"Compromised science" news/opines (includes retractions, declining academic standards, pred-J, etc)

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by C C, Apr 28, 2023.

  1. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The most extreme incursion of ideology into ecology and evolution I've ever seen

    INTRO (Jerry Coyne): The paper below, which is likely paywalled if you click on the screenshot (but a pdf is still accessible here) shows how deeply my own field, organismal biology, has been infected by ideologues—deeply authoritarian ones. It’s from a once-respectable journal (Trends in Ecology & Evolution), which apparently has now drunk the Kool-Aid of “political correctness” (“wokeness,” if you will), producing an article that is so bizarre and so off-putting, that none of the several colleagues I sent it to could finish it.

    But I did, saving you the trouble. (It’s short, though, so you should read it from the pdf link if you’re an ecologist or evolutionist.) If Ibram Kendi were a biologist of this type, this is the paper he would have written, for, as you’ll see, it’s right out of the CRT playbook. It is full of distorted, overblown, or purely speculative assertions, and here are its major points:

    a.) Ecology and evolution are thoroughly permeated by racism—structural racism that is deeply embedded in the way we still do science.

    b.) We (here I mean “people not of color”) are all complicit in this racism, and we must constantly ponder our bigotry and persistently try to rid ourselves of it.

    c.) Our curriculum is thoroughly “Eurocentric” and has to be “decolonized” for the good of all.

    d.) Ecology and evolution cannot be taught properly without continually emphasizing the racism of the fields, racism said to be a big source of inequity in STEM. We must infuse all of our courses with a strong emphasis on the history and reality of racism, showing our students how the field was and is complicit in the creation of present inequities.

    I don’t know whether to critique the whole thing point by point, or let you see the problems yourself. I think I’ll try a hybrid approach...

    The abstract:

    Racism permeates ecology, evolution, and conservation biology (EECB). Meaningfully advancing equity, inclusion, and belonging requires an interdisciplinary antiracist pedagogical approach to educate our community in how racism shaped our field. Here, we apply this framework, highlight disparities and interdisciplinary practices across institutions globally, and emphasize that self-reflection is paramount before implementing anti-racist interventions.​

    The short answer to the first sentence is, “No it doesn’t.” Yes, you can find instances of bigotry in the field, as you can everywhere, but no rational biologist I know would make such an extreme and unsupported statement unless they have an ideological agenda that requires this claim.

    The article starts, as do all of its ilk in science journals, by invoking George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. It then proceeds onto boilerplate Critical Race Theory... (MORE - details)
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    In bed with the enemy: how to fix science

    EXCERPTS: If we were naïve observers, we might think of scientists as earnest detectives—carefully sifting through the evidence, pursuing all reasonable leads, and updating their beliefs as needed. [...] These ideas usually would be true and thus form a reliable basis for designing effective interventions and policies.

    To be sure, science has accomplished remarkable feats, from vaccines to spacecrafts. But science is far from the idealistic version portrayed above. Science is the single most effective mode of knowledge formation to date. But, it can also be inefficient, hostile, petty, unreliable, and invalid...

    [...] Over the past decade or so, many scholars have accepted that much of science suffers a “replication crisis”. When a group of scholars tries to conduct the exact same methodological procedures as an earlier set of scholars, they often find different (and usually much less impressive) results. This means that a great deal of science is unreliable—very similar studies do not consistently produce very similar results.

    But things are a bit worse than that. A great deal of science is also invalid [...] Even highly replicable findings can be wildly misleading, such as when a highly replicable association between two variables (say, ice cream sales and shark attacks) is accompanied by a highly inaccurate causal story (purchasing ice cream causes sharks to attack). Scholars had to work very hard to detect and demonstrate the replication crisis. The validity crisis is much simpler to detect: There are countless contradictory claims in the published literature.

    Such claims, at least taken at face value, cannot all be true. Either someone is horrifically wrong, or at least someone is exaggerating. Although science purports to pursue truth, science actually incentivizes such contradictions...(MORE - missing details)

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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    What Carl Sagan got very wrong about the human brain

    KEY POINTS: Science communicator and astrophysicist Carl Sagan was, and to this day is, generally regarded as an honest and skeptical broker of scientific information. However, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Dragons of Eden, Sagan endorsed a disputed theory of human brain evolution, suggesting that humans have a "reptilian" brain deep within our minds. The idea has since been roundly disproved, but the myth that humans have a reptile brain persists almost certainly thanks to Sagan's problematic popularizing... (MORE - details)
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  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Academia's postdoc system is teetering, imperiling efforts to diversify life sciences

    INTRO (excerpts): For young life scientists hoping to land a prestigious faculty job in academia, postdoctoral research is practically a requirement. But it’s not a path equally open to everyone.

    Freshly minted life science Ph.D. graduates who have started families or have big loans, or are Black or female, say they plan to pursue postdoc positions at lower rates than their peers, according to a STAT analysis ...

    Prospective postdocs also tend to be younger and are less likely to be Black or female...

    [...] These findings, which come from an in-depth look at an annual survey of new Ph.D. grads, were consistent between 2017 and 2021, the years for which data were available...

    [...] “I’m deeply concerned that academia is dying,” said Sofie Kleppner, associate dean of postdoctoral affairs at Stanford University. “If the academic world is not warm and welcoming and diverse, it is going to die.”

    For decades, postdoc positions were seen as a way to get additional scientific training and as a reliable route into a faculty job, akin to a residency for a medical school graduate. The low pay and demanding hours were rewarded in the end. But for many, a postdoc is now a dead end.

    There are increasing signs that academic science has lost its allure for many talented researchers. More life scientists than ever are leaving academia, with Ph.D. graduates skipping postdocs to jump into lucrative positions in private industry...

    [...] Those concerns led the National Institutes of Health to launch a working group focused on re-envisioning postdoctoral training, which is scheduled to share updates Friday and release a final report at the end of this year. The NIH is facing its own internal pressures from thousands of postdocs, graduate students, and other temporary researchers who just last week filed a petition to unionize, citing inadequate pay and benefits and excessive workloads... (MORE - missing details)
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    How a now-retracted study got published in the first place, leading to a $3.8 million NIH grant

    he 2017 paper attracted immediate and sustained scrutiny from other experts, one of whom attempted to replicate it and found a key problem. Nothing happened until this April, when the authors admitted the work was flawed and retracted their article. By then, it had been cited 134 times in the scientific literature...

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    Did a ‘nasty’ publishing scheme help an Indian dental school win high rankings?

    By systematically citing other papers published by Saveetha faculty—including papers on completely unrelated topics—the undergraduate publications have helped dramatically inflate the number of citations, a key measure of academic merit, linked to Saveetha.

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    Journal pulls paper from Ethiopia for unlicensed use of questionnaire

    A public-health journal has retracted a study from Ethiopia that made unlicensed use of a questionnaire developed by a U.S. researcher known to aggressively protect his intellectual property.

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    “Flagrant and frankly, inexcusable” data duplication leads to retraction

    A biochemistry study has been retracted nearly a year after a whistleblower found significant overlap between the article and one published in a different journal by the same research group.
  9. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    A researcher who publishes a study every two days reveals the darker side of science

    EXCERPTS: Meat expert José Manuel Lorenzo, 46, is the researcher who [...] publishes a study every other day (if you include weekends). It’s an astonishing figure, far above the second-highest ranked scientist: the prestigious ecologist Josep Peñuelas, 65, who published 112 studies in 2022.

    [...] Researchers are under brutal pressure to publish studies. Their salary increases, promotions, project funding and social prestige depend on evaluations in which their performance is measured practically by weight. This system — known as “publish or perish” — has created monsters. Thousands of scientists around the world publish at least one study every five days, according to Ioannidis’s calculations. They are the so-called “hyperprolific” researchers, who have an amazing production rate, which is sometimes suspicious.

    [...] At one point, Lorenzo began collaborating with exotic researchers — who nobody knew about — on topics that have nothing to do with meat. ... In a telephone conversation with EL PAÍS, Lorenzo admits that he doesn’t know any of these co-authors in person, nor is he an expert on any of these issues.

    [...] India is one of the countries where so-called “paper mills” are concentrated — factories that churn out scientific studies which are already written and ready to be published in specialized journals. Co-authorship is offered in exchange for money.

    [...] Lorenzo categorically denies having resorted to these services, but he is aware of the existence of a market for the sale of authorship.

    [...] Scientific journals have a perverse incentive to publish studies of dubious quality. In the past, it was readers who paid to read the articles, which were inaccessible without a subscription. But in recent years, another model has been imposed, in which the authors themselves are the ones who pay up to $6,500 to private publishers so that their studies can be published with open access to any reader. The change in this model has caused an earthquake in the world of science. In 2015, there were barely a dozen biomedical journals that each published more than 2,000 studies per year, representing 6% of total production between them. There are now 55 of these so-called “mega-journals” — together, they publish almost a quarter of all specialized literature, according to recent research by John Ioannidis.

    [...] “We’re losing millions of euros of public money paying for the publication of studies that usually don’t contribute anything — like parrots, they only repeat what everyone already knew about,” laments Delgado Vázquez, from the Pablo de Olavide University, in Seville.... (MORE - missing details)

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    Scientists Beware! Your University Could Revoke Your Ph.D.

    EXCERPT: In an opinion from March 2023, the Texas Supreme Court held that public universities in Texas can revoke former students’ degrees who were found responsible for research misconduct that was committed while they were students and is related to obtaining their degree. In reaching this decision, the Texas Supreme Court noted that the two institutions at issue had adopted rules that contemplate degree revocation in instances of “academic dishonesty.” The Texas Supreme Court observed that courts applying other states’ laws, such as Ohio, Virginia, North Dakota, New Mexico, Maryland, Michigan, and Tennessee, have also held that universities have degree revocation authority. In fact, a recent ruling from the Court of Gelderland in the Netherlands demonstrates that some universities outside the United States may also revoke degrees based on research misconduct findings. Scientists should be aware of the possibility of this extreme sanction if their work toward fulfilling degree requirements comes into question... (MORE - missing details)
  10. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The shaky evidence for medical cannabis

    EXCERPTS: . . . There are two disclaimers I have to put forth: the first is that in the US and the UK; legal restrictions on the substance have made it difficult to even research it for medical reasons. In the UK this restriction was repealed in 2018, while in the US the problem varies between jurisdictions but as a drug, it remains a schedule 1 — the most serious of classifications, which renders research into it very legally odious to conduct.

    The second is that I am not anti-marijuana. I personally don’t care for it, and as someone with a PhD in Philosophy I know that I’m in the minority of non-pot smokers in my discipline. My position is similar to Mill’s: do what you want, as long as everyone consents, and no one is being harmed.

    The concept of medical marijuana seemed to be nothing more than a gateway argument. It was a way to open the door to full legalisation. I thought it was similar to the way that people, during the American experiment with alcohol prohibition, could get medical whiskey prescriptions (including a certain UK Prime Minister). Yet smokers assured me that it had benefits that were as good, if not better, than their pharmaceutical counterparts. Given the fervour by which they advocate for its effectiveness, it felt like the evidence must exist.

    [...] To conclude, more research is certainly needed. The restrictions on running studies on the substance are being slowly chipped away and its placement as a schedule 1 drug in the US is an absurdity. However, as Science Based Medicine has written, the current state of the science does not provide the conclusions that advocates have claimed... (MORE - missing details)

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    The scientific fraud behind the “discovery” of element 118

    During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union raced to discover superheavy elements. For years, UC Berkeley was the undisputed leader in this race — until they weren’t. Eager to reclaim its lost prestige, the university launched rigorous investigations to discover how the scientific fraud was carried out.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I don't believe there is a counterpart to marijuana.

    There is now a substantial body of knowledge developing on the benefits and dangers of medical (controlled growth) marijuana.

    I believe this more or less describes the current knowledge.


    This Class 1 label is a farce. MJ is not an opioid (addictive), it is a cannabinoid and does not affect autonomous parts of the brain that are instrumental in addiction.


    This fact alone should exempt marijuana from any list of "dangerous" drugs and any criminality in its use.
    In fact, marijuana has proven effective in combating opioid addiction as well as treating brain disorders.

    Medical Marijuana for Neurological Conditions
    more .....
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2023
    C C likes this.
  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Question: If there is no remarkable difference between the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain, why does that prove that mammalian brains are not evolved from the much older reptilian brain and retain vestiges of that early genetic model?
    Does anybody actually claim that humans have reptilian brains, or just that brains that have evolved from reptilian brains?

    Understanding reptile intelligence can aid conservation and safeguard ecosystems.
    Commentary by Deyatima Ghosh on 19 January 2023
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The "Triune brain" model supposedly isn't about already existing structures being modified over time, but a claim that the human brain evolved by adding on new layers. Plus, the view that distinct brain regions are rigidly devoted to specific functions.

    The myth of the reptilian brain is tenacious – but wrong.

    [...] instincts, emotions and reason don’t exist in separate parts of the brain, he says. ... “To say that one part of the brain has this function and another part has that function is a gross oversimplification and is at best only true for simple and specific functions,” says Tamnes.

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    You don't have a lizard brain

    . . . the very idea that new brain structures emerge on top of old ones is fundamentally at odds with how evolution usually works: biological structures are typically just modified versions of older structures. For example, the mammalian neocortex isn’t a completely new structure like MacLean thought it was, but instead is a modification of the repitilian cortex. As the evolutionary neuroscientist Terrence Deacon explains: “Adding on is almost certainly not the way the brain has evolved. Instead, the same structures have become modified in different ways in different lineages.”

    Notice that the cortex and its analogues (colored here in blue) are found in all vertebrates, and isn’t unique to mammals. What’s more, all the major structures of the mammal brain can also be found in the reptile brain, and even in the fish brain.

    So what’s gone wrong here? Why is the triune brain theory widely believed, even among psychologists, while evolutionary neuroscience abandoned the theory decades ago (and never took it very seriously in the first place)?

    The problem starts, of course, with MacLean. I think it’s fairly clear that MacLean wanted to find what makes humans (and mammals more broadly) unique. And that desire to identify our uniqueness led him to judge his available evidence poorly. MacLean should have considered alternative hypotheses, such as the possibility that differences between our brains and those of other vertebrates are a matter of degree, rather than kind.

    And he should have asked whether those alternative hypotheses could explain his evidence as well as his own theory could. This sort of self-questioning is key to doing good science: we need to work especially hard to try to prove ourselves wrong. Fortunately, science is structured such that if we can’t (or won’t) prove ourselves wrong, our colleagues most certainly will. And other scientists did prove MacLean wrong, as detailed thoroughly in Terrence Deacon’s paper on what’s known about mammalian brain evolution.
    Write4U likes this.
  14. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    What Bigfoot Teaches Us About Public Mistrust of Science

    In the 1960s, credentialed scientists, including physical anthropologists, hunted for the legendary Sasquatch. How did they fall for the hoax?

    EXCERPT: . . . The Bossburg incident serves as a warning against hubris among scientists. When the scientist becomes more important than the subject being studied or the evidence being gathered, they are no longer practicing science or producing reliable and useful knowledge.

    And scientific or academic hubris is not limited to claiming genius-level intelligence. It can also manifest in opaque language. In later years, Krantz would say that he had two secret tests that could determine whether a footprint was real. He never revealed them. Ultimately, not even the other monster hunters trusted him... (MORE - missing details)
  15. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Ahhh, yes. The reptilian brain remained unaltered, exempt from evolutionary modification, for hundreds of millions of years. The modern brain just built on top of that old brain in layers as if a multilayered cake...lol.

    On a more intriguing note, I have posted this before but received little response.

    Human Chromosome 2 is a fusion of two ancestral chromosomes
    Alec MacAndrew

    The Evidence

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    IMO, there exists no compelling natural adaptive reason for our extraordinary brain. All other mammals seem to do just fine with a considerably lower evolutionary development.
    Even our closest related members of the great apes seem to have done quite well without Shakespeare.

    It would suggest that instead of a gradual modification, a significant beneficial mutative event might have caused such an evolutionary leap and that concept is supported by the fusion of chromosome 2 at which point humans actually split from our common ancestor. Did the fusion create a greater, more complex brain growth instruction?
  16. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The fusing event causing the origin of chromosome 2 may date back to as much as 4.5 million years ago.

    3 million years ago human ancestors still had chimpanzee-sized brains. Around that time or later, however, the offspring of Australopithecus afarensis (a relative, at least) may have experienced an extended childhood.

    Ancient hominins had small brains like apes, but longer childhoods like humans

    “As early as 3 million years ago, children had a long dependence on caregivers,” said Zeresenay (Zeray) Alemseged, PhD, Donald N. Pritzker Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy [...] “That gave children more time to acquire cognitive and social skills. By understanding that childhood emerged 3.5 million years ago, we are establishing the timing for the advent of this milestone event in human evolution.”

    By two million years ago, Homo habilis and others had developed increased skull tissue: larger brains.

    Zeb2 gene (below) is located on chromosome 2.

    Scientists discover how humans develop larger brains than other apes

    EXCERPT: Lancaster and her colleagues collected cells, often left over from medical tests or operations, from humans, gorillas and chimps, and reprogrammed them into stem cells. They then grew these cells in such a way that encouraged them to turn into brain organoids – little lumps of brain tissue a few millimetres wide.

    After several weeks, the human brain organoids were by far the largest of the lot, and close examination revealed why. In human brain tissue, so-called neural progenitor cells – which go on to make all of the cells in the brain – divided more than those in great ape brain tissue.

    Lancaster, whose study is published in Cell, added: “You have an increase in the number of those cells, so once they switch to making the different brain cells, including neurons, you have more to start with, so you get an increase in the whole population of brain cells across the entire cortex.”

    Mathematical modelling of the process showed that the difference in cell proliferation happens so early in brain development, that it ultimately leads to a near doubling in the number of neurons in the adult human cerebral cortex compared with that in the great apes.

    The researchers went on to identify a gene that is crucial to the process. Known as Zeb2, it switches on later in human tissue, allowing the cells to divide more before they mature. Tests showed that delaying the effects of Zeb2 made gorilla brain tissue grow larger, while turning it on sooner in human brain organoids made them grow more like the ape ones.

    Traditional ideas:

    Why do humans have such huge brains? Scientists have a few hypotheses.

    EXCERPT: So far, evolutionary anthropologists have laid out three broad categories of explanations for why the human mind grew so large (there are many other, more specific sub-theories). They are:

    • Environmental: Physical challenges — like finding, hunting, or remembering sources of food — provided selection pressure for bigger brains.
    • Social: Interacting with others — either cooperatively or competitively — favored people with brains large enough to anticipate the actions of others.
    • Cultural: People who were able to hold on to accumulated knowledge and teach it to others were most likely to reproduce. (One of these cultural factors could have been cooking. As biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham famously argued in his 2009 book Catching Fire, when we learned to cook food, we got access to more easily digestible calories, which freed up energy and time develop bigger brains.)

    It’s likely all three factors played a role and influenced one another. But the mix has to be precisely right to create the human brain in its current form. For example, if natural selection pressures favored a high degree of cooperation, that would actually favor a smaller brain. Think about it: If you rely on others to a high degree, you don’t need to use your own brain as much. Ants, an incredibly cooperative species, don’t have much when it comes to brains. Same goes for bees.
    Write4U likes this.
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Thanks for that comprehensive summation.

    What intrigued me most is the fact that only humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. All other great apes have 24 pair, just like our common ancestor.

    This seems significant to me because this is the single greatest difference between our species and apparently was the causal mutation for the emergence of the human strain. There can be no other conclusion.

    Given that the human brain far exceeds the necessary sophistication, such as it evolved in other great apes, it seemed to me that these two events must have some common denominator. Change in chromosome pairs, change in species?
  18. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    A possible result of a larger set of growth instructions contained in the fused chromosome?
    Note that the human fused chromosome is twice as large as each individual ape chromosome.

    What emergent growth potentials resulted from the formation of that much larger bio-chemical polymer?
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    There is no larger bio-chemical[sic] polymer mentioned.

    And "emergent growth potential' is meaningless.
  20. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Maybe. Need to actually trace certain human attributes to smoking guns in the alterations that fell out of chromosome 2's origins. Fully rule out a coincidence or spurious correlation. Somebody should actually propose the idea in a paper, first, so that it can be critically assessed and researched. Not sure anyone even has.

  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Did you look at the mutated chromosome? It is almost a total straight fusion of 2 individual chromosomes,resulting in a twice as large chromosome.

    Chromosome 2
    No, it isn't. Greater biochemical complexity almost always results in greater sophistication of emergent properties. (integrative levels of organization.)

    Because it doesn't always result in greater emergent properties does not negate the fact that it usually does. The human brain is a perfect example. Greater complexity, greater sophistication in general, even if some simpler brains may have extraordinary emergent qualities that are lacking in more complex organisms.

    Biological Complexity and Integrative Levels of Organization

    Emergent Properties
    more ...... https://www.nature.com/scitable/top...y-and-integrative-levels-of-organization-468/[/quote]
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023
  22. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Do Women Really Make Up 80 Percent of All Climate Migrants?

    INTRO (Disha Shetty): It is an alarming and evocative statistic: An estimated 80 percent of climate migrants are women. The figure has been used by the United Nations in its official communication. It has been repeated in the media and by human rights groups. But it stands on shaky scientific ground — and most likely is wildly off the mark.

    To begin with, the 80 percent figure fails the basic smell test. As someone who has reported on climate change and migration across India, it is clear to me that men are typically the first to move in the face of environmental pressures, often in search of seasonal income or jobs in cities. Women and children tend to be the last to go, if they leave at all.

    Perhaps more importantly, there are currently no comprehensive datasets that can tell us how climate migrant populations break down along gender lines. In fact, experts say there isn’t even a consensus on the definition of who counts as a climate migrant. When people migrate, it is often due to a combination of factors. Environment, when it comes into play, is just one of them.

    Where, then, does the 80 percent figure come from? (MORE - details)
  23. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Gender activists get a paper retracted for unjustified technical reasons—just to discredit its results

    INTRO EXCERPTS (Jerry Coyne): Colin Wright, who’s turned out a number of clear and well written pieces on gender issues, has by so doing inserted himself into a maelstrom, for there are no activists so authoritarian and unforgiving as gender activists. In fact, their actions in getting a paper retracted is the subject of Wright’s latest piece in City Journal (click on first screenshot below) which recounts a fracas that I think we should know about.

    Why? Because it shows very clearly how ideology can distort science, and how activists can get a paper retracted for no good reasons, just to discredit the contents of that paper. Much of the science around gender issues is currently unsettled, including the notion of a syndrome called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), its possible influence by social pressure, and, of course, whether puberty blockers can cause permanent damage or are completely reversible.

    Instead of allowing open discourse on these issues, activists try to shut down all discourse, including scientific publication, in favor of their own views: that ROGD doesn’t exist, that children “know” instinctively if they’re in the wrong body, and that any child or adolescent who’s confused about their gender must immediately receive “affirmative therapy”, which appears to involve enthusiastic rather than objective support by therapists coupled with a nearly instantaneous prescription for puberty blockers.

    Any deviation from this scenario produces a storm of opprobrium [...] Now there’s a new paper by two authors on ROGD, and that one (click on second screenshot below) has generated all the scandal. I’ll try to be brief and give a numbered sequence of events... (MORE - missing details)

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