I’ve written before about the case of Bruce/Brenda/David Reimer and his tragic fate at the hands of Dr John Money and Johns Hopkins University, on this blog in 2015 and 2019, and in my e-book Seeing Through Smoke. I’m reminded of it again by a video about it hosted by Jordan Peterson (himself a psychologist, of course). I think there’s a good case to be made that this cruel fraud, perpetrated upon an unfortunate boy and his whole family with devastating results, is the principle source of the whole societally destructive transgender issue today. Therefore you definitely need to know about it, and I’d like today to try and explore some reasons why the lie became compulsory truth.
At one end, back in the late sixties, you have a single corrupt study written by one author and based, as Peterson points out, on just one experimental subject. At the other end, now, you have the whole of Western society – and a good proportion of the rest of the world – persuaded that there is no such thing as biological sex, but a near-infinite number of self-chosen genders, and reflecting those lies in law, policing priorities and… well, you know it all, living in the same disintegrating world that I do. How could that happen?
I’ve mentioned in the past that I happened to be around near the start of all this, studying social psychology at Cambridge in 1973 when Money’s experiment was allegedly succeeding wonderfully and gaining the attention of academics, particularly in the social sciences. In our lectures on gender, the novel idea that sex-role was not inherent, but assigned by parents at birth and therefore a purely social construct, was still just one of several views presented. But even at that stage it was the one which most attracted my lecturer, and on which he focused as if it were emerging truth (which is the only reason I remember it). It was as if he, and presumably other left-leaning academics, needed it to be true. At the time, it seemed to me just an unimportant example of daft academic ideas – how wrong I was.
In retrospect, that attractiveness seemed to sweep away any serious critique of the theory or of the validity and truthfulness of the experiment itself. One case study ought not to generate the consensus on such an important matter as the difference between the sexes. So why did it?
The YouTube video points out the important question of Money’s own forceful personality and self-promotion, and his willingness and ability to suppress contradictory evidence and make his own ideas seem incontrovertible. This phenomenon of the brutal subversion of science is astonishingly common, and has been so for a century or more, from the successful campaign to enforce Neodarwinism on the biological sciences to the present field of climatology catastrophism, for which the whole apparatus of society has been mobilised. And let’s not forget COVID!
But the seed of despotism grows best in ground that has already been prepared, and it is useful to look at some of that preparation, since it may help us to question assumptions that, on the face of it, don’t look as mad as the transgender confusion.
To cite a separate example, the acceptance of Hermann Muller’s erroneous “zero threshold linearity” theory regarding radiation and mutation, back in the 1930s, has to have been fuelled by the scientific and societal hunger for a plausible mechanism for biological variation to validate Neodarwinism (and, thereby, to enable Richard Dawkins’s “intellectually fulfilled atheism” in a time of elite apostasy).
I can think of two specific social ideas that, undoubtedly, underpinned the acceptance of John Money’s “assigned gender” theory. The first was the nature of 1960s feminism, at the time the central cause in left-dominated sociology. Simone de Beauvoir, a philosopher without a scientific background, had argued that the differences between the sexes were purely the result of social conditioning. Feminism did not merely seek to redress injustices resulting from the differences between the sexes, such as male coercion and abuse, but to deny the very validity of those differences. Remove the repression of men over women, it was believed, and they could achieve anything – literally anything – that men could achieve, and in the same manner. They could certainly achieve sexual liberty free, like men, from the fear of pregnancy – or at least that claim made it a plus for the men, though rather less for women when pills and traumatic abortion failed and single motherhood proliferated, as it does still.
This total equality was never a consistent position. Women’s sports remained separate from men’s for very good physical reasons highlighted by the current transgender insanity in sport. And paradoxically, belief in total sexual equality was somehow compatible with the claim that women were intellectually superior (once schooling was reorientated to the female mind), and that they made less autocratic and more compassionate politicians (like Margaret Thatcher, Nicola Sturgeon or Hillary Clinton).
Despite the obvious contradictions, male-female equivalence has become so ingrained in our society that women who may not compete against men in tennis can nevertheless fight on the front line in wars. There are relatively few Evangelicals who will take the New Testament seriously in its teaching on gender roles in church, preferring to assume that the denominational assemblies and hierarchies are right about women bishops and pastors, and that Paul and Peter were bigots.
John Money’s assigned gender theory comes directly out of such feminist thinking. If there is no inherent difference between men and women, even though that flies in the face of experience and the whole natural world, it follows that a baby can be socialised successfully as either. That has come to mean, in our pretended liberal times, not the right of parents to choose what sex their child will be assigned, but the right of children to be treated as neuter until they make some decision for themselves. It is not surprising that so many children choose to remain, in effect, neuter (aka non-binary), once the education system and social media propaganda reinforce the virtues of abnormality. Even David Reimer was persuaded he was a girl for a while.
So this facet of feminism has, in effect, come back to bite itself in transgenderism. If women can do anything men can do because there is no essential difference apart from societal choices, then the reverse is true, and men can logically do anything woman can do, including perhaps insisting that they choose to be women. Once we all (even Christians) decided that God did not dispense his image in distinctive male and female creations as the Bible teaches, but simply suggested sociological stereotypes, then the present confusion was bound to arise.
The idea of gendered souls in the wrong body is an incompatible part of that confusion, so I’ll ignore it for now. But on reflection you will see that it is equally dismissive of God’s creative wisdom. Once that goes, there is no basis for intellectual consistency.
The second trend I want to mention is related. Unlike nowadays, when everybody who likes someone who disagrees with the latest fad is de-platformed from university campuses, in my day there were only two names that elicited boycotts and catcalls from “the student body” (ie the New Left). One was, of course, Enoch Powell. The other, less familiar now perhaps, was Hans Eysenck, a psychologist who had studied inherent factors in general intelligence, and concluded that these included racial differences.
Now the validity of his work in this area was not the issue, though I believe it has been confirmed repeatedly. To be clear, he did not say that “black people are less intelligent than white people,” but that the Gaussian distributions of IQ scores vary between the commonly defined races. In fact, the East Asian races score, on average, higher than the white. Yet it is still quite likely, in a single predominantly white school class, that a black kid will excel academically, and a Chinese kid will be a dunce. Never confuse statistical trends with individuals.
But in my left-dominated social psychology milieu, Eysenck’s research was not merely mistaken, but anathema, to be shouted down or assaulted physically. The arguments we were given about the arbitrary, and racially biased, IQ tests (“Intelligence tests measure only what intelligence tests measure”) were anecdotal rather than rigorously proven, and have been shown to be, at least, exaggerated.
The reasons for the animus against Eysenck were not simply that they were deemed fascistic (Eysenck was actually a German Jew whose family had suffered in the Holocaust), but were part of the same mindset that produced “assigned gender theory.” That mindset was a belief that no differences between people can be inherent, but that all inequalities are produced by social assignment. Therefore, the aim in race-relations was not to play to the biological strengths of individuals of all races, nor even to tailor education to compensate for biological differences, but to deny them altogether except as expressions of racism. In other words, because academics did not want such differences to be God-given, reality must be adjusted in accordance with that desire.
Like gender issues, this too has come home to roost in the whole matter of “equity,” such as employing people on the basis of racial quotas without expecting there to be any deterioration in outcomes. At its worst, this becomes sheer racism, attributing every unhappy result in society to “white supremacism” and destroying all incentives to personal improvement.
This too, like gender matters, is implemented incoherently. The very idea that “whiteness” is an unchangeable racial characteristic contradicts the mantra that there are no differences between the races – as, of course, does the general preference for black athletes in most physical sports.
Why there might be these differences between races – races which are far more fluid and ill-defined categories that the male and female bipolarity – is unclear, and undoubtedly complex. To some extent the work of Eysenck is spurious in the reduction of the human race to a few races. Well-fed and educated aristocrats are not starving serfs, for genetic, epigenetic and environmental reasons, all of which may persist for generations after serfdom is abolished. Berbers are not Bantus, and neither have much genetic similarity to the Khoekhoe, though all are lumped together in these studies as “black.” And as Josh Swamidass and I have both written in books, the last common ancestor of the entire human race probably lived within the last two thousand years (so we are all children of Adam). IQ is not linked to skin colour. But there are clearly broad genetic groupings around the world, in which traits tend to cluster, yet very imprecisely because they are always intermixing.
So the wise thing would be to find the ways of reducing any negative outcomes from the differences between people. The main part of that, it seems to me, is to remind ourselves constantly that God created all humanity with equal spiritual worth, in his own image. It is therefore nothing less than sacriligeous to denigrate someone because they are created male, or female, or Jew, or Greek, or slave, or free. With that in mind, real differences become less troublesome. Christians model (or should model) valuing the people God places them amongst as part of the same body. The godly educated pastor wouldn’t even think of despising a born again but intellectually-challenged cleaner, but he wouldn’t necessarily appoint him as a teacher. He might certainly appoint a black man, though, if the guy was well-versed in Scripture and an apt communicator.
He might, though, regard the difference between men and women as rather more fundamental, firstly because it is the direct expression of the fundamental binary creation of humanity in Genesis 1, and secondly because Scripture has direct teaching on gender roles which need to be understood, not ignored. Certainly the deciding factor should not be, under any circumstances, the cultural feminism based on the denial of the truths of creation. I think such creation denial is causing enough chaos already – and you can take David Reimer as a salutory example of that.