Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 823–841

Sexes, species, and genomes: why males and females are not like humans and chimpanzees



This paper describes, analyzes, and critiques the construction of separate “male” and “female” genomes in current human genome research. Comparative genomic work on human sex differences conceives of the sexes as like different species, with different genomes. I argue that this construct is empirically unsound, distortive to research, and ethically questionable. I propose a conceptual model of biological sex that clarifies the distinction between species and sexes as genetic classes. The dynamic interdependence of the sexes makes them “dyadic kinds” that are not like species, which are “individual kinds.” The concept of sex as a “dyadic kind” may be fruitful as a remedy to the tendency to conceive of the sexes as distinct, binary classes in biological research on sex more generally.


Comparative genomics Gender Genomics Human genome Sex Sex differences Species 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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