Weinstein on Sexism and Genetics

Joe Rogan Experience #1006 – Jordan Peterson & Bret Weinstein

From 33:00 – 34:00, Bret Weinstein briefly describes a theory concerning sexism. I’ll sum it up in point form here:

  1. It is not possible for ‘male genes to gang up on female genes’ because all of our genes spend half their time in male bodies and half their time in female bodies.
  2. This does not mean that ‘civilization is fair in terms of sex and gender’.
  3.  It does mean that there is no biological basis for a patriarchal force that subordinates women because whatever men visit upon women in such a scenario will be visited upon themselves when they are women later.
  4. He goes on to say the same doesn’t hold for racism.

I understand the distinction he is drawing our attention to. Your own offspring, possessing half your genetic material, will either be male or female. Another race’s offspring and I am assuming there is little race-mixing in this scenario, do not have any of your genetic material, so your genes are not ‘abusing’ themselves.

Any weight this brief description may have resides in what I see as a common fault in many evolutionary psychology-informed explanations – the personification of the gene.

Genes can’t gang up on anything, nor can they worry about their future. They are inanimate. Ganging up and worrying require the ability to do all sorts of other things logically impossible for the inanimate to do. This includes: having intentions, thinking, believing, having a reasonably complex understanding of time, etc. Therefore, those cannot be reasons why there is no genetic basis for patriarchal oppression. If genes were people, however, not doing something because of inevitable unwanted consequences makes perfect sense. Therein lies the persuasion.

Before you accuse me of being shallow and pedantic, be reminded of the only escape hatch possible in dealing with questionable scientific metaphors: you must be able to redescribe the metaphor in causal terms. There is no such thing as a licit metaphor without a literal redescription.

For instance, when explaining evolution to children, one could begin by saying things like, “A giraffe’s neck grew longer over time to eat leaves high up in the trees.” Giraffes’ necks didn’t grow longer to do anything. I assume I don’t have to go through a legitimate causal redescription.

How on earth would one redescribe Weinstein’s explanation in literal terms?

I am no expert, but in the case of men oppressing women, I think it is quite likely there is a genetic, or, the term I prefer, natural basis for it. Depending on what you mean by oppression, of course. This is not to say such a social organization is right, or the best one, but that, in a sense it is so prevalent in the history of human culture it is hard to see how there couldn’t be.