The cancellation of Carole Hooven

November 11, 2022 • 9:15 am

Somehow the article below fell into my hands when I was reading for our Stanford discussion about the binary nature of sex and the ire of those ideologues who doubt it. Her piece is from a special section of the Archives of Sexual Behavior called “Cancel Culture”: Its Impact on Sex/Gender Teaching, Clinical Practice, and Research. It describes how Hooven was demonized to the extent that she had to take a leave from Harvard, where she was a lecturer in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, all for teaching that sex is binary. Click below to read, get the pdf here and see the reference at bottom. (If you can’t access it because it’s paywalled (the legal Unpaywall extension should give you access) write me for a pdf.) I’m amazed that an academic journal actually published this paper!

Hooven taught a popular course in human evolutionary biology at Harvard, ‘”Hormones and Behavior”, along with other courses on human biology. She’s also the author of the popular book T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us. This already puts her in a fraught position, and a statement she made on television got her into big trouble, igniting a fire that, according to her article, wound up with her having to take a leave from Harvard.  Here, in Hooven’s words, is what started the fracas:

In the summer of 2021, shortly after the publication of my book T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us (Hooven, 2021), I appeared on Fox and Friends, a news program on the Fox network. I was asked to comment on an article written by the journalist Katie Herzog, about the pressure some professors felt to back away from using language like “male and female” and “pregnant women” in teaching (Herzog, 2021). I agreed to appear for a few reasons. First, my book had just been released and I wanted it to reach as large an audience as possible. Second, while I am in favor of using language that makes people feel respected and comfortable, I feel strongly that we should resist succumbing to the demands of bullies and be unafraid to use clear, indispensable scientific terms like “male” and “female.” And third, I wanted to explain that sex categories are facts of nature which do not carry implications for anyone’s value or rights. I had nothing to say in the interview about how to describe pregnancy.

While people might have objected to just about anything I said, simply because I said it on Fox, here’s the bit that got me in real trouble:

The facts are that there are…two sexes…there are male and female, and those sexes are designated by the kinds of gametes we produce…The ideology seems to be that biology really isn’t as important as how somebody feels about themselves or feels their sex to be, but we can treat people with respect and respect their gender identities and use their preferred pronouns, so understanding the facts about biology doesn’t prevent us from treating people with respect (“Harvard lecturer” 2021).

In response to my appearance, a graduate student tweeted out a thread, representing herself in her official capacity as director of my department’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging task force. She said, among other things, that she was “appalled” by my “transphobic” and “dangerous” remarks which allegedly interfered with the task force’s efforts to ensure that the department was a “safe space” for people of “all gender identities and sexes” (Levine, 2021).

As I’ve emphasized on this site and—along with Luana Maroja—in the science panel at Stanford’s academic freedom conference, what Hooven said is absolutely true: there are just two biological sexes, defined by whether their bodies are set up to produce large, immobile gametes (“females”) or small mobile gametes (“males”). There are no intermediate gametes, and thus no third sex. This is not a matter of controversy among sensible biologists.

People who are hermaphrodites, having both male and female gonadal tissue, are almost invariably sterile, and they, along with intersex individuals, comprise only about 0.018% of the population—about one person in every 5,600 individuals. If you plotted “frequency of sex” on the Y axis against “sex” on the X axis, you’d get two huge spikes at “male” and “female”, and a few blips between them representing the very rare intersex individuals and hermaphrodites. This is for all practical purposes a binary (some petulant people say that the 1/5600 people make sex not a binary, but they’re quibbling).

The sociocultural construct known as “gender” is more of a continuum, as there are now hundreds of different genders. Still, most people identify as either a member of the “male” or “female” genders, so a plot like the above, but for gender, would show two humps like a camel, one hump at male and the other at female, but a curve between them representing those who don’t identify as fully male or female. Gender is not binary, but neither is it a smooth continuous curve. It is what we call “bimodal”.

But I digress, for Hooven talked not about gender but about sex, and what she said was absolutely correct. But for that she was demonized. This is the way that the ideologues chill speech and impede biological research. If the facts don’t fit the progressive Left political program, then you just reinterpret (and mischaracterize) the facts. But, as we’ll see, the facts of biology are irrelevant to how we should treat individuals who are of different gender or are transsexual.

Here are two tweets by the graduate student who was a “director of the diversity and inclusion task force” of Hooven’s department, and Hooven’s response simply made the whole issue go viral. This culminated in an investigation by Harvard (spurred on by two other innocuous statements Hooven made about sex), and then with Hooven’s having taking a leave of absence due to her inability to carry out her responsibilities.

Hooven was then named on the same day

There’s nothing discriminatory or “transphobic” about what Hooven said. In fact, as she points out, “even though someone publicly maligning my speech in their official capacity as a representative of the institution is a clear violation of Harvard’s Free Speech Guidelines, the person who maligned me was not sanctioned.” No, Hooven and not Lewis was eventually sanctioned. Here are the guidelines that Lewis violated but Hooven did not:

“Because no other community defines itself so much in terms of knowledge, few others place such a high priority on freedom of speech. As a community, we take certain risks by assigning such a high priority to free speech. We assume that the long term benefits to our community will outweigh the short term unpleasant effects of sometimes noxious views. Because we are a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit the censorship of noxious ideas. We are committed to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea.” (Harvard Free speech guidelines, 1990).

Hooven, by the way, agrees that her biological definition of sex should not be taken to impugn, demean, or infringe on the rights of anybody who is transsexual or of an intermediate or different gender. The biological facts are the facts, and what we do with them is a matter of philosophy and morality. Only a moral reprobate would use the sex binary to demonize those who don’t feel like they’re fully male or female. And here again Scientific American rears its ugly head, denying the facts of biology to foster its ideology.


By saying in public what I believe to be the truth, I violated a taboo. I failed to follow the directions of fellow scientists to “Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia” as one Scientific American headline directed (Simón(e), 2019). Which science is purportedly “phony?” Exactly that which I invoked on Fox and Friends: There are two (and only two) sexes, male and female, and they are based on the types of gametes organisms are designed to produce. The conclusion to the Scientific American article sums up the author’s (familiar) point: “the science is clear and conclusive: sex is not binary, transgender people are real” (Simón(e), 2019). Of course people who are transgender, experience gender dysphoria, identify as queer, have differences (or disorders, or variations) of sexual development, or are members of other gender minorities, are real, and deserve the same basic human rights as anyone else. While some activists insist that asserting the biological reality of the sex “binary” is entirely wrong-headed and pernicious, the true threat to science, and to human dignity is the idea that in order to support anyone’s rights we must deny or ignore reality.

While some who are fighting for the rights of gender minorities may sincerely believe that subverting science is necessary to protect an oppressed population, department chairs and university presidents are tasked with ensuring that the campus environment is one in which the fundamental ideals of truth-seeking and academic freedom are not only defended, but actively promoted. It should not be too much to ask that they firmly hold the line between ignorance and knowledge, between subjective and objective, between our feelings and the facts.

Hooven talks about a lot more, discussing Pinker’s idea of how various tribes cohere by not violating “taboo ideas” (i.e., “sex is binary”), and reprises the conflagration about ex-Harvard-President Larry Summers’s speculation about the different abilities of the sexes at a Harvard debate—a statement that ultimately led Harvard to ditch Summers. But you can read that for yourself.

There are two lessons here. One is what we talked about at Stanford, and one that Luana just wrote about on Bari Weiss’s site: ideological views are preventing people from teaching and learning scientific facts, and this impedes understanding of the world. For example, if you don’t see two sexes (usually in approximately equal ratios), then you won’t go on to investigate why this happens, which turns out, according to the theory of Ronald Fisher and others, to be based on evolution and differential parental expenditure in offspring. Likewise, the greater investment of females than males in offspring, which rests ultimately on differences in gamete size, is a crucial factor in explaining sexual selection, which itself explains many of the differences between males and females of animal species in size, strength, behavior, and ornamentation.  Ideology like that experienced by Hooven impedes understanding of the world by closing off fruitful areas of investigation.  As we all know, one can’t predict whether a scientific path winds up in a blind alley or branches into a whole new area of understanding.

And Hooven’s own lesson:

There are solutions, in addition to clear and forthright policies. To begin with, university leaders must be encouraged to develop a moral compass, integrity, and a backbone—admittedly, this is often a tough order. Second, the university’s position on academic freedom must be frequently trumpeted. Third, administrators should never weigh in on the accuracy of controversial or offensive claims—doing so signals that views that fail the purity test are less likely to be protected. And finally, university leadership must frequently remind the campus community that the foremost mission of a university is the pursuit, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. This cannot happen without academic freedom.


Hooven, C.K. Academic Freedom Is Social Justice: Sex, Gender, and Cancel Culture on CampusArch Sex Behav (2022).


65 thoughts on “The cancellation of Carole Hooven

  1. Reading about these controversies, one is inevitably reminded of the sad tale of David Reimer, whose life was destroyed by the charlatan John Money (Johns Hopkins), responsible for the infamous experiment chronicled in Colapinto’s As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl (2000).

    1. It’s a very famous case. But non-gonadal/chromosomal sex assignment happened many times with children with atypical genitalia, and I believe in many cases it worked. People got used to the gender they were assigned, mostly as a baby, and did not feel the need to transition later, although sexual orientation is clearly not easily overcome even with hormone replacement and these people often became gay (IIRC). David Reimer was declared a girl and got his first name changed when he was already 2 or 3 years old and he also had a twin brother who stayed male. That must have been a strange situation for a little boy.

      1. A case of the many where the very early assignment of non-chromosomal sex apparently caused no great suffering: Caster Semenya.

        1. Semenya is a biological male and thrives by being designated female. A biological male competing with females has a huge advantage.
          Semenya would finish about 110m behind world class males in an 800m race.

          1. Yes, it is important to distinguish Semenya from trans-athletes. Semenya is not ‘trans’, but a male ‘pseudo-hermaphrodite’. (S)he is not a fraud like those ‘trans’ athletes, but I still think (s)he should not be allowed in competitions reserved for females, since (s)he is male.
            On a funny note: if you toggle “Caster Semenya” you can get “yes, a secret man”.

  2. Rather than have Commissars in departments, universities should man-up (heh) and be explicit with regard to their orthodoxies. Either that or accept that they are in the business of fostering opinions.

  3. The article is behind a paywall, so I couldn’t read it, but the essence of it is all too familiar. We need our college and university administrators to grow backbones and defend academic freedom. I have been singularly unimpressed with our academic leaders of late. Weakness and willingness to sublimate principle to a mob is not leadership at all. And, they have only themselves to blame, having grown massive DEI bureaucracies that are destroying the very institutions they are meant to serve. The victims are professors (obviously), the students who can no longer trust what teachers are teaching, and society as a whole. When the world faces a real crisis, we won’t have any way to separate truth from lies.

    How do institutions put the self-serving, self-perpetuating DEI bureaucratniks back into holes where they belong?

      1. I just read about the Unpaywall extension. I had no idea that was available. I’ll give it a try. Thank you for letting me know.

  4. the pressure some professors felt to back away from using language like “male and female” and “pregnant women” in teaching

    There is some theory behind how languages minimize semantic redundancy. In Spanish all verbs conjugate to agree with the subject, so subject pronouns are generally unnecessary (yo tengo); English does not conjugate most verbs, so we have to specify our subject (there is a recent increased internet trend of pro-dropping in a few cases). I suspect we all have a similar reaction to the phrase “very huge”, knowing that “huge” is already packaged with the meaning “very big”; “very huge” is redundant, and the usage sounds childish. It’s bad writing. Strunk and White would not approve.

    Keeping that in mind, the only reason to say “pregnant women” is to imply that non-women can also be pregnant. I’m content using the term “pregnant humans”, because “pregnant female humans” is redundant – and because “pregnant women” is not only redundant, but also excludes pregnant girls.

    It is absolutely appropriate to use terms like ‘male’ and ‘female’ when strictly necessary, but most of the time it is not. Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas Hofstadter wrote an amazing essay, “Person Paper on Purity in Language”.

    1. Maybe we could just create a new noun, “Pregnants” or some such. I’m only being semi-serious, but it does feel awkward and almost dismissive to say “pregnant people”. And, of course, a major reason to use the phrase “pregnant women” (and I suspect the usual one) is to differentiate them from “non-pregnant women” not to differentiate them from other types of people who might be pregnant (or, I suppose, pregnant non-humans). This can be important in medical circles in which, say, one might note that certain medications should not be used by pregnant women (or girls, if you like…though if one is pregnant, surely at least biologically one would qualify as a woman), though it might be perfectly safe to be used by non-pregnant women.

      1. “And, of course, a major reason to use the phrase “pregnant women” (and I suspect the usual one) is to differentiate them from “non-pregnant women” not to differentiate them from other types of people who might be pregnant (or, I suppose, pregnant non-humans).”

        Exactly. “Pregnant women” is not redundant. Unless you want it to be, but that’s twisting things. That interpretation (Linguist’s) is not how the term has actually been used in spoken US English, at a minimum, since at least my lifetime.

        I’m with Pinker, figuring out how language is used (descriptive) is more useful, more accurate, than prescribing how language should be used. Analyzing language meticulously to find possible interpretations of long used constructions to determine if someone somewhere could be offended by one of them just doesn’t seem useful. Unless you are determined to find offense. And to me it seems like a bad idea to encourage people who are looking to find some offense where there is none.

        1. You guys beat me to it, ‘pregnant woman’ is very specific, since at any one time more women -even fertile women- are non-pregnant than pregnant. It is only redundant in the sense that a pregnant mammal is necessarily female.

          Reminds me of the former (he’s retired now) head of our Obs & Gynae department: “Every woman is pregnant until proven otherwise”. (And yes, in that specific context he was right of course, every women of fertile age -roughly between 11 and 55- should get a pregnancy test when consulting an Obs & Gynae clinic).

      2. > Maybe we could just create a new noun, “Pregnants” or some such.

        The only thing new about your semi-serious suggestion is the terminal ‘-s’. We have no problem with the nouns ‘the blind’ or ‘the homeless’. ‘The pregnant’ works just fine. Some people prefer to pluralize nominalized adjectives, like ‘the gays’, and I suppose it works with Latinate participles ending in ‘-nt’. Of course, the term ‘the pregnant(s)’ also includes pregnant animals, so if you want to limit yourself to pregnant humans, say ‘pregnant humans’.

        Responding to a point below: it is contradictory for government entities (including government-funded health centers) to refer to pregnant girls as ‘pregnant women’, given that most governments define the start of adulthood as age 18.

        1. I like “the pregnant” when you get right down to it, but I get the feeling it wouldn’t go over that well. And your point about girls/women is certainly an important one, but only for specific types of circumstances.

    2. “Keeping that in mind, the only reason to say “pregnant women” is to imply that non-women can also be pregnant.”

      Well, no, a perfectly valid reason to say “pregnant women” is to distinguish them from women who are not pregnant. And to say “pregnant people” is to conspicuously, self-consciously, erase women from the conversation, and of course also to suggest that men, too, can become pregnant. Which is absurd.

      1. There isn’t a problem with saying that men can become pregnant. That would be a trans-man who has not had a hysterectomy.

    3. Surely the reason we say “pregnant women” is to separate them from women who are not pregnant. This has been done for many years pre-trans awareness and likely wouldn’t imply or address the hypothetical possibility of pregnant men.

      1. No, but it “excludes” them when referring to the pregnant. Being non-inclusive to pregnant men by using “pregnant women” was apparently Hooven’s crime.
        In Germany, we recently had the case of a trans man who had kept his uterus, his vagina and his breasts to be able to breastfeed a child, who got pregnant and gave birth the usual way but cried gevalt when they put him down a the childs mother in the birth certificate. He and his cis male partner wanted to be documented as two fathers.
        I’s say mother is the word for the person who carried the child in his/her/zer uterus, and if you don’t mind carrying a child in your uterus while male, then you shouldn’t mind being called a mother while male either.

        1. “a trans man who had kept his uterus, his vagina and his breasts to be able to breastfeed a child, who got pregnant and gave birth the usual way”
          This is the part I do not get. If this person is engaging in the kind of sexual activity that can one pregnant, giving birth, and breastfeeding, then in what meaningful sense is this person a ‘trans-man’?
          He (to be polite) ‘feels’ like a man? How so, while pregnant and lactating? How serious could gender dysphoria be in this case? Not enough to alter behavior, apparently.
          I just don’t get it.

          1. You’re not meant to get it. The whole point is to compel you to say you do get it by making you afraid to say otherwise. A doctor who stumbled and referred to breast feeding instead of chest feeding when talking to the misgendered new father would be disciplined by her professional regulator.

            The story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is misinterpreted. In reality, the little boy who saw the Emperor was naked would not have suddenly convinced the crowd to mock the charade. He would have been hacked to death by the Emperor’s hard men right there in the street as a warning to all. You see, the Emperor was not taken in by the grifter tailors. He knew full well what he was buying from them: a means of getting his subjects and courtiers to accede in what they knew to be a lie. In so doing they can be made to believe other convenient lies.

            1. That description also works if the Emperor was completely taken in, which then helps the subjects and courtiers to be taken in, which thus leads them to attack the boy.

              If nothing else, observing how many intelligent, thoughtful, otherwise curious and reasonable people can become true believers in the most astonishing religious dreck (such as Mormonism, ffs) should teach us not to underestimate the convincing power of sincerity and an interesting story.

            2. IIRC it was a little girl who noted the Emperor had no clothes on. And Andersen was writing well before ‘trans-awareness’ (‘trans-madness’?).

              1. The most important point: The tailors tell everyone that only the pure can see the clothes. Everyone plays along because if they say that they don’t see them, that implies that they are not pure enough to do so. A very good description of virtue-signalling.

              2. Could be. I recall the Emperor as a comical harmless-looking little man—not like Putin or even Napoleon and certainly not a Grimm-type ogre—dressed in a fuzzy suit of long underwear covering all his naughty bits. But in Canada in those days, little girls would not, by my memory, be depicted in books for children as seeing old men in their underwear.

                For a long time I thought the moral of the story was that the innocence of youth can help people see what they previously could not. Ha Ha, says the Emperor, patting the child on the head. The joke was on me. Now to go after those scoundrel tailors and give them a sound spanking. Only much much later did I come to take the darker interpretations, and trans-madness was a big part of that re-think.

        2. The case of Freddy McConnell is similar – a biological female who identifies as male and tried, unsuccessfully, to be registered as the child’s father. The UK’s Supreme Court declined to intervene when McConnell lost in the Court of Appeal.

          McConnell’s case was mentioned several times in a Scottish judicial review this week, in which it was argued that if the Scottish government succeeds in defining a transman as an actual man people like McConnell would lose their protected female rights e.g. to paid maternity leave. The Scottish government lost the last round of this fight, with the judge finding that its proposed legislation conflicted with the UK government’s Equality Act and the Scottish parliament lacks the devolved power to amend UK-wide law.

    4. “The only reason to say “pregnant women” is to imply that non-women can also be pregnant”

      I don’t think anyone has ever said it for that reason.

      “pregnant women” distinguishes women who are pregnant from women who are not pregnant.

      1. Agree with aljones909 (and others above). Linguistically, the head noun in “pregnant women” is “women”. The modifier narrows the scope of reference for “women”.

    5. That piece is brilliant and hilariously funny, and has so many levels. We wouldn’t expect less of Hofstadter anyway, but he did great. Thank you so much for the link.

  5. Hooven: “To begin with, university leaders must be encouraged to develop a moral compass, integrity, and a backbone—admittedly, this is often a tough order.” This is a tough, nearly impossible, order in this day and age because universities are run as businesses with the students as their customers. The customer is always right, no?

    1. No.

      “The customer is always right” as a business aphorism means only that you the seller can never compel a customer to buy what you’re selling at the price you’re asking. He can always take his business elsewhere in hopes of finding better terms. It doesn’t mean that the customer can compel you to sell what you don’t want to sell, or demand it for free, or abuse your employees just because he is “right.” Nobody wants that kind of customer.

      So yes, university leaders can develop moral compass and a backbone as Hooven urges, in hopes of attracting better customers who perceive real value. It is sad that Harvard seems to have missed the boat on this.

      1. University leaders and administrators have these reasons for doing the wokeratis’ bidding:
        1. cowardice (you don’t agree with the bullies, but don’t have the guts to stand up to them)
        2. the desire for a quiet life (you just bend in the wind)
        3. they are woke themselves

        Samuel J. Abrams: Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators. New York Times, Oct. 16, 2018
        The ideological bent of those overseeing collegiate life is having the biggest impact on campus culture.

  6. Hooven taught a popular course at Harvard, ‘”The Evolution of Human Sex Differences,”…

    Well, there’s your problem right there.

    An evolutionary perspective on the development of the two sexes of the gonochoristic human species undermines what developmental biologist Emma Hilton calls the “Mr Potato Head collection of body parts” perspective. In order to justify the claim that transwomen are actually female and transmen are male, it’s important to downplay or eliminate the central role of reproduction in sex and replace it with disjointed body parts. There’s no other choice.

    If sex is a binary with an explanatory history of why it’s a binary, then people cannot change sex. But according to the narrative, Trans people can and do “change their sex.” Enter Mr. Potato Head.

    She writes:

    Because it only by cleaving function from form can they proceed with the gish gallop of exceptions to that form (DSDs, males with low T, and so on) to argue that an acquired form (hormonal or surgical) makes males females.

    They cannot include function in their narrative, because that creates dissonance. It asks too many hard questions. Just pretend it’s irrelevant, pretend evolution isn’t a thing, pretend you don’t see one of the most pervasive patterns in nature…

    Having rendered sex a matter of Mr and Mrs Potato Heads, the natural progression is to argue that how we name these collections of dissociated body parts is a matter of the human mind.

    Boom, sex is a social construct.

    Her Twitter account at @FondOfBeetles is a treasure trove of robust and articulate defenses against bad science concerning sex. She and her fans are constantly worried her account will be suspended. Many people have been banned for less.

  7. Carole Hooven:

    “the true threat to science, and to human dignity is the idea that in order to support anyone’s rights we must deny or ignore reality.”

    Excellently put.
    It’s also depressing that this has to be pointed out.

  8. Does anyone know what the FFRF position on gender ideology is? I’ve just seen this Tweet, which says they support boys (biological males) self-IDing into girls’ sports teams. It would be a pity if the FFRF were going woke.

        1. I note that that FFRF brief slyly uses the example of a 10 year old. AFAIK, before puberty there are indeed no physical advantages for either sex. It is a sad brief.

          1. The drafters of the Indiana law would not want to have written it to exclude only boys past Tanner 2 puberty from playing with girls. Imagine the burden that would have placed on coaches: short arm inspection before every practice to determine if this week is the week, especially since the coach of a girls’ team is likely a woman and the parents would likely insist on examination by a same-sex coach anyway. Counting pubic hairs? I think not.

            The whole thing is effed up.

    1. Thanks for the link, Coel.

      I’m glad that the major sports associations are all race-blind and racially integrated now. I wish institutions would just go sex-blind and stop discriminating. It’s frustrating that the CRT/intersectionalist/woke/PC crowd keeps making everything about race and sex, keeps trying to protect and segregate what they consider to be oppressed and underperforming communities.

        1. I think and presume Linguist was being sarcastic, but one never knows these days.
          One can apparently change sex (a deep rooted binary difference in our evolution), but not race (a recent and superficial non-binary difference in our evolution). Weird.
          Refer to Dolezal and Tuval here.

  9. Hooven’s article will be part of a special issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior that will appear in print next January. Here’s a list of the articles that will be a part of it. There will also be an introduction by the editor and commentaries on the articles.

    1. Censoring Intersex Science: A Medical School Scandal (Meyer-Bahlburg)

    2. Gender Identity Ideology Conquers the World: Why Are Anthropologists Cheering? (Lowrey)

    3. Academic Freedom Is Social Justice: Sex, Gender, and Cancel Culture on Campus (Hooven)

    4. The Cancer of Cancel Culture: Spreading “Correct” Scientific Ideologies Across North American Academia (Pfaus)

    1. Thanks for the links. All open-access too? (Not paywalled for me when I click the links).

      From the Pfaus paper, this is key:

      “[Cancellation] occurs largely out of fear on the part of academic administrators and lawyers charged with protecting the university from ‘brand damage.’”

      It would all be fine for Carole Hooven to go on Fox (or Blocked & Reported where I first heard her) or anywhere else and describe her work and the conclusions she draws from it, and for Laura Simone Lewis to call Hooven names and claim her views are transphobic or whatever. This is all fine (1A etc.) if unpleasant for Hooven and embarrassingly childish for Lewis.

      The real problem is the Harvard admins hanging Hooven out to dry by offering her no public support, not following their own free-speech guidelines, and then putting Hooven on leave. The danger to folks like Hooven and the other authors of those articles isn’t from the activists, it’s from the bosses.

      1. Nick Cohen: Shouldn’t progressives be in favour of people wanting to speak their mind?
        Where once the left fought the bosses in the workers’ name, today its loudest voices lobby bosses to police workers. If you are trying to understand why this section of the left is hated, its authoritarianism is a large part of the answer. In the popular imagination, “progressives” are people who tell you what to say and how to say it and will demand your employer fires you if you refuse. The bossy left has become the bosses’ left.
        Their predecessors had a trade unionist mentality. They instinctively sided with the employee against the employer whether they agreed with the employee’s politics or not. The new left understands that real power lies with management in societies such as the UK and US, where unions barely exist in the private sector. Their emblematic radical is not a strike leader or a feminist agitator but a diversity consultant who convinces HR to pay her or him to berate staff who cannot argue back.

  10. Also what appears to be a biological fact is that humans tend to come to conclusions through emotion rather than logic. And this is why one never wins arguments with them by appealing to logic.

    This fact is what drives entire industries from advertising to politics. And increasingly education it seems, which evokes a sad emotion in me.

    All that being said, there do have to be some limits in academia. If a biology professor started claiming that there WERE three sexes, or if an English professor started teaching that Shakespeare was a lizard person whose plays contain secret code to overthrow the human race, it would be necessary for the admins to remove them.

    The point being that one can’t just make any claim, it has to be backed by solid evidence worthy of examination. Of course this doesn’t apply to Dr. Hooven, who isn’t making any unfounded claims.

    1. It’s interesting to speculate on how and whether arguments that “sex is not a binary” would be made if people who identify as trans weren’t particularly concerned about how other people saw them. In this hypothetical, they’re firmly convinced they’re not the sex “assigned to them at birth” — but they don’t push the point. Trans ppl are comfortable with using the facilities for their sex, don’t care what pronouns people use, and don’t see themselves as oppressed victims.

      Would a concern for scientific accuracy alone be enough to drive the denials of sex as a binary? As a spectrum? Would there still be talk of “pregnant people” in midwifery and abortion debates?

      If not, then the likelihood is that the presumably science-based arguments are driven by an emotional need to assuage suffering as opposed to a careful examination of the facts.

  11. Early-career scientists at Harvard and elsewhere will notice that a grad student who attained the status of “director of the diversity and inclusion task force” can engineer the harassment and forced leave of a faculty member for the offense of stating plain facts not sanctified by DEI scripture. Aspiring academics will no doubt absorb this lesson, and adjust their behaviors accordingly.

    One is reminded of the adventure Biology underwent in a galaxy far away. In 1937, I. I. Prezent wrote as follows in a journal edited by his associate T.D. Lysenko: “The enemy of the people, the Trotskyite Uranovsky, who appeared in the role of ‘methodologist’ of the Academy of Sciences, …following the wrecking line in the field of scientific politics, defending ‘pure science for the sake of science’, in every way defamed those who fought for the turn of science in our country toward the needs of socialist construction.”

  12. Pardon me asking but what are her vies on people who are trans and the like? I openly support and defend them at every term and regard it as a subject of psychology, a science of the mind.

    Who here would agree that psychological and biological concepts of sex and gender can be different? I do and see no hard in respecting the trans community, I just also respect the biological one as well.

    1. Hi Michael. I don’t know Carole Hooven’s views of trans people in particular. There’s no reason to think she’s a bigot, and lots of evidence from her book and interviews that she’s a thoughtful & caring person who treats trans people well.

      In general, I think the answer to your first question depends a lot on what one means by “people who are trans”. It can be hard to know bc some activists make motte-and-bailey arguments. They will make assertions that cover the broad plain of biological sex, including that trans people have a transgendered soul that’s been born in the wrong body, that a trans man has a male brain in a female body, that trans women are women, and even that trans women are female. But when challenged, these folks will retreat to a more defensible psychological position that trans is just a vibe. Some will then pull up the drawbridge by claiming that of course people don’t have souls, and no one is taking away women’s sex-based rights, and why do critics care so much about kids’ genitals anyway.

      I think JK Rowling’s encouragement and acceptance of trans people was exactly right:

      “Dress however you please.
      Call yourself whatever you like.
      Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
      Live your best life in peace and security.”

      I respect and accept trans people in that way within the bailey, and I know and care about lots of trans people in my own life. I think trans is a psychological condition, and kids with gender dysphoria should get love and psychiatric support. And if they really want it adults should get help toward medical and surgical transition.

      But I don’t accept other claims that are sometimes staked out on the motte (e.g., that trans women should compete in female sport). And I object to suppressing research about human biology in order to accommodate hurt feelings.

      Sorry for the essay 🙁

      1. No problem with the rambling, I’m far worse! I haven’t had much to do with people who are trans (just circumstance, never tried to avoid them).

        I admit it’s never black and white when it comes down to it and should be a case-by-case thing.
        “Soul” is just a metaphor to me, a way to describe ones deep inner personality and character.
        As for biological this and psychological that, well I take it by the context of the circumstance

        I don’t like getting too emotional about this stuff. I’m a Kiwi and apart from the current scientific BS going on now where I have no issue saying that many on the side I agree with are no less pathetic than the one I don’t we also had at the last Olympics a trans women who was in weightlifting. She (and I totally respect her for what she is) is biologically a man despite the medical treatment and performed well in the sport (not on that day though) and was held back from being well past the prime age for it.

        As for the human biology thing, I’d just simply make it clear that I’m speaking of sex in the “biological sense only”, that seems respectful.
        In my book being trans is never a choice, it’s just who you are, and we all should have a solid understanding of it. I agree with talking/teaching about it.

  13. I increasingly wonder whether we would have this growing confusion about “sex” if we had not first had a widespread and largely uncritical acceptance of the social constructionist term “gender”. Relatively few people maintain the intellectual discipline to rigorously separate the two terms, as our host did in a post some weeks ago.

    So, what do we gain by accepting the concept “gender”, particularly now that it has morphed far beyond its original feminist use of distinguishing social roles as being broader than and not determined by the sex binary? Consider: an atheist who confronts the claim “I am a sinner saved by grace” would instantly see a nonsensical statement with, as used here, three nonsense words. A non-Marxist would similarly dismiss “base” and “superstructure”. A similar point could be made of a host of Freudian words and concepts. Please note that I am neither dismissing nor advocating for either Christianity, Marxism, or Freudianism. But I am reiterating the simple point that once one admits certain terms into discussion as valid representations of reality, then one has committed, at least in part, to a certain worldview. Future conversations will literally be directed or constrained within the context of that worldview. “Gender and sex are BOTH socially constructed because everything is–including science.”

    Can one easily and coherently swing both ways, being faithful to science one day, having a little dalliance with social constructionism the next? (Serious question.) I don’t have answers on how best to proceed, but it all strikes me, perhaps from my own limitations, as a massive conceptual mess further bastardized by pop culture.

  14. I don’t even use the word “cis”. I think to do so means you’re playing that game, you’re submitting to the system. My (mainly gay, actually) neighbors here in Chelsea agree with me. Maybe b/c they’re older they’re often against the new nonsense. They call me “straight”.
    “Cis”. An intolerant, ideologically aggressive minority shouldn’t make the rules for everybody. Japanese don’t insist non-Japanese outside Japan call themselves “gaijin” and Jews don’t insist non-Jews call themselves goyim.

    I despise the moral blackmail also. If you disagree, somehow you’re a bigot.
    Chelsea is probably the “gayest” neighborhood in the US along with Castro in SFO. The Pride Day parade is huge here!
    I joke my dog and I are the last two straight dudes in Chelsea.
    to wit:

  15. I’m not sure of the implications. Does this mean that NO ONE in the Harvard School of Evolutionary Biology today teaches anything that presupposes two sexes, or that some professors still temporarily biology based on two sexes, knowing that any day now a student will complain and they too will be shut down?

  16. Getting back to biology, since Prof. Hooven makes it clear she bears no ill will toward people who say they are trans and is being attacked for her biological statements,

    >”People who are hermaphrodites, having both male and female gonadal tissue, are almost invariably sterile, and they, along with intersex individuals, comprise only about 0.018% of the population—about one person in every 5,600 individuals.”

    It is generous and fair-minded for our host to cite the linked article which could “steel-man” the quibbling opposition.

    But even if true hermaphroditism were much more common than it is — a small minority of the 0.018% in the linked article — it would be frankly wrong, not just quibbling, to claim the condition provides evidence that sex is non-binary. If someone has ovarian and testicular tissue in one or both gonads, or some combination, he or she is still sexually binary. (And it will be possible to show how this happened, e.g., if the person is an XX/XY mosaic.) Some individuals have no recognizable gonad tissue at all. They would be asexual (regardless of chromosomes) but not non-binary. Otherwise, only two gonadal cell types are represented, recognizable as one or the other. Any gametes produced (usually none) are egg-type* or sperm-type. There is no intermediate transitional cell type and no third form of gamete that would indicate any kind of spectrum even in this exceedingly rare condition.

    The so-called intersex (misleading term!) conditions are merely congential anomalies (“birth defects” to many laypeople) that happen to affect the external genitalia making them ambiguous at birth. They tell us nothing at all about whether gonad/gametic sex is binary or not. (It’s binary.)

    Now, the medical and social questions of how to care for these individuals is a whole other story. I am here arguing only, as Prof. Hooven and our host do, that the existence of these conditions does not challenge the exclusively binary nature of human sex.
    * Remember the ovaries of a normal newborn baby girl already contain all the ova she will ever have. Boys don’t produce spermatozoa until puberty.

    1. And, of course, people with DSD/intersex conditions are thoroughly sick and tired of being used as some sort of “Gotcha!” in the nonsensical argument that sex in humans isn’t binary. Doubtless, clownfish feel the same.

  17. Before Mendel’s discoveries were rediscovered, the conventional theory of inheritance
    was that elements from each parent were blended in the progeny. So, on this theory, every offspring of the mating of a male and a female should be intersex. The “critical gender theory” activists, without knowing it, are bringing back this long-discredited conjecture about inheritance. Come to think of it, if this is explained to them, they will probably demand that everybody change their pronouns to something intersexish.

  18. The Hooven article is very good, especially when it gets to talking about solutions to the problem of academic freedom. Here at Imperial College London we appear to be confused about the concept of biological sex. Our College maternity policy states that it “applies to pregnant staff irrespective of your gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, biological sex or if you are transitioning”.

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