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Full Version: Update of the Harriet Hall book review retraction of Abigail Shrier's book
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Posted about briefly before, this is an update on the Harriet Hall book review retraction of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.

Here's the current status of the notice of retraction:

Now here's Harriet Hall's original book review prior to the retraction, that she got published elsewhere:

Below is the link to the long-winded explanation by SBM that the retraction was not the result of conditioning from the pious posturings of pop-culture or this era's particular reiteration of Jacobin descended politics or a fear of call-out and cancel culture or preemptive righteous indignation toward anything that might be construed as TERF territory.

Realize, however, that the social sciences and part of bio-medical research have a poor reputation these days due to various problems [see footnote]. Including motivated reasoning/operation spurred by campus policies, funding sources, and adhering to trendy philosophical influences from the humanities and surrounding moral trends. So appealing to that sector of science as a source of standards, reliability, statistics, and studies for this type subject is kind of like the epistemological circularity of a local clergy citing the Vatican's rigor, thought orientations and data as an impartial authority.
As Hall presciently concluded in her review: "This book will undoubtedly be criticized just as Lisa Littman’s study was. Yes, it’s full of anecdotes and horror stories, and we know the plural of anecdote is not data, but Shrier looked diligently for good scientific studies and didn’t find much. And that’s the problem. We desperately need good science, and it’s not likely to happen in the current political climate. Anyone who addresses this subject can expect to be attacked by activists. Is ROGD a legitimate category? We don’t know, since the necessary controlled studies have not been done. I fully expect Shrier to be called a transphobe and to be vilified for harming transgender people, and I’m sure I will be labeled a transphobe just for reviewing her book."

- - - footnote - - -

Replication crisis

Publish or perish

Predatory journalism

The intellectual & moral decline in academic research

Motivated reasoning is disfiguring social science

In psychology & other social sciences, many studies [still] fail reproducibility test

‘Woke’ science has no place in government policymaking + Science goes rogue

The devolution of social science

Is social science akin to a cargo cult?

Peer review: How is that working out for ya?
(uipdate) Jesse Singal: Science-Based Medicine has put its foot into it

EXCERPTS (Jerry Coyne): The site Science-Based Medicine (SBM), renowned for debunking quackery and insisting on a firm evidential basis for medical treatments, has put its foot into it, and by “it” I mean the controversy about Abigail Shrier’s new book dealing with “rapid onset gender dysphoria”.

[...] Now, however, someone more qualified than myself, and more qualified than Gorski or Novella, has evaluated the data and their own claims. That person is Jesse Singal, who has read all the relevant literature cited by Shrier, Novella, and Gorski, and has published widely in respectable venues about transsexualism.

He concludes that not only should Hall’s review have been allowed to stay on the site, but that Gorski and Novella have behaved badly—indeed, unscientifically—in rushing to damn Shrier’s book and Hall’s review. One can conclude, if Singal be right, that Gorski and Novella are behaving in a woke-ish fashion, mis-citing data as well as accepting results that confirm their views and rejecting those that don’t—for no good reason.

In fact, Singal’s indictment of Gorski and Novella’s reading of the literature is pretty damning, implying cherry-picking, confirmation bias, and distortion of the existing data, which is not about ROGD, which Gorski and Novella imply, but dysphoria that starts early in childhood or comes to fruition in adulthood... (MORE - details)
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(Jesse Singal) How Science-Based Medicine Botched Its Coverage Of The Youth Gender Medicine Debate

EXCERPTS: . . . Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Instead, Science-Based Medicine has fallen into the exact same trap as numerous mainstream news outlets, violating some of its founding principles in the process. If you read the site’s recent coverage of this issue, you will come away thinking there is a big, broad, impressive body of evidence for youth gender medicine, that there isn’t any actual controversy here at all. Rather than evaluate the available evidence carefully, SBM defaults to just about every activist trope that has come to dictate the terms of this debate in progressive spaces. This is a disturbing example of what complete ideological capture of an otherwise credible information source looks like. Science-Based Medicine has “bought into the hype and failed to ask the hard questions.”

[...] SBM has, in the wake of this retraction, published three articles about Shrier, Hall’s review of her book, and the broader controversy over youth gender medicine [...] All three articles contain major errors and misunderstandings and distortions, ranging from straightforward falsehoods to baffling omissions to the re-regurgitation of inaccurate rumors first circulated years ago. Activist claims that stretch or violate the truth are repeatedly presented in a credulous manner, while the myriad weaknesses in the research base on youth gender medicine are simply ignored. The basic problem here is what Scott Alexander calls “isolated demands for rigor.” This is a standard aspect of human nature, a close sibling of confirmation bias. When it comes to claims we don’t want to believe we will insist the evidence isn’t actually as strong as it appears, demand more and more clarification, shift the goalposts of the debate, and nitpick if necessary; for claims we do want to believe, we’ll wave weak evidence right through the gate without interrogating it too harshly, even if it suffers from exactly the same problems.

Isolated demands for rigor are a particularly big problem in areas where we don’t have a robust evidence base to rely on in the first place. Youth gender medicine is one such area, and throughout SBM’s coverage of this issue, the isolated demands for rigor target only research and individuals who appear to complicate the site’s favored narrative: There is nothing to be concerned about here, because youth gender medicine is in overall solid shape. At one point, faced with a published finding that could complicate their narrative, Novella and Gorski write it off as irredeemably bad research (though without explaining why). Then, later in the same paragraph, they accept as true a conclusion produced by the same youth gender clinic, most likely because that finding slots easily into their priors. It’s sort of a Schrödinger’s Evidence type of deal: Source X’s credibility exists in a fuzzy superposition of “totally credible” and “entirely untrustworthy” until we find out whether its claim fits comfortably within our politics, at which point its status collapses conveniently into one state or the other.

What makes SBM’s coverage of this issue so frustrating is that it was a big missed opportunity. Youth trans issues invite a huge amount of screaming and denunciation on all sides, and as a result, sometimes people think the circus itself — all those personalities yelling at each other online — is the actual issue here. But the actual actual issue here is the growing number of American families who face really difficult choices about puberty blockers and hormones that they are forced to make under a condition of terribly insufficient evidence. They desperately need institutions like Science-Based Medicine to step up and provide rigorous, science-backed advice untainted by the toxic climate that besets this issue, because hardly anyone, anywhere is doing so.

When I say there is “terribly insufficient evidence” for youth gender medicine interventions, that applies to the ‘traditional’ model of youth gender dysphoria, in which it manifests at a young age and persists at least until the onset of puberty. The evidence we have comes from this context, from kids who were assessed and watched over carefully for a fairly long period before any medical interventions took place. But things are even worse, now, given certain changes in clinic-referral patterns.

[...] I should re-emphasize that I’ve said repeatedly I think banning youth gender medicine is a terribly bad idea. The evidence for those “positive outcomes of early medical interventions” come from research that, as we’ll see, leaves a lot to be desired. But it does suggest that for kids with intense, persistent dysphoria who have been well-evaluated, who have any other mental-health problems under control, and who have have good family support, puberty blockers and hormones are likely to lead to the amelioration of what would have been a great deal of suffering.

[...] All that out of the way, below is my critique of the initial article by Novella and Gorski. In a future post or posts, I’ll cover the issues with the other articles in the series... (MORE - details)