Articles

Does Biology Need “Queer Theory”?

Scientists are starting to speak out about the simple realities of “male” and “female.”  

05/30/24

John Stonestreet

Shane Morris

A recent video from the PBS Eons YouTube channel, a show which covers topics related to paleontology and evolution, wrestled with how it is possible to distinguish between male and female dinosaurs when all that is left are bones. In it, the host objectively defined the concept of biological sex as applied to these extinct creatures: “In this script, we’ll be using ‘male’ and ‘female’ as shorthand for ‘sperm-producing’ and ‘egg-producing’ individuals.” She then added that “one shortcut for assigning sex to an individual is by their reproductive organs. Sperm producers have testes while egg producers have ovaries.” 

This definition is essentially correct, although no one “assigns” anything. A given individual, whether human or dinosaur, just is male or female. We identify sex; we don’t “assign” it. Sex is objective and binary and has to do with the two distinct roles in reproduction.   

Unfortunately, not every source of science education is this clear. For example, evolutionary biologist Colin Wright recently called out Yale University for a lecture that redefined sex according to queer theory. According to slides from this Ivy League course, “Sex is not an inherent, binary fact about a gene, a genome, a zygote or an embryo” but instead a “cluster of iterative, coevolved, differentiated reproductive homologies.” Additionally, the materials for the course (a required course for all Yale pre-med students) claimed that “sex is not determined.” It is “a fact about history, not individuals,” “a performance of the self,” and that “biology needs queer theory.” 

To which Wright (rightly) objected: “This is pure biological pseudoscience masquerading as science. This is a lecture I can envision Deepak Chopra giving.” His criticisms echoed New Atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who earlier this year slammed Scientific American for running an article that similarly questioned the reality of sex. Interestingly, these old-school biologists both offered the same alternative definition that PBS did: Sex is the binary distinction between sperm producers and egg producers. 

It’s interesting how many biologists, even if deeply critical of the idea of God or an intelligent designer, understand that male and female are fundamental realities of embodied life, and not only human life. Those scientists still committed to reporting what they see in the creation aren’t confused about the purpose and function of this binary, even if they fail to acknowledge the Creator behind it.  

Christians, on the other hand, do acknowledge both the binary found in creation and the Creator of it. This allows us to offer a more complete definition of male and female, one that not only considers organs and gametes, but the ordered whole in which they fit. As Abigail Favale wrote in her book The Genesis of Gender, a human female isn’t merely an “egg producer,” but an individual whose whole body is organized around the potential to carry new life. A human male isn’t just a “sperm producer,” but an individual whose whole body is organized around the potential to impregnate a female.  

This means that even those who, through age or injury, have lost these abilities and those who never realize their reproductive potential, are fully male or female. In fact, these two body plans are so fundamental to human identity that even rare “intersex” defects are recognized because they deviate from the binary. Far from proving some kind of “third gender,” such tragic disorders show how essential male and female are.  

The fact that more honest scientists find it necessary to call out prestigious institutions for embracing unscientific gender nonsense says a lot about the assault on reality happening right now. Biology doesn’t need “queer theory.” It needs instead a worldview that grounds the givens of reality, givens that were put in place by God, instead of an ideology that sees everything as a social construct. 

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Shane Morris. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org. 

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