It does fit into my thesis rather well though, just as people’s first question about a new child is often "Boy or girl”.

On Sep 9, 2020, at 11:42 PM, Michael Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

If anyone is interested, I just wrote this, and would appreciate comments.

According to the NY Times , gender reveal parties have caused fires, a death and other gruesome accidents. But no one seems to mention how bizarre the whole idea is. Years ago—maybe up until the late 60’s— prospective parents had to wait until the birth to find out whether their baby was a boy or a girl, at a time when those were widely understood to be immutable categories. Because of strong gender barriers, back then, the child’s future path in life could be very roughly foreseen—except that the feminist movement and other developments have changed that—which is all to the good. Who would want to go back, except the sort of people who are against egalitarian progress—and mostly don’t believe in science?

What’s weird is that these folks eagerly embrace the bits of science they like, including the ability to foretell ostensible gender either from ultrasounds or from detecting fetal DNA in the mother’s blood. Many of these people are then  excited to use some violent means like pink or blue smoke bombs to “reveal” (to whom?) this not-so-significant fact about the future child. 

Gender itself, of course, is not a scientific but a cultural category, so the term “gender reveal” is nonsensical. Even sex, the biological category that very crudely corresponds to gender, is not straightforwardly determined by any scientific data available at birth or before. Given the contemporary understanding of gender as fluid, the only appropriate time for  a “gender reveal party” would be after death—or not even then—and certainly not before birth. 

If the point were simply to use the coming arrival of a new baby as an excuse to party, why not just do that? Or have a “predictably healthy” child party? Or a party for those present to vow to try to ensure a better world for the forthcoming person? That wouldn’t lead to anything as macho as smoke bombs, or the color coding of the unborn’s future as forever pink or blue. Grasping for certainty in uncertain times is more likely to lead to a forest fire than an accurate prediction. 


Jonathan Latham, PhD
Executive Director
The Bioscience Resource Project, 
Ithaca, NY 14850 USA


Tel: 1-607-319-0279
Skype: jonathanlatham2
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Notice: Please forgive any delays and slow news. I am writing a book about genetics and genetic determinism.

It is provisionally titled: The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order

The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which originated in Mesopotamia before 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationalises political systems based on genetic privilege. The result was the dismantling of ancient cultures based on inclusiveness and egalitarianiism and their transformation into rigid structures of authoritarian domination based on separation and division: into families, classes, races, nations, sexes (i.e. patriarchy), and species. The final proposition of the book is that propagating the myth was the chief aim of Zoroastrianism and all the Abrahamic religions. Since the 1850s, this role has been appropriated by science. By recognizing how the founding myth of Western civilization is being re-told in the language of science we can start to dismantle and replace it with a more humane and scientific understanding of the world.