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Opinion

Premier Scientific Journal Nature Takes on ‘Climate of Fear’ Surrounding Research on Sex and Genr

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From Heartland Daily News

“These articles are using phrases like ‘a person’s sex assigned at birth’. I find that phrase amusing. I don’t think sex is assigned at birth. Biological sex is a fact. It’s not assigned. It’s observed.”

Nature, one of the world’s premier scientific journals, has acknowledged the importance of studying sex and gender differences and officially denounced the “climate of fear and reticence” that is stymying research on the topic.

To that end, the journal in May launched “a collection of opinion articles” on the topic to be published over the coming months to foster honest and courageous discussions on a topic that many scientists shy away from due to fears of professional and personal repercussions.

“Some scientists have been warned off studying sex differences by colleagues. Others, who are already working on sex or gender-related topics, are hesitant to publish their views,” read the editorial introducing the series.

“…In time, we hope this collection will help to shape research, and provide a reference point for moderating often-intemperate debates.”

Headlines that kicked off the series include “Neglecting sex and gender in research is a public-health risk,” “Male–female comparisons are powerful in biomedical research” and “Heed lessons from past studies involving transgender people: first, do no harm.”

What the collection of articles represents and whether it will ease tensions surrounding this area of research remains to be seen.

Jeffrey Mogil, a neuroscientist and pain researcher at Mcgill University, as well as the co-author of one of the articles in Nature’s sex and gender series, told The College Fix there is an effort underway in biological research to do away with or minimize the importance of the concept of sex and sex as a binary variable.

This is problematic, Mogil said in a recent telephone interview, because sex in mammals is “either binary or it rounds to binary and in doing so it always has been useful and continues to be and any conception of it that isn’t binary would then impose practical difficulties on how science is done.”

Moreover, he noted, discarding the notion of binary sex in mammals would set back important advancements in how many biomedical researchers now do their work.

“There are sex differences in all kinds of traits that we’re interested in and where we didn’t know they existed,” Mogil said. “The reason we didn’t know they existed [is] because until extremely recently, essentially all biology pre-clinical experiments were done with males only.”

“Since regulatory agencies, funding agencies, have demanded that people start using both sexes [in research],” he said, “lo and behold, we’re finding sex differences.”

“We’re finding that what we thought was the biology of a thing was only the biology of the thing in males and the female biology is completely different,” he added.

“This is in our minds,” he said, “an incredible scientific advance and that advance is at risk of stopping and reverting if, you know, people start to believe…dividing animals into males and females is inappropriate.”

Although Mogil stated he did not know how Nature made editorial decisions regarding the selection of articles for their sex and gender collection, he said that he felt the article he and his co-authors wrote was intended to defend the status quo against those “advocating…either that gender is much more important than sex or that sex is more complicated than people have made it seem.”

The College Fix reached out to a senior communications manager from Springer Nature in early June regarding the selection process for the series, as well as how sex was presented in some of the other commentaries, but did not receive a response.

Daniel Barbash, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Cornell University, was more skeptical than Mogil of Nature’s sex and gender op-ed collection when he spoke to The College Fix in a late-May phone interview.

Although he said he generally held a positive view of the article Mogil co-authored and appreciated that it explicitly stated “there are only two sex categories in mammals,” he noted that he also felt the authors of other commentaries in the series were to some extent “further conflating sex and gender.”

“There’s little things that sometimes give the game away,” he said. “These articles are using phrases like ‘a person’s sex assigned at birth’. I find that phrase amusing. I don’t think sex is assigned at birth. Biological sex is a fact. It’s not assigned. It’s observed.”

“[For] the vast majority of humans, from the moment they’re born,” he said, “there is zero ambiguity whether they’re a male or a female.”

Furthermore, the “overall tone” of the collection, Barbash said, was that “there needs to be more research on gender variation and that there is more complexity to biological sex than a binary.”

According to Barbash, neither of these notions are “universally accepted” among biologists.

He said he believes the series has “the potential to drive funding agencies and other agencies that are involved in the intersection between politics and research in a particular direction that I don’t think would always be helpful.”

“I don’t think any serious biologist would deny that sex is a hugely important factor in both basic research and in biomedical research,” said Barbash. “Of course, any study on the effect of drugs should be tested separately in males and females, otherwise it’s a hugely confounding factor if you ignore that.”

Yet, he said, “the notion that we need to do the same thing for gender…is really not supported,” and may not be very feasible.

“Half the population is male and half the population is female,” Barbash said. “We see all kinds of estimates for gender nonconforming and transgender individuals but, no doubt, they’re much less frequent than males and females.”

On account of this, he said, even if research questions regarding gender divergence and transgender individuals are worthwhile, “it would be problematic, for example, to necessitate that all NIH studies of humans include males, females and gender nonconforming individuals or transgender individuals.”

However, he said, he feared “this series of articles could have that kind of impact in influencing policy.”

Originally published by The College Fix. Republished with permission.

Addictions

Claims about ‘safer supply’ diversion aren’t disinformation

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News release from Break The Needle

This month, police in London, Ont., admitted to what critics have said all along: safer supply diversion is happening at alarming levels

Last spring, Canada’s minister of mental health and addictions claimed critics’ concerns about “safer supply” diversion — the illegal selling and trading of taxpayer-funded addictive drugs — were based on lies.

“For Pierre Poilievre to state untrue information about safer supply, and try to create barriers to accessing harm reduction services that are saving lives amid this ongoing crisis, is incredibly irresponsible and dehumanizing to people who use drugs,” read a statement by then-minister Carolyn Bennett’s office.

Fast forward a year, and it’s clear which side was telling the truth.

This month, police in London, Ont., admitted to what critics said all along: diversion of pharmaceutically supplied opioids to the streets is happening at alarming levels. London is home to Canada’s longest-running safer supply program, which dates back to 2016 and was significantly expanded in 2020.

The London Police Service released data that shows a staggering 3,000 per cent increase in the seizure of hydromorphone tablets — the opioid predominantly given out by safer supply programs — over the last five years. In 2019, London police seized just under 1,000 tablets. By 2020, that number had tripled. In 2023, they seized 30,000 hydromorphone tablets.

For context, hydromorphone is as potent as heroin and just two or three of these pills, if snorted, can cause an overdose in an inexperienced opioid user.

Earlier this month, the city’s deputy police chief, Paul Bastien, told CBC’s London Morning, “We recognize the value that safe supply plays as part of that harm reduction piece, but diversion is an important issue that is affecting community safety. I won’t say that everyone’s doing it, but some of the tablets from safe supply are being diverted for that purpose.”

“Criminal groups are fairly adept at exploiting policy changes that are well intended. But unforeseen consequences sometimes arise and this appears to be, at least in part, one of them,” he continued.

A reasonable person may assume that, given this alarming new evidence, proponents of safer supply would change their tune about widespread diversion being “fake news.” Unfortunately, they haven’t.

Some activists are now claiming on social media that London’s spike in hydromorphone seizures was not caused by safer supply, but rather by a high-profile theft of 245,000 hydromorphone tablets from an Ontario pharmacy. Yet the spike in seizures began years before this theft and, according to multiple addiction physicians, the street price of hydromorphone collapsed in the city well before 2023, suggesting an earlier influx of diverted supply.

However, these mental contortions aren’t surprising. As more and more evidence of widespread diversion emerged over the past year, accusations of disinformation and misinformation haven’t stopped –– they have simply evolved. The narrative changed from “Diversion doesn’t exist” to “Fine, it exists, but only on a small scale” to, now, “Fine, diversion exists at scale, but imagine the alternative?”

This is the angle already emerging in British Columbia, where the province’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, authored a damning report that acknowledges the regularity and harms of safer supply diversion, yet still concludes safer supply is “ethically defensible” and advocates for its expansion.

Like many safer supply activists, Henry often argues diversion isn’t a significant concern because most opioid deaths are caused by fentanyl.

While it’s true that most opioid deaths are attributable to fentanyl, hydromorphone is still incredibly dangerous. When diverted into the black market, it creates new addictions, often among young people, which culminate in fentanyl use.

Moreover, data indicate hydromorphone is implicated in an increasing share of drug-related deaths in young people in B.C. In 2019, there were no reported deaths involving hydromorphone. By 2022, that number jumped to 22 per cent. Similarly, a recent report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario found the number of youth in the province who self-reported using prescription opioids for “non-medical” reasons jumped 71 per cent between 2021 and 2023.

Still, safer supply activists continue to insist, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that widespread diversion isn’t happening.

In 2017, Collins Dictionary declared “fake news” the word of the year. Since then, the term –– along with sister terms “misinformation” and “disinformation” –– have taken on a disturbing new life.

While fake news, misinformation and disinformation are very real democratic threats, some politicians and activists realized they could delegitimize opponents’ arguments and unflattering media stories by simply proclaiming them fake. Now, we’re in the dizzyingly ironic position of real news, and real facts, being dismissed as misinfo and disinfo by self-declared guardians of the truth.

This is the exact problem journalists and concerned medical professionals continue to face when raising the alarm on so-called “safer supply.” Despite the abundance of solid reporting, emerging data, whistleblower warnings and first-hand accounts of widespread diversion, harm reduction activists and their allies in government don’t just recklessly dismiss the problem, they weaponize the language of fake news to discredit a reality they don’t like.

Communities across Canada, and addicts themselves, deserve better.

A guest post by
Sabrina Maddeaux
Bold opinions and analysis of the political and economic issues that matter.
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Health

UK report debunks claim that halting puberty blockers increases suicide in gender-confused youth

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From LifeSiteNews

By Jonathon Van Maren

For more than a decade, the transgender movement has used a potent lie to blackmail desperate parents and feckless politicians into accepting their agenda: that if gender-confused children are not provided with sex changes – “gender-affirming care” – they will be at a high risk for suicide. Parent after parent heard the simple, deceitful question, posed to them by trans activist medical professionals: “Would you rather have a dead daughter, or a live son?” 

Yet another review highlights that this claim is completely baseless. As the BBC reported on July 20: “There is no evidence of a large rise in suicides in young patients attending a gender identity clinic in London, an independent review has found.” 

The report, titled “Review of suicides and gender dysphoria at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust: independent report,” was published by the U.K. government on July 19. Professor Louis Appleby was tasked by Health Secretary Wes Streeting to examine the evidence after LGBT activists claimed that suicide rates were spiking due to restrictions on puberty blockers, which were first implemented in 2020. The review concluded: 

  1. The data do not support the claim that there has been a large rise in suicide in young gender dysphoria patients at the Tavistock. 
  1. The way that this issue has been discussed on social media has been insensitive, distressing and dangerous, and goes against guidance on safe reporting of suicide. 
  1. The claims that have been placed in the public domain do not meet basic standards for statistical evidence. 
  1. There is a need to move away from the perception that puberty-blocking drugs are the main marker of non-judgemental acceptance in this area of health care. 
  2. We need to ensure high quality data in which everyone has confidence, as the basis of improved safety for this at risk group of young people. 

This review is devastating to virtually every single claim trans activists have been making – and Appleby even notes, in point two of his summary, that trans activists themselves are posing a real danger to gender-confused children with their irresponsible lies about suicidality. Suicide, as we have long known, is a social contagion – and trans activists are explicitly encouraging gender-confused children to claim suicidal ideation in order to acquire puberty blockers.  

As the BBC reported: “The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was vital that public discussion around the issue was handled responsibly.” It is difficult to read that statement as anything but a direct rebuke of trans activists. Appleby, a professor of psychiatry and experienced suicide researcher from the University of Manchester, warned that trans activist rhetoric could actually lead to adolescents copycatting that behavior. “One risk is that young people and their families will be terrified by predictions of suicide as inevitable without puberty blockers – some of the responses on social media show this,” he said. As the BBC noted: 

In response to [trans activist] claims, the new health secretary launched an independent review led by Prof Appleby which analysed data from NHS England on suicides of patients at the Tavistock clinic, based on an audit at the trust.

Covering the period between 2018-19 and 2023-24, he found there were 12 suicides – five in the three years leading up to 2020-21 and seven in the three years afterwards.

‘This is essentially no difference,’ Prof Appleby says in his report, ‘taking account of expected fluctuations in small numbers, and would not reach statistical significance.’

He adds: ‘In the under 18s specifically, there were 3 suicides before and 3 after 2020-21.’

The Good Law Project, run by executive director Jo Maugham, is currently challenging the puberty blocker ban – and predictably, Maugham expressed his disagreement with the review, saying that he had “profound difficulties” with it. It likely will make little difference. In the U.K., the transgender narrative is in tatters – and leaders still parroting these debunked lines should take note. 

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Jonathon’s writings have been translated into more than six languages and in addition to LifeSiteNews, has been published in the National PostNational ReviewFirst Things, The Federalist, The American Conservative, The Stream, the Jewish Independent, the Hamilton SpectatorReformed Perspective Magazine, and LifeNews, among others. He is a contributing editor to The European Conservative.

His insights have been featured on CTV, Global News, and the CBC, as well as over twenty radio stations. He regularly speaks on a variety of social issues at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

He is the author of The Culture WarSeeing is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of AbortionPatriots: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Pro-Life MovementPrairie Lion: The Life and Times of Ted Byfield, and co-author of A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide with Blaise Alleyne.

Jonathon serves as the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

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