How do you define ‘man’ and ‘woman’?

As I discussed in my last post, transgender ideology has created a topsy-turvy world where we can no longer rely on what words mean when discussing sex, gender, identity and biology. At heart, the central dogma ‘transwomen are women’ overturns the standard concepts of how we define a woman as an adult human female and a man as an adult human male.

The website @RationalWiki challenged me to ‘be smarter’ over this and pointed me at their article on the word ‘TERF’. I replied that my stumbling block was that I could think of no definition of the word ‘woman’ where their article made sense.

I asked them to define the word ‘woman’. They have declined to do so. But, I am happy to change my mind should anyone be able to offer a robust definition of the word ‘man’ or ‘woman’ that satisfies a few conditions of rigour.

In scepticism, we can appraise evidence for claims unless we can be clear what we are measuring. Without precision in what words mean, it is no longer possible to tell truth from fiction. If we have no clarity around the words of gender then how can we assess the impact of society on women, for example? How can we talk about women’s rights and measure inclusivity and representation? How can we tackle violence against women when we cannot agree with what a woman is? Words matter. Clarity is the cornerstone of critical appraisal.

So, here is my simple ‘Gender Challenge’.

Can you define the terms ‘man’ and woman’ in a way that allows the claim ‘transgender women are women’ to be true, such that your definitions are,

a) Rational (of course)

b) Non-circular

c) Objective

d) Useful

e) Complete?

In a bit more detail:

a) Rational — well being RationalWiki, obviously we do not want to include pseudoscientific concepts, superstitious or irrational elements. We want our definitions based on evidential and established principles.

b) Non-circular — many who have tried use the words ‘man’ or ‘woman’ in their defitnion. “Brexit is Brexit’ — we learn nothing when your definition depends on the word you want to define. Also, shifting ambiguity to related words also does not help — so define related words too.

c) Objective — the definition should not be open to subjective interpretation. The demarcation strength of the word should not depend on who is using it — we should all be able to come up with the same answer in principle, independently and without prompting.

d) Useful — the word should be usable in practical applications, such as when an e.g. 1) archeologist, 2) doctor, 3) biologist uses the word, it will have scientific and practical rigour resulting in differential outcomes in these disciplines.

e) Complete — The definitions should have enough strength to be able to cover as many cases as possible and have no counterexamples. I get that a few individuals are intersex meaning their sex status is ambiguous and maybe impossible to classify. If this can be minimised, then great.

If you think any of the criteria above are too stringent then please justify why we should weaken our definition by not insisting on rationality, unambiguousness, objectivity, usefulness and completeness. I believe I can create such definitions that fulfils these criteria.

If you cannot define ‘woman’ with this rigour then perhaps you should explain why we should abandon having this word with a clear, objective meaning and then please describe what function these words now has in language if it has no shared, objective meaning?

Please feel free to leave a comment should you believe you can provide an answer.