Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Psychological Apologetics Resources

Psychological apologetics is a unique field that focuses on using and applying psychological sciences (which really includes all social and cognitive sciences) for apologetics. Very few people do work that could be considered psychological apologetics, especially if excluding people or works that are explicitly in the realm of psychological apologetics. If you want to get started in psychological apologetics, there aren't really any single sources you can pick up to get started. Instead, you need to piece together information from a variety of resources so you can become knowledgeable in both subjects, psychology and apologetics.

I've categorized the books by sub-genre rather than recommended reading order. However, I do provide a recommended order at the bottom of the page and I've classified the books into general tiers of relevance and/or importance for psychological apologetics. Here is what the tiers mean.

  1. Very relevant/important
  2. Relevant/important
  3. Somewhat relevant/important or overlaps content of books rated higher
  4. Least relevant/important or I just don't know much about the book.

While this list is pretty long, it's nowhere near exhaustive, especially considering all the books out there that focus on the integration of psychology or counseling with and theology. I included some of the more current ones, but there is so much more out there. Also, it should go without saying that I do not agree with everything in all the books, but some of them I think are relevant for the field. If you think I missed any important books, want more specific suggestions, or have any other comments, please contact me here

Psychological Apologetics Books

The books in this section are the closest thing that could be considered psychological apologetics without having to piece together resources from various other places. I listed this section first to highlight the sub-genre of psychological apologetics so don't be surprised that these books aren't recommended as first reads. These books only cover a narrow scope of the possible topics that fall under the umbrella of psychological apologetics.

#1. Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin (Ph.D.), who is not a psychologist but she gets people. This book fits under the banner of psychological apologetics because Rebecca responds to more psychologically oriented objections to Christianity and does so through an application of psychological principles. She focuses on objections from atheists in the field of psychology or related fields such as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris, among others, and exhibits deep concern for real people who are dealing with these topics in real-life situations. There are many good apologetics books, but I am hesitant to recommend them because they come across as uncaring to non-believers and set a bad example for believers. Rebecca is able to write compassionately while not compromising truth, which is a rare and much-needed skill. This is a great book for a basic-level understanding of the main objections to Christianity and a model for how to respond to those objections. I highly recommend it for apologetics enthusiasts, other Christians, and for unbelievers.

#1-2. Complex Simplicity: How PsychologySuggests Atheists are Wrong about Christianity by Luke Conway (Ph.D.), who's a social psychologist and Christian apologist. The tone and focus of this book are different from other apologetics books in a way that will be more appealing to skeptics and Christians alike. This is also the only book that focuses on the broad use of psychological science to defend Christianity, much of which comes directly from Conway's own research. I highly recommend this book for everyone. For apologists and other Christians, it offers a fresh new look at reasons for Christianity. For people who don't believe or might be struggling with severe doubt, it presents arguments in a way that is more appealing and therefore, more likely to be seriously considered. Here's a more detailed review I wrote of this book.

#2. The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich (Ph.D.), who's an atheist psychologist. Ironically, this book makes a pretty darn good case for Christianity and does so through social sciences. The author recognizes this and explicitly states that the data is not an argument for Christianity, but it is. In short, if Christianity is true, what the book reports to have happened is what would be expected. The book talks about the historical factors the led to the development of modern, Western society, and while there are multiple factors involved, the main factor is Christian sexual ethics and the Church's teachings efforts to spread those teachings.

#2. Born Believers: The Science of Children's Religious Belief and #2. Why Would Anyone Believe in God? by Justin Barrett (Ph.D.), who's a Christian cognitive evolutionary psychologist. I haven't read these books, but I've read a lot of Barrett's academic works. My understanding of these books is that he makes the case that humans are biologically predisposed to believe in God, and therefore, it is psychologically healthy to do so. 

#3. Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism by Paul Vitz (Ph.D.), who's a Christian psychologist. In this book, which I also haven't read yet, he is responding to the Freudian critique that belief in God serves as a replacement for having a poor or non-existent relationship with a person's biological father. My understanding of the book and Vitz's position is that the opposite appears to be true, that people who have a poor or non-existent relationship with their father are more likely to be atheists.

Effective Persuasion for Apologetics and Evangelism

Perhaps the biggest gap in apologetics literature is the absence of evidence-based strategies for doing apologetics. There are some apologetics books that discuss this, and some do it fairly well, but they don't really go into the science behind effective persuasion methods or give a broad range of practical methods. The books listed are not Christian books and as far I know, only Carnegie is a Christian, but the strategies in these books are easy to apply to apologetics and evangelism.

#1. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant (Ph.D), who is an industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologist. This book could go in this section or the next and its ability to explain both how people reason and how to influence others is unique among other books. I listened to this book in two days and immediately listened to it a second time (at a faster speed) to process it even better. The book is a wonderful introduction for people to understand how people think and how we can overcome some common thinking traps in our own reasoning or help others avoid those traps. If someone were to ask me what's the first and most important book they should read for doing apologetics, I would recommend this one.

#1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and #2. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini (Ph.D.), who's a social psychologist and perhaps the foremost expert on persuasion methods. His work is widely used and cited for sales and marketing. Influence is the absolute single best book I know of for understanding how persuasion works.

#2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book is a classic and for good reason. I put off reading it for the longest time because I thought it would have little to teach me and little modern relevance. I was dead wrong. This book is a very practical guide for how to effectively influence people without being manipulative.

#3. Getting to Yes and #3. Getting Past NoThe first is by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton and the second is just by Ury. These books are essential reading in many business programs. These are excellent resources for learning how to negotiate with others, especially in a way that maintains long-term relationships.

#1. Contagious Faith: Discover Your Natural Style for Sharing Jesus with Others by Mark Mittelberg (M.A.). This book is a great guide for anyone who feels like sharing their faith is too awkward or confrontational. Mark gives great ways that all different types of people can share their faith without ruining relationships or coming across as weird. He talks about different types of people, but doesn't fall into the trap of limiting people to a single type. It's more of a personal and situational approach.

#2. Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith with Holiness, Respect, and Truth by Michael Sherrard (M.Div.), who's a pastor and apologist. This is another one of the rare apologetics books that focuses on more effective methods for doing apologetics and evangelism. While it's not a psychological book, it does apply psychological principles well. 

#N/A. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl (M.A.), who's a well-known Christian apologist. This is one of the few apologetics books that explicitly focuses on practical methods for how to do apologetics and evangelism more effectively. It's very practical but it doesn't really get into the mechanisms underlying the methods, which is great for simplicity but leads to some issues with the application or presentation of the methods. For instance, the steamroller chapter depicts people who steamroll as overly emotional, immature, and dishonest which justifies the advice to shame them. This is an incorrect and overly simplistic view of people and the advice opposes what research shows will be more effective, which is to listen to them empathically. I've also seen Koukl and others apply the methods of the book in a way that more often than not is condescending, combative, and evasive, which again is neither Christian nor effective. There are some great recommendations in the book but too many harmful recommendations so I do NOT recommend this book anymore. I thought it would be good to include in this list because it is in the genre of psychological apologetics, it is widely used, and people ask me about it a lot.

Bias, Reasoning, and Decision Making

If you want to understand how to do apologetics effectively, you have to understand the way in which people make decisions and the variety of biases that affect our reasoning processes. In short, people are not nearly as rational as we often think they are. These books reveal a ton of ways in which our minds make mental shortcuts, often leading to false conclusions, and how we can overcome them. These books are not Christian books and as far as I know, none of the authors are Christians. While initially it may seem like these biases apply to religious belief, they apply equally to why people belief atheism is true.

#1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Ph.D.), who's a cognitive psychologist and noble prize winner in economics because his work was essential for the field of behavioral economics. This is the essential book for understanding decision 

#1. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (Ph.D.), who's a social psychologist that focuses on moral reasoning. This book will help you understand how people make moral decisions. This is relevant because moral beliefs strongly influence religious and political beliefs. His other book, The Coddling of the American Mind, is also pretty good but not nearly as relevant for psychological apologetics.

#2. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji (Ph.D.) and Anthony Greenwald (Ph.D.), who are psychologists that focus on basically what the title of the book is. Most of this book focuses on blindspots when it comes to race and sex, but it's highly relevant for psychological apologetics because the mental processes they discuss apply to a broad range of topics.

#2. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz (Ph.D.), who's a psychologist that focuses on decision making. This book makes the point that having more choices isn't always good for us psychologically and often leads to less than optimal choices. It's very relevant in a society where people have lots of religious, political, and moral choices. 

#2. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which is a book and a movie based on a true story about a professional baseball team that became very successful after they started using a revolutionary method of choosing players, which was based on carefully selected objective metrics rather than expert opinions. I haven't read the book but the movie is great. The story can really help gain an understanding of the biases in everyday life and how we're often blind to them.

#2. The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel Wegner (Ph.D.) and Kurt Gray (Ph.D.), who are social psychologists that study consciousness and choice, amongst other things. The book talks about some of the underlying factors that affect our moral decisions.

#3. You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself Paperback by David McRane, who's a journalist the writes on thinking and psychological biases. This book is a rapid-fire explanation of a ton of biases in a fairly amusing style.

#3. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Money, Health, and the Environment by Richar Thaler (Ph.D.), who's a Nobel-winning economist. This book discusses how small, often unnoticeable factors affect our decision-making.

#3. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely (Ph.D.), who's a cognitive psychologist. This book is similar to Thinking, Fast and Slow, but it's shorter and explains slightly different ways in which people make irrational decisions. It's a great book that's very enjoyable to read, but I would consider this book more of a second-tier book for psychological apologetics.

Sexuality and Gender

Sex, sexuality, and gender are probably the relevant social topics for Christians in our culture. My knowledge of the subject comes from more academic sources (the sources often cited by these books) so I am not very familiar with these books or authors, but from what I do know about the authors, they are respectable.  

#2. People to Be Loved: Why HomosexualityIs Not Just an Issue, #2. Living in a Gray World: A ChristianTeen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality, and #2. Embodied: Transgender Identities,the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say by Preston Sprinkle, who's a theologian (Ph.D.) that focuses mostly on topics related to sexuality and gender. I haven't read any of these books, but I have listened to several hours of his podcasts and YouTube videos. The guy knows what he is talking about and has a wonderful ability to engage difficult topics with love and respect.

#2. Is God anti-gay? and #2. Why does God care who I sleep with? by Sam Allberry, who's a pastor and apologist who experiences same-sex attraction. I haven't read these books and have limited experience with Sam's work. From the little experience I do have with Sam's work, he seems to be reasonable, knowledgeable, and compassionate.

#2. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story, #3. Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God. A Broken Mother's Search for Hope, by Christopher Yuan, who's a theologian (Ph.D.) who experiences same-sex attraction. I haven't read either book and don't have much experience with Yuan's work.

#2. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture, #2. Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today's Youth, #2. Homosexuality and the Christian: AGuide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends by Mark Yarhouse, who's a Christian clinical psychologist. I haven't read these books yet and am not very familiar with Yarhouse's work so I have no comments to add about these books.

#2. The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths about Sex and Identity in Our Society by Debora Soh (Ph.D.), who's a neuroscientist who focuses her research on sex and gender. She is not a Christian and is quite liberal, but she still has some concerns about some of the activism around gender. I haven't read this book so I don' t have much to say on it, but you can read this review of it by Preston Sprinkle.

#3. Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael John Cusick (M.A. x2), who's a Christian licensed professional counselor. I haven't read this book yet, but from my understanding, it's about the negative effects of porn on people who use it. This is relevant for apologetics because most Christians would agree that porn violates biblical morality and so we should expect negative side effects when we engage in it.

#3. Hooked: The Brain Science on How Casual Sex Affects Human Development by Joe McIlhaney (MD) and Freda Mckissic (MD), who are both obstetrician/gynecologists. I don't know if they are Christians or not, but I suspect they are. I have browsed a few sections of the first edition of this book, but I've never read the whole thing. Essentially, this book discusses the scientific evidence that casual sex or sex with multiple partners does not lead to better outcomes in life.

#4. Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier, who's a journalist and not a Christian. I haven't read this book so I don't have much to say about it, but if you want to know more, you can read this review of it by Preston Sprinkle.

#4. This is Your Brain on Sex: The Science Behind the Search for Love by Kayt Sukel (M.S.), who's a science writer and as far as I know, she's not a Christian. She might be, but her Twitter account had quite a few posts the suggest she's probably not. I haven't read this book and know very little about it, but I do want to read it. I included this book because, for the most part, the science of sex supports what the Bible teaches about sex, although there are some people who twist or ignore some of the science to argue otherwise. 

Christian Psychology Books

#2. The Biology of Sin: Grace, Hope and Healing for Those Who Feel Trapped by Matthew Stanford (Ph.D.), who's a behavioral neuroscientist. I've read most or all of this book and it's a good explanation of the biological factors that affect our psychology, both of which affect our propensity to sin.

#3. Thriving with Stone Age Minds: Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing by Justin Barrett (mentioned above) and Pamela Ebstyne-King (Ph.D.), who's a developmental and positive psychologist. Both authors are Christians and in this book, they make the case that humans' ability to be social, get and use information, and exhibit self-control are what makes us unique. Based on these traits, we can make hypotheses about human flourishing, and when we do that, they align with the Bible and the science supports these traits so far. This book is a good introduction to evolutionary psychology and is a good place to start if you want to know more about that field.

#3. Enhancing the Christian Life: How Extended Cognition Augments Religious Community and #3. The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology, And The Church by Brad Strawn (Ph.D.) and Warren Brown (Ph.D.), who are Christian psychologists. I haven't read either book yet but they're on my shortlist to do soon.

#3. The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? by Miguel Farias (Ph.D.) and Catherine Wikholm (Ph.D.), who are clinical psychologists. Farias is Catholic but I don't know if Wikholm is a Christian. I haven't read this book, but from my understanding of it, they argue that meditation and mindfulness are not all they're cracked up to be and can have negative consequences. I'm hesitant to put this book on this list until I've read it because I'm concerned they might oversimplify the research to promote their view, but I can't condemn them for that since I haven't actually read the book yet.

#3. Positive Psychology in Christian Perspective: Foundations, Concepts, and Applications by Charles Hackney (Ph.D.), who's a Christian social psychologist that focuses on positive psychology.

#3. The Science of Virtue: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church by Mark McMinn (Ph.D.), who's a Christian clinical psychologist. 

#3. Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Theory and Application by Everett Worthington (Ph.D.), who's a Christian social psychologist.

#3. The Psychology of Gratitude edited by Robert Emmons (Ph.D.) and Michael McCullough (Ph.D.). Technically, this is not a Christian book, but many of the authors in it are Christians, including the editors, and the research on gratitude generally aligns with Christian theology.

#3. Psychological Insight in the Bible: Texts and Readings by Wayne Rollins (Ph.D.) and Andrew Kille (Ph.D.), who are theologians. I haven't read this book or spent much time looking through it, but it's potentially very useful. My concern is that neither author has a psychology degree, which makes it more likely they will misunderstand the science of psychology in their work.

Integrating Psychology and Christianity

What seems to be the biggest topic of discussion about psychology is how to integrate it into theology. These are just some of the books that tackle that subject. To be honest, I'm not sure it's necessary to read a whole book on it, especially since so many of them get bogged down by abstract conflicts that may or may not be relevant or are probably not due to worldview differences at all. If you want to save the trouble, here's my article on the need (or lack of) for Christian psychology

#3. The Integration of Psychology and Christianity: A Domain-Based Approach by William Hathaway (Ph.D.) and Mark Yarhouse. I haven't read this book yet (it only came out a month ago) but am really looking forward to it. The approach they take based on the table of contents seems like it will be really helpful for being trying to gain a better understanding of integration.

#3. Coming to Peace with Psychology: What Christians Can Learn from Psychological Science by Everett Worthington (Ph.D.), who's a Christian clinical and social psychologist. It's been a long time since I read this book so I don't have much to say on it. I recall having a generally positive view of it so it will likely be a good introduction to psychology for people who don't know the field very well.

#4. Psychology through the Eyes of Faith by David Myers (Ph.D.) and Malcolm Jeeves (Ph.D.). I haven't read this book yet. Myers is a Christian, although many reading this might consider him too liberal, but he is a well-known social psychologist who's written many textbooks. I'm fairly sure Jeeves is a Christian, but I don't know a ton about him other than he writes a lot on the intersection of psychology and Christianity.

#4. Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity, 3rd edition: An Introduction to Worldview Issues, Philosophical Foundations, and Models of Integration by David Entwistle (Psy.D.), who's a clinical psychologist and appears to be a Christian. I haven't read this book yet, but I have it on my shelf and plan to read it.

#4. Psychology and Christianity: FiveViews edited by Eric Johnson (Ph.D.). I put this book here because it's relevant, at least on the surface, but it was disappointing. You can read my review of it here.

Clinical or Counseling Psychology

#4. Skills for Effective Counseling: A Faith-Based Integration by Elisabeth Nesbit Sbanotto (Ph.D.), Heather Davediuk Gingrich (Ph.D.), and Fred Gingrich (D.Min.), who are Christian counselors. This is a skills-based book so the typical arguments over how to integrate psychology and theology can be set aside for this one. Psychologists are great at talking to people and this book teaches methods psychologists use that can be applied to effective apologetics and evangelism.

#4. Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew Stanford (Ph.D.)

#4. Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark McMinn (Ph.D.), who's a Christian clinical psychologist. 

#4. Sexuality and Sex Therapy: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal by Mark Yarhouse (see above).

#4. Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal by Barrett McRay (Ph.D.), Mark Yarhouse (Ph.D.), and Richard Butman (Ph.D.), who are Christian clinical psychologists.

Psychology of Religion Books:

Psychology is a science, which means the field is all about publishing in peer-reviewed journals. However, there are still some occasional academic books that get published. Here are some that are relevant for apologetics 

#3. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (MD) was trained as a physician but did a lot of work in psychology and even philosophy. There aren't really foundational books in the field of psychology, but if there were, this might be one of them. For this reason, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I haven't actually read it before (I read more journal articles). James was not a Christian, at least I don't think he was, but he was not overly critical of religion either.

#4. Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds by Justin Barrett (mentioned above).

#4. Cognitive Psychology of Religion by Kevin Eames (Ph.D.), who's a cognitive psychologist and Christian.

#4. Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion by Malcolm Jeeves (Ph.D.) and Warren Brown (Ph.D.)

#4. The Psychology of Prayer by Bernie Spilka (Ph.D.) and Kevin Ladd (Ph.D.) 

#4. The Psychology of Christian Experience by W. Curry Mavid (Ph.D.)

#4. The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues by John Kildahl

#4. A Natural History of Natural Theology: The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion by Helen De Cruz (Ph.D. x2 in anthropology and philosophy) and Johan De Smedt (Ph.D.). I haven't read this book, but really want to. My understanding of it is that they examine aspects of natural theology from the lens of cognitive science.

The Brain, Soul, Consciousness, and Free Will

This category covers a lot and I plan to add more to this section in particular, but I wanted to have a place to add some of these books. They are relevant to psychology, but a lot of the people writing on these subjects are philosophers or scientists outside of psychology. I say this just to draw attention to that point because psychologists may have a slightly different take on the subject or rely on different sets of data to come to a conclusion. Also, there are a lot of implications for this subject from the books in the reasoning and decision-making section.

#4. Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will by Nancy Murphy (Ph.D.) and Warren Brown (Ph.D.) 

#4. Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? by Nancy Murphy (Ph.D.), who's a Christian philosopher.

#4. Am I just my Brain? by Sharon Dirckx (Ph.D.), who's a Christian neuroscientist.

#4. Rewired: Exploring Religious Conversion by Paul Markham (Ph.D.).

Other Relevant Social Science Books: 

If you want to understand psychology, you have to understand complex relationships between multiple variables. Nothing in psychology has a simple explanation. Psychologists look at everything through the lens of multiple interacting causes, which we separate and test through various statistical methods. These books are not all obviously in the field of psychology, but they are excellent to help people understand the need to look beyond simple and intuitive answers in order to get a full picture of reality.

#1. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, #2. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, #2. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, and #3. When to Rob a Bank: ...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven Levitt (Ph.D. economics) and Stephen Dubner (journalist). The books are interesting, fun to read, and informative. In essence, they will help you think like or see the world with more complexity, much in the way that a social or psychological scientist does.

#1. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Ph.D.), who's basically a really smart numbers guy. He's a professor and a former stock trader. What most people don't realize is that psychology is hugely dependent on statistics. If you don't understand stats, you don't understand psychology. While this book is about investing and markets, the stats discussed are very similar to what is used in psychology and the underlying purpose of the use of stats is the same.

 #3. Outliers: The Story of Success, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, #3. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, #3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, #3. What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, and #2. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell, who's a journalist, pastor's kid, and as of fairly recently, a convert to Christianity (I think while writing David and Goliath). These books are not from a Christian perspective, even after Gladwell's conversion. In short, they won't say much that the books in the reasoning section will say, but Gladwell is so great and tying everything together with stories and a grand narrative.

#3. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (MD I think), who was a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor. This book is a memoir of his time in the concentration camp. 

#3. The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark (Ph.D.), who's a sociologist that focuses on religion. This book examines sociological factors that led to the growth of Christianity in the first three or four centuries. Stark admits he was only an in-name-only believer when he wrote this book, but as a result of writing it, became a committed believer.

#3. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Chip and Dan Heath. This book is great for helping understand how to present information in a way that will help people remember it. What's the point in doing apologetics and evangelism if people won't remember what you actually said?

#3. Humility by Jennifer Cole Wright (Ph.D.), who's a psychologist that focuses on the science of morals and virtue. 

#4. Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind: What Mental Abnormalities Can Teach Us About Religions by Robert McCauley (Ph.D.) and George Graham (Ph.D.), who are philosophers. I do not know if they are Christians.

#4. The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded by Don Norman (graduate degrees in psychology and engineering but I'm not sure on specifics). This is an excellent book for understanding engineering psychology or human factors and how the design of objects affects us.

Fiction Books:

#3. Walden Two by B.F. Skinner (Ph.D.), who's one of the most well-known psychologists today, even though he died in 1990. He is best known for behaviorism and his work with conditioning. This is a fiction book he wrote about a utopian society based on psychological principles as he understood them when the book was first published in 1948.

#4. Animal Farm by George Orwell and #4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. These books are excellent representations of some of our most basic and universal psychological tendencies and what could happen if they're left unchecked.

Apologetics Books: 

I love apologetics. It is led me to become a believer. However, apologetics often has a bad reputation inside and outside the church. On the one hand, some of that reputation is unfair. People don't like it when facts and reasons get in the way of their beliefs. On the other hand, apologists tend to write and speak in a way that is very direct and confident. This is a very effective method for people who mostly agree with what is being said or respect the speaker, but it can be off-putting to people who don't already agree or don't respect the speaker.

For these reasons, I am very careful about the apologetics books that I recommend. These books cover the main arguments used in apologetics, and for the most part, do so in a way that is more winsome and not as overstated as some other apologetics resources. If you want to go deeper, there are a ton of other resources available.

#1-2. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace (M.A.), who's a cold-case homicide detective that converted to Christianity when he investigated the gospels in the same way he investigates cold-case homicides. This book is the result of that investigation. It's highly accessible and written in a friendly manner that is not condescending or argumentative. He also has a kid's version of this book that is great for children about 10 and under.

#1-2. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision or #3. Reasonable Faith, Third Edition: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig (Ph.D. in philosophy and Ph.D. in theology), who's a Christian philosopher, apologist, and theologian. Craig is probably the most prolific apologist of our time based on the high quality and quantity of works he has produced for academic and lay audiences. These books cover the same content, but Reasonable Faith is more academic and goes into greater depth. The tone of 

#3. The Reliability of the New Testament: Countering the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs and #1-2. Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions by Craig Blomberg (Ph.D.), who's a New Testament scholar and one of the foremost experts on the reliability of the New Testament. I've only read portions of these books, but I have read a lot of Blomberg's other materials, listened to him speak, and was fortunate enough to have him as a professor in seminary. He's extremely kind and thoughtful and writes in a way that isn't offensive to people who disagree. The Reliability of the NT is a much more academic and longer book, otherwise, they are similar in content.

#1-2. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (D.Min.), who's a well-known and respected pastor, even among non-Christians. Keller is an intelligent and thoughtful communicator that speaks in a way that does not compromise truth, but at the same time, is not offensive to people who disagree. This book only scratches the surface of apologetics, but for the arguments it does cover, it does so in .

#1-2. Francis Schaeffer books. Really, any of his books are great and serve as excellent (but not quite perfect) examples of how to apply psychological principles to apologetics.

#4. Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World by Paul Gould (Ph.D.), who's a Christian philosopher that emphasizes the need for better cultural engagement in apologetics. It's not just as simple as stating a bunch of arguments to convince people.

Marriage, Relationships, Parenting, Leadership, and Discipleship

I lumped these categories all together because they are often lumped together (Marriage and Family) by psychologists and because the underlying psychological mechanisms are often the same. For instance, the same general leadership principles apply to parenting and work, the details are just tailored to each situation. As Christians, we should try to model Christ-like behavior, which is often judged based on the quality of our relationships with others. This affects our ability to influence those we have relationships with already or people who are able to serve our relationships with others. These books are a combination of Christian and non-Christian sources. They mostly align with Christian ideals, but there will be a few comments in these books that stray from the science and make philosophical statements most Christians probably wouldn't agree with.

#4. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf. This is a well-known leadership book and the basic premise, leaders should serve the people they lead, is a solidly Christian principle.

#4. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, Revised and Updated and Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America's Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship by John Gottman (Ph.D.), who's probably the most well-known marriage counselor because he has been able to predict divorce in the first five years of marriage with 95% accuracy based on his research. The degree to which this trend generalizes to all couples is debated, but it's still impressive. This book discusses the factors that are relevant and how to avoid the negative predictors of divorce.

#4. A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage by Scott Stanley (Ph.D.), Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan. Stanley is a Christian clinical psychologist (I think the others are too) and probably the top Christian academic for marriage resources.

#4. His Needs, Her Needs: Building a Marriage That Lasts by Willard Harley Jr. (PhD.), who's a Christian clinical psychologist. My wife and I read this book for premarital counseling and have gone through it a few times since. It's a great resource for couples to help them think more about their partner's needs than their own.

#4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman (Ph.D.), who's a Christian therapist. This book is also geared toward thinking about your partners' needs rather than your own and is a great tool for helping people think about how to express love and concern to other people in all situations.

#4. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Dan Siegel (MD), who's a psychiatrist and probably the leading parenting expert right now. Most of his work is evidence-based and very good, although he does stray a little beyond the evidence from time to time to make points about his worldview. In general, though, I think his parenting advice is pretty solid and would be beneficial for people to follow. 

#4. Kevin Leman (Ph.D.) is a Christian psychologist who writes on marriage and family. The books I've read of his are great. None of his books are ones I would say are the best in the field, but they're all good (at least the ones I've read).

#4. David Schnarch (Ph.D.) is a clinical psychologist who focuses on sex therapy. I don't know if he's a Christian but I have seen him cited a lot by some of the author Christian psychologists on this list. On the one hand, there is some research showing Christians have better sex lives than others, but there are also a lot of people with damaged views of sex due to the church that these books can be helpful for.

Self-Help or Personal Growth

We tend to over-spiritualize spiritual growth as though it is somehow completely separate from other types of maturation, but in reality, it's really not. There are some resources by psychologists, some Christians and some not, to help you grow and mature as a person, which will help you grow as a Christian.

#4. How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth by Henry Cloud (Ph.D.) and John Townsend (Ph.D.) who are Christian clinical psychologists.

#4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (Ph.D.). who's a social psychologist who became relatively famous for her work on this subject.

#4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (Ph.D.), who's a psychologist that focuses on the way we frame things in our mind and how it affects our outcomes. This book, from my understanding, focuses on having a fixed vs. growth mindset. A growth mindset is when we think we can grow and develop, which I would say is a biblical concept, and it's generally better on all outcomes.

#4. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,  Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief by Jordan Peterson (Ph.D.), who's a clinical psychologist. He's become famous for all kinds of other issues, but he's a legitimate clinical psychologist and a pretty smart guy. He's a bit more philosophical than most psychologists and willing to draw conclusions beyond the evidence more than most psychologists, but at the same time, he's aware of when he's doing it and has pretty decent philosophical grounding for it. In either case, I think his psychological work in these books is worth reading or listening to, even if he goes astray from time and time. He also does work with one of the top personality psychologists and has some interesting work in that area.

Other Christian Books:

#4. Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme, #3. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, #3. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman and Aly Hawkins, and #4. The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World by Gabe Lyons. I've read the first two books and referenced the third one. Kinnaman and Lyons understand culture well and how to effectively engage people in it (which aligns with social science principles). What I have read and heard from them so far is great and very useful for apologetics and evangelism, albeit indirectly.

#3. Interpreting Scripture through Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards (Ph.D. New Testament) Brandon O'Brien  (Ph.D. in some field of religious or theological studies).

#4. Os Guinness books. Os is a pretty well-known Christian author who does a fair amount of apologetics and has a Ph.D. in sociology. He writes, speaks, and presents information in a way that models good psychological apologetics.

#4. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith (Ph.D.), who's a theology-oriented philosopher. This book exhibits a pretty good understanding of some of the psychological factors involved in worship.

Recommended Reading Order (top 10 only):

  1. Think Again
  2. Tactics
  3. Influence
  4. Complex Simplicity, The Reason for God, and/or another apologetics book, depending on how well you know the subject.
  5. Thinking, Fast and Slow
  6. The Righteous Mind
  7. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  8. Freakonomics
  9. Fooled by Randomness
  10. Pre-Suasion
  11. Blindspot

Other Resources

Blueprint1543 podcast or free online courses on psychology and theology. BluePrint1543 is an organization founded and led by Justin Barrett (mentioned above) with the goal of combining psychological sciences and Christian theology more naturally.

My Christian Psych list on Twitter, which includes Christians who work in cognitive or social sciences.

Psychological Apologetics FB Page, FB group, and Twitter.

The Apologetic Professor blog, by Luke Conway who's a social psychology professor and apologist.

The Ten Minute Bible Hour by Matt Whitman and Smarter Every Day by Destin Sandlin. I listed them together because they do a podcast, No Dumb Questions, together, and because they are part of this list for the same reason. They aren't apologists or psychologists, but they do work in a way that models effective methods for reaching believers and unbelievers. Matt teaches about the Bible and does do some apologetics in his videos while Destin does science and engineering videos and only makes it known he's a Christian by posting a Bible verse at the end of his videos and in formats outside his YouTube channel. They both approach their subjects with humility and respect for other views and model ways to interact with people they disagree with.

The Freakonomics and Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell) podcasts are great for all the reasons I mentioned above. Agree or disagree with them, that's fine, but the way they look at topics in greater depth and from more angles than we typically see in the media is what social scientists do. These podcasts can help you get in the habit of doing that.

The Moral Science Podcast by Amber Cazzell (Ph.D.), who's a social psychologist that did a postdoc in the lab I work in at Baylor. This is not a Christian podcast but it does cover a lot of topics that are relevant for psychological apologetics.

The Langauge of God podcast by BioLogos, a science-based apologetics organization, has had several episodes that relate to psychological apologetics. After quickly growing their episodes, the ones that seem most relevant are #s 14, 30, 31, 32, 33, 58, 65, 77, 79.

The WorkLife with Adam Grant (Ph.D.) podcast is a psychology podcast that covers a lot of relevant topics for psychological apologetics or just understanding the field of psychology.

The Hidden Brain podcast is a psychology podcast that will help gain understanding in various areas of psychology, some of which are directly related to psychological apologetics.

The CrashCourse Psychology playlist on YouTube.

Faraday Institute for Science and Religion videos and podcasts on the brain and psychology.

The Great Courses on Amazon/Audible Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations into Human Personality by Mark Leary (Ph.D.) and How Colors Affect You: What Science Reveals by William Lidwell. These courses will help you better understand people and how unconscious things affect our decisions.

Friday, February 12, 2021

One last lesson from Ravi

Until recently, Ravi Zacharias was a hero of the Christian faith. If you happen to be in the dark about him, he was the world's most well-known apologist, but recent investigations have revealed that he engaged in unknown numbers of immoral and illegal sexual sins before his death. In the next few days or weeks, there will likely be a slew of people, including well-known Christian leaders, who will comment on what happened and the lessons we should learn from this situation. I want to talk about a lesson that you likely won't hear anywhere else, but I would argue it's the most important because it can have the greatest effect on reducing the number of victims.

By all accounts, Ravi was more disciplined, devout, and virtuous than most other people, including others in ministry. He had a stellar reputation, which he seems to have genuinely earned (which does not justify placing someone above reproach). There's a lot about Ravi and this situation that I do not know, but I do know psychology, and things like this don't just happen overnight. They develop over time in a slow progression of seemingly harmless acts or minor sins (see hedonic treadmill and related terms).

If someone like Ravi can do such evil, SO CAN YOU!
 The Bible tells us as much when it says that the heart is deceptive above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) and no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Or as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says in The Gulag Archipelago, "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." I am reasonably certain that 30 years ago, Ravi would have scoffed at the idea that he would ever commit such terrible sins. My hope is that people recognize that under the right circumstances, they too are capable of committing equally terrible acts.

Realistically, it's almost certain that anyone reading this, or anyone else for that matter, will not sin to the degree that Ravi did. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be on guard. Adultery is more likely, but the number of people who buy sex from someone who's been trafficked against their will or view illegal pornography (underage or non-consensual) is probably much more common than most people think. It doesn't have to be sexual sin either. Drunk driving, stealing (even "small" things like office supplies from work), violent anger, addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), 

We like to think that our moral beliefs and character will prevent us from doing evil, but it's not enough. Beliefs and character are good and necessary, but they're not enough. Every atrocity committed throughout world history was largely done by normal, "good" people. Sure, there were evil people at the top and people who dissented, but most of the common soldiers who carried out the evil deeds were well-intentioned, normal people. Psychological experiments such as the Milgram experiments, Stanford prison study, and many more have repeatedly shown that "good" people can do great harm given the right situation, and this includes becoming active perpetrators (not just passive conformers).

Thankfully, we aren't helpless victims, doomed to become perpetrators at the drop of a hat. Contrary to popular notions, the most powerful thing we can do is to NOT only depend on the strength of our own character. We can and should grow our character, but the most potent preventative measures are in external resources. Ironically, using external measures will form your character in positive ways, creating a synergistic effect.

When I say external resources, I am referring to people, things, or actions that help us avoid the first steps of sin so they never even have the chance to escalate into much bigger sins (sexual sins are the obvious ones, but this applies to others as well). There are countless things you can do so I will only give a few examples. 

  1. Give your spouse complete access to all your accounts, phone(s), and computer(s). If unmarried, give this access to one or more of the people closest to you (who will encourage moral behavior). 
  2. If needed, put a porn lock or filter on your devices, keep your computer in a public place, and if you are constantly failing in this area, get rid of your smartphone. 
  3. Stop ingesting or limit consumption of all negative forms of media. It doesn't just have to be media that is sexualized, but anything that promotes or normalizes. This may include social media (and who you follow on it) or even the nightly news for some people. We all have different temptations so don't compare yourself to others. Know your own weaknesses and focus on avoiding those. 
  4. If married, don't be alone with members of the opposite sex (or limit it to rare occasions). Don't talk bad about your spouse to others, especially members of the opposite sex (address those issues with your spouse and/or a therapist). If living alone, get a roommate who can hold you accountable. Likewise, if traveling for business, see if you can share a room with a co-worker rather than each getting your own room.
  5. You can also learn more about how sins start or grow. The book His Needs, Her Needs does this pretty well in the context of adultery. Fight the New Drug has lots of information on how pornography is harmful to people who consume it, make it, and society. Understanding these things better can help you better prevent sins.
  6. Stop tolerating or rationalizing things you do that are just small sins or things you know are probably wrong. Examples might include speeding, looking at porn or fantasizing about people you're not married to, cheating on your taxes, pirating digital media (music, movies, books, etc.), getting drunk, name-calling or using dehumanizing language (common on social media), using your phone while driving (illegally, but even legal use is arguably wrong in most circumstances), and others.
  7. If you are in a position of power (or as you gradually achieve these positions), distribute your power where you can, put precautions in place to keep your ego in check, create an atmosphere of openness and respect, and train the people you lead how to appropriately question authority.
  8. No matter how big or small your failure is, repent and confess it to someone. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes. Do it now and don't skip confessing to someone. When sins stay in the dark, that's how they grow and lead to more and more sins. 
  9. Surround yourself with virtuous people. If you spend time with people who act virtuously and that is the norm of the group, you will be much more likely to adopt and internalize those values so that you will grow in virtue rather than in vice. 

My final suggestion, which Christians should do anyway, is to donate money sacrificially. Why? The things Ravi did can scarcely happen without fairly large amounts of excess money (which Ravi had personally and had access to through the ministry). It's unlikely anyone reading this will ever have the power or opportunities that Ravi had, but most who read this either have or will have enough money to make some really bad choices and probably the occasional opportunity to do so.

Ravi was on a pedestal, which was one of many factors that contributed to his actions and allowed him to get away with it. No one should be on a pedestal so high they are not questioned, however, I want to challenge you not to put yourself on a pedestal either. Have the humility to recognize your potential weaknesses and put measures into your life to prevent you from even starting down a dangerous road. Being a morally upright and virtuous person right now is not a guarantee that you will continue to be this way in the future. It helps, but it's no guarantee.

Flee from sexual immorality.

- 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV) 


“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

- Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

What you don't know about biological sex

Image result for intersex

Sexuality, biological sex, and gender are the hot topics of the day, and unfortunately, nearly everyone has an over-simplified view of each topic. For this article, I'm only going to focus on biological sex, and for 99% of people reading this, my guess is that there's a lot more to it than you realize. I have no intent to change anyone's mind on any theological implications, but instead, I want to help people understand the topic so they can think more clearly, speak more intelligently, and be less insulting to people who don't fit the standard categories.

When people talk about biological sex, they typically refer to what is considered "normal," an XY male with a penis or an XX female with a vagina, but there's more to it than that. A high-end estimate is that up to 1.7% of the population has a condition that is referred to as a disorder of sexual development (DSD), although some consider this term disrespectful (the term hermaphrodite is considered derogative, too). For comparison, that's about the same percentage of the population that has red hair and blue eyes

However, DSD is a very broad term that includes way more conditions than those that are classified as intersex, which in the broadest sense, refers to any instance where a person's biology does not align with what is typically considered male or female. This is the best definition I've seen and comes from an 11-year-old intersex kid in this TED Talk. Intersex conditions are much less common than the 1.7% I mentioned above so I will list the birthrate for each condition separately.
Image result for boy or girl
One of the reasons people are not more aware of these differences is because many intersex people are unaware of it themselves. Many don't find out until puberty or struggles with infertility, but some go their whole life without finding out. In these cases, only genetic testing could tell them they're intersex.

Below is a list and brief description of the lesser-known variations of sex. As you read these, think about whether you would consider someone with such a condition a male or female, how should they describe their gender identity, and what does it mean for them to be homo- or heterosexual?

Sex Chromosomes: XO 
(Turner syndrome (TS); 45,X; or 45,X0)
Females most commonly have two X chromosomes, but for women with Turner Syndrome, one or part of one of the sex chromosomes is missing. This affects about 1 in every 5,000 girls. Some people have no signs of it while others might be affected by various physical abnormalities such as a wide neck, low-set ears, heart abnormalities, delayed growth, and others.

Sex Chromosomes: XXX
(Triple X Syndrome; Trisomy X; or 47,XXX)
Just as some women can have only one X chromosome, it's slightly more common (1 in 1,000) to have three X chromosomes. Women with this genetic variation are at higher risk for behavioral problems, learning disabilities (e.g. ADHD), mental health problems, and some physical problems such as seizures, flat feet, and more. The symptoms are usually mild and often even non-existent. This is different than many of the others mentioned because there is not misalignment between the genes and gene expression pertaining to sex.

Sex Chromosomes: XX
(XX Male Syndrome; 46,XX testicular disorder; XX sex reversal )
We all "know" that men have XY chromosomes and women have XX chromosomes, but about 1 in 20,000 people with a male appearance has two X chromosomes. They are usually shorter than the average male but look like a male in every way. They are infertile but otherwise, they usually have a normal functioning penis. Some will have smaller or undescended testes, a urethra hole on the underside of the penis, or ambiguous genitalia.

Sex Chromosomes: XY
(Swyer Syndrome; Gonadal Dysgenesis; 46,XY Complete Gonadal Dysgenesis (CGD); 46,XY Sex Reversal; XY Female Type)
About 1 in 80,000 people have Swyer syndrome, which is when someone looks like females and have female genitalia, but has XY chromosomes. Although they do not have ovaries, they can become pregnant and give birth via implantation. Most people with Swyer syndrome don't have symptoms in childhood. The first sign is often that they don't go through puberty or get a period, however, they can after hormone therapy.

Sex Chromosomes: XXY
(Klinefelter Syndrome (KS); 47,XXY Syndrome; XXY Syndrome; XXY Trisomy)
This is the most common variation, affecting about 1 in 650 newborn boys. Instead of copying an extra X chromosome as with XXX females, the extra chromosome copied is a Y. People with KS often have few to no symptoms (estimates are that 75% of people with it never know). Individuals with this are often taller, but may have weaker muscles, decreased testosterone, delayed puberty, breast enlargement, small penis, undescended testes, and other related effects. As many as 10 percent of people with KS have autism.

Sex Chromosomes: XYY
(47,XYY Syndrome; Jacob's Syndrome; XYY Karyotype; YY Syndrome)
About 1 in 1,000 boys are born with an extra Y chromosome. These males are typically taller than average and may have an enlarged head or teeth, flat feet, widely spaced eyes, or other physical effects, but many have no side effects. They're also at an increased risk of having ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Sex Chromosomes: XXYY
(48,XXYY Syndrome; XXYY Syndrome)
This condition affects 1 in 18-40,000 newborns. People with it present as boys at birth and have an average height of 6'4" in adulthood. Other symptoms include infertility, intellectual disabilities, decreased testosterone, reduced body hair, poor muscle development, and breast enlargement.

Sex Chromosomes: XXXY
(48,XXXY Syndrome; XXXY Males; XXXY Syndrome)
People with this chromosomal condition look like males. They tend to be taller than average, but usually have less testosterone, which can lead to enlarged breasts, smaller penis, undescended testes, and incomplete puberty. They're usually infertile and often have intellectual disabilities. This affects 1 in 17-50,000 newborn boys.

Sex Chromosomes: XXXXY
(49,XXXXY Syndrome; 49,XXXXY Chromosomal Anomaly; Chromosome XXXXY Syndrome; XXXXY Aneuploidy; XXXXY Syndrome)
This condition is sometimes called Klinefelter syndrome (see above) because it affects people similarly, but the effects are more severe and wide-ranging. It affects about 1 in 90,000 newborn boys so it's quite rare. All known people with this condition are infertile

Sex Chromosomes: XXXYY
(49,XXXYY Syndrome; XXXYY Syndrome)
This is extremely rare, with only a handful of known cases. Some symptoms are severe intellectual disability, facial deformities, ambiguous genitalia, small penis or testes, enlarged (male) breasts, and more.

Sex Chromosomes: XXYYY
I couldn't find much on this. I think this genetic arrangement is more theoretical than actual, but there appears to be at least one known case of it. It is likely similar to the cases discussed above, but probably has more severe symptoms similar to XXXYY.

Image result for intersex society of north americaThis is an enlarged clitoris, which may not sound very severe, but in some cases, it can be so large it looks like a penis. This is a symptom of XX males and other conditions discussed in this article. The picture on the right was and is used to measure the clitoris/penis length to determine if a baby with ambiguous genitalia should have surgery to "fix" their genitals to look like a traditional male or female. This also essentially determines how they are raised.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)
(Subtypes: 21-hydroxylase deficiency (most common form); 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency; 17-alpha-hydroxylase deficiency; 3-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency; Congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase deficiency; Congenital lipoid adrenal hyperplasia )
This condition can affect males and females, but females usually experience more severe symptoms. It affects the production of three different hormones, one of which is the male sex hormone, androgen, which is why it relates to this article. It can cause either sex to have ambiguous genitalia. In less severe forms, males can a have small penis and testes and females can have an enlarged clitoris.

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS)
(Androgen Receptor Deficiency, Androgen Resistance syndrome, AR Deficiency, Dihydrotestosterone Receptor (DHTR) Deficiency)
This is a rare condition (1 in 25-50,000) that affects sexual development before and after puberty in males. Their bodies do not respond to the male sex hormone, androgen, so they develop external female sex characteristics but have no uterus or ovaries and so they cannot give birth like XY females (see above). They are typically raised female and have a vagina. However, there is partial androgen insensitivity (Reifenstein Syndrome), which exists on a continuum and is less severe,. People with this could appear as male or female, but even when appearing as a male, they are usually infertile and tend to have enlarged breasts.

5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency
(Familial Incomplete Male Pseudohermaphroditism (type 2), Pseudovaginal Perineoscrotal Hypospadias, PPSH)
This is similar to AIS (above), but instead of an insensitivity to androgen, it's an insensitivity to the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). People born with this often have female genitalia at birth and are raised as females. However, they might also have ambiguous genitalia or a small penis. During puberty, increases in male hormones often gives the appearance of more male-like secondary sex characteristics (deeper voice, greater muscle mass, etc.) for those raised as females. Those raised as males will likely have decreased body and facial hair and will likely be infertile, at least without reproductive assistance. Most are raised females but many eventually adopt a male gender identity in adolescence.

This article merely laid out the biological facts, which is merely a starting point for talking about gender identity, and sexuality. In one study, over half (52%) of people with a disorder of sexual development identify as something other than heterosexual, which should cause us to think, what does it even mean for people with these genes to be heterosexual, homosexual, or other? Is an XX male a homosexual if he is attracted to XX females or XY males?

Even though intersex conditions are somewhat rare for the general population, intersex people may be a disproportionally large percentage of people who are not heterosexual or identify with a different gender. I say it's possible because there is limited research on this and what does exist shows a wide range of correlations between intersex, homosexuality, and gender dysphoria.

Does all this mean that there are more than two sexes or genders? That's a more in-depth discussion as there are other factors to consider, but for what it's worth, my inclination is to say no. Humans are still a sexually dimorphic species, meaning we have two sexes for reproduction. There are exceptions to everything I'm aware of so we shouldn't treat this differently. Exceptions don't make the rule. Intersex conditions typically lead to lower fertility rates and still require someone who presents as the opposite sex for reproduction.

Hopefully, this gave you something to think about and has challenged you, at the very least, to be a little more careful and respectful about how you speak about sexuality, gender, and biological sex. If I said anything in this article in an offensive way, I apologize. I tried speaking respectfully, but I also tried using common language so people would get what I'm saying. If I failed at either one, please let me know.

I relied heavily on these websites for this information and would recommend you start there for further research.
Genetics Homs Reference
National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD)
Mayo Clinic

Here are some other useful resources. If you can't access peer-reviewed journals through Google Scholar, trying using Sci-Hub. article that gives a brief overview of some of these conditions
-Ahmed, S. F., Morrison, S., & Hughes, I. A. (2004). Intersex and gender assignment; the third way?. Archives of disease in childhood, 89(9), 847-850.
-Blackless, M., Charuvastra, A., Derryck, A., Fausto‐Sterling, A., Lauzanne, K., & Lee, E. (2000). How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology: The Official Journal of the Human Biology Association, 12(2), 151-166.
-Furtado, P. S., Moraes, F., Lago, R., Barros, L. O., Toralles, M. B., & Barroso Jr, U. (2012). Gender dysphoria associated with disorders of sex development. Nature Reviews Urology, 9(11), 620.
-Jones, T., Hart, B., Carpenter, M., Ansara, G., Leonard, W., & Lucke, J. (2016). Intersex: Stories and statistics from Australia. Open Book Publishers.
-Jones, T. (2016). The needs of students with intersex variations. Sex Education, 16(6), 602-618.
-Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. (1994). Intersexuality and the diagnosis of gender identity disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23(1), 21-40.
-Sax, L. (2002). How common is Intersex? A response to Anne Fausto‐Sterling. Journal of sex research, 39(3), 174-178.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A man's thoughts on makeup

Yes, I am a man and I am writing about makeup, which primarily concerns women, but I am also a father of three young girls. While this article is directed mostly towards women, it is not just for women. It's also for husbands, fathers, and the men who (directly or indirectly) pressure women into wearing makeup or thinking they need it. 

Women, why do you wear it? Do you wish you had the same freedom as men to go without it? You are beautiful without it and you don't need it! I wrote this article a few months again but I thought it would be a prime time to finish it since Alicia Keys just said she is not going to wear makeup anymore. Let me try to convince you, without guilt or obligations, to (mostly) follow her example and go without makeup, or at least minimizing the amount you wear (hey, maybe you'll slowly get to the point where you don't want it anymore.).

Is it absolutely wrong to wear makeup?  Probably not, but it's certainly not ideal for Christian women. There are multiple reasons why Christian women (all women really, but objective Christian guidelines don't apply to non-Christians, even though it would be better for them, too). First off, makeup is expensive (money that could be given to the poor), putting it on is time-consuming, it has harmful side effects, demand for it objectifies women and sends the message that they are not beautiful enough without it, many women don't actually want to wear it, it is not nearly as attractive women think (especially in the all too common instances when too much is applied), and most importantly, scripture seems to imply that women should not wear it.

My wife does not typically wear makeup, and when she does, she wears very little. She is absolutely gorgeous and part of what makes her so beautiful is that she does not wear much or any makeup. Going without helps her look confident and genuine (and she really is those things, it's not just how she looks). Even though my wife hardly wears any makeup, my 5-year-old daughter has somehow got the impression that she needs to wear makeup.  Do you have any idea how heartbreaking it is for a 5-year-old to throw a fit over wearing makeup because "I want to be beautiful!" She has broken into our room several times to get into my wife's makeup just so she could "be beautiful." You may be quick to blame parenting, but I as I already mentioned, makeup is not important in our house at all. Females are bombarded with the message that they need makeup to be beautiful and males are filled with the expectation that women need makeup. Neither message is true.

Because scripture is the most important reason for not wearing makeup, let's start there. Not a single Bible verse directly uses the word 'makeup,' but the underlying justification for all the verses I will mention also applies to makeup, at least to some degree or in some cases. Proverbs 7:10 talks about the dangers of a woman dressed as a prostitute.  Now, don't misunderstand me here, I am NOT saying that makeup makes women look like prostitutes, but it is a contributing factor. Stop for a second a visualize a prostitute. I'd be willing to bet that you picture her in heels, fishnets, a short skirt, a tube top or other top with very little fabric, and lots of makeup, something which has remained somewhat consistent throughout history (1). Contrast Proverbs 7:10 with Proverbs 31:25, which says that an excellent wife is clothed in wisdom and dignity. Do you ever look at a woman with loads of makeup on and think "she is just so wise and respectable!" I didn't think so.

On a similar note, 1 Peter 3:3 and 1 Tim 2:9 both talk about women dressing modestly in terms of their clothes, hair, and jewelry. Both verses continue to say that this is so that their godly spirit can shine through. These verses are usually misunderstood to mean that women should dress modestly by covering up, but that is not what the context means at all. These verses are talking about wealth and status. Makeup, like clothes, jewelry, and expensive/time-consuming hairstyles, is expensive. We may not realize it because nearly everyone in America can afford it, but we're also rich in comparison to most the world. Generally speaking, these verses refer to external things being used to make women look beautiful and makeup is certainly an external product that women use to look beautiful. Whether or not you agree or care about the point about wealth or status, these verses still say that a woman's beauty comes from who they are, not what they look like. Makeup prevents your character from coming through and being seen. Don't hide behind an artificial mask that you don't need.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Col 3:17 NASB)


Journal Articles:
Batres, C., Russell, R., Simpson, J. A., Campbell, L., Hansen, A. M., & Cronk, L. (2018). Evidence that makeup is a false signal of sociosexuality. Personality and Individual Differences, 122, 148-154.

Bernard, P., Servais, L., Wollast, R., & Gervais, S. (2020). An initial test of the cosmetics dehumanization hypothesis: Heavy makeup diminishes attributions of humanness-related traits to women. Sex Roles, 83(5), 315-327.

Lee, H., & Oh, H. (2018). The effects of self-esteem on makeup involvement and makeup satisfaction among elementary students. Archives of Design Research, 31(2), 87-94.

Ryu, J. H., & Kim, Y. S. (2020). Influence of interest in appearance of upper elementary school student on makeup behavior and self-esteem. Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology, 18(1), 17-25.

Tran, A., Rosales, R., & Copes, L. (2020). Paint a Better Mood? Effects of Makeup Use on YouTube Beauty Influencers’ Self-Esteem. SAGE Open, 10(2), 2158244020933591.