Sunday assorted links



Only last week did I discover that "transgender" does not appear in my otherwise reliable Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1991).

To avert the proffered neologism "transgender" and the variants offered by kottke, I'm relying on the appellation "fruitcake" to denote those advocates of science fiction psycho-sexual categories or too emotionally distraught to equate "sex" with "gender".

2) Today's reminder that gender theorists still have no theory of gender. (& of course young people have gleefully exploited this.)

Edward, what do you think determines a person's gender?

Physics and chemistry have both been implicated, I understand. (Psychology remains as much a pseudo-science as phrenology and can tell us little more reliably than phrenology: neurology, brain physiology, and brain chemistry are disciplines still in their infancy, which of course doesn't stop psychologists and sociologists from their infantile babbling.)

That seems like a non answer. Is gender bi-modal and if so, what determines which mode a person is "in"?

"Sex" and "gender" are co-equivalent terms for me, perhaps because I am heterosexual and observe the "normality" of the hetero-normative and the statistical deviation of non-hetero-normative assertions (that, and the reproductive impotence and/or sterility of homosexual intercourse, strictly speaking). I'm something of a "cognitive voluntarist", meaning: I don't think rationality and cognition rely solely on evidence presented by the senses but because what we gather by our senses we assess by experience, what we think is largely a matter of volition.

I would hardly restrict sexual expression (descriptively, at least) to the heterosexual, but I would not make the mistake of restricting sexual expression therefore to some "bi-modality": sexually mature adults are capable of chastity (not just theoretically, and not ever too easily), hardly a popular choice these days in many circles, but we are not compelled to be sexually expressive just as we are not obliged to profess an identity based chiefly on our sexual preference (or sexual orientation, or sexual disorientation, as the case may be), just as we are not compelled to reproduce.

If I misconstrued your citation of "bi-modality", I offer the further stipulation that if your use of this concept is tied to human somatic expression, then yes, there are indeed the two modalities of "male somatic" and "female somatic" (actual somatic hermaphroditism I take to be more rare than occupancy on the BLTGQ spectrum): in which case our sex and gender is determined by our somatic constitution at birth: sexual expression that comes later is volitional, a response emerging from our somatic condition and from our assessments of experience.

I think the important thing is that we notice how smart 'Edward' is.

2. All for transgender rights, but... some of these kids these days have too much free time on their hands.

This is close to what my wife, who grew up in the Congo, says: Gender multiplicity and confusion is a first-world luxury.

Not if you're one of the people suffering from it.

That depends on what you think suffering from it means.

A lot of children with food allergies do not in fact have food allergies. They have attention seeking parents.

I have a child with some food allergies, and we've had her scratch tested, but I can somewhat believe this. Do you have stats to back up the claim?

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth (U.K.) have discovered the reason why food allergies have increased in recent years: hypochondria. It turns out that four out of five kids who believes he or she is allergic to a food, isn’t.

The researchers surveyed over 1,500 children, along with their parents, about food allergies and intolerances. Then they tested those who reported problems, both with skin fold tests and by feeding them the offending food. The results were completely unexpected.

Lead investigator Dr. Taraneh Dean said, “We were surprised that such a high proportion of people in this age group perceived they had a problem. What this study suggests is that there is a public perception of an increase in FHS [food hypersensitivity syndrome], which is not borne out by objective clinical assessment.”

About 12% of children claimed to have adverse reactions to a food, with peanuts, dairy products, wheat, and fish the most common. Only 2.3% actually had a problem, some with merely an “intolerance,” and some with an actual allergy.

See also here:

And here:

I wouldn't go so far as to say all too often it is Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. But clearly there are some grossly over-protective parents out there.

These people suffer from mental and emotional problems. Of course, once they declare themselves "transsexual" help ceases to be forthcoming. They then go on to commit suicide with alarming frequency and everyone blames bullying and stops thinking about it.

Why would someone put themselves through such hell just for a little attention? Doesn't it seem rather more likely that there's something different?

Aside from the fact that some people are legitimately born with both male and female proto-organs, there seems to be some rather funky brain stuff going on in some people.

Indeed, they've got problems. Problems that won't be solved by elaborate games of pretend, even if the entire planet participates.

Giving thousands of dollars to charity is also a first-world luxury.

Pointing out something is a "first-world luxury" carries way less information than you or your wife seem to think. Usually it's just code for "I disapprove".

or that this is a problem for such a tiny fraction of a percent of the population that its not really worth the attention its getting.

The attention is temporary. Once we can all accept "yeah, I guess there are just some people like that" and make a few minor accommodations, we can just treat them like we treat anyone and the whole issue will be over.

But Nathan, I have preconceived notions about the order of the world and I don't like change.

Is expensive elective surgery a "minor accommodation"?

I am pro-Trans as they come, except for the fact that future iterations of Obamacare will absolutely require insurance companies to cover gender reassignment surgery, which seems inevitably too expensive to count as minor.

Bathrooms, yes. Pronouns, sure (with generous allowance for random strangers to go by your gender presentation). Plastic surgery at someone else's expense? Weeellll....

Transgender people have a number of psychological problems and the surgery itself appears to have negative medical value. Several decades long studies (I'm aware of one by Johns Hopkins and one out of Sweden) show no improvement in psychological well being of people receiving the surgery and in fact an extremely amplified risk of suicide versus the control group.

Furthermore, the narrative that transgenders are "trapped in the wrong body" has been pretty much debunked by psychiatrists in the field, most especially women psychologists. They note that most transgender males are concerned primarily with the sexual nature of their new body, show signs of extreme narcissism, and often have a long history of sexual perversion. What they show almost no interest in is femininity or other markers of fully formed female gender identity. Psychologists have concluded that many of the men getting transgender surgery are so narcissistic and hyper sexualized they literally want to fuck themselves. Bruce Jenner and his reality show carnival seem like a good demonstration of this.

We can conclude pretty safely that transgenderism is harmful both to transgender people themselves and those around them. Obviously, all good people of common sense want to protect their wives and daughters from compromising situations with these damaged and dangerous perverts. In a better world the surgery itself would also be illegal, since it violates the hypocrite oath to "do no harm."

The fact that companies are willing to threaten peoples jobs and make massive billion dollar business decisions over whether we are going to allow damaged perverts into the women bathroom is yet another sign of how who gets rich is important because money = power and it is inevitably used to influence politics and culture in ways that impact our lives.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, c. 1775: "It is a good thing Heaven has not given us the power to change as much of our body as we would like to or as our theory would assert is necessary" (Hollingdale tr.).

(Cf. G. C. Lichtenberg, c. 1793: "It is always dangerous times when men have a lively awareness of their own importance and of what they have the power to do . . ." [also Hollingdale tr.].)

Transgender may have numerous psychological problems - given their difficult position in society, I'd be surprised if they didn't. But I contest your claim that the surgery has negative value.

"the narrative that transgenders are “trapped in the wrong body” has been pretty much debunked by psychiatrists in the field"
No, it hasn't. Transgender people who do undergo surgery are markedly and sustainably happier afterward. Whether you credit their feelings of being trapped in the wrong body is a poor standard.

"often have a long history of sexual perversion"
Of course they have a long history of "sexual perversion" - meaning sexual interests outside the mainstream. The transgender are in a minority. By your definition, they themselves are a sexual perversion. You've merely restated their position, without adding anything to the discussion.

"Obviously, all good people of common sense want to protect their wives and daughters from compromising situations with these damaged and dangerous perverts."
Another tautological statement. Transgender are perverts; thus all people of good sense must protect their wives and daughters (passing over the sexism of this statement).

Tyler, in general you have few good commenters here. Alexander Scott and (from a glance) Caplan seem to have better ones. Yet your blog is so good! My hypothesis would be that quality commentary requires more effort in gardening. The cost-benefit ratio might not be worth it to you, but ah well.

"Transgender people who do undergo surgery are markedly and sustainably happier afterward."

Where is your evidence for this? There are studies of this phenomenon. The results don't match your assertion. 41% of people who get transgender surgery end up attempting suicide, a high percent succeed. That's dramatically higher then the control group (people with similar problems that wanted the surgery but didn't get it).

What seems to happen is people self report satisfaction immediately after surgery, but there isn't much improvement in their psychological conditions, and then over time they deteriorate as they realize the surgery didn't solve anything.

"You’ve merely restated their position, without adding anything to the discussion."

Sexual predation, pathological promiscuity, and extreme sexual addiction/fetishism are unhealthy and dangerous traits. We aren't talking about some girl that likes getting spanked here. We are talking about potentially dangerous perverts that often exploit other sexually to get their fix and often carry STDs.

> What is your evidence for this?

*doesn't cite studies supporting own position*

Actually, I mentioned my two studies. Which I'm sure you can find, we all have google. You don't want to find them or evaluate them objectively, because you don't want to see the evidence.

Here is a graph of the phenomenon.

The burden of educating yourself is on YOU. Nobody is obliged to do your research for you.

It's pretty common sense that when your psychologically confused the answer isn't to chop of your dick and shove a bunch of hormones in yourself. If you want to overturn common sense on this matter the burden of proof is on you.

Perhaps the high suicide rates are because of people like you. Unfortunately, I don't imagine that would even bother you.

If there are high STD rates there should be better outreach to promote safe sex. If there is sexual exploitation, the normal laws apply.

The high suicide rates are higher for people who actually GET the corrective surgery. Why?

Because chopping your dick off and shoving hormones into your body isn't healthy...

Maybe they commit suicide because they mutilated themselves and it didn't solve their problems.

Perverts are aware of condoms, they just don't use them. It requires self control to use a condom, most of these people lack self control. There are also people who purposely chase STDs because it turns them on.

The goal is to stop sexual exploitation before it happens, not punish perverts after they exploit. Normal people want to avoid putting perverts in situations where predation is likely to happen.

@A Definite Beta Guy

Perhaps those that choose to get surgery are more suicidal/despondent to begin with. And that is why they are motivated to take on such a surgery.

Surgery is a big deal, so there is likely a difference between those that choose it and those that don't. Even if they those cohorts share other attributes.

I wonder if those who have surgery are different than those who do not. It's possible that those who choose surgery are more desperate/sad/suicidal prior to surgery and thus choose the surgery option as a last course of action - they are more desperate than those who do not.

So comparing those who have the surgery to those that don't is likely not apples to apples.

It's not like your lengthy response to asdf's evidence-free post is much better, Troy.

IIRC, the control group for the suicide study was gen pop, not transgender who didn't have surgery.

Anyway, courtesy of Slate Star Codex, here's a story about a hair dryer:

The Hair Dryer Incident was probably the biggest dispute I’ve seen in the mental hospital where I work. Most of the time all the psychiatrists get along and have pretty much the same opinion about important things, but people were at each other’s throats about the Hair Dryer Incident.

Basically, this one obsessive compulsive woman would drive to work every morning and worry she had left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house. So she’d drive back home to check that the hair dryer was off, then drive back to work, then worry that maybe she hadn’t really checked well enough, then drive back, and so on ten or twenty times a day.

It’s a pretty typical case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it was really interfering with her life. She worked some high-powered job – I think a lawyer – and she was constantly late to everything because of this driving back and forth, to the point where her career was in a downspin and she thought she would have to quit and go on disability. She wasn’t able to go out with friends, she wasn’t even able to go to restaurants because she would keep fretting she left the hair dryer on at home and have to rush back. She’d seen countless psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, she’d done all sorts of therapy, she’d taken every medication in the book, and none of them had helped.

So she came to my hospital and was seen by a colleague of mine, who told her “Hey, have you thought about just bringing the hair dryer with you?”

And it worked.

She would be driving to work in the morning, and she’d start worrying she’d left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house, and so she’d look at the seat next to her, and there would be the hair dryer, right there. And she only had the one hair dryer, which was now accounted for. So she would let out a sigh of relief and keep driving to work.

And approximately half the psychiatrists at my hospital thought this was absolutely scandalous, and This Is Not How One Treats Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and what if it got out to the broader psychiatric community that instead of giving all of these high-tech medications and sophisticated therapies we were just telling people to put their hair dryers on the front seat of their car?

I, on the other hand, thought it was the best fricking story I had ever heard and the guy deserved a medal. Here’s someone who was totally untreatable by the normal methods, with a debilitating condition, and a drop-dead simple intervention that nobody else had thought of gave her her life back. If one day I open up my own psychiatric practice, I am half-seriously considering using a picture of a hair dryer as the logo, just to let everyone know where I stand on this issue.

Miyamoto Musashi is quoted as saying:

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.

Likewise, the primary thing in psychiatry is to help the patient, whatever the means. Someone can concern-troll that the hair dryer technique leaves something to be desired in that it might have prevented the patient from seeking a more thorough cure that would prevent her from having to bring the hair dryer with her. But compared to the alternative of “nothing else works” it seems clearly superior.

Had a woman who worked for me who occasionally drove back to the office in the evening to make sure she'd unplugged her space heater. On her own, she resorted to taking a picture of said unplugged heater. Gave her great peace of mind.

"6. Africa has always been sci-fi."

Ouch, that was painful to read. Somehow, when I clicked on the link, I expected something substantive about African sci-fi writers. What I got was an article that was nearly incoherent and full of pop jargon.

"At its best, science fiction operates as the articulation of outlandish metaphors, even puns. " No, that's not sci-fi at its best.

By default it probably did say something substantive about African writers. If there were any good ones, it would have mentioned them.

One of the worst articles I have read here though.

No comment on any of these standing alone, but I appreciate the thought that went into combining them . (Link 1 and link 2 - since the days of the Book of Proverbs we have been specifically warned not to use our ability to express ideas as an excuse for indulging in gossip). (Link 4 - livestock is an expected word here but is nevertheless an unexpectedly disparaging term for animal performers; when I learned Spanish I was slightly disappointed to find that pregnant women discussing the sex of their future newborns would say varon and hembra; how categorically unanthropomorphic!) (Link 5 - Galileo was probably not overrated - he was probably one of the few talented scientists of the High Renaissance period in science (which does not map directly to the same period in Art) who worked hard enough to produce an oeuvre that would support a full-fledged modern scientific biography) . So 5 out of the first 6 links deal with the moral questions of disparagement and/or gossip (link 3 obviously fits in).

5) Galileo Galilei was the Carl Sagan or Neil de Grasse Tyson of the 17thC.

Popularisers of science are as important as the original discoverers.

Last, I don't believe that either Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin nor the Dutch natural philosopher Isaac Beeckman were ever shown the instruments of torture.

Galileo probably got a lot fewer things wrong than Tyson does.

Unless you think the tides are caused by the motion of the earth and that the planets orbit the sun in perfect circles with lots of "epicycles", you may want to rethink this.

Unless you think we've absorbed all possible knowledge you might want to rethink your point. That Tyson knows the cause of tides or understands heliocentrism is very obviously not the point. The very fundamental feature of science is that everyone is dumber today than they will be tomorrow.

However, more to the point, TMC is commenting on the increasingly frequent adventures into Things He's Not An Expert On that NDT likes to take in which he makes himself look foolish.

Galileo was much more than a popularizer. His work was outstanding and still occupies a cardinal place in basic physics, but like all the other great scientists, he did not work in a vacuum. Sagan too did important work, if not on the epoch making scale of Galileo. De Grasse Tyson has done a lot as a popularizer, but I don't think he has the fundamental science cred of a Sagan, much less a Galileo.

+1, the article was clever provocative 'troll bait' designed to get you thinking (and defending) Galileo. In fact, the article gives credit to unpublished research on gravity by Galileo that was original and creative. Hence he was more than just Carl Sagan, who I think did not do much original research (pace, see some here, but not earth-shattering like showing gravity acts with constant force --at least over short human size distances--like Galileo:

1. Editors have a problem with headlines. I could not find the word "odd" used in a single instance in the article. The article is really about what the public views as "weird" matchups. Perhaps, it was too politically incorrect to use the word weird. (If someone finds the word odd, I will of course stand corrected.)

The crux of the article is about how the public expects famous people to engage in assortative mating, even if the outcome is sometimes weird.

'Why isn’t there more live streaming of Broadway shows?'

File under 'questions we can answer'

See also, why air cabin crew are rude to economy passengers. Protection of the premium product

#5...No. Quite the opposite...

#5 Kepler was a good writer. At least, the English translation of Somnium is very enjoyable. Kepler's mother was prosecuted for witchcraft due to this book.

Axa's comment is 'splaining, why enlightenment authors can be so prolix, page long paragraphs, etc.

5% what about Galileo's discovery of time/square of gravity?

Milton comes to mind, not funny, the pain of woirds . . .

yet enlightening, nonetheless, and metaphorical in the umph degree

4 mentions a rumor of an elephant being used in Aida. But is it true? I have heard it said before but I have never seen evidence.

#1 Vladeng

"Look, I’m sure Jerry Hall is perfectly nice. But does she have nuclear weapons?


howling at the sheer radioactive balls of it, as his old adversary sees his Polaris missile, and raises him a Tsar Bomba."

The Galileo article is really weak sauce. Hooke was working on gravitational power laws at the same time as Netwon, Loretnz had already put forward his contraction rule as a way to explain the Michaelson-Morley result before Einstein. Nearly every scientific discovery is "in the air", and the first-to-print, best-known, or best expositor gets remembered. There are very few scientific discoveries for which one could not say that someone else would have figured it out soon enough. (General relativity comes to mind as a rare exception.)

I agree with you on the Galileo article's relatively low level of persuasiveness, but it was interesting and well written, in its way. As for your final parenthetical, just to name some (very) roughly close contemporaries of Einstein who could have, given the right conditions, relatively independently figured out GR, I would guess (based on rough and very uninformed extrapolation) that Kolmogorov, Mach, Lorentz, Neumann, and even Godel and Dirac and LeMaitre and de Broglie, not to mention Poincare and maybe Duhem, had they been born the same year as Einstein and shared his interests, would have figured out the applicable equations and been able to explain them well enough to take credit for the discovery - before they were 10 years older than Einstein was when he first published on general relativity. It's not exactly as unfathomable as expecting George Chapman or Queen Elizabeth to be able to write Hamlet, is it. Penrose and Yau and Hawking and Feynman and one or two more of our closer-in-time contemporaries might have gotten there as quickly (but not after 1905! and not after stopping off at special relativity and Brownian motion and all the exhausting rest on the way), I would think.

David Hilbert was right on Einstein's heels as far as GR goes. I would put Einstein right behind Newton and Galileo, mostly because he just happened to live in a less seminal era.

Einstein minimization is a fairly significant indicator of an under-developed intellect.

The real geniuses are those who call people stupid rather than addressing their arguments!

Einstein comes second only to Newton. To compare Feynman or Hawking ... that sort of silliness probably has a name: "recency bias" or something like that.

I agree with your first six words, Dearieme, but as for the rest - Nothing silly about what I said. Although my opinion is probably worth no more than an average tournament chess player's opinions of a world champion, I think Hawking has an unmistakably deep appreciation of geometry in all dimensions and over time. No way a guy that intuitive and gifted - even if his backwater education slowed him down - would have remained baffled , had he lived in Einstein's day, for 20 or 30 years by the questions whose mathematical answers we refer to as GR. 10 or 15 years, maybe, 20 or 30, no. As for "recency bias", I am no professor, but I believe Wodehouse is generally funnier than Dickens, the people who paid Reynolds for a portrait got more of their money's worth than the people who paid Hals, and Kasparov and Carlsen are simply better chess players than most champions from the 40s and 50s.

My math agrees with you on Kasparov and Carlsen, and to chime in on Galileo, I feel the Aeon article luffed and muffed the significance of Galileo for Reproducible Knowledge (which conventional wisdom as represented by Wikipedia sources to Robert Boyle later in the 1600s). As others have noted in comments, his work on gravity does more than his astronomical predecessors cited in the article did to establish reproducible knowledge as goal of the scientific method.

> Nearly every scientific discovery is “in the air”, and the first-to-print, best-known, or best expositor gets remembered.

And Thony Christie would agree. He writes about that a lot on his (highly recommended) blog.

#2. Alternative title of article : list of mental disorders

#1 NYT, a bastion of liberals and leader in the charge to demand acceptance of any and all approved (by the left) sexual orientations and lifestyles is shaming people's sexual and relationship choices - because those choices don't fit in to the LGBTQIA+ norm. Shameful.

"The history of the top chess players over time"

Short answer: Mostly Kasparov in recent decades, followed by a short era of primus inter pares, and then Magnus C.

1. A peculiarly New York Times/ MSNBC type of piece. "We know we are doing this, and "really we think it's OK", but just in case it's not OK, we will self-recognize it, making it more OK, and making us even cooler since we recognize that we recognize we recognize it.

One more instance of the Hindus being thousands of years ahead of us.

I mean, even St. Augustine recognized that this was a part of nature, if somewhat odd.

Mental disorders are certainly part of nature. I don't think anyone disputes that.

PS: I gauge the advancement of civilizations by the amenities of their bathrooms, not their celebration of mental disorders.

Hindus do not recognize it as a mental disorder. They recognize it as part of the natural order of things. There are just some people like that.

Most often, "mental disorder" is applied to anything that just ... different, and makes you feel uncomfortable. We're not talking violent psychopaths or anything here.

Mental disorders need neither be violent, and certainly are not un-natural.

We don't chastise people for being bipolar or for having aspergers or depression. We don't "celebrate" it as normal, however. It's still abnormal, and hence a disorder.

OK, I don't think there's much value in pushing the point since you don't seem to have a hate on for them or anything, but there's certainly a lot of chastising going on in certain quarters these days (the other day, one state passed a law which disallowed municipalities from making their own rules to accommodate transgender persons).

I think we get caught up too much sometimes in defining what's "normal", and hence everyone else "abnormal". Depending on current social stuff, just about anyone could be defined as "disordered" in some way or another for failing to be sufficiently "normal". Back in the day, some women would end up locked up in mental hospitals after refusing to do all their chores as they were supposed to and complaining about the situation. These days, it is rather more common to expect that most women will insist on some more equal sharing of housework.

Just imagine ... whichever personal quirk you have, ending up defining you as "disordered". Strong attention to detail? Now you're "OCD". High confidence and ability not matched by success? Now you suffer from "delusions of grandeur". Don't pay much attention in boring situations? "ADD". The list could go on to increasingly absurd things. Granted, transgender of the sort that's not people who are born with both male/female parts definitely seems weird to me.

I don't see what value there is in psychologizing them though, unless there's good reason to believe that they can more easily achieve goals that they set for themselves by reforming their peculiarities.

Equity contracts won't allow it or would require wage beyond the willingness of producers to pay. Broadway theaters need audience control to keep ticket prices high. Broadway producers don't want people to realize how weak their product is comparatively.* Theater simply isn't as good when broadcast, even live, and the premium of that experience difference is high. The techniques of acting onstage vs for the screen are radically different.

*You can see a local (be it DC or Off^3 Broadway) straight play that is as emotionally effective for $15-50, compared to $150 for on Broadway.

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