Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Missrepresentation of Science and transgender politics

I've blogged on this before but its worth returning to the subject again. One of the things that really annoys me is the increasing level of what appears to be lying in politics, mostly related to the Internecine Nomenclature Conflict (easy answer for that conflict i would have thought: we acknowledge the existence of Cisgender Transsexuals, Cisgender Cissexuals, Transgender Cissexuals and Transgender Transsexuals and move onto the human-rights-issues umbrella term of Sex and Gender Diversity which allows better cooperation with Intersex issues too)

You see despite basic scientific methodology people from several positions are making claims not supported yet by the data as if it were totally conclusive and using that as an attack on others.

What do we have? We have good leads from small studies of small sample sets that transsexuals have several brain differences from averages of their assigned birth sex that are closer to their self-identified sex-identity. Both in structure and in function. One gene so far has been found to be more common amongst TSs too. (Zoe's blog is a great source for this stuff)

But what about non-transsexual transgender? Well they haven't done the same studies on genderqueer, bi-gender, crossdressers etc yet. So as science goes it falls into the realm of 'maybe'. Actually 'maybe but we don't know yet'. That doesn't mean 'no' it doesn't mean 'yes' it means 'maybe'. It means that the simple testable hypothesis that the same or similar related phenomena exist in these others could be tested but hasnt yet and until its tested we dont know. Either way.

Thats plain ordinary scientific method, something I got taught in highschool and I would have thought everyone else would have got taught that too.

So what's the problem? Well some are claiming that the tests done thus far say things they do not. The tests needed to say that crossdressing is not biologically caused have not yet been done, yet some are claiming that because 'there's no evidence' that it is not so... but hang on, the neccessary tests havent been done! To test if the same cause causes both you have to do the same test on both! Not biological tests on one but only psychological tests on the other!

Others are claiming the studies done support only their version of the definition of transsexual or only binary-gender identity etc but the selection criteria for these studies didnt split the subjects up like that! To get those results all you have to do is seperate your test subjects into different catagories and compare the results of each catagory.. you likely need more test subjects though as you need a representative sample of specimens from each group, tricky when brain-dissection is one of the studies and expensive for FMRI scans. But doable.. but not yet done either!

Now some folk gave trouble with coping with ambiguity, with living with a maybe till the answer is found. Some even have trouble understanding that to say something is possible (and testably so but not yet tested) is not saying it is definately so, it is however saying that it is not yet definately known as not so.

Science works by refuting testable hypotheses not making stuff up, saying anything untested is true nor by saying that something cannot be so till its proved to be so.. thats all creation-science level nonsense. The stuff that was the laughing stock at the Dover evolution trial, in fact very much like Dembski's non-science.

Sure some people have been let down by the education system and are scientifically illiterate. Not their fault but if they want to use studies to validate their claims and invalidate others at least some basic undersanding of scientific methods a good idea and some self-education might be beneficial.

Other people though seem to play the same tune no matter how refuted, ignoring the facts of scientific method and continuing to make spurious claims. Mistakes happen, everyone gets things wrong sometimes, but to maintain such arguments constantly is falsehood, self deception at best and deliberate lying is definately possible.

It's a common enough tactic. The 'repeat the lie often enough' tactic of hate-groups religious and otherwise.

It's time these people were called out on them though. Gently at first, some will simply be mistaken. But certainly because allowing these myths to propagate unchallenged is often to allow manipulative divisive hate-speech to propagate unchallenged.

The deliberate anti-science, unscientific, unethical missrepresentation of science in order to denegrate others and propagate divisions and hate and various ideological positions is abominable.

Much more study needs to be done on transsexuals, on intersex, on crossdressers, genderqueer, bi-gender etc in verifiable sciences like neurology and genetics to rule that out first. Especially as psychology is a kind of speculation, like taxonomy before genetics, a simple attempt to explain complex systems with only a minute amount of data. It must cede to the physical sciences in all things at all times.

And last of all, from a Human Rights perspective even were there no biological causation for ANY of it, not even for any transsexual the hman rights claims would not diminish one iota. Because human rights are filled with choices at every level, choices of religion, expression, medical treatment as just some examples. Check out the Yogyakarta Principles on that. These attacks on others using missrepresentations of science involve at their heart a disregard for human rights of others in order to propagate their preferred (and usually self-serving) ideology.

It's time to call out missrepresentations of science used as tools of hate for what they are in transgender politics as much as GLB politics (including the anti's). Whether hatred of non-bianary folk or of binary folk, of gay-supporting Tgs or TG-supporting gays etc etc etc.

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