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As a Former Dean of Harvard Medical School, I Question Brown’s Failure to Defend Lisa Littman

This week’s controversy surrounding an academic paper on gender dysphoria published by Brown University assistant professor Lisa Littman—brought on by the post-publication questioning of Dr Littman’s scholarship by both the journal that published it, PLOS One, and Brown’s own School of Public Health—raises serious concerns about the ability of all academics to conduct research on controversial topics.

Lisa Littman, M.D., MPH

Gender dysphoria—the clinical term used to describe a condition in which one’s sense of gender identity diverges from one’s biological sex—is an important issue that cries out for more research. In the case of children who assert a transgender identity, clinicians, researchers, school officials and other interested parties face profound, life-altering decisions regarding treatment. As a physician, endocrinologist and medical researcher, I have a professional interest in the topic. But the biology, psychology and treatment of gender dysphoria is not the focus of this article. Rather, I herein consider the reaction to Dr Littman’s survey research, which explored the reportedly growing phenomenon by which clusters of socially connected teenage girls, some beset by autism spectrum disorder and other mental health challenges, suddenly express feelings of gender dysphoria apparently without having experienced these earlier in life, as is more commonly the case.  Dr Littman’s preliminary research suggested that this often occurs after heavy exposure to social-media content extoling the benefits of gender transition. Whether the results of this descriptive survey study will be confirmed and extended will require much additional research.

The fact that Brown University deleted its initial promotional reference to Dr Littman’s work from the university’s website—then replaced it with a note explaining how Dr Littman’s work might harm members of the transgender community—presents a cautionary tale.

Increasingly, research on politically charged topics is subject to indiscriminate attack on social media, which in turn can pressure school administrators to subvert established norms regarding the protection of free academic inquiry. What’s needed is a campaign to mobilize the academic community to protect our ability to conduct and communicate such research, whether or not the methods and conclusions provoke controversy or even outrage.

*   *  *

The right of university faculty to pursue questions that interest them, free from control or harassment, is a core element of academic freedom. How faculty go about accomplishing their chosen research goals is their responsibility. Once chosen, the results are evaluated by others—by funding agencies, peer-reviewed journals, and eventually by those colleagues responsible for decisions on promotion, tenure and institutional resources. But the initial choice of topic and method must remain within the sole discretion of the researching academic.

By exploring controversial topics that challenge prevailing orthodoxies, scientists always have faced professional risks. Pursuing unorthodox scholarship can lead to frustration and failure, to exciting breakthroughs, or anything in between. Research involving humans, in particular, typically is governed by rigorous ethical and operational standards. Nearly all such research requires approval by institutional review boards before being initiated. These boards are charged with protecting the rights of subjects, and determining whether the overall approach has merit and promise. Dr Littman’s study at Brown passed those requirements. Insofar as we know, Dr Littman’s data were properly analyzed. At PLOS One, her findings were subject to peer review, after which her article was revised in response to reviewer comments; then accepted and published, whereupon it entered the public domain. This is how the process is supposed to work.

Many papers face questions after they have been published, which is well and proper: the systematic assessment and scrutiny of published work is a core method by which the scientific community corrects errors, and builds upon imperfect preliminary observations. There is a real problem with a lack of reproducibility of published science in many academic fields. Efforts to understand and respond to this problem are receiving justified attention. But that is not what has happened in regard to Dr Littman, whose critics have not performed any systematic analysis of her findings, but seem principally motivated by ideological opposition to her conclusions.

Avenues for challenging an academic paper include letters to the editor, journal editorials, invited comments, and efforts by others to conduct research in the same area. Aside from this, critics may allege research misconduct in the form of plagiarism, fabrication or falsification. If an informed party credibly asserts one of these three claims in regard to a published article, it is the academic institution’s responsibility to investigate and reach a fair conclusion. The outcome of such inquiries sometimes requires that the paper in question be retracted, or in some way modified—though this typically follows confidential investigations that can take months or even years. Absent evidence of academic misconduct, an institutional inquiry of this sort rarely, if ever, occurs to address the validity of a faculty research paper, in my experience.

There is no evidence for claims of misconduct in Dr Littman’s case. Rather, unnamed individuals with strong personal interests in the area under study seem to have approached PLOS One with allegations that her methodology and conclusions were faulty. Facing these assertions, which predictably drew support from social media communities populated by lay activists, the journal responded rapidly and publicly with the announcement that it would undertake additional expert review.

In all my years in academia, I have never once seen a comparable reaction from a journal within days of publishing a paper that the journal already had subjected to peer review, accepted and published. One can only assume that the response was in large measure due to the intense lobbying the journal received, and the threat—whether stated or unstated—that more social-media backlash would rain down upon PLOS One if action were not taken.

There were also said to be unidentified voices within the Brown community who expressed “concerns” about the paper. But when Brown responded to these concerns by removing a promotional story about Dr Littman research from the Brown website, a backlash resulted, followed by a web petition expressing alarm at the school’s actions. The dean of the School of Public Health, Bess Marcus, eventually issued a public letter explaining why the removal of the article from news distribution was “the most responsible course of action.”

In her letter, Dean Marcus cites fears that “conclusions of the study could be used to discredit the efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate perspectives of members of the transgender community” (my italics). Why the concerns of these unidentified individuals should be accorded weight in the evaluation of an academic work is left unexplained.

The idea that unnamed parties might apply conclusions from a study such as to cause some vaguely defined harm to other third parties is a spurious basis for the university’s actions. Virtually any research finding related to human health may be used for unrelated and inappropriate purposes by independent actors. Indeed, this happens frequently in medical science, as when nutrition research is used to promote diets far beyond the validity of the underlying data. When this occurs, responsibility lies with those committing these acts, not the paper or its author.

Bess Marcus, PhD

The next paragraph of the dean’s letter affirms “the importance of academic freedom and the value of vigorous debate informed by research,” and hails the spirit of free inquiry as “central to academic excellence.” But these high-minded sentiments are then undercut by several qualifications. The dean states that scientific faculty must also “listen to multiple perspectives and recognize and articulate the limitations of their work.” Further, when the research has implications for health of the communities being studied, the researchers have “an added obligation for vigilance in research design.” Such general principles apply equally to any research related to human health. But expressing them in this context implies that Dr Littman is guilty of violating these principles in some specific way—an implicit accusation for which no evidence is evident or adduced.

The next paragraph offers unwavering support for “studying and supporting the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority populations,” as well as “unshakable” support for the “full diversity of gender and sexual identity.” These statements of support are entirely appropriate. But in contrast to the material contained in the prior paragraph on academic freedom and inquiry, there appear in this section no caveats or clarifications. One cannot avoid the conclusion that the author sought to communicate a hierarchy of principles, with diversity on top, academic freedom underneath.

Another key point is notable for its absence: There is no suggestion whatsoever of support for Dr Littman, a faculty member in good standing for whom the personal and professional consequences of these events could be devastating. The dean of a school is in effect the dean of the faculty. While she must exercise balance and objectivity when controversial issues arise, her responsibilities include the expression of appropriate support for a beleaguered faculty member until and unless clear evidence emerges to impugn that scholar’s behavior or work. And yet, Dean Marcus is mute on this subject.

The dean’s letter ends by calling for a future symposium, with a panel of experts who will “present the latest research in this area and…define directions for future work.” Input is sought from “faculty, staff and students about the composition of this panel and scope of the discussion.” While one could imagine such an event theoretically providing an antidote to harassment and political influence, obvious concerns present themselves. These include the apparent implication that the research agenda should be influenced by campus stakeholders who are not experts in this specific area. Indeed, given this week’s spectacle, it might be anticipated that a robust and scientifically rigorous symposium to discuss the issues raised by Dr Littman would be that last thing the dean seeks.

At a time such as this, when a university’s academic mandate is under threat from diverse ideological actors, there is simply no substitute for a strong leader who supports academic freedom and discourse. The dean’s letter raises serious questions about whether the dean of Brown’s School of Public Health is willing to be such a leader.

For centuries, universities struggled to protect the ability of their faculties to conduct research seen as offensive—whether by the church, the state, or other powerful influences. Their success in this regard represents one of the great intellectual triumphs of modern times, one that sits at the foundation of liberal societies. This is why the stakes are high at Brown University. Its leaders must not allow any single politically charged issue—including gender dysphoria—from becoming the thin edge of a wedge that gradually undermines our precious, hard-won academic freedoms.

 

Jeffrey S. Flier, M.D. is Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, and Higginson Professor of Medicine and Neurobiology. He is a former dean of Harvard Medical School.

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144 Comments

  1. David Lloyd says

    I could not agree more, the author entirely hit the nail on the head.

    • Indeed, but such research can be tricky and take on a life of its own among the “less educated.” For example, rare research against global climate change is given full belief and support among those whose agenda is to profit now and worry about externalities later (by others who won’t have profited). Another is Murray and his Race-IQ studies that purport to show genetic variation of IQ by race even though there are numerous studies that show good education can raise IQs, as if education somehow fixes bad genes.

      • ADM64 says

        You are rationalizing. Murray’s research on IQ took exceptional care to note that the hereditary element of intelligence is, at best, no more than half the story. The spin you are putting on it is utterly false – Murray posted a short! But comprehensive rebuttal of this particular interpretation. Your comment proves that you’ve never actually read what he wrote and are simply reacting in exactly the same way as critics of Littmann’s research. Ditto the entire climate change issue. Without a lengthy discussion, the simple fact is that models which have repeatedly failed to match actual data combined with selective culling of data calls them into question.

        • Christoph says

          The conclusions of Professor Darwin’s study on the origin of species could be used to discredit the efforts to support Christian youth and invalidate perspectives of members of the Christian community.

      • Peter from Oz says

        On that same note, the research on man-made climate change (this qualifier being all important, by the way) has led many a silly person in government to cause great economic harm. The intersectional wallies are too guilty of using any silly statistic or study in order to achieve their political aims. The idea that 1 in 4 women at university is subjec,t to sexual assault is the classic example of this.
        People of all political persuasions misuse facts to suit their own ends.

        • Brent Meeker says

          And the research on man-make global warming has led many venal person in an our of government to obfuscate the simple fact that adding CO2 to the atmosphere makes the Earth hotter.

          • Gary Mullennix says

            Please submit the science which credibly confirms that CO2 makes the climate hotter.

      • Eric from Chicago says

        I’ve never in my life seen research “against climate change.”

        I’ve seen research about climate change that is contrary to the research of others.

        The irony is that the researchers who are challenging the conventional wisdom of the ‘intelligestia’ are actually willing to submit their research for peer review, whereas people like Dr. Hansen hide the details of their research and will not share the underlying algorithms from their models.

        This is where Science as an Institution is harming itself.

        You don’t get to decide the facts for yourself. Science is based on science and nobody should have a political agenda when it comes to science, yet that’s what it’s come to.

        To get the grants necessary to continue research? You have to cater to the chattering classes.

        To conduct pure and real scientific research means you have to challenge the status quo and invite inquiry.

        Living your world, we’d still be walking around dead certain that Earth is at the center of the Universe and the Earth is flat.

        • Charlie says

          One aspect of this type of research is that it requires very high level of statistical analysis and large enough samples. I question whether both aspects are adequate. As Wegman said about M Mann, the level of stats required should be of the same high standards as used in drug trials. For most biological scientists, their worst subject was maths. This is why I think people specialising in medical statistics working alongside medical scientists is important.

          • chelseavanvalkenberg says

            The problem is the default position on this as always requires little to no evidence at all.

        • Michael says

          “To get the grants necessary to continue research? You have to cater to the chattering classes”. . .

          . . .rather than the multinational corporations which dominate the world and the “charitable” foundations which represent their interests globally?

          There’s a certain naivety encapsulated in many of the responses to this subject. The words “ivory towers” spring, albeit reluctantly, to mind.

      • That’s true but I don’t think that “unintelligent people will miss the point of this / over simplify it” is ever a good argument to censoring or dumbing down inconvenient aspects of research or departing from the scientific method. The truth needs to be established, even if it is going to cause these sorts of headaches. The alternative is far worse in the long run.

      • Thomas Watts says

        I believe you are entirely mischaracterizing Murray’s work.

  2. Georgia Soros says

    “Dr Littman, whose critics have not performed any systematic analysis of her findings, but seem principally motivated by ideologically motivated opposition to her conclusions.”

    This is a complete mischaracterisation and completely ignores the systematic anayses already performed by folks like Julia Serano and others. Dr. Flier clearly did not do his reaseach well enough, merely relying on social media posts to make his point.

    • Michael K. says

      mischaracterization? No the vast majority of critics onject to the conclusions, a priori, with no respect to how the conclusion arose.

      The insane left simply wants us to accept that autistic girls who decide one day they are a different gender should be believed without scrutiny lest we ‘invalidate perspectives’ a small minority of people have on sex and gender.

      It is madness.

      • Gary Mullennix says

        That an autistic girl chooses to believe she is a male is unimportant to me. What is important is the efforts of many to use that belief to engage the State to force all others to act in accordance to that person’s belief. Believe away. Just leave me out of it.

    • Serrano is an activist, not a scholar. This does doesn’t do much to rebut the claim that the opposition to Littman’s study is ideologically driven.

      • Georgia Soros says

        Serano is a biologist. Flier claims critics have not done a systematic analysis of the study, when in fact several have already.
        My question to you is – why do want to exclude Serano and others from the debate? Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing the essay above is decrying?

        • This isn’t biology research. Serano is not an expert on the way adolescent females in 2018 experience their gender. She has the right to comment and to theorize and to opine, and indeed to conduct her own research, but to position her as an authority on these issues merely by virtue of her being a transwoman is ludicrous.

        • Serano’s article is not a “systematic analysis” of Littman’s study, in fact, it barely mentions it. All it really amounts to is a pathological dislike and distrust of the parents of transgender-identifying teens and the presumption that their perception of their own children is invalid. Serano variously accepts that rapid onset is a thing and rejects the idea, revealing considerable confusion and clearly demonstrating a need for more research and not the suppression of academic study.

        • Serano is a biologist with a highly personal interest in promoting Innate Gender Identity, an idea that has zero hard science to back it up. Serano is a male who identifies as a female, just as Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who identifies as a black woman (Ironically, Dolezal is biologically closer to being a black woman, than Serano is to being female). There is no more evidence to back up Gender Identity than there is to back up Intelligent Design. These are both metaphysical beliefs, and however devout these believers may be, they have no right to impose them on the general public or on university science departments.

          • Michael says

            Spot on. Transgender activists are the equivalent of Islamic jihadists, trying to bully the rest of us into accepting that feelings or faith matter more than facts. They don’t and we should not pretend, for reasons of political correctness or any other consideration, that they do.

      • Mills says

        Is this *the* Cathy Young? If so just want to say I’m proud of that stand you’ve taken for freedom of thought and due process. You know the basis for why I became a liberal in the first place 20 year ago.

        • The issue here is not Julia Serano publishing in a non-peer reviewed outlet (Medium) and contributing to the debate. Most in academia would normally dismiss sources that are not peer-reviewed as worthless in any case. The issue is a University of some reputation not supporting an academic who has published in a peer-reviewed outlet because some activists dislike the hypotheses and conclusions of the paper.

        • Andrew Mcguiness says

          “It seems like you guys object to Serano being part of the debate.” – But this article in Quillette is objecting to Brown U. removing a promotional link to Littman’s article, ie. it is objecting to Littman being, if not exactly silenced, then quietened.

          Serano’s position is that the *only* way to know if someone is trans is if they tell you they are: their argument isn’t just that Littman’s methodology or conclusions are unsound but that there can be no methodology that leads to the valid conclusion that some trans-identifying people do not experience gender dysphoria. This may in fact, be the case; but if it is the case, it is because the issue of whether someone is actually trans (that they experience gender dysphoria) is undecidable – in other words, there can also be no methodology that leads to the valid conclusion that any trans-identifying person experiences gender dysphoria.

          Overall, it seems very unlikely, that *no* young person who self-identifies as trans is actually not trans but rather just a young person who thinks that the adolescent confusion they feel is gender dysphoria (in the sense which means that they are innately of a gender different from their sex). Littman, D’Angelo and Flier are suggesting that this may be the case for some kids and that it is worth investigating.

        • ‘Scientific debate’ doesn’t mean an original peer-reviewed study being buried while a knee-jerk response to that study is left standing on the electronic equivalent of a tabloid.

        • Where did anyone say Serano should be silenced? Nowhere. At issue is the effort to silence research and critical inquiry such as that done by Lisa Littman.

    • It’s not a mischaracterization at all. The attacks on Dr Littman’s work by “trans” activists are disproportionate and vicious. More than a critique, they are an attempt to destroy her. They are motivated by ideology but also by shame and narcissistic rage. See paper by Anne Lawrence (2008), “Shame and Narcissistic Rage in Autogynephilic Transsexualism.” This is far from the first time “trans” activists have flipped their wigs when faced with research that somehow “invalidates” them.

    • Peter Kriens says

      Can you provide a link to that analysis by Serano? I searched in the comments and on Google but could not find anything?

    • It’s hardly a mischaracterisation. The criticisms Serano et.al have offered so far have been dripping with ideological indignation. And what substance there is, regarding methodology, is not appropriate criticism of early process research like Littman’s’. Attempts to gate keep the literature and enact Rapid Onset Concept Erasure are not consistent with the principles of scientific investigation, and the trans-activists who do it are starting to get push-back. Which is a good thing.

    • Serano is a trans woman and a biologist, yes, but she has done zero research of any sort on the phenomena being described in Littman’s paper, which has arisen in the last ~5 years in a community that Serano has no experience of or direct interaction with. She is not an educator, not a clinician, not a parent of an adolescent. She has literally NO IDEA what is happening in adolescent peer groups. Littman’s research is not about whether transgenderism is real or even whether kids can know if they are trans, it is about trans identity “showing up” in an entirely new demographic (and one that is famous for its susceptibility to social contagion).

  3. Daniel says

    Brown was worried that the study would invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.
    Does Brown not see that’s exactly what they accomplished by pulling the study? Who thinks that the transgender perspective is more valid now?

  4. ccscientist says

    It may in fact be the case that transgenders are mentally ill. Just because it is their “perspective” that they are the wrong gender does not make it true. The paranoid believe wholeheartedly that there are conspiracies against them–are we to humor them and “believe their story”?
    It is also the case that some transgender cases are pre-puberty and certainly pre-age 18. Are we to hormonally and physically permanently alter people who have never even had a romantic relationship or sex? Who often have multiple other psychiatric issues?
    A study such as this is thus very important and should not be shut down.
    It is important to note that many topics are taboo. A researcher in Australia trying to show that the Great Barrier Reef is not dead has been threatened. Scientists working on climate change and getting the “wrong” answers have been fired. Politics poisons every academic topic and needs to be kept at arms length.

    • Angela Mills says

      There’s a major difference in a grown adult looking back honestly on their life and deciding they want to live as the opposite gender. I have no qualms with that. What this study and a recent cover article for The Altantic get to is that there’s basically a group of low self esteem adolescents who have convinced themselves they’re trans to fit in with this Tumblr friends.

      Kids who say they are trans deserve love from their parents but they also deserve honest and thorough psychological evaluations instead of just blindly supporting hormone and beyond transition. The statistics on juvenile gender dysphoria show thst young people are massively more likely to just be going through a phase than say a fully grown man like Bruce Jenner who spent years dipping his toes in living like a woman.

      • Farris says

        a young girl suffers from bulimia or anorexia and despite being emaciated looks in the mirror and sees herself as over weight. It is said she has body image issues.
        Another young. girl looks in the mirror and sees herself as male. Anyone considering a diagnosis or pondering a reason is transphobic.

      • What concerns me are three things

        1) The risk that this is (in younger people) is the result of the same type of feeling that results in a bad tattoo.

        2) The current social obsession with victmized groups can lead vulnerable (perhaps lonely) young people into creating their own victimhood, when social support is a far more effective aid.

        3) I have a creepy suspicion that SOME of the ‘supportive’ parents are in reality virtue signaling. Almost a parallel to Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

        Children are developing, experiencing emotional changes, learning their bodies, sometimes (as part of growing up) being unhappy with who they are. They need adult guidance and support, not indulgence into every (possibly very foolish) whim they may experience.

    • Peter Kriens says

      But the subject of the study is irrelevant, isn’t it? I’ve not yet understood the are well enough to haven opinion in this area that requires dreadful choices either way?

      This story is about return to taboos and dogma’s that threaten the engine that gave us our welfare. Twitter is the new inquisition and too many institutions bow to it.

      • Liberty and equal protection suggest people can make choices we like or don’t like as they relate to themselves and don’t reduce your liberty and protection under the law.
        What’s weird, though, is the tyranny that suggests we cannot show bias towards anybody who differs, whereas bias is normal and correct and how the human brain works. You are free to dress and think and act as you like (so long as not harming others), but I must be free to accept, reject or shrug indifferently.
        We need studies, and we need analysis of those studies. But sadly most of this gets into the media and taken up by non-scientists who do no analysis and pretend it’s science.

  5. Ann Lee says

    Thank you for this defense of academic freedom and scientific inquiry against the twenty-first century Lysenkoists.

    (Quick typo alert: “it’s” in the final sentence should be “it’s.”)

  6. She asked three websites that are known to be very much against transgender people: https://4thwavenow.com/, https://www.transgendertrend.com/, and https://youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org/. Even if she didn’t conduct fabrication she only used a very narrow amount of data from narrow minded people so it might as well be just that. I understand it can be time consuming to get data from larger groups but as this was just an anonymous online survey she could have posted it on reddit and tumblr as well which she claimed to pressure trans people into transitioning. I would very much be be interested in it as it is true that about 9/10 of younger the gender identity clinic patients are afab.

    I wouldn’t trust someone taking KKK’s opinion on black people as a fact nor should anyone trust hers.

    • Angela Mills says

      She freely admits the study is just a very early starting point into research on this. Those are the sites were someone without massive resources at their disposal could question parents of this new class of trans identifying young girls. Her study is a launching point where more research should follow. That’s how science works. Ideally this initial study should get her founding to do more I depth research.

      • Angela Mills says

        Sorryfor the typos this comment system works terribly on my old tablet

      • Why did she not post it on reddit or maybe a local lgbt organization it wouldn’t take any more resources? It should be obvious she was trying to push her views on transgender people to other people.

        • Peter Kriens says

          You do have the right to criticize methodology but as long as she is honest what she measured then you do not get to criticize the results in a scientific setting.
          What if she had found results in agreement with your prejudice, would you have objected as well?

          Do the hard work, do a counter study, but stop bringing on the inquisition.

        • Perhaps this isn’t about trans folks as much as we think. Social contagion of any ideology, especially radical ones (which includes taking health altering hormones & cutting into ones body) is a bigger concern to many. If one can be radicalized by say ISIS or other extremes, what else can happen to the mind online. It’s worth exploring.

        • Surge says

          You question motives, not the science. Everybody does that, and that’s why they’re not scientists. Prove your point, don’t just make insinuations. The author put her “study” out there for all to see and criticise, so why don’t you?

        • Dave S says

          rinn – surely you jest! Reddit is not a scholarly forum but any stretch. Are you seriously suggesting that scholars would preempt criticism by diving into social media sites, such as reddit, to give its self-appointed experts and wind-bags a heads up prior to formally publishing their research? I can only imagine the ill-informed reaction and the potential ethical and research problems that could create. Just as bad, is the implication in your statement that not giving such a heads-up is evidence of ill-intent. I hope I have misread your proposal.

    • So if you don’t like something, it’s not to be studied? I suspect we already know the KKK’s opinion of black people, but to pretend that the KKK doesn’t exist, that only the KKK but nobody else has racist views, or that studies that suggest whether the KKK has real influence or not on others (say converting a non-racist into a racist, or perhaps even the other way around because the KKK has such a bad reputation among most).
      If the study is flawed, you report against it with contrary evidence, not suppression or bans.

    • Cerastes says

      Rinn – first, none of the sites are “against transgender people”, as the results the paper you clearly never read show: 88%+ of responding parents support gay marriage and trans people, and the vast majority conformed to their childrens’ wishes per pronouns, clothing, and names. Find me a physical location other than SF where those ratios hold true for the general population.

      Second, the researcher is deliberately looking for people with experience with the putative phenomenon. Why on earth wouldn’t they start with specific groups for exactly that type of people?

      To rephrase your in a content-neutral way: “We were interested in the experiences of people who own Buick cars built in 1965 Rather than actually go to a car show and bias our sample, we conducted a 100,000 person survey of random individuals. Finding no individuals in the target study group, we report nothing and just wasted valuable grant money.”

      Or: “We were interested in the thermal physiology of Emperor Penguins. To avoid biasing our results, we did not fly to Antarctica, but instead conducted the study on local birds in the researcher’s home state of Arizona. We have no results to report because we could not find any wild penguins in Arizona.”

    • Jennifer G says

      rinn –
      “… three websites that are known to be very much against transgender people…..”
      First of all, sloppy language – against the way some professionals are addressing the phenomenon doesn’t mean against the troubled “trans” children themselves.
      Secondly, – maybe the reason they’re “against ” anything is not narrow-mindedness, but the fact that they’ve looked into it and reached a considered conclusion that it’s wrong. Did you think of that?

      I have zero connection to any of those websites, btw

  7. Born Skeptical says

    Dr. Flier, thank you so much for speaking out against Brown University’s unjust treatment of Dr. Littman and her work. I especially appreciate your masterful dissection of Dean Marcus’ statement. The absence of any support in her statement for her faculty member does indeed make her rhetoric about academic freedom ring hollow. I hope many more individuals will follow your example and express their support for Dr. Littman by signing this petition (https://bit.ly/2PT8fNx) and leaving their comments.

  8. Curt Morgan says

    Outraged resentment is our new religion, demanding science bend a knee to its Commandments. With no latter-day Galileo’s in opposition, it’s reign becomes more and more unhinged.

  9. Debbie says

    I’m trans myself and deeply concerned with the massive wave of so called trans trenders. Aka young people usually involved in places like Tumblr who decide they’re trams just to fit in or score brownie points in the community. This is generally subconscious so I’m not calling them outright liars, but it’s clear for so many of them this is just a passing phase.

    • Georgopolis says

      Thank you for your input Debbie. I only know one trans individual personally and she has unfortunately taken the other side of the issue. It’s important that you participate in the discussion in your own community, because I think the trans activist community has been hijacked by bad actors in the way Eric Weinstein has described race movements in the US.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful post. I have worked with several trans-gendered (I hope I am using that term correctly) people over the past decades. In those instances I know they went through a lot of hoops. I think the youngest was over 30. Having some exposure to younger people I can see what you point out being a problem. My uninformed opinion is I assume it is a major change and wouldn’t one want to be careful that their decision to start taking hormones and eventually (possibly) surgery should be carefully considered? I am not trying to tell anyone they should not do it or put up extra barriers. I am not in their head/body and cannot tell what they are feeling.

  10. William says

    The discussion here resembles the discussion surrounding “climate change” whatever that is. With climate change, the science has been supposedly settled and no further research or discussion is allowed.

    Based on the discussion here, academics aren’t allowed to question any subject that is “decided” in social media, gender dysphoria included. We just can’t have the feelings of some questioned.

  11. augustine says

    Superbly written. Thank you.

    This story is reminiscent of another incident in an institution where a visitor, a person of color, complained they were treated differently than contemporaneous white visitors. Staff seemed to have greater regard for the white visitors. This person was indignant and wrote a blog piece about the experience. Reaction? The institution immediately prostrated itself before the gods of inclusion and diversity and hired consultants to develop an in-depth program to address these issues. Without a trace of reasoning, explicit premise or offering to say what problem needs to be fixed, or how progress could be measured.

    Like Dr. Flier’s example, it is another of many stories of the tyranny of modern liberalism where highly effective techniques of shutting down any criticism or inquiry *in advance* is practiced. The current social media culture accepts this ill-gotten success with great enthusiasm.

  12. donald j. tingle says

    A cautionary tale? Why not call it what it is, a scandal?

    Perhaps the unwillingness of people to call a scandal a scandal is the biggest scandal of all.

  13. ga gamba says

    Look at that barmy twitter exchange provided. Littman used the inoffensive and politically correct “sex observed at birth” rather than birth sex or born male/female; nonetheless, @sadisthaley declared it a transphobic dogwhistle. PLOS One’s reply should have never been sent. In matters of cuckoo assertions, the non-reply is not just the best reply, it’s the only reply.

    One can only assume that the response was in large measure due to the intense lobbying the journal received, and the threat—whether stated or unstated—that more social-media backlash would rain down upon PLOS One if action were not taken.

    I suppose it’s displeasing to be on the receiving end of a twitter storm, but they flash out quickly, often ceasing in fewer than 72 hours when something new and shiny captures their interest. Further, Brown University isn’t a vulnerable business such as a baker of cakes or server of cornflakes. It’s more safely isolated from market forces; roughly eight per cent of the 30,000+ undergrad applications are accepted, so the bottom line can withstand the loss of a few dozen applicants and the displeasure of a larger community, some of whom may even be Brown alums.

    I then went to the Twitter exchange in which the tweet by @sadisthaley that’s featured in this article appears. It’s 88 comments as of 10:50 am (GMT +8) 1 Sep ’18 . A few more than half are critical of the study, and the majority of these comments are from three people. The most liked tweets are those who speak in support of the Littman, the study, and academic freedom. Does this qualify as “intense lobbying”? I’d say the most caustic tweets were those directed at @sadisthaley calling her a pornographer. PLOS One gets hit a few times for bending the knee. Of the handful of loopy tweets the loopiest is by a trans advocate who stated the study isn’t scientifically valid because it failed to include a trans researcher. Personally, I think all of this fails to meet the definition of “intense lobbying”, but perhaps I’m more resilient than most. Undeniably PLOS One caved. Why is did so is up for speculation.

    Next, I read Julia Serano’s article on Medium. Much of her objection is where the data was gathered, three websites she claims are anti-trans. I found www(dot)youthtranscriticalprofessionals(dot)org is a protected blog that requires one to request access, and I couldn’t be bothered.

    The second I visited is www(dot)4thwavenow(dot)com. The founder writes, in part: I created this site because mine is a viewpoint that is seldom publicly heard: that of a left-leaning parent who is critical of the dominant paradigm regarding transgender politics and treatment. My primary concern is children, teens, and people in their early 20s, particularly girls who are contemplating medical transition. While I may disagree with their views, I do understand that consenting adults have the right to do what they choose with their own bodies and minds. . . . Most of the voices in the media and in medicine are in opposition to my views. I’m presenting an alternative.

    Presently this website is sponsoring a petition in support of Dr Littman and asking people to contact Brown University. Whether this will be “intense lobbying” too remains to be seen.

    The third is www(dot)transgendertrend(dot)com, which writes, in part: We are a group of parents based in the UK, who are concerned about the current trend to diagnose ‘gender non-conforming’ children as transgender. We reject current conservative, reactionary, religious-fundamentalist views about sexuality and we have no political affiliation. We are also concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms.

    We come from diverse backgrounds, some with expertise in child development and psychology, some who were themselves extreme gender non-conforming children and adolescents, some whose own children have self-diagnosed as ‘trans’ and some who know supportive trans adults who are also questioning recent theories of ‘transgenderism.’

    Throughout the media, in cases of ‘trans kids,’ those parents who uncritically accept the trans ideology are the ones who are deemed ‘brave’ and ‘supportive,’ leading to huge pressure on parents to accept the diagnosis of transgender. When worried parents seek information online they inevitably come across sites that reinforce (and even glamourise) the notion of the transgender child.

    So, at least two of the three websites have reservations, and may even oppose, sex transitioning by children, which is something I too have strong reservations about. Admitting my bias, I nevertheless think it was a mistake by Dr Littman to limit promoting her survey only to people who belong to these communities. Littman writes in her paper: Recruitment information with a link to the survey was placed on three websites where parents and professionals had been observed to describe rapid onset of gender dysphoria (4thwavenow, transgender trend, and youthtranscriticalprofessionals). Website moderators and potential participants were encouraged to share the recruitment information and link to the survey with any individuals or communities that they thought might include eligible participants to expand the reach of the project through snowball sampling techniques.

    We have to face facts: it’s not a representative sample of all trans people and their parents. I think this unacceptably skews the result. Why Littman did so boggles my mind. She wrong footed if not self sabotaged her research.

    Serano writes: The fact that Littman didn’t even bother to post a link to the survey on any of the many other online groups for parents of trans kids (i.e., ones that do not push an ROGD agenda, and who thus might have very different assessments of their adolescent trans children) strongly suggests that she purposefully structured her study to confirm the former parents’ assumptions, rather than objectively assess the state of their children.

    This is a legitimate complaint about the methodology, imo.

    It’s easy to side against trans people based on prior batty behaviour and online comments; this often undermines their own advocacy. Further, when the former dean of Harvard Medical School opines on the subject, it’s easy to take the safe course of action by accepting his words in whole and not dig into it. I’m glad I did dig though because I have a better understanding of the issue than I had by taking Dr Flier’s account of it solely.

    • Yes, and no. With a new medical phenomenon, the first thing that is required in the literature is a description of it. Like, say, the initial observations of the condition we came to know as AIDS. The early research came from specific areas of high incidence, which occurred in specific types of people. You weren’t going to make much of a contribution on AIDS by examining the population of the local soccer clubs. Gardening clubs maybe, but not soccer. So if you posted your survey in a place where there were very few gay men, you weren’t going to contribute much to the literature. A lot more articles about #ROGD need to be published, and they will cover other ground. And eventually, just like with AIDS, the medical field will come up with an effective antidote. IF, that is, the medical literature, in which the process of learning, examining, testing, and discussing occurs, lets the stuff be written that needs to be written.

      • ga gamba says

        A bit wide of the mark, I think. In your example gay footballers are excluded because you assume they don’t exist or are a very small population (of a small population). Earlier surveys would have had to be done to verify gay florists greater than gay footballers. And by focussing on florists this increases the risk the researchers were ignoring parts of the community and had succumbed to homophobic stereotypes. Moreover, the survey landscape of the early ’80s is very different from today’s because online surveys, even with their faults, didn’t exist then. Today it’s far easier to capture data and at lower cost. And let’s not ignore the ROGD survey questioned parents. How would the gay community, be they florists, footballers, or other hobby club members, feel if their parents were questioned instead of them about their own experiences? (Note: I understand there are children involved here, and this adds complexity and an ethical wrinkle for researchers to grapple with.)

        Reread this statement from www(dot)transgendertrend(dot)com:

        Throughout the media, in cases of ‘trans kids,’ those parents who uncritically accept the trans ideology are the ones who are deemed ‘brave’ and ‘supportive,’ leading to huge pressure on parents to accept the diagnosis of transgender. When worried parents seek information online they inevitably come across sites that reinforce (and even glamourise) the notion of the transgender child.

        So, we have a group of parents of trans people who are (mis)led to (mainstream) websites “that reinforce the notion of the transgender child,” where they are “pressure[d] … to accept the diagnosis of transgender.” Surely amongst them are exactly the type of people the survey wants to capture. Further, even amongst the population of parents who aren’t distressed by their children’s gender dysphoria and who are satisfied by mainstream notions are those whose experience meets the definition of ROGD. The survey failed to capture these results because Littman decided to exclude most anyone other than those who participate with the three heterodox websites.

        There are several ways for an online survey to filter out participants who don’t qualify. In an early question the participants could be asked to provide a timeline of their experience. Let’s say ROGD is defined to occur in fewer than 3 months, though we may be uncertain and want to also look at those experiences happened up to 12 months. Participants who claim a duration greater than a year, which is a filtering criteria for survey, are moved on the exit portion of the survey, thanked, and it concludes. This is called conditional branching, which allows the survey to skip respondents to different pages of the survey, and it’s a core concept in survey design.

        There may have been good reasons for Littman to avoid mainstream websites to recruit participants, yet when reading her paper I didn’t find an explanation for this.

    • Peter Kriens says

      @ga gamba Surprised. Couldn’t you dig deeper in any study? The study listed its sources. I think almost any study can be improved on close inspection but how is that relevant. As long as the study is honest it can be rebutted with better studies. That is the system that worked so well since the science revolution. You improved my insight in the study’s Topic (for which I’ve no firm opinion yet) but you did not enlighten the topic of this article as you do uniquely have done in other times: the return of the twinquisition.

      • ga gamba says

        Perhaps I botched it. I copy pasted from Dr Littman’s materials and methods statement, which I provided in my first comment. Now, if she also engaged with others outside of this community to get their particpation then I rightly deserve the correction. I appreciate the comment, but it would have been more helpful had you also included what I screwed up.

        Of her survey, Littman writes: There was logic embedded in the survey that disqualified surveys that answered “no” (or skipped the question) about whether the child had a sudden or rapid onset of gender dysphoria and 23 surveys were disqualified prior to completion (20 “no” answers and 3 skipped answers).

        This filtering criteria should have been sufficient to handle participants from outside the ROGD community and, had she publicised her study beyond the three ROGD sites mentioned, would have also helped shield Littman from the accusations she faces now.

        We have to face some discomfiting facts of this environment: it’s hyper sensitive and any appearance, even a hint, of bias gets whipped up when the results contravene cherished beliefs and challenge preferred narratives.

    • Martin28 says

      @ ga gamba I appreciate the careful analysis, but the methodological concerns do not invalidate Dr. Littman’s study nor unacceptably skew the results. The number of participants in the survey are significant relative to the overall number of transgender teens and the survey identified real problems that can’t legitimately be dismissed.

      Non-representative surveys can be useful. Suppose there was a completely non-representative survey of a million people in the general US population, and it found that 10,000 people suffer from a malady that was misdiagnosed and not properly treated by current best medical practice, resulting in the possible disfigurement of those people. I think you would agree that this would be big news and the non-reprentative nature of the findings would not be an issue, as long as they was not itself misrepresented.

      My understanding is that Dr. Littman is not saying this survey was random or representative and not extrapolating the findings on a percentage basis to all transgender teens. Transactivists are trying to invalidate and squelch the research to deny that any problem of teen pressure or socialization. Dr. Littman has shown that this problem exists, and is potentially significant.

    • X. Citoyen says

      You’re right in principle, but, as Martin28 points out, exploratory studies with small populations have to use different methods. I haven’t read the whole paper (and don’t plan to), but you can see different methods by googling “exploratory research methods.”

      This, of course, is not an argument for these methods or a defence of the author. It’s just some context worth considering.

      • ga gamba says

        @Martin and @X,

        Thanks for the comments. You bring forth valid points and I don’t disagree.

        I made my case earlier, so I won’t rehash it at length. Suffice it to say that even the FOGM community believe that confused parents are being (mis)directed to websites that push the dominant narrative preferred by many trans activists. Once in these communities they are (mis)led to believe certain things that may not sit right with them. My thinking is that this survey offered beyond the three FOGM websites would provide these parents alternative info, and may even capture data from those who have not bought into either narrative. We have to recognise we have two warring factions here. Yet, by keeping the survey ‘close hold’ Dr Littman handed her opponents a weapon which they are now pummeling her with.

        I’m going far out on a limb here, but I suspect Littman kept the survey representative to those who are in the FOGM community of those three websites out of concern outside opponents may poison the data by providing false reports. That said, there’s also a risk of others outsiders such as TERFs’ poisoning the survey in favour of FOGM. Let me make it clear: I have no knowledge she did this and it’s entirely my speculation. In this age of fake everything this may prove a challenge to those researching highly contentious and very emotive topics.

        • ga gamba says

          And the FOGM should have been ROGD. Apologies for the typo.

        • X. Citoyen says

          I think you’re right there, ga gamba. Littman has to make hay while the sun shines. Social pressure will make many parents revise their memories to fit the cultural script. “Remember when she was five and wanted to dress like a boy? Remember how she dressed as Spiderman that one Halloween?” These memories, which every parent has of every child, will be fleshed out and linked into a story ending with “We should’ve recognized the signs” and the data will be gone.

          This is shaping up to be one of those horrible, life-destroying medical and psychiatric tragedies like thalidomide and repressed memory syndrome.

        • B. Knight says

          Your casual, (perhaps uneducated?), use of the term TERF is shocking and profoundly disappointing.

  14. One thing in the terminology should be made clear: there is no transgender community. There is a transgender INDUSTRY. It’s a brand that a lot of kids are wearing these days.

    • ga gamba says

      Indisputably there are bona fide transexuals who are actually transitioning from one sex to another with the end state to be the sex they weren’t born. I wish them well on their journeys.

      But there’s another group; gendertrenders I recall they’re called, which is a form of role play. When identity politics is the name of the game, it’s little surprise people want to get in on the action. “I have my brave story of oppression to be celebrated too.”

        • ga gamba says

          Technically true. However, people who undergo sexual reassignment surgery meet my understanding of having transitioned. I have no objections calling a MtF transperson a woman and I’ll even use she/her pronouns for them, but I’m not going to use singular they and the other uncommon pronouns. They may have their legal documents changed.

          It’s the advent of the gendertrenders who seemly exist in some fluidy in-between state, and prefer remain so, that’s upended the game board with ever more bizarre demands such as not recording a baby’s sex at birth, calling a vagina a front hole, and the medical community recognise self-diagnosis.

          • They seek surgery to “appear” the opposite genders and request they be addressed as such. Ok. (Jenner)

            They “appear” the opposite pigmentation (race) and request they be addressed as such. Not ok? (Dolezal)

            They simply dress and outfit as the opposite gender, that’s ok (Rupaul).

            They sing the same song lyrics or eat the same food, that’s not ok because they are cultural appropriating.

            I suspect we’re going to see more and more controversy about researchers studying norms. The “not valid, no transgender researcher” is the most troubling though since that same vector of attack has crippled literature. You can’t even write a story anymore — you know, for enjoyment by others — without *ist or *phobe labels unless the author hits all the right checkboxes.

  15. Martin28 says

    Universities should be a safe place for thought, not a safe place from thought.

  16. Moishe Pipik says

    There are other related issues that will never receive proper academic study. For example, the tendency of people without any sexual capital (for example, an obese subject), to identify as “genderfluid” or “queer” because they get instant acceptance in a community, and they shift the reason for their lack of sexual capital from themselves to society.

    As a gay man, I am horrified to what’s happening to the “gay community” and can no longer participate in gay political activities because they’ve moved far beyond establishing the rights of same-sex couple to live without government interference and into telling other people how to think.

  17. The whole idea of same-sex attraction becomes nonsense when gender is allowed to replace sex. Until very recently homosexuality was attraction to the same sex. The clue’s in the name. Now it is being redefined as attraction to the same gender.

    A lesbian who isn’t attracted to the penis of a male-bodied ‘lesbian’ is a ‘transphobe’. Logically a male homosexual who isn’t into transman vaginas is equally ‘transphobic’ – though for some reason they aren’t being called out for it half as much. And most straight people seem to get by without having to date members of the same sex who happen to identify as the opposite sex.

    It’s mainly lesbians and – occasionally – gay men being told they really have to give genitals they don’t fancy a chance. So how is this different from those who have always said gay people should just give heterosexuality a chance? Isn’t it just conversion therapy?

  18. How the American left continues to denigrate the right as “anti-science,” when virtually all vocal, powerful, and effective opposition to lines of scientific inquiry is from the left – not the right – is something I simply can’t understand.

    The examples of lines of inquiry opposed and shut down by the left are plentiful.

    Honest question – what lines of scientific inquiry are opposed by the right in an even similar manner?

  19. flyfishingnow says

    This is one of the best pieces (thanks Dr. Flier!) Quillette has run recently- and the comments mostly excellent as well.
    I admire Ga Gamba’s careful and complete analysis. The PLOS-1 response is perplexing. The article by Littman clearly has limitations in terms of sampling (which would indicate the extent of the phenomenon), and some of Serano’s methodologic criticisms may be both valid and appropriate.
    But none of that is really Dr. Flier’s point. An article published after scholarly peer review is subsequently impugned by the publisher and the author’s institution because of a handful of social media critics who in fact are not scholars in this field.
    This seems to be yet another example of university administrators’ and journal editors’ confusion about their CORE mission and function. Diversity is good, but the search for and dissemination of truth is the fundamental principle that should drive the academy and scientific publication.

    • augustine says

      Unless that search leads to (increased) diversity, it cannot be truth in the eyes of the current culture. The ideological objective, not inquiry for its own sake, is what matters on the Left these days.

      • flyfishingnow says

        There is a certain kind of Social Justice Warrior for whom ideology “trumps” (pardon the pun) truth. But to say that all “Leftists” think that way is just tribalism. Neither the Left nor the Right are monolithic; both sides have many flavors. And one can be a “Leftist” or a “Rightist” and still argue for academic freedom, the First Amendment, etc.

        • augustine says

          Where are Leftists arguing loud and proud for academic freedom and free speech, regardless of whether the message skews right or left? I’m not seeing it. And “all” of one group do not have to think a certain way for them to show dangerous tendencies. A very small minority can lead a much larger contingent of passive go-alongs and get-alongs. History shows this is a common pattern that leads to destruction.

          I don’t see a spirit of intellectual curiosity on the Left. Postmdernism, intersectionality, etc., seem to me to be in pursuit of predetermined goals held in mind for society, to fix what is wrong with people in their view. They, meaning many (not all), have decided what is valid already and are fighting hard against ideas, and people, they see as being not valid. Trump’s election has been like adrenaline for them.

          • C.E. Amesley says

            This “member” of the left is committed to the ideals of the academy, rapidly disappearing. In fact, we generally do not consider the postmodernists as representative of the “left,” because its theory, and the chaining out of it, is not material; there’s a reason it flourishes best in English departments, because it is more performance than theory (and to some extent, practitioners would acknowledge that themselves). Moreover, it puts its trust in ideas to change the world, thus perpetuating the classic Whig Liberal construction of how social change comes about. (It’s also worth noting that many of the comments I’ve seen be trans bloggers are highly sympathetic to Republicanism; I don’t know the precise division, but I’m certain that, for example, the new “anti-fascist” activism from which much transgender activism springs cannot be called liberalism at all. My discipline is rhetorical studies, so I’ve been paying attention to this.)

            I do agree with you about what is happening, though. I have watched this movement, “intersectional” feminism (most of whom seems to misunderstand the term) and related movements adopt a stance that anyone who disagrees with the party line must be “de-platformed” — ie silenced in the public realm — and that is what’s happening here; even some academics think their allegiance to their own identity is higher than truth or diversity of approach. A concerted attack is made on anyone who does not follow the party line.

            I’ve heard speakers who were de-tenured from such a movement, and only after 20 or 30 years were vindicated. It’s a history of a reign of terror in America I’ve seen parallels of in the last few years. When I was a child, it was called McCarthyism.

  20. How do these two statements jibe?
    “But the initial choice of topic and method must remain within the sole discretion of the researching academic.”
    and
    “Research involving humans, in particular, typically is governed by rigorous ethical and operational standards. Nearly all such research requires approval by institutional review boards before being initiated. These boards are charged with protecting the rights of subjects, and determining whether the overall approach has merit and promise.”

    • X. Citoyen says

      David,

      This isn’t as sinister as it sounds. Ethical reviews came in because early researchers conducted some questionable studies. A good example is research with children. Someone gets the bright idea that it would be interesting to observe children’s reactions to the news that their parents died, so they propose setting up such an experiment. Needless to say, this is not the sort of experiment that should ever be allowed. Based on my experience with such things, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if a review board somewhere hasn’t rejected just such a proposal. I’ve heard of some very callous proposals involving people with PTSD that were blocked by review boards. There are other things too. If a survey or focus group is supposed to be anonymous, you have to make sure people can’t be indirectly identified–e.g., by unique demographic characteristics.

      Anyway, these boards weren’t created to prevent the “wrong kind of research,” but they could be used for that purpose if they were taken over by activists.

      • Lorne Carmichael says

        Which brings us to the immediate question: “Would any of the current treatments for gender dysphoria, if proposed as part of a formal clinical trial, make it through an ethics review panel?”

        The answer is probably yes, but the trial would have thorough and ongoing follow-up of results, defined standards for success, etc.

        Not much of that going on here.

  21. Pingback: Former Dean of Harvard Medical School Criticizes Brown University’s Actions Regarding Gender Dysphoria Study – Warren Throckmorton

  22. David Marshall says

    Weirdness develops feedback loops and grows on itself. A culture takes a run down a rabbit path and winds up swinging ten feet up a tree with a snare around its foot. Happened down the coast a few hundred years, when grown men accepted “spectral evidence’ from impressionable young girls who heard stories about witches. The girls are still with us, only now they think they’ve been magically bewitched and transformed from boys. And we don’t do hanging or burning anymore, we just do hi-tech lynchings.

  23. Ocean Creature says

    How many times are these “high-tech lynchings” going to happen before we, as a free society, name and utterly reject what is going on here? This is called TOTALITARIANISM – when those who have decided what is correct try to intrude upon and groom the very thoughts in our heads. It is an attempt at TOTAL CONTROL and uses every sorry technique that we saw from Stalinist Russia and Maoist China – express shock and disgust that anyone could still even have these thoughts in their heads and then exact groveling apologies from those accused through such due process as rumor, invective, hyperbole, and innuendo. THIS IS WHAT MUST BE RESISTED.

    And Jordan Peterson was right – he said that after him, they would be coming for the biologists…

    RESIST – and hard

  24. Pingback: ACTION: Demand Brown University Stop Repressing Academic Research and Publication – Gender Critical Action Center

  25. Dennis says

    Nice try, Doc, but the war is over. Academic research has lost out to pure ideology. Too many faculty members kept quiet as this cancer grew, and now nearly every campus is being consumed by the PC monsters they created, tolerated and enabled.

  26. JimInNashville says

    Great article, Dr. Flier.

    The actions of Brown’s Dean Marcus represent a dangerous new step in the evolution of the campus takeover by ideologically driven pseudo-scientists and violent student activists.

    Over the past decade, we’ve seen numerous examples of what I call “The Mealy-Mouthed Freedom of Speech Disclaimer,” which goes like this. Professor X says something that offends the diversity/queer/LBGT/left community. Immediately a small but loud group of (around 10-50) activists demands a retraction and threatens (or initiates) violence. Then a University dean/chancellor/president issues a statement like this.

    “Although we stress that in no way does Dr. X’s view on this matter speak for the university as a whole, we defend Dr. X’s right to hold such a view.”

    The Mealy-Mouthed Freedom of Speech Disclaimer was an act of singular cowardice, because, while allowing the Dean/chancellor/president to claim they defended freedom of speech, it also gave a loud dog-whistle to the left, signalling to Dr. X that his/her views were repugnant and out of line with “the university as a whole.” It is easy to terrorize young assistant professors with such a signal. The entire clause about “the university as a whole” is superfluous, because “the university as a whole” doesn’t determine scientific truth. Moreover, hell would freeze over before the Dean/chancellor/president would take any disciplinary action against students who attempted to sanction or shout down Dr. X. They’ve learned that the university actually supports them and that their violence and disruption are welcome and effective.

    Dean Marcus’s actions are far worse than a Mealy-Mouthed Disclaimer. She now shows that Brown university will respond, immediately and punitively, against a legitimate faculty member with legitimate research so long as some unqualified activist group is offended! Upset some activist group and we, Brown, will take immediate action to sanction you and endanger your career.

    Marcus’s moral panic would be pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous. The only way she can undo the disgrace she has brought on Brown University would be to (a) request that Brown immediately grant tenure to Prof. Littman, and (b) tender her resignation as Dean. Brown needs a dean who truly respects and defends academic freedom. Marcus clearly isn’t that person.

  27. Gilded says

    No explanation as to why biasing the sampled parent group by only selecting parents from three anti-trans and anti-medical science websites constitutes acceptable publication quality research. Perhaps journals shouldn’t accept fraudulent methodologies just because you like the conclusion?

    • JimInNashville says

      Gilded : Please describe your methodology for classifying websites as “anti-trans” and also
      describe your methodology for classifying websites as “anti-medical science.”

  28. barbaro70 says

    The most basic consideration needed to analyze anything related to “gender dysphoria,” a fancy but inaccurate reference, is, very simply, that these subjects are pathetic people who have been encouraged to think, first by John Dewey, then by the suckers who swallowed the John Dewey nonsense whole, that it is legitimate to think that they can prefer to be of the other sex, regardless of what is between their legs, and don’t bother to throw at us the subleties, AND RARITIES, of the microchemistry, DNA and other mysterious, specious AND RARE stuff at best.

    Yes, these fragile John Dewey creatures, think that it is jus’ fine to prefer to be of the sex not represented by the sex organs in their bodies. Notice that there has been no reference to “gender organs.”

    YES, THIS IS SHOUTING: IT IS ONLY WHEN THE PRECISE, PERSONAL MENTAL ACTIVITY OF THE SUBJECTS IS IDENTIFIED CORRECTLY, WITHOUT FANCY AND INACCURATE FLOURISHES, THAT THERE CAN BE ANY PROGRESS IN GETTING THESE PATHETIC PEOPLE BACK TO REALITY, WHEN THERE CAN BE REAL SOLUTIONS TO THE JOHN DEWEY-CREATED NON PROBLEM, AND DECENT PEOPLE SUCH AS LITTMAN IS CAN BE PROTECTED FROM PERSECUTION.

    The John Dewey suckers and society as a whole will pay for this stupidity, but not much, because Americans are waking up to the purpose of this stupidity, AND THEY ARE REJECTING IT.

    Littman will prevail.

  29. One of the reasons scientific knowledge has advanced so far in the past century plus is due to the fact that such knowledge is viewed as value neutral. We discover what we can. The next step, what society will do with such knowledge, is legitimately public and the proper course for social influence. Discovering the power of the atom didn’t necessitate the use of weapons or energy. Those decisions were in the political realm. Gene studies that led to identifying the causes of disorders lie Down’s Syndrome needed to be understood. How those sufferers are handled falls into the realm of social policy and legislation. In this case we need to know the impact of social media and mental health on the unexpected spike in gender dysphoria. Then we as a society can addresss what happens next, but to pretend this isn’t true…to jump up and down with fingers in ears is not only unscientific, it sets a dangerous precedent for all future research. Every area of scientific discovery has someone, offer small but with social media can be amplified, who won’t like the study of their pet area. Brown’s failure to support its researcher only emboldens the anti-scientific element in all people, regardless of political persuasion or intellect.

    The research was well done, didn’t make conclusions or policy prescriptions, and proposed a hypothesis that many who work in these areas had long thought possible. We need to further study the issue. To fail to do so in the name of protecting some people from some nebulous “harm” may in the end cause actual harm to people who do not in fact suffer from actual gender dysphoria. The duty is to truth and then to step out of the way and let social instituions take the next step.

  30. Pingback: Исследование трансгендерных подростков… упс. Не подростков, а их родителей, и с рядом проблем. – Alexa Project

  31. puddleg58 says

    In one of the comments above, it was predicted that “And eventually, just like with AIDS, the medical field will come up with an effective antidote”.

    This will not occur, however, if dysphoria is seen as a good, to be protected, which seems to be the case here. Dysphoria of any sort is not a good, of course, by definition, but if experiencing it or trying to makes someone more “woke” in the eyes of his or her peers it may well seem to be one. That the solution advocated to the problem is psychiatric, pharmacological, and surgical intervention, with measurable risks not to mention costs and potentials for abuse, should make prevention where possible a priority, and this means understanding causes.

    A further potential cause, beyond psychological contagion or manipulation, in need of investigation is the increased consumption of soy isoflavones (phytoestrogens) especially by young girls. Female reproductive health and sexually dimorphic behaviours are most strongly affected by these endocrine disruptors, and online vegan activism is presented as “intersectional” and “woke” and even “feminist” so likely overlaps with the influences Littman studied.
    At the very least there is evidence that soy isoflavones create a false signal in pediatric gender studies, but this study is also proof of a paucity of studies in an area that has concerned soy experts for decades.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262006/
    As soy intake is higher in later childhood and especially adolescence today, and females are seeing the largest increase in reported dysphoria (10.1136/archdischild-2018-314992) this link needs much more study.
    But who will dare to investigate, if veganism will save the planet and changing gender will save our souls?

  32. Mark Landsbaum says

    This is yet another example of agenda-driven “science” that prohibits even considering alternatives to the politically correct maxims, enforced by thought police. Just as the exaggerated “climate science” alarmism demonizes any dissenting view or theory, the sexually confused and perverted have bullied even pure researchers into compliance with their talking points. It’s nothing new in science, of course, but one would expect a modicum of integrity from an elite university and its dean. The best thing the academic/research community could do would be to harshly respond to all bullying tactics such as this. Otherwise, y’all aint seen nothin’ yet.

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  34. Richard Wark says

    The operative point here is that the objections did not originate with dissatisfaction concerning her research her research methods but with a dislike of her results. This sort of approach is really an attack on the entire scientific method. Universities must really start to show some courage or they will be destroyed by a political system which no longer values freedom of thought. It is sad that the left has joined the right in seeing science as simply a source of propaganda.

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  40. Vince says

    I’m no academic but… I’m feeling a sense of unease about where our future is going. With regard to the term ‘assigned at birth’ being forced language, the first issue is that when did this self-adopted term that justifies transsexual theory become FORCED language which means it removes the scientific truth, and replaces it with an emotional term that is quite blatantly false. Sex is an expression of DNA for the purpose of replication of the species. It is not a ‘social construct that people assign at birth’ and is identified well before birth with ultrasound in the womb, but exists from conception. I’m concerned about how the academic was initially targeted and called out for using the correct term as a ‘dog whistle’ to being transphobic even aside from the other arguments. In academia, surely correct terminology and science is expected? Speaking of DNA, how will the future of forensic DNA fit into a world where biological sex is not recognised, and people can change their gender, have no gender on their birth certificate and biology is not recognised.

  41. Cassandra says

    Meanwhile, in about three quarters of the human world population, people born with penises are denying people born with vaginas the basic rights of self determination, education, mate selection and participation in religious and social activity

    I feel that those who have decided that they identify strongly as women, despite the physical inconvenience of their sexual charactistics at birth, might more usefully turn their campaigning spirt towards helping their oppressed sisters, than bullying cis women into silence on gender issues.

  42. Michael says

    “Increasingly, research on politically charged topics is subject to indiscriminate attack on social media, which in turn can pressure school administrators to subvert established norms regarding the protection of free academic inquiry. What’s needed is a campaign to mobilize the academic community to protect our ability to conduct and communicate such research, whether or not the methods and conclusions provoke controversy or even outrage”.

    Game, set and match.

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  44. I read about the study in the Daily Mail, which manages to pick up all sorts of curiosities from the scientific literature. I immediately thought of the mass hysteria that resulted in the Salem Witch Trials. As the mother of two women who were once teenagers, the possibility that ROGD could at least sometimes be teen mass hysteria seemed very plausible and worthy of more research – period.

    Note that Brown scores highest on identitarianism in the Heterodox Academy’s ratings.

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  46. Дми́трий Шепи́лов, Oтдел Aгитации и Пропаганды says

    Littman’s failure to adhere to Party ideology is fatal to her thesis. Her paper is greatly flawed as a result of her inability to acknowledge a Feminist Trans-friendly science

    “The classics of Marxism, while fully appreciating the significance of the Darwinian theory, pointed out the errors of which Darwin was guilty. Darwin’s theory, though unquestionably materialist in its main features, is not free from some serious errors.”

    Trofim Lysenko

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  48. Joey Brite says

    Thank you so much for this very thorough and reasoned response to one if the most dangerous lock-step movements we’ve seen in a minute. There is no such thing as a ‘feminist trans-friendly science’. That would be equivalent to saying that there is an alternative way to see the shape of the earth. Or, that there is validity in the the Rachel Dolezal world view of ‘transracialism’ and to contradict that with actual science is ‘anti…something’. Who knows? These sheeple are coming up with new terminology and attacks every day it seems and simply trying to scream the loudest until their big pharma donors dry up. It’s not rocket science to learn the r re axons Briwn made this outrageously politically stupid move. They are on the wrong side if history and will pay dearly for demonstrating such bigotry and bias.

  49. Jennifer G says

    Does anyone – no, seriously – doubt that things like the transgender craze are highly contagious among female adolescents?

    Much ground had already been lost to objective reality when someone decided scientific proof was necessary to establish it.

  50. No doubt it wasn’t the first instance of ‘fake science’, but the tactics of the transgender movement are exactly the same as the gay movement.

    Oppress all alternative views, demonize opponents, intimidate opponents, and shutdown any debate.

    Both movements are as idiotic as each other and completely nonsensical. But they are interlinked so that you can’t have one without the other.

    The gay movement has opened a Pandora’s box via the destruction of the scientific method. We will reap what we sow.

  51. xyz and such says

    I’d really like to know why there’s seemingly zero recognition where this takes us?

    When scientific research that has even the *potential* for calling into question aspects of political or ideological orthodoxy is routinely, publicly quashed… that this creates an environment where science loses its credibility entirely.

    When people see this happening routinely – academics vilified and ideas de-platformed, etc based on ideological premises – and then we wonder why so many people would question something like climate change research??

    Well… we’ve given them every rational and supportable reason to doubt that it represents the ‘truth’ – ie, that the scientific process is ‘clean’ (that the culture around scientific inquiry supports that all avenues/hypotheses are investigated to come to conclusions that aren’t mere opinion.) People can no longer trust that science means anything at all… Happy now???

    • Area Man says

      @xyz:

      Postmodern academics have been waging a war on science for a while now. The Science Wars (Sokal, et al) happened almost a quarter century ago. It seems the intent, through things like “the history of science” is to frame science as a social construct, to make it look like just another perspective or opinion. Because when there is no truth, when all is relative, who needs science?

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  54. JennaB says

    “The conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”

    Invalidate means to weaken, show as incomplete, untrue or unprovable. If such perspectives are robust, wholy formed and easily proved as factual then what is there to fear from one study? If a viewpoint is valid then it can’t be invalidated, can it?

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