The New York Times has an article about controversy over Professor Michael Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, which reaches some rather politically incorrect conclusions about the reasons some men want to undergo sex changes.
Two quotations in the story caught my eye. First, Deirdre (formerly Donald) McCloskey, a well-known (formerly?) libertarian economist, stated:
“Nothing we have done, I believe, and certainly nothing I have done, overstepped any boundaries of fair comment on a book and an author who stepped into the public arena with enthusiasm to deliver a false and unscientific and politically damaging opinion.”
Yet the article also relates that McCloskey “wrote to the Illinois state regulators, requesting that they investigate Dr. Bailey for practicing psychology without a license.” That goes well beyond “fair comment” and into “trying to get the government to punish an individual I disagree with.” (Meanwhile, the charming Andrea James, “a Los Angeles-based transgender advocate and consultant,” “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.”)
Second, Professor Ben Barres of Stanford (whose name has come up on this blog before, in a somewhat related context) is quoted as saying, “Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true.” The quotation is shorn of context, but apparently was meant to be critical, a conclusion supported by Barres’s prior defense of political correctness on “gender” issues, linked above. If so, then I vehemently disagree with Professor Barres. Of course, if the relevant research is junk science, it can and should be criticized on those grounds. But scientists have an obligation to pursue the truth, not to worry about people’s feelings, and given the climate of political correctness that the controversy over Bailey’s research reflects, scientists who are willing to take on subjects that others may deem taboo deserve moral support.
Hat tip: Instapundit.