Wednesday, June 10, 2020

An Open Letter to JK Rowling

Dear Jo,


You don't know me, but I'm an author. I write science fiction and, as such, must research science on occasion to get all my facts straight.

Recently, you doubled down and wrote a freakishly long defense of your transphobia. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed in you. I can sense you're already terribly devastated over this sudden revelation, so I'll be nice and take it easy on you.

As a speculative fiction author, daring to speculate on the potential of human beings is something I take great pride and joy in. One day, I hope we can move beyond things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and, yes, transphobia.

But, at the same time, in my stories, I'm doing my best to represent the best of humanity because I want people to open their minds to a better world and give up the closed-minded labels of a worldview corrupted by fear and hate.

I think you can probably relate, as you wrote a little known series about good vs. evil yourself. Okay, maybe it's a little bit better known than I care to admit--but, please, can't you see why that makes what you say all the more damaging? There are young boys and girls and people of various sexes and gender identities all looking up to you.

They don't know who I am. I'm not a mega-billionaire with a podium or a bajillion Twitter followers. If I said toy-poodles aren't real poodles, nobody will care. If you say it, millions will care. Please, Jo, I implore you, choose your words wisely.

You say that you've done the research and know for sure there are two biological sexes. Really Jo?

Because, to me, it doesn't sound like you understand that chromosomal karyotypes are what determine the "sex" of a biological organism and that these karyotypes often have very different structures.

As you may know, in humans, there are 46 chromosomes, present as 23 pairs. Twenty-two pairs are found in both sexes (autosomes) and one pair (sex chromosomes) is present as either XY (in males) or XX (in females).

Normally, all cells in the body that have a nucleus will contain a complete set of the same 46 chromosomes, except for the reproductive cells (eggs and sperm), which contain a half set of 23. This half set is the genetic contribution that will be passed on to a child. At conception, half sets from each parent combine to form a new set of 46 chromosomes in the developing fetus.

Also, as you may know, if there are more or less than the 46 chromosomes there can be physical and genetic mutations that cause certain genetic problems. But there are also different combinations of stable chromosomal karyotypes that extend the sex chromosomes in humans (yes, they are technically genetic mutations but happen frequently enough as not to be shocking to anyone who deals with genetics every day).

This means, the necessary genetic information for biological sex is there but can often be structured in a different way than just XY or XX.

So far, there are approximately 6 stable karyotypes that we know of (but possibly more we haven't come across yet).

The six biological karyotype sexes that do not result in death to the fetus are:

X – Roughly 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 5,000 people (Turner’s )
XX – Most common form of female
XXY – Roughly 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 people (Klinefelter)
XY – Most common form of male
XYY – Roughly 1 out of 1,000 people
XXXY – Roughly 1 in 18,000 to 1 in 50,000 births

So, if you're going to get technical, each karyotype variation isn't the "same" sex reorganized, it's a completely new structure and therefore a completely new sex.

This means there are, genetically speaking, 6 distinguishable biological sexes in humans as identified by karyotype testing of the chromosomes themselves.

Like gender, biological sex sits on a spectrum of chromosomal types, some more stable than others. Albeit the spectrum is limited, it still contains identifiable ranges of chromosome types.

But what does all of this mean?

Well, it means there are people who fit the male/female binary type and there are people who don't. For example, there are people who look completely female with full breasts and nubile bodies and, yes--even have vaginas--but are actually completely male, genetically speaking (see androgen insensitivity syndrome).

Would you call that a woman or a man? Male or female? You see breasts and vaginas and think--there is a woman! But you'd be wrong.

The thing to realize is that they are all VALID sexes according to genetics and, more importantly, according to science. They just don't fit neatly into the two most common sexes that you know of.

So, no Jo. It doesn't appear you've done one iota of research. You seem to have just demonstrated the Dunning Kruger Effect in all of its glory. And I for one expected more from a woman of your intellect.

And I'm sorry people are calling you a TERF and what not, but you need to understand, Jo, even though I realize you're not a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, the things you are saying about trans-folks sound indistinguishable from their harshest, meanest, and most hateful detractors. You know, all the people who are genuine transphobes

And if it walks and talks like a duck...well, then I hope you can see the problem here.
You claim you're an educator but I too am an educator and can clearly see you haven't done the research you claim to have done.

Please, understand, biological sex isn't a simple binary proposition. You believing (incorrectly) that there are only two biological sexes at the chromosomal level doesn't change the factual science on the matter that there are actually more--a factual science that, if you actually consulted it, would set the record straight.

Now, how do all these chromosomal variations affect the human mind? Well, we're still learning that. But one thing to keep in mind is that there is often a disassociation involving how a person might feel inside with how they appear on the outside, especially if these two things are very different.

This is especially true of intersexual people who have both working gonads and ovaries (yes, Jo, they exist). Asking them to choose to be one thing is like asking a homosexual to be straight. That goes against their coding. Why try to shove them into your limited worldview? Why not, as an educator, try expanding your mind a little bit too?

The mistake is to try to classify these people as either-or. They are both. They are something that doesn't fit into your little box of labels. So stop trying to force them into it against their will. They will find their own boxes, and if those boxes don't exist, they will make new ones.

Oh, I know, Jo. It's hard being completely understanding of things that make little sense to us. But, it doesn't mean we can't be compassionate or accepting. So, please, bear with me.

Learning the science can be eye-opening in ways you couldn't possibly imagine--or, you being you, maybe you could imagine it. Which is why it baffles me so much as to how closed-minded you are willfully choosing to be here when the science is staring you right in the face.

And, Jo, it's true, we haven't even gotten into the complexities of talking about gender identity yet.

As you can imagine, this conversation gets really complicated rather fast and I (a white, cis heterosexual male) really am not the person to be discussing it with. YOu know who you should be consulting though? That's right, trans folks. Queer folks. The LGBTQ folks. They know far better than I do, and most assuredly better than you do, what it means to live a life in their skin.

The bottom line is, if you did take it upon yourself to carry out the terribly laborious task of opening your Google browser and maybe taking a couple hours to brush up on the science of the subject you're failing so miserably to speak on, you might be in a better position to rethink your hurtful words and you wouldn't look and sound so much like a TERF (a label you disagree with yet, ironically, while slamming others with labels they disagree with).

Transwomen are women too. And transmen are men.

And for those, like JK Rowling, who still don't think so, I'm going to share what I say to all those racists I encounter right before I block them.

"If you cannot be decent or compassionate enough to see the inherent dangers of an ideology predicated on hate, it's not just our belief systems that are in conflict. It's also our morality."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Keyword: Abortion [Do the New Anti-Abortion and Heartbeat laws make women into State regulated Chattel?]

Keyword: Abortion

[*Disclaimer:* this gets long and philosophically complex. If you're just going to harp ad nauseum that abortion equates to murder, then don't bother responding. The moral reasoning and scientific knowledge that follows is too advanced for you.]


[*Disclaimer 2:* Serious responses only, please. That doesn't mean I don't want disagreement, but simply sharing twice-regurgitated anti-abortion rhetoric does not an educated opinion make.]



I'm wondering if certain anti-abortion bills trespass on anti-slavery laws.

If, for example, the legal claim is that the woman has NO autonomous right over her reproductive organs/choices, and the state -- by way of law and legislation -- forces her to be an incubator, effectively making her State-owned chattel, then does this not constitute a type of slavery?

I'd argue that it does. Owning another human being for forced labor, or owning any part of them, including their reproductive organs -- and by extension, their reproductive choices -- is a form of slavery.


Pro-life advocates may argue that abortion equates to murder even as they have NEVER adequately defined fetal personhood nor have they ever attempted to move beyond the anti-abortion rhetoric that doesn't seek to guilt people into thinking pro-choice/pro-abortion is the choice to murder babies (hint: it's NOT).

In my estimation, pro-life isn't a valid position because they've offered no valid argument. Their claim is merely that "life begins at conception."

Defining a starting point for a stage of biological development is fine. Attempting to define what fetal personhood would look like would be the next logical step. But they don't do this.

Instead, they move on to stripping the mother of her autonomous rights over her own body. That opens an ethical can of worms. Least of all because it's immoral and two wrongs do not make a right (by their own reasoning this would be obvious -- strangely it's not).

But "life at conception" isn't what they are attempting to define. The wording is actually a diversionary tactic because it sounds in-line with the scientific consensus which acknowledges biological stages and degrees of development of the fetus. The pro-life side, however, explicitly does not recognize such.

What they explicitly mean to say "personhood begins at conception" but, as we all know, this concept of 'fetal personhood' has nowhere been defined or even articulated to any degree of coherence.

Therefore, upon logical inspection, I argue that these new laws are not about defining fetal personhood or life but, in point of fact, enslaving women by legal means to become producers of children.

To me, this is just as bad as murder. So, I don't see how any pro-life advocate can square away this line of reasoning with any law that seeks to swap out one perceived evil for another equal or greater evil.

It seems that the emotional appeals and admonishments regarding "baby murder" and "killing infants" is just a smoke screen for a most sinister and draconian ploy to gain control and ownership of women's reproductive organs and place her child-rearing capacity under the control of the state.

Additionally, the new anti-abortion and heartbeat laws seem to want to act as a potential wedge to challenge Roe vs. Wade and other abortion legislation in an effort to maybe subvert it.

But without clearly defining their terminology first, all this does is lead to further ambiguity and confusion regarding any and all future legislation. This would, at best, make it impossible to later clarify their terms thereby causing endless litigation on every single case by case basis. It's a badly thought out strategy that relies more on gut emotion rather than clear, rational minded consideration.

Furthermore, it is my opinion that the heartbeat bills don't make any logical sense to anyone who understands that biological stages are real and that the heart develops prior to the brain and other organs so that the simple pump can supply blood and oxygen to the organism for cellular growth -- that it may mature to a fully grown fetus at a later point in the growth cycle.

It's an extremely early stage of development (est. 5 weeks) and the heartbeat comes along at around week 8 to help start to grow the brain which begins development at week 8 (it's nowhere near grown since we know gyrification or cortical folding doesn't occur until week 24 of development -- and this is why nearly all medical professionals say that 20 weeks is the limit for safe abortion practices -- because before this stage of development the human brain cannot perceive in the manner that is sufficient for claiming awareness, consciousness, or personhood).

This is why viability becomes an important issue at these early stages. Remember, week 20 is when the fetus is approximately halfway through its growth into a fully formed fetus. But you don't call a car that's halfway built a fully ready to drive off the lot vehicle.

The raw batter of pancake mix isn't a blueberry muffin before you add blueberries or bake it. So, why would such an early stage of a fetus be considered what it's clearly not?

The pro-life claim that a fetus is a fetus is a fetus ignores biological stages of development entirely. It's like arguing that eggs and milk is a cake is a cake is a cake. I'm afraid a few important steps are missing before such a claim can be made.

The reason they say this is because they want a blastocyst, zygote, fetus, baby, and child along with all the stages of development in-between to effectively mean the exact same thing.

But they are not the same thing. The science is clear on the matter of biological stages and the gestation period for fetal growth and development.

Calling a half grown fetus a full fetus with personhood even though its nervous system and brain have just started to develop seems premature. The definition doesn't describe the stage of development accurately nor is an adequate gauge to determine whether, as in the case of pro-life argumentation, such a kind of fetus deserves to be defined as something autonomous from the mother in terms of personhood, legal rights, or even identity.

If anybody was truly savvy on the philosophy of law, they might realize that identity minus an external reality, or even a limited external reality (e.g. a womb) would be hard to articulate what autonomy it could have or what autonomy we could recognize.

I've mentioned in the past that placing the identity and autonomy of the mother in direct opposition to the fetus is problematic at best because the law already recognizes there are limited forms of autonomy, for example, minors, felons, and legal aliens all have limited rights as compared to natural born adult citizens.

Minors have fewer rights than adults. And so to claim a fetus has rights that usurp an adult mother's creates a confused legal precedent where minor's rights are concerned. Either a new category of human rights needs to be created or we have to make laws that already fit in-line with the current legal understanding of the separation of minor and adult rights.

I believe that this needs to be cleared up before the fetus can be given rights that usurp the mother's will and autonomy.

These are just some of the issues of a few hundred that I've identified as weaknesses in the pro-life legislation that is currently being passed. All of the legislation, it seems, is being passed based on knee-jerk emotional reactions to hypothetical scenarios (not real ones) and an extremely poor understanding of women's health. Moreover, the moral reasoning behind the anti-abortion bills and legislation seems to be confused if not entirely lacking.

Despite these damming revelations which make much of the current pro-life legislation a barely laughable joke, the bills are still being passed into law.

This is truly frightening. Because we've skipped several necessary steps based on bad rhetoric and bad rhetoric alone to place women's reproductive rights under the control of the state, thereby placing ownership of her reproductive capabilities and organs under the state via legislation that denies her any choice in the matter.

If it sounds awfully a lot like ownership over a human being -- or more accurately over a part of them -- it's because it is. And that's not a legal precedent I think we should be setting in the year 2019.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Happy Easter! The Truth About the Resurrection of Jesus



With Easter Sunday approaching, I would like to look at the resurrection account of Jesus Christ from the historical perspective.
In other words, beyond the stories contained in the Christian Bible what does history really have to say about the event itself.
It’s commonly known that Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries didn’t read the New Testament because the New Testament didn’t exist yet. The New Testament scholar and historian Bart D. Ehrman teaches us that

The books themselves, of course, had been written, but they had not yet been collected into a sacred and authoritative canon of Scripture. The term canon refers to a collection of authoritative books. … our canon did not yet exist as an officially recognized collection during the second and third centuries.
He goes on to inform us that this was just the least of early Christians worries. Because there were so many books that were written and published together – all of them claiming to be authoritative – that it was difficult for early Christians to know what was a true story written by a real apostle of Jesus or which was just a rival Christian group trying to promote their brand of Christianity by making it sound more authentic by creating its own “authoritative works” while saying it was written by a real apostle of Jesus.
Other books were written at the same time, however, also claiming to be by Jesus’ followers. Each of the early Christian groups that maintained its own distinctive beliefs and practices had books that were believed to be written by Jesus’ own apostles—gospels, for example, allegedly written by his disciples Thomas and Philip, and Mary Magdalene… The existence of these “other” Scriptures leads to other questions.
So, in summary, Christians had a lot of stories. A lot! Approximately 325 years after the death of Jesus, however, they still were in the dark as to which were the true stories. This didn't sit well with the rapidly growing Church, because too many discordant beliefs breed discord, so it was decided by the Church fathers that a canonical version of Christian doctrines and stories needed to be decided upon.

They decided upon 27 books and rejected all the rest.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Chick-fil-A Hates Gay People: But It's okay because they sometimes give you free chicken sandwiches!

Intro:

Where do I even begin?

Although I've taken early retirement from blogging here on the Advocatus Atheist and I'm doing my best to avoid talking about religion and politics, every once in a while I see something pop up in my social media feed that boggles my mind.


There are times when it's impossible to bite my tongue and I may, from time to time, open my big mouth. This, in turn, sometimes drags me into a larger debate than I initially cared to get into.

Except, sometimes the apathetic stance of not caring is the more damaging stance to take.

Sometimes, you have to speak out and say something against the bigotry and prejudice that people fling about with reckless abandon. 

Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and get your intellectual hands dirty with the dialectic.


Chick-fil-A Hates Gay People: My Internet Debate (Part 1)

So, there I was, minding my own business.

Then an article about Chick-fil-A pops up in my feed. Then another. And another.

Several of my Christian friends and acquaintances got up in arms about it. A couple of them even went into full-on persecution complex mode.

I tried to ignore it.

I really did.

But alas, sometimes something so trivial ends up being a bigger deal then it ought to.

This is one of those times.

Let me explain at the outset that I'm not trying to personally attack anyone. But sometimes a stupid belief must be challenged because that belief is also damaging.

And also this discussion happened in private on Facebook, the person doesn't use their real name so the screen-caps are no way in danger of exposing their true identity.

But before we get into it, please understand that the criticism I'll be giving isn't meant as a personal attack against this person. It's meant as an honest critique of a pernicious ideology they hold that promotes a bigoted and prejudiced worldview.

So, an online acquaintance shared this news about Chick-fil-A being denied a commercial permit to open a restaurant in the San Antonio Airport. The San Antonio city council voted on banning Chick-fil-A.

Her initial post looked something like this:


At first, I was confused as to why she'd argue that San Antonio is discriminating against Christian beliefs. They're clearly not. They're discriminating against discriminatory anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

That's a big distinction.

Because not all Christians hate gays. So, clearly, San Antonio isn't discriminating against all Christians. Only the hateful gay-bashing ones.

I see nothing wrong with wanting to ban that type of prejudice from your city or airport, or wherever.

But she was adamant about it being an attack against Christians and therefore was an attack on her Christian faith.

That's a pretty big leap right there.

The only reason for a person to make this kind of leap is because they want to defend their sexist and homophobic ideology by placing it under the banner of their faith. If it's part of their sacred faith, then how dare you criticize it!

Otherwise, she wouldn't have likely said anything.

The San Antonio city council's reasoning makes sense.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Abortion Debate: What the Pro-Life side gets Wrong

I don't often get political on my page. But I will talk about abortion because I think it's a bioethics debate that's important to human rights and the quality of life.

A friend of mine shared a political cartoon (but actually anti-abortion propaganda) on his page. 

Like me, he was shocked by the lack of understanding about the recent New York bill that safeguards the right for hospitals and doctors to perform emergency abortions when either the fetus will die in the birthing process or the mother will die. 

Really, that's all the bill protects. The right to save life via a necessary emergency medical abortion.

But cartoons like this pop up and play to the emotions of an uneducated public whose reaction is...oh, they're killing babies! Caterwauling about all the baby killin' goin' on in the U.S.

But this just goes to expose the irrationality of the pro-life side and reveals they prefer hyperbole and scare tactics to science and truth.

I've stated quite emphatically before that the pro-life position isn't a rationally devised argument.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Proud Father

My daughter asked me why the majority of my heroines are lesbian and/or bisexual. I explained to her that I write heroines that embody the essence of the Goddess archetype, and that any ole ordinary mortal man isn't worthy of being with the Goddess. 

As such, it compels me to write strong women who avoid the need or even desire for men. If they need companionship, they turn to other women. Unless, of course, the man is exceptionally worthy. But, I added, in my stories the women don't *need* men to get by.

She nodded quietly, taking it all in. She's only 8 and hasn't read any of my books but has often asked what story I'm writing so I break down summaries of them for her. 

She's fascinated by the fact that women can like women and men can like men. She knows that homosexuality is a thing. And she recognizes that it's becoming acceptable in society and was curious as to why I incorporate such things in my stories.

I found it to be a rather sophisticated question for an 8-year-old.


Bill Cosby Behind Bars: Seperating the Man from the Art (Some Thoughts)

Well, Bill Cosby is in cuffs and heading off to jail for 3-10 years.


It's weird. I despise what he did. I find him a grotesque human being. But the art he put out into the world I admire greatly. 


Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist