For the record, I posted that article on HN 9 days ago. It was almost immediately flagged (going by the fact it collected 18 points). This one seems to have lasted at least twice as long - and I don't understand why. In terms of a controversy, an article in Nature is the definition of an uncontroversial, respected source, whereas Quillette is rather the exact opposite. If a serious debate can be had, it should be over an article on Nature, not an article on Quillette.
I don't want to put this in words like "why was my article downvoted", which would sound too much as if I'm nursing some kind of petty grudge, but the same thing has happened to other articles I've posted previously on matters of gender equality in the sciences, while, for example, articles about James Damore are left alone. Is James Damore less controversial than Gina Rippon?
I must say that I do get a strong feeling that one side of this issue is treated very differently than the other by a significant proportion of users on HN.
That said I’m always interested in seeing these articles and debates myself, mostly because it’s a pretty important issue in tech and we won’t resolve it if we don’t talk about it. But it’s hard to do.
This post may have survived this long just by luck, I wouldn’t read to much into it.
But you can certainly talk about it here now since this article is in response to your article. (One question I might’ve asked about your original would be, if male and female brains are really the same then how come rates of certain mental illnesses vary so much between the sexes?)
Edit: I realized I originally wrote “far from contoversial” it should be “uncontoversial” but I think that was understandabld from the context.
Just to be clear, in what way? Anti-Google pro-Damore I presume?
> Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.
One solution for this could be to talk about the subject at a more abstract level than an example.
Argument from Authority?
Anyway, this is not Quillette versus Nature: the article points out the reviewed book comes to conclusions (no sex-differences in brains) that disagree with work already published — in Nature (sex differences in grey matter volume, effects of testosterone on in utero brain growth).
> valueless rags like Quillette.
It's clearly not valueless to subscribers who fund it.
Science is an authority. It authoritatively endorses the view that climate change is happening, and that gender isn't as simple as just the binary. If you view that as fallacious, you're anti-science.
And by subtly (and often not-so-subtly) blocking the careers of scientists who express a different view, politicians try to ensure that authority supports their agenda. It's a mechanism of social control that's been used by authoritarian regimes for a hundred years.
And if you think that view makes me "anti-science", you should know that I'm currently a graduate student studying science. I'm very much in favor of fair and painstaking examination of empirical evidence.
I'm against "science" as a political cudgel. I'm against supporting or rejecting theories based on ideology rather than evidence. I'm against politicians and political activists meddling in science or using selective quoting of unsettled science for political ends.
Considering you just invoked appeal to authority, does this seem the slightest bit ironic to you?
> I'm against "science" as a political cudgel. I'm against supporting or rejecting theories based on ideology rather than evidence. I'm against politicians and political activists meddling in science or using selective quoting of unsettled science for political ends.
Awesome. Considering the overwhelming evidence that gender isn't determined in a simple binary fashion, I'm sensing a contradiction here. Have you considered that perhaps you may be wielding a political cudgel of your own?
BTW, both "binary gender" and "climate change" are off-topic in this discussion about neurobiological differences between the sexes. You have no reason to bring them up here other than to suggest that disagreeing with you is somehow equivalent to denying climate change.
I'd find you much more convincing if you contributed some empirical evidence to the discussion instead of invoking "science" as a magic word.
Which ones do you want to discuss the differences, between?
Biological sex isn't actually a spectrum (it's not one-dimensional), but using that analogy, it's bimodal, not binary.
Only how (or if) one chooses to include those few who don't fit these categories is fluid.
In other words, there's some uncertainty at the margins, but in the vast majority of cases, biological sex is clear.
If you can't clearly define a category, any intrinsic traits of that category are not ascribed clearly to individuals. Any uncertainty, even on the margins, makes the definition uncertain. Clear definition is a lack of uncertainty.
The fallacy is the argument that two states or conditions cannot be considered distinct (or do not exist at all) because between them there exists a continuum of states.
In other words, your reasoning is a textbook example of this fallacy.
Like a lot of Intellectual Dark Web folks, it's best to check out a long-form discussion — like a lecture or a podcast — to get a better sense of the ideas they're trying to communicate.
EDIT: Add a second podcast link
If I can show you criticism of a scientists' work in a natural / mathematical science field that emphasizes the (white or male) identity of the scientist in question, would you be prepared to concede that there is progressive scientific denialism and progressivism can be at odds with scientific inquiry?
Have a source for that? I don’t know much about Dr Soh but as soon as I read this it sounded exactly like the kind of intentional misinterpretation that are leveled against many to win arguments these days. Especially when it comes to trans issues and giving children drugs to prevent puberty.
Here’s an article for example in which she’s against conversion therapy: https://quillette.com/2018/10/23/the-unspoken-homophobia-pro...
HRT doesn't mean conversion therapy in any circle I've been in. Prime weasel words there.
> Dr. Soh supports trans conversion therapy, under the idea that "boys who want to play with dolls and identify as female aren't trans, they're gay", and should be forced away from their belief (that they're girls.)
That’s a strong assertion you’re making. You assert that she wants to force child girls who believe they are boys, and vice versa, to give up those beliefs. You also assert she thinks boys who play with dolls are gay.
Do you have a source for that?
> HRT doesn’t mean conversion therapy
I’m confused. Where is HRT said to mean conversion therapy here?
Conversion therapy seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation. No mental health professional in their right mind conducts this type of therapeutic intervention anymore, because it is understood that sexual orientation is immutable from a very young age. Gender identity, however—whether someone feels masculine or feminine—is flexible in prepubescent children and grows more stable into adulthood.
Therapy that seeks to help gender dysphoric children grow comfortable in their birth sex (known in the research literature as the “therapeutic approach”) has been conflated with conversion therapy, but this is inaccurate. All of the available research following gender dysphoric children longitudinally shows that the majority desist; they outgrow their feelings of dysphoria by puberty and grow up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender.
Dr. Soh's position is that unlike sexual orientation, which is immutable, gender identity is flexible, and therapy to talk people into growing up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender [direct quote from above!] is ethical.
The example she gives about the boy who plays with dolls and insists he's a girl is meant to support that point.
As for HRT meaning conversion therapy, she thinks HRT is homophobic, designed to change someone's sexual orientation from gay to straight, by changing their gender. This is laughable, as it's far more difficult being trans (largely because of people like her) and completely ignores gay trans people (like me.)
Homosexuality is both an identity and a truth about who you are, but the two do not always coincide, and the identity absolutely can be chosen. (Which is why the label “men who have sex with men” [MSM] exists, as a label that is less-offputting and more useful in getting messages—such as health information—to men who have the “truth about who you are” referred to as “homosexuality” but reject the identity of “homosexuality”.)
> Dr. Soh's position is that unlike sexual orientation, which is immutable, gender identity is flexible, and therapy to talk people into growing up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender [direct quote from above!] is ethical.
That's not a direct quote, it's an interpretation, and I think it's mistaken because it overlooks something that seems to me to me fairly obvious but inconvenient to both sides of the political fight over the fundamental reality or unreality of transgender identity: a substantial portion of gender dysphoria isn't a sex-trait-specific body dysmorphia, it's a conflict between ones preferred modes of personal expression/behavior and social gender images and stereotypes.
In a heteronormative social context, individuals the with homosexual tendencies and ideation are going to be prone to experience such a conflict between personal preferences and gender stereotypes, with being accepted as the opposite gender an obvious route to relieving the tension (the same would seem to be true of male bisexuals in a context more accepting of female-female attraction, whether bisexual or homosexual, than male-male attraction.)
Therapy to help children recognize whether the source of the tension with ascribed gender is really fundamentally grounded in a conflict of personal preference with heteronormative gender stereotypes will (if it is effective) make it more likely that those for whom that is the source of tension resolve it as homosexual (or maybe bisexual) members of the gender corresponding to their sex identified at birth, but that's not because the therapy is aimed at making them cisgendered gays or bisexuals, by because it enables them to recognize that that is the underlying reality producing their discomfort with societal expectations.
This isn't endorsing a kind of conversion therapy as ethical, instead it's recognizing that the way rigid gender roles are imposed by society is often its own kind of undesirable “conversion therapy” that some people need an antidote for.
> Your source: ... Gender identity, however—whether someone feels masculine or feminine—is flexible in prepubescent children and grows more stable into adulthood.
This is one paragraph where she simply seems to be asserting that gender identity is more flexible during childhood and tends to solidify as we grow into adults.
This is a different paragraph from this:
> Therapy that seeks to help gender dysphoric children grow comfortable in their birth sex (known in the research literature as the “therapeutic approach”) has been conflated with conversion therapy, but this is inaccurate.
Which is the crux of the issue (I think?). Therapy helping children be comfortable with their birth sex is something she advocates, but some people feel that is negative and (somehow?) forceful and are labeling "conversion therapy".
I'm lost there because we should all hope to be comfortable in the skin we're born in. I wouldn't want to deny a child therapy to help them with that. And I wouldn't want to deny an adult the same therapy. It's freedom enabling. We've been fighting that fight a long time and don't want to wind back that clock.
This reads more like anti-conversion therapy (a kind of "dude, you're cool just as you are, if you can make it work as you first"). Where the alternative is to just be uncomfortable in the skin you're in until you transition. And then that's a problem because:
> All of the available research following gender dysphoric children longitudinally shows that the majority desist; they outgrow their feelings of dysphoria by puberty and grow up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender.
This seems to be a pretty important claim if the wellbeing of the child is of concern here.
From this fairly short dive so far, it seems Dr Soh's position clearly comes from one of genuine concern for children and one based on scientific research. Based on that and a general precautionary principal she's advocating therapy to help children be comfortable with the skin they're in first, particularly before giving a child puberty blockers or hormone therapy.
Well, what you're describing is therapy which is geared towards "curing" kids of their trans-ness. It's an attempt to teach kids to convince them that it's better to not transition. It's couched in a positive framing "...comfortable with their birth sex..." and I could describe sexuality conversion therapy as "therapy helping gay folks be comfortable with heterosexual partners." The reason that people are calling this "conversion therapy" is that's what it is.
> From this fairly short dive so far, it seems Dr Soh's position clearly comes from one of genuine concern for children and one based on scientific research. Based on that and a general precautionary principal she's advocating therapy to help children be comfortable with the skin they're in first, particularly before giving a child puberty blockers or hormone therapy.
I agree, it does appear that Soh's position is motivated by concern for children. However, it's heavily biased towards better outcomes for cisgender children, disregarding the outcomes for transgender children who will inevitably be traumatized by years of therapy geared at convincing them that they aren't who they know they are. For the children who do go on puberty blockers, and decide to retransition later, there isn't a ton of regret -- they drop the blockers and have puberty a little later in life. It's a middle-of-the-road option that minimizes harm across both populations.
Quoting the Wikipedia definition: "Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions."
Conversion therapy has a long and ugly history and is well defined. What we are talking about here is not that. Clearly conversion therapy is expressly negative. It tells a person that their hard wired sexuality that comes from birth is wrong and that they need to change something that can't be changed. This isn't the same as the therapy being described by Dr Soh, which appears to be more akin to "you're okay as you are and do not need to change."
There seems to be an attempt to redefine conversion therapy to extend it to a different case. I think we would be better served by a new term for this kind of therapy.
This thread started because someone labelled Dr Soh as a supporter of conversion therapy, which has a specific meaning. They did this as an ad hominem attack because conversion therapy is widely felt to be disgusting. The purpose was to get people not to read or consider this article, and the article was not even on a trans subject.
We found no evidence that she supports conversion therapy.
> However, it's heavily biased towards better outcomes for cisgender children, disregarding the outcomes for transgender children who will inevitably be traumatized by years of therapy geared at convincing them that they aren't who they know they are.
You're asserting Dr Soh is advocating traumatizing children for years to convince them to be something they aren't? We have no evidence of that. We can all agree any therapy that traumatizes a child is not good therapy. That's a terrible fucking therapist. I suspect Dr Soh agrees with that too.
How do we separate a child who has gender dysphoria and thinks they need to transition but will later change their mind from a child who has gender dysphoria and really was born in the wrong body? Is it possible to provide therapy to the gender dysphoric child who later doesn't want to change, without harming the gender dysphoric child that does later want to change?
It's easy with homosexuality, because the principal we can apply is simply not to interfere and to allow the child to accept themselves and their sexual feelings as they are. No reasonable people think this is bad.
What's the equivalent safe approach for helping children with gender dysphoria? No therapy? Years of therapy geared at reinforcing that they must change their sex to be happy? This is nowhere near as cut and dry as the case homosexuality and conversion therapy.
In about 18 years, if I'm right, a score of resentful GNC children forced into therapy by their parents will cut off their families and transition on their own. If you're right, a large number of children who transitioned during puberty will have major regrets.
Either way, there's no point wasting time debating this. Neither of our sides are going to convince each other. Just do what you have to, and I'll do the same, and we'll watch and wait.
I don't think it was a waste. As an interested onlooker, I thought your exchange was useful to read. I tend to agree with 'erentz', but I thank you for taking the time to share your expert perspective. Please keep doing so.
I hope we don't have to wait 18 years, I hope we can work out how to help children with gender dysphoria sooner without harming trans kids and non trans kids in the process. Coercion is never a good thing, and I'm sorry you had that experience with your parents.
I think that's an excessively binary view: those aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I think the most likely scenario is that those both will occur. Here's how they could:
Suppose a large portion of childhood gender dysphoria is, let's call it, “fundamental transgender identity”, that can only be resolved durably by transitioning.
Suppose another large portion is socially-induced tension between gender stereotypes, most dominantly between heteronormative stereotypes and homosexual or bisexual orientation, that is best resolved durably by recognizing that confirming to gender stereotypes,and particularly heteronormative stereotypes, is not necessary when identifying with a gender, though it may be mitigated, especially in the short-term, by gender transition.
Suppose that there is therapy that is very effective, in children, at helping the latter resolve ideally. But suppose further that children whose dysphoria is of the first kind subjected to that same therapy often conform to the perceived pressure of the therapy by abandoning transition and conforming to the perceived expectation of identifying with their birth gender.
Suppose further that distinguishing the two kinds of dysphoria is difficult even within the context of the therapy, and suppose further that the therapy itself is controversial in a way tied largely to controversy over what the predominant (or, as many people view it, exclusive) source of gender dysphoria is, so that there is Both a large subset of gender dysphoric use that are given the therapy and a large subset that aren't, but these subsets have no particular alignment with the actual source of dysphoria.
You'd then expect, down the road, to have four large clusters (there's actually more, because you also have the atypical responded to therapy or it's absence to consider) of adults who had been gender dysphoric children:
(1) a group with fundamental transgender identity that were not treated and transitioned, resolving the dysphoria as best as is practical.
(2) a group with fundamental transgender identity subjected to the therapy and so did not transition, with issues resulting from ongoing unresolved dysphoria.
(3) a group without fundamental transgender identity that did not receive the therapy and transitioned to resolve their dysphoria, who now regret the transition.
(4) a group without fundamental transgender identity who did receive the therapy, and resolved the tension with gender norms without transition.
She is arguing against bans that she says “incorrectly conflate sexual orientation with gender identity”.
So from reading that article she thinks it shouldn’t be illegal to offer for example a female child who is attracted to girls, and who likes doing activities everyone labels as “boy” interests, therapy that helps them accept they are a just girl who happens to like other girls, and happens to like what society incorrectly labels “boys things”.
... yes, that is called conversion therapy.
A bit off-topic, but talking about 'minorities' when discussing world-wide topics such as science always seemed so bizarre to me. No single race/ethnicity represents over 50% of the world population, so isn't everyone a minority? Or does only the US count?
“Minority” in many contexts of discrimination refers to power minorities, not necessarily numerical minorities (the two sometimes align); once you recognize that this is often intended, when it is intended is usually clear from context.
A quick search (though I couldn't find any particularly authoritative sources) says white people are ~16% of the global population, behind both south and east asians. To keep calling everyone else 'minorities' is more than a little US/Eurocentric. Especially when they put phrases such as "In a world where world-class...", implying they're not limiting themselves to 'country X'
Maybe, but since the author is Canadian, and the website is Australian, I'm surprised you would be so confident of this.
Why aren’t these same people who are talking about science denial never speak up and make a fuss about the denial of climate change by a huge swath of the US population including the elected (e.g. POTUS)?
1. Fallacy of relative privation? Nobody can talk about X because Y is worse. Nobody should fix X until everybody has fixed Y first.
2. Fighting ideologically driven decision should be a good thing if you’re concerned about the ideologically driven decision making going on in our government. Don’t pick and choose. That’s hypocracy. (There’s at least one person sometimes unfortunately (mis?)labeled as being in the IDW who is terrible at this, a big gaping load of hypocracy shows up anytime religion or Israel comes into play. His name rhymes with Sen Bhapiro.)
So when someone speaks up to rid science of the ideological influence, then by this definition, they don't care about science either?
> Why aren’t these same people who are talking about science denial never speak up and make a fuss about the denial of climate change
Who says they don't?
? I think the point of the article is that we should care about science.
The author is indicating that there seems to be evidence that difference exist in the brain from a pre-natal age, and that the impetus behind the more popularly published stuff is political.
This is not an ideological argument, nor one that has the backing of major news outlets trying to promote a specific agenda - just the opposite - someone saying: "hey, look at the data, why are people being called sexist for reporting the data?"
The unaccounted data in climate change is no more proof of natural phenomenon than unaccounted data in wages is proof of discrimination, and yet scientists in those two fields reach the opposite conclusions. If we really cared about science they should follow the same standard and treat unaccounted data as just that, unaccounted.
Quillette published an article in January on just that: "The Right Needs To Grow Up On Environmentalism".
This is called, in layman's terms, "whataboutism". I think each of us is free to pursue a primary interest, and the arguments need to be evaluated in themselves, not in relation to what else the person might be saying or not saying about some other topic.
Anyway, for me this is primarily about science. I can't see any validity in certain arguments and I abhor the idea (which seems to me the only possible justification for them) that we should choose our truths according to how much we like their consequences- real or imagined.
Or, let's put it this way: every time a scientist says that the study of nature provides support for one or another of our current moral values and ethical stances, I cringe.
Uh, source? Seems like the article just throws this out there without any citation, proof, or even argument. I'm not sure I can agree with such a statement.
You could argue that she failed to account for the fact that readers of this article don't necessarily know who she is or what her own experience has been.
Without interacting with the central claims of this article, which seem to hark back to the breathless realm of nineties _Psychology Today_ grade neursci, I believe I can safely ignore any discussion about science that is basically just more culture war conturbations in sci-sauce.
If your concern is that science is being polticized, don't lead with your politics. It's just a food fight at this point.
It's at the very premise of the argument.
Articles declaring that 'science indicates sexes are the same and anyone who hints otherwise is sexist' are taken at face value and published in the Guardian, CNN etc..
Contrasting opinions hardly exist in the mainstream.
The author is not trying to create a culture war, they are trying to negate it.
This is not a 'brains are the same' vs 'brains are different' argument. This is a 'let's look at the material evidence' argument. The brain same/different is just an example.