Nov. 12–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.
Diamond’s comments specifically targeted Encino, Calif., psychologist Joseph 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 video. “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.”
Diamond goes even further.
“The therapists are saying, ‘We can change your orientation,’ when all of the data — all of the data — suggest that is not the case. They say same-sex attractions can disappear. They don’t,” she says. Reparative therapies “do additional damage” with techniques that incorporate electroshock and nausea-inducing treatments “that leave people feeling greater shame, greater guilt, worse about themselves.”
This is not the first time in the history of psychology that a scientist has bent over backward to prevent her/his data from being misused, but to no avail.
Psychologist Alfred Binet is credited as the inventor of the intelligence test, which the controversial IQ test is based on, but Binet’s test was originally used to detect learning disabilities in French children, not to rank people’s intellectual worth. A decent textbook on the history of psychology will emphasize this, but the Wikipedia article on Binet does not. Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man discusses in detail the lengths that Binet went to in order to prevent his research from being misused, and is a very good book in general about intelligence testing and race.
Anyway, I am convinced that no matter what a scientist does to prevent misinterpretation, there will be bigots who will outright lie about what the research says to advance their own agenda. Preventing scientists from doing research into a controversial topic is not an option, as truth and justice do not contradict each other. How, then, can we prevent bigotry from masquerading as science?
Perhaps if more people were educated in science and critical thinking, they would immediately see through the lies and faulty logic.