Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Government is not enough to rebuild a broken society

original article: Why America Will Not Solve Its Existential Crisis Without A Rebirth Of Faith
November 8, 2017 by Emilie Kao

Country music legend Johnny Cash had hit rock bottom. Exhausted by his struggle with drug addiction, he literally crawled into a cave to die. But then, as he described it later, a feeling of tranquility came over him and drew him back from the brink: “There in Nickajack Cave I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea: I was not in charge of my destiny. I was not in charge of my own death. I was going to die at God’s time, not mine.”

Cash’s spiritual awakening gave him new hope. His story of redemption rings true among countless Americans who credit faith with helping them overcome addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of Americans are living only the earlier part of Cash’s story—the misery, futility, and sense of hopelessness. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunityreports that Americans are now four times more likely to die from opioid overdose than in 1999. Teens are 13.5 percent more likely to use drugs than in 2006, with just under a quarter of high school seniors reporting drug use last year. President Trump was right to recognize that the opioid crisis is really a national emergency.

The suicide rate has risen so sharply that the overall life expectancy of Americans is declining for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, the marriage rate continues to decline. A likely related trend is the unemployment of young men, which has doubled in the last 15 years.

Money and Programs Can’t Provide Existential Meaning

Clearly, many Americans are stressed out—economically, emotionally, and psychologically. But what ails America cannot be remedied with just money or counselling. A genuine cure must include cultural revival in which religious communities come alongside individuals and families to reweave the frayed ends of broken relationships. Empirical research demonstrates that religion contributes to individual and societal prosperity. In his book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” J.D. Vance shows how religion can help generate holistic flourishing.

Like Cash’s story, Vance’s memoir brings to life the statistics about divorce, domestic violence, and drug addiction. He credits his own upward trajectory to acquiring “social capital.” Through personal networks, he learned “soft skills” like conflict resolution and financial management that fueled his upward mobility. He cited both the military and churches as critical institutions that form social capital.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber’s research has demonstrated a causal connection between children’s church attendance and their ability to stay off drugs and out of prison. After analyzing religious attendance, Gruber also observed an “incredibly strong correlation” with higher education, more stable marriages, higher income, and lower likelihood of being on welfare. A study at Harvard showed that those who attend religious services at least once a week are five times less likely to commit suicide.

A Commitment to Morality Increases Social Trust

The role of faith in preventing and treating opioid addiction is increasingly evident. New Hampshire and West Virginia present a contrast in addiction and religiosity. New Hampshire confounds purely economic explanations of addiction, since it has both high employment and high addiction. It doesn’t fit in well with mainstream media narratives, but states like West Virginia, Utah, and those in the Deep South have both high levels of religiosity and low levels of addiction.

As the Trump administration builds a strategy to combat this public health emergency affecting 21 million Americans, it should consider not only criminal punishments and opioid alternatives, it should also take into account the empirical evidence of faith’s role as seen in the states. Similar to Gruber’s observations about faith’s effects in the lives of individual Americans, a Chinese economist saw faith’s effects on business transactions in America’s national economy. Zhao Xiao traces America’s prosperity back to the Puritans.

He sees a relationship between their transcendental motives and a high degree of personal integrity, which generated trust and minimized friction in economic transactions. Zhao’s research has influenced policymakers in the Chinese Communist Party, who are increasingly emphasizing the role of morality in fostering trust.

Harvard business professor Clayton Christensen also attributes America’s economic success to civic virtues religious communities teach, such as obedience to the law, respect for private property, and honesty. While earlier generations created the cultural momentum that led to American prosperity, Christensen warns that momentum is dissipating as religious belief wanes: “If you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police”

Religion Is Important for a Thriving Country

The importance of personal virtue for society is something Vance takes seriously. He urges Americans to incorporate cultural causes into our discussions of the structural factors that contribute to poverty. When individuals feel hopeless, marriages dissolve, and children get caught up in families’ breakdown, government solutions are not enough to make up the difference. Religious communities, however, are there when life falls apart.

Just how critical are religious organizations to the fabric of American life? Religious networks provide $161 billion in medical services annually. Religious schools and colleges provide $138 billion in education. Religious charities contribute $95.2 billion, religious businesses $438 billion, and religious congregations $326 billion. Eliminate religious organizations, and Americans would lose $1.2 trillion in services.

Communities also benefit greatly from partnerships between government and religious groups. Consider the relief efforts needed to deal with natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Nonprofits provide 80 per cent of recovery efforts, and they are mostly faith-based. But faith is equally as powerful in less visible day-to-day interactions. In Gadsden County, Florida, partnerships between faith leaders and city officials have transformed programs in women’s prisons and schools.

In the words of the town sheriff, “We cannot incarcerate our way out of crime. When all else fails, you sometimes have to appeal to the spiritual side of offenders.” Local churches in Gadsden send members to teach inmates the Bible and life skills. Other churches help find jobs and housing for newly released inmates. Gadsden County’s story is one of countless examples showing the “spiritual capital” that religion provides on top of its tremendous economic value—more than that of Facebook, Google, and Apple combined, according to the research of Brian Grim.

Faith Provides Private Accountability We All Need

Faith infuses lives with greater meaning, and faith communities help us make and keep wise commitments. They help us to stay engaged in the lives of our spouses, children, and friends. They help us to stay in school and at jobs when we might prefer to quit. Most of us are more likely to keep commitments when others help. But this kind of accountability, which requires face-to-face contact over a long period of time, is not something the government is well-equipped to provide.

Religious communities help parents raise their children. They provide counseling to individuals while they are dating, after they get married, and even when they lose a spouse. They provide assistance, loans, and job contacts to those who are unemployed. And they are a source of encouragement and hope for people desperate to stay out of addiction.

The American Dream is still alive, but it needs renewal. Government can help. But it takes communities of faith to fully rebuild what has been broken and to restore hope where it’s been lost.

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crisis, culture, economy, ethics, family, ideology, religion, study, unintended consequences

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Pro-abortion lobby spread false statistics

original article: Study: Activists Misleading About Number of Illegal Abortion Deaths
December 13, 2012 by DR. PETER SAUNDERS

 

One of the principal techniques used by the pro-abortion lobby to advance their agenda of legalising abortion in developing world countries is to argue that ‘safe, legal abortion’ will decrease overall maternal mortality whilst not appreciably increasing the overall number of abortions.

In order to make this case they obviously have to establish first that there are already lots of illegal abortions happening and that many women are dying from them.

To achieve this end lobbyists need statistics about levels of illegal abortions and this where the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) comes in.

For many years AGI’s astronomical figures of illegal abortions from developing countries have gone virtually unchallenged by both prolife and prochoice campaigners alike.

But this is about to change now that more rigorous research is being published.

Jacqueline Harvey
 this week writes about a new study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health showing that AGI’s figures for illegal abortions in Mexico in 2006 and 2009 were grossly overestimated.

The study titled, ‘Fundamental Discrepancies In Abortion Estimates And Abortion-Related Mortality: A Reevaluation Of Recent Studies In Mexico With Special Reference To The International Classification Of Diseases’ was conducted by a panel of six epidemiologists at four universities in the U.S., Mexico and Chile and examines the actual figures produced by the Federal District of Mexico and confirmed by an independent, non-governmental agency that supports legal abortion.

AGI’s estimate for illegal abortions in Mexico in 2006 was 725,070-1,024,424. But the actual number of abortions in 2007 after abortion was legalised (which typically increases rather than decreases the numbers), was only 10,137! So AGI’s estimate was 70-100 times the actual figure.

After legalisation the AGI estimate for legal abortions in Mexico in 2009 was 122,455. But the actual number was 12,221. This is a 10 fold overestimation.

These gross disparities discredit not only AGI figures for illegal abortions and abortion-related mortality in Mexico, but in all countries where they apply their flawed methodologies to create these bogus estimates.

The researchers also discovered that AGI purposefully includes women who died from ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage and assault in their calculations of illegal abortion-related mortality, a case of intentional deception. This leads them to over-estimate abortion-related mortality rate by almost 35%. I have previously blogged about gross overestimates of maternal deaths in the US and UK abortions before legalisation here.

Harvey concludes:

‘Nonetheless, AGI uses these false calculations and deceptive figures about illegal abortion deaths to push for decriminalization of abortion around the world. This new study authoritatively discredits the Alan Guttmacher Institute and its findings.’

This new study adds hard evidence to suspicions I have had for some time. Last July I was speaking at an ICMDA (International Christian Medical and Dental Association uniting over 70 national bodies of which CMF is one) conference in Nigeria where there were 1,700 Christian doctors and medical students from all over Africa.

A leading obstetrician in Kenya told me then that she thought the AGI stats for death from abortion for Kenya were grossly inflated and based on small urban samples along which included miscarriages and other gynaecological diagnoses.

And another doctor who was working in the main teaching hospital in Lagos, Nigeria had done a research project on abortion deaths and said that the actual number of illegal abortions was very small relative to AGI estimates.

This strategy used in Kenya and other developing countries is similar to that used by US abortion supporters in their efforts to legalize abortion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dr Bernard Nathanson, a leading supporter of abortion rights and an abortionist himself, later admitted to deception:

‘We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000.’

The most impressive catalogue of known abortion statistics on line is that of William Johnston whose latest totals of abortions worldwide (last updated in August 2012) are listed here.

What struck me about these numbers was how much lower they were than AGI figures for all developing countries.

When I raised this discrepancy with Johnston he answered as follows (reprinted with permission):

‘(My) figures for worldwide abortions differ because AGI includes estimates of unreported illegal abortions, estimates which are inflated by bad methodology (in my opinion).

My figures cover only reported abortions (with limited use of estimates, eg. interpolation for missing years) thus, while they are incomplete they are well documented. They are also limited to countries with legal abortion and where statistics are compiled. Some of the higher AGI/WHO figures involve estimated underreporting from countries with legal abortions, but most of the difference is from their estimates for developing countries where abortion is illegal or legal under very limited circumstances.

These latter estimates are generally based on hospitalisation samples, household surveys, and a variety of assumptions. This process yields illegal abortion rates that are as high as legal abortion rates in the developed world, coincidentally supporting the AGI thesis that abortion should be unrestricted everywhere because laws have no effect on occurrence rates.

The key here is of course the set of assumptions that turn small sample sizes into multi-national estimates of abortion rates. Some obvious issues I see include: surveys of urban populations on abortion, and treating results as applicable to the general population; bias by basing results on surveys of people willing to talk to these survey takers; the validity of the assumptions used for underreporting, for deciding what fraction of hospital miscarriage cases are illegal abortions, or for turning such “detected” abortions into figures including “undetected” abortions.

I do not dispute that many illegal abortions take place in developing countries but I suspect that the actual numbers are significantly below the AGI/WHO estimates, because the methodology of their estimates involves assumptions biased by their policy position. I have little evidence to produce an estimate of total worldwide abortions, but I’m inclined to suspect that the AGI/WHO figures (of 42 million per year) are high by about a factor of two.

A few years ago Laura Antkowiak and Randall O’Bannon analyzed the AGI methodology in an article series in the National Right to Life newsletter. They indicate, for example, that some of the sample sizes involved are only a few dozen. Here are links to their articles.

1. WHO Claims of Unsafe Abortions and Deaths
2. World Abortion Estimates: An Audit (Part 1)
3. World Abortion Estimates: An Audit (Part 2)
4. World Abortion Estimates: An Audit (Part 3)
5. World Abortion Estimates: An Audit (Part 4)

Here are figures for comparison: AGI/WHO estimate worldwide abortions at 45.6 million in 1995, 41.6 million in 2003, and 43.8 million in 2008. (This is from the jointly AGI-WHO-authored article Sedgh et al., 2012, The Lancet, 379(9816):625+) For those three years what I can document are 18.1, 15.1, and 16.0 million. The drop to my current figure of ~12 million/year is mostly due to fluctuations in reported figures from China.

Some perspective on using AGI as a source: for current abortions in the US, their data is better than official data because the abortion providers provide statistics to AGI that they withhold from state health departments. In contrast, AGI survey-based statistics (based on estimates) tend to be biased.

Another point: the above Lancet article claims: ‘The abortion rate was lower in sub-regions where more women live under liberal abortion laws’ – a counter-intuitive claim to anyone but an abortion proponent, one that rests entirely on methodological assumptions, and one that is refuted by regional-level data in the US and Europe.’

Harvey and Johnston’s work needs much wider circulation to counter the ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ that pro-abortion campaigners and population control advocates are using to advance their case. More research is also needed.

The fact that abortions in developing countries have been overestimated does not in any way of course alter the fact that abortion remains the number one cause of human death worldwide.

Even when one takes Johnston’s ‘revised-down’ figures the total number of abortions is utterly staggering. Johnston has documented almost 1 billion abortions worldwide from figures gleaned for the 90 years between 1922 and 2012, a figure equivalent to one seventh of the world’s current population.

Given the timespan the vast majority of these babies, had they not been aborted, would still be alive today.

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abortion, babies, corruption, false, fraud, ideology, propaganda, scandal, study

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School choice: let’s be honest enough to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day

original article: Guest column: School choice data doesn’t reflect classroom reality
October 11, 2017 by Robert C. Enlow

Louisiana has become a closely watched laboratory for school choice, and for good reason. The state has several ways families can choose: voucher programs, tax-credit scholarships, a tax credit and deduction program, alongside a system of traditional and charter schools.

The spotlight shone a little brighter recently when a study from the University of Arkansas and Tulane University showed a negative effect on first-year students using private school choice programs to access new schooling options. But by the third year, things had turned around for those students. Unfortunately, much of the attention focused only on the first-year decline. That is simply not fair, nor is it the way we have ever judged traditional public schools.

Adults have trouble adapting to a new routine at the gym, let alone a new job or a relocation. Imagine how a second-grader feels to walk into a new school, meet new teachers and make all new friends — potentially while learning a new set of rules and adapting to a new school culture. Indeed, kids need time to adjust to new school settings, and their future success can depend on the extent of their mobility.

The recent study shows students in private school choice programs actually make gains after that first- and second-year decline — and in some areas wind up ahead of their public school peers within three to four years. Students in Louisiana saw steep declines in both reading and math scores in the first year of the voucher program, a result that may be attributable to the short window students initially had to enroll and the limited number of private schools participating. After the first year, outcomes improved in both areas, with reading scores higher after the third year than when students began the program. The Louisiana Scholarship Program had significant positive effects on reading scores for the lowest-performing students.

Simply put, kids need time to adjust to new circumstances the same way grown-ups do. And interviews with school leaders and staff in other states have found private schools participating in choice programs also needed to make some adjustments to better serve the students who were coming from public schools. School choice programs enable students to leave a school that is not working for them and switch to a school they believe will be a better fit. We know from our original research that families choose for a variety of reasons, but chief among them are better academics, smaller classes, a safer environment and a focus on morals and values.

While private school parents report overwhelming satisfaction with their choices, that doesn’t lessen the literal and figurative learning curve for students who may be coming from district schools with large classes, lower academic standards or less emphasis on character development. They’re not only in a new school; it’s a completely new experience for them. Which brings up a final point as we look at this new Louisiana study and anticipate additional research on the effectiveness of choice programs: Supporters and opponents alike have become far too reliant on standardized test scores — often from only one, state-mandated test — to determine whether a type of school or choice program is successful. As choice programs go, Louisiana’s is one of the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to testing.

Yet when you ask families whether and why they are satisfied with their child’s K-12 experience, test scores are rarely among their top indicators of a quality school. Rather, they tend to focus on safety, class size and college acceptance rates. And there are studies that show choice programs have positive effects on high school graduation rates, college enrollment and persistence in college. As school choice continues to gain support, we must broaden the conversation about effectiveness to include more than scores, and we must seek access to more data that can help us determine not just how students are performing in math and reading, but what effect expanding educational options has on them beyond graduation.

We also must resist the temptation to jump on every short-term data finding as a symbol of the success or failure of a school choice program — or for that matter schools, teachers or students. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and humans don’t adjust to new situations overnight.

bias, education, ideology, innovation, reform, study

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Does Kathy Griffin show leftists have more in common with Islamic extremists than with America?

Kathy Griffin’s “edgy” comedic style has brought her into the spot light once again. This time she finds it “funny” and a work of “art” to display a severed head of President Trump. Incendiary speech is one thing the president is often criticized for, speech that supposedly incites violence. Apparently, we are supposed to ignore the actual violence inflicted upon city after city by leftwing antifa activists (who ironically employ violence, hate, and intolerance in the effort to fight against violence, hate, and intolerance). Are we also supposed to ignore the incendiary nature of Griffin’s shock art? I mean, if warning about the very real possibility of ISIS infiltrating our nation is the same as “violence” why shouldn’t Griffin’s so-called art qualify as the same thing?

0530-kathy-griffin-graphic-donald-trump-head-cut-off-tyler-sheilds-9

This is quite different from that Missouri rodeo clown back in 2013 who got fired for wearing an Obama mask. Not only was that guy banned for life by the Missouri State Fair Commission, that organization also demanded sensitivity training from the rodeo association.

And remember all that talk early on in President Obama’s first term about how people should respect the presidency? Remember how almost any criticism of Obama was branded as racist? Remember when Chris Rock said President Obama was like the “dad of the country” and “our boss”?

Yeah, that’s the opposite of how Trump has been treated. Granted, Trump troubles me in many ways. So did Obama. But I never said Obama wasn’t my president. Today, instead hearing how the president is our boss or the dad of the country, the leftwing mantra has been “not my president”. Harvard University recently did a study on anti-Trump news media bias in his first 100 days and there was shown to be substantially more bias against Trump than there was against the previous three presidents. According to the study, even Fox News (a network that is supposedly a shill for Trump) had a 52% negative coverage rate. Are we supposed to think CNN’s 93% negative coverage rate makes them more fair and balanced than Fox News? I don’t.

This also brings to mind a curious thing about the general political environment in the United States. Just as any rightwing criticism of President Obama was labeled racist, likewise any criticism of Islamic extremism is labeled Islamophobic. The frequent terrorist acts reported in the news all over the world are typically treated as isolated incidents, whereas the isolated mean things Europeans or Americans sometimes do to Muslims is branded as an epidemic of Islamophobia or Xenophobia.

Leftists went out of their way to defend Obama on any and everything he ever did (even defending his lies that were admitted to be lies), and they do the same for Islamic extremism. Why should we pretend Democrats know the difference between Islam and Islamic extremism? When they criticize Republicans for criticizing Islamic extremism, Democrats suddenly forget that distinction. Democrats prefer to accuse Republicans of thinking all Muslims are terrorists simply because Republicans condemn terrorism. When they do that, it is Democrats who fail to recognize the distinction. When Republicans say “we need to protect ourselves against terrorism” Democrats hear “we need to protect ourselves against Muslims”.

Republicans are well aware of the difference between terrorists and peaceful Muslims who just want to live their lives, such as Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser who frequently speaks out against Islamic extremism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist activist and victim of FGM who also speaks out against Islamic extremism. Republicans recognize both of them as 1) from Muslim origins and 2) not terrorists. Yet both are branded as Islamophobic by the political left.

I can’t help but notice the overwhelming impulse liberals have to defend Islamic extremists, to invite them into Western countries, and extend the hand of friendship. When a terrorist act kills innocent civilians, rest assured leftists will rally to sympathize with MUSLIMS and act all apologetic, as if Westerners were the aggressors and not the victims (making me wonder, if terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, why do liberals reach out to Muslims after a terrorist attack? Is this another example that liberals fail to distinguish between the two?). At the same time, these same liberals condemn the political right here at home as terrorists, racists, fascists, and bigots in every way. It seems to me western liberals identify more closely with Islamic extremists than they do with Western civilization. Just look at Kathy Griffin, holding that mock bloody, severed head of President Trump thinking she’s actually making a statement against hate, not realizing who she is mimicking.

bias, bigotry, culture, Democrats, hate speech, humor, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, islam, left wing, liberalism, news media, political correctness, politics, progressive, racism, scandal, study, terrorism, video

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The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund

original article: The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund
May 9, 2017 by SUSAN YOSHIHARA (The Stream)

When President Donald J. Trump cut U.S. funding to the U.N. Population Fund, abortion advocates howled. But Trump made the right call. The billion dollar-a-year agency has run out of reasons to exist, even by its own metrics.

The agency still relies on the same “overpopulation” gimmicks that justified its creation in 1969. In a 2011 media stunt in hot and crowded Manila, it “welcomed” the seven billionth human born. The world is indeed getting more crowded, but not with babies. Old people are expected to outnumber youth on the planet within sixty years.

From investment firms to national security analysists, experts agree: Many countries suffer not from overpopulation, but from a sharp decline in fertility. It took western countries a century to grow old. Developing nations are managing the feat in just one generation. Their ability to seize the promised “demographic dividend” is fading fast. The World Bank has identified a waning appetite for consumer goods in the geriatric West. They say today’s developing economies won’t be able to manufacture their way to economic growth like China did.

Demographers have been ringing the alarm bell for two decades. Yet the U.N. Population Fund has forged ahead with its mission to limit births.

A One Trick Pony

The Fund claims to help couples have the number of children they want. But the facts show the opposite. It does nothing to relieve infertility. It promotes education for women and girls, but does nothing to help women who want to have a large family. On the contrary. The UNFPA offers the same answer for every woman: Have fewer children.

Yes, the U.N. Population Fund has added to its portfolio to remain relevant. It opposes female genital mutilation, endorses maternal health, abhors the spread of HIV/AIDs, and promotes adolescent and women’s rights. But the U.N. already has agencies with these mandates, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDs, UNICEF and U.N. Women.

Planned Parenthood said President Trump would “kill” thousands of women this year because they won’t get U.N.-funded contraception. But the Fund did not save a single life last year. Rather, it helped “avert” two thousand theoretical deaths in childbirth by providing contraception.

Hypocrisy

Even the U.N. Population Fund’s claim to the mantle of women’s rights is spurious. China’s abusive family planning program has persisted under its watch. Even Beijing has admitted it went too far. The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission now allows for two children. But it still exacts punishment on couples who have one more. That includes the threat of forced abortions, loss of livelihoods and homes. And still the U.N. Population Fund defends its partnership with the Chinese agency.

When shell-shocked Nigerian families welcomed back their daughters abducted by Boko Haram, they found that the girls had suffered unspeakable abuse. What did UNFPA recommend? Abortion. For this, its executive director was rightly rebuffed. But the organization’s leadership can’t seem to help itself. They act as if ridding the world of unintended pregnancies and unwanted children will help solve every problem.

What the U.N. Population Fund won’t admit is that “unintended” and “unwanted” are social science constructs, not the sentiments of parents. Such terms often contradict what women really say. A woman may tell a researcher that her beloved child was never “unwanted.” The researcher, however, may code her child as “unwanted,” due to a survey question she answered years earlier about desired family size.

Women are quite capable of making up their own minds. The U.N. Population Fund, however, often doesn’t like what they decide. Hence much of its spending goes to “advocacy.” Translation: Trying to convince women they should stop at two children.

The fact is that ninety five percent of women in the developing world say they already know about family planning. They just don’t opt for the methods the U.N. recommends. This fact should have the U.N. Population Fund declaring victory, not wringing its hands about “lack of uptake.”

Defying still more facts, the UNFPA insists that lack of access to contraception is a global crisis. Just like the “crisis” of overpopulation, the agency stretches credulity to the breaking point. It claims 225 million women want, but cannot get, contraception. It even posted the myth on a massive Times Square billboard. Yet the Guttmacher Institute assures us that only four or five percent of those 225 million women say they don’t have access. The rest don’t want it. In other words, the global family planning market is already nearly saturated.

It’s time for the United States and its partners to shut down the U.N. Population Fund. Its billion-dollar budget should be used to solve real problems, not chase the ghosts of the 1960s.

abortion, bureaucracy, crisis, culture, extremism, foreign affairs, funding, government, ideology, politics, public policy, reform, study

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Transgender movement not actually based in science

original article: Science finds 1,500 genetic differences between boys and girls, destroys ‘transgender’ arguments
May 8, 2017 by Pete Baklinski

Scientists have uncovered 1,559 genetic differences between males and females that relate not only to the sexual organs, but surprisingly to other organs such as the brain, skin, and heart.

“Overall, sex-specific genes are mainly expressed in the reproductive system, emphasizing the notable physiological distinction between men and women,” the scientists found. “However, scores of genes that are not known to directly associate with reproduction were also found to have sex-specific expression (e.g., the men-specific skin genes),” they added.

The findings suggest to the casual reader that there is much more involved in the notion of changing one’s gender to the opposite sex than simply surgery and hormonal treatment.

“Our results can facilitate the understanding of diverse biological characteristics in the context of [the male and female] sex,” the researchers stated in their conclusion.

The study, titled The landscape of sex-differential transcriptome and its consequent selection in human adults, was published in BMC Biology earlier this year.

In the study, researchers Moran Gershoni and Shmuel Pietrokovski of the Weizmann Institute’s Molecular Genetics Department mapped out thousands of genes — the biological databases of all the information that makes every person unique — from 53 tissues that are similar to males and females, such as the skin, muscle, and brain.

The study was conducted to examine the extent to which genes determine how certain diseases target males and females differently.

“Men and women differ in obvious and less obvious ways – for example, in the prevalence of certain diseases or reactions to drugs. How are these connected to one’s sex? Weizmann Institute of Science researchers recently uncovered thousands of human genes that are expressed – copied out to make proteins – differently in the two sexes,” a report from the Weizmann Institute about the findings stated.

biology, health, medicine, science, sex, study

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Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination

original article: Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination – but debate on fixing it unresolved
January 23, 2017 by KATE HARDIMAN

A new report suggests left-leaning professors have transformed the teaching of traditional civics with an emphasis on activism, creating a pipeline of students eager to serve the goals of secular-progressive causes.

But how best to fix the problem is one area that remains unsettled among some scholars.

“Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” argues that “instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations.”

Universities in America have redefined civics to mean “progressive political activism,” and the notion of a “good citizen” is now synonymous with “radical activist,” according to the report, recently published by the National Association of Scholars, a right-of-center academic watchdog group.

After surveying curricula at four major universities as a case study the report finds they are teaching fewer traditional civics classes while placing a greater emphasis on directing free student labor to progressive organizations in large part through the rise of “service learning” and “community engagement” courses.

“The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” the report states, adding pet causes pushed include environmentalism, socialism, identity politics, expanding government bureaucracy, and teaching students to essentially despise America’s founding.

“I was most startled that a number of these service learning professors cited Maoist China as one of their models for instruction,” David Randall, the association’s director of communications and report author, told The College Fix in a phone interview.

Randall said the new way of teaching civics is “grossly politicized,” adding “this is a reason for the public to be alarmed.”

He pointed to a specific example at Pomona College where a service learning course, and its funding, contributed to an anti-Trump rally.

Joy Pullman, an education pundit writing on the report at The Federalist, defines this new civics as “actually anti-civics: it teaches students how to be bad citizens, how to dismantle rather than preserve and improve their country.”

“New Civics teaches young people to revolt against the country that, among other things, educated them, provided for their security against foreign aggressors, and secured liberties most people in the world never had and still don’t have: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to a representative government dependent on citizen consent,” according to Pullman.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Some agree it should sound alarm bells.

“It’s well-known that America’s K-12 schools are mediocre, when compared to the grammar schools of other countries. Less well known is just how mediocre our colleges are. The NAS report helps us understand why that is,” law professor Francis Buckley of George Mason University’s Scalia Law School told The College Fix via email.

But others are concerned about the report’s remedial recommendations, which include a coordinated civic literacy curriculum at the high school and college levels, a required course in traditional American civics, and a mandate that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction. The report also suggests cutting all federal and state funding for service-learning and civic engagement at the university level.

Such recommendations pose “a severe threat to academic freedom because government officials would be imposing their judgments on college campuses rather than allowing universities to do what they think is best,” author and co-editor of Academe blog, John Wilson, told The College Fix via email.

“It’s particularly disturbing because the NAS wants the government to destroy purely voluntary programs of civic education that no students are forced to participate in,” Wilson said.

NAS’ Randall said he disagrees such oversight would hurt academic freedom.

“A state government has the right to determine what is being taught in a civics class. The setting of the syllabus is a matter appropriately governed by the state authorities,” he said. “The most basic thing is that I don’t believe the method, service-learning, has educational value. I think it is within the government’s right to provide funding only to those courses and programs that it believes have educational value.”

Another critique of the report came by way of respected law Professor Stanley Fish, who suggests the association’s call for the promotion of virtuous citizenship is akin to a political goal, much like the progressive left’s goals.

“Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal,” Fish argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece titled “Citizen Formation is Not Our Job.”

Meanwhile, some university officials have defended themselves in the wake of the report.

For example, a top official at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the institutions focused on in the study, has issued a statement calling the NAS report “an opinion piece” and taking issue with the characterization of CU Boulder.

“CU Boulder offers students the chance to choose from a wide variety of classes and community experiences — from courses in Western civilization to working with local K-12 students experiencing poverty and homelessness,” Provost Russell Moore stated. “Our faculty, as required by regent law and academic custom, have developed a high-quality, balanced curriculum that helps us to shape tomorrow’s leaders and positively impact humanity.”

bias, corruption, culture, education, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, oversight, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, relativism, scandal, study

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Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Psychological study rigged with liberal bias; researchers oblivious

Let’s try an experiment. What if we could gauge liberal leanings of the American public by tracking tech purchases? Now, before you start complaining about how disturbing or invasive such tracking might be or how suspicious and absurd it is to even ask about tracking people in such a way, let me say this: you’re right!

But this wasn’t my idea. I got the idea from a psychological study published in Psychological Science in March 2013 entitled Ideology and Brand Consumption. The study is replete with liberal bias from the researchers and they appear entirely oblivious to it. The study is not about general political leanings. No, the study particularly targets U.S. conservative political leanings. Here’s the abstract (bolding is mine):

Do mundane daily choices, such as what brands people buy in a supermarket, reflect aspects of values and ideologies? This article presents a large-scale field study performed to determine whether traits associated with a conservative ideology, as measured by voting behavior and religiosity, are manifested in consumers’ routine, seemingly inconsequential product choices. Our analysis of market shares for a variety of frequently purchased products shows that both of these measures of conservatism are associated with a systematic preference for established national brands (as opposed to their generic substitutes) and with a lower propensity to buy newly launched products. These tendencies correspond with other psychological traits associated with a conservative ideology, such as preference for tradition and the status quo, avoidance of ambiguity and uncertainty, and skepticism about new experiences.

The abstract mentions a conservative leaning three times and makes no mention of a liberal leaning. It should be no surprise that the researchers have left wing political leanings, given their description of a conservative ideology clearly stems from a liberal bias. Look at the traits the abstract lists as “associated with a conservative ideology”:

  • preference for tradition
  • preference for the status quo
  • avoidance of ambiguity and uncertainty
  • skepticism about new experiences

Plenty of conservatives would agree on a preference for tradition, but a preference for the status quo? That’s obviously a liberal point of view on conservatism, as such a term is not how conservatives typically describe themselves. Sometimes liberals can be accused of defending the status quo too, especially in bloated government institutions such as public education. As to ambiguity, liberalism thrives on that so of course an aversion to ambiguity would get the attention of the liberal researchers.

Uncertainty is a problem for every one, not only conservatives. It just depends on the context for us to see this. For example, the purpose of the social safety net (such as unemployment benefits, social security, Obamacare, etc.) is obviously meant to help people, not least of which by providing some level of financial peace and security (even if it fails to actually achieve the promises made to the American people). The social safety net is intended to reduce uncertainty and help people manage risk, and is most vocally championed by liberals. Tenure is meant to accomplish the same thing for teachers (liberals love tenure, whereas most complaints about tenure I hear are from conservative and libertarian students displeased with their liberal teachers – who dominate the academy). We all appreciate reducing uncertainty in some form, but these liberal researchers seem to have overlooked this simple and plain fact of the human condition about themselves.

Skepticism about new experiences is another favorite liberal critique of conservatism, not something conservatives typically say to describe themselves. The article is written from a viewpoint that seems entirely bereft of sociopolitical balance – a liberal examination of a conservative perspective hardly qualifies as a conservative perspective.

The secondary data points mentioned in the study are also from a thoroughly left wing bias. Without leaving the first page we see risk aversion mentioned, and included in the examples are the purchase of medical and auto insurance (conveniently, the social safety net most favored by liberals escapes mention as an example of risk aversion, when that is precisely its purpose). Keep in mind, in most states the purchase of auto insurance is required by law. Obamacare is a glaring example of the researchers’ political blind spot in that it MANDATES the purchase of health insurance. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the Affordable Care Act. It was enacted by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, three years before this psychological study was published. Liberals widely favored the mandate aspect of Obamacare, conservatives did not – conservatives favored health savings accounts as these would transfer control of health decisions from an insurance bureaucracy back to into the hands of the patient. The purchase of insurance is one thing, mandating it is quite another. This factor is completely disregarded in the Psychological Science article. The researchers instead thought only the “risk aversion” aspect of purchasing insurance was relevant because it fits neatly into their narrative. This is certainly true given the partisan goal of the study, but not as useful for understanding the reality of the situation as it ignored the liberal proclivity for reducing risk by favoring policies which control people’s choices.

The researchers refer to the 2005 edition of Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to define conservatism (UPDATE: Miriam-Webster showing signs of political hackery). They state this definition as “disposition in politics to preserve what is established” and “the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change”. This, again, is more a matter of how liberals see conservatives rather than how conservatives see themselves. Conservatism is not a “disposition in politics to preserve that which is established”. Some obvious examples would be Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court ruling highly lauded by most liberals but highly condemned by most conservatives. The same is true of Obamacare and its mandate to purchase health insurance. Conservatives are working to undo both matters of law, the exact opposite of “preserving what is established”.

On the other hand, conservatives are certainly interested in preserving the individual’s right to make his/her own decisions that don’t cause harm to others. Some examples are opposing the institution of slavery (one of the seminal issues that led to the founding of the Republican party), opposing Jim Crow (established and defended by Democrats taking liberty with other people’s rights), and supporting the expansion of civil union laws rather than allow the federal government to usurp the religious institution of marriage – which is a violation of the separation between church and state, something liberals have said for generations is vital to maintaining liberty.

Let’s return to part of the hypothetical scenario I mentioned up top – tech purchases. Consider two major consumer products in the tech market: smart phones and Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Both forms of technology give us good reason to practice patience, or exercise a “preference for the status quo” and “skepticism about new experiences” as this liberal study would suggest.

Some of us remember Windows Millennium Edition (Windows ME). That was a publicly disastrous product launch for Microsoft. It left a bad taste in the mouth of Microsoft’s customers, so much that many of those customers have been cautious about upgrading to the next latest edition ever since. Windows 8 proved a similar problem in that many Windows users simply hated it, and reverted back to a previous version. This pressured Microsoft to push out the next version of the OS and many people, including conservatives, are quite happy with Windows 10 (the most recent version of the OS as of this article). Many Windows users learned to wait before upgrading to any “new” version from Microsoft. This group of customers will gladly let other more adventurous people test the latest version of Windows first. After the inevitable update fixing who knows how many problems (as also happened with Windows 10), this more cautious group becomes much more likely to upgrade. But according to this liberal study on conservative consumer habits, this could be an example of a “preference for the status quo” rather than the very sensible patience for predictably problematic new technology to be improved.

Smart phones have a similar problem. There are customers who, for whatever reason, simply must have the latest smart phone as soon as it is released to the general public (if not before). These devices are at their most expensive retail price at this early release stage. And they typically have the same sort of quality problems as a new Windows OS. Common sense tells us with the practice of a little patience, most of these problems can be fixed and the prices for the smart phones will drop once the market is more saturated with them among the first triers. But according to the liberal study this pragmatic and reasonable self restraint might demonstrate a “skepticism about new experiences” something akin to a resistance to trying any new technology simply because it’s unfamiliar. Those of us who live in the real world can understand the benefits of new technology that it has been well vetted by the adventurous first triers. If that qualifies as “conservative” so be it.

Contrary to what liberals tell themselves, conservatism is a disposition to preserve freedom, not any old thing that has been established. In the conservative mindset the single greatest threat to freedom is the abuse of power. A healthy skepticism of power is fundamental to the American experiment; it’s part of America’s DNA. In the effort to PRESERVE freedom the conservative endeavors to CONSERVE power (use it sparingly). And how does the abuse of power occur in the grand American experiment? Quite often it happens through the offer of government assistance. Ironically, it turns out government aid usually means government making decisions for us, and a decision the government makes on our behalf is a decision we (as individuals) no longer have the right to make for ourselves.

Freedom is also threatened by the abuse of freedom itself, which why we need laws in the first place. This necessitates a sort of social compact where we try to reach a balance between laws and liberties. In the conservative mindset this balance favors liberties. The abuse of power and the abuse of freedom are best addressed by an aversion to abuse and waste, thus self restraint is encouraged in both cases, where power (the use of force) is limited or conserved (hence the term “conservative”).

Contrast this with the liberal balance between laws and liberties, which favors laws. It is not conservatives who are constantly trying to regulate various aspects of life. It is not conservatives who pushed to regulate the use of tobacco, or sugar, or speech. The ever increasing list of words we are to avoid using (for fear of offending anyone) is not an invention of conservatives; it is the hallmark of modern liberalism. (Jailing students for distributing free copies of the US Constitution is a thoroughly liberal policy.) On the one hand, liberals claim to value and defend free speech when what they really mean is APPROVED speech, which is the opposite of free speech. The ambiguity and purposeful misuse of language is the playground of tyrants. And let us not purposefully confuse the Republican Party with conservatism. The Republican Party has spent decades distancing itself from conservatives, attempting to become diet Democrats. And they have succeeded. There is scarcely a trace of conservatism left in the Republican Party of today.

The so-called resistance to change often cited as a tenet of conservatism is predictably reductive as well. Rather than acknowledge the fact change is merely different, and that difference could be either good or bad, the typically mindless liberal view is that change is automatically a good thing (that’s how the vague and vapid slogan “hope and change” was so successful). The problem is none of us knows change is always good. Getting cancer is “change” but none of us is likely to treat that change as good. How do we know a political or social change is going to be good if we don’t examine it first? But, as mentioned earlier, in the liberal mindset, recognition that life is not so simple is dismissed as a small-minded resistance to change. To suggest change ought to be vetted before we impose it on our entire society is typically dismissed as bigotry. (Consider Obamacare again: liberals dismissed health savings accounts as a solution to the problem of astronomical health care costs saying this was another example conservatives don’t care about people, whereas mandated health insurance was the preferred liberal solution, ignoring the highly likely possibility that insurance itself is the primary CAUSE of astronomical health care costs.) That’s one of the underlying premises of this study because it’s a fundamental premise of liberalism – that conservatives are “skeptical about new experiences” and “prefer the status quo” because they don’t like change.

I learned of this study by randomly encountering an article in Psychology Today by Art Markman titled Conservatism and Product Purchase. Dr. Markman’s article didn’t address the liberal bias of this study. His interest was more on confirming a standard liberal view of conservatism. He ends his article with this:

There is evidence suggesting that conservative ideology is often taken on by people who find newness and change to be stressful.  For individuals who are anxious in  new situations, familiar products and brands are comforting.  So, the same factors that promote conservative political affiliation also seem to affect everyday purchases.

It seems to me this study and the impetus behind it was in the common liberal vein of trying to “explain away” conservatism as if it were a pathology. That’s not my description. This is the description of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. The New York Times has a good article describing Haidt’s work in William Saletan’s 2012 piece “Why Won’t They Listen?“. Saletan’s article adeptly explains Haidt’s attempt to enrich American society by explaining something about human psychology that most of us simply don’t think about, or don’t think about in a well rounded way.

If actual understanding is a goal of yours, Saletan’s article is definitely worth a read. If you’re satisfied in simply telling yourself what you want to believe perhaps your social media echo chamber would be better for you.

bias, conservative, culture, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, progressive, propaganda, study

Filed under: bias, conservative, culture, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, progressive, propaganda, study

Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong

original article: Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong
August 22, 2016 by Ryan T. Anderson

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

Here are four of the report’s most important conclusions:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

Implications for Policy

The report focuses exclusively on what scientific research shows and does not show. But this science can have implications for public policy.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that ‘only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.’

Take, for example, our nation’s recent debates over transgender policies in schools. One of the consistent themes of the report is that science does not support the claim that “gender identity” is a fixed property independent of biological sex, but rather that a combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely shape how individuals experience and express themselves when it comes to sex and gender.

The report also discusses the reality of neuroplasticity: that all of our brains can and do change throughout our lives (especially, but not only, in childhood) in response to our behavior and experiences. These changes in the brain can, in turn, influence future behavior.

This provides more reason for concern over the Obama administration’s recent transgender school policies. Beyond the privacy and safety concerns, there is thus also the potential that such policies will result in prolonged identification as transgender for students who otherwise would have naturally grown out of it.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that “only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

Beyond school policies, the report raises concerns about proposed medical intervention in children. Mayer and McHugh write: “We are disturbed and alarmed by the severity and irreversibility of some interventions being publicly discussed and employed for children.”

They continue: “We are concerned by the increasing tendency toward encouraging children with gender identity issues to transition to their preferred gender through medical and then surgical procedures.” But as they note, “There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.”

Findings on Transgender Issues

The same goes for social or surgical gender transitions in general. Mayer and McHugh note that the “scientific evidence summarized suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to elevated mental health risks among the transgender population.” Even after sex reassignment surgery, patients with gender dysphoria still experience poor outcomes:

Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about five times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

Mayer and McHugh urge researchers and physicians to work to better “understand whatever factors may contribute to the high rates of suicide and other psychological and behavioral health problems among the transgender population, and to think more clearly about the treatment options that are available.” They continue:

In reviewing the scientific literature, we find that almost nothing is well understood when we seek biological explanations for what causes some individuals to state that their gender does not match their biological sex. … Better research is needed, both to identify ways by which we can help to lower the rates of poor mental health outcomes and to make possible more informed discussion about some of the nuances present in this field.

Policymakers should take these findings very seriously. For example, the Obama administration recently finalized a new Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires all health insurance plans under Obamacare to cover sex reassignment treatments and all relevant physicians to perform them. The regulations will force many physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to participate in sex reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if doing so violates their moral and religious beliefs or their best medical judgment.

Rather than respect the diversity of opinions on sensitive and controversial health care issues, the regulations endorse and enforce one highly contested and scientifically unsupported view. As Mayer and McHugh urge, more research is needed, and physicians need to be free to practice the best medicine.

Stigma, Prejudice Don’t Explain Tragic Outcomes

The report also highlights that people who identify as LGBT face higher risks of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, such as “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and most alarmingly, suicide.” The report summarizes some of those findings:

Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41 percent, compared to under 5 percent in the overall U.S. population.

What accounts for these tragic outcomes? Mayer and McHugh investigate the leading theory—the “social stress model”—which proposes that “stressors like stigma and prejudice account for much of the additional suffering observed in these subpopulations.”

But they argue that the evidence suggests that this theory “does not seem to offer a complete explanation for the disparities in the outcomes.” It appears that social stigma and stress alone cannot account for the poor physical and mental health outcomes that LGBT-identified people face.

As a result, they conclude that “More research is needed to uncover the causes of the increased rates of mental health problems in the LGBT subpopulations.” And they call on all of us work to “alleviate suffering and promote human health and flourishing.”

Findings Contradict Claims in Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling

Finally, the report notes that scientific evidence does not support the claim that people are “born that way” with respect to sexual orientation. The narrative pushed by Lady Gaga and others is not supported by the science. A combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely account for an individual’s sexual attractions, desires, and identity, and “there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than the media suggests. The report notes that “Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80 percent of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

These findings—that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable—directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year’s Obergefell ruling. Kennedy wrote, “their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment” and “in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

But the science does not show this.

While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage.

In the end, Mayer and McHugh observe that much about sexuality and gender remains unknown. They call for honest, rigorous, and dispassionate research to help better inform public discourse and, more importantly, sound medical practice.

As this research continues, it’s important that public policy not declare scientific debates over, or rush to legally enforce and impose contested scientific theories. As Mayer and McHugh note, “Everyone—scientists and physicians, parents and teachers, lawmakers and activists—deserves access to accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

We all must work to foster a culture where such information can be rigorously pursued and everyone—whatever their convictions, and whatever their personal situation—is treated with the civility, respect, and generosity that each of us deserves.

biology, civil rights, culture, government, homosexuality, ideology, judiciary, justice, politics, science, sex, study

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