An Obscurantist Age?
One worrying trend of our epoch is a celebration of irrationality by those who believe that their wishful thinking produces ideas that are necessarily true—from the Donald Trump crowd to the woke galaxy. Are we entering an obscurantist age? A story in the current issue of the Economist may vie for the place of Exhibit No. 1 (“Trans Ideology Is Distorting the Training of America’s Doctors,” January 8, 2022), although new candidates appear by the day.
The Public Health movement, more a political movement than a field of scientific inquiry, has been working for a century or so (depending on the country) to translate its vision of a sanitary utopia into socialist proposals and policies. Core medicine itself has been hit by the anti-scientific agenda.
In another Econlog post, I wrote: “If an adult wants to modify his body at his own expense, he should of course be free to do so, and we should respect his decision.” It’s called individual liberty. But the trans ideology, which we can view as part of the woke galaxy, goes much further by negating that there is such a thing as two biological sexes if you redefine them as genders. A large part of the intellectual and educational establishment seems to accept such claims.
“Fear and Ignorance” is the subtitle of the Economist article. It reports on what is apparently taught in American medical schools:
An endocrinologist told a class that females on testosterone had a similar risk of heart attack to males (they have a much higher risk). Debate about all this was apparently off-limits. …
Professional bodies, including the American Academy of Paediatrics, have endorsed “gender-affirmative” care, which accepts patients’ self-diagnosis that they are trans. This can mean the prescription of puberty blockers for children as young as nine. …
Affirmative care has done irreversible harm to some young people’s bodies. This has become especially clear from the experience of “detransitioners” who regret taking hormones or having their breasts or genitals removed. Puberty blockers also prevent bones from developing properly; when combined with cross-sex hormones they can lead to infertility and inability to have an orgasm. A 26-year-old student at a medical school in Florida who plans to become a paediatrician is shocked by what she has not been taught about these treatments. “With other diseases and treatments we are taught in such depth about every possible side-effect,” she says.
Confused corporate executives, whom I criticized in my post of yesterday, look like small fry compared to that, even if their own contribution to muddled thinking should not be underestimated.
The new obscurantists, like those in other times or places, are so persuaded that they have intuited the definitive truth, that they try to censor or bully those who don’t agree with them:
An academic paediatrician (who did not want her name, institution or state to appear in this story) says that all medical students understand that they are expected to follow the affirmation model “uncritically and unquestioningly”. …
Some trans-rights activists bully anyone who expresses concerns publicly.
Reason and free debates are necessary conditions for liberty and prosperity.