A Case Study in Rebuttal, Part 2
Picking up without preamble from my last previous post, I’m digging into what Denny Burk contributed at “The Federalist” first. In that piece, posted earlier this month, he attempted to use a segment from the Jimmy Kimmel show to bolster his ongoing argument against trans people (which appears to be one of his personal assumptions, as he often returns to the subject on his blog and in his public work). Kimmel, for his part, made a valid and needed point about the necessity that we as a society not give in to the trend towards equating opinion with objective fact. For a timely example, President Trump made false statements today about the size of the crowd at the inauguration yesterday. Most of the media pointed out the claims were not factual, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer felt the need to scold the White House press crew about how shameful it was to contradict the president’s claims.
The problem, though, is that factually the crowd was what it was. That Mr. Trump is of the opinion that it was much bigger does not change the number of people who appeared. This was Kimmel’s point, no matter the power and authority possessed by the speaker, a false claim remains a false claim and one cannot decide if the truth is really true.
Burk sees this as a golden opportunity for an “AHA!” moment as he pivots to say “This is what I’ve been sayin’!” when it comes to trans people. Except, of course, it’s not what he would have you (or rather, the sheep who trust him) to believe. Let me quote the pillars upon which he hopes to build that case:
“Expressive individualism holds that each person ought to be able to define his or her own identity, even if that identity is at odds with some objective reality. Furthermore, the expression of that identity becomes the path to happiness and flourishing.”
Whether or not this is a valid claim is irrelevant. As I covered previously, “expressive individualism” is an esoteric academic philosophical speculation that actually has nothing to do one way or the other with the legitimacy of being trans. Then he adds this:
“Transgenderism is premised on the notion that every person ought to be able to define his or her own individual gender identity, even if that psychological identity is at odds with their biological sex. Furthermore, the expression of that gender identity is the path to happiness and flourishing. “
Notice how he tries to draw the parallel by the phrasing he uses. The problem for his argument is that he’s wrong. Being trans is not an act of defining your own identity, but reacting to it. Burk is forced to deny the validity of the innate nature of being trans as an a priori assumption masquerading as an objective fact. Having done so, then, all conclusions he might draw from that assumption are dependent on the assumption being valid.
Worse, in this case, he does not even bother citing his supporting “evidence” (which he can’t, because it’s based in theology which is by nature not objective) he just counts himself clever that he’s turned Kimmel’s bit back on him. This only impresses those who’ve already made the same unsupported assumption in the first place. Burk asserts that the “biological fact” of being male or female is the objective truth in the discussion, but if that were true then the biological binary would be absolute with no exceptions. Since we know that exceptions do in fact exist – and we know that Burk knows this – we can deduce that his argument is not, in fact, based on an objective reading of biological facts but rather, he makes a theological argument which he cannot be honest about and must dress up in the robes of scientific claims.
Do not be taken in by charlatan preachers pretending at science.
Photo by Jumanji Solar