Friday, August 14, 2009

Science and Sex

The empiricist thinks he believes only what he sees, but he is much better at believing than at seeing.
- George Santayana


Science and Sex

In 1962 Thomas Kuhn, a leading historian of science, crystallized the concept that virtually all science is not a pure search for truth, but an effort to further confirm some preexisting, generally accepted model or framework, which he called a “paradigm.” Kuhn shocked people with his seemingly cynical view that young scientists work to please their older mentors, which is best done by confirming the mentor’s theories, since the mentors have the keys to what younger scientists want—professorships, grant monies, laboratories. Furthermore Kuhn noted that when scientific research contradicts the “prevailing paradigm,” the young researchers are told that their experiments were flawed or that they misinterpreted the results. It would be heresy to suggest that the last generation’s theories were wrong, for that would mean that the mentors’ lifework was largely wasted.



For example, thousands of years ago the astronomy paradigm placed the earth at the center of the universe. Eventually the observations of young astronomers began to contradict this paradigm, indicating that maybe the earth and planets circled the sun. But those observations were rebutted, suppressed, or re-explained to be consistent with an earth-centered worldview. Hence the period of time that it took planets to reappear in the earth’s sky, a period of time that was clearly not consistent with an earth-centered solar system, was made to be consistent by positing that the planets pirouetted in small circles along their orbits. The size and number of planetary pirouettes (which would prolong the planet’s orbit and were called “epicycles”) were adjusted until the planet’s period of appearance in the earth’s sky coincided with that which was the case for an earth-centered solar system. In short, science looked not for truth per se, but for truth within the confines of accepted theories.

Once in a great while, observed Kuhn, brave and brilliant scientists can succeed in smashing the old paradigm and replacing it with a new one. Kuhn called this a “scientific revolution.” It takes bravery because the existing scientists will all fight against the revolutionary, who is, after all, claiming that the preceding generation’s work was wrong, meaningless, or at least irrelevant. It takes brilliance because the revolutionary model must (1) explain the old data in a way that is more consistent with a new theory than with the old theory, (2) explain inconsistencies or holes in the old theory, and (3) make predictions that can be checked out by a new generation of scientists. This new, younger generation of scientists will eventually become the standard-bearers of a new paradigm.

In the case of the astronomy paradigm, the brave and brilliant scientists were Copernicus and Kepler. Copernicus doubted that plants pirouetted in circles along their orbits. But he also calculated that if the planets and the earth all orbited the sun in perfect circles, then they also would not appear in their positions in the sky when they did. Kepler’s brilliant breakthrough was to predict that all the planets orbited the sun along elliptical paths, in a kind of oval-shaped circle. The hunch turned out to be correct—the calculated period of reappearance in the earth’s sky for a planet going around the sun on an elliptical path matched perfectly with the planet’s actual reappearance in the earth’s sky.



Copernicus was derided and labeled a heretic, for his theory rendered irrelevant hundreds of years of earth-centered astronomy. But his theory proved more accurate and elegant than the old theories and provided many new research opportunities for young generations of astronomers. In time Copernicus and Kepler accomplished a scientific revolution.

One of the great statements of the courage it takes to foment a scientific revolution comes from Machiavelli (The Prince), who is buried across a Florentine church floor from another great rebel, Galileo: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain of success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and but lukewarm defenders in those who may do well in the new.”

Machiavelli’s statement will no doubt prove as true for any revolution in gender science as it has proven true for revolutions in every other field of science.

Scientific revolutions are also called paradigm shifts because they actually cause a shift, or change, in the way we view the world. Such paradigm shifts occur in all fields, including fields that we might not consider “scientific.” Examples of scientific revolutions include the triumph of behaviorism over Freudianism in psychology and the victory of Darwinism over creationism in anthropology.

In each case there are three key elements to a paradigm shift:

1. The old paradigm does not meet the needs of society as well as the new paradigm promises.

Examples:

Astronomy: the need for accurate prediction of planetary appearances

Anthropology: the need for understanding the origins of humanity

Psychology: the need for a fast means of modifying human behavior

2. The new paradigm solves at least one major discrepancy or hole in the old paradigm.

Examples:

Astronomy: discrepancy of unobservable planetary pirouttes

Anthropology: discrepancy between biblical time scale for creation of life and geologic evidence of ancient life

Psychology: discrepancy of behavior unaltered by dream analysis

3. The new paradigm must make predictions that will provide many new opportunities for younger generations to verify, as compared with the stale opportunities in the old paradigm.

Examples:

Astronomy: All orbits of planets and moons will be elliptical

Anthropology: Evolution can be traced from animals to humans

Psychology: Human behavior can be modified through stimulus response type of conditioning

The time is now ripe for a paradigm shift in the field of gender science. As shown above, for this to happen, a new gender paradigm must (1) promise a better match with reality, and better satisfy social needs than the old paradigm, (2) solve discrepancies in the old paradigm, and (3) offer many opportunities to a new generation of researchers.



The old gender paradigm is known as “sexual dimorphism,” which means sex takes only two (“di”) forms (“morphism”), male or female. It claims that this absolute division arises from sex-differentiated levels of hormones released prenatally, which in turn create not only two different reproductive systems, but also two different mental natures. From its ancient genesis, the old gender paradigm has been used to enforce the superiority of one apparent sex over the other and as a framework for research to prove one sex has a different nature from the other.

The new gender paradigm is called “sexual continuism.” It posits that humanity is composed of a continuous blend of sexual identity, far beyond any simplistic male or female categorization. The new paradigm predicts that sexual identity, like other aspects of personality, arises from a confluence of factors not solely hormonal or environmental in origin. The new paradigm claims that reproductive systems are not strictly personal, but are sociotechnical and are accessible by all persons regardless of genitalia.

Based on Kuhn’s analysis of scientific revolutions throughout the history, the paradigm of sexual continuity will succeed if it (1) better addresses society’s needs regarding sexual identity than does sexual dimorphism, (2) solves discrepancies and holes in the theory of sexual dimorphism, and (3) offers more interesting research opportunities than does sexual dimorphism. Each of these three points will now be analyzed to see if, in fact, we are at the beginning of a revolution in gender science.

What Society Needs from Gender Science

The principal objective of a humanitarian society is to provide equal, nondiscriminatory opportunity for personal fulfillment to all persons. The paradigm of sexual continuity is able to achieve this better than sexual dimorphism because sexual continuity eliminates the largest allegedly immutable division among persons. Whenever such divisions are present, inequality inevitably results.



Divisions of people into free and slave meant less opportunity for slaves. Insistence that people declare a skin color or ancestry always brings racism. “Separate but equal” has never proven itself to work as a social tool for equal opportunity. Legal division of people by sex has always had as its corollary the inequality of one sex.

The social shortcomings of sexual dimorphism in terms of equal “pursuit of happiness” are everywhere apparent. Persons labeled as women do two-thirds of the world’s work but own 1 percent of its property. Census data from China, Indian, and Korea, and a secret Chinese government report obtained last year by The New York Times, indicate that millions of fetuses with vaginas are aborted each year after ultrasound tests because of the wide-spread, accurate perception that persons labeled as women will get less out of life. Persons of the same genitalia who want to marry each other are denied, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, this “most basic right of man” because of the paradigm of sexual dimorphism. Persons labeled one sex are denied jobs or strongly discouraged from them if under sexual dimorphism those jobs are thought best attuned for persons of a different sex. Sexual dimorphism leads scientists such as Doreen Kimura, writing in the September 1992 Scientific American, to claim that women are more likely to succeed in “medical diagnostic fields where perceptual skills are important” and men are better in “professions that emphasize math skills, such as engineering or physics.” Such sexually dimorphic thinking is as socially odious to persons of any sexual identity as are the racist claims that Africans are more likely to succeed in sports and Asians are more likely to succeed at science.

The paradigm of sexual continuity promises greater social equality by eliminating the sex typing of persons based on genitalia. Sexual continuity offers greater fulfillment for society by enabling all persons to develop their sexual identity outside of any fixed male or female choice. Allocation of wealth, jobs, and marital and parental rights would be accomplished by merit and personal choice; by the unfettered individual pursuit of happiness that is the hallmark of a humane democratic society. By eliminating a separate, legally mandated male or female label, sexual continuism takes a big step forward toward achieving society’s quest for equal opportunity.


The Inconsistency of Sex


The ultimate test of the validity of any theory is its match with reality. This reality match is put to its critical test by experiments that either confirm or disprove predictions made by the theory. If important predictions of a theory are not confirmed, and if these results cannot otherwise by reasonably explained, then the theory or paradigm has an Achilles’ heel that renders it susceptible to revolution.

At least from the time of the Greeks, a key prediction of sexual dimorphism was that humanity was divided into two absolute categories—male and female—each with different natures. For millennia unscientific proof backed up the theory—the “evident” passiveness of women and aggressiveness of men. No one seriously considered whether the “proof” was, in fact, created by the theory: that sexually dimorphic laws, customs, and socialization created the two “evidently” different-natured sexes.

With the rise of monotheism, the “proof” of sexual dimorphism became the Word of God as enshrined in one or another Bible. No one seriously questioned—or lived long after such questioning—whether the “Word of God” was not simply the words of men intent on enforcing the paradigm of sexual dimorphism.

As the Renaissance dawned there arose interest in obtaining measurable, repeatable proof of theoretical assertions. But, as noted earlier, most science is an effort to find or force data to fit the prevailing, popular paradigm. Most science is not an unprejudiced abstract quest for truth. Hence, up through the early twentieth century, “scientists” claimed to have measured differences in brain weight, brain size, and skeletal structure that “proved” women were inferior to men. By the late twentieth century scientists admitted that their early data on brain mass, and its relations to intelligence, were bogus.

At the end of the twentieth century many scientists continue to claim they have measurable proof of differences in men’s and women’s natures. Today the proof takes two forms. First, scientists present statistics from various kinds of verbal, mathematical, and perception tests showing, on average, that women and men score in different ranges on these tests. Second, scientists present data showing, on average, that parts of the brain are of different weight, size, or neural connectivity for men and women.

All of the alleged proofs of sexual dimorphism have suffered from a glaring but studiously ignored Achilles’ heel—absolute differences in men’s and women’s minds, mental abilities, and psychological natures have never been found. There are always many women who score in the same range as men on math, verbal, and perception tests, and vice versa. There are always many women who are more aggressive than many men and many men who are more nurturing than many women. There are always many women who are bigger, stronger, and hairier than many men, and vice versa. The absolute sexual dimorphism that is externally apparent in genitals has never been found elsewhere in the body, least of all in the mind.

If there are but two mental sexes, which sexual dimorphism alleges to be true, how does one account for the total failure to scientifically test people such that male and female minds falls into two absolutely discrete groups? There are but two possible answers to this question. Either we have not yet discovered the right test to prove mental sexual difference or sexual identity is continuous, not dimorphic. Neither solution bodes well for the paradigm of sexual dimorphism.

If we have simply not yet found the right test for dimorphism, then the old paradigm is faced with an immense mountain of existing test data that supports sexual continuism. Further, the existing paradigm can only offer researchers the hopeless task of searching for some test that produces sexually dimorphic results, while condemning researchers to continue reporting results that find only average differences between sexes, leaving unexplained the dominant finding that, again and again, absolute sex differences were not found. If we explain all of the existing test data with sexual continuism, then we must concede that humanity is not divided into two sexual natures. This admission marks the death knell for sexual dimorphism and brings gender theory into a better match with scientifically measurable reality.

What of the results showing average differences between sexes, such as more males performing very high on math tests than females? Is this not proof of at least some sexual dimorphism in humanity? The answer is no, for two reasons. First, the paradigm of sexual dimorphism cannot allow for “some” dimorphism. If there is such a thing as “some” dimorphism, what are the people who do not test sexually dimorphic? Are they neither male nor female? Are they persons with vaginas and male minds? The answers to any of these questions lead to a conclusion that there is a continuum of possible sexual identities, which is the antithesis of sexual dimorphism but the very essence of the new paradigm of sexual continuity.

The second reason that average sex differences on test scores do not support sexual dimorphism is that all tests designed under a sexually dimorphic paradigm are suspect. In particular, the experiments to date simply correlate a person’s self-stated sexual identity with their test scores. The researchers then assume, ipso facto, that if some percentage of persons identified as women score differently from some percentage of persons identified as men, the difference was because they were women or men. No efforts have been made categorically to analyze and eliminate all of the other nongenital-based reasons for different scoring—namely, environmental and genetic ones. No effort has ever been made to assess why the sexually atypical performers exist. Instead, under a paradigm of sexual dimorphism, researchers satisfy themselves with weak average data than can be correlated with sex. But average test data on sex-type performance is no more meaningful or socially useful than is average test data on racial or ethnic performance. Stereotyping passes poorly as science, yet all sexual dimorphic research to date is based on average differences, which is to say that any sexually dimorphic conclusions drawn therefrom are simply quantitative stereotypes.

Sexual continuism explains the glaring hole of no absolute mental sex differences that plagues sexual dimorphism. No absolute “male or female brain” indicators have been found because they don’t exist. Instead the human mind is arrayed across a broad continuum of sexual identity, and this is shown in the data of all contemporary researchers. The task for the twenty-first century is to outline the map of sexual continuity.

The paradigm of sexual continuity provides a vast amount of interesting opportunities for scientific research. These opportunities dwarf the moribund and to date hopeless quest of researchers to prove there are either male or female minds. It is to the research opportunities of the revolution in gender science that we now turn.


Opportunities under the Rainbow of Gender


We have seen that scientific revolutions, or paradigm shifts, occur when a new theory provides a better match with reality than the old theory and in particular explains some flagrant discrepancy in the old theory. The field of gender science is ripe for revolution because the old theory of sexual dimorphism cannot explain the flexibility of sex roles in modern society as well as the new theory of sexual continuism. Furthermore, the persistent failure of scientists to document any absolute difference in “male” and “female” mental abilities or natures is readily explainable by sexual continuism but is a gaping discrepancy in the theory of sexual dimorphism.

As noted earlier, however, it is difficult to accomplish scientific revolutions because the older generation of scientists is naturally reluctant to admit their life’s work has been wrong, misguided, or meaningless. Younger-generation scientists cannot easily carry out research in the new paradigm because their research proposals must ordinarily be approved, supervised, and funded by more senior scientists, such as older, tenured university professors. Faced with this catch-22 situation, how does science ever advance beyond further confirmation of traditionally accepted theories?

Occasionally a proposed new paradigm provides so many new and interesting research opportunities that some scientists would rather fight an uphill battle to publish research under the new paradigm, and hence have a chance at fame, than to take the much easier but unrewarding path of continued mediocre research under the old theories. It is at this nexus that gender science now lies.

The opportunity for new gender science research is to “deconstruct” (break down) sexual identity into genital independent constituent elements and to corrollate these elements of sexual identity with the behavior, psychology, and neuroanatomy of people. A further, but much more difficult, direction for research is to explain a person’s chosen sexual identity in terms of a confluence of genetic and environmental factors. All of this research can be profitably carried out under the paradigm of sexual continuism; the same kind of research has been condemned to failure under the simplistic “male or female mind” model of sexual dimorphism.

Elements of Sexual Identity

To usefully identify the elements of sexual identity, it is necessary to abandon entirely the male/female, masculine/feminine lexicon of sexual dimorphism. Such terminology obscures the true continual and genital-independent nature of sexual identity. We must leave behind such archaic notions as “men are aggressive” and “women nurture,” without, however, denying the reality of aggressiveness and nurturing as elements of a continuum of sexual identity. Hence a new vocabulary is needed for sexual identity.

For analytic purposes, shades of color may prove to be a useful vocabulary for dissecting sexual identity. First, color comes in an infinite number of hues, thus permitting representation of an infinite number of sexual identities. Second, the infinite hues of color can be grouped into similar chromatic categories. This permits a scientific grouping of similar sexual identities, without either denying the uniqueness of each person’s identity or reverting to the unreal “black or white” dualism of sexual dimorphism. Third, colors can be combined together to create blended hues. This enables us to model basic elements of sexual identity with a few primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and then realistically represent the complexity of individual sexual identity with hybrid colors (green, purple, orange, and so on). For all of these reasons, colors offer a useful and objective lexicon for modeling the elements of sexual identity.

Fundamentally, sexually identity has been recognized from the beginnings of consciousness to consist of three elements: activeness (or aggression), passiveness (or nurturing), and eroticism (or sex drive). The error of sexual dimorphism was rigidly to associate these elements of mental nature with physical anatomy. Hence, from the time of the Greeks, all persons with penises were declared active, all those with vaginas were deemed passive, and erocticism was something shared in equal measure by both sexes. Later, with the rise of monotheistic patriarchy, the element of eroticism was associated only with women and became something to be suppressed as too earthly, unspiritual, and corruptive of male power. Under scientific patriarchy, an “active” sexual identity presumed intellect, especially as expressed in “hard” sciences like math and physics. A “passive” sexual identity presumed either less intellect or mental skills limited to “soft” sciences and the arts. And eroticism, while liberated from religious denial, remained largely suppressed as a subject for scientific discussion.

In the rainbow lexicon of sexual continuity, the aggressive element of sexual identity may be represented as yellow, the nourishing element of sexual identity as blue, and the erotic element as red. From these primary colors, an infinite array of sexual identities can be represented, and similar sexual identities can be grouped chromatically.

The list of sexual identities can be expanded infinitely by considering the relative extents to which a person reports being aggressive, nurturing, or erotic and following the quantitative rules of color combination. “What’s my gender? I’m mauve—a low-intensity nurturing person with a fair amount of eroticism but not much aggressiveness.” By having subjects rank their propensity to be aggressive, nurturing, and erotic on standard numerical “lesser to greater” scales, and correlating the rankings with a standard chromatic scale, it will be possible to develop a common lexicon for gender science of hundreds of uniquely defined sexual identities. For example, the Munsell system contains 427 standardly defined colors and is widely used by the fabric industry. Such a system could accommodate seven different levels of aggression, nurturance, and eroticism that a person might feel with 343 (7x7x7) unique chromatically named genders.

A deconstruction of sexual identity into objective, ungenitally infected elements requires a new chromatic lexicon. Associating the primary sexual identity elements of activeness (aggression), passiveness (nurturance), and eroticism (sex appeal) with the primary colors of yellow, blue, and red yields a rich and realistic framework for the analysis of gender.

Sexually we are not “men” and “women,” but we are shades of purple, orange, green, and brown. Some of us are white with indecision, and others of us are black with dynamic gender complexity. And all of us can change our gender during our life. Far from being trapped for life as men or women, we can individually evolve our chromatic sexual identities as our minds grow and develop in interaction with life. Anatomically we may have penises or vaginas, gonads or ovaries. Sexually we are a rainbow of color, a spectrum of gender.

Identity and Behavior; Sex and Tissue

To be successful, the paradigm of sexual continuism must make better predictions of behavior, psychology, and neuroanatomy than the old model of sexual dimorphism. Under the old model, people who identified themselves as “male,” or were so identified by their genitals, were predicted psychologically to be active, aggressive, and adept at mathematics and spatial analysis, perhaps with a high sex drive to propagate their seed. Neuroanatomically it was predicted that these people had a larger hypothalamus brain structure than women and fewer intrabrain neural connections. As noted earlier, these predictions proved correct usually not even half the time. In short, the old model is not very accurate in predicting psychology or neuroanatomy based on a male or female sexual identity.

The new paradigm of sexual continuism predicts that once a person has selected a stable, chromatically categorized sexual identity, that person will test similarly on psychosocial measures with other similarly hued persons regardless of genital structure. For example, a group of persons with magenta sexual identities but different genitals will test more similarly on psychosocial measures than a group of persons with the same genitals but a rainbow collection of sexual identities.

Also, to the extent that sex-dependent psychology is vested in brain structure (nerve cell patterns in the brain), the paradigm of sexual continuity predicts that once a person achieves a stable sexual identity, brain structure will correlate more closely with chromatic sexual identity than with genitals. For example, if greater verbal ability is associated with a greater number of cross-brained neural connections, and if verbal ability is related to sex type, then persons with similarly hued sexual identities will have more similar brain structures regardless of their genitals.

Any test of the paradigm of sexual continuity will be only as valid as its chromatic categorization of the subject’s sexual identities. Hence considerable care and attention must be paid to preparing objective genital-independent questionnaires that sort people out by their degree of active/aggressiveness, passive/supportiveness, and eroticism. If this is done properly, despite society’s powerful apartheid of sex, there will be “men” and “women” in all gender hues. Of course, this fact along demonstrates the falsity of distinct male and female sexes.


Where Did My Sex Come From?


Under sexual dimorphism, sexual identity is genetic. One’s sex chromosomes are either XX (female) or XY (male). Somewhere on the Y chromosome are genetic instructions that code for the modification of embryonic Mullerian ducts into gonads. The gonads in turn trigger “male” hormones that ultimately differentiate a person into a person with a male body and male mind. In the absence of the Y chromosome, the embryo produces female hormones that ultimately create a female body and female mind. In rare cases a person with XY chromosomes may appear female in body and mind, and a person with XX chromosomes may appear male, because other genes have failed to produce certain mediating enzymes that enable sex hormones to create their usual “male or female” features.

All persons are at all times producing both “male” and “female” hormones. So, in the prevailing view, it is the relative amounts of each hormone that produce males and females. The relative differences in amounts are extremely small—not even enough to fill a thimble.

The paradigm of sexual continuity accepts the fact that genes code for hormones that are produced in different amounts for different persons. However, under the sexual continuity model, the differences in measured hormone levels that produce male and female reproductive tracts are far too gross to account for the manifold possibilities of human psychosexual identity. The neuroanatomic basis of sexual identity is not accounted for by hormonal levels because

1. the brain is inadequately developed at the time of neonatal hormonal fluxes.

2. neuroanatomical structure is mediated by numerous other non-sex-dependent factors, of which hormones may play a minor part.

3. brain development is already nearly complete and shaped by environmental factors, such as socialization, when postnatal pubertal sex hormones begin to take effect.

For all of these reasons it is as impossible to find a precise, genetic link between chromatic sexual identity and genes as it is to find such a link between a unique personality and genes. Nevertheless, this is not to say that there is no relationship between genes and sexual identity. The link, however, is to genetic predispositions toward the elements of sexual identity—aggressiveness, nurturance, and eroticism—not to genes that code for aspects of the reproductive system. The place to search for genetic markers for sexual identity is in the genes that code for mental attributes, not for gonads.

As with all inherited mental attributes, the genetic endowment is but a direction, not a place. A person with a genetic predisposition toward active or passive eroticism, or toward aggression or nurturance, may end up with any particular sexual identity as a result of the experiences of life. Nevertheless, the paradigm of sexual continuity would predict a higher correlation between one or more genes that codes for “activity” or “passiveness” and persons with yellow or blue range sexual identities, respectively, than with such attributes and either XY or XX chromosomes.



How, it may be asked, does the new model explain the much-accepted superiority of persons labeled as men at mathlike skills and of persons labeled as women at verballike skills? First, the new theory observes that such differences cannot be the result of sex hormonalization of the brain. If they were, there would be no explanation for the countless millions of women who excel at math skills and of the greater number of men who do not. The far more likely explanation is that verbal and math skills are not part of sexual identity, but that predispositions in these areas may be genetically coded separately. Socialization and environmental pressures encourage math skills in men and verbal skills in women. The pressures of society work often but not always, thus explaining the discrepancy of men and women in math and verbal professions. With the support of society on their side, it is easier for persons labeled as boys with innate math skills to express them; persons labeled as women face a much more uphill battle to express any innate math skills.

There is a genetic basis for sexual identity, but is likely to be located on different genes from the genetic basis for sexual reproduction. For thousands of years we assumed and mandated that persons with penises thought differently from persons with vaginas. Hence we labeled both mind and body with the term sex. Twentieth-century science then thought it natural to look for brain sex in the same place they found body sex—on the XX and XY chromosome. But twentieth-century science could not find the absolute sex of mind that it saw in the body. And as sociosexual discrimination broke down, it became abundantly obvious that genitals had nothing to do with mental accomplishment. There is no other conclusion but that whatever genes drive our minds, they are not the same genes that drive our gonads.

The new paradigm of sexual continuity posits a rich reservoir of research opportunity for the twenty-first century. From a starting template of primary elements—activity/aggression (yellow), passivity/nurturance (blue), eroticism/sexuality (red)—an organizational palette of chromatic sexual identity can be found. The paradigm predicts that sociopsychological attributes of persons with similar chromatic sexual identities will be found to cross gonadal lines with irreverence. In time, environmental and genetic predisposing factors may be found that enable us to predict a person’s likely life path of sexual identity. Of course, chance and will power will confound many of these predictions.

In contrast with the old view of sexual dimorphism, sexual continuism ably serves society’s interests in a meritocracy free of discrimination based on innate body size, shaper, or reproductive function. Society’s quest for individual expression is well served by viewing sex as a choice of chromatic identity; it is disserved by insisting on sex as a lifelong trap.

Unlike sexual dimorphism, sexual continuism accurately reflects the infinite possibilities seen in sexual identity. Indeed, the resemblance of sexual identity in real life to the male or female nature model of sexual dimorphism is a good measure of the repressiveness of a society. As oppression is relieved, human sex roles bear ever less resemblance to dimorphism.

Sexual continuism, not sexual dimorphism, explains the lack of absolute differences on sociopsychological tests of persons with penises and vaginas. For sexual dimorphism, the inconsistency of men who test like women, and vice versa, is explainable only by the absence of the “perfect test.” For sexual continuism, persons with different genitals test similarly because the genes that code for gonads do not code for brain cell patterns; persons with similar genitals test similarly either by chance or when the tests reveal similar socialization patterns, not innate abilities.

The innate abilities of persons are probably discoverable as the human genome is gradually understood. Sexual continuism predicts that sexual identity, the aggressive/supportive/erotic trunks of our unique personalities, will be found elsewhere in that genome than in the part of the chromosome that directs the production of semen and ova. When this is accomplished, the theory of human sexual continuity will be proven conclusively. All that will be left of a male or female difference will be reproductive systems that social choice and biotechnology can make available to any person, regardless of anatomical birthright. Sex will be creativity, not destiny.

Is Consciousness Like Pornography?

Uploaded transhuman minds will certainly avail themselves of the entire rainbow palette of sexual identity. It will be fun, creative and they won’t face the obstacle of a penis screaming “but you’re a man!” However, they will face a more severe barrier: people pointing to the computer system on which they reside and screaming “but you’re a machine!” Loaded into that epithet is the popular and scientific consensus that human consciousness is not possible outside of the human brain. The prevailing scientific paradigm is that unique anatomical aspects of the human brain make consciousness possible. A common public view is that God or Nature endowed only humans with a human soul, and consciousness is its earthly manifestation.

In order to definitively challenge the prevailing human-centered consciousness paradigm it will be necessary to prove that an uploaded transhuman, embodied in software, was in fact conscious. Yet such a proof is difficult because consciousness is by definition not very measurable. It is usually defined as that subjective state in which an individual is aware of himself as part of a larger environment. In other words, each of us is confident that we are conscious, because we visualize ourselves. Yet none of us can be positive that someone else is conscious because we cannot climb into his or her mind.

While it is possible to find brain waves that correspond to consciousness, this would not be a definitive test of consciousness, only of its presence in a brain. Lack of such brain waves in a human is a good measure of their demise, but brain waves are irrelevant to consciousness that exists on a non-flesh substrate, such as an uploaded transhuman.

In practice we assume and believe other people are conscious if they display the same hallmarks of consciousness that we personally feel – self-awareness, rationality and empathy. To the extent these are not evident, we think the person is mentally deranged if they are moving about, or unconscious (possibly dead) if they are stagnant. In other words, we tend to judge consciousness the way U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said he judged pornography: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Consequently, while we can be no more certain that a transhuman is conscious than we can of some robotic-acting human clerk (except that the latter looks more like us), we can make in each instance a reasonable decision based on their interaction with us.

Long after most people have accepted at least some transhumans into their set of “conscious people”, there will still be a minority of humans who refuse to accept the possibility of machine consciousness. Similarly, long after most people have adopted a rainbow spectrum of genders, there will still be a minority of people who insist that everyone is either a boy or a girl. Such is the welcome diversity of human opinion. For now, however, there is a wonderful opportunity for scientists to program software so that people will “know its consciousness when they see it.”

A useful route to programming consciousness consists of replicating in software the neural pattern structure of the human brain. When we experience some aspect of the outside world our sensory organs transmit the information to hard-wired neurons. These neurons are genetically structured to respond to particular wavelengths of sound or light, or to particular smells or tastes. Each such triggered neuron tells up to 10,000 other neurons what it sensed. Meanwhile, as we grow through infancy and childhood we are rewarded for associating certain neural outputs with each other. For example, we are rewarded for associating the visual wavelengths corresponding to the color red and the auditory wavelengths corresponding to the word red. Thereafter, when we hear the word red, we see something red in our mind, and vice versa. Multiply this process several million-fold and you arrive at a brain that is conscious of the world and itself. Outputs from neurons that detect lines and shapes become anchored in neurons that are associated with the phonetics of “mother” and “father.” Other sets of neurons become associated with the grammar of language, and this in turn enables us to easily cut-paste-and-edit reality inside of our heads.

The transhumanist paradigm is that consciousness arises from millions of cross-correlated relationships among general neurons far removed from the basic hard-wired sensory neurons that are like the footings for the skyscraper of the mind. There is nothing magical that makes our brains conscious other than this web of interconnected neurons. Consequently, there is no reason that consciousness cannot exist in software, provided the same level of interconnected complexity rooted ultimately to sensory apparatus is provided. This is the challenge to the 21st century neuroscientist and computer scientist. Build minds that pass the pornography test – minds that seem as authentic as our own. Once that is done, sexual identity will be liberated not only from genitals, but from flesh itself. Consciousness will be as free to flow beyond the confines of one flesh body as gender is free to flow beyond the confines of one flesh genital.

1 comment:

Gi said...

I am a male to female transsexual living in Brevard County. One of the strategies I use in life enhancement is the discerning of and manipulation of reality. For me it is a godsend as I come from an extremely dysfunctional back ground. Trying to sell a paradigm of openess and enlightenment to my family has been a waste of energy. Early on my therapist told me not to bother for it was a waste of energy. He was right damn it.

Your blog so hits home with my own ideals of reality and social dynamics. My own journey begain with that of seeking clarity to deal with my own anxiety and depression. It was an gradual process of learning that each of us, despite the illusion of common ideals, is an island maintaining a separate reality. While innately we may have similar elements before acculteration. We go through life embracing the ideals and paradigms we identify with shielding the " true self" with something we identify as self. We lose the ability to be fluid tying ourselves up in the demands of ego, we lose the ability to discern the freedom of thought that we each possess. Most of us are tied to paradigms of life that our familys taught us, much of who we are is built on assumptions and a thought process that is not tied to realism but in proving ourselves to the world and ourselves. This makes the act of accurate thinking to be flawed and erroneous. It is through the process of letting go of ego or self that honest introspection can occur. For me it has been exercises practiced by Zen buddism that allow a disengagment of thought that allows a discerning of ego and its destructive nature. *grin* sure enough I am messed up. But I can see it. My family is notorious in remaining blind to any reality contrary to their own.

Once again thank you for your wonderful writing.