The worry expressed in these quotes is definitely legitimate.
Saying we ought to be careful as scientists because Republicans and fundamentalists can misuse our discoveries is wrong. Talking about "essences" and framing is interesting but its just shortcuts for people who won't take the time to soak up the vast set of facts we already have let alone ask for more.
On second thought....I should have read all the linked posts to Chris's post in detail before pulling the trigger on my keyboard. [my keyboard has a trigger, does yours?] Turns out nearly all the referenced posting and comment is largely in agreement about science and acceptance on gender issues. And particularly, Chris is in the business of exploring how opinions are constructed which is important for us to understand. The little squall of comments has died down and at the end of it all, aside from the apologies I owe, only a few unremarkable things remain to remark upon.
- If anything is worse than sensationalizing an uncontroversial scientific publication it is uncritically picking up the alarm and spreading it. The concern was more about saying too much in public than in knowing too much. [my mistake, but shame on BBC too.]
- Whenever science arrives at an understanding that challenges conventional beliefs, it will be subjected to misinterpretation. The most constructive attitude the scientific community can have in the face of this inevitability is, short of jeopardizing research funds, to consider patient and persistent educating as every scientist's job even if the only reason they went into science was a personal curiosity. Senationalism and instant dissemination are here to stay so we just have to keep learning and calmly explaining what we have learned…and calmly refuting from our facts the distortions others reach from their assumptions and fears. [my opinion]
- Natural is not the same as “typical” or “normal” and it is the idea of being “normal” that carries the heavy load of socially constructed stigma. I use “natural” as the opposite of “unnatural”, ie natural means NOT behaviors learned or otherwise imposed contrary to the inclinations of the organism. Humans as a subject of study make that distinction hard to elucidate because they are so darned reprogramable.