Lysenkoism to the Right of Me, Lysenkoism to the Left of Me...
Well, there's this.
Baily did a qualitative study and published a book arguing that "some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women." Problem is, "This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies."
Although Baily has a reputation as a "solid" scientist, and although his book was well-received by others in the field, and although the Lambda Literary Foundation nominated his book for an award, others. weren't so happy, and the vilification began.
Some examples, omitting some of the stretchier ones the Times lists, like those culled from e-mails:
1. "Dr. Ben Barres, a neurobiologist at Stanford, said in reference to Dr. Bailey’s thesis in the book, “Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true.”
(Egad! A scientist claiming that "the things people hold most deeply true are not true"!!! This is not only an outrage, but surely unprecedented in the history of science! What would Galileo or Darwin say???)
2. "After consulting with Dr. Conway, four of the transgender women who spoke to Dr. Bailey during his reporting for the book wrote letters to Northwestern, complaining that they had been used as research subjects without having given, or been asked to sign, written consent.
One wrote a letter making another accusation against Dr. Bailey: she claimed he had had sex with her."
An ethics investigation has seemed to reveal information showing all these claims to be false.
Conway "kept a running chronicle of the accusations against Dr. Bailey on her Web site. Any Google search of Dr. Bailey’s name brought up Dr. Conway’s site near the top of the list.
The site also included a link to the Web page of another critic of Dr. Bailey’s book, Andrea James, a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant. Ms. James downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided. (Dr. Bailey is a divorced father of two.) Ms. James said in an e-mail message that Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect."These people are, as you may have noted, f*cking insane.
Now, apparently the case isn't quite closed on Bailey, but I know the kinds of people he's up against, and their track record isn't good. As I've said here before, I think that liberals underestimate the viciousness and irrationality of some elements of the intellectual left, including certain parts of the feminist/gender-studies wing. Some of the flat-out craziest people I've ever met have been people from that world. And, please note, I grew up in rural Missouri where fundamentalist Christians, rabid creationists, dyed-in-the-wool racists and reactionary conservatives were extremely common.These are the people who, among other things, influenced me to stop identifying myself as a feminist--not because my position had changed, but, rather, because I didn't want to be identified with such kooks. (Incidentally, despite protestations of academic feminists to the contrary, this is why so few college females identify themselves as feminists today. They encounter the irrational, radically distorted and bigoted version of feminism in academia and wisely conclude that they don't buy it. They're feminists in the sense that you and I are feminists, but the eschew the label for the same reason I do.)
Now, psychology is not known for its rigorous intellectual standards, and the kind of area in which Baily is working is held in particularly low regard. Needless to say, I haven't read Bailey's work, but if his arguments were shoddy and overly-speculative, it would be far from a first for his sub-field. So this should in no way be construed as a defense of Bailey's research. It could be good, it could be bad. I don't know.
But--and I expect that this should be obvious--I merely want to highlight the irrationality and viciousness of the response to Bailey's work. Scientists have to call it like they see it. They don't have to be right, and they don't have to be popular; so long as their reasoning is responsible, they cannot be criticized because their conclusions are displeasing to some (or all, for that matter).
Lysenkoism is alive and well on both sides of the political spectrum. It's true that it's far more powerful, prominent, and dangerous on the right now since it's a real force in government. But it simmers on the left, and it does so in a particularly important and vulnerable place--academia. Strategically situated there, it can influence not only legions of young minds, but also research and, consequently, policy. "Less dangerous than right-wing Lysenkoism" is not the same thing as "not dangerous." As I've often warned, liberals should not make the mistake of believing that the extreme left is any more congenial to liberalism than is the right. It is not.