Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My Response

If you haven't read J.A. Gillmartin's post, then please do. This won't make terribly much sense to you otherwise.

First, I'd like to respond to this:

Moral Equivalency Most egregious is the effort to make "Tom Cruise's bizarre diatribe" morally equivalent with the extremely sensitive efforts of the religious right (not just evangelicals but Mormons, Jews, Catholics, and Muslims) to speak out on a prominent cultural issue of our day. The public rant by an entertainment icon is hardly similar to an organized effort by cultural activists whether they be religious or otherwise; to attempt to make them so is illogical, to attempt to single out a religious conspiracy when none exists is disingenuous and borders on bigotry.
My intention in mentioning Tom Cruise was not to assert moral equivalency. It may seem like a lame attempt at an excuse, but it was really just a lame attempt at a segue into the main body of the post, using an easily recognizable bit of pop culture "news."

But upon retrospect, for Tom Cruise, a man with no formal psychological training, to say that he's done the research and come out with a conclusion that's antithetical to the tenets of mainstream psychology (i.e., "there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance") isn't all that different from religious groups rejecting the conclusions of the American Psychiatric Association on the basis of what they want to believe to be true. Tom Cruise may have done research on psychiatry, but given his beliefs, it's likely that he went into that research looking for an answer. Scientologists don't believe in taking drugs of any sort, and they believe that illnesses, mental and otherwise, are caused by "body thetans." We don't have to get into Scientology in depth right now. Suffice it to say, Cruise went into his "research" with a bias toward what he was going to believe, and he latched onto the fringe groups who agreed with him and used them as a basis for rejecting whatever he liked of mainstream psychiatry.

The religious right (including all of the groups mentioned above by John), sensitive though some of its members may be (though I'd disagree with you about people like Fred Phelps), have gone into the public debate about homosexuality with a conclusion already in their minds. They believe that homosexuality is a sin. A perversion. But you have to be able to make the choice to sin or not sin, so homosexuality, if it's a sin, must be a choice. So those who believe that homosexuality is a sin already come to the table with a bias toward views that are going to claim homosexuality is a choice, regardless of what various psychological outlets say about it.

Factual Support Another is the failure to support facts claimed: e.g., "Psychology is under assault from all sorts of crazies lately" (who, where, why, when??); a link to Cruise's outburst on "The Today Show" would have been helpful for the reader; and the fact that homosexuality was for years classified as a psychological disorder by the APA itself, should have been mentioned but wasn't.
Again, I addressed the Tom Cruise reference. And here's a link, just for posterity.

But I really have to take issue with the assertion that I should have noted homosexuality's longtime classification as a psychological disorder. The nature of science, as opposed to religion, is that sometimes we realize that we were wrong, and we revise our scientific hypotheses because the old ones were no longer valid. A discussion about the solar system would not require me to mention that for years people thought the sun revolved around the Earth, because that theory was rejected as no longer valid and subsequently revised (though, interestingly enough, there are a number of modern geocentrists, motivated by certain biblical passages).

Exaggeration "How do they know this? Were they gay, and cured of it? Of course not! Never speak of it!" Fargus, my young friend this simply is not true. For at least a dozen years we've (the "gays can change" crowd) presented case after case of homosexuals who've been cured (we were and are ignored by the secular and gay communities; in this case cases were provided in the MSNBC report cited in your own post). We've written books (ignored), provided testimonies (ignored), and established ministries to support those suffering under gay bondage (ignored). The truth is - it is the homosexual community and its supporters who've not provided evidence of it being a genetic phenomena.
The term "cured" is pretty loaded. It presupposes that homosexuality is a mental disorder, which I think I already covered with the link to the APA page above. But allow me to quote from the APA concerning "conversion therapy":
Some therapists who undertake so-called conversion therapy report that they have been able to change their clients' sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Close scrutiny of these reports however show several factors that cast doubt on their claims. For example, many of the claims come from organizations with an ideological perspective which condemns homosexuality. Furthermore, their claims are poorly documented. For example, treatment outcome is not followed and reported overtime as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.
The reason it's so important that most of these conversion therapy groups come from an ideologically biased perspective is simply that it's antithetical to the scientific method. If one wanted real, unbiased views of whether homosexuals could change orientation, one would not conduct such research in an environment where the test subjects were being told that one outcome was fundamentally wrong. This would inherently bias the subjects, through fear and intimidation.

As for the point about not presenting evidence of homosexuality as a genetic phenomenon, psychologists think that it's a complicated mix of genetic, cognitive and environmental factors (from the APA page linked above). But there have been studies that show there is a fundamental difference in brain chemistry between straight and gay men, at least in how they respond to the pheromones present in male sweat.

Dissimulation "On the foundation of the Bible, Dobson and his cronies are able to dismiss years of mental health science as irrelevant simply because they don't agree with it." Now this is amazing. Fargus, on the basis of "years of mental health science" you dismiss six millenia of biblical science (studies) as irrelevant simply because you "don't agree with it"! Now friends that is known as projection by the APA.
I think I already addressed this point earlier, talking about "research" with the conclusions already in mind, but I guess I'll hit on it again. Science, my friend, makes observations and tries to fit a theory around those observations. If one theory doesn't fit, then it's back to the drawing board. With religion, it's exactly the opposite. You start with a theory (in this case, that homosexuality's a choice, though there are many other examples, most notably creationism, at least lately), and then try to make your observations fit that theory. If the observations don't fit the theory, then it's assumed that the observations must have been wrong, because the theory is infallible. Now I respect your right to believe how you want to believe, and to disagree with me, but let's not go into this thinking that religion in any way resembles science.

Phew. I need a nap.