Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scientist renounces his own notorious “ex-gay” study

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Dr. Robert L. Spitzer
Dr. Robert Spitzer

If there’s one thing that cranks of any flavor (be it anti-evolution, anti-global warming, anti-gay, etc.) just love, it’s research that they claim confirms their delusions, regardless of how much they need to twist and cherry-pick the results they like and ignore all the rest that contradicts them. One such study that homophobes just love citing is this notorious 2001 paper by Dr. Robert Spitzer, which claimed that gays can just wish and pray the gay away if they try hard enough. The study was quickly riddled with criticism on a variety of levels, but that didn’t stop Christian-conservatives everywhere from referencing it exhaustively as “proof” that gayness really is just a lifestyle choice that anyone can abandon anytime they like.

There’s just one problem, though. Over a decade after the study’s publication, Dr. Spitzer himself has now come forward and admitted the whole thing is bullshit:

In a move that serves as a significant blow to "ex-gay" programs and anti-gay organizations, Dr. Robert Spitzer repudiated his much-criticized 2001 study that claimed some "highly motivated" homosexuals could go from gay to straight. His retraction occurred in an American Prospect magazine article that hit newsstands today. Spitzer's rejection of his own research, which was originally published in the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior, is a devastating blow to "ex-gay" organizations because it decisively eliminates their most potent claim that homosexuality can be reversed through therapy and prayer.

"Dr. Spitzer's repudiation of his 2001 study is an earthquake that severely undermines the validity of 'ex-gay' programs," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen, who criticized the study in his 2003 book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. "Spitzer just kicked out the final leg from the stool on which the proponents of 'ex-gay' therapy based their already shaky claims of success."

Spitzer's 2001 study was a surprise and created a media firestorm because he had previously led the charge in 1972-73 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.

According to today's American Prospect article:

"In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques [of my study] are largely correct," Dr. Spitzer told the American Prospect in an article by Gabriel Arana titled, My So Called Ex-Gay Life. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."

Spitzer asked for a retraction of his 2001 study, "So I don't have to worry about it anymore?"

Dr. Spitzer's research was particularly harmful because he was the only non-socially conservative scientist to produce a study claiming some people could "pray away the gay."

A good second step would be to apologize to the countless gays and lesbians whose persecution only worsened thanks to his unscientific crock-of-a-paper.

The article does end with this darkly amusing quote:

"Virtually every anti-gay organization in the country quotes Dr. Spitzer's work," said TWO's Wayne Besen. "It will be an integrity test to see which groups remove citations of his work in the coming week."

To anyone who thinks any anti-gay groups are going to be remotely honest about this, I’ve got one beauty of a bridge to sell you.

(via Joe. My. God.)