Dr. Paul R. McHugh is dedicated to misleading the public in service to Catholic Church doctrine
Paul R. McHugh is “interviewed” by Matthew J. Franck to defend the teachings of the Catholic Church

The two professional Catholics discuss their mutual obsession with transgender persons.

What could possibly go wrong?

Matthew J. Franck and Dr. Paul R. McHugh are indisputably intelligent, well-educated and accomplished individuals. However, both men subordinate their judgment and knowledge to the teachings of the Catholic Church. For them, the dogma is incontrovertible truth irrespective of evidence to the contrary.

Franck is the driver of this demolition derby entry. His opus is titled: This transgender ‘folly’ is going to collapse, just as eugenics did. That perception is based on dogmatic — in contrast to objective — truth.

“[McHugh] sets up the notion that scientific findings regarding transgender persons are populist chic.”

I have seen this at two outlets; Witherspoon Institute’s pretentious blog and Mercatornet. Both are extremist-Catholic sites.

The subtitle reads:

“This very, very complex thing is being over-simplified,” says a world expert on the transgender phenomenon.

You will forgive me if I do not consider Paul McHugh an expert on gender incongruence. Dr. McHugh has not published research on the subject to a respectable, peer-reviewed academic journal. Moreover, there is no “phenomenon” at work.

Franck spends a great deal of time gushing over McHugh’s credentials. As I have already written, Dr. McHugh is a highly accomplished individual. Then we get to the colloquy.

I will style Matthew Franck’s rhetoric like this.

I will style Paul McHugh’s rhetoric like this.

Cutting through some verbose fluff, we get the setup:

MF: …fashions that captivated psychology and psychiatry in recent decades were “multiple personality disorder,” also known as “dissociative identity disorder,” and the idea of “repressed sexual memories” from childhood that adults can “recover” under therapy. What accounts for such therapeutic fevers gripping the mental health professions?

PM: That’s a very good question. I’m not sure I understand why we’re so vulnerable to this. It may well be in part that we are a discipline that cannot often use bodily material, like an autopsy or something, to prove ourselves right or wrong.
[…]
The tyranny of popular opinion can hold in thrall a whole population, after all, for a while. …

“McHugh indulges in the logical fallacy of an appeal to a false authority. Furthermore, he does so quite frequently.”

The objective of the above is to suggest that psychiatry is prone to popular fads. The appearance is that McHugh asked Franck, in advance, to pose the question; tee up the ball. This sets up the notion that scientific findings regarding transgender persons are populist chic. Moreover, the intent is to suggest that these findings will be shown to be erroneous in the future.

Franck’s analogy is pointless unless and until research dictates a different approach. There is no such research. Therefore, both men are engaged in self-indulgent wishful thinking. Their hope is that the science will eventually conform to the dogma.

The ironic thing is that we could probably make a solid case (for some people) that extreme Catholicism is a populist fad. The religious doctrine is sometimes in conflict with objective truth. That produces a higher error rate than medical science.

Furthermore, these are two men who, if pressed, will claim that gay people are “objectively disordered.” They will do so despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary because that is what the Church teaches.

In a sense the Church is correct. When considered in the context of the body of Catholic teachings homosexuality is disordered. However, that is a theological point of view. One that does not conform to the science associated with human sexuality

Religious zealots confuse theology with objective truth. Objective truth is substantiated with evidence. McHugh goes on to state his theological opinion (“fantasies”) as fact:

PM: Why, though, psychiatry gets swept by these fantasies is still a further question. In part, I used to just think it was the Freudian commitment to suspicion of other people and of society and everything — it was one of the schools of suspicion —

Paul McHugh often cites philosophers and Freud. McHugh rarely cites evidence to substantiate a point of view. McHugh indulges in the logical fallacy of an appeal to a false authority. Furthermore, he does so quite frequently.

Apparently, gender-affirming care constitutes a “magical secret” meaning that it is conjured up by people who find power through esotericism. It almost suggests a conspiracy:

PM: If somebody comes along and tells you “Here’s a wonderful magical secret that will open to you the nature of the world and the nature of humankind,” it’s usually silly in the long run. That’s usually picked up by people who have no traditional background of their own. After all, it’s a kind of golden calf; you come down from the mountain and really try to bring them something, and what do you find them doing? Dancing around the golden calf.

Scientists who support gender-affirming care are not part of an “illicit conspiracy.”

In other words, gender-affirming care is comparable to astrology, mysticism and occultism. Furthermore, you cannot trust people who disagree with McHugh because they do not have their own background. Really?

Please keep the title of this thing in mind. This is all about transgender people. All of these statements (and I have not commented on much of the material)constitute an effort to discredit the science associated with gender identity.

Furthermore, it is an effort that is based upon an appeal to a false equivalence. People “dancing around the golden calf” are equivalent to clinicians who support gender-affirming care. That is almost a means of defining the term logical fallacy.

Shitting BullLogical fallacies exist as a means of persuading people to believe bullshit.

People make logically fallacious arguments when they are unable to construct an intellectually honest argument. Dogmatists are quite expert at this form of deceit and misdirection.

One needs to focus on their objective to fully appreciate the irrationality of their presentation. They are trying to discredit gender-affirming care to support religious doctrine.

Matthew J. Franck makes another fallacious claim:

MF: The appeal is to make some idol of a solution to some big problem.

In the above, Franck is using the word “appeal” to mean a serious request made to the public. Doing so suggests an intent by a group of people to misinform others. Gender-affirming care is not just wrong, according to these two. It is part of an illicit conspiracy.

MF: In 2016, you and Dr. Lawrence Mayer published a 143-page monograph in the pages of The New Atlantis titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.”

That essay did not meet the definition of a monograph which is a detailed study of a single issue. In terms of medical science a study, in my opinion, is the process through which evidence is presented in a reputable peer-reviewed academic journal.

New Atlantis is a Christian journal in contrast to an academic journal. The outlet does not subject articles to peer review. Larry Mayer, by the way, is someone I like when he is not pontificating about human sexuality. He is considered a leading authority on the epidemiology of coronaviruses.

McHugh and Mayer have both published a considerable amount of research to prestigious journals. McHugh and Mayer have not — to the best of my knowledge — published research to those same journals regarding transgender people.

“It would appear that Paul R. McHugh ‘looked at the scientific evidence of these things’ through the lens of selective observation and selective disregard.”

McHugh takes Franck’s bait:

PM: I was prompted by the idea that I ought to at least say something in this matter, because so many ideas were floating around, and if I couldn’t speak, who could? And when I looked at the scientific evidence of these things, the very idea that these things were immutable, and discrete, and people were “born that way,” it didn’t work from the science point of view, and they might, in our society, not be such good ideas, not good things for people to believe. So I thought, “Well, if I can’t speak at my stage and my development, nobody can speak, and I’ll see what happens.” So, it was very interesting. I found it extremely interesting.

Dr. McHugh has a rather exalted opinion of himself (“if I couldn’t …”). “These things” (plural) presumably refers to both sexual orientation and gender identity. McHugh knows perfectly well that “born that way” is shorthand for something developed prior to cognition.

That is to say that sexual orientation and gender identity generally form by around two-years of age.

There is an abundance of research contrary to the views of McHugh and Frank. The two men prefer to pretend that it does not exist. According to one study:

One major influence discussed relates to organisational effects that the early hormone environment exerts on both gender identity and sexual orientation. Evidence that gender identity and sexual orientation are masculinised by prenatal exposure to testosterone and feminised in it absence is drawn from basic research in animals, correlations of biometric indices of androgen exposure and studies of clinical conditions associated with disorders in sexual development.

Another paper draws similar conclusions:

The evidence suggests that the sexual dimorphic brain could be the anatomical substrate of psychosexual development, on which gonadal hormones may have a shaping role during prenatal and pubertal periods. Additionally, according to several heritability studies, genetic components may have a role, but a promising candidate gene has not been identified.

My search yielded a large number of hits. I just took the first two. McHugh has access to considerably more medical literature that I have. It would appear that Paul R. McHugh “looked at the scientific evidence of these things” through the lens of selective observation and selective disregard.

PM: …what did surprise me was how many people would say, well, you know, “This is just wrong,” but would never show me any evidence. Dean Hamer, whom I have admired and thought of as a very coherent geneticist and student of homosexuality down in NIH, said “This has all just been disproven, it’s bad science,” but he never pointed out anything or said, “Here’s the article that proves it.”

The above is baloney. Presumably McHugh is referring to Dr. Hamer’s interview for the Advocate. Therein Hamer points to numerous studies. For example:

“Above all, peer review serves as an assurance of sound scientific methodology. McHugh and Mayer were not peer reviewers. Not by any stretch of the imagination.”

This type of data cherry-picking makes the section of the report on gender identity equally unreliable. For example, the authors come out strongly against affirming the identities of transgender children, arguing that their “dysphoria,” as they insist on pathologizing gender fluidity, might be transient. But they neglect two very important recent studies showing that trans children who are affirmed by their parents are as happy and healthy as their peers, and that allowing them to express their true gender decreases depression and anxiety.

Hamer linked to two ThinkProgress articles by (if I recall correctly) Zack Ford which are no longer available. However, Ford linked to the original research. McHugh is playing semantical games.

McHugh attempts to detract from the fact that the New Atlantis piece was not peer-reviewed. Franck makes a reply that is stupendously preposterous. It works to remove credibility from anything Franck writes:

MF: It’s interesting to me that you brought up that critique of peer review, because I had a follow-up on that front. I heard that a lot too when that long piece came out, that The New Atlantis is not a peer-reviewed journal … And my first thought on hearing that was, well, of course not, what you and he did was the peer review. That is, you two, very knowledgeable in your field, did a comprehensive survey of studies in the field that had been peer reviewed in order to draw conclusions for a wider public about what we know and don’t know about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Uh, no. Peer reviewers (referees) ensure that alternative points of view are presented. Above all, peer review serves as an assurance of sound scientific methodology. McHugh and Mayer were not peer reviewers. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

“As for Abigail Shrier, she has no credentials whatsoever. Shrier wrote a book based on a discredited study (discredit by its own publisher) for the purpose of defending orthodox Judaism.”

What they presented was a literature review comprised of articles that they selected and sometimes mischaracterized. That is not peer review. Moreover peer reviewers are disinterested. McHugh and Mayer were not, and are not, disinterested parties.

Yet they persist:

PM: It seemed to me they just didn’t want the conversation to go on. This way of calling it not peer-reviewed was to say that I was saying something that was supposed to be a new discovery. I wasn’t saying anything new, I was saying “This is how I read the literature.”

I’ll skip the gratuitous BS graphic in the above. What scientists “just didn’t want” was the promotion of bullshit to the general public. Moreover, peer review has no correlation to something that is “supposed to be a new discovery.”

Furthermore, McHugh wasn’t saying “this is how I read the literature.” McHugh was saying, in contrast: “This is how I want the public to understand human sexuality regardless of the merits of my arguments.”

I will give Matthew Franck credit for knowing who the religious crackpots are:

MF: In a later piece in The New Atlantis, in 2017, you and Dr. Mayer were joined by Dr. Paul Hruz, a pediatric endocrinologist, in cautioning medical professionals against using puberty-suppressing drugs with children who present with gender dysphoria. Given the increasing incidence of patients presenting such psychological symptoms since that time, especially adolescent girls who wish to transition to “being” boys, as Abigail Shrier has written, this looks like it was a very timely intervention on your part. What is the concern, exactly, with these puberty-suppressing drugs?

In 2017 I pointed out, through the SPLC, Hruz’s utter lack of knowledge. According to court records, a lawyer for his legal adversary pointed out:

[Hruz] is proffered as an expert witness based on his study of “existing literature related to the incidence, potential etiology and treatment of gender dysphoria.” … Translated, it appears to mean that he has read some things about it. Dr. Hruz admits that he has not treated any transgender patients, patients with gender dysphoria, conducted peer-reviewed research about gender identity, transgender people, or gender dysphoria; and is not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, nor mental health care provider of any kind, who could speak knowledgeably about the effects of Defendant’s discriminatory policy on transgender students, let alone Plaintiff.

As for Abigail Shrier, she has no credentials whatsoever. Shrier wrote a book based on a discredited study (discredit by its own publisher) for the purpose of defending orthodox Judaism.

Matthew J. Franck and Paul R. McHugh are engaged in trying to misinform the public about the medical science because of their religious beliefs.

McHugh is profoundly dishonest:

As important, and a reason for thinking that judgment is affected, is that children, young people, who believe that they belong in the opposite sex, if permitted to go through puberty normally, 85 to 95 percent of them will at the end of that time say “No, I am who I am.”

In the above, McHugh is inverting the logic. Persistence of the condition is a function of severity. The reason that desisters go through normal puberty is that their dysphoria is not acute. McHugh is actually defeating his own argument. This proves that puberty blockers are being carefully administered so that only the most severely affected adolescents receive them.

Then McHugh inverts the logic on the other side of the equation:

But if you give them the puberty blockers at age nine or ten, only 5 or 10 percent at the end of that time will say “I don’t want to go on further.” They always want to go on further. Something has changed in them. One of the things that change must be the way their brain is shaped when this triggering comes along for puberty. It gets thwarted. And the idea that it’s all reversible, that’s still very debatable.

Again, that is because only the most acutely affected youth are receiving puberty blockers. The most acutely affected are the least likely to desist.

Speaking of gender-affirming care:

PM: I’m amazed at the amount of power and weaponry that it’s gotten behind it now, with the government and law and even medical organisations getting behind it, but I’m absolutely convinced that this is folly and it’s going to collapse, just as the eugenics folly collapsed.

Where is the evidence that contradicts gender-affirming care? Where? As Dean Hamer pointed out, trans youth who are supported in their gender identity are as healthy and happy as their cisgender peers.

The bottom line to all of this is that our understanding of medical science should not be influenced by religion. Matthew J. Franck and Paul R. McHugh are engaged in trying to misinform the public about the medical science because of their religious beliefs.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.