November 02, 2021
“From the jacket: An impassioned defense of intellectual freedom and a clarion call to intellectual responsibility, Galileo’s Middle Finger presents one American’s eye-opening story of life in the trenches of scientific controversy. For two decades, historian Alice Dreger has led a life of extraordinary engagement, combining activist service to victims of unethical medical research with defense of scientists whose work has outraged identity politics activists. With spirit and wit, Dreger offers in Galileo’s Middle Finger an unforgettable vision of the importance of rigorous truth-seeking in today’s America, where both the free press and free scholarly inquiry struggle under dire economic and political threats.
Galileo’s Middle Finger describes Dreger’s long and harrowing journeys between the two camps for which she felt equal empathy: social justice activists determined to win, and researchers determined to put hard truths before comfort. Ultimately what emerges is a lesson about the intertwining of justice and truth—and a lesson of the importance of responsible scholars and journalists in our fragile democracy.
“…an engrossing volume that is sure to undo any lingering notions that academic debate is the province of empiricists who pledge allegiance to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” — Chicago Tribune
“…Galileo’s Middle Finger is a disturbing but deeply informative exploration of what happens when liberal scientists and humanitarian activists clash over matters of human identity. Alice Dreger’s long history of evidence-based activism makes her the perfect guide to this territory….Dreger also possesses a keen sense of irony and a sharp wit; these regularly get her into trouble but, in recompense, make her a pleasure to read.” — Human Nature”
I purchased this book probably a year or so back, and I’m just now [started about a week ago] reading through it…and I must say, I am greatly appreciating what I’ve recognized as a serious societal problem [bullies who’ve decided their “activism” includes stalking, tormenting and injuring other people] having a light shown on it…exposing it for what it is.
I’m just starting the fifth chapter…and I’ve already encountered a number of behaviors described, which I’ve witnessed [or even personally experienced] from unhinged lunatics.
A couple of Alice’s comments, you could have literally lifted out of my own, personal writing history…at least the substance of the observations.
Naturally…this is mostly turning out to be an uplifting read [if infuriating, to mentally envision the abuses Alice and various researchers were put through], in that I love to see push back against this type of bullying bullshit.
Those sorts of assholes who decide they’re going to dictate “reality” to everybody else, and destroy anyone who even remotely “gets in the way” of their grandiose delusions…the people who are all about themselves, and what they want, to the point where they don’t give a shit that they’re living on a planet with other people, who also need their own identities un-defiled by society…Those assholes piss me right the fuck off. They’re the exact sort, who will throw anyone to the wolves who does not serve their own, personal agenda…and they’ll often do it in the most callous, cruel and hypocritical of ways.
There’s a lot of reasons why science and activism need their distance from each other…One of them is the simple fact, that aggressive zealots will distort public perception of academic research…Making them some of the biggest liars out there.
Yes…life is very complicated…Not everything discovered is going to paint “you” in the most rosy manner possible…Zealots need to grow the fuck up, and accept that you don’t get every single thing you want in life.
Galileo’s Middle Finger covers [among others] the controversy over the Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman meta analysis from 1998…in a refreshingly honest way, for a book marketed to the mainstream public.
This study, and more so the unhinged insanity which followed, has had a profound impact on me…which started me on my own road to social activism, as a MAP [Minor Attracted Person]. What happened to this sound, peer reviewed [and twice since repeated by different researchers] analysis, and all who were directly involved with it, is down right grotesque…indefensibly wrong…and of the worst integral standing imaginable.
There are still people out there, who claim that it was some sort of “pedophile pushed propaganda”…when in reality, the people behind pushing for this to take place, were professionals interested in assessing the needs of “child sexual abuse victims”, in a therapeutic setting. They had absolutely zero interest in legalizing or endorsing sex with anyone under the age of eighteen…On the contrary…the fact that such is illegal and severely stigmatized, in many ways is their career “bread and butter”.
While I have very conflicted feelings about people who make their living, specializing in “child sex abuse”, when so many of them cannot ever recognize or accept the nuances of reality…I still accept that many [most?] of them are acting out of a generally decent, caring place…they’re just prone to having large social blind spots, and having their perception severely skewed, from having been habitually exposed to some of the most extreme cases [many of really horrible abuse]…Often, these sorts of people start believing that nuance just doesn’t matter…”The worst they’ve ever seen, trumps all else!”…and “Screw you! If your experience doesn’t fit the victim perpetrator model”…”You’re getting dragged along with the narrative, regardless”.
This whole issue in research…even just flatly, un-apologetically studying “pedophiles”, has been hijacked for decades…held hostage to the tantrums of bullies, who do everything they can to inhibit it’s taking place…And that research [though some of it is finally happening] has been stalled for years, precisely because of the actions of these malefactors.
There is one thing in this section I cannot let pass, however.
After all her careful accounting, and even acknowledging how it’s important to minorities that they not be reduced down to any singular trait [sex and sexual activity, in this case]…Alice decides to offer a tasteless, crude ad hominem towards NAMBLA…as seemingly her main comment and observation on NAMBLA is…
“Well, that little “we’re not advocating pedophilia” disclaimer sure didn’t work. Activist pedophiles saw in the Rind paper justification for us all to just get out of the way already and let them at little kids. Blatantly ignoring the point made at the end of the Rind paper, the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMbLA) called the Rind paper “The Good News About Man/Boy Love.” Thus the Rind paper became the gospel according to NAMbLA, a group whose mere logo can thoroughly creep you out. (The M for Man leans to the right, pushing against the little b for boy, as though the M is mounting the b. Seriously, that’s what it looks like.)”
Did Alice ever even discuss any of this, with anyone from NAMBLA?…I guarantee you, she completely made up the “M mounting b” nonsense…and this was a monumentally disgusting thing to do, in what has otherwise been a rather good read thus far…It’s contempt and prejudice bleeding through…It’s brazenly degrading and dehumanizing.
You’d think with all her previous words of empathy for trans people and sexual minorities, and acknowledging how damaging this type of stereotyping is to minorities…she’d understand the gross hypocrisy in crossing this line…even with “pedophiles”…If your moral compos is consistent, then you just don’t go there…ever.
This might very well come off as shocking news to Alice…but having been there among many fellow BoyLovers at the time [on BoyChat, no less]…I can attest that there was a pronounced voice among some BoyLovers…a voice of annoyance towards NAMBLA for having published this.
Many of us, myself included, believe that we need to maintain a healthy distance from the actual analysis of data, because of our own potential conflicts of interest…and that NAMBLA article was violating that principle.
I’m confident enough to say, that the author of that article had his heart in the right place…but it was a starkly reckless thing to do…and I am sure they’ve carried the burden with them ever since, knowing that their article was key in launching a process which would ultimately hold vital research back for at least a decade.
It’s been infuriating, watching how zealot, bad faith actors have exploited that NAMBLA article.
They’ll take everything you say…warp and twist it…and repackage it…presenting it as something unrecognizable [often even contrary] to the individual who originally expressed it.
Truth be told…the only thing the author [forgive me, I don’t remember who] of the NAMBLA article was really guilty of…was being happy to see any glimmer of honesty, showing up in research relevant to us…after a lifetime of being starved of such research analysis…The fact that anyone actually attempted to be honest, fair and humane about these issues, is like a miracle to people like us…We expect these types of studies to be spitefully stereotyping, and stripping the humanity from all who don’t fit the dominant social narrative…be those “victims” or MAPs. Inconvenient data and individuals, have a history of being discarded and diverted in dishonest ways, in order to please the people who will throw tantrums otherwise.
…And those who don’t “step in line”?…we see what happens, in cases like that of “The Rind Report”.
But, again…it was not as if there was no push back towards that NAMBLA article…Various BoyLovers did take issue with this move…We’re not a single voiced monolith…Many of us realized the serious potential pitfalls, in aggressively celebrating the findings of this research.
We all needed to stand back, and give it its space.
The Fight for Identity:
Another thing I strongly appreciate, is the acknowledgement of a minorities fight to control it’s own identity [a principle I’ve written about several times in the past]…Which is a fight MAPs have been rising to for decades now. While I think we honestly are starting to break through, it’s insane that we still have to deal with all the garbage and abuse that gets heaped upon us…It’s insane, the stereotypes we are judged by…or that people actually think “you’re the next potential John Wayne Gacy”.
How many decades does one have to live a legal, ethical, responsible, honest and even sexually celibate life, forgoing so many of your own comforts and desires…before people get it through their thick skulls, that you are not a monster?…that you’re not violent?…that you don’t lack self control, or empathy for others?…that you are a decent human being?
MAPs fight the exact same fight [admittedly with a few, different variables], that trans people and other sexual minorities fight…We fight for our own identity, and to be seen, respected and valued for who we honestly are.