Running into the gender revolution: Transgenderism and the Boston Marathon

April 13, 2018

April kicks off marathon season. I’m in the middle of training for the Nashville Marathon on April 28. It isn’t often that my love for long-distance running intersects with the topic I have written a book on—like transgenderism.

But with the world’s most prestigious marathon happening next Monday in Boston, and with news that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) is allowing transgender athletes to compete in its famed marathon, it raises questions about whether basic fairness in athletic competition can coexist alongside the gender revolution and political correctness. The answer appears to be no.

According to the Boston Herald, five transgender women are participating in the 2018 Boston Marathon. For those unclear on the terminology, a transgender woman is a biological male who self-identifies as female. This is not the first time that transgender athletes have participated in Boston, but this year, the Boston Athletic Association is clarifying its position on the matter. “We take people at their word. We register people as they specify themselves to be,” Tom Grilk of the Boston Athletic Association is reported saying to the Boston Herald.

The article quotes a scientist who fully acknowledges the tilted imbalance in favor of male athletes who are competing against women due to physiological factors. The article also cites a counterview by another scientist, alleging that “there’s no physiologic advantage to being assigned male at birth.”

How a reputable scientist can make such a claim against all lived experience, commonsense, and scientific data is astounding and demonstrates the ideological falsehoods made to bolster the legitimacy of transgender women (biological males) competing against women.

Here’s the dilemma: If biological males are allowed to compete as women under the philosophically problematic category of “gender identity,” how can competition be considered fair to women?

Statistically speaking, males have physiological advantages over females when it comes to sports performance. To make this observation is not to denigrate female athletics or demean female design. It is to make an objective observation, an observation that explains why athletics have traditionally remained segregated by sex. This acknowledgement protects the integrity of the sexes, the integrity of athletic competition, and allows men and women to play on level ground.

Christians ought to proudly defend the equality of the sexes in God’s eyes, because he made them in his image.

Sex segregation in athletic competition results from recognizing the differences in male and female biology. Sex differentiation is a biological reality that follows from God making humanity male and female. The differences in males and females are stark: Different chromosomes, different reproductive designs, different bodily structures, and more.

Christians ought to proudly defend the equality of the sexes in God’s eyes, because he made them in his image. At the same time, males and females are not the same, biologically speaking. Their bodily organization produces different bodily design, and this design manifests physiological differences that produce clear-cut disparities in athletic performance. Males, as a general population, are faster and stronger than females. This is especially true in distance running, where men, as a whole, produce faster times compared to women.

A host of differences contribute to increased male performance in running. According to a 2005 Sports Medicine journal article, “Running Performance Differences in Men and Women,” men have greater aerobic capacity, which makes them faster. This basic difference in men and women is the increased oxygenation rate of men over women. This is due to an increased heart size and greater ability to pump blood, the ability to create more red blood cells, and capability to produce hemoglobin from the production of testosterone. Men also have lower body fat percentages.

How should we respond?

So, what should we make of the decision to allow transgender women to compete with females?

First, it should be stated upfront that transgender women are not women. They are biological males who may or may not experience gender dysphoria that lead them to want to identity and live as women. This is not to be harsh or condemning, but truthful (Eph. 4:15). Christians should have no part in demeaning individuals who struggle with their own internal sense of gender. However, no amount of self-assertion and self-identity can override the objective biological reality of maleness. So we should be abundantly clear on what the Boston Athletic Association is allowing: They are allowing men to compete against women.

Second, by allowing men to compete in the same division as women, the Boston Athletic Association is violating a basic principle of fairness. Fairness is based on treating similar things the same way. It is unjust, for example, to use skin color as a basis for denying a black person a hotel room while at the same time allowing a white person to access one. Skin color is irrelevant to a person’s need for housing. But treating men and women differently is appropriate since, well, men and women are different when it comes to bodily distinctions and athletic performance. Treating transgender women as though they are real women is not treating women fairly, since males have a physiological advantage over women.

Third, this ought to show how far the transgender movement has reached into American culture and the level of success it has attained, despite the consequences and inconsistencies that occur from blurring sex and gender.

Fourth, this event demonstrates the fundamental hypocrisy of a culture that esteems fairness and equality, but undermines both to serve the cause of political correctness.

Fifth, the confusion that stems from blurring gender and denying the authority of biological sex is a grievous departure from God’s authority over creation. God’s lordship over creation is manifest in how he has designed men and women as distinct phenotypes. Our design as men and women is a revelation of God’s will for creation. In this, Christians declare that Christian and non-Christian alike can understand the difference between men and women. Our design reflects God’s providential governance over the world. When culture suppresses this truth, it robs God of his glory and lordship over creation, and subverts human action in society.

The Boston Athletic Association is serving its own interests by wanting to avoid controversy in allowing transgender women to compete as women. It is doing a disservice to culture by groveling to falsehood and violating the integrity of athletics. In a culture that is wanting to esteem and value women and womanhood, the BAA is undercutting both.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24