The false dichotomy of nature-nurture, with notes on feminism, transgenderism, and the construction of races

Massimo Pigliucci in Scientia Salon:

Caitlyn-jenner-transformation-high-cost-surgery-clothes-house-5This is my third essay on what has become an informal series on socially relevant false dichotomies (the first one was on “trigger warnings” [1], the second one on Islamophobia [2]). On this occasion I’m going to focus again on nature-nurture [3], perhaps the motherlode of false dichotomies (as well as my area of technical expertise as a practicing biologist [4]).

The occasion is provided by recent controversies concerning the delicate concepts of gender and race, where once again — as in both the cases of trigger warnings and of Islamophobia — I see well intentioned progressives needlessly (in my mind) and harshly attacking fellow progressives, or at the least, people who ought to be their natural political allies. (As in the other two cases, I will ignore contributions from the right and from libertarians, on the ground that I find them both less constructive and less surprising than those from the sources I will be discussing here.)

Let me start with gender. I read with fascination a New York Times op-ed piece by feminist Elinor Burkett entitled “What makes a woman?” [5] explaining why a number of feminists have issues with certain aspects of the transgender movement, and in particular why Burkett had mixed feelings about the very public coming out of Caitlyn Jenner [6].

More here.