How Science Is Bent to the Will of Activists

A man carries a sign during the March for Science in Washington, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

The word “science” gets bandied about a lot in our current media. And it’s fair to say most people don’t really understand the term. Science is a tool, a process for examining data, arriving at conclusions about that data, and testing those conclusions. It’s a process for extracting information from data. That’s why it’s called “the scientific method.” Science doesn’t say anything, any more than a hammer can say anything about a nail. My own undergraduate education was in the sciences (biology), so this is something I’m conversant with.

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Unfortunately, the process is being corrupted, and the people out there who are doing honest scientific work are increasingly under pressure from activists. Researchers Suzanna Diaz and Michael Bailey have learned this, to their chagrin.

The scientific method is the best way for humans to investigate phenomena, acquire new knowledge, and correct mistaken beliefs. Scientific journals play a vital role in this process, encouraging rational, evidence-based debate and the pursuit of truth above all. But since the inner workings of these journals remain largely opaque, citizens, policymakers, and science journalists can struggle to discern when politics has compromised a given publication—especially when ideological agendas are couched in scientific language and given the veneer of scientific authority.

That’s how it is supposed to work, sure. But that process isn’t bearing up under pressure.

The paper in question, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Parent Reports on 1655 Possible Cases,” was authored by researchers Suzanna Diaz (a pseudonym) and Michael Bailey and published in ASB on March 29. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), a newly proposed pathway to gender dysphoria, was first described by the researcher Lisa Littman in 2018; the theory may help explain the documented surge in cases of gender dysphoria among adolescents and young adults who had previously exhibited no gender-related issues. Littman proposed and provided supporting evidence that social factors have at least partly caused the surge, especially among girls.

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I’m not surprised one of the researchers used a pseudonym, given the current climate around this issue. I’m only surprised that both researchers didn’t use pseudonyms because of what happened next.

Littman’s 2018 paper generated intense backlash from activists, who successfully pressured the journal that published her findings (PLoS One) to take the unusual step of initiating a second round of post-publication peer review. The paper was republished with a “correction” that offered a more detailed explanation of its methodology, specifically focusing on its dependency on parental reports, and a clarification that ROGD is not a clinical diagnosis. Importantly, however, the paper’s central conclusions concerning the probable role of social influences remained unchanged. Activists repeatedly disrupted further attempts by Littman to explore ROGD using online surveys.

This is intimidation, pure and simple, aimed at legitimate researchers doing legitimate work in a controversial field. This isn’t an inexplicable decision from a supposedly right-of-center news network or an ignorant statement from a government spokesdroid with little knowledge of… well… anything. This strikes directly at the heart of legitimate scientific inquiry, which I remind the readers is the process that resulted in our modern, technological society, with modern medicine, transport, communications, agriculture, and pretty much every aspect of our daily lives. Including, of course, the screen on which you are reading this article and the technology that delivered it to that screen.

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But these researchers are fighting back:

In the wake of the retraction, Bailey and Diaz are re-submitting the manuscript to the Journal of Open Inquiry in Behavioral Science (JOIBS), a fledgling publication founded by scholars devoted to the principles of “free inquiry and truth seeking” and the belief that ideas ought to be scrutinized rather than suppressed. Regrettably, among medical journals this commitment appears to be increasingly the exception, not the rule.

And this will be the solution. Honest researchers doing honest work should seek out avenues by which their work and its conclusions may be made known, freely and without interference by activists pushing an agenda.

Gender dysphoria is a real thing. Until recently, it was generally treated with therapy, not hormones or surgery, and most juveniles who experienced dysphoria eventually recovered and went on to lead normal lives. Now, as Diaz and Bailey have discovered, it’s a social issue and a social contagion, and what’s more, there is a dogma that has grown up around this issue that the adherents of which will go to great lengths to squash dissent. But as the leftist tilt of the legacy media gave rise to a host of new media outlets (like this one), the spineless, shameless capitulation by editors of scientific journals who give in to the howling mob will lead to new journals, whose editors and publishers have a bit more backbone. As noted above, this is already happening.

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