Thursday, June 27, 2024

‘I Am What I Choose to Become’ Was Said By This Jungian, Not Jung Himself

Stuart K. Hayashi





“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

That is an excellent and wise quotation. It is a perfect affirmation of the presence of free will. 

All too often in our culture we hear the phrase “Nature versus Nurture.” The insinuation is that your personal identity, as an adult, is the result of you being passive in being shaped by forces external to your conscious decision-making. As the phrase goes, what molded you into you was either inborn biological mechanisms beyond your control (“nature”), or conditioning from circumstances impinging upon you (“nurture”). Those factors do have some influence. But as the quotation reminds us, the biggest factor in making you the person you are as an adult is the one that goes unmentioned and unacknowledged. That factor is the series of choices you made on your own, proactively. (It is no accident that “Nature versus Nurture” was coined by Sir Francis Galton, the founder and namer of eugenics. He favored Nature over Nurture, and ignored free will completely.)

And all over the World Wide Web and in memes in Google Images, and even throughout works you can find in Google Books, that quotation is misattributed to Carl Jung.

Here is the actual source:
Betty DeShong Meador, “Uncursing the Dark: Restoring the Lost Feminine,” Quadrant: Journal of the C. G. Jung Foundation for Analytic Psychology vol. 22 (no. 1, 1989): 27–39.
This was in a journal published by the C. G. Jung Foundation. That is how the quotation ended up being ascribed inaccurately to the man himself.

As I write this, I must say that this psychoanalyst and therapist, Betty DeShong Meador, died relatively recently. She was born in 1931 and died on February 20, 2023. I wish that it could have been within her lifetime that this quotation was sourced properly to her. 



Saturday, June 22, 2024

Childhood Mystery Solved? Hong Kong Company Imperial Copied Its T. Rex Design

Stuart K. Hayashi



It seems that a mystery that nagged at me since childhood might be solved. Many collectors of Godzilla toys are familiar with the Hong Kong company Imperial. It made the Godzilla action figure with the red lips. The action figure has a strange silver blotch on its chest because the people at Imperial copied that feature from the Godzilla action figure that Bandai made in Japan years earlier. Imperial also made King Kong.

Pertinent here is that Imperial made a googly-eyed Tyrannosaurus with unique features: it has thin-but-wide plates going down its chest. It has osteoderms (little spikes) running down its back similar to a crocodile’s. And it is yellow. It was made in 1985. While many toy collectors know of this toy, they seem not to know that this toy’s design features — the chest plates and dorsal spikes — are based on another toy company’s design.

I learned of this because of my cousin. Years ago, he gave me many toys of Godzilla and Ultraman monsters made by Bullmark, not Bandai. Likewise, he gave me some thick paperback books, full of thick pages, profiling Ultraman. He gave me yet another book from the same publishing house that was about dinosaurs. And the book heavily featured a sculpture that closely resembled the 1985 Imperial toy, with the dorsal spikes and chest plates. But this sculpture had much more realistic eyes and was overall fancier. It also was not yellow. This book was published in 1981. I cannot read the kanji, and neither could my cousin. I always wondered if this sculpture was some model kit released in Japan in 1981 or earlier.


















It seems I now have some answers. As you can see above, I took photos of the pages of the Japanese book. I then ran a Google image search. It appears that the sculpture was photographed by Top Trumps in 1979 for its card game called Prehistoric Monsters. And the sculpture has an earlier appearance still. It is in the 1977 book Purnell’s Book of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Mammals. This is profiled on the blog Love in the Time of Chasmosaurus. One of the commenters says, “Since these models were featured in the London museum, I theorize that they were sculpted by a British paleontologist named Arthur Hayward — he had sculpted dinos for Ray Harryhausen [for One Million Years B.C. starring Raquel Welch].”  

Important design features of Imperial’s Godzilla toy were copied from Bandai’s. Likewise, it seems Imperial copied the design of its 1985 Tyrannosaurus from a sculpture that Arthur Hayward made at least as early as 1977.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Eminent Domain Is Inhumane

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Published My Letter to the Editor 


Stuart K. Hayashi






Back in the year 2006, Pablo Wegesend, Reid Ginoza, and I issued a warning to Hawaiʻi in the letters-to-the-editor sections of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser, before the latter newspaper purchased the former. The warning had to do with the construction of the government-controlled rail system being shoved down everyone’s throat. We warned of the threat of eminent domain being exercised to seize private land for the rail system. My focus was on the chances of citizens being expropriated of their private residences.

For the most part, we find that our warning has come true. The one difference here is that it is not a private residence being taken but instead the site of the Takaras’ family business, Service Printers Hawaii. The specific agency confiscating the land is the one directly in charge of the rail system, HART (the Honolulu Authority on Rapid Transportation). The Friday, November 17, 2023, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran this news as its front-page story. It prompted me to write yet another letter to the editor, which was published on Tuesday, November 21, 2023.

The official Twitter account of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser even sent out a tweet quoting from my letter and linking to the Web version of it.

  In the letter, two words I regret are “59 years.” The business was started in 1964 but, upon rereading the Friday article, Mr. Takara said the business was a tenant of the land for “43 years.” Instead of “for 59 years,” I should have said “for decades.”

 
 
The Newest Letter
This is what I had sent to the paper:
November 17’s front-page story, “HART Board Approves,” shows HART has no heart.

HART invokes eminent domain to dispossess the Takaras of land on which their family business has stood for 59 years. Rationalizations for eminent domain always mention payment to the victims. That downplays the real issue: freedom and consent versus coercion. Eminent domain is ultimately backed by armed force. Enforcing it in L.A. in 1959 had armed officers literally drag a widow, Aurora Arechiga, from her home.

People assume cities need eminent domain. In January I e-mailed development officials of Carson City, Nevada, about this. They informed me that although the city can enact it, at the time they knew of no instance of Carson City actually exercising eminent domain in its history.

During these holidays, ponder whether slogans about “the greater good” are justification enough, and if passively condoning eminent domain’s brutality is what we truly want.

Stuart K. Hayashi
Mililani

This is the letter as it was printed:
HART’s Eminent Domain Is Brutal Use of Authority

The front-page story, “HART Board Approves Eminent Domain Filing for Kalihi Property” (Star-Advertiser, Nov. 17), shows HART has no heart.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) invoked eminent domain to dispossess the Takara family of land on which their family business has stood for 59 years. Rationalizations for eminent domain always mention payment to the victims. That downplays the real issue: freedom and consent versus coercion. Eminent domain is ultimately backed by armed force. Enforcing it in Los Angeles in 1959 had armed officers literally drag a widow, Aurora Arechiga, from her home.

People assume cities need eminent domain. In January, I emailed development officials of Carson City, Nev., about this. They informed me that although the city can enact it, at the time they knew of no instance of Carson City actually exercising eminent domain in its history.

During these holidays, ponder whether slogans about “the greater good” are justification enough, and if passively condoning eminent domain’s brutality is what we truly want.

Stuart K. Hayashi
Mililani

With sixteen reader comments underneath the online version, this letter of mine was the second-most-commented-upon letter to the editor of the day. First-place was the one about the Second Amendment, at thirty Web comments.

The next day, the Star-Advertiser published yet another letter denouncing HART’s callous violation of the Takaras’ rights. This one came from Charlene Aoki.



The Letter From 2006
Below is my letter of warning back in 2006. There are two different versions of it.

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 2, 2006:
Will Homes Be Torn Out to Make Room for Rail?

Pablo Wegesend raised an important concern in his Jan. 28 letter to the editor, but we have yet to see anyone address it.

Wegesend said, “With all the talk about light rail, there is one question that needs to be answered: Who’s going to be forced out of the way to make room for light rail infrastructure?”

Good point. What assurance do we have that the City [and] County of Honolulu won’t exercise eminent domain after selecting a route for the fixed-rail system? I find the very idea that the city might have to resort to condemning people’s houses far more unsettling than any increase in the general excise tax.

We shouldn’t rest easy until the City [and] County publicly promises us, in this newspaper’s op-ed pages for everyone to read, that it won’t forcibly confiscate anyone’s private land when the time comes to construct the rail.

Stuart K. Hayashi
Mililani

From the Honolulu Advertiser, March 6, 2006:
Eminent Domain
Don’t Seize People’s Homes for Transit

What assurance do we have that the City [and] County of Honolulu won’t exercise eminent domain after selecting a route for the fixed-rail system? I find the very idea that the city may have to resort to condemning people’s houses over this far more unsettling than any increase in the general excise tax.

We shouldn’t rest easy until the city publicly promises us, in this newspaper’s op-ed pages for everyone to read, that it won’t forcibly confiscate anyone’s private land when the time comes to construct the rail.

If this project requires the seizure of people’s homes, then perhaps it wasn’t such a terrific idea after all.

Stuart K. Hayashi
Mililani

As a follow-up to my own, Reid Ginoza had his own March 17, 2006, letter to the editor published over here.

Yes, in 2006, I said, “We shouldn’t rest easy until the City [and] County publicly promises us, in this newspaper’s op-ed pages for everyone to read, that it won’t forcibly confiscate anyone’s private land when the time comes to construct the rail.”

We know what has happened since then. With the rail project, the city government is on the very unscrupulous path of which we had warned. It should reverse course before it hurts innocent people even more than it already has.


Who is John Galt?

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Artist Uprising ✊: The Small Copyright-Holders Strike Back

Stuart K. Hayashi



It seems that perpetually-online people, especially those who upload onto YouTube and TikTok, are finally beginning to understand the importance of intellectual property rights and of how they benefit the little guy. That is a tremendous sea change — very far off from where perpetually-online people were a decade or two before.

1999 was the year of the war over Napster. Napster made its owner and one of its early executives, respectively, into a multimillionaire and billionaire. But Napster successfully convinced the public that it was the underdog. Users who downloaded music without compensating the musicians rationalized to themselves that they were scrappy rebels sticking it to the record companies and only the greediest of the bands, such as Metallica.

Then came the YouTube era. One of its earliest celebrities was Doug Walker, better known as the Nostalgia Critic. YouTube Corporate was still getting accustomed from 2006 to 2008 to learning how to stop users from violating the intellectual property rights of companies like Disney and Viacom. For that reason, YouTube Corporate often acted with too heavy a hand in taking down contents that could potentially cause problems.

That led to YouTube Corporate removing the five-second clips of major motion pictures that Mr. Walker had uploaded. Even as YouTube Corporate learned not to be so heavy-handed anymore, Walker never forgot and never forgave. For that reason, he took great interest in 2010 when Congress introduced a bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act — SOPA. The bill was very far from perfect. But, as Chris Ruen notes in his book Free Loading, it would not have allowed for the governmental actions that its detractors would go on to accuse it of trying to implement.

Sadly, Jimmy Wales — cofounder of Wikipedia — wound sow much misunderstanding by stating publicly and inaccurately that the bill’s passage would make it easy for any vexatious corporation to invoke SOPA to shut down his website. Doug Walker, still smarting from the takedowns of his videos from years earlier, and not being someone with a sophisticated understanding of public policy, immediately bought into all of the scare stories. He used his YouTube channel and official website — Channel Awesome —to campaign against SOPA. He took the talking points from Jimmy Wales’s movement and amplified them.

Probably much more than Mr. Wales, Doug Walker did a lot to influence the opinions of YouTube’s vloggers. And from much of this, they drew the wrong lessons not merely about a specific bill like SOPA, but about intellectual property rights more broadly. To a large extent, they fostered the impression that copyrights exist mostly so that big corporations like Disney and Viacom can bully little guys like Doug Walker. 

They also liked to cite the incident between video-game streamer “PewDiePie” and online model “Alinity.” PewDiePie uploaded a video showing clips of her so that he could disparage her and other online models as “THOTs.” Alinity saw this and, on one of her own streams, said this made her want to “copy-strike” the man in retaliation. He had, after all, used her intellectual property without her permission. The majority opinion of the users of YouTube was staunchly on the side of PewDiePie. His fans greatly outnumbered hers. They felt aggrieved not merely by Alinity, but that there existed a type of law that could be invoked against their favorite celebrity. Hence, this dispute was repeatedly brought up in insinuations that copyright enforcement is only a method of retribution against one’s critics.

All of this was very convenient for libertarians as, from the 1970s onward, the party line has been to denigrate the need for intellectual property rights. The Mises Institute and Liberty International (formerly the International Society for Individual Liberty) take the hardline route — they demand the abolition of all patents and copyrights. (They conveniently seldom mention trademarks, and they seem not to know about a type of intellectual property right that farmers have for new sexually-bred crops — planet variety protections.)

Other libertarian think tanks, though, take a more discreet approach. They do not say outright that they want a ban of IPRs. They do, however, wait for high-profile court cases where a precedent may be set, such as with the lawsuits over Napster. And, any time there is a chance that the high-profile issue may result in a weakening in the ability to enforce intellectual property rights, these libertarians will produce op-eds and other essays where they write glowingly of such a weakening.

Fortunately, after the Napster wars and Doug Walker’s campaigns, it seems that uploaders on YouTube and TikTok are finally learning the truth. This is due to a phenomenon that these uploaders call “content theft.”

An important aspect of intellectual property rights is the Fair Use doctrine. It allows one copyright holder to take small parts of another copyright holder’s material in order to comment on it. It is the reason why I can quote other authors and explain the areas where I agree or disagree with them. In this commentary, I am taking a snippet of material that is already copyrighted, but doing so in a context removed from the one in which the material first appeared. Hence, my conservatively-limited reproductions of some copyrighted material is “transformative” of that material. When it comes to online videos, Video-Maker 2 may reproduce a small portion of a video from Video-Maker 1 in order to provide the context in which Video-Maker 2 comments on the work of Video-Maker 1.

Over the past three years, some YouTube uploaders have gained large audiences through abusing and stretching the criteria of “fair use” beyond what it was intended for. They have done so by using sections of other person’s videos that are increasingly large, proportion-wise.

The YouTube uploader SSSniperWolf does “reaction” videos where she watches other people’s TikTok videos, sometimes in their entirety without even showing the TikTok username of the person whose clip she is using. The “commentary” consists of nothing more than her reading the caption out loud and orating for the audience everything that happens onscreen. This has contributed to her gaining over 34 million subscribers on YouTube.

On Twitch, Hasan Piker (nephew to The Young Turks founder Cenk Uygar) and “xQC” will run someone else’s video in its entirety on their own stream as they themselves get up and leave the room. This is routinely done without the permission of the video’s actual owner. All the revenue for this goes to SSSniperWolf, xQc, and Hasan — not the persons whose videos they are using. These practices have played a part in making SSSniperWolf and xQc into multimillionaires. It has also done much to enrich Hasan Piker even further, though he was already born into a multimillionaire family. Someone else who had already been rich and who is now doing this, is the former recording artist Jason Derulo, who had a role in the motion picture adaptation of Cats.

The power imbalance in this situation has greatly undermined the Doug Walker-era myth that online copyright protection is just about rich people trampling on poorer people. It is SSSniperWolf, xQc, and Hasan Piker who have the money and power, and who have been violating the intellectual property rights of people who do not have the wealth, influence, or connections that they do.

The foil to content theft is Jack Douglass. He has been on YouTube from its beginning with his channel “JacksFilms.” Much to his credit, he has created a video to articulate how damaging SSSniperWolf’s practices are to the actual creators of the TikTok videos she uses.


Weeks later, Jack did a follow-up video to elucidate on how the situation with SSSniperWolf was even worse than he realized. There have been occasions where, completely unauthorized, SSSniperWolf has used someone’s TikTok video in its entirety and did not bother saying anything about it. There is not even a pretense of “transformative commentary.” As Jack says, “That’s not ‘fair use’; it’s just ‘use.’ ”


And the best news is that Jack’s efforts have not been in vain. Despite having much fewer subscribers and much less clout, an increasing number of people who have had their videos stolen by SSSniperWolf have been successful in invoking their copyrights. By making their copyright claims to YouTube Corporate, they have been able to pressure SSSniperWolf into removing a growing number of TikTok videos that her YouTube channel has appropriated. This is the first video that Jack has made about the recent string of victories.


As I type this out, here is Jack’s most recent summary of the situation. He ends on a hopeful note by talking about how small copyright-holders are showing that they have indeed been able to defend their work from SSSniperWolf.

 

I, too, am hopeful. We are coming to see the extinguishment of the narrative that copyrights are all about big media conglomerates slapping around little guys like Nostalgia Critic. Increasingly, small content-creators, who otherwise might have been taken in by Nostalgia Critic’s narrative, are waking up to the reality of the situation. They are seeing how intellectual property rights protect little guys like themselves.

The next time a relatively popular YouTube channel uploads a video sympathetic to JacksFilms, and I have an opportunity to post an early comment, I should write, “All this content theft goes that that cliché so popular in Silicon Valley, ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal,’ needs to go extinct.”

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Your Ability to Imagine a Scenario Does Not Make It “Theoretically Possible”

Stuart K. Hayashi





Introduction
In my home state of Hawai‘i, superstitions abound. Every New Year’s Eve, one does not merely practice certain rituals but also eats certain foods. I have been assured that this will please the spirits and they will reward us with luck throughout the year. When I ask different people if they truly believe all this, they usually give the same reply. They shrug, laugh sheepishly, and say, “Well, ya never know. It’s possible there might be something to all this.” People believe this might possibly be true simply because they can imagine it.

This notion that if you can imagine a scenario, that proves that it is possible, is very common. It serves as the major excuse for belief in the supernatural, such as fortunetelling, ghosts, demons, and deities. It is also a rationalization that underpins so much pretentiousness in philosophy.

This is may be familiar to you. It has become routine that, after taking Philosophy 101 class, someone will say, “Gee, maybe my whole life is not real. Maybe all of my experiences are an illusion, and I am actually a brain in a jar imagining my life. This is theoretically possible.”

Such talk was popular long before the release of The Matrix. It has an extensive history of being entertained copiously in formal philosophy, in some form or another. Immanuel Kant had a version of it, and it is famously associated with Plato. The idea was also extolled by the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi. He said that one day he dreamed he was a butterfly, but maybe he is actually a butterfly dreaming that it is Zhuang Zi. Buying into the assertion that what we interpret as sensory evidence might all be misleading, the philosopher Karl Popper proclaimed seriously, “...we never know what we are talking about.” (To that I reply, “Speak for yourself, buddy!”) And although Rene Descartes ultimately did not affirm his agreement with this idea, he still presumed it deserving of very serious consideration.

Disturbingly, the Enlightenment Era philosopher David Hume was explicit in saying that his ability to imagine a scenario was sufficient grounds for deeming it a theoretic possibility that deserves your study. This starkly contradicts Hume’s reputation among today’s professors — that he was a strict empiricist all about sensory experience. As worded by Hume, “To form a clear idea of any thing [that is, to imagine something vividly] is an undeniable argument for its possibility and is alone refutation of any pretended demonstration against it.”

We will return to this erroneous supposition of Hume’s a bit later in this essay. Although Hume made some very sound arguments for free-market economics and having a laissez-faire and constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State, much of his influence in the area of epistemology, such as with what he has said above, has contributed to setting much of Western society on the wrong track.

People who indulge in this talk — that being able to imagine something is proof that it is possible — have no actual basis for doing so.

I already knew that years ago, and I would offer them this same reply.
I can imagine an isolated ice cube falling to the bottom of a glass of water and remaining on the bottom for eternity. My ability to imagine this is still no basis for introducing this scenario as a theoretic possibility. For a proposition to be worth some consideration as a theoretic possibility, there must be evidence to support it.
And, as far as I was concerned, that was that. However, on Thursday, July 27, 2023, I came up with some additional points about this. These additional points, I think, make more use of formal logic. My new manner of phrasing the matter goes farther down to the foundation of metaphysics and epistemology. The main purpose of the essay you are reading is for me to present my argument in this new form. But, first, I must give some background information that serves as the basis for my new argument.

 

 
The Context Behind the Issue
This idea that your sensory experiences might be distorted or illusory, and that there might be a truer plane of existence with which you have not yet made contact, is called metaphysical Idealism. This is not to be mixed up with moral Idealism, which is a persisting commitment to ethical principles. And the ramifications of metaphysical Idealism are not confined to metaphysics. In the realm of epistemology — the discipline that studies how do we know what we know — metaphysical Idealism is frequently accompanied by epistemic Rationalism, which should not be confused with rationality.

This epistemic Rationalism is the notion that there are valid and true ideas we hold that are innate, à priori, and which are truer than knowledge that we can induce à posteriori, meaning from from sensory experience. Someone can be a Rationalist without agreeing that it is theoretically possible that all sensory experience is suspect or misleading or illusory. Still, being an epistemic Rationalist is a very convenient position for someone who agrees that all sensory experience is illusory.

For a metaphysical Idealist, epistemic Rationalism is supposed to answer the question, “If everything learned from sensory evidence is subject to doubt, how do you know that all of that sensory evidence is thrown into doubt?” Once again, people say that their ability to imagine that waking experience is an illusion is enough to make it a theoretic possibility. Those who are most adamant in metaphysical Idealism and epistemic Rationalism go farther, saying they know all this conjecture is a legitimate evaluation.

There is a name for this idea that your consciousness can recognize truths — truths about entities that exist outside of your  own consciousness — independently of investigation of those entities by means of sensory experience. That is, the idea is that even if no one ever investigated the matter by means of sensory experience, you can still know what is true about the entities existing outside of your own consciousness, entities such as trees and flowers and volcanoes and clouds and galaxies and other humans.

The name also applies to a still-more-radical idea. The more-radical idea is that, independent of going through sensory motions to affect the entities outside of your own consciousness, your consciousness alone can will those entities outside of your consciousness to change their nature and behavior. The name that the writer Ayn Rand gave those ideas is “the Primacy of Consciousness.”

It is true that your own consciousness can sometimes influence the entities outside of it. But your consciousness can do this only by means of going through motions with the realm of sensory experience, not merely thinking with your consciousness but acting in reality, through physical motions, to implement the ideas from your consciousness.

For example, the Wright brothers conceived of — imagined — heavier-than-air flying machines when none had existed. Then, through their efforts, they created airplanes in reality. In this respect, what once manifested only in their imaginations had also become real entities that existed independently of their consciousness.

But they did this through sensory experience. They observed that, as birds flew, the birds changed the direction of their flight by changing the direction of their wings and the angles at which edges of their wings had bent. The brothers then employed their bodies to draw up plans and diagrams that they formulated to accommodate such observations. They built models and prototypes of a flyer, and they employed their senses to observe the results of tests they ran on such prototypes. By contrast, for the Wright brothers to employ a Primacy-of-Consciousness mindset would have been for them merely to attempt to wish or pray airplanes into being. After all, their father was a priest. 

Likewise, here is another example of the Primacy of Consciousness. Suppose that on Monday, I pray that Hawai‘i will not be hit with an earthquake on Tuesday. Then, on Tuesday, Hawaii experiences no earthquake. Then I chalk up the absence of such a disaster to my having prayed to God. I still performed a physical action — I put my hands together and spoke with my mouth. But there is no evidence that this had any causal effect on seismic activity. Moreover, because God supposedly can read my mind, it probably would have been just as effectual if only in my head did I ask God that there to be no earthquake. Hence, this is the Primacy of Consciousness at play.

It is also the Primacy of Consciousness when my loved ones eat a particular dish on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck. Here, good luck refers to steady finances and the good fortune of a hurricane not hitting Hawai‘i months later. Again, this ritual does involve a physical action with entities outside of people’s consciousness. Still, there is no actual evidence of a causal connection between eating a particular food and Hawai‘i having averted a catastrophe. In practice, this is the same as trying to wish away the tropical storms.

In contrast to the Primacy of Consciousness, Ayn Rand discusses the Primacy of Existence. It starts with the most obvious observation you can make — something exists. Something that exists is called an “entity.” Your recognition that something exists will produce a corollary recognition: a consciousness exists — your own. Were it not for Existence, there would not be something there for your consciousness to recognize, and there would definitely be no consciousness there to recognize it. Likewise, were it not for Consciousness, there would not be anything to recognize the existence of itself or anything else.

Your consciousness is clearly important. But when it comes to your consciousness recognizing what is real and true, or at least theoretically possible, looking at Existence must be the starting point. In the realm of Existence — what I also call Nature with a capital N — we find there are some principles that apply consistently. The law of gravity is an example.

And every entity has attributes through which your consciousness can distinguish it from other entities. The pertinent attributes of an entity are what we call the entity’s nature. It is in a tree’s nature, for example, to consist of cells, to grow, and to release oxygen as it takes in sunlight to produce its own food. By contrast, it is not in the nature of a tree to transform into a 400-meter-long rhinoceros and stampede over a city. We discover the respective natures of entities through repeat observations with the senses.

Recognition of an entity by its pertinent attributes is the Law of Identity. Here is how you apply that law. You observe one entity, Entity 1, whose attributes allow you to place it in a particular classification, a particular category — the concept of it. Then you observe Entity 2, which shares the same pertinent attributes as the first entity. Applying the Law of Identity, you recognize Entity 2 as being of the same category as Entity 1.

Entities perform actions. A cloud above you is an entity, and it sending raindrops down upon you is its action. Actions are caused by the respective natures of entities. In the past, when you observed clouds become a very dark gray, these clouds followed up by raining upon you. Today you see another cloud that is a dark gray. Applying the Law of Identity, you predict that this dark gray cloud will likewise send rain.

Derivative of the Law of Identity is the Law of Causality. The fact that entities have particular respective natures is a fact that affects the events that these entities cause. When two entities are of the same type, A, and they are under the same set of pertinent conditions, B, the same stimulus, X, will cause them to react in the same manner, Y.

We have two mobile phones, A, that are similar enough in the pertinent context to be regarded as being of the same type. These are phones 1 and 2. Both of them are under the same condition, B — they are not broken. On Phone 1, I input your phone number. This is the stimulus or causal agent X. This results in your phone ringing, effect Y. Applying the Law of Identity, we ascertain that if, after you have hung up from the first call, I punch in your number on Phone 2 as well, it will likewise cause your phone to ring. We infer that the action of my inputting your number will be consistent in causing your phone to ring. As Ayn Rand phrases it, “The Law of Causality is the Law of Identity applied to action.”

These are the same sensory observations denigrated by metaphysical Idealism, epistemic Rationalism, and, implicitly, by all those who presume that their ability to imagine a scenario is sufficient to prove that it is possible.

Again, the vast majority of philosophy instructors will tell you that David Hume was a consistent empiricist. That is, he was the opposite of a metaphysical Idealist and epistemic Rationalist, of which Plato was both. If they could put aside their prejudicially motivated revulsion toward Ayn Rand long enough to learn her terminology, philosophy instructors would say that admirers of Ayn Rand’s should concede that Hume argued from “the Primacy of Existence.” But I find, sadly, that what Hume has said about imagination and theoretical possibilities is an instance of him showing favor to the Primacy of Consciousness.

In contrast to metaphysical Idealists, epistemic Rationalists, and — in this instance at least — David Hume, I shall now present my new argument about why a posited scenario must have evidentiary backing before it is to be welcomed as a theoretic possibility.

 

 
My New Way of Phrasing It
Again, many people in Hawai‘i say that it is theoretically possible that if we appease spirits on New Year’s Eve by eating a particular lucky food, those spirits will help protect us throughout the year. And, again, many people chirp that it is theoretically possible that their whole lives are an illusion and they are actually a brain in a jar being made to dream the dream that is their lives.

As with any supernaturalistic claim, these people begin by imagining a scenario arbitrarily, and then they try to rationalize it after the fact. This approach exemplifies the Primacy-of-Consciousness mindset. Now let us proceed from the other end. Let us acknowledge the Primacy of Existence.

We start off by looking at entities — the objects that exist. To speak of what is “possible” is to speak of a judgment made about some posited event. “Events” are just actions performed by the entities. That is why we look at the entities before we consider their actions and the events or possibilities associated with them. Moreover, the qualities of an action are influenced by the qualities of the entity performing it. Hence, it is only by learning about entities and their attributes that we ascertain what is possible for them.

That is why there is no proper basis or justification for us to speak of what is “theoretically possible” for an entity in the absence of observational knowledge of that entity’s attributes. Facts and evidence about an entity are epistemically foundational, and “possible” is a derivative attribute of that entity’s actions that hinges on such an epistemic foundation.

To be rationally justified, then, in saying that an event is theoretically possible is to say the following. It is to say that even if we are not sure that this particular event will take place, we have gained enough knowledge of the pertinent entities — enough evidence — for us to make an educated guess that they possess the necessary attributes that would enable them to contribute to the occurrence of this event.

As the biologist Meghann Ribbens put it to me, there is a good reason why, at least implicitly, we recognize the distinction between “imaginable” and “possible.” Some events that were indeed possible were, at some points in human history, unimaginable. It is doubtful that Stone Age hunter-gatherers imagined the occurrence of invisible airwaves that one day would transmit information to radios, televisions, and mobile phones. Conversely, as we have seen, not everything imaginable is possible. If there was no obvious distinction between “imaginable” and “possible,” there never would have been a need to coin the adjective imaginable; the adjective possible would suffice for every scenario ever described.

When someone floats an arbitrary postulate, such as that astrology predicts the future, often this person issues a particular challenge and advances a particular insinuation. The challenge is for any would-be doubter to put forth an effort to disprove the postulate completely. The insinuation is that, in the absence of such an effort, those who initially doubted the postulate must now concede that the postulate has gained clearance for admission into consideration as a theoretic possibility. Anyone who refrains from entertaining the postulate as deserving of consideration — even if that refraining was originally by passive default — is allegedly duty-bound to engage with arguments for and against the arbitrary postulate, on the pain of otherwise being exposed as intellectually lazy and intellectually dishonest.

It is that challenge and insinuation that are intellectually lazy and intellectually dishonest. There is no limit to the number of arbitrary postulates being foisted in our culture. Anyone who tried to engage with all or even most of them would waste all time on this pursuit, and partake in nothing else in life. On any occasion in which someone floats an arbitrary postulate, it is not incumbent upon me to poke holes in it to justify my passively refraining from entertaining that postulate as a possibility. When someone wants me to welcome the postulate as a theoretic possibility, the burden is on him or her to show evidence for the existence of conditions that can contribute to its occurrence. Thus, we do not rule out possibilities from limitless arbitrary imaginings. Instead we rule in possibilities based on their evidentiary support. 

There is only one set of circumstances in which we have a firm footing in ruling out what was previously considered a possibility. It is this. Initially, based on the knowledge we have, we rule in a set of theoretic possibilities, such as A, B, and C.  Then we conduct further investigation. Based on the additional knowledge, A and B still appear viable. However, the new information we have gained about the attributes of the pertinent entities exist in such a manner as to preclude C from happening. At that juncture, we can rule out C.  But insofar as any proposition is made in the absence of evidence, that proposition is not to be ruled either in or out as a possibility. It deserves simply to be ignored so that we can devote our precious time and attention instead to propositions that are buttressed by evidence.

That is why it is wrong — why it is the Primacy of Consciousness — when people start with some arbitrary imagining, call it “theoretically possible,” and then try to rationalize it after the fact. To understand the Primacy of Existence is to start with observations and facts. And it is after we learn about an entity’s capabilities that way, when we can apply imagination to imagine possibilities in such a manner that can actually get practical results.
 
 

 
What About People Who Accomplish What Was Previously Thought Impossible?
The Wright brothers provide an instructive case study in ascertaining what is and is not possible, and in imagination’s proper role in rendering such judgments. The Wright brothers were highly imaginative. They conceived of a heavier-than-air flying machine at a time when none had existed and in which the consensus was that such a product of their efforts would never take off — pun intended.

“We knew,” said Wilbur, the older Wright brother, “that men had by common consent adopted human flight as the standard of impossibility. When a man said, ‘It can’t be done; a man might as well try to fly,’ he was understood as expressing the final limit of impossibility.”

It was for such reasons that the prospect that the Wrights would succeed at flying was widely dismissed. It was dismissed even by the eminent physicist and entrepreneur Lord Kelvin, who played a major role in laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable and who provides the namesake of the scientific unit for measuring temperature. “...I have not the smallest molecule of faith,” he wrote, “in aerial navigation other than ballooning or of expectation of good results from any of the [aeroplane] trials we hear of.” 

In 1899, Scientific American magazine, too, expressed doubt. A major obstacle to the invention of the airplane was developing a method for safe steering. As the ability to duplicate the method by which birds steered themselves seemed unlikely, the periodical determined that aeroplanes would not have “commercial or military utility.”

To such dismissals, the younger Wright brother, Orville, retorted, “If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance.”

Of course, in their endeavor to prove it possible for humans to produce heavier-than-air flying machines, imagination was necessary but not sufficient. For what they imagined to manifest as possible, the Wright brothers always had to account for the evidentiary facts of Nature they observed. The reason why the Wright brothers were right. whereas Lord Kelvin and Scientific American magazine were wrong, was that when it came to this issue, the Wright brothers took all the pertinent evidence into consideration much more logically and consistently than did Lord Kelvin and Scientific American.

We find that, de facto, the Wright brothers’ approach was Facts come first; then we apply those facts to imagine the possibilities.

 As my late father wrote on January 19, 1973, “An idea is not a reality. An idea is a method of perceiving reality.”

 


The Fallacies in Saying “Maybe Our Sensory Experiences Are a Distortion of Reality, and We Are Ignorant of What Is Actual Reality”
I now want to give special attention to the arbitrary postulate that perhaps everything our senses tell us is a misleading distortion, and that there may be a truer reality that exists beyond our ability to perceive anything. According to this postulate, what our senses inform us is not reality but merely a representation of reality — or, more precisely, a misrepresentation of reality. This postulate is an obfuscation of the very means by which we identify what is a representation or misrepresentation of anything.

To say that R is a representation of Q is to say that R is not literally Q but that R at least symbolizes Q in our minds. Moreover, we know R is a representation of Q because it has enough pertinent similarities in attributes with Q for us to recognize R as representational of it. For instance, we know that a toy truck from the brand Hot Wheels or Micro Machines is not literally a truck. But a toy truck from Hot Wheels or Micro Machines provides enough visual and other sensory cues for us to recognize the toy as a representation of a truck.

Here is a pertinent question. If you present a toy truck to a baby before she has ever seen a real truck, will she recognize the toy as a representation of a truck? She will not. You can recognize R as a representation or simulation of Q no more than the extent to which you have knowledge of what Q itself is like literally.

The same principle applies when we talk of a misrepresentation, or at least a representation that has been found to be inaccurate. Consider how whales are depicted on maps of the Atlantic Ocean that were drawn during the high Middle Ages. Of importance here are some facts about whales that became well-known in the twentieth century. First, whales do not possess scales like those of carp — goldfishes and koi — and the arowana fish. Also pertinent are tail flukes — these are the triangle-shaped parts of the tail fin found on fishes and whales. On whales, the tail flukes are horizontal — there is a fluke on the left and another on the right. By contrast, when a fish has tail flukes, they are more likely to be vertical — there is a fluke on the top of the tail and maybe another on the bottom. Not all fishes have vertical tail flukes, but it is the case that all whales only have horizontal tail flukes.

Now take a gander at a medieval map of the Earth and its oceans, and examine what that map labels a whale. Conventionally, the “whale” will be covered in fishlike scales and sport tail flukes that are vertical like a fish’s, not horizontal. These are inaccuracies in representation. The charitable way to interpret this is that the map’s illustrators labored in earnest and the inaccuracies came from their not having the information about whales that became more accessible from the twentieth century onward. But whatever the cause of the inaccuracies, we know of the representation’s inaccuracies only because we have some knowledge of what actual whales are like.

 

 Thus we discern the illogic in someone saying that all our sensory experiences are no more than a representation of reality, whereas the truer reality is unknown to us. We can discern something as a representation of objective reality no more than the extent to which we have already experienced objective reality directly and thereby gained knowledge of it.

Further, we can discern the even-bigger fallacy in proclaiming that our sensory experiences might be a false representation of an alleged truer objective reality that remains unknown. For us to have a basis in speculating that our sensory experiences might not match reality exactly, once again we would have to know what objective reality is like literally. And yet in this scenario we have already been told that we are wholly ignorant of that very same objective reality.

 

 
Conclusion
When someone proclaims, “It’s theoretically possible that all our sensory experiences are deceptive or unreal, and we are in complete ignorance of reality as it truly is,” that proclamation remains wholly arbitrary. And it is to be written off as such.

In sum, the existence of entities and the facts associated with them are primary, and to discern what is theoretically possible for those entities is contingent upon those facts. That is why, just because you can imagine something happening, that is not sufficient for calling it a “theoretic possibility.”





On Friday, August 4, 2023, I added the part about Scientific American magazine. On Monday, August 7, 2023, I added the paragraph about how, subsequent to ruling in a theoretic possibility with the evidence we had at the time, C, we are justified in ruling out C as a possibility upon our discovering further evidence that precludes it. That same day I embedded the YouTube video about how many animals were represented inaccurately in the European-authored bestiaries of the high Middle Ages. On Sunday, June 2, 2024, I added the quotation from my father. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Risks in Depriving Trans Kids of Gender-Affirming Care

Stuart K. Hayashi




Over the past several years, the hottest topic of controversy has been the rights of transgender people, especially those among them who are still minors. Among opposition to trans rights, there are two basic kinds — explicit and implicit. The explicit sort is open hostility. It involves the outright proclamation that the idea that anyone can be transgender must always be stigmatized — that people who say that they are of a gender opposite to the one they were assigned at birth must be, at best, delusional. This is the approach of political commentators like Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles.

The implicit opposition to trans rights is more subtle. It is expressed by those who claim sympathy for trans people and claim to understand that legal adults who identify as transgender should be allowed by law to live as such. Yet the implicit position refuses to remove all stigmata from trans people; it would maintain the stigma under the guise of protecting children. This is the commonest position taken by those who claim to support freedom of enterprise. It is also the position expressed by J. K. Rowling when she is at her most discreet, such as in her well-known “TERF Wars” essay online (it is on Twitter where her hostility becomes more explicit and she sounds like Matt Walsh).

For this essay, I will not bother to argue against those who express explicit opposition to trans rights. These people are very much committed to that opposition; it has become part of their identity. An essay such as this one will not sway them.

I do think there may be hope, though, for some people who have the implicit opposition. After all, I was one of them.

 

 
“I’m Not Against Trans People; I Just Want Minors Protected”
On the matter of those who have the implicit opposition to trans rights, what they usually cite is what they call the protection of minors. The rhetorical spiel about minors is what I call the TransSkeptic Position. It goes something like this.
I’m not “transphobic.” If you’re an old adult and set upon it, the government should not stop you from getting the surgeries that would help you feel more comfortable in your own body. But children, by definition, are not consenting adults. For that reason, the government is right to prevent children from receiving the body-changing medical procedures that go with what you call “gender-affirming healthcare.”

You know how children are. Sometimes they say impulsively that they want to marry their favorite teacher. And a lot of them are very confident and certain of that feeling when they say it. And it’s common for kids to go through phases. When I was little, I knew a boy who, for three years, was obsessed with dinosaurs and rock-collecting. For those three years, he told everyone he wanted to be a paleontologist. But then he moved on — to telling everyone that he was going to be a professional baseball player. Well, today he’s neither a paleontologist nor a pro baseball player and he’s very happy in his job. You know that you can’t take everything your children say at face value or give in to every demand they feel strongly about. If you did, you would be serving them nothing but ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And yet we are told that we must take it at face value when our kids, in their normal childish confusion, tell us that they are the sex opposite to the one that they really are. Hell, we’re not just told we have to take this at face value. We are being emotionally blackmailed into it by teachers, the media, and touchy-feely Woke psychologists.

I am going to describe for you what is really going on. Children impulsively say they are the opposite sex. They have no idea what they are in store for. Because parents have been indoctrinated or cowed into being “accepting,” they take the children at their word. They therefore “affirm” and reinforce to the children what they have said about being the opposite sex. Whether the parents intend it or not, this sort of attention acts as a reward to the child. The children are thus signaled what sort of role to fill to get this positive reinforcement. They act accordingly. Both the parents and the children play the parts expected of them. In turn, they reinforce one another’s actions in their respective assigned roles.

This goes on and on. The children are conditioned and pressured further and further into acting according to a preassigned “trans identity.” Hence, the children are pushed into “gender-affirming care.” Their bodies are changed with puberty blockers, hormone treatment, and eventually surgery. Plainly, this all goes too far. And, as adults, many of these former children recognize they were not truly transgender. Yet they have permanently changed their bodies. As adults, they wish they could have children. They cannot, as they have sterilized themselves. They are left with regret. All this happened because the parents were too afraid — cowardly — to put their foot down and say no, on pain of appearing “intolerant” and “invalidating.” And it happened because the children were afraid of disappointing their parents — they felt they were already in too deep.

Is it possible that the child really was transgender? Yes, there is that possibility. But that child is not old enough. Even if that child really is trans, that child does not have the mental capacity to commit to the permanent body changes that go with “gender-affirming care.” To have a minor make such a commitment, absent of contractual capacity, is too great a risk. It is better to be safe than sorry. To err on the side of safety means that only a legal adult can receive “gender-affirming care” and to “transition.”

The government is right to intervene to protect children from abuse by their parents. That includes sexual abuse. As children are not of mental capacity, they cannot consent to sex even if they say they do. On that same basis, even if children say they want “gender-affirming care” and to “transition,” they are in no position to offer consent to it. If the parents authorize gender-affirming care on the child, that is just as nonconsensual as sexual abuse.

If you believe you’re transgender, wait until you’re a legal adult before transitioning or doing anything about it to your body. If you reach eighteen and are still convinced that you are the gender opposite to your sex assigned at birth, then — fine — I will relent. At that point, I can’t do anything about it. I will call you the pronoun you want to be called. But before you reach eighteen, I can and will do something about it. And if that means that the government must do some manhandling on parents trying to push gender-affirming care on minors in their custody, then so be it.
That TransSkeptic Position is already loaded with assumptions. We should clear up some misconceptions. Many people alarmed by the prospect of gender-affirming care for minors are under the misapprehension that it involves surgery on prepubescent children. False accusations by the internet personality “LibsOfTikTok” have people believing that hospitals have been providing surgeries on the genitalia of prepubescent children, or giving them hysterectomies. That is completely false. For many years the guidelines of WPATH — the professional association for trans health care — said clearly that such surgeries could not be performed on those younger than eighteen. In late 2022, WPATH changed its language on the matter. That prompted anti-trans campaigners such as Matt Walsh to shout, falsely, that the professional association was now making it explicit that prepubescent children would be receiving surgeries.

The actual reason for the change in wording was that the professional association opted for health care to be more personalized and on a case-by-case basis. More pertinently, WPATH still specifies that particular medical treatments should not begin until specific points in the child’s physiological development. It specifies, for example, “Hormone therapy is not recommended for children who have not begun endogenous puberty.” As noted by the YouTube vlogger Jessie Earl, “The WPATH may not give specific ages, but it will mention certain particular points in a child’s development where it might be OK to consider certain treatments.”

Much of the confusion comes over mentions of a prepubescent child starting a “transition” to another gender. Opponents of trans rights have seized on this confusion in order to insinuate that gender-affirming care consists of body-changing treatments. The confusion comes from a conflation between “medical transition” and “social transition,” both of which belong to the broader category of gender-affirming care. Medical transition involves treatments to the body, such as the administering of puberty-blockers and cross-hormones. That is not provided to prepubescent children.

When prepubescent trans children do transition, it consists of a “social transition.” It involves helping children grow accustomed to living as the gender with which they identify themselves. Likewise, it helps acculturate their family and friends in school so that the adjustment is easier for everyone. Most of the healthcare administered at this stage comes from child psychologists and psychotherapists.

Gender-affirming care does begin to have a physiological effect on trans children, however, when they begin to experience puberty. In this respect, gender-affirming care can contribute to the trans child’s body developing differently than it otherwise would. Although there is no surgery on any reproductive organs, it happens that the puberty-blocking medications and cross-hormone therapy can still make people skittish.

The taker of the TransSkeptic Position will then assert that even if no surgery takes place prior to age eighteen, someone receiving hormone replacement therapy at age sixteen does lead that person down that troubling path toward surgery. Such patients, the TransSkeptics continue, are under pressure to finish what they started. For such reasons, conclude the TransSkeptics, there is still a great risk to staring gender-affirming care for someone younger than eighteen. Always the TransSkeptics insist that to err on the side of safety is to forbid gender-affirming care to anyone who is not yet a legal adult.

That TransSkeptic Position was one that I myself held for many years. Much of this essay will explain why I changed my mind on it. The TransSkeptic Position talks up the alleged risks of allowing a minor to undergo gender-affirming care but conspicuously fails at acknowledging the risks of depriving gender-affirming care to a minor who wants it. In the end, gender-affirming care for minors should be allowed legally and be recognized as a worthy option.

 

 
The TransSkeptics’ False Assumptions About What Is at Stake
First, we must disabuse some misconceptions. We start with those about puberty-blocking medications, better known as “puberty blockers.” Those wishing to discredit gender-affirming care frequently trump up the alleged dangers of puberty blockers. They propound that puberty blockers destroy a person’s bone density. Worse, they go on, trans-rights activists are so zealous in pushing gender-affirming care on minors that trans-rights activists and doctors unconscionably downplay the dangers of this medication. Rather, continues the narrative, the real beneficiaries of gender-affirming care are the greedy pharmaceutical companies that are paid for puberty blockers, and these companies are Manufacturing the Consent of the trans minors. Such scary rhetoric about these chemicals commonly appears in the Wall Street Journal.

There is irony in the Wall Street Journal peddling this narrative about greedy corporations contaminating people with a toxic chemical. It is that, years ago, the Wall Street Journal published a fact that this same paper now overlooks in its scare stories about puberty blockers. The fact is that when it comes to exposure to any chemical that is not monotonic, the dosage will matter a great deal in determining how much of a danger it poses.

In the early 1990s, environmentalist activists put even more emphasis than they do today on the threat of microscopic residue of alar and pesticides on foods. The Wall Street Journal editorial board interpreted that as an attempt to malign the reputation of big business. The WSJ and free-market think tanks thus found scientists who admonished the public to remember something important. It is that unless the chemical in question is a monotonic toxin, the public has to take the dosage into consideration. A monotonic toxin is a substance that poses a danger no matter how tiny the dose; examples are cancer cells and HIV. Unless it is a monotonic toxin, it is the dosage that makes the difference between safety and danger. Too much oxygen is a carcinogen; too much water is toxic. 

Likewise, the presence of microscopic particles of alar and synthetic chemicals have not been shown to be large enough to pose a major risk. More recently, there is great irony in people who consume alcoholic beverages — a major carcinogen — being scared of the artificial sweetener aspartame, a smaller potential cancer risk. The WSJ and free-marketers frequently quote the Renaissance-era scientist and philosopher Paracelsus: “the dose makes the poison.” You can read that argument advanced in the Wall Street Journal here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The principle holds consistently, and the Wall Street Journal and free-market think tanks were not wrong for pointing that out. Yet the Wall Street Journal, suspiciously, does not apply this same logic to the dose of puberty-blocking drugs received by minors in gender-affirming care. The WSJ publishes vague alarmism about how puberty-blockers harm bone density, suspiciously without accurate considerations about dosage. You can see examples of that here, here, and here. In reality, minors who receive puberty-blockers cannot receive the treatment for more than two years. By contrast, for puberty-blocking drugs to have a significant impact on bone density, someone would have to be taking them regularly for decades on end. In short, the WSJ disputes the narrative about greedy corporations poisoning their customers with relatively small doses of chemicals . . . except when that narrative proves politically convenient for the WSJ’s socially conservative readers.

The TransSkeptics’ misrepresentations of the risks of puberty-blockers — which they frequently repeat even after being corrected about this — is one among several factors that led me away from the TransSkeptic position concerning gender-affirming care for minors.

Another misconception that must be cleared up has to do with false figures. Fans of the TransSkeptic Position often parrot J. K. Rowling’s proclamation that “through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60–90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.”

That figure comes from a 1995 study by Susan J. Bradley and Ken J. Zucker. And J. K. Rowling misrepresents the nature of that sample. Among the large percentage of gender-nonconforming youths who were referred to the clinic and showed improvement absent of medical intervention, transgender youths suffering from gender dysphoria were a small minority. A larger percentage of the youths referred consisted of gays and those whom the study described as having “transvestic fetishism.” To be clear, “transvestites” are not the same as those who are transgender; transvestites wear the opposite sex’s clothes but, more than half the time, are cisgender; many are heterosexual. Contrary to J. K. Rowling’s misrepresentation, the “60–90 percent” figure does not actually tell us the percentage of prepubescent youths who say they are transgender and then change their minds later.

With that out of the way, I can tell you which seemingly subtle event contributed to my eventual break from the TransSkeptics.

 

 
How a Reversible Medication Made Me Reverse Course in This Controversy
For years, even as I thought of myself as respectful of the rights of transgender people, I agreed with the TransSkeptic Position. I had also been casually curious about the commercial success of J. K. Rowling. Ever since I was a little boy, I had wanted to be a writer. I thought that job would make me rich like Ms. Rowling and Stephen King. Haha; how naïve! “Writer” is what economist Steven Levitt identifies as a “tournament job” — only a few people in the profession become truly rich, whereas most do not. Other tournament jobs include those of “actor,” “beauty queen,” “professional athlete,” “musician,” and “drug dealer.”

Even after I learned that only few writers become wealthy, I had wondered if there were aspects of Ms. Rowling’s career that I could emulate. I had also appreciated her standing up for the rights of Syrian refugees, much to the ire of Alt-Right personalities like Ian Miles Cheong who, at the time, disparaged Ms. Rowling as a social justice warrior and woke-scold. It therefore became concerning to me when, in her promotion of her then-new book, The Ickabog, Ms. Rowling had been showing signs that she nursed some sort of grudge against trans women.

Eventually, Ms. Rowling came out with her essay “TERF Wars,” where she gave her reasons for opposing the trans rights movement. I had not previously heard much of the particular issues she raised. Even then, the supposed evidence that Ms. Rowling offered — such as that most trans boys ultimately “grow out of” thinking they are trans — seemed suspicious. All in all, I did not feel confident at the time to come to a conclusion about it. I decided to explore the matter further.

On that topic I came across the well-known YouTube vlogger Jessie Earl, who uploads as “Jessie Gender.” She came out with a video to rebut Ms. Rowling. And in that video Jessie Earl underscored something I had not previously given much consideration. It is that when prepubescent trans children start transition treatment, that transition does not consist of
irreversible transition steps like surgeries or hormones. Instead, most youths are actually given puberty-blocking drugs that stop the irrevocable effects of puberty on their bodies. By taking these puberty-blocking drugs, it allows them longer time to come to terms with their own gender identities and decide later on if they want to transition when they are most able to consent to more definitive actions like surgeries. And, by the way, puberty-blocking drugs are 100-percent reversible, whereas, by the way, the effects of puberty are not.

And as a study by the Massachusetts General Hospital found, 90 percent — again, I say 90 percent — of transgender adults who are denied these puberty blockers faced suicidal ideation in their lifetime because they had to go through puberty: an experience that is honestly really, really horrible for many trans people. Believe me as a trans woman who had to go through male puberty, it gets honestly really hard. It was one of the hardest times in my life. I personally spent much of my puberty wishing I was a girl, and spending a lot of that time crying in the shower to hide my tears from my family. 
It is something that I wish I could change but I can’t. It’s my life and I’m happy with how things turned out, but going through [male] puberty — something that I wish I could have stopped by taking puberty-blocking drugs — was hard. By taking the — again, reversible — puberty-blocking drugs, you can greatly increase the chances for trans men and -women to avoid that outcome and enable them to have the choice later on in life if they want to go through a normal puberty or take hormones to transition irreversibly when they are older. [Italics are Jessie’s; boldface is mine.]
That is worth repeating. The effects of puberty-blockers are reversible. The effects of puberty are not.

This is something that had not been addressed by the intellectuals I had been reading online, such as the Intellectual Dark Web circle of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Steven Pinker. I decided to look further into this. What Jessie Earl said checks out — it is well-corroborated in the medical field. As one of the simpler explainers puts it, “The effects of puberty blockers are reversible. If a person stops taking puberty blockers, the effects of puberty will return or resume.” The Public Health Service Authority of Canada likewise says, “There are no known irreversible effects of puberty blockers. If you decide to stop taking them, your body will go through puberty just the way it would have if you had not taken puberty blockers at all.” The Mayo Clinic uses language that is a bit more technical. “GnRH analogues don’t cause permanent physical changes. Instead, they pause puberty. . . . When a person stops taking GnRH analogues, puberty starts again.”

When children repeatedly insist they are a gender opposite to their sex assigned at birth, and their parents and doctors both take this seriously, this is how the process goes. To the extent that they are not stopped by red tape, prepubescent children can receive gender-affirming health care and might be able to start a gender “transition.” But, contrary to smears by the likes of Matt Walsh and LibsOfTikTok, that transition does not entail any type of surgery. For those who have not reached puberty, the transition is merely a social transition.

The children are verbally affirmed by their parents — and, ideally, by their teachers and classmates — in identifying themselves publicly by the gender by which they interpret themselves to be. To the extent that they want, they are allowed to dress and behave in ways consistent with what is normally associated with their gender. That is, if she wants, one who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) can wear dresses. At this stage in the process, the professionals with whom the child has the most contact in gender-affirming care are child psychologists.

When the child begins puberty, the ideal is for the child to be able to access puberty-blocking treatment. Contrary to the scare stories, doctors and the healthcare system are not dispensing puberty-blocking medications willy-nilly. Puberty-blockers remain far less accessible than is claimed, and are, more importantly, far less accessible than they should be. In the year 2020, Jack L. Turban and his associates went over a survey of adults, then aged 18 to 36, who had received gender-affirming care as children. Of those who, at the time of their gender-affirming care, had wanted puberty-blockers as part of the program, no more than 3 percent received that medication.

Let’s look at what happens with those children who actually get to receive the puberty-blocking treatment. It is not to go on longer than two years. Once those two years are up, the child will need to have committed to a decision. At this point, either the child is to discontinue gender-affirming treatments that address physiology, or the child is to proceed with cross-hormone replacement therapy. The effects of hormone-replacement therapy can be compared to undergoing the puberty associated with one’s actual gender, as opposed to the sort of puberty that would be associated with one’s sex assigned at birth. Even in this duration, the patient is not to have surgical alterations to genitalia.

Increasingly, upon hearing people in my circle repeat the TransSkeptic Position, I tentatively brought up the consideration about how puberty-blocking drugs are reversible whereas puberty is not. Consistently, I was met with two different types of reactions. In many cases, the person who expressed the TransSkeptic Position would act as if I said nothing at all, and then just continue the same old spiel.

In the other instances, the person would just repeat the talking point about puberty-blockers being a danger to bone density — as if the denial of gender-affirming care was not itself a great danger — and without concern for how much the dosage level affects the riskiness or safety. When these people bothered to cite some source about bone density, it would always be the same old go-to people for anti-trans talking points, such as Helen Joyce and Abigail Shrier — go-to people whose conclusions are at odds with the wider context of study and conclusions by medical professionals.

At this point, the assertion about bone density is recited as a thought-stopping cliché. The glaring incuriosity of TransSkeptics, in light of my raising the consideration I did, really gave me pause. That they were so persistently incurious is what first led me to doubt that the TransSkeptics know what they are talking about. This is how I became skeptical of their skepticism. Since then, I have come to notice many logical inconsistences in the TransSkeptic Position.

Even if people admit that puberty-blockers do not pose a greater physical danger to trans minors than does the denial of puberty-blockers, many people will probably still be horrified by the idea, as such, of minors transitioning in gender. This has much to do with unfamiliarity. It is a cause of culture shock. They fear it because they do not know what it would look like, and often that fear drives them to form preconceptions.

Therefore, I think I should give an example of what it looks like when someone is accepted as transgender very early in life and is allowed gender-affirming care as a minor. That is the case of Rebekah Bruesehoff. Despite being assigned male at birth, before age ten she was already very consistent in informing others that she was a girl, and in behaving in a manner that would be expected of one. Rather than dig in their heels, her deeply religious parents — her father is a Lutheran pastor — accepted the reality of the situation and listened to their doctors. As I said, the process began with a “social transition.” Eventually, Rebekah was allowed to receive puberty-blocking medication. 

By the end of those two years, she had already decided on completing the transition. She received the cross-hormone replacement therapy, allowing her to undergo a female puberty rather than the default, the puberty of her sex assigned at birth. As I type this, Rebekah has completed high school and is thriving. I have to admit that if she didn’t say she was transgender, I would not have guessed that she was. [ 1 | 2 ]





We are constantly told that once a trans person gets hormone treatments or surgeries, that trans person is largely stuck with many of the results. Glossed over is the fact of another great risk. Trans minors who qualify for puberty-blocking treatments have an opportunity to avoid a puberty that is not right for them. For you to urge the law to deny them this treatment is therefore, in effect, to force them to undergo a puberty that does not align with the gender that their minds happen to be. And, upon being forced into this wrong puberty, the trans person will largely be stuck with many of those effects. The life of Rebekah Bruesehoff shows us an example of a trans person being able to dodge the default form of puberty that is not right for her and instead undergo hormone treatments that provide a form of puberty more suitable.

And yet, as if these considerations do not exist, the TransSkeptic Position demands that the risks of transitioning are the only risks acknowledged. The TransSkeptic Position therefore falls prey to the same fallacy as Pascal’s Wager.



Conclusion: The Anti-Trans Version of Pascal’s Wager
For those who may not be familiar with Pascal’s Wager, here is a summary. Blaise Pascal was a mathematician and philosopher of the Renaissance. He was also devoutly religious and intent on converting others. In his mind, if you followed his religion, you would go to heaven. But if you did not follow his religion, you would be denied this beautiful afterlife. He therefore offered a challenge to nonbelievers. First he asked you to think over what would happen if you disbelieved his religion, and he turned out to be correct about it. Then you cannot go to heaven. That is a major risk. By contrast, if you do convert to Pascal’s religion, and it turns out his religion is fake and it won’t get you into heaven, you still will have lost nothing. Therefore, regardless of whether Pascal’s religion is right or wrong, the only safe, risk-free bet is to convert to Pascal’s religion.

A major fallacy in Pascal’s Wager is the false presumption that there is no adverse consequence of converting to Pascal’s religion if it turns out that his religion is not the right one. If you follow Pascal’s religion, you must follow its dictates. That involves a lot of self-denial in life — denying temptations that are nonviolent but considered sinful according to Pascal’s creed. If you live according to the self-denying rules of the faith and it turns out there is no heavenly reward for that, then the penalty is that you gave up the opportunity to have lived the happier life you would have chosen otherwise.

The TransSkeptic offers a similar wager with a similar implicit assumption. He says,
You and your child believe your child is transgender, and you want to start gender-affirming care before your child reaches puberty. But I wager that your child is probably not trans. This is just a phase that your child can grow out of, as J. K. Rowling has suggested. Consider what would happen if I’m right and you’re wrong. You will let your child “transition.” Upon reaching adulthood, your child will recognize that this never should have been permitted. Irreversible damage has been done. Your child will regret it.
But now consider what would happen if you’re right and I’m wrong. Your child grows into a legal adult and is still talking about being transgender. Well, it’s not as though your child has lost the opportunity to “transition.” Your child can do so now. Therefore, you all can wait until then. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Always implicit in the “You all can just wait until the child is eighteen” line is a false presumption. The presumption is that forcing the trans minor to wait until eighteen is safe. Allowing the trans child to begin transitioning before the onset of puberty is not perfect but, everything else being equal, it will allow the trans person to avoid a lot of long-term trauma that will beset the trans person if forced to undergo the default form of puberty associated with the sex assigned at birth. Notwithstanding the vociferations of the Abigail Shrier whom the TransSkeptics often cite, it is forcing the trans child to undergo the default — and, in this case, wrong — form of puberty that can result in “irreversible damage.”

Yes, we know that people who insist that the law should not allow trans people to begin transitioning until adulthood — an insistence I once agreed with — claim that the insistence is chiefly out of concern for the well-being of the child involved. But if that truly were the main priority, then the person with that TransSkeptic Position would have to confront and concede the fact of the major risks that come with denying a trans child the opportunity to start the transitioning process prior to puberty. Caring for the well-being of the child means that, rather than write off such concerns, one weighs the risks of both action and inaction.

When TransSkeptics say that they are all about the child’s well-being, only to dismiss those concerns, it makes me wonder if something else is at play. This is what I suspect is really going on. I think that TransSkeptics are still very viscerally uncomfortable with the idea of someone transitioning to a gender that is different from the sex assigned at birth. They are even disturbed to learn of legal adults, such as the actor Elliott Page, transitioning, and they actually would not be sad if this was forbidden by law as well.

But they believe that we have reached the point where it is unlikely that the transitioning of adults will ever be illegal again; they are resigned to this being legal. However, they notice that there is still a chance that the transitioning of minors can be legislated against. Hence, they take that opportunity. But they know they will be looked askance upon if they admit that this mostly has to do with finding trans people, as such, to be icky. Hence, this has to be reframed, sanitized, and rationalized as protecting the trans children from something they will regret. When a woman says of someone else who is not even a family member, “I must caution you against ‘transitioning,’ because I fear that this will be a cause of great discomfort for you in the future,” often what she really means is that this will be a cause of discomfort for her in the future.

In response to that, we must remember an important truth. It is that, whether you are trans or not, your life rightfully belongs to you alone. That even applies if you are a minor. It makes sense if, legally, you cannot yet commit to any and every contractually binding decision without authorization from an adult looking out for you. But, even in that case, you must be the final judge over what is best in the course of your life, and you do have rightful say over a matter as important and pivotal as this. Literally, your life is at stake.

Those who take the TransSkeptic Position, and then refuse to take into account the risks that inhere in forbidding any transitioning to minors, make it all too clear that they do not know what they are talking about. Worse, the refusal demonstrates that they do not want to know. If these people are as rational and live-and-let-live as they claim to be, it is best that they butt out. Leave these matters to the families whose lives actually are directly affected by these decisions, and the doctors whom these families trust according to their own judgment.