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Topics: Public Square, The Nashville Statement

Findings from the New Atlantis Report on Sexuality and Gender

October 6, 2016

By R. Albert Mohler Jr.

I would like to draw your attention to one of the most important research events in recent history, and that is the publication in the Fall 2016 issue of the New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society, of a special report on sexuality and gender, subtitled, “Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.”

The authors of the study are Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh. Mayer is an epidemiologist and also someone who is trained in psychology. He’s the major author of the report, but the major impetus behind it is the second author, Paul R. McHugh, a psychiatrist, formerly of Johns Hopkins University, whom we have often cited and who is by any measure one of the most influential psychiatrist of the last generation. Paul McHugh was also one of the most courageous men in modern medicine. Writing in articles published in various venues including the Wall Street Journal, McHugh had once directed the first gender reassignment program in terms of surgery at Johns Hopkins University. He has bravely explained why he and his colleagues ceased performing the operation, precisely because they believe there was no scientific basis for the entire claim about transgender identity and, furthermore, because they believed they were doing harm rather than good to the patients who sought this kind of gender reassignment surgery.

In this huge issue of the New Atlantis, Mayer and McHugh go right at what they considered to be the scientific basis behind the claims of the modern sexual and gender revolutionaries. The point of this research, however, and of the two authors, is not so much to make a moral point, but a scientific point. And in order to do so, they’ve looked at the major scientific claims of those who had presented the research on LGBT issues, and in particular issues of gender and sexuality. Mayer has taught as a full-time professor for over four decades. He has taught at Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford Arizona State University, Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and University of Michigan. He is currently scholar in residence at the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is also professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

In their massive study, Mayer and McHugh do their very best to come to terms with what scientists or those who claim to be scientists have been presenting as scientific evidence for the LGBT claims. What makes this so important is that they look so carefully at the research and reports that were put out by the advocates of the LGBT movement. In the executive summary, they report,

“The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence.”

They don’t actually make their own case about how exactly sexual orientation comes about, but they make very clear that there is no adequate evidence that there is “an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings” that can be described as sexual orientation in the first place.

That’s itself quite revolutionary, but they point to the fact that even the research undertaken by LGBT advocates indicates that at least some people change in terms of their sexual orientation over a lifetime or over a lifespan. They also point to the absence of any compelling scientific evidence for what’s claimed to be sexual orientation as an innate physical property. They also write, and I quote,

“Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

Later in the research they report,

“The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.”

The notion is, of course, supported by a vast social movement, by a revolution in morality and of ethics, and it is supported and aided by an entire cultural revolution that includes media, politics, and, you name it, especially add to the mix higher education. One interesting statistic reflected in the study is this:

“According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.”

Now note, that’s 6/10 of 1% of the U.S. population of adults. Now compare that with the outsized attention given to the transgender movement, remember that Modern Family story we just talked about, in terms of the larger culture. Later Mayer and McHugh write,

“Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.”

They then write,

“Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.”

Keep that in mind, and remember that we were just discussing an eight-year-old young person presented as an eight-year-old transgender actor: “There is little scientific evidence,”

They write,

“For the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

Well into this massive report, the authors ask some politically unaskable questions in terms of our contemporary context. They write,

“Are some individuals born with a gender identity different from their biological sex? Is gender identity shaped by environmental or nurturing conditions? How stable are choices of gender identity? How common is gender dysphoria? Is it persistent across the lifespan?”

They then asked the questions that are again considered unaskable.

“Can a little boy who thinks he is a little girl change over the course of his life to regard himself as male? If so, how often can such people change their gender identities? How would someone’s gender identity be measured scientifically? Does self-understanding suffice?”

They then boldly ask the most controversial question of all,

“Does a biological girl become a gender boy by believing, or at least stating, she is a little boy?”

That’s the question. Because what we are now told we must believe is that all it takes even for a child to be considered transgender is for that child to believe or even merely to state that the child is of a gender identity different than biological sex assigned at birth. All the way on page 115 of this report, the authors write,

“In reviewing the scientific literature, we find that almost nothing is well understood when we seek biological explanations for what causes some individuals to state that their gender does not match their biological sex. The findings that do exist often have sample-selection problems, and they lack longitudinal perspective and explanatory power. Better research is needed, both to identify ways by which we can help to lower the rates of poor mental health outcomes and to make possible more informed discussion about some of the nuances present in this field.”

Insert here the fact that the revolutionaries don’t want this kind of scientific scrutiny, and they don’t want these kinds of questions asked. But in what might be the most controversial and most important section of their entire report, they write this:

“Yet despite the scientific uncertainty, drastic interventions are prescribed and delivered to patients identifying, or identified, as transgender. This is especially troubling when the patients receiving these interventions are children. We read popular reports about plans for medical and surgical interventions for many prepubescent children, some as young as six, and other therapeutic approaches undertaken for children as young as two. We suggest that no one can determine the gender identity of a two-year-old. We have reservations about how well scientists understand what it even means for a child to have a developed sense of his or her gender, but notwithstanding that issue, we are deeply alarmed that these therapies, treatments, and surgeries seem disproportionate to the severity of the distress being experienced by these young people, and are at any rate premature since the majority of children who identify as the gender opposite their biological sex will not continue to do so as adults. Moreover, there is a lack of reliable studies on the long-term effects of these interventions. We strongly urge caution in this regard.”

As you might expect, Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh have found themselves at the very center of public controversy since the publication of this research. Writing at the Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last gets to the essential point here,

“We have reached the point where science—like dissent and free speech—has become useful to the left only insofar as it furthers their political goals.”

Keep that in mind when you are told that science is supposedly always objective, not driven by ideology. Keep that in mind when you note the absolute rejection of scientific credibility when it comes to so many of the central claims of the sexual and gender revolutionaries. Keep that in mind when you understand that there are people who are suggesting and even demanding and recommending drastic hormonal and even surgical interventions in children as young as those before middle school. Or keep in mind the fact that there are now those claiming with a straight face that gender dysphoria can be identified in patients as young as two.

As we have seen verified in just recent days, in a cultural revolution of this scale, everything is politicized that includes even intercollegiate sports and of course ranges across virtually every dimension of life and popular entertainment. It also shows up, but most alarmingly, in modern science or in modern medicine. Keep those words of warning from Jonathan Last very much in mind:

“We have reached the point where science—like dissent and free speech—has become useful to the left only insofar as it furthers their political goals.”

And make no mistake, when it comes to these issues, these are political goals.

This essay is an edited transcript of Dr. Mohler’s comments on “The Briefing” podcast and is used with permission here. Please consider partnering with CBMW to stand for biblical teaching on sexuality and gender. You can contribute here.


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