Weekly Reading List
March 5, 2023
This week’s Reading List is free! If you enjoy the content of this reading list, please consider becoming a paying subscriber so that you don’t miss my personal selections and summaries of the week’s best articles. Happy reading!
The Scientific Revolt against Gender Ideology Has Begun | Kaylee McGhee White
Kaylee McGhee White, the editor of Restoring America at the Washington Examiner, discusses several recent studies that challenge the scientific basis for medicalizing children with gender dysphoria. McGhee refers to a report published in the British Medical Journal which concludes that there is a “low” level of evidence supporting hormonal treatment to alleviate mental health issues in children. She also notes that the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) acknowledges a lack of evidence to support their guidelines.
Furthermore, McGhee cites various organizations that have found the available data to be insufficient to justify the use of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones in minors. Even a chief at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of their treatments.
There is far more evidence that physical interventions in gender-confused children make things much worse. The Endocrine Society, for example, acknowledged that chemical treatment, in particular, places “a high value on avoiding an unsatisfactory physical outcome when secondary sex characteristics have become manifest and irreversible, a higher value on psychological well-being, and a lower value on avoiding potential harm.
The End of the English Major | Nathan Heller
In a recent article for The New Yorker, writer Nathan Heller explores why so many students who would typically be interested in pursuing degrees in English and History are now opting for other fields. He cites Arizona State University as an example, noting that the number of English majors there has dropped by almost half between 2012 and 2019. Despite ASU’s reputable faculty, students are simply not drawn to degrees in these fields. This is a trend that can be seen at universities across the country. One student mentioned by Heller decided to study Data Science instead of literature due to the high debt-to-income ratio after graduation.
Heller delves into the differences between the university systems in the United States and Europe. In Europe, universities such as Cambridge and Oxford specialize in particular subjects that attract students. In contrast, American universities are known for being a “multiversity,” offering a variety of programs to suit different interests. While the number of students pursuing science degrees has increased, there has been a corresponding decline in the number of students studying English. James Shapiro, an English professor at Columbia, blames technology for this trend, noting that people are spending more time reading websites and listening to podcasts than reading novels.
I probably read five novels a month until the two-thousands. If I read one a month now, it’s a lot. That’s not because I’ve lost interest in fiction. It’s because I’m reading a hundred Websites. I’m listening to podcasts.
The article also explores how changes in culture are affecting these fields of study. For example, some students have voiced concerns about the lack of diversity in the authors they are studying, while others view studying literature as a “passion project” that only the wealthy can afford to pursue full-time. Ultimately, Heller suggests that the decline in English and History majors may be due to the perception that these degrees are a “path to nowhere.”
Words Are the Only Victors | Christian Kriticos
In his article for Quillette, writer Christian Kriticos discusses Salman Rushdie's upcoming book and the challenges the author has faced while living under constant threat. Rushdie's 1988 publication, The Satanic Verses, included several chapters that depicted the prophet Muhammad married to three pagan prostitutes, resulting in a fatwa being issued against him by the supreme leader of Iran, calling for his assassination.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a fatwa is a decree from a religious leader of Islam that sentences a person to death, similar to a hit being ordered on someone’s life. Kriticos highlights the significance of this, as Rushdie was attacked on stage during an interview in New York on August 12th, 2022. Although the book was completed before the attack, Kriticos believes it will be “read in the shadow of the attack.”
Kriticos also notes that, following the attack, Rushdie became a champion for free speech and refused to let those who threatened his life go unpunished. Despite the danger he faced, he chose not to simply disappear.
The appearance of Victory City in the aftermath of the attack on Rushdie is a powerful celebration of these two voices, and a reminder that the battle for free speech is endless. Just as Pampa is attacked in 16th century India to silence her, Rushdie is attacked today. And just as similar characters reappear across the generations in Rushdie’s magical city, his own story has echoes in history.
The Overregulation of Science | Evan D Morris
In his article for Quillette, Evan D. Morris, PhD, a Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, argues that excessive regulation of scientific research stifles innovation. Morris cites the Institutional Review Board (IRB) as one of the biggest obstacles in this regard. He uses the example of a researcher who inserted a catheter from his arm vein into his own heart in an act of defiance. This experiment, previously performed on animals, ultimately led to the development of cardiac catheterization.
Morris contends that almost all scientists are willing to use their own bodies for experimentation, citing a personal experience in college where he allowed an intern and graduate student to extract cells from his lungs out of pure scientific curiosity. Morris also recounts numerous experiments he conducted on himself throughout his career.
Morris then describes a time when he followed the IRB process, only to find that the semester ended before the procedure could be completed. This delay, Morris argues, is a major flaw that impedes research involving human subjects. While Morris acknowledges the importance of the IRB process, he contends that its intentions are not always clear and that it often serves to slow down the research process.
The IRB has a well-intentioned mission: protect human subjects. It is staffed by well-intentioned people. But in the end, it is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies only grow, they never shrink. They demand more attention, more resources, more paperwork, and more compliance. They are subject to mission-creep. Every interaction with the bureaucracy is protracted and time-consuming and enervating.
Enjoying the content so far? If so, please consider becoming a paying subscriber to gain full access to the Weekly Reading List which contains my personal selections and summaries of the week’s best articles. Your support is truly appreciated.
Taking Back Control? How Will the Gender Wars End? | Suzanne Moore
On her Substack, writer Suzanne Moore offers a theory on how the “gender wars” may come to an end. She notes that so many people are deeply entrenched in their positions on the issues that they refuse to change their minds even when presented with facts. However, the truth is slowly emerging, to the point where even the New York Times is being forced to report on it. More discusses how at the New York Times and The Guardian, questioning the narrative on trans people was seen as an attack, but now they are reporting on what is happening at gender clinics.
Moore suggests that to end the “gender wars,” many people will need to wake up. However, she acknowledges that some will refuse to take responsibility for their role in the conflict and will simply revise their personal history. She draws a comparison to the Brexit saga, where everything promised turned out to be a lie.
Transitioning via surgery and hormones promises that one’s mind can take control of one’s body. It cannot. We are embodied beings, not brains in bottles. This illusion of control completely evaporates at moments of birth or death.
The Commissars Will See You Now | Christopher F. Rufo
For City Journal, Christopher F. Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, recently exposed Florida International University's (FIU) diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program as a radical program that trains students to fight for left-wing causes. The program uses critical race theory to advocate against racism while labeling the United States as a system of white supremacy. After the George Floyd riots, they segregated discussions on the issue by creating one for students of color and another for white students.
Rufo also highlighted the program's "inclusive language guide," which replaces common words and phrases with gender-neutral substitutes such as using "spouse" instead of "husband" or "wife," and creating new terms like "Mx." to replace "Mr." He suggests that this language guide is building the foundation for political change.
The content of these programs is pure left-wing activism. The seminar materials begin with “land acknowledgements,” promote the Black Lives Matter movement, and describe life in the United States as a system of “Power, Privilege, and Oppression.” In FIU’s social-justice narrative, white Christians are assigned the role of oppressor—the lessons describe “Judeo-Christian holidays,” for example, as a form of “cultural imperialism”—and “trans,” “non-binary,” and “Black people” are assigned the role of the oppressed.
Rufo explains how all the objectives align with left-wing causes, pointing out that these programs are part of the university's bureaucracy, established by the administration to hire activists and promote their political agenda. He emphasizes that this is only the beginning and that the implementation of such programs will extend to every academic program.
Names, Pronouns & the Law | Joshua T. Katz
In his article for The New Criterion, Joshua T. Katz, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, explores the relationship between names and pronouns. He provides various examples of names and their pronunciations, highlighting how some individuals value the correct pronunciation of their name. Using his name, Joshua, as an example, Katz explains how it can be tedious when people shorten it to “Josh.”
Katz delves into the gendered nature of names and how the use of certain pronouns can be perplexing, such as using “he” to refer to someone named “Keri.” While there are instances where using “they” to refer to a singular object makes sense, using it with an individual’s name is not appropriate.
A related issue concerns what one might call the expansiveness of each category. Words in a given language typically belong to either an open or a closed class: the former is one that routinely accepts new items, the latter one that very rarely does so. There are differences across languages, particularly as regards adjectives, but nouns are always open-class (think of bae, bitcoin, and burkini, all recent additions to English) while pronouns in the languages with which most of us are especially familiar are closed-class—or so it is usually said.
He also discusses “neo-pronouns” and how some languages have an “open class” of pronouns. Despite previous attempts to make English more gender-neutral, these efforts have not succeeded. Katz examines the process of assigning names and the laws surrounding name changes, prompting the question of whether individuals who can legally change their name should also have the legal right to change their gender.
Katz raises concerns about laws that mandate certain pronoun usage or deliberately misnaming someone. He conducts a thorough analysis of the complexities surrounding this issue.
Why I’m Sticking Up for Science | Richard Dawkins
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes for the Spectator, expressing concern that political correctness is overshadowing science. He highlights instances where professors have been removed from teaching for being deemed “not safe for students,” which he believes goes against the very purpose of universities: to challenge ideas. To illustrate this point, he references Maoris in New Zealand who claim that even teaching them to read is an act of colonization.
Dawkins argues that using the phrase “western science buys into the ‘relativist’ notion that evolution and big bang cosmology are just the origin myth of white western men” is misguided because science is a universal concept that belongs to all of humanity. He recounts his speeches in New Zealand, emphasizing the importance of science itself.
The true reason science is more than an origin myth is that it stands on evidence: massively documented evidence, double blind trials, peer review, quantitative predictions precisely verified in labs around the world.