Hi Jesse, have you had a chance to read the several articles in the Times of London today regarding clinicians who've left the London Tavistock gender clinic out of concern they're participating in conversion therapy by referring lesbian adolescents for puberty blockers and testosterone? Here is an excerpt from the front page article:

"So many potentially gay children were being sent down the pathway to change gender, two of the clinicians said there was a dark joke among staff that “there would be no gay people left”.

“It feels like conversion therapy for gay children,” one male clinician said. “I frequently had cases where people started identifying as trans after months of horrendous bullying for being gay,” he told The Times.

“Young lesbians considered at the bottom of the heap suddenly found they were really popular when they said they were trans.”

Another female clinician said: “We heard a lot of homophobia which we felt nobody was challenging. A lot of the girls would come in and say, ‘I’m not a lesbian. I fell in love with my best girl friend but then I went online and realised I’m not a lesbian, I’m a boy. Phew.’”"

I am left wondering whether there could be any continuity between this phenomenon and previous attempts at conversion therapy of gay children, or whether this might underpin some of the science denialism around this topic that you've described here. After all, if there's no biological sex, presumably there's no homosexuality, either, or you'd have to be a scientifically illiterate bigot to think there is.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this if you've got any. Thanks.

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Apr 4, 2019Liked by Jesse Singal

Of course you're correct that science denialism isn't exclusive to the Right. It doesn't (yet) seem to be the case, though, that it's as influential or consequential on the Left as on the Right. A candidate has to scoff at anthropogenic climate change to stand a chance at winning the GOP primary. That's a matter of far greater concern, I think, than media figures with some ill-supported ideas about sex and gender.

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Yes, I agree. If I had to rank which forms of science denialism are most likely to do horrendous harm in the long run, I'd put climate-denialism way above anything I wrote about here. But I do think progressives should model talking about science in reasonable ways, and it's frustrating what's going on in this area, partly because you don't *need* to engage in science denialism to defend trans people's rights and ensure their access to medical care, if they want it.

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Obvious ideologically driven irrationality on the left does make it much harder for those seeking to persuade sections of the right on things like evolution and AGW. The left cudgels the right on creationism, but cancels anyone who points that there is a possibility that hereditary , selection and population genetics can have troublesome implications for many SJW shiboleths. On AGW the left has frequently overcooked (sorry) the case and the state of the evidence. Likewise they have consistently elided the distinction between scientific skeptics al la Bjorn Lomberg and out and out deniers of climate change. The political result has been to slow or even block change altogether. Large sections of the green left were more religious than scientific in their commitment, ironic given that the leader that put AGW on the agenda originally was Thatcher. The success with which enviromental measures have been implemented and have grown is in despite of the religious deep green left, not becasue of their activism. Gates and Musk, Merkel the Danish right or going back even Nixon (EPA)- or centre leftists Blair/Clinton have done far more of practical benefit and did it despite the finger wagging sanctimonious hair shirt and ashes enviromentalists.

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I would argue that science denialism on the left is highly consequential. Sex is obvious (the left denies the biological reality of sex, the right accepts it). However, left science denialism is not limited to sex. Other major left shibboleths include race, GMOs (in Europe), nuclear power, and of course, global warming.

A cliche is that only CO2 from the US and/or Europe contributes to global warming. In real life, China is (by far) the largest producer of CO2. However, you would never know that from the global warming literature.

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You can find a good article on this subject over at "Men are stronger than women (on average)" (https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2015/02/25/men-are-stronger-than-women-on-average/).


"Every now and then there is a debate on who is more “anti-science”, the Left or the Right. I’m not too interested in the details of that, but, a few years ago I expressed my skepticism to Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, that liberals were somehow reflexively more “pro-science.”"

"To give a concrete example of how far this goes, there are many liberal Left people who won’t even accede to the proposition that men are, on average, stronger in terms of upper body strength than women. A few years ago this came up on social media, where a friend who has a biology background from an elite university, even expressed skepticism at this, when I was trying to get her to be open to behavioral differences between the sexes by starting with something I thought she would at least agree with as reasonable. When I saw the lack of unequivocal acceptance of this point I decided to opt out of the conversation. This was basically face to face with Left Creationism."

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>More broadly though, I just can’t imagine a clearer example of progressive science denialism that won’t help anyone in the long run than the claim that people get to define whether, based on their own identity, they are biologically male or female.

Personally, I find this less of a problem than what they did to my boy Damore and the word "Neuroticism", but I won't get into it.

While we're purposefully courting controversy, maybe you should hop into the Race IQ debate and talk about how people seem to truly enjoy science-denial on that front when there's so many better angles of attack.

For example, NPR interviewed Jason Kessler last year and kicked off an interesting activist game involving some intense science-denialism. In the interview, the fact of a racial IQ gap presently existing was dismissed as a laughable view that "Basically, any scientist that is not Charles Murray" would also dismiss. In fact, the gap is not questioned in the literature, the meaning and causes of it are. https://www.npr.org/2018/08/10/637390626/a-year-after-charlottesville-unite-the-right-rally-will-be-held-in-d-c for the interview

The interviewer was taken to task in the Washington Post, among other places, in ways that really highlighted the depth of science denialism around this topic. "Kessler proceeded to literally rank various races on the basis of debunked bell-curve myths about intelligence differences between groups on national public media." https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/08/11/npr-teaches-listeners-on-the-proper-care-and-feeding-of-white-nationalists/?utm_term=.4f7e24e61185

ThinkProgress describes the description of an IQ gap to be a "deeply unscientific claim" https://thinkprogress.org/npr-jason-kessler-interview-huge-fail-32b4468ec643/, while linking to a Guardian piece which includes the line "And the gap between African Americans and white Americans narrowed by 5.5 points between 1972 and 2002." A narrowing gap is still a gap. Also, the Guardian piece was in response to Harris + Murray, which was a whole bigger unscientific shitshow by many outlets.

New York Times handles it only marginally better, shifting the problem from Kessler's "relayed junk science" toward more of a criticism of Murray as a non-expert in psychology whose work on that particular topic had been "debunked by scientists and sociologists, and is deemed racist by many.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/business/media/charlottesville-jason-kessler-npr.html

Why are journalists misleading people into believing there isn't a measured IQ gap? Vox handled this pretty well during Harris + Murray, where they are explicit and clear about what the research has to say about the existence of an IQ gap ("People who identify as black or Hispanic in the US and elsewhere on average obtain lower IQ scores than people who identify as white or Asian. That is simply a fact, and stating it plainly offers no support in itself for a biological interpretation of the difference."), the extent we might think it's related to genetics, the extent to which IQ has shifted upward over the years, the extent to which the IQ gaps have narrowed. https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech

I'm not sure why people don't simply attack the ridiculousness of ranking "Asians" unless we're expected to believe the entire geographic region from India to Japan is somehow a genetically homogenous racial category.

Why make a false claim and allow white nationalists to correctly say that their opposition is science deniers? Why mislead your audience?

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The intensely negative response to David Reich's Op-Ed "How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of 'Race'" in the NYT shows that science denialism (on the left) is not limited to sex.


“Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.”


“Recent research on the human genome challenges the basic assumption that human races have no biological basis. In this article, we provide a theoretical synthesis that accepts the existence of genetic clusters consistent with certain racial classifications as well as the validity of the genomic research that has identified the clusters, without diminishing the social character of their context, meaning, production, or consequences.”

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Science denialism is fairly broad. The left hates science when science shows the existence of two sexes or the linkage between race and genes. In Europe (but not the US), GMOs arouse fanatical anti-science bigotry on the left. Of course, only US CO2 affects the global climate.

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Thanks for this, except 'Denialism' echoes Holocaust Denialism and has been deliberately used to make such a loathsome comparison, particularly in regard to climate skepticism. I'd use another word.

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Should gender identity be the only determinant of what division one plays in? I seem to recall an intrepid reporter along Alice Dreger this very question a couple of years ago, during the Castor Semenya conversation:


Dreger admits to not being interested in sports, so she may not be the best person to ask. However, her take, and another at that time by a female athlete, focus on the impact on an authority telling women that they’re “not really women”:


I don’t believe these should have the final say, but it gives some insight on why this stance is being taken. Also, Ross Tucker at Science Of Sport has pointed to limited studies showing that a 10% reduction in performance after M to F transition could be sufficient to allow a fair transfer for trans M to F athletes.

Overall, I agree that the actual science is taking a back seat to other criteria, but as Dreger has shown, what has passed for “science” has had a remarkably male-centered history (see her remark at the end of that linked article about “testosterone for the male thee but not for the female me”. Great stuff by that reporter! He’s got a bright future, methinks)

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