Posts Tagged ‘Scientific American’

Scientific American Rejects Real Science for Queer Theory Ideology

September 4, 2022

Going through YouTube this past week I found a couple of videos tearing into Scientific American for publishing a piece of pseudo-science to support the trans ideology. Scientific American has been going for over a century now, and has been one of the major magazines popularising science and explaining scientific discoveries and speculation to the mass of ordinary folks. I used to read it, on and off, along with New Scientist until I went off both c. 2007. That was when Dawkins wretched book, The God Delusion was published, and the New Atheists appeared to try and convince the public that religion was incompatible and fundamentally opposed to science. Real historians of science rejected it long ago, although they recognise that there have been periods of tension. The view that science and religion are opposed comes from the works of three men, one an academic at Harvard in the late 19th century. Against them are all the scientific discoveries made by people of faith down the centuries. For Christianity, I suggest James Hannam’s excellent book on medieval science, God’s Philosophers. As for mathematics, I’ve got a collection of early mathematical texts which I picked up from a secondhand bookshop. These texts go from the ancient Egyptians through Babylonia, ancient Greece, Rome, Judaism, China, Japan and India, as well as some of the great Muslim mathematicians. Many of them begin with a dedication by their authors to their God or gods. Unfortunately, the editors at New Scientist and Scientific American don’t share this view, and the editorial line became very atheist. So I simply stopped reading them. Unfortunately Scientific American’s scepticism hasn’t prevented it from publishing what I believe can only be described as pseudo-science in the name of promoting trans rights.

Brett Weinstein and his wife, Heather, biologists who oppose the postmodern pseudery now being promoted throughout academia and society, put up a video in which they tear to pieces an article published by the magazine which declared that western civilisation only believed in a single sex, the male, until about 1880. I think Matt Walsh has also made a video about it. It’s clearly nonsense, as the Weinstein’s show simply by stating the number of times men and women both appear in the Bible as evidence that people that long ago knew full well about the gender binary. The Weinsteins also point out that something can exist in nature long before it’s recognised by science. For example, the coatimundi was long considered to be two different species. There were the coatis, who were solitary animals, and the mundis, who were social and surrounded by their infants. Then biologists came to realise that the two species were actually just the two sexes of the same creature. The solitary animals were the males, while the social creatures with infants were the females. Brett Weinstein also points out that at one time people thought that the two sexes of the elephant seal were different species, simply because they looked so different from each other.

I think I know where the nonsense that western science didn’t recognise the gender binary until the late 19th century comes from. Postmodernism rejects empiricism and scientific examination and research in favour of discourse, examining what others have said about a particular issue. In the case of Critical Race Theory, Queer Theory, Postcolonial Theory and so on, this is done through the ideological lens of Marcel Foucault, in which ideology and discourse are functions of power relationships. For Queer Theorists, or at least those supporting trans rights, the scientific view that there are two biological sexes is a western, patriarchal construct intended to exclude trans people and so support White, heterosexual male dominance.

It seems to me, and I confess that I haven’t read the article, that the author has done this by basing their view on Aristotle. Aristotle, or at least the ancient Greeks, believed that the female body was merely an imperfect form of the male. This has rightly and understandably annoyed feminists ever since. But Aristotle and the other philosophers never denied that their were two sexes, male and female. And I am absolutely sure that the Renaissance anatomist, Andrea Fallopi, who discovered the fallopian tubes and the clitoris, and who named the vagina, knew what a woman was and that women and men were physiologically different.

I think the purpose behind the article has been to provide a scientific justification for transpeople being true members of the sex with which they identify or have transitioned. If the sexes are not distinct, then someone who believes themselves to be a member of the opposite sex, contrary to their biology, can still be seen scientifically as a member of the opposite sex.

Now I don’t deny that there are people, who believe that they are in the wrong body, and wish to conform as far as possible to the opposite sex. I also believe that such people deserve appropriate medical care and should have the same respect and freedom from abuse and discrimination as everyone else. But the sexes are still distinct biologically, and the denial that this is so is ideology, not science.

As for the Postmodernists denying the historical existence of something simply because it wasn’t recognised historically, a prime example of such thinking is in the Sokal and Bricmont book, Intellectual Impostures. This is a case in 1974 or -5 when French Egyptologists and doctors unwrapped the mummy of an Egyptian pharaoh. Examining his remains, they concluded that the man had died from tuberculosis. The Postmodernists, however, disagreed, because no such disease was known to the ancient Egyptians. Of course the fact that a disease wasn’t recognise, doesn’t not mean it didn’t exist. It only means that the people of the time didn’t know what it was.

I find it worrying that this article claiming that biological sex differences are only a recent invention has been published. There have been too many occasions in the past when ideology has been allowed to corrupt science. Examples include the racial, ‘Aryan’ science of the Nazis, and Lysenkoism in the USSR, based on the ideas of Stalin’s favourite scientist, Lysenko. Other examples of bad science include lobotomy operations to treat mental illness and monkey glands to rejuvenate men. This last involved implanting slices of monkey testicles into those of human men in order to make them become younger and more virile. In fact it resulted in the men taking this treatment developing syphilis, as the disease is endemic in the type of monkey from whom they took the bits of implanted gonad.

I am afraid that articles like this, and the pseudoscience they promote, will cause great harm, albeit with the best of intentions. There are at the moment a number of detransitioners suing the doctors who treated them and who recommended transition. They believe that they were deceived by them. I’ve no doubt that for some people suffering from the condition, surgical intervention may well be appropriate and necessary. But this must be proper physical and psychological tests.

The publication of such ideologically based pseudoscience threaten the proper treatment of those who suffer from the very condition such articles aim to help. And so they must be strenuously rejected.

Here’s the Weinsteins’ YouTube video:

Lab Grown Goats and the Shape of Wombs to Come

November 19, 2021

I found this photo of goat fetuses growing in tanks filled with amniotic fluid in a Japanese lab in an old an old issue of Scientific American Presents – Your Bionic Future from autumn 1999. It illustrated an article by Tabitha M. Powledge, ‘The Ultimate Baby Bottle’, which had on the contents page the comment ‘Aldous Huxley was right. Artificial wombs are in our future.’ I hope, I really hope that they aren’t. At least, not in the way he portrayed it in Brave New World. In the book, the Fordists have abolished natural reproduction so that everyone is grown artificially in hatcheries. As a result, sex is only for pleasure – and as this is a hedonistic society there are plenty of orgies – and the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are dirty terms of abuse. This is definitely not a society anyone would want to see realised. On the other hand, milder forms of such reproduction have also been suggested. The people of humanity’s first extraterrestrial colony also reproduce in hatcheries in Brian Aldiss’ and David Wingrove’s history of the future, The Third Millennium. And in Paul McAuley’s book, In The Belly of the Whale, the two human species on Fomalhaut also reproduce through cloning in hatcheries, but are placed with surrogate parents who raise them in something like a normal family structure after their birth.

The success of the Japanese scientists in growing the goat fetus’ generated a considerable interest at the time. It was widely predicted, as the Scientific American article did, that this would lead to artificial wombs. In fact there was speculation about possible breakthroughs in such research a decade earlier in the 1980s. About 1984/5 I remember an article appearing in the Absurder which predicted that some day people would be gestated in such devices.

I’ve got very mixed feelings about this. I can admire the scientific skill behind it, and it does touch that part of me that enjoys seeing Science Fiction become reality. I can also see that it would benefit women, who for one reason or another could not carry a baby to term. But I don’t know how women would react to such machines if they became possible. I realise that pregnancy and childbirth are fraught, dangerous times for women and their children. Many women go through everything from the discomfort of bad backs and morning sickness to far worse conditions that may seriously damage their health. The other night there was a piece on the One Show, for example, about the dangers to pregnant women from a condition that causes severe nausea. And then there are the problems and dangers in childbirth itself.

But femininity throughout history has been intimately bound up with motherhood. So much so that in many traditional societies the view of women has been that of baby factories, whose primary role is the bearing and raising of children. Modern feminism challenges this in order to give women the freedom to work outside the home in previously masculine roles and professions. But I am not sure if women would welcome the complete separation of femininity from motherhood. Would women feel somehow diminished, deprived of a vital component of their womanhood, if there was a wholesale move towards artificial reproduction? Part of the psychological motivation behind gender critical feminisms opposition to transwomen being accepted as women is a powerful feeling that this is men usurping and appropriating femininity, while marginalising natural biological women. Reading through some of the comments on Kellie-Jay Kean’s videos, I came across some women talking about the joy they felt as women bearing children. One women said that men’s lives must be so empty because of their inability to do so. Now these are just a few women’s views, but I do wonder how women with a similar attitude would look upon artificial wombs.

I also wonder whether there would be the same strong bond between parents, and especially mothers, and their children if babies weren’t born naturally but collected from the hatchery. I realise that the parents of adopted children are in a similar position, and generally greatly love their children, as, of course, to step-parents. I’m also well aware of the dreadful neglect and abuse some parents inflict on their kids. It’s perfectly possible, therefore, that bringing your baby home from the lab for their first time would have all the emotional impact of a natural birth and that the parental bond wouldn’t be affected. But nevertheless, I wonder.

And I’m also worried that such hatcheries could lead to the further mechanisation of what would once have been considered essential human traits, to produce genuine post-human creatures like the cyborgs of the transhumanists. These could be far beyond us in their capability while at the same time lacking in what we consider to be our essential human natures, like the Cybermen and Sontarans of Dr. Who.

These are deep, ethical issues. But fortunately, they have become pressing just yet, as the promised artificial wombs have yet to appear.