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  • Victor C. Bolles

Dr. - not Mr. - Spock



I recall my first encounter with what is now called “settled” science and medicine. Many years ago when my wife and I were brand new parents we read Dr. Spock’s, Baby and Child Care. The book recommended that babies be placed on their stomachs when going to bed, so we dutifully placed our newborn daughter on her stomach every night. After losing the original Dr. Spock somewhere between Connecticut and our first overseas assignment, we got a new, updated Dr. Spock for our second child. One of the updates was the recommendation to place the baby on its back when going to sleep.


I was shocked! How can such things be? How can some supposed expert in the field of raising babies make a 180 degree change in their advice? Research by other medical experts had shown that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was the leading cause of infant mortality in Western countries, constituting half of all post-neonatal deaths. SIDS most often occurs overnight while the baby is sleeping. The National Institute of Health found that the most effective method of reducing the risk of SIDS is putting a child less than one year old on their back to sleep. We had unconsciously endangered our baby’s life based on the advice of a supposed expert.


But the history of medicine is rife with examples of crazy theories and strange practices that have become discredited over time. For thousands of years one of the most widely practiced medical treatments was bloodletting. Bloodletting was practiced in ancient Egypt and the famous physician Galen was a practitioner although Hippocrates was said to have preferred other methods of treatment (it was Hippocrates who was credited with saying, “first do no harm.”) Suffering from a throat infection in 1799, George Washington asked to be bled and about 3.75 liters of blood were withdrawn in a ten hour period (an adult human body has about 4.5 to 5.7 liters of blood). President Washington died that night.


Lobotomies were a popular neurosurgical treatment for psychiatric or neurological disorders such as epilepsy or depression. A lobotomy severs most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain. The Portuguese neurologist Egaz Moniz received a Nobel Prize in 1949 for originating the procedure. Tens of thousands of people had lobotomies performed on them but the side affects could be severe and the procedure fell into disrepute. But for a while lobotomies were “settled” medicine.


But science and medicine is never settled, despite what the US Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Rachel Levine might say. Or the many medical and psychological associations might say about a host issues that don’t match their ideological progressivism. Or what Greta Thunberg or other climate activists might say. Or the proponents of any theory who fear having to defend that theory from any criticism.


Science, by its very nature, is never settled because there is always more to learn about the universe. Over time scientific inquiry has gone from philosophical discussions of the four the classical elements of earth, air, fire and water to scientific discoveries of atoms to the further discovery of protons, electrons and neutrons to the observation of hadrons, gluons and various types of quarks with the help of CERN’s Large Hadron Colliderin Switzerland and ultimately, perhaps, to the very mysterious Higgs-boson particle (or is that really the ultimate?).


And medicine, for all our advancements has barely scratched the surface of what makes human bodies functions as they do. We still get sick and we still die so there is much yet to discover.


 

The “settled” medical procedure that Adm. Levine seeks to protect from any criticism is gender affirming care and especially, gender reassignment surgery. But the science behind gender dysphoria is murky.


The human body is complex and there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The mixing of parental DNA can go awry and create irregularities and abnormalities. Sometimes these irregularities are beneficial to survival and so are maintained in the process we know as evolution. But most are not beneficial to survival and can cause great harm and early death to the individual. When most of these abnormalities are detected doctors rush to repair the damage or treat the symptoms. Fetal surgeries can be done to close the spina bifida, for example.


Wikipedia lists about 30 disorders of sexual development that are “congenital conditions affecting the reproductive system, in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is atypical.” The number of births where the baby is intersex—where their sex characteristics do not fit typical definitions of male and female—is estimated to be between 0.018% and 1.7%. People with these conditions are often subject to the same psychological problems as people with gender dysphoria.


But many people who suffer from gender dysphoria do not appear to have a congenital condition. They may have a hard to detect chemical imbalance in their brain. And neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky notes that autopsies of some trans people indicate that they had brain structures more similar to the gender they preferred than they did to their sex at birth. But other differences between male and female brains were unaffected. So what is causal and what is incidental? These differences, which can only be detected after the patient’s death, give little indication of what treatments might have been successful while they were alive.


The truth is we don’t know why so many people suffer from gender dysphoria or why those numbers are growing. Trans people suffer from an extremely high rate of suicide compared to non-trans people. But Jonathan Haidt shows in his book The Coddling of the American Mind that young people in general are showing much higher rates of suicidal thought, suicide attempts and actual suicide than ever before. Is gender dysphoria just one aspect of a generational mass hysteria?


Who knows? There is so much misinformation, disinformation and ideological propaganda related to all aspects of gender dysphoria that it is hard to know what the science behind this phenomenon really is.


That’s why the notion of “settled” science has to be totally rejected. Especially since the “cure” for gender dysphoria recommended by the progressive left is so horrendous - the irreversible mutilation of a person’s body and sex organs through gender reassignment surgery. Such surgeries may be necessary for adults after alternative therapies and treatments have proved insufficient but Sweden and the United Kingdom are urging a reevaluation of these drastic medical procedures which might be able to be replaced by less invasive procedures or even the simple passage of time. Several clinics specializing in gender reassignment surgeries have closed including the largest in England.


The people suffering from gender dysphoria need counseling and care while doctors and scientists search for answers, not solutions based on ideology. And when progressive activists such as Adm. Rachel Levine assert that the science is settled, it really means that their goal is political and that their policies have nothing to do with science.

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