‘Settled Science’? Anthropologists Don’t Know the Difference Between Men and Women

COMMENTARY: Ideology is trumping the free exchange of ideas, open inquiry and the scientific method itself.

Anthropology is the study of humans throughout history. Did these anthropologists all of sudden find out that Lucy was transgender or nonbinary?
Anthropology is the study of humans throughout history. Did these anthropologists all of sudden find out that Lucy was transgender or nonbinary? (photo: Katrina Elena / Shutterstock)

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) recently rejected a proposed session from its annual meeting. The board released a statement titled, “No Place for Transphobia in Anthropology: Session Pulled From Annual Meeting Program.” The removed session was called, “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Why Biological Sex Remains a Necessary Analytic Category in Anthropology.” 

This incident is one of a growing number of instances in which ideology trumps the free exchange of ideas, open inquiry and the scientific method itself.  

The AAA stated: 

“The session was rejected because it relied on assumptions that run contrary to the settled science in our discipline.” Those contrary ideas are, “namely, that sex and gender are simplistically binary. … Such efforts contradict scientific evidence.”

In the face of a statement like that, it is fair to ask, what “settled science?” What kind of scientific evidence are we talking about?

Anthropology is the study of humans throughout history. Did these anthropologists all of sudden find out that Lucy was transgender or nonbinary? No. For as long as life has been studied, there have been two and only two sexes — in all mammal species.

The AAA states: 

“Around the world and throughout human history, there have always been people whose gender roles do not align neatly with their reproductive anatomy. There is no single biological standard by which all humans can be reliably sorted into a binary male/female sex classification.”

Some girls are tomboys. Some boys like playing with dolls. On what basis do we conclude that boyish girls are not girls or that boys toward the feminine end of the spectrum are not boys? 

What is the biological evidence for sexes other than male and female? The small number of individuals with disorders of sexual development are not a “third sex.” Their reproductive systems are generally impaired in some way, making the designation “disorders” of sexual development perfectly apt. These are medically diagnosable, objectively observable conditions. 

The vast majority of people claiming a transgender identity have psychological issues, including mental-health issues. Many of them have experienced abuse. They need psychological help, not new labels for new “sexes.” 

The idea of there being more than two genders, or that the sex of the body isn’t obvious at birth, except in very rare cases, is only recently a widespread fad. Yet the powers that be at the AAA call this new, nonbinary approach “settled science.” 

Is the treatment of these conditions “settled science?” Why, then, have European countries like Sweden, Finland, France, Norway and the U.K. begun to back away from medical interventions as the first line of treatment for these conditions? Why are detransitioners suing their doctors? That doesn’t sound like “settled science.” 

The anthropologists who proposed the session at their professional society’s meeting have every right to challenge the transgender-craze assumptions. They are living up to their responsibilities to raise questions, even against the establishment of their own profession.

One of the panel organizers reacted to the news that the panel had been canceled. Kathleen Lowry, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, Canada, stated

“I truly do not understand why anyone who disagrees with any of this wouldn’t simply turn up to the panel and engage us in discussion. That’s what conferences are for. I would be sincerely interested to hear AAA and CASCA (Canadian Anthropological Society) representatives elaborate on why they think talking about biological sex is threatening and harmful to trans identified people or to what they term the ‘LGBTQI’ community.”

In addition to studying skeletons, anthropologists also study social roles and societal structures. Perhaps they would be interested in the experiences of people who try to live as the opposite sex from their birth sex. 

Detransitioner Laura Smalts found the attempt more stressful than she anticipated. She lived as a man with a man who presented as a woman. 

“We tried to live as if I was the man and he was the woman,” Laura said. “We tried really hard to take opposite stereotypical roles, but it was funny in the way that he was naturally so much more protective and really the leader and these masculine qualities that I kept trying to take on. But it was so obvious that I was the woman, and he was the man. I tried to dismiss that thought, but I knew it was true deep down.” 

Finding stories like Smalts’ is not easy. The sexual revolutionary elite, which controls much of the media, do their best to suppress inconvenient stories that call their narrative into question; all the more reason for professional societies to encourage open discussion about the physical and psychological aspects of attempts to change the sex of the body. The scholars who proposed this panel should be congratulated, not silenced. 

Hopefully the world will eventually come back to its senses. The voices of the poor souls who have been damaged by transgender ideology will cry out to our consciences. The voices of dissenting scientists will become too loud to ignore. 

They will tell us: “There are lots of ways to be a boy. There are lots of ways to be a girl. There is nothing wrong with your body. Changing the sex of the body is impossible.”

If we close our ears, minds and hearts to these words, we are in danger of losing science — and our souls. 

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., and Betsy Kerekes are the president and senior editor, respectively, of the Ruth Institute. They are also the coauthors of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage and 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person. The Ruth Institute has a growing playlist of interviews with detransitioners, most recently Chloe Cole, who is one of several young people suing their doctors for pressuring them into transitioning and destroying their otherwise healthy bodies. See also the Ruth Institute’s Transgender Resource Center for videos, research and further resources on this issue.