Joshua Pauling - Crackpot public school history teacher
Joshua Pauling philosophizes about transgender kids

Responding to a medical condition with philosophy is profoundly pointless.

Witherspoon Institute’s pseudo-intellectual blog provides a platform for Joshua Pauling of South Carolina. Pauling asks: What Are Bodies For? Beyond Bathrooms and Women’s Sports. Note that the second part of that title is declarative in contrast to a question.

I have little patience for titles that ask (and beg) a rhetorical question. I have even less patience for stilted prose as in:

When gendered embodiment is treasured, maleness and femaleness are understood not as acts we perform, but as our very bodily essence. Being a man or a woman is not simply what one does, it is who one is.

Pauling seems to think that the mitigation of a medical condition can be marginalized as “beliefs and practice:”

It’s also essential to know the why behind such beliefs and practices. We should be ready to counter the frequent claim that traditional ideas can only be attributed to irrational bias against those who identify as LGBT. If the opportunity for meaningful dialogue beyond bathrooms and sports policy actually materializes, we should make sure that we can offer compelling answers as to what our bodies are actually for.

“Identify as” is usually Christian-speak. It is as if to deny that people are LGBTQ. Moreover, I will allow the reader to determine whether bias is irrational. Let us not forget that all of this noise over transgender persons is in defense of scripture.

Remove Genesis 1:27 from the equation and there is no reason for these folks to devote so much negative time and energy to demonizing trans persons — mostly trans youth. The would-be arbiters of morality are being cruel to children which doesn’t seem, very moral to me.

“In other words, faith-based dogma compels Mr. Pauling to attempt to turn evidence-based objective truth into dogma. … It is a sophomoric attempt to place science and doctrine on equal terms.”

Pauling doesn’t seem to have a clue regarding the views of folks who accept trans folks as they are:

Competing Rights and Claims of Animus

Transgender controversies usually end in a stalemate, with progressives and conservatives stuck in a war of wills over individual rights. Progressives prioritize the therapeutic rights of personal self-expression in their attempt to avoid dignitary harm and implement “gender-affirming” care. Conservatives, on the other hand, prioritize the legal rights of biologically male and female majorities in sex-specific spaces and the religious rights of those who conscientiously object to gender ideology.

Maybe it’s just me but I believe in treating a vulnerable group of people with kindness. As for Mr. Pauling:

“Individual rights?” “Rights of self-expression?” Those are expressions of minimalism. Is wearing eyeglasses a “right?” How about hearing aids? From time to time I use a cane. These are not considered rights. These are medical necessities. We see, hear and walk better.

Gender-affirming care is not an abstraction. Gender-affirming care represents the clinical practice standards of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Who is Pauling to dispute the medical science? What erudition makes him remotely credible?

Attempts to conform medical science to religious doctrine are irresponsible and intellectually dishonest. “Gender ideology” is dishonest religious babble. Gender is science; not dogma.

Gender as a separate construct from natal sex has been in the scientific literature for well over 100 years. Joshua Pauling is attempting to make the concept of gender a philosophy rather than settled science that he doesn’t like due to religious dogma.

In other words, faith-based dogma compels Mr. Pauling to attempt to turn evidence-based objective truth into dogma. Doing so is a dishonest equivocation. It is a sophomoric attempt to place science and doctrine on equal terms.

“… according to the science that Pauling doesn’t like, gender and gender incongruence have a ‘durable biological basis.'”

Some people believe — based on scripture — that Earth is less than 10,000 years old. As long as they do not try to incorporate that belief into public school curricula those folks are pretty harmless crackpots.

People who attempt to deprecate science regarding gender, on the other hand, are not harmless. They are toxic. They contribute to making the lives of already vulnerable and fragile kids strenuous to the point of causing self-harm. Mr. Pauling either doesn’t understand or chooses to ignore the issue of minority stress.

Pseudo-intellectual drivel:

Gender Goes Beyond Mere Performance

Transgenderism is an outworking of the mind/body dualism that pervades modern thinking. As Houston Baptist University professor Nancy Pearcey argues in her 2019 book, Love Thy Body, this framework leads to a fragmented view of human beings. By treating “the body as extrinsic to the person” the autonomous self can impose its own interpretations on the physical body.

Nancy Pearcey asserts many profoundly stupid things. She may be an intelligent individual but she is practitioner of the dark arts: Efforts to conform science to religious teachings. Those efforts cause intelligent people to present as imbeciles.

Speaking of which …

Within the dualistic framework of contemporary gender ideology, the mind’s internal sense of gender identity takes primacy over the body to the point of bending, modifying, or mutilating physical reality to one’s own will. In such a system, gender is not tied in any meaningful sense to the body. Rather, it is a social construct defined by behaviors, attitudes, and practices that are enacted or performed as one chooses.

First of all, according to the science that Pauling doesn’t like, gender and gender incongruence have a “durable biological basis.” Furthermore research relating to gender cognition concludes:

“On the other hand, children who are supported in their gender identities thrive.”

… transgender children showed a clear pattern: They viewed themselves in terms of their expressed gender and showed preferences for their expressed gender, with response patterns mirroring those of two cisgender (nontransgender) control groups …
Curiosity akin to my sourdough starter:

But all of this doesn’t add up. If gender identity is totally independent of one’s biological sex, why rush to change one’s body to align with a subjective internal identity? And furthermore, if one’s gender identity is really so free and unbounded, why is it so uncreatively bound up with old gender stereotypes?

First of all, gender is not “subjective.” It is objective and calling it otherwise is a close cousin to the drivel of “gender ideology.” Secondly, gender incongruence can create enormous distress. It can produce an unmanageable combination of acute depression and anxiety.

On the other hand, children who are supported in their gender identities thrive. They have levels of stress that are comparable to or only slightly greater than their cisgender peers. Should children suffer because ancient texts declare that they do not exist?

Pontification in the absence of a realistic alternative:

For a movement that claims to move beyond the binary, it seems quite intent on doubling down on gender stereotypes and seems unavoidably tied to the stubborn reality that gender is physically embodied in a person. Ironically, the transgender person’s desire to have his or her body and mind align is a sideways confession of the truth that our bodies are central to our identity and that we long for congruence between our physicality and mentality.

“Movement?” A very small percentage of the population are transgender persons. An even smaller percentage of the population are non-binary. According to the science, gender is a continuum with male and female at the extreme ends.

“About 1,600 words with no solutions. Just pontifications; arguments from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam).”

Furthermore transgender people are not trying to align “body and mind.” It’s not a philosophy. Transgender people want to present as their gender because doing so relieves the symptoms of gender dysphoria. It’s just that damned simple.

Gratuitous complexity (complexity bias) is a logical fallacy. Occam’s razor states that, faced with competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation is the most likely to be correct. However, most people believe that the most complex explanation is correct.

No answers. No alternatives. Just surplusage:

Thankfully, there is an alternative to gender ideology’s discordant dualism. When gendered embodiment is treasured, maleness and femaleness are understood not as acts we perform, but as our very bodily essence. Being a man or a woman is not simply what one does, it is who one is. This releases men and women from unhealthy and unrealistic gender stereotypes, past or present.

First of all this is a philosophy rather than anything meaningful to individuals who suffer from gender incongruence. Mind–body “dualism” is a doctrine and not a solution to anything.

Secondly, the philosophy is without a remedy for a medical condition. That, in turn, creates some questions:

  1. Does Mr. Pauling believe that gender incongruence does not exist?
  2. Does Pauling dismiss the distress that the condition creates?
  3. Can Pauling offer an alternative to transitioning that is scientifically supported?

About 1,600 words with no solutions. Just pontifications; arguments from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam). An appeal to ignorance (a logical fallacy) is is often defined as an argument that cannot be supported with evidence.

Most of what follows is philosophical. I am not disparaging philosophy. Not at all. I am stating that philosophy is the wrong response to a medical condition. It makes no more sense than going to the dentist with a toothache only to be lectured on mind-body dualism.

“… without a meaningful alternative for transgender persons, what amounts to just more dogma is irrelevant.”

Some examples:

When we understand that our bodies have purpose and are central to our identity, we find a better way. Our bodies become gifts, as does all of life. …

Male–female differences are not performative acts, nor are they biological accidents. They reveal something profound about what it means to be human. This is reflected in any relationship, but especially in the self-giving gift of marital love …

In a world of gender questions and confusion, the gift of sexed bodies and their familial telos is profoundly counter-cultural—and deeply compelling. Unbounded sexual and gender choice sounds freeing, but it provides no framework for meaningful action in the world, for it deconstructs too much. …

Obviously, gender is not a choice. Were that not the case then people would choose to be gender congruent.

It’s time to move beyond the plastic constructions and distorted shadows of our present age and into the real, fleshy, and messy world of manhood and womanhood. We can do more than “just say no” to gender ideology trumpeted by media, politics, and celebrity.

Joshua Pauling is instructing the faithful. Okay. However, without a meaningful alternative for transgender persons, what amounts to just more dogma is irrelevant. What is the point? Trans folks are not going to disappear because Joshua Pauling disapproves of them.

“Opposing science with philosophy … only highlights the absolute fact that they lack a compelling argument that stands on its own as objective truth.”

People like Pauling never take the time to speak with transgender persons. If they did then they might not treat them as confused people who made terrible choices. Pauling lacks the intellectual curiosity to understand them without the imposition of his own agenda.

The way to disagree with science is not all that complicated:

  1. This is the science.
  2. This is why I disagree with the science.
  3. Here is the evidence to support my opposing arguments.

Opposing science with philosophy is classic Ryan T. Anderson who still edits this outlet. It only highlights the absolute fact that they lack a compelling argument that stands on its own as objective truth. Joshua Pauling only confirms that he does not know what he does not know.

Joshua Pauling teaches at Lancaster County School District in Lancaster, SC. His outline for teaching history is right on the money as long as he refrains from selective observation:

In this course students will be learning US History with its specific stories, facts and events, and will move further into doing history, by developing thinking skills which are the basis of intelligent reflection on the past and which mirror the tasks of professional historians. While learning to master these tasks, students act as “apprentice historians,” interpreting the past in attempts to better understand the present.

It is unfortunate that Joshua Pauling does not extend similar logic to human sexuality. Pauling’s critical thinking skills in regards to sexuality are compromised by religious dogma. Remove the doctrine and Pauling is probably a smart guy.

Joshua Pauling teaches high school history and was educated at Messiah College, Winthrop University, and Reformed Theological Seminary. … He is also head elder of All Saints Lutheran Church (LCMS).

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.