I said earlier on my channel that being wrong feels exactly like being right. It’s only when we take the trouble to learn, to see past our assumptions that we begin to feel the awkward psychological sensation associated with awareness of our own ignorance. And that’s good. Awareness of our own inaccuracy is the first step – often the only step needed to become accurate again.
That’s why it’s so toxic for any of us to bury our heads in the sand. Especially when the ostrich in question is a sitting MP with a penchant for attention-seeking and far-right dog-whistling. A populist MP who still believes that, having fooled his constituents once, he can continue to get away with voting so often against their interests simply by targeting a minority to whip up a bit of hatred against.
Someone like Mark Jenkinson MP, for example…
Mr Jenkinson stated recently: “Trans men aren’t men, and trans women aren’t women, sex is something we cannot change, that is the scientific view, and there is no need to educate myself on any view. It’s not just the view of me and my constituents. All I’ve ever said or done is point out the difference between gender and sex.”
Well… let’s take a brief look at the scientific view, shall we?
The magazine, ‘Nature’ is one of the most respected journals in the scientific literature. Its peer-reviewed articles are a world away from the populist dog-whistles cobbled together by biased hacks in the Daily Mail. ‘Nature’ is a scientific journal with content written by specialist science journalists and peer-reviewed for quality by practicing scientists knowledgeable in their respective fields.
T’Sjoen is an endocrinologist at the very top of his profession. He spoke with ‘Nature’ in April 2019 and made some very interesting points. Points that Mark Jenkinson MP might do well to heed before he goes shouting his mouth off about other peoples’ right to be themselves.
“Saying you’re not informed about this topic is not really valid any more,” he says. “It’s just that you’re lazy.”
The European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence (ENIGI) is the largest study of transgender people in the world. In April 2019 it had a research base of 2,600 transgender individuals who provide regular ‘snapshots’ of both their psychological and their biological states. The study takes account of subjective experiences as well as more objective measurements such as hormonal balance, biological wellness, general health, task-orientated brain activity and general physical and physiological well-being. Many of these metrics have very real correlations with more normative gender-based characteristics and the results are fascinating. I won’t quote the extensive article here but I’d strongly encourage anyone who thinks they understand this topic to follow the links.
One thing Mark and I do have in common is that neither of us really ‘get it’. I don’t pretend for a moment to understand what it means to be uncomfortable with your birth-assigned gender. I’m a man, I’ve always been male, I identify as a male and I feel absolutely comfortable in that regard. I have very real difficulty in understanding how others can find that problematic. I have little doubt that Mark Jenkinson MP can say the same. But here’s where we differ…
Jenkinson, perhaps deliberately, confuses gender with biological sex whilst, ironically enough pretending to rely upon that very difference to inform his spurious, bigoted arguments. I understand that gender is a socially defined construct which is different from biology. And that social definition has always been open to change.
It used to be that women weren’t allowed to vote, they were barred from certain jobs. My own mother really wanted to be a barrister but gender-based prejudices in the mid twentieth century sent her down a different path, first as a housewife and mother and then on to a very successful career as a primary school teacher (traditionally a career acceptable for women). Today nobody would sneer at her ambition to approach the bar because the socially constructed gender rules have changed as society moves on.
Whatever your individual views on gender might be here’s the bottom line for me…
People have a right to be who they are… to live their lives free from bigotry and hostility… to know that they are part of their society and that they have a place. They don’t need everyone to understand their experience. I was very clear with the people I spoke to at Saturday’s little demo that I don’t ‘get it’ but that I support each person’s right to be themselves. Not a single trans person I met objected to that stance of mine.
If, like my bigoted, dog-whistling MP, you have a problem with trans people then I suggest you ask yourself just what it is about you that makes you take such an unhealthy interest in other peoples’ gender preferences. And remember…
Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable about your prejudices is the first and most crucial step toward adopting a healthier, happier and far more reasonable and compassionate perspective for the future.
Don’t allow Mark Jenkinson MP to hijack your humanity just so he can con you into hating ‘them’ and voting for ‘him’. The politics of ‘us and them’ should have no place in a civilised democracy. Nor should bigoted, hate-mongering MPs like Mark Jenkinson! He has a right to his opinion but when he uses his position as MP to foster hatred and prejudice he really oughtn’t to represent the decent people of Workington for a moment longer than the law allows.
You might need to grab a cup of tea and maybe a few biscuits for this one – it’ll take a while to explain but I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth it. To really understand the background, the importance of scientific integrity and the vital need for freedom from the political process we’ll need a little history.
We’ve known ever since the ConDem coalition government came to power in 2010 that people on benefits, on pensions, people who were sick or disabled and basically anyone who didn’t contribute to the financial wealth of rich conservative donors was going to have a hard time.
ConDem austerity slashed the finances of health and social care organisations, issued wage freezes for their staff wherever they could and doubled down on means testing and medical review for those in need of state aid to live. We’ve all seen the awful stories of suicides and starvation caused by DWP austerity against a backdrop of tax breaks for the wealthy and tax avoidance schemes for large companies whilst our politicians, many of them cabinet ministers, hid their own wealth offshore to avoid paying the taxes that would help fund those very services.
Conservative policy has robbed WASPI women of their pension rights, reduced the real time earnings of public sector workers in the NHS and Social care as well as slashed the workforce numbers in these and many other vital services including police, fire and housing.
The tories are no friends of the poor or of those who protect and care for them.
The sick and the elderly have been singled out for particular attack, not only by removing the services and benefits that they rely upon but also by ensuring that people have to work longer to qualify for their retirement pensions and that DWP health checks ignore medical advice the government often makes it close to impossible for severely disabled citizens to jump through the hoops set for them.
That’s the backdrop – the Conservatives have no regard for the welfare of anyone not financially independent. If you’re not working and you’re not rich you’re not important. Even if you are working the tories have been extremely skilled at reducing your rights as well as your access to health care should you need it.
Tribunals for unfair dismissal are much harder to access and legal aid is all but unattainable for the majority of citizens. So before we go any further please bear this single point in mind.
This government doesn’t care about people from whom it cannot profit. You know, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes. These are groups of people we’ll refer to again so keep them in mind.
Now a little science history – just so we’re clear about the relationship between politics and scientific discovery.
Back in 1859 Charles Darwin published his great work ‘On the origin of species: Evolution by means of natural selection’. It caused a major stir at the time but then, inexplicably for modern readers it fell into a bit of a lull until at the turn of the century it was revived by two equally awful movements.
One was the creationist movement that objected to the reality of evolution because they thought it undermined the Genesis story. The other was even more nefarious. The eugenics movement committed that most obvious of scientific errors – the naturalistic fallacy. They believed that what is natural must be right and that since nature lets the weak die then human society must do the same.
Eugenicists bastardised the science (understanding what is) for political ends (what they wanted to be). They never quite understood that describing something about the natural world isn’t necessarily the same as supporting it in principle. As a result of that failure to understand the bleeding obvious, in many countries the poor, the sick, those with mental health or learning difficulties and those judged as immoral were denied state support leading to starvation. Some were forcibly sterilised and even in some cases killed. The Eugenics movement was just as strong in this country at the turn of the 20th century. The death toll because politics got involved in science was horrendous. But of course that couldn’t possibly happen here.
Remember those groups I mentioned earlier…
The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes.
We’ve heard a lot about these groups recently. They’re the ones most at risk from Covid-19. They’re also the ones with the least protection from government both historically as we’ve already seen and currently in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s interesting that they’re the same people the eugenicists targeted, albeit without the focus on ‘moral defectives’ – a group that would certainly include a number of modern MPs, not least the current Prime Minister whose string of unacknowledged children, whose penchant for lying and adulterous behaviour in general would certainly have earned him the title ‘Moral defective’ back in the day.
But of course, his wealth would have protected him anyway – just as it does today. Boris isn’t the target – he’s the intended beneficiary along with all the rest of his kind, parasitically profiting from the work done by those who will never be paid what they’re worth by this tory government.
That’s one thing this pandemic has made very clear to us all. Which are the people society can’t do without and they don’t tend to be the richest – they’re all tucked up in splendid isolation. It’s the poorest who have to take all the risks, the nurses, the care assistants and support workers, the supermarket staff, the delivery drivers and the food producers.
We’ve all known for ever that they’re the real wealth creators but now we know just how unimportant their employers, the wealth takers really are. And we know something else. We know that this government is doing everything it can to give the appearance of concern whilst simultaneously undermining the chances of those that Hermann Goering described as ‘useless eaters’. You know, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes.
At every daily briefing the government tells us that they’re being guided by the science but what exactly does that mean? SAGE stands for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. It’s been around for a long time but only under this government has it become secret. We used to know who sat on it. Now we don’t.
Under previous regimes the Prime Minister always chaired SAGE meetings but our own dear leader has missed no fewer than 5 such meetings citing personal issues (not illness – this isn’t about his recent hospitalisation or recuperation). In his place he seems to have sent chief advisor and unelected spin doctor Dominic Cummings instead.
Cummings isn’t a scientist. We learned last February just what sort of man he is when the Guardian reported his blog on ‘designer babies’ as a view that geneticists described as unethical, unworkable and – most importantly of all for our purposes, Eugenicist. Cummings was also the man who paved the way for Eugenicist Andrew Sabisky to get a job at No. 10, an appointment that proved short-lived when his disgraceful opinions came to light and he was forced to resign. Neither Cummings nor PM Boris Johnson have commented.
Cummings wrote in his designer babies blog…
“It goes without saying that turning this idea into a political/government success requires focus on A, the NHS, health, science, NOT getting side-tracked into B, arguments things like IQ and social mobility. Over time the educated classes will continue to be dragged to more realistic views on (B) but this will be a complex process entangled with many hysterical episodes. (A) requires ruthless focus.”
So, a eugenicist who wants to rid the gene pool of ‘defectives’ by ruthlessly concentrating upon the NHS, health and science is sitting on the SAGE advisory group.
Professor Richard Ashcroft of city university called Cummings’ views ‘cargo cult science’. For those unfamiliar with cargo cults they’re religious groups which sprung up on remote islands after the second world war. They believe that if they recreate bamboo airstrips and worship an apparently non-existent American airman called John Frum then the ships and planes will return with all their cargo and Frum will save his people. It’s based upon a complete misunderstanding of reality and so, it seems is Cummings’ ‘science’. Professor Ashcroft said…
“This idea that we can use biological selection to improve individuals and society, and that the state through the NHS should facilitate this, really is pure eugenics”
And yet Cummings continues to advise our government, our Prime Minister and apparently our scientific advisory group.
Are you frightened yet? Remember those groups I mentioned earlier…
The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes.
Now think about government policy, the history of 10 years of targeted austerity and the vulnerability of those groups in particular.
When the rest of the world was buying up PPE and ventilators we were told it might be better to go for herd immunity and just ‘Take it on the chin’ as Boris said. Of course, it’s true that herd immunity will be necessary before we can say Covid-19 isn’t a problem but to actively pursue it before we have a vaccine! Let’s just look at what that means. For herd immunity to be meaningful the reality is that around 70% at least of the surviving community will have had the disease and developed antibodies.
The word ‘surviving’ is important here. If we do just take it on the chin we are very likely to lose large numbers of elderly, infirm, disabled and those who live in cramped circumstances – you know – those on benefits who can’t afford anything bigger.
That would be no great loss to the likes of Cummings as they’re the ones he wants out of the gene pool to begin with. Perhaps that’s why Michael Gove, months into the crisis was still suggesting that the UK ‘run the virus hot’, meaning merely to allow it to run its course. Perhaps that’s why, despite claiming to be guided by the science – from Mr. Cummings’ SAGE group – we waited so long before entering lockdown despite the advice of the science from Italy, from China and from the World Health Organisation itself.
But hang on, I hear you cry – we’ve built new hospitals, ordered tests and bought loads of PPE. We’ve recruited loads of retired medical and nursing staff and even Burberry and Dyson are making kit for healthcare workers to use.
Yes, that’s all true.
But we’ve also seen government guidance to increase the use of do not resuscitate orders, to discharge elderly people back to care homes without testing, even if we think they have Covid-19, to ramp up DNR orders on otherwise healthy disabled people and the government has ignored care home death figures until forced to acknowledge them by the press.
We still haven’t managed to get into gear for this pandemic even though the government’s own 2016 exercise, operation Cygnus clearly demonstrated how unprepared we were and recommended doing all the things we’re now doing relatively half-heartedly and far too late.
Burberry may well be making hospital gowns but many smaller firms, not owned by tory party donors are offering help and being ignored by the government, even though they have stocks already in their warehouses which they are now forced to sell to other countries just to stay afloat.
We have a ‘ward care ceiling’ policy which is used as a matter of course to deny elderly and disabled people access to ICU beds – despite the fact that we have new Nightingale hospitals still unused that could accommodate them.
It seems that there are plenty of resources as tory MPs all across UK have been instructed to tell us but only if you’re not in one of those groups I mentioned earlier. You know…
The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes.
Much is being said about the economy and how difficult it will be to recover from this but that’s hardly the point. Proper taxation of the wealthiest – those we now know are far from vital to our country’s welfare and a proper scrutiny of offshore accounts would go a long way to sorting out that problem.
So, it seems would culling the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the sick and those in care homes. And that culling wouldn’t need to hurt the pockets of those wealthy tory donors.
If only the government had a eugenicist pulling the strings!
I have a couple of questions. They relate to the current debate about the membership of SAGE. The government’s position appears to be unclear but do you personally believe that science should inform politics or that politics should inform science?
Bear in mind that previous attempts by politicians to influence science have resulted in dangerous psuedoscience like eugenics (AKA Social Darwinism) which completely bastardised a scientific theory for nefarious, discriminatory ends against poor people, the sick and disabled and non-Europeans.
What’s your personal view, Mark?
Should politics inform science or should science inform politics?