In his seminal works, “Critique of Pure Reason” (1781) and “Critique of Practical Reason” (1788), the philosopher Immanuel Kant undermined arguments for the basis of understanding the world through both subjective reality and objective reality. It is good, solid academic fun to debate Mr. Kant’s various theories, but in the end, because we all live in a physical world, we all adhere to an objective reality, whatever we might think about that.
Objective, measurable reality is the foundation of science, engineering, medicine and pretty much all discoveries of the physical world. Objective, measurable reality, as expressed through the collection and analysis of data, has even infected the realm of the humanities like economics and sociology.
Not surprisingly, therefore, much of human society, including the judicial and mental health systems, is built on objective reality. If there is no objective reality — if reality is completely determined by the preferences or beliefs of individuals — then there could be no prisons, no mental health institutions and no practical governance.
I mention this because last week, Adm. Rachel Levine and Lia Thomas — both of whom are men in any measurable, objective way — were given awards specifically designated for women and denominated as awards for women. Adm. Levine, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was selected by USA Today as one of its women of the year. Mr. Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Swimming Championships.
Adm. Levine and Mr. Thomas have indicated that they consider themselves women. That is entirely their business. America is a nation with a seemingly endless capacity for tolerance, and it seems likely that we can tolerate people thinking themselves whatever.
However, the right to think whatever you want extends only to the moment when you insist that others suspend disbelief, reject objective reality and agree with you.
At least one of the men in question (Mr. Thomas), and probably both of them, has the primary sexual organs of a male. They both almost certainly have the secondary sexual organs of a male. Every cell in their bodies identifies them as men.
That’s objective reality.
Here’s a little more. Good numbers are hard to come by, but about 85-90% of those males who identify as female never have their penis or testicles removed. It seems fair for others to conclude that you might be less than fully committed to the idea of being a female if you are walking around with a penis.
Part of the process of separating a culture from its grip on objective reality involves changing the language. As George Orwell pointed out: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
We are, of course, at that moment. It is ridiculous to remind people that male pronouns and female pronouns are not a matter of individual choice. They represent objective realities. “They” is plural, not singular, no matter what else is happening.
Some have suggested, at least for Mr. Thomas, that the chance to swim against slower swimmers is part of what spurred his decision to consider himself a woman. Maybe. Maybe not.
It is impossible to know with certainty what motivates anyone, so we should tread carefully. As former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield once noted correctly: “… never attack another man’s motive, because you don’t know his motive.”
Mr. Thomas is playing within the deeply flawed rules of the NCAA, but those rules are not of his making.
Charity requires understanding and empathy in all instances, especially when people may be wandering a bit. Charity does not, however, require one to acquiesce in inaccuracy.
Finally, it is important to remember that none of us had a choice as to where, when or to whom we were born. We did not determine the color of our eyes or hair, height, shoe size, ethnic group or gender. God, the universe or the luck of the draw made all of those decisions for us.
That may seem unfair. Maybe it is. But it, too, is an objective reality.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the co-host of “The Unregulated” podcast. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
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