Friday, November 14, 2008

NARTH Misinterprets the Science

A couple of years ago, the American Psychological Association convention was held here in Washington, and I attended. I heard a fascinating talk by a professor from the University of Utah named Lisa Diamond, who has followed a group of a hundred women, asking them each year to report their sexual orientation and some other things about themselves. These particular women tended to change their self-reported orientation every few years, sometimes they were straight, sometimes they were lesbians, sometimes bisexual or undecided.

I talked to her after her presentation, as reported on this blog HERE. (More on Dr. Diamond's research HERE.)

In that conversation, Dr. Diamond said that she is visited regularly by Mormon guys who ask her help, saying they "just can't be gay." But, she said, there is no scientific support for the idea that a person can change their sexual orientation -- her research subjects do not make a decision to change, it just happens, and they change both ways, from straight to gay as much as the other way. In general, these seem to be women who fall in love with someone regardless of the person's sex.

Well, as you can imagine, the "ex-gay" and anti-gay types would like to say there is scientific evidence to support their view that gay people can transform themselves into straight ones, and they have cited Dr. Diamond's research results as evidence for that.

She is not pleased.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:
A national group that advocates "treatment" of homosexuality is being criticized for allegedly distorting a Utah researcher's work to advance the theory that people choose their sexual orientation - a controversial notion rejected by mainstream psychology.

Lisa Diamond, a University of Utah psychologist whose sexual identity studies suggest a degree of "fluidity" in the sexual preferences of women, said in an interview Tuesday that the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH, misrepresents her findings. Position papers, some penned by NARTH president A. Dean Byrd, an adjunct professor in the U.'s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, point to Diamond's research as evidence that gays' sexual orientation can be straightened out through treatment - much to Diamond's dismay.

"If NARTH had read the study more carefully they would find that it is not supported by my data at all. I bent over backward to make it difficult for my work to be misused, and to no avail. When people are motivated to twist something for political purposes, they'll find a way to do it," Diamond says in a videotaped interview posted on the Internet. U. psychologist says sex research distorted

You can watch the video on Wayne Besen's site: HERE. Besen blogged about this interview a few weeks ago. The Tribune only had it yesterday, oddly waiting until after the elections where anti-gay ballot measures were being considered in several states.
Diamond made those remarks two weeks ago as Californians were debating Proposition 8, the divisive ballot measure that mandates marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints encouraged members to give time and money to the successful campaign, triggering a cascade of criticism and protests.

Diamond's comments specifically targeted Encino, Calif., psychologist Joeseph Nicolosi, co-founder of NARTH and the author of "Healing Homosexuality," and "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality."

"You know exactly what you're doing," says Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies, in the videotape. "There's no chance this is a misunderstanding or simply a different scientific interpretation. ... It's illegitimate and it's irresponsible and you should stop doing it."

Nicolosi did not respond to an interview request and Byrd claimed he did not know why Diamond, a fellow U. faculty member, took umbrage with NARTH's citation of her work.

"NARTH's view is that people can adapt any way they want and there is freedom of choice," Byrd says. "If it says 'fluidity' it says 'fluidity.' How you interpret it is something else."

That is, of course, a completely inappropriate perspective for scientific literature. It's not like poetry, where the reader is invited to fantasize along with the words or to impose their own personal interpretation, these are peer-reviewed scientific journal publications.

These past few years we have seen a number of serious researchers complain that anti-gay and "ex-gay" ideologues are distorting and cherry-picking lines from scientific publications.

The cure for this, and the prevention for a repeat of the past eight abysmal years of American history, is, it seems to me, education. People need to learn to read critically, everyone should have a solid background in scientific methods, some statistical literacy would be a nice thing. Listen carefully when you hear them talk about education, about home-schooling and charter schools, and when they complain about our public schools. Some groups benefit when Americans are poorly educated.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I bent over backward to make it difficult for my work to be misused, and to no avail."

This is a compromised researcher. A competent researcher presents the facts and makes an interpretation based on rationalism. They don't "bend over backwards" to make sure the data is used according to their personal preferences.

"Listen carefully when you hear them talk about education, about home-schooling and charter schools, and when they complain about our public schools. Some groups benefit when Americans are poorly educated."

Funny thing is the number of teachers in public schools whose kids don't go to public schools. Most go to private school, although many are home-schooled.

I remember talking to the vice principal at my son's public high school and asking him why he sends his kids to private school. He said, "I thought I can afford it so why not?". He just assumes the only reason anyone sends their kid to public school is they had no choice.

Interesting that our new President-elect's wife toured several private schools in D.C. this week. They seem to have a problem with our public schools too.

Are these the "complaints" about public schools you're talking about?

November 14, 2008 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There you go again, Anon, putting words in people's mouths. Dr. Diamond did not make the data fit any "personal preferences." She reported the data accurately to make it difficult for the handful of NARTH quacks to distort it, which they did anyway because the NARTH quacks, who have been distorting any and all data for decades, do so to fit their own political and personal preferences.

There are gay members of virtually every species on earth. Why are these quacks so determined pretend homosexuality is not normal?

Someone should commission a study of the NARTH quacks.

November 14, 2008 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea-not anon
Ooh, yeah- made-up "facts"- "Funny thing is the number of teachers in public schools whose kids don't go to public schools. Most go to private school, although many are home-schooled".

November 14, 2008 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the idea that the teacher's kid would be home-schooled. That's like if the barber's kid never went to the barbershop.

Think about it. Home-schooling guarantees that children will not surpass their parents.

November 14, 2008 8:59 AM  
Blogger Wayne Besen said...

She bent over backwards because she was aware that compromised anti-gay groups would distort it.

Science is in the business of offering accurate information to the public. When it is distorted, cherry-picked and lied about, it defeats the purpose of the science.

Dr. Diamond was wise to make it more difficult for these anti-gay special interest groups to misinterpret her work for political gain.

November 14, 2008 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For people who cherry-pick scriptures to defend their prejudices, cherry-picking scientific evidence for the same reasons makes sense. Have y'all read any of the anti-evolution claptrap these people present as scientific evidence?


November 14, 2008 11:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Full transcript of Dr. Diamond's video testimony here.

Use at will :)

January 14, 2009 8:27 PM  

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