From Nature’s editors: “A move to classify people on the basis of anatomy or genetics” should be abandoned.
According to a draft memo leaked to The New York Times, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposes to establish a legal definition of whether someone is male or female based solely and immutably on the genitals they are born with. Genetic testing, it says, could be used to resolve any ambiguity about external appearance. The move would make it easier for institutions receiving federal funds, such as universities and health programmes, to discriminate against people on the basis of their gender identity.
The memo claims that processes for deciding the sex on a birth certificate will be “clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable”.
The proposal — on which HHS officials have refused to comment — is a terrible idea that should be killed off. It has no foundation in science and would undo decades of progress on understanding sex — a classification based on internal and external bodily characteristics — and gender, a social construct related to biological differences but also rooted in culture, societal norms and individual behaviour. Worse, it would undermine efforts to reduce discrimination against transgender people and those who do not fall into the binary categories of male or female. The Editors, “US proposal for defining gender has no basis in science” at Nature
Sad. If all the journal’s editors wanted to say is that a few people aren’t happy with the birthday suit nature issued them and that they shouldn’t be considered weird or bad, well, the editors could just say that. Instead, they need to kowtow to a sort of anti-reality crowd, according to which it doesn’t matter at all.
They are probably getting their information from social science. As they acknowledge, half of classic and recent studies failed replication. Ominously, the takeaway from the recent series of hoaxes carefully perpetrated on journals (including the one about how “gender theory harms dogs”) is this: It doesn’t actually matter. Social science not only need not be science, it also need not make sense. It need only pass the loyalty tests required by a current academic mob.
It will be interesting to see how Darwinians react. Their theories depend, of course, on claims about descent, that is, claims about fertile mating. Whatever goes through that narrow defile must make a great deal of difference and whatever doesn’t makes little or no difference. That’s the whole basis of evolutionary psychology.
Some of us think evolutionary psychology is largely nonsense, of course. But our objections turn on the question of how much genetics can explain, over against natural environment and human culture. We can think of more plausible approaches to studying social behaviour in the digital age, for example, than assuming that it was passed on by selfish genes from the Stone Age.
But, to say that “The idea that science can make definitive conclusions about a person’s sex or gender is fundamentally flawed” is ridiculous because most of the time we don’t even need science. The evidence offered by the editorial makes painfully clear that exceptions are actually rare.
But the editors have a metaphorical gun to the head just now, in terms of social justice mobs who haven’t yet turned on each other. The pattern inherited from recent centuries is, the mobs turn on the local elite, then on each other, then (if not stopped) on the public at large. That’s because their war ends up being with reality and none of us can help being a small part of that reality.
Nature is not well positioned to make much headway in dealing with the current war on math, science, and engineering, so there are probably many capitulations in store.
It’s interesting that this story hit the In bin just after a cosmology in crisis story, where the crisis appears to stem from a predilection for “blathering” about a multiverse rather than doing hard math. If other sciences are downstream from physics, we have a source of stasis already. Kowtowing to political correctness will be another source and it may become hard to distinguish the two currents.
If this analysis is correct, expect to see a lot of smoke, noise, and mirrors around minor or questionable moments in science whose main interest is that they bolster some form of Correctness. All the while vast, clear patterns are increasingly off limits and remain unexplored. We shall see.
Note: A classic book comes to mind: Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer:
A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer — the first and most famous of his books — was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one. More.
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See also: Which side will atheists choose in the war on science? They need to re-evaluate their alliance with progressivism, which is doing science no favours.
4 Replies to “Nature’s war on sex”
I don’t think the journal is saying that “it” shouldn’t matter at all, either.
In fact, they acknowledge that gender is related to biology:
daveS at 1: I don’t think that the mob Nature’s editors are trying to placate will, left to itself, rest until the editors acknowledge that 2+2=5 if the mob says so. But time will tell. I have only the history to rely on. History is full of surprises but it is also full of patterns. We shall see.
Did you read the Nature article in full? It looks reasonable to me, and does not appear to indicate they are trying to placate any mobs. Is there some part that you would change?
Not scientific? Rooted in social norms? It’s rooted in whether you have a penis or a vagina. If anything is abundantly clear the vast majority of people are either male or female and endless scientific studies are based on the differences in the way males and females on average, think think, problem solve, muscular strength Etc.