briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, May 3, 2019

It’s Friday May 3rd, 2019 I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

It comes down to a choice: You can have the transgender revolution or women’s sports, but you can’t have both

We are living in very complicated times. Just consider this headline from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, “Sports court backs, distinct gender lines in defeat for Olympian.” We have to observe day by day that some of these headlines would be indecipherable. They would be absolutely incomprehensible to any previous generation of human beings. But this is front page news and this is just one edition of a newspaper. Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times.

Jere Longman and Juliet Macur reporting for the Times tell us, “Female track athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone must decrease the hormone to participate in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics, the highest court and international sports set on Wednesday in a landmark ruling amid the increasingly pitched debate over who can compete and women’s events”.

Now, we’ll stop there at that paragraph for just a moment and consider those last words, an increasingly contentious debate over who can compete in women’s athletic events. Since when is that a controversy? Well, there you have the sexual and the moral revolutions in a nutshell. It is now controversial because we are a society that says you really do not know what a woman is. Indeed, we are living in a time when the dominant sexual theory is that it really doesn’t mean anything to be a man or a woman, at least not biologically what is now called biological essentialism is ruled out by the new moral revolutionaries. There’s nothing objectively boy, there’s nothing objectively girl or man or woman.

So now there’s a controversy about who can compete in women’s athletic events because we’re a society that isn’t at all certain what a woman is. Indeed, we’re a society that says, no one can say who is and isn’t a woman, except somebody who’s going to have to. One of the major lessons we’re going to see in the briefing today is that the transgender revolution doesn’t work. Its own logic begins to break down. You have a civilization that is increasingly saying, you must think this way, this is the only right way to think, and yet they can’t think through the biggest questions to any kind of logical conclusion.

Unless you’re simply going to say it is no longer going to be possible to any extent whatsoever to decide who is male and who is female. But wait just a minute. We have male and female events in major sports. You go to the Olympics. There are men’s teams and their women’s teams. There are events in which men compete. There are events in which women compete, not only that there’s an entire international constellation of these events.

Does it really matter anymore? Well, for the last several years, but intensively, this is very telling just over the last several months and even weeks, these issues have taken on a new urgency. Why? Because, well, let’s just face it. Decisions had to be made. Someone’s going to have to decide who can and cannot compete in women’s and in girls events. You’ll notice the controversy’s one way. It doesn’t go the other way.

There’s really no controversy whatsoever about individuals who were born undeniably female who then declared transgender identity and try to compete with males. Why is that not an issue? Because as we shall see, biology means that’s not really an issue. What is an issue are persons who are biologically male, let’s just define that for a moment as meaning an XY chromosome and they are now declaring female identity and are competing or want to compete in female events, girls’ and women’s events.

Let’s just use that vocabulary which in one language or another has been used by, oh, let’s just say every human civilization throughout time until now. And it’s also interesting to note that the International Olympic Committee and all of these great international tribunals on sports, they can’t avoid using those words either. They may try to, but at the end of the day you can’t have women’s sports if there aren’t any women. The Times goes on to tell us that the decision handed down on Wednesday by the International Court of Arbitration for Sports, that’s the highest tribunal dealing with questions related to the International Olympics.

We are told that the decision “was a defeat for Caster Semenya, a two time Olympic champion at 800 meters from South Africa who had challenged proposed limits placed on female athletes with naturally elevated levels of the muscle building hormone testosterone.” The story goes on, “At a time when the broader culture is moving towards an acceptance of gender fluidity, the ruling affirmed the sports world’s need for distinct gender lines saying they were essential for the outcome of women’s events to be fair.”

Doriane Lambelet Coleman a law professor at Duke who is also an elite athlete in the very same event, the 800 meter run, she said, “The gender studies folks have spent the last 20 years deconstructing sex and all of a sudden they’re facing an institution with an entirely opposite story.” Let’s just listen to that line again. The gender studies folks, who are they? Well, they are the intellectuals absolutely committed to the sexual gender revolution, the entire spectrum of LGBTQ and beyond and they’re the people who have been arguing that there is no essential difference between male and female indeed is just all a continuum.

As this professor at Duke says they’ve run into a head on collision with the international sports authorities. They are “facing an institution with an entirely opposite story.” But of course it’s not just an opposite story. It’s a contradictory claim to reality. Professor Coleman eventually gets to the basic issue here, the unavoidable question and she put it rather bluntly, “We have to ask, is respecting gender identity more important or is seeing female bodies on the podium more important?”

That’s an interesting way to put it. I guess that’s the way she has to put it. Even to the expression, “Is it important to see female bodies on the platform?” That is on the winners’ stand. There’s a sense in which the focus in this story on Caster Semenya isn’t particularly helpful and that’s because she isn’t claiming a transgender identity. As a matter of fact, her entire gender identity and her biology are very much shrouded in mystery. That’s been a part of the story from the very beginning.

Her claim is that she was raised as a girl, but medical tests indicate that she has heightened natural testosterone, which the authorities have now stated and affirmed on Wednesday places her at a competitive advantage or rather market advantage over those who are born female and have naturally female testosterone ranges. Yes, women do have some level of testosterone coming from the adrenal glands, but it is relatively minor compared to the natural level of testosterone found among boys in adolescence and then in men. It’s a completely different physiology.

Gina Kolata writing a front page article for the Times sports section raises some important questions. First of all about testosterone and then she asked What would that matter to athletes? She writes, “Testosterone builds muscle” said Dr. Benjamin D. Levine who studies sex differences and athletic performance at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “It build skeletal muscle, it builds cardiac muscle, it increases the number of red blood cells.”

Later in the article, Erin Baggish of the Massachusetts General Hospital identified as an expert on testosterone’s effect said, “The science is quite clear an androgenized body has a performance advantage.” Kolata then asks this question, “But don’t different bodies always have varying competitive advantages why single out this hormone?” She answers the question, “Most medical experts believe that testosterone is exceptional, not like a long arm span in a swimmer or another natural physical advantage.”

In one study, we are told scientists puts sedentary young men and young women through a year of athletic training. At the start, the men and women had similarly sized hearts. A year later, the men’s hearts were much larger. The result of muscle building directed by the hormones. The hormones effects are amplified among elite athletes altering the body in ways that can make a huge difference in performance.

Male champions she writes, in every sport are always much faster and stronger than women who set world records. Dr. Coleman, the award winning female athlete and now scholar at Duke quoted earlier said, “In a study done in 2017 more than 10,000 men and boys running 400 meter races beat the best times the international women have ever run.” By the time you get to the end of the article, some conclusions have to be drawn. Kolata says that the court’s ruling is really not about accepting intersects or transgender people in society, “It is about allowing elite female athletes to compete on a level playing field.”

But then Kolata goes on, she understands what’s at stake. She says that raises another interesting question, “Why do we segregate athletes according to dated ideas of gender in the first place?” Dr. Levine said, “The issue is why do we have women’s sports at all? I think it is critical to protect women.” The professor said, “To give them a chance to be successful with an established testosterone cutoff some will feel left out.” he acknowledged.

And you’ll notice this has to go somewhere, so listen to where this professor suggests it should go, “He has a modest proposal. Athletes should be separated into two groups, a women’s division and an open division. Men and anyone with a testosterone level beyond the normal female range would compete in the open division.” That way he said, “anyone who wants to compete can compete.”

But you’ll notice here that that’s not going to be even close to satisfactory to the transgender revolutionaries. Even that supposedly compromise plan isn’t going to be accepted at all by the new sexual ideologies. Why? Because central to the entire LGBTQ revolution and to the T, the transgender argument most particularly is the argument that there really is no such thing as a man or a woman it’s all a social construct. It’s all a binary and no one has a right to say that anyone is male or female or is a man or as a woman or is a boy or is a girl. It’s all a matter of individual identity and no one gets to tell you who you are. You tell the world who you are and the world has to deal with it, except evidently the world’s not going to deal with it when it comes to international sports, at least not for now. At least not for the Olympics.

Because at least for now, the Olympics movement has decided that if it’s going to have male and female events it better have some kind of rough idea of who is a man and who was a woman. It tells us something else that you can’t actually use those terms even in this kind of policy. Instead, the policy has to be based upon something like a specific range of testosterone in a body. That way the group can say, we’re really not arguing the transgender revolution at all because we’re just talking about testosterone levels, we’re not even using social construct words like male and female, except of course they are, because they’re talking about male and female events. That’s the whole point of the policy.

Part II

The transgender war on females: Women and girls at risk

Just consider some of the other headlines that have come just in recent days and weeks. For example, just days ago there was a story about transgender power lifter Mary Gregory who has now bragged of winning nine out of nine events at the competition known as the Raw Power Lifting Federation event. We are told Mary Gregory also set new world records for master squat, open bench masters dead lift and masters total. I’ll admit, I have no idea what this is about, but evidently it’s big news.

But evidently it wasn’t welcome news to at least some leading female athletes. One of them former swimming champion, Sharon Davey said, “This is a trans woman, a male body with male physiology, setting a world record and winning a women’s event in America in power lifting, a woman with female biology cannot compete it’s a pointless, unfair playing field.” That according to her tweet.

But that’s your reminders of similar remarks, similar arguments, true on their face made by tennis icon, Martina Navratilova in recent weeks. You recall that she got into hot water because even though she is a prominent lesbian activist, she has said that women’s sports should be reserved for competition among women. She got into trouble for making the very same arguments that in effect, the highest sports tribunal just affirmed. But she made those arguments and got into trouble because the sexual and moral revolutionaries tore her apart. But it’s going to be very interesting to see what they do now with the Olympics.

So evidently they’re really is out there competition for setting records in women’s power lifting and at least many of those women who are into power lifting actually want to compete only with women who may be fellow power lifters.

But just back in February, the headline told us that a transgender boy has won the girl state wrestling title for a second time in Texas. The story began, “For a second year in a row a transgender wrestler has won the Texas girls class 6A 110 pound division.” But this also led to controversy of course, it’s a part of what in the background led Abigail Schreier writing at the Wall Street Journal to write about what she called the transgender war on women.

She points out the fact that biology eventually becomes determinative as she wrote, “It has become rightly fashionable to ridicule the idea of safe spaces, places where adults can hide and sulk like children avoiding the ideas they find threatening, but women” she says, “Need actual safe spaces not from intellectual challenge of course, but from physical threat of harm from men. As a biological matter.” She writes, “Most women are physically outmatched by men. Men are stronger and faster than we are, though we’re better able to tolerate pain and tend to live longer.”

Now in this case, Abigail Shrier is directing her concern at the Equality Act proposed legislation put forth in Congress by prominent Democrats because if that bill were to become law, it would mean that there are no longer any physical safe spaces for girls and women. Because boys and men would be allowed into them. And Abigail Shrier’s at least honest to say that’s not only morally wrong, it’s downright dangerous. She writes, “Any biological males who self-identify as females would under the Equality Act be legally entitled to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms and protective facilities such as battered women’s shelters.” This she says, “Bluntly, will put women and girls at immediate physical risk.”

Weeks before that sports tribunal came to a similar conclusion Abigail Schreier wrote, “Women are biologically different from men as the chromosomes in every cell of our bodies readily testify.” How absurd she says, “That this is necessary to point out.” And she says, “One source of many of our physical differences resides in our glands.”

What an odd time. I’ll just interject. We live in. In which in the Wall Street Journal you’ve got to read about glands, but that’s the world in which we live. Shrier writes, “Boys undergo a testosterone surge during puberty that is 10 to 40 times what girls experience conferring lifetime physical advantages, vastly greater muscle mass, bone density, more fast twitch muscle fiber, larger hearts and lungs, all things that provide absolute and unbridgeable advantage in strength and speed.”

Now you notice this really isn’t about sports at all. She’s writing about keeping girls and women safe, in safe spaces such as women’s restrooms, locker rooms, protective facilities and rescue shelters because it really does matter. I’ll be honest and say the one of the groups I want to watch very closely right now are liberal parents. Liberal rather wealthy, upper middle class parents, the kind of liberal parents, let’s just call them mom and dad. They’re parents who of course care about their children a very great deal and they want their children to have experiences and advantages and so they get their children into sports.

And let’s just say that roughly half of those children are going to be females, previously understood the human beings as girls. But they also want to be seen as tolerant, they want to be seen as with it, they want to be seen as right in the cultural mainstream. They want to be able to answer any question raised by a coworker or a neighbor or any question might be posed by let’s just say a pollster or survey taker. They want to score 100 on the enthusiastically for the LGBTQ revolution question.

How’s that going to square with having a daughter who is not going to win athletic events because there are male bodies competing with her female body in all of these events, because after all the very revolution you just decided you want to champion is the revolution that says your daughter really doesn’t matter as a girl anymore. That’s just a choice she’s made and the choices of others are going to determine with whom she’s going to compete. If that means no girl ever wins again, just too bad.

That’s actually the big question. Is it even going to be possible in any sense in this world to have women’s and girls’ sports? On that question, Martina Navratilova and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, they are absolutely right, but we’re going to find out in fairly short order who is more powerful. The powers of rationality and authority in sport or the trans gender and sexual and moral revolutionaries now in control of just about every dimension of the culture.

It’s going to be interesting to see which of these groups turns out to be stronger in that competition. But I’ll go on to offer the prediction, over the long-term, the moral revolutionaries are far more powerful than those who are trying to draw the line defining females, girls and women in sport.

Part III

Why the transgender revolution won’t fly: Logic breaks down in the TSA line

But while we’re on this, let’s look at some related stories that should not pass without our attention. One of them is an argument by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich in the pages of the New York Times, the article’s entitled “Flying While Trans.”

And in this case the complaint made by the writer is that the TSA, that’s Transportation Security Administration officials in screening processes, and airport lines are making decisions about whether they think an individual being screened is male or female. Turns out that’s important. You’re ahead of me here, because the kind of screening that goes on, the kind of imaging that might be used is going to have to be reviewed by someone who, well as demanded by the vast majority of American citizens, would correspond to the gender of the person being surveyed, being screened.

But this writer says that’s fundamentally unfair because the image that might show up in this writer’s case is not going to correspond to the gender identity that has been chosen and thus the gender identity of the person who’s going to be doing the screening and the complaint here is that’s just not acceptable.

And what’s also interesting is that the writer congratulates United Airlines with expanding its gender options and also touting its new motto, “Fly how you identify.” We are told that American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines along with Alaska Airlines, “Quickly promised they’d make similar changes.” The problem is the “Fly how you identify” is not going to really work with the Transportation Security Administration, who’s going to have to have some idea who’s a man and a woman in order to determine whether a male or a female agent is going to do the screening.

Also a complain here is the fact that some of the imaging machinery makes decisions on its own. The machine, “Proceeds on expectations about anatomy.” Well let’s just state it’s going to have to do that or shut itself down. This writer says, “I identify as gender queer. Last week I just stepped through the barrier at Boston Logan International Airport when I heard the TSA agent shout, ‘I think we pressed the wrong button.’ He had shouted so loudly I assumed he was talking about someone else, but then he spoke again directly to me avoiding my gaze, ‘Go through again,’ he said.”

That has to be one of the most interesting lines at recent media history, a TSA agent saying, “I think we pressed the wrong button.” The demand is made here that the TSA must accommodate, it must catch up. “So far it has refused to articulate why gender selection at the start of screening is necessary.”

Well, let’s just say that you normally don’t have to defend common sense. You don’t have to defend the obvious categories of meaning without which civilization is impossible. I also just want to say we’re going to find out what Americans are really willing to tolerate on this. In order to meet this expectation, we’re going to have to treat all passengers as if they are omni-sex or for that matter assumed to be gender queer. I don’t think most Americans are willing to go along with that. I don’t think most American females are willing to have a male agent do the investigation and the screening. I just don’t think so, but again, we’re about to find out.

Part IV

How can you have a men’s college when you don’t know who a man is?

But next on this theme, I want to turn to a recent release made by Morehouse College, which is America’s only historically black school for men still in existence. The headline of the press release was this, “Morehouse College reaffirms dedication to educate and develop men.” Well that sounds like common sense good news, but you don’t need a press release to say that. So there has to be more to the story and it turns out that the headline is incredibly misleading, even deceptive.

The text of the news release begins, “The Morehouse college board of trustees has approved a gender identity policy that will allow individuals who self-identify as men regardless of the sex assigned to them at birth to be considered for admission in the nation’s only historically black school for men.”

Again, just think about this. The headline says that the college reaffirms his dedication to educate and develop men, but it’s going to allow individuals to decide if they are men regardless of how they were born. So men in this case has to be a word put in quotation marks if used rationally at all.

When you enter into the irrationality and insanity of this kind of revolution, you end up with policies. And again I’m quoting from the document, “Once admitted to the college, all students are expected to self-identify as men throughout their education at Morehouse.” The irrational word there is self-identify. If a student transitions from a man to a woman, that student will no longer be eligible to matriculate at Morehouse. Trans women or individuals who identify as women regardless of the sex assigned to them at birth will not be considered for admission.

But then we’re also told something else. There is even an appeals policy to appeal decisions made upon these stipulations, which means even these stipulations really aren’t going to have any binding authority. This is absolute irrationality. And again, just think of the headline, “Morehouse college reaffirms dedication to educate and develop men.” But that word men here really doesn’t mean men. And that’s what’s really headline news.

It is interesting to observe that the LGBTQ revolution tried to use the logic and the momentum and the model, the civil rights movement, and it is now putting incredible pressure on civil rights institutions to extend the same logic. And you’ll see that political pressure and the pressure of the larger society reflected in this release with a very misleading headline from Morehouse College.

Part V

The surveillance society meets the resistance . . . and it has a snout

But finally, while we were thinking about airport screenings, let’s just face the fact that we are living in the midst of a surveillance society. The New York Times recently ran an article on the paper’s own experiment to find out how surveillance cameras in New York could be used to track and identify individuals. It turned out that it can be done very, very quickly and very, very inexpensively, which means it’s being done.

In this article, by the way, it says that 54% of American adults now exist in a law enforcement facial recognition database, that according to officials at Georgetown Law School. Furthermore, just considering one little geographic area lower Manhattan, according to the newspaper, there are 9,000 plus camera feeds just in that one area. That’s 9,000 cameras. In a city like London it is now estimated that there are so many cameras that there is nowhere to be in London outdoors or in any commercial or professional space where you are not constantly being monitored and recorded by a camera.

They’re obviously huge worldview and moral issues raised by the surveillance society, but just in recent days, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about some inhabitants of our country who simply refuse to go along, and it turns out their compatriots and other countries are also refusing, especially when it comes down to resisting facial recognition software.

Who are these inhabitants? It turns out they are farm animals. They’re not going along. The headline in the front page article of the Wall Street Journal, “Facial recognition software meets its match, farm animals.” The subhead, “Cows, pigs kick up fuss photo time it’s hard to tell a donkey to stand still.” All kinds of people involved in managing the animals want to use facial recognition software, but it’s really not working with farm animals. We are told that cows have tried to hide, they licked cameras, they’ve untied equipment cables with their tongues.

Yifan Wang reports that pigs have squirmed out of reach, donkeys have kicked away camera phones and sneezed in photographers faces. One analyst involved in this project said, “It’s not like you can tell a donkey to stand still and raise its chin up slightly. That’s just impossible.” The paper then tells us, “Animal faces require hundreds of reference points, many more than humans to derive algorithms that can achieve similar levels of differentiation.”

Another analyst is then quoted in my favorite line of the story, “At the beginning we weren’t even sure where exactly the focal point of a cow’s nose should be.” Another individual involved in the project just summarized it this way, “Animals are generally not the camera loving type.” The paper then reports on his first outing to photograph pigs, this individual made the err of arriving just before feeding time. He tried to hide as thirty hungry hogs turned on him. He slid and fell, “I had to throw out everything I was wearing.”

So we have finally met the resistance to the surveillance society and it turns out the resistance has a snout, but nobody really knows where the center of it is.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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