Cell Press’s new gender/sex and diversity guidelines

May 22, 2023 • 9:30 am

Cell Press, which publishes more than 50 scientific journals including the famous Cell, has issued a statement updating its guidelines for authors—particularly in the use of sex- and gender-related terms (click on the link below to read).  The rationale, indented just below, seems reasonable enough, though would seem to apply only to papers specifically with the social construct of gender, I’m not sure why in most scientific circumstances one needs to gather data by gender rather than by sex.

Cell Press has updated its information for authors across its journals to improve the reporting of sex- and gender-based analyses (SGBA) in research. Since the terms “sex” and “gender” can be ambiguous and continue to evolve, the guidelines suggest authors describe the methods used to gather and report sex- and/or gender-related data in humans and discuss the potential limitations of these methods.

“With sex and gender, there are so many definitions that it’s easy to assume that everyone is using these terms the same way,” says Cell Press’s Inclusion and Diversity Officer and Cell Leading Edge Editor Isabel Goldman. “The new information for authors aims to enhance reporting precision, encouraging authors to consider the nuances of sex and gender and choose the most accurate terms so readers can better understand what they are assessing.”

By applying these best practices, research teams can:

(1) improve research generalizability and prevent inappropriate extrapolation of research findings,
(2) clarify and standardize terms to improve the precision of outcome reporting, and
(3) achieve greater inclusivity while also protecting against the misuse of scientific vernacular and misappropriation of a study’s findings to substantiate exclusionary agendas.

I suspect the real rationale is (3)—inclusivity—but that could get confusing. For example, if you’re discussing prostate cancer, do you put trans women, who can get the disease, in the category with biological men, so that appears that women can get prostate cancer? But it gets a bit worse (see below):

The journal refers scientists to two sets of guidelines, but they don’t tell you how you’re supposed to report specific genders. As you know, lists of genders can contain fifty or more terms, and Cell doesn’t provide any standardization:

For more information, authors can refer to the Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) Guidelines, which formed the basis of the information for authors update, and the SAGER Guidelines checklist. Additionally, Elsevier’s diversity, equity, and inclusion in publishing author guide (available here) contains helpful resources about reporting sex and gender in research studies.

I can’t find in these sources a list of genders that can be used, so it must then be up to the author(s) to explicitly define every gender that they’re using, and that means wide variance among papers—and not standardization of results.

Further—and to me as a biologist this is more serious—the journal is implicitly buying into the “sex is a continuum” view by urging use of “sex assigned” at birth instead of “biological sex” (see below).  But sex is NOT assigned; it is observed. How many times do I have to argue that “assigning” sex makes the practice seems like an arbitrary decision of doctors, but in fact sex is a biological binary and is objective. Either you have the reproductive apparatus to make sperm, and are a male, or to make eggs, and are a female. Granted, it is not the reproductive apparatus itself that is observed at birth, but near-perfect correlates with it, like genitalia (yes, there are exceptions, but intersexes are only about 1 in 5600 people.

To wit:

For instance, when asking about gender and sex, researchers can use a two-step process: (1) ask for gender identity allowing for multiple options and (2) if relevant to the research question, ask for “sex assigned at birth,” which is preferred over “biological sex,” “birth sex,” or “natal sex.” With work involving cells and model organisms, authors are advised to use the term “sex.”

But Cell Press goes further.  If you go to “information about authors” site, you see they ask for information about the diversity of authors.  (The form is required but the diversity statement, while recommended, is not required.) Bolding is mine.

Inclusion and Diversity Statement

Starting in January 2021, we will require authors to fill out an inclusion and diversity form. This is a new initiative at Cell Press designed to give authors a mechanism to document inclusion and diversity information that is relevant to their paper and the option to showcase it in the paper itself by adding a dedicated inclusion and diversity statement. The concept underlying this initiative is similar to existing statements about declarations of interests, author contributions, and data and code availability but focuses on highlighting aspects of the paper that are relevant for inclusion and diversity. It is purposely multifunctional and designed to give authors a venue to express ways in which their work, their research group, or both are contributing to help science become a more inclusive and diverse enterprise overall.

Please find more information on this here, and preview the form here.

For more information about our rationale for this initiative, please read our editorial.

Note that you aren’t required to disclose this information, but I suspect that if you check “yes” to any of these boxes, it affects the chance of your paper being accepted. Granted, Cell says this won’t affect consideration of your paper, but excuse me if I doubt that. After all, most journals really want to boost the proportion of “underrepresented ethnic minorities” among authors, including LGBTQIA+ people.  On the other hand, the information is likely used mainly to assess “equity” in publication, and you could argue that unless that have a measure of equity, they won’t be able to remedy inequity.  But inequities at the publication level are best addressed simply by giving people equal opportunities as far as possible, and there are far better ways to measure that (educational attainment, for instance) than to scrutinize the authors of manuscripts and papers.

Then then allow you to insert diversity statements into papers; and I object far more to that than to the simple survey above. For included diversity statements are simple flaunting of virtue: a way to show that the authors are ideologically correct. Now you don’t have to insert one, but the Cell gladly gives you two examples (below; the bolding is mine.)

  • This is a short author statement that appears in a published paper and highlights elements of the study design and/or author characteristics that are relevant to inclusion and diversity. The statement is generated based on information provided on a dedicated inclusion and diversity form that the corresponding author completes as part of the acceptance process.

    The concept underlying this initiative is similar to existing statements about declarations of interests, author contributions, and data and code availability but focuses on highlighting aspects of the paper that are relevant to inclusion and diversity. It is purposely multifunctional and designed to give authors a venue to express ways in which their work, their research group, or both are contributing to helping science become more inclusive and diverse.

Note that the information given in the diversity statement is not at all comparable to author contributions, data availability, and declarations of interests (they mean “possible conflicts of itnerest”). The other information is essential for evaluating a paper’s merit and validity, but the diversity statement has nothing to do with that: it is a way for the authors to show their ideological purity and conformity. Another Q&A:

  • You are free to opt out of sharing this information by indicating such within the inclusion and diversity statement form. However, if you do wish to signal your support for inclusion and diversity in general, but do not wish to use any of the available statements, we would recommend you add the following statement to your paper: “We support inclusive, diverse, and equitable conduct of research.”

What kind of churl would refuse to signal support for inclusion and diversity in general? This is how they prompt authors to confect such a statement,

And here are two sample statements. The first has no scientific purpose at all; it is meant to show that the authors are, as they used to say, “politically correct.” Why is this stuff appearing in a paper meant to communicate science? Why not require political statements as well, or religious statements?

The second statement is a bit better, but is still meant to advertise your position on the ideological spectrum.  Whether one signs onto it depends on what you mean by “inclusive, diverse, and equitable conduct of research”. What it certainly is not supposed to mean is that I don’t discriminate against people based on their personal traits.  It’s not good enough, and such a statement won’t get you in the door when applying for jobs.  This position is and should be taken for granted, and is exemplified in Dr. King’s famous “color/character” statement; but it’s insufficient as a declaration of non-bigotry. No, you must be in favor of “equity”, which means that each group in the population must be represented in science (or anywhere else) in proportion to its occurrence in the population. But as a goal, that assumes that every group has the same set of preferences and desires, which can’t be assumed automatically.

Were I in charge, I would not offer authors the chance to flaunt their virtue in this way. If you do this, you open up a whole can of worms about other fealties: political, religious, economic, and so on. And what about acknowledging the land on which your research was done?

I’m guessing that this kind of politicization of science is like a ratchet: once you start introducing non-scientific but ideological declarations in papers, it will be impossible to reverse the process.  That, at least, is my fear, which portends badly for the future of science publishing.  

48 thoughts on “Cell Press’s new gender/sex and diversity guidelines

  1. Don’t mean to be churlish with this question but can you imagine how ridiculous the NBA and NFL would be if Isabel Goldman took over as their new DEI officer and decided to apply her rules to those professions? “Please check with me before you populate 80% of your team with outstanding players who only represent 13% of the population. That would not be at all equitable.” Where does this stop?

  2. I’m hoping that Cell Press is trying to provide a reality check here in as tactful a way as possible. The desire to count females who identify as men as “male” and males who identify as women as “female” is already causing problems with such things as medical, census, and crime statistics in countries which have replaced sex with gender (in other words, “gender identity.”) It looks like it’s about to make mincemeat out of science studies. Cell Press has no doubt noticed.

    Despite what people may believe about what they are in their own minds, sex is still a salient category, does still matter, and is not affected by belief. The deliberate attempt to erase all distinctions in order to include people in the biological category of their choice is, ironically, a Category Error. “Male” and “Female” are not clubs lead by snooty high schoolers who won’t let the uncool kids sit at the lunch table.

    It’s conceivably possible that the inclusion of DEI language and guidelines could be a cover for the real purpose: don’t substitute sex with Gender Identity. Or it might be an attempt to alert people to bias in more subtle (sneaky) ways. If the study demonstrating something an ideology has been asserting has been done by people who obviously have skin in the game, that isn’t necessarily a sign that the study has been enhanced by their valuable first-person experience. Good to know.

    1. Good point! The effects of false self-identification as “male” or “female” in medical or social research also apply to the quality of the diversity data that will be produced by this inclusion and diversity form. Some authors will click as many of the diversity boxes as they think will be helpful, whether or not any of the declarations are true. The characterization of the journal as equitable and diverse and inclusive will be based in part on these self-report errors. I agree with you the folks at Cell Press must know this, and it implies that they care more about the appearance of diversity & inclusion than about actual diversity.

  3. The ratchet’s operation is based on six simple words: “Cell Press’s Inclusion and Diversity Officer” , a functionary who will inevitably find something to do, and then something else to do, in order to justify the office’s existence and salary. Further movements of the ratchet are easy to predict. Once the trans-animal movement gets going, we can look forward to phrases like “species assigned at birth”.

    A history of the creation and spread of these DEI sinecure offices will be of interest someday. It will undoubtedly resemble the spread of Pardoners in late medieval times, and its similar consequences for the institutions it serves will be clear.

  4. What kind of churl would refuse to signal support for inclusion and diversity …?

    Well me! 🙂 But the problem here is that, with most papers being multi-authored these days, there’s going to be some co-authors arguing for the maximum degree of virtue signalling and quite willing to use slur words about any co-authors who don’t.

    I foresee:

    “Eight of the ten authors support inclusive, diverse, and equitable conduct of research; the other two do actually support inclusive, diverse, and equitable research, but don’t consider it appropriate to say so here”.

    1. The way out is to simply claim that you identify as a neurodiverse churl. As that catch-all non-medical designation certainly applies to most anyone who has accomplished anything in their lives, then you can certainly feel justified in claiming common cause with maximum virtue-signalling due to your special condition.

  5. “… focuses on highlighting aspects of the paper that are relevant to inclusion and diversity. It is purposely multifunctional and designed to give authors a venue to express ways in which their work, their research group, or both are contributing to helping science become more inclusive and diverse.”

    I see.

    The authors can “express ways”.

    [sigh] well as long as the expressions are sincere and honest, and the “ways” are the correct or simply benign good faith ways – so no satirical, offensive, or hoax statements, or “trying to be funny” – as judged by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer in their meditation chamber, or maybe Twitter, – they’re right, there’s really nothing of note here. It’s all just hum drum boiler-plate business as usual. Nothing to see. Move along now.

  6. Even as a middle-aged white man assigned as such by almost everyone I meet, I’d be inclined to check every box that says that I “identify” as whatever, because, who of the “inclusive” people is to say that I don’t? I even might complain that there isn’t a checkbox for my self-identification as a nano-gendered green jelly-dog of Andromeda, but that might make them question my sincerity.

    1. Please see my reply to Coel. You should proudly adopt your neurodiversity and challenge anyone to address you otherwise.

  7. “Either you have the reproductive apparatus to make sperm, and are a male, or to make eggs, and are a female.” – J. Coyne

    “By definition, males are the sex that produces small gametes (sperm), and females are the sex that produces large gametes (eggs).”

    (Stearns, S. C. “Why Sex Evolved and the Differences It Makes.” In /The Evolution of Sex and Its Consequences/, edited by S. C. Stearns, 15-32. Basel: Birkhäuser/Springer, 1987. p. 17)

    These are two different definitions!
    What if an organism has the reproductive apparatus (designed) to make sperm/eggs, but it is dysfunctional, such that it never actually produces any sperm/eggs?
    Is having a /normally functioning/ reproductive apparatus designed to make sperm/eggs necessary for having a sex, or is having a reproductive apparatus designed to make sperm/eggs sufficient, no matter whether it ever actually produces sperm/eggs or not?

    1. What Oliver S. wrote makes me wonder–please forgive my ignorance–as to the 1 in 5600 “true intersexes,” does that ever mean a functioning penis/testes AND vagina/ovaries/uterus, or does one usually work and not the other, or is the tendency to sterility as to both? Or are the structures themselves just recognizable, but vestigial? Always? Usually? Sometimes?

      If sterility is the rule, this information would seem to be useful in the context of the silly references to “pregnant persons.” At least take the intersexes out of the conversation.

      1. Asking leave to over-comment to answer a question.
        Intersex is a misnomer, Brujo. Most affected infants are born with (or are seen on routine ultrasound during pregnancy to have) ambiguous external genitalia so that it’s not instantly obvious that the baby/fetus is a boy or a girl. Almost always these children are of one sex or the other internally but there was error—dozens have been described— in the development of the external genitals along clearly male or clearly female directions. They are one and only one sex. It’s just not possible to be crystal clear from casual observation what that sex is.

        Even more rarely there can be more profound failure farther upstream where the primordial gonad develops along both ovarian and testicular paths. Different cells in the gonad choose one or the other to create an ovotestis but there is no third “ovosperm” gamete. The ovotestis can, in principle, produce both ova and sperm but none so far seen have done so. Most produce no gametes at all.

        Getting the gametes out of the gonad so that fertilization can occur requires the internal and external plumbing appropriate to each gamete. Depending on what went wrong with the individual person, these structures may or may not develop. To my understanding, it is not possible for complete sex organs of both sexes to develop in the same person. Depending on the strength of the testosterone effect on the embryo, the genitals will be male, ambiguous, or female on both sides of the body, even if there is a testis on one side and an ovary on the other, or an ovotestis on one side.

        People with differences of sexual development should not be “erased” as people but they really don’t figure in these politically charged gender conversations. Reference to “pregnant persons” are merely to avoid setting off physically typical intact women who are presenting as men for psychological reasons. But no one who is pregnant can be any sex other than a woman.

    2. I don’t think these questions make a useful contribution to the conversation. Finding another evolutionary biologist who uses slightly different wording to contrast with Jerry’s wording is not the gotcha that one might think it is.

      But I’ll bite: Yes, having a reproductive apparatus designed to make sperm is sufficient to be male, no matter whether it ever actually produces sperm. Your comment suggests you prefer edge cases for definitions, so here’s one: Caster Semenya is male.

      These edge cases are largely irrelevant to the majority of instances where it might matter (women’s sport, shelters, prisons, change rooms). In edge cases it might be hard to decide whether some rare individuals are male (and their exclusion might seem unfair from some POVs), but that says nothing about the need for (and value of having) a working definition of males that excludes them from women-only spaces.

      1. My questions are not at all “gotcha questions” asked with the intention to discredit the binary biological definition of sex; but if there are two or more /substantially/ different definitions in the scientific literature, this mustn’t be ignored. For example, there is a substantial (not merely verbal) difference between saying that having ovaries/testicles is sufficient for being female/male, and saying that having ovaries/testicles PLUS being non-sterile is sufficient for being female/male.

        1. Interesting. But it seems to me you’re playing rhetorical games. By my reading, the two quotes you mention in your OC are not different. They are two ways of saying the same thing, though Dr Stearns quote isn’t as comprehensive as Dr Coyne’s.

          Your final sentence in this comment make it clear what you object to. It seems your complaint is that Drs Coyne’s and Stearns’ definitions leave out a clause making it clear that it is the genetic potential to make either small mobile or large immobile gametes (not whether or not they actually do) that defines biological sex. This is what biologists mean when they try to define sex. Things get awful complicated in development and sometimes things can go awry so, with much confused (and sometimes deliberate) obfuscation about terms, we are getting buried in a giant pile of horseshit.

          However, Dr Coyne’s statement above* does include the potentiality you complain is missing, so I am not sure what the problem actually is. You should re-read it. Perhaps it is that Stearns’ editor should have asked him to be clearer?

          *and many others he’s made elsewhere here at WEIT

        2. They are not substantially different. It’s generally accepted that there are cases where the reproductive systems don’t function properly for some reason: disease, injury, wrong stage of the lifecycle etc, but, if we are being sensible, we don’t explicitly list all the caveats because everybody knows what we mean. We don’t have to say “this child is female because, as long as she develops normally, she will one day produce large gametes” because it’s understood.

      2. Caster Semenya is a 46,XY male with a DSD (5-ARD). As a consequence of his DSD he was thought to be female at birth. He was and is male. He has no uterus (of course) and male typical levels of testosterone. He has been allowed to ‘compete’ (cheat is a more honest word) with actual women for PC reasons.

    3. I’ve asked my question, because biologists tend to be nonchalant about the vagueness involved in their usual definitions of sex. Philosophers of biology ask questions such as these: Do males and females constitute natural kinds with an essence? That is, is there at least one essential property which is both necessary and sufficient for being male/female? If yes, what properties are both necessary and sufficient for being male/female?

      “What if the equipment has been modified or isn’t working well? Is a gelding a male horse? What about men with low sperm counts or beta-males in a wolf pack who will always be prevented from using their sperm reproductively? Which individuals are anomalous or altered or subverted males or females, and which are “other”? Can an individual undergo a change of sex? A durable definition of “male” and “female” will need a little more work before it can yield a clear verdict on every single case. Should the definition allude to the way an organism could function, or is supposed to function, or stick to its actual (past, present, and future) functioning?”

      (Kazez, Jean. /The Philosophical Parent: Asking the Hard Questions about Having and Raising Children./ New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. p. 193)

      1. Philosophy is entertaining and can be useful when discussing moral questions but it fails abjectly when dealing with reality, because reality deals in probabilities and philosophy is essentially binary. The ultimate question is if an idea/definition/hypothesis generates testable predictions. Science generates these kinds of ideas, philosophy generally doesn’t (and when it does it is accidental).

      2. Oliver, just ask, How does a man regard himself when, at 30, he discovers that he and his wife can’t conceive because he produces no viable spermatozoa? (This is quite common.). He calls himself an infertile man. Absolutely no one, not him, not his wife, not his doctor, and not anyone in his circle who knows about it, would tell him to scratch the “M” off his birth certificate and change it to “None.” If production of viable gametes were necessary to a human-grounded philosophical definition, then everyone who has has not attempted to have children and succeeded would have to be regarded not as men and women but as of unknown sex. In everyday life, gametes are only imputed, by pregnancy and regular ovulatory menstrual cycles, but never seen. So sex has to be imputed by the body plan built to penetrate or to be penetrated. This has been an observed fact from before anyone knew what gametes were. It is completely congruent with small motile gametes being intromitted to find large non-motile gametes but the body plan and the act don’t depend on gametes being actually produced by every pair of mating individuals.

        A philosophy that can’t accommodate that is no philosophy at all.

        This is where I get to quote Shakespeare: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” The emphasis here is on “philosophy”, not on “your”. It should be spoken as “yer”, as in , “Ya got yer mathematics, ya got yer elocution, ya got yer philosophy….and then ya got yer common sense.”

        1. If being able to produce (viable) sperm is sufficient /but not necessary/ for being male—such that infertile men are still male—, then maleness cannot be defined in terms of being able to produce (viable) sperm, since definitions are meant to provide /both necessary and sufficient/ conditions for the correct employment of terms.

          1. J. Coyne, other thoughtful biologists, and I never said that production of gametes is necessary for the definition of male or female, only that the body plan be of the type that in the usual course of events does make those gametes. “Having a body organ plan that is committed toward the production of sperm and not eggs” is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for being defined as male. Vice versa female.

            If an individual embryo never develops any gonads at all—gonadal agenesis—the body plan will still develop to the extent that it can, absent the influence of the gonad. Usually, for embryologic reasons, the external body plan will be that of a female. It is therefore possible to define such a child as a girl, under the necessary and sufficient criterion of body plan, however aborted its internal development is. What it is definitely not is male, because none of the sperm-associated organs are present (vas deferens, penis, prostate, epididymus, seminal vesicles).

            Because the actual making of any part of body plan requires the interplay of many complex genetic and biochemical events it is not surprising that things sometimes go wrong, including the inability to make and transport gametes. No relevance to the definition of sex.

    4. The peripheral equipment is usually in line with gamete production, but it’s the gametes that decide biological sex. So a person is female if they have ovaries and eggs, even if they have a penis and not all that other stuff. As long as we can ID the gametes, we can assign. There really is only one definition when we need to put on our formal hat.
      An individual who is devoid of gametes (or is pre-pubescent or in menopause) can still be assigned based on the presence of ovarian/testicular tissue. These are not “gotcha” moments.
      A true hermaphrodite could still be assigned as both sexes, as far as I am aware. But rare variations don’t upset the apple cart that as a species human sex evolved to be binary for all intents and purposes.

      1. 1. “A person is female if they have ovaries and eggs.”
        2. “An individual who is devoid of gametes (or is pre-pubescent or in menopause) can still be assigned based on the presence of ovarian/testicular tissue.”

        If 1 merely states a sufficient condition (but not also a necessary one) for being female, then it is consistent with 2; but if 1 is supposed to be a /definition/ of femaleness, such that “if” means “if and only if”, then it is inconsistent with 2. For if having ovaries and eggs is /both necessary and sufficient/ for being female, then an individual having ovaries but lacking eggs cannot be assigned female on the presence of ovarian tissue /alone/.

    5. My answer to your question is that in species where individuals can never change from one sex to the other, as is humans and all mammals, we frequently extend the definitions of male and female to encompass individuals who can’t actually produce gametes due to some deficiency (of age, development, etc).

      If we were a species where sex depended on temperature, age, the social environment, or something else that’s changeable, we might need to observe actual gamete production to make a definitive conclusion about a given person at a given point in time. But given the inability of humans to ever change from one sex to the other, and the near-perfect correlation between sex chromosomes and genitalia and gamete production, it’s a convenient (and polite) way of speaking to say that someone who produced sperm in the past, or is 99.99% likely to be able to produce sperm in the future, or would be able to produce sperm if not for a particular genetic mutation, is male.

      Probably we developed this habit of speaking for historical reasons, and even if some people can technically be categorized as sexless now that we know the details of how it works, we still don’t speak like that. You can call it an unclear definition, but I think it’s understandable enough that it works; in the very rare cases when it doesn’t, we can use more words to clarify what we mean…

  8. As if writing scientific papers isn’t difficult enough, now you have to research the sex of everyone you cite and make sure you cite an even number of people in both sexes? Good grief. If you are citing a paper with over a dozen co-authors, do you have to sex-check each one?

    I also don’t see why people should be pressured to disclose their sexual preferences to publish a paper.

    1. Nor should people who do disclose their sexual preferences get a leg-up in the competition for the editor’s favour.

    2. I think the statements are careful not to specify such preferences, e.g. clothing preference, athletic preference, toys played with in early childhood, etc. – it really seems more like a driver’s license or similar ID – eye color, height, corrective lenses, sex – at the time of publication – because all that I suppose might change at any instance.

  9. Dr. King did not believe in a colour-blind society, not in 1963 and not ever in his short life. His “dream” was that his young black children would grow up to be judged by their character and not by their skin colour, He wasn’t talking about children of other races, whom he would without compunction push aside in order to get his children opportunities for character display through racial quotas guaranteeing them preference in hiring and education. He would have been fully supportive—at least at the time of his death— of schemes to give a black researcher a leg up in securing a grant or getting a paper published by ticking a box. “Holistic” admission to medical school intended to achieve black preference? Of course. But why not just use quotas? I can hear him asking.

    Whatever else he may be admired for, race-blindness was not one of them. It’s fine to take him at his word in his “dream” speech, but I think Dr. King would be the first to insist that’s not what he meant. Liberals have objected for years that right-wing attempts to enlist him posthumously in the long campaign against affirmative action are slanders. They assure us that the last Founding Father supported AA and what came to be DEI through and through and would mourn their dismantling.

    1. Sorry, there’s a missing end-italics mark in there supposed to be after the first “black” which I can’t edit in.

    2. Hmm, I think you’re being harsh on him there. From the speech, it seems he did “dream” of a color-blind society applying equally to all. He may well have believed that affirmative action for blacks was necessary in the short term to get there.

      The “content of their character” sentences are preceded by: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”, and then followed by: “one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”.

      1. Getting caught up on my print issues of The Economist, I see the May 13th issue reviews a new biography of MLK. King: A Life., by Jonathan Eig. Pub. Farrah, Strauss and Giroux 688 pages.

        The cutline for the review, “Martin Luther King j[sic]unior remains one of the greatest and misunderstood figures in American history.”

    3. Leslie,

      What made you arrive at your interpretation? Martin Luther King certainly had reasons to decry the treatment of most blacks in his time, certainly not only his children. Most people would have no difficulties interpreting the reference to his children as being a rhetorical device referring to a better state in the future for people regardless of “the color of their skin”.

      You wrote: “He wasn’t talking about children of other races, whom he would without compunction push aside …”

      This is a pretty strong statement. Do we have evidence that he was or was not concerned about the treatment of people of other skin tones?

      1. The italics error messed that up some. Dr. King referred to “my” four young children as a rhetorical stand-in for all black children, certainly, not just his personal children, but just as certainly not for all children. He saw white and black children sitting down together on his terms, after the achievement of racial economic parity through race-based preferences including quotas that necessarily handicapped other races in the drive for black economic success. That comes from his long interview with Alex Haley for Playboy and from sturdy attempts by his later sympathizers to push back against revisionists who tried to undermine his affirmative action credentials, as I cited here yesterday. A foe of capitalism, he saw elevation of blacks as a zero-sum game that other races would have to lose, through transfer of wealth and opportunity, to compensate blacks for the “special” treatment they had suffered at the hands of white society.

        Would Dr. King have modified his views as 60 years of affirmative action and welfare spending were shown to fail, as people like Sowell, Loury, and McWhorter have? Or would he have doubled down and called for more ambitious reparations to preserve his power base? Who can know? It was a long time ago.

        I’ll stop here. Last word to anyone else.

    4. People should read that Playboy interview. Here’s one place I’ve found it:


      I’ll note that the comment above is the first time I’ve seen a debunking of the mythology from the “conservative” side in quite a while. Usually MLK is falsely cast a black conservative so as to bash people advocating affirmative action or similar. There’s not too much old-school stuff around like “children of other races, whom he would without compunction push aside …”.

      MLK was not a conservative. He thought about these issues, and said things that called for far more than formal legal equality. And he did address objections such as the above, e.g.

      “PLAYBOY: If a nationwide program of preferential employment for Negroes were to be adopted, how would you propose to assuage the resentment of whites who already feel that their jobs are being jeopardized by the influx of Negroes resulting from desegregation?
      MARTIN LUTHER KING: We must develop a federal program of public works, retraining and jobs for all—so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened. At the present time, thousands of jobs a week are disappearing in the wake of automation and other production efficiency techniques. Black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done. The unemployed, poverty-stricken white man must be made to realize that he is in the very same boat with the Negro. Together, they could exert massive pressure on the Government to get jobs for all. Together, they could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people for the good of all.”

    5. In my opinion, MLK was not asking for special privileges for his own children. He was looking for a country where people (including children, including his children) would be judged ‘by the content of their character. When he made his now famous speech he was explicitly rejecting racial privileges (which are the norm today). Did he make contrary statements on other occasions? Yes, he did. When he knew the audience would be predominantly white he called for equality of opportunity. With other audiences he called for racial quotas.

  10. “But sex is NOT assigned; it is observed. How many times do I have to argue that “assigning” sex makes the practice seems like an arbitrary decision of doctors, . . .”

    Well, yes, it does make it seem that it is arbitrary . . . because that is the intent of using such language! But you already know that.

    Jerry, I imagine that it might make you a bit uncomfortable sometimes when people praise the work you do on this site, but please allow me to say that I envy your platform and your willingness repeatedly to engage the apostles of ideological conformity and the indefatigable foes of reason. They are nothing if not tireless.

    1. Exactly! The use of “assigned at birth” is used ONLY to support the fantasy that sex is not an objective fact. They (trans rights activists) know it isn’t true, but it suits their purposes so they will continue to use it. It does not matter if you correct them, as they are not interested in being correct, they just want to win. We are truly in post-modern territory here, as this kind of speech isn’t about facts, but power.

  11. Since a DEI statement is voluntary write your own.
    An attempt from a non scientist.
    To the best of the multiple authors of the submitted paper, knowledge. This research was fully in compliance with the principles of scientific methodology and recognise all individual contribution. It is open to all interested and not interested parties.
    No animals were harmed.

  12. The thing I find myself asking when I read about such efforts is something like :

    OK, at some level I have to admit I’m glad something is at least proposed to be getting the problem in control.

    So now, how about other more obscure problems – perhaps people were struck with life-altering disease, or have a chronic condition that interferes with the ideal work flow but in clear, predictable ways. Perhaps a skin condition or disfiguration that has strong social effects to them personally, and directly in a place of work.

    When do they get some administrative decisions in their favor? Or are they already? Or is it that simple? I have no idea but it seems like there must be so many unfair scenarios out there with no real solution – but perhaps employees just figure it out somehow.

    Yet, the news about the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Guardians tends to be generally predictable.

  13. Ticking the box “we avoided helicopter science by adding local contributors to the authors list” will often mean “we avoided helicopter science but embraced tokenism instead”

  14. As J. Coyne states, ‘sex assigned at birth’ is just so much BS. Sex is observed at birth and not always correctly. Observations are 99.9%+ accurate, but not 100.0%. For example, Caster Semenya was observed to be female at birth. He is actually a 46,XY male with a DSD (5-ARD). Cell is just the latest in a long line of supposedly scientific publication to be taken over by the ‘woke’. The key idea of ‘woke’ is reality should be ignored, if it does not fit the fantasies of the ‘woke’. ‘Woke’ is sometimes called ‘Cultural Marxism. It is far from coincidence that Lysenko was an avowed Marxist. In each case, we have the rejection of reality in favor of ideological purity.

  15. (2) if relevant to the research question, ask for “sex assigned at birth,” which is preferred over “biological sex,” “birth sex,” or “natal sex.”

    And yet they give no explanation for why the former inaccurate and unscientific phrase is preferred. Ideology can be the only (unspoken) reason.

  16. Back in 1995 I was doing database work for the National Cancer Institute at NIH. Reviewing their existing databases I came across an item labeled “Gender”. I replaced that with “Sex”, as that is clearly the relevant biological attribute for a medical study. I was told in no uncertain terms by the then director of NCI that “Gender” was indeed the attribute they recorded. At the time I thought it was merely a labeling issue as I saw no other values than “M” and “F”. But it is now clear that they indeed would have put “trans women, who can get the disease, in the category with biological men, so that [it] appears that women can get prostate cancer”. The upshot is that every U.S. cancer study in at least the past 18 years has reported unreliable statistics on the prevalence of disease and the effectiveness of therapies by sex.

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