-identifying male GPs could list themselves as female on its public register — and critics claim that several have already done so.

As this survey shows, higher education is no longer an entirely effective inoculation against propaganda. It should worry vice-chancellors that so many people working in their institutions don’t have a grasp of basic biology, and are so lacking in critical thinking that they accept even the most outlandish claims about human beings.

It’s cheering that Professor Alice Sullivan is leading a review of sex and gender data in research across the public sector, with the capacity to look at other institutions including universities. But every day brings new evidence of how deeply gender ideology has penetrated every aspect of our lives — and the urgent need to stand up for reality.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She was previously Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board. Her book Unfortunately, She Was A Nymphomaniac: A New History of Rome’s Imperial Women will be published in November 2024.

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Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago

In terms of how politicised science can end up “scientifically” proving itself, Gender Ideology currently is where climate change was 30 years ago.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I suspect that the corruption of science because of climate change ideology has enabled the transgender ideology to progress at a much faster rate through our institutions. As recently as 5 years ago, the demented ideas in question were simply laughed at by the vast majority of people, with everyone simply assuming that no ideas that stupid could possibly gain official support.

Yet here we are.

I’m a climate sceptic nowadays but when the global warming narrative became prominent I was initially persuaded by it, and assumed that since nuclear power was available, governments would simply solve it that way, taking France as the model, which had successfully built out a nuclear grid that generated fully 75% of the nation’s electricity from nuclear power stations. I didn’t start asking questions until it became clear that a consensus was emerging that nuclear power would not be the answer, at which point the climate change narrative, which was becoming ever more alarmist even while denying the most obvious solution to the problem, lost any chance of being taken seriously by me.

The trans agenda skipped entirely over the part where it might have had any plausibility, learning from the climate change agenda that having established scientific plausibility previously can become an obstacle to progress once the politics reveals itself.

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Well I’ve been on Unherd a lot in the past explaining where the climate sceptics have got it wrong. I’ll just say that in terms of having got predictions wrong the sceptics are way ahead of the climate scientists! Many sceptics have predicted cooling, low sensitivity, renewed glaciation etc in the past. And they are all wrong. If you don’t believe me then look up some of the predictions from the likes of Curry, Lindzen, Lewis and others who argued for low sensitivity, and whose predictions have ALREADY been falsified (even though we are nowhere near doubling CO2)!!
Climate scientists on the other hand have predicted sustained warming (verified), sea level rise (verified) glacier recession (verified). All of these are essentially the response of Earth systems to well-known 19th century physics of the atmosphere. I’m amazed that sceptics don’t just give up!

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago

You’re talking crap.

Frederick Dixon
Frederick Dixon
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

How do you know?

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago

Where is the global thermometer that tells us exactly how warm the planet is now and how warm it was in the past? It does not exist now and most certainly did not exist in the past. We do know that the earth has gone through many cooling and warming cycles in the past and that it has been in an overall warming cycle since the end of the last ice age.
Even with the flawed methods we have for estimating global temperatures, why did the estimated global temperature drop in the decades following WW2 when CO2 levels were rising significantly as the world rebuild after the destruction of WW2?
If it were to become politically expedient to pour some cold water on climate hysteria, then there would be plenty of scientists with plenty of decent science, who could raise reasonable doubt on the theory that CO2 is the root of all evil. But for now it is politically expedient to start any criticism of “net zero” with “of course climate change is real and caused by CO2 but ….” that is all anyone who wants the bit after the but to be listened to will say.
The reality is there is far more that we don’t know about our planet than what we do know/

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
4 months ago

Are you talking about “man made” Climate Change sceptics? We had sustained warming, sea level rise, glazier recessions before man produced large amounts of CO2. Recent stats from Prof.Christy and PielkeJr. Show only small increases in temperatures and no out of the ordinary weather events in the last 100 years. Real accurate measurements of atmospheric warming are only available since the late 70s satellites and even they hardly show any increases in temperatures except during the El Niños in the last 20 years. Thermostats on Earth seem to be giving exaggerated readings due to urban encroachments and some of the thermostats are now literally situated next to airports. I also disagree with you about Prof.Curry, who was actually not a Climate Sceptic since fairly recent, when she changed her mind after she discovered manipulated stats. The whole point about (non political manipulated ) science is that new insights occur, when experiments and results change. Only look at the lies and manipulation we were told during Covid…
Dr.Clauser (winner of the 2022 Nobel Price in Physics) warned students in South Korea of the current political motivated pseudo science. Brave words as he was promptly disinvited to give a speech at the IMF.

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
4 months ago

If you don’t know the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer, well … hmmm.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
4 months ago

Yup my fault, meant of course thermometer. Thnx for correction…

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

Show me evidence that Curry and Lindzen predicted decreasing temps? Both of them agree that CO2 is warming the planet so there’s no way they predicted anything like that.

There might be a handful of sceptics who predict the world might be cooling, but the vast majority agree that CO2 warms the planet. Most sceptics are simply pushing back against hysterical climate change narratives.

Climate alarmists have failed in almost all their predictions, except those directly related to warming temperatures, such as increased heat waves and mildly rising seas.

Here’s just a sample of the failed predictions from alarmists.

*Increase in severe weather like hurricanes
*Ice free arctic
*Collapse of agriculture
*Increased drought (the planet is 5% greener than it was 20 years ago
*Coral islands drowning by rising seas (80% have grown in size)
*Collapse of Great Barrier Reef

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Read Lindzen and Choi 2011; Lewis and Curry 2018

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

Maybe send me a link. Curry and Lindzen have argued that the water sensitivity feedback loop is weaker than that proposed by alarmists, but they don’t dispute that CO2 has a warming affect on the planet.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Totally agree. The overt politicization of science in the west started with climate science IMO. Basic truths were manipulated and mangled beyond recognition in pursuit of a political goal. Dissenting scientists were drummed out of the field and new scientists entering the field were all unquestioning.

The politicalization of science reached a new zenith during Covid and seems to be infused throughout the institutions now.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It all relies on there being a threat that we need politicians to save us from. Whilst there was a bit of interest in what was referred to then as global warming during the 80’s, in particular in UK by Maggie as she took on the miners, it did not really take off until the 90’s when the Soviet threat disappeared.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Apparently we can’t deal with more than one existential menace at a time.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

It’s also a convent excuse for failed govt policies. Canada had a horrific fire season last year so the politicians blame it on climate change, even though forest fire have been decreasing for 29 years. This is easier than admitting that they have invested virtually nothing in forest mngt.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Noting that the survey asked 200 scientists and was conducted by the Telegraph whose editorial line on the matter is obvious. The paywall prevented any further interrogation of the methodology or even the report. Only ~25% actually do anything related to biology. It’s almost laughable in the defence of science to just refer to “scientists”.
In her defence of scientific rigour the writer questions the concept of gender but still uses it as a weapon against the supposed rationalists. So are you accepting that gender, as a social construct, can indeed be fluid? The question itself supposed that sex and gender can be distinct and itself offers no definition of what gender is. Presumably because it would be unable to propose a definition to satisfy trained rational minds.
There was a time when scientists caused us to question our beliefs. Now it seems our beliefs cause us to question scientists. We dismiss their ideas as the result of propaganda and indoctrination because it comforts those afraid of novelty. Where is the counterargument?
Certainly if working in medicine and the life sciences a binary separation would be a limit on your work and thinking. It assumes that humans should be separated into two separate blocs but that is just not relevant in all cases. If you work with bodies and pills of course “okay this one is going to have an extra rib to work around” will still be relevant but to say “well this one’s a woman so prescribe X and Y” isn’t even a Victorian understanding of medicine it’s so basic.
My strong suspicion is that many men push back so hard on the concept of non-binary sex or gender because they’re concerned they’ll fall too close to the undesired side of the spectrum.
Science works by questioning our preconceptions. I am more sceptical of a scientist saying anything for certain than one with a doubtful position.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Your scepticism seems founded on your perception of political bias in the source, but the real news story here is that there are any scientists, at all, who would not reject transgender ideology as baseless nonsense.

Let’s say the sample is non-representative to the point where it’s a freak occurrence, and that no scientists anywhere else can be found who will support transgender ideology. It’s still a news story: there is a small number of actual scientists, in the life sciences no less, who actually believe that sexual dimorphism doesn’t apply to humans.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Only one part was about political bias and that was an off hand comment.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

True, but the rest of your argument seems to rest upon the false notion that anyone sceptical of transgender ideology is displaying an unscientific lack of open-mindedness. In fact, science does not need its adherents to remain open-minded to ideas that have been falsified through evidence, and just because an idea arrives after the evidence in question rather than before, such as transgender ideology, does not mean that the scientific position must accommodate the idea until somebody disproves it all over again.

There is such a thing as being just plain wrong, to quote Richard Dawkins, and transgender ideology is just that.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Gender is a poorly defined concept, which means different things to different people. In some of those definitions it is indeed a spectrum (not a binary) and fluid. Given all that, is gender a useful concept at all? It may have been in the past, before gender ideology muddied the waters so much as to make it totally meaningless.
Biological sex however is very easily defined by chromosomes. Sex is written into every cell like a stick of rock. The purpose of sex, both the category and the act, is to enable reproduction (eggs and sperm / large and small gametes). Outside of this core purpose, it drives a number of other secondary characteristics, however there is a significant and overlapping variation in these characteristics between the sexes, which is perfectly natural. The variation in these secondary characteristics do not make sex a spectrum, as there are no people with XY chromosomes who can get pregnant, gestate and give birth and there are no people with XX chromosomes who can get another person pregnant. It really is that simple and no amount of BS “science” can change that.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Gender might well be a more complex thing to define than sex – I accept for instance that it is indeed a social construct – but that does not mean it can be redefined according to political fashion.

The point is that gender is still a concept based upon the binary reality of sex. If it now ceases to have that connection to a physical reality, then it ceases to have any significance. People wishing to self-declare their own gender out of many possibilities are making a meaningless assertion that has no effect upon their sex, which is a binary reality that is set at the point of fertilisation in their mother’s womb.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I accept for instance that it is indeed a social construct – but that does not mean it can be redefined according to political fashion.

Pretty sure that’s literally exactly what it means.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You are wrong, sorry. Social institutions emerge from hard truths, not political ambitions.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I think you mean “they should”. Many of our social conventions have political origins.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Pretty sure that’s literally exactly what it means.

That is how it has been defined – but that’s not the same thing. Defining a concept in a certain way does not make reality jump into line.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I accept for instance that it is indeed a social construct 

I don’t know why. Some average differences in personality and behaviour (and perhaps even job role) are almost certainly genetic and related to sex. At the very least this still an open question.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

You’ve described dimorphism well. There is, however, one exception to your penultimate sentence.
Someone with XX chromosomes can get someone else with XX chromosomes pregnant: using the sperm from someone with XY chromosomes!

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Indeed but it would be the sperm donor who was identified in a paternity test not the artificial inseminator

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I know…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Fair enough if that’s the definition applied. I don’t see how a scientist could deny that. I just don’t think that was the question asked.

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

“Sex is written into every cell like a stick of rock”?
Adrian, please, please, please rephrase. For the sake of the English language. 

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

This comment is riddled with false assumptions.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
4 months ago

I am often asked as a scientist to sign petitions about this that and the other. Unless the petition is about Differential Equations (and it never is), then I never sign, as it is outside of my area of expertise, and the signature would be an argument from authority, and an abuse of my disciplinary standing.

On a similar note, if scientists outside of the life sciences and Medicine say that sex is not binary, then they have just about as much standing in the debate as a blue-haired gender-studies graduate.

On a similar note again, the fact that 88% of scientists in the life scientists believe that sex is binary is vaguely reassuring. You would have to worry about the other 12%, though.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
4 months ago

The other 12% are not scientists but fools.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
4 months ago

Differential equations? Respect is due.

These are seriously hard and very few can be solved.

You’re doing proper work

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
4 months ago

I loved the bit about differential equations. Thank you for cheering me up.

Hal Puce
Hal Puce
4 months ago

Someone with a PhD in physics or Organic chemistry may not be an expert in reproductive biology, but they should be more than intelligent enough to understand the concept of sex, and have a certain level of respect for objective reality.
Neither assumption you would make about a “blue-haired gender-studies graduate”.
The suggestion that you need to be an expert to understand sexual reproduction is itself quite pernicious and is one of the things the gender cultists like to argue.
“Sex is complicated”
-No, it’s simple enough that any reasonably intelligent person can understand.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago

To any scientists struggling with the concept of sexual dimorphism I offer the following thought experiment.
Q: 50 men and 50 women are stranded on a planet which has bountiful food, no disease and no predators. If you return in 100 years what will you find?
A: A thriving human population.
Q: 50 men and 50 transwomen are stranded on the next planet over which also has bountiful food, no disease and no predators. If you return to that planet in 100 years what will you find?
A: 100 male skeletons.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago

On another note, it would be interesting to see a breakdown of the subjects and specialisms of the scientists in question. Particularly how many are actually scientists and how many are affiliated subjects like Philosophy of Science.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
4 months ago

Or even physicists? Computer scientists??

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
4 months ago
Reply to  Alison Wren

No, please, I can’t, I just can’t believe physicists could fall for this

James S.
James S.
4 months ago

Sociologists, psychologists, political “scientists.”

Coralie Palmer
Coralie Palmer
4 months ago
Reply to  James S.

Yup. The social sciences that have never been sciences: none of them have ever been able to consistently replicate experimental results that prove their hypotheses, which are nevertheless taken as read.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

That’s not really what non-binary sex means. At least not to a scientific mind. Within those 50 men and 50 women there will be a great level of variation in their skeletons and some of it will overlap with others. Some of the women will be taller than the men, some of them may have slimmer hips and wider shoulders, some will have thicker jaws and stubby male legs.
To accept that sex is binary and leave it at that is not a scientific way of thinking. Science is all about saying “well it’s no as simple as that…”

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The argument that biological sex isn’t binary because some women are taller than men isn’t quite the trump card you think it is.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

okay what about the other stuff? Another unsubstantiated dismissal for those too?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

okay what about the other stuff? Another unsubstantiated dismissal for those too?

None of the characteristics you mention define one’s sex so they are irrelevant to the question of whether biological sex is binary. Sex is determined by whether your body produces large gametes (eggs) or small gametes (sperm), or would do except for some developmental or medical abnormality.
Height, shoulder width etc do correlate with sex on average but they overlap between the two sex classes because many secondary sex characteristics are not as highly differentiated in humans as in some other mammals. So some men are shorter than some women, it doesn’t make them women.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

That’s fine if it’s the definition applied. You introduced skeletons to the equation.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Well after 100 years?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s fine if it’s the definition applied. You introduced skeletons to the equation.

Male and female pelvic bones are substantially different which is apparent in skeletal remains. Not just size, as you would expect because on average men are bigger than women, but shape and position of features like hip sockets.
So if your concern is that nobody will be able to tell whether the skeletons in the second scenario in my thought experiment are male or female, you can rest easy.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago

Why would women’s pelvises be different to men’s? Could it have something to do with women being designed to have babies and men not being designed to have babies? Could that also be the reason why in your thought experiment one planet only has male skeletons left?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Whether “designed” is the correct term here depends on your position on an intelligent creator, ie. a god or whatever. Personally I prefer the term “evolved”.

But yes, women’s pelivises have evolved observable differences to males to facilitate childbirth. Urgently necessary in the case of our species because we are born with disproportionately large heads, compared with other mammals.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Even in a female with “slimmer hips”, the female pelvis is formed differently Female pelves are larger and wider than male pelves and have a rounder pelvic inlet. Male iliac crests are higher than females, causing their false pelves to look taller and narrower. Also the male coccyx curves inwards and is immovable whlle the female coccyx is straighter and more flexible. Both of these factors may go some of the way to explaining some of the differences in male and female gait and movement.
The eye sockets are different too.The supraorbital margin (the upper border of the eye socket) feels sharp and thin in females, blunt and thick in males. The supraorbital ridge (brow ridge) and glabella are larger in males. In fact there are multiple differences in bone and skeletal features.

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That comment is pure nonsense, it’s not even sophistry.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

2 gametes. There isn’t a 3rd, regardless of human variation.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Geez dude. I know you like to be the contrarian, but this is a massive stretch – even for you.

John Tyler
John Tyler
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Of course a very small number of babies are born with confusing dominant genitalia and/or chromosomes. The vast majority of babies are easy to separate into two sexes: female and male. Your comments on bone structure miss the point; fifty each of biological males and trans-sexual-identifying females cannot breed.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
4 months ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Even with Disorders of Sexual development ( DSDs) otherwise known as Intersex conditions, the individual is, in the vast majority of cases, still either male or female. DSDs are disorders of one sex or the other.
Caster Semenya, for example, has XY chromosomes ( 46 XY 5-ARD 5-alpha-reductase deficiency) and therefore went through male puberty.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
4 months ago
Reply to  John Tyler

They’re all XX or XY with deleterious mutations in other loci on different chromosomes apart from the chromosomal mutations -XXXXY people amazingly are still male…. if there’s a Y it’s a guy. That these are natures mistakes is shown by the fact they are mostly sub or infertile…..

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I kind of get what you are saying, and have said something similar about gender. But I just don’t think that is what is meant by saying sex is a binary – for scientists or anyone else. It doesn’t mean, for example, that all men are taller than all women. It’s about chromosomes, gamete size, reproductive role, primary sex characteristics etc.

Hal Puce
Hal Puce
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Science is not about lying.
Men and women have different height, variations in skin, eye, hair colour, lots of these thing.
None of which remotely change the fact that sex is binary.
The scientific explanation for why sex is binary is that having two discrete types of reproductive gametes is advantageous to reproduction.

Tim Quinlan
Tim Quinlan
4 months ago

Seems to me that prior to worrying about the results of this poll, one would need to know how the questions were phrased. If phrased very simply (e.g. is sex binary? Y/N) with no clarification of the focus (humans only) and/or no space for explanation or qualification of answers, I suspect some individuals might have answered, ‘No’, on the basis of a quibble: the existence of hermaphroditism/intersexuality. Likewise, nothing can be gleaned from the statement that 25% of the academics/scientists were in the fields of medicine and the life sciences without disaggregation of the survey results according to disciplinary background of all who participated in the survey. 

Stephan Harrison
Stephan Harrison
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Quinlan

Isn’t the whole point that the term ‘scientists with PhDs’ covers a whole range of issues? If the poll included social scientsist then it’s essentially meaningless. The only peopled who should have been polled are biologists with PhDs and medical scientists with PhDs. No point is asking anyone from the humanities!

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
4 months ago

Hi Stephan. Yes, indeed, 18% of the respondents were social scientists. The herd mentality in the social sciences means we can be confident that they all answered that sex is non-binary.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
4 months ago

! Social scientist? Really? They were included?

That’s mad.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Quinlan

Seems to me that prior to worrying about the results of this poll, one would need to know how the questions were phrased

My thoughts too. And in answer to a question like: “is gender fluid” I would first want to know what was meant by “gender” – and then the option to answer “yes to some degree”.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Quinlan

“. . . one would need to know how the questions were phrased.” Hear, hear. There are intersex individuals (herm, merm & ferm; Fausto-Sterling, “5 Sexes”) but they are a tiny fraction such that the bulk of the human population is binary M or F. It is one thing to affirm that, but quite another thing (an anecdote reported in Pluckrose & Lindsay, Cynical Theories) for a “transwoman” to walk into a waxing salon and insist that, as a woman, her testicles be waxed. Do almost a third of UK scientists affirm the latter; or just the former?

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 months ago

It’s appears making gender ideology part of the Equalities Act has only normalised solipsism, “my truth” as fact!

Ken Garrett
Ken Garrett
4 months ago

I hope that the next time a transmale patient goes to the doctor complaining of passing urine too frequently and too urgently, the patient enjoys a PR examination seeking an elusive, enlarged prostate.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago
Reply to  Ken Garrett

There is an American tv show called The Good Doctor that had a bout with the trans people. The title character is, shall we say, on the spectrum. He knows medicine but has no social filter. While everyone else was carrying on about the patient’s pronouns, this character noticed that the “girl” was actually a boy, and dealing with a decidedly male issue.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
4 months ago
Reply to  Ken Garrett

What exactly do you mean by a transmale?? The mangling of language is imo one of the reasons for the successful takeover of transideology. Male and female are clearly defined biological terms applicable to almost all living organisms not just humans!!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
4 months ago

Sex is male and female, gender is masculine and feminine. Thus you can be a feminine male or a masculine female without being any less of a male or female than a masculine man or feminine female. What ‘scientists’ of the type whose ‘experiments’ cannot be repeated think about matters of objective truth is of no more interest than that of anyone else. It’s always funny to see relativists appealing to the argument from authority. I asked a very belligerent advocate of natural selection by random mutation how she imagined a cell ‘evolved’ in this manner since it is a highly complex biological machine with many interdependent parts the removal of any one of which would render it unviable. She had not heard the phrase ‘irreducible complexity’ before but could only reply that there were alot of people cleverer than her who were happy with random mutation as an explanation so it was good enough for her. I let it lie there, hoping that, on reflection, she might take a more sceptical approach in future.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

“She had not heard the phrase ‘irreducible complexity’ before but could only reply that there were alot of people cleverer than her who were happy with random mutation as an explanation so it was good enough for her.”
That’s a pretty good description of what ‘argument from authority’ means. Everyone does it, everyone respects some kind of authority. You *will* have an authority – but you get to choose who it will be. Bottom line… be very careful whom you select for your authority.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Personally, in such a situation, I would reply “that’s an interesting point I hadn’t considered. I’ll have to look into it for myself.”

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Nonsense. The evolution of the nucleate cell from protoplasmal accretions is well understood.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
4 months ago

Thanks, I’ll look this up.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

I think you will find that “well understood” means “exhaustively theorized.”

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 months ago

Deleted

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

If sex is not binary, why is transition limited to going from one to the other? It seems as if there would be additional options, but there aren’t.
Destroying the sex binary is central to gender ideology, –> Of course, it is, and the gay people who’ve allowed the Ts to infiltrate their community might want to take heed. It won’t be long before there are demands to change references of “same sex” to ‘same gender.’
We tried to tell you that this group was not like the rest of the rainbow. You didn’t listen, choosing instead to call us names. Okay. Good luck with what’s coming your way.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

If sex is not binary, why is transition limited to going from one to the other? It seems as if there would be additional options, but there aren’t.

You’ve spoken too soon. In fact there are and it’s a growing business opportunity. Talk now is about lining peoples bodies up with their self image, whatever that might be. Some apparently want to look simply neutral (or is that neuter).

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
4 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

132 options wasn’t it, according to the NY Times. But I am almost certainly out of date.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There are 72 genders, apart from male and female, and no doubt just as many options for mutilating your body to align with them (as long as you can afford the drugs and surgery).
A particularly sickening example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullification_(body_modification)#:~:text=Genital%20nullification%20is%20a%20procedure,transgender%3B%20most%20identify%20as%20eunuchs.
Genital nullification is a procedure practiced in a body modification subculture made up mostly of men who have had their genitals (and sometimes also their nipples) surgically removed. Those undergoing the procedure often go by the name of nullos, and are not necessarily transgender; most identify as eunuchs.[1] The term nullo is short for genital nullification.[2] Though the procedure is mostly sought by men, there are women who also voluntarily have their vagina stitched closed and c******s, nipples and breasts removed.[3]

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

Cmon man. Ya gotta trust the science.

Chuck de Batz
Chuck de Batz
4 months ago

I can’t see what the poll question was or how the results are as the link is currently broken, so can only go off what the article says, which is:

– 200 “british scientists” polled- 58% agreed “sex is binary”
– 29% disagreed
– 13% no view or did not answer

But:

– “more than half…had been educated to PhD level”

That phrasing implies that somewhere not far off half were not educated to PhD level. 

So: somewhere close to half of the poll participants were still students. 

Then:

– 13% of those surveyed were in medicine
– 12% of those surveyed were in life sciences

It doesn’t say that 12% of the life sciences participants disagreed, only that 12% of those surveyed were in life sciences. It’s quite possible that all 24 of them agreed, with the data available here we just don’t know.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
4 months ago
Reply to  Chuck de Batz

I look forward to the day when the academic-industrial complex finally eats itself up… and we no longer think anyone who doesn’t have a PhD can be dismissed as ‘still a student.’
PhD’s are marks of longevity and perseverance through a particular process – not marks of intelligence or wisdom (or even special achievement in a discipline). The number of absolutely worthless PhD dissertations masquerading as ‘original contributions to the body of human knowledge’ is vast.

Chuck de Batz
Chuck de Batz
4 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

fair call on your last two sentences, but if a survey purports to be of “british scientists” yet close to half of those surveyed don’t have a PhD, I’m dubious as to their representative status

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

As this survey shows, higher education is no longer an entirely effective inoculation against propaganda

The author is definitely a bit late discovering this one!

John Tyler
John Tyler
4 months ago

I’m surprised it’s only 30%. Perhaps that’s because the highly vocal minority have forced those who disagree that it’s better to stay silent in the workplace.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

Ideological capture of academia, or areas of it, has been a feature for decades. It’s almost the air that academics breathe. Christina Hoff Sommers covered capture by feminist ideology pretty well, and there are other books about, or touching on, the issue – Higher superstition, for example. Then there was the Sokal hoax, more recent hoaxes, and on and on.

it’s a mistake to think this sort of thing only starts from the point at which academia starts pushing an ideology you disagree with.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
4 months ago

It was something of a relief to discover that some of the scientists polled were social scientists … so not scientists at all.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

I do wonder how academics interpreted the question on gender – or even how the question was posed. If gender is rooted in sex, then clearly it is also binary, though perhaps not as rigidly or simply as sex. If it is not, or is only partly then it is almost by definition (if trivially) fluid to some degree.

If gender is about social roles, behaviour and personality, then clearly we do not have two opposing blocs facing off: hyper masculine men on the one side doing masculine jobs; hyper feminine women on the other doing feminine jobs. It’s perhaps going too far to call it a continuum, but clearly it’s fuzzy with lots of outliers. It’s more about overlapping bell curves.

in these terms I’d be hard pressed to describe gender as a simple binary. Long story short – we may be worrying too much a out this.

Graeme Kemp
Graeme Kemp
4 months ago

Another article worth reading about the reality of biology is ‘From Sex to Gender: The Modern Dismissal of Biology’ from The Skeptic magazine (USA): https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/from-sex-to-gender-modern-dismissal-of-biology/

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Kemp

Very good article, thanks for the link. Really should be read by all those on here who don’t really understand the origins of what they call “gender ideology”, and don’t find anything odd, and disingenuous, in feminists suddenly cosying up to biology. Up until quite recently biology looked like the next target in the feminists sights.

Also a suggestion in the article of something which may well be true: that the denial of sex differences in our culture is what has led to the confusion over gender identity which we now see in our young people. It is a bit of a smoking gun.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
4 months ago

I wonder if these so called scientists ( who are they: Biologists? Mathematicians? Physicists? ) think that other mammals’ sex is fluid too?

Pip G
Pip G
4 months ago

Gender neutrality, self ID etc is a vile doctrine. However, I am surprised so many ‘scientists’ support it. It may say more about the cultural views of the sample than their scientific knowledge. If the sample includes a cohort who are middle class liberals who attended a British university recently, that may be the source of the influence on them as opposed to their science.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
4 months ago

How about renaming gender ideology to autogynephilia?

Rob N
Rob N
4 months ago

Because autogynephilia has its meaning. And trans identifying females do not suffer from it.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

Now you’re denying the essential mutability of language. Where will the madness stop?
P.S. I’ve been fighting this on behalf of “decimate” (which means to reduce by a tenth, not utterly destroy) for years — and losing.

Tim Quinlan
Tim Quinlan
4 months ago

A bit late to reply to comments of over half hour ago. Still, my own position is: I appreciate Joan Smith’s writing but she jumped the gun here (did not say much; more questions than answers) and there really isn’t much to work on without the disaggregated results (Yes/No answers in relation to academic/scientific disciplinary background). I doubt that one can assume all the ‘social scientists’ and humanities academics said sex was not binary: philosophers are always contrary to what anyone claims is obvious; I had my training in a discipline that emphasised the value of skepticism). I am intrigued by the equivocal nature of comments on gender. I have always thought it a useful concept if kept in distinction from sex. In essence, gender allows one to consider how masculinity and femininity, as well as how the notion of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are defined and changed as society changes. 

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Quinlan

I have always thought it a useful concept if kept in distinction from sex

It’s not so much the concept of gender that is the problem as the use of the sex/gender division to carve up the whole conceptual space. Basically sex = the physical and is genetic; gender covers role, personality, behaviour etc and is socially constructed. This leaves no conceptual space for behaviour and personality differences which might be genetic.

It’s a piece of conceptual sleight of hand which magics away sex based behavioural differences etc simply by allowing no conceptual space for them. It’s just a sophisticated form of question begging.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Quinlan

In essence, gender allows one to consider how masculinity and femininity, as well as how the notion of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are defined and changed as society changes. 

On that basis, one would, of course, have to concede that gender is in some sense fluid.

JOHN KANEFSKY
JOHN KANEFSKY
4 months ago

Anybody that thinks sex isn’t binary isn’t a scientist.
It’s as simple as that. They may call themselves “scientist”, but it’s not true.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
4 months ago

We are one step away from denying that your genetics has any effect on who you are. A more profoundly anti-science stance, by scientists (if you want to call them such), I cannot imagine.
But the eventual net effect is obvious. To those who don’t go with their ‘views’, and instead go with what the science tells them, will go the win. They will do the reality deniers: in terms of commercials, monetary returns, prosperity, thriving, and so on. For example, someone denying that a bypass op will prevent you from dying, will die on you sooner rather than later. Material reality brooks no deniers of material reality.

Eileen Krol
Eileen Krol
4 months ago

“gender ideology has penetrated every aspect of our lives”…hehe..well played!

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
4 months ago

Binary sex is encoded in every cell in our bodies, though possibly not in those of the mitochondrion. If you have a Y chromosome on your sex cells, you’re a male and no amount of surgery can alter that. No Y chromosome? You’re female. Any scientist who doesn’t believe that is not a scientist because they don’t actually believe in science. Therefore, rest easy – 100% of scientists know (not believe) that sex is binary. It’s pretty simple, really.
(Actually there are occasional variations, thanks to oddities like the SRY gene, which results in an infertile male. But trans people who were born with one X and one Y chromosome will be male until the day they die.)

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
4 months ago

Would you answer yes to the incredibly loaded question about sex being binary knowing that it could cost you your job? Regardless of assurances of anonymity if I were an academic in an institution I would have loudly declared ‘No!’

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
4 months ago

Sack anyone who won’t uphold this very basic truth

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
4 months ago

The key word here is “believe.”

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
4 months ago

I don’t think the question can nowadays be asked without a clear definition of the terms.

Sex: biological sex
Gender: presentation of self based on sex of choice irrespective of biological sex.

Then ask if sex is dimorphic.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
4 months ago

In Stalin’s USSR the incorrect (but Socialism friendly) biological theories of Trofim Lysenko were professed to be true by a majority of scientist.
That’s because they would lose their jobs or wind up in a gulag if they disagreed.
I assume there’s a lot of similar cowardice and skin saving in Western academia right now.