Waymon Hudson

Weird Science: A Laughable New "Scientific" Study on Ex-Gay Conversion

Filed By Waymon Hudson | August 13, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Living
Tags: conversion therapy, ex-gay ministries, Exodus International Ministries

Sometime you just have to shake your head when right-wing fundamentalists claim to use science...

641px-mad_scientist_transparent_backgroundsvg.pngA new "study" has been released, conveniently on the heels of the American Psychological Association adopting a resolution calling on mental health professionals to stop telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments, claiming a 53% success rate in ex-gay conversion therapy.

There are so many holes in this bit of "science" that even the anti-gay, ultraconservative Baptist Press sounds a bit skeptical, introducing the study by saying: "In findings that directly contradict mainstream academic thought..." I think that's the first truthful thing they've ever reported.

And anyone want to guess who completely funded the bogus report? If you guessed Exodus International, then you get to move to the head of the class!

Let's take a trip down the rabbit hole and break down the new "study"...

Biased from the Start

1-dirty-money.jpgThe study was conducted by Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton College and Mark A. Yarhouse of Regent University and is a follow-up to one released two years ago. These two great scientific minds are obviously not biased to create an outcome they (or their money backers at Exodus) want at all.

The men followed 61 subjects over a span of six to seven years, recording "their failures and successes in their attempt to leave homosexuality." Which program were they going through to "leave homosexuality", you may ask?

All the subjects were going through programs set up by Exodus International- who funded the study. What a shocker!

Fun with Numbers

Let's look at the numbers from the "findings" and see how they really add up:

-- 23 percent reported a successful conversion to heterosexual attractions.

-- 30 percent reported living a celibate life and were content with their reduction in homosexual attractions. Altogether, those latter two categories were combined for a 53 percent success rate, the researchers said.

-- 16 percent of subjects had modest decreases in homosexual attractions and weren't satisfied with their degree of change but were committed to continuing the process.

-- 7 percent had seen no decrease in homosexual attractions but had not given up trying to change.

-- 25 percent of subjects were considered "failures," either because they gave up on the process and once again identified as a homosexual (20 percent) or because they had not yet embraced a homosexual identity but nevertheless had given up (5 percent).

Hmmm. So neutering gay men and making them celibate is curing them? Is that the loose definition of "leaving homosexuality" now- not having sex with anyone and having "reduced" attractions to men?

That's a low bar, even for these pseudo-scientists. Way to really tweak those success numbers.

But even more telling is the tiny side note about the number of people who dropped out of the study, yet aren't included in the "failure" numbers or in the control group percentages at all:

The study actually began with 98 subjects, but 37 dropped out by the six-year mark for various reasons, Jones said.

So almost 40% dropped out of the nutty study before the end and they just dropped them from numbers to increase their bogus "success" rates.

That's some scientific method they've got there...

Rigorous Scientific Standards? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Standards!

images.jpgPoor, debunked Jones expressed frustration that the APA didn't take their study seriously at all:

They selectively apply rigorous scientific standards. So when it comes to examining the evidence that sexual orientation change can occur, they apply extraordinarily rigorous standards...

How dare the APA ask for rigorous scientific standards in studies relating to peoples mental well-being! The nerve! How could they not just blindly accept a movable control group, fluffed up numbers, and a compromised funding source?

Who needs science or standards when you have money and God on your side!

A Telling Ending to a Nutty Study

The Baptist Press is reporting that this will be the final part of the study:

The latest set of data is the final set from the researchers. A lack of funding, as well as a belief that the data is conclusive, has resulted in them stopping the longitudinal study.

Looks like Exodus can't even afford to create their own science anymore. Break out the violins.

Perhaps what sums up the study the best comes from the man conducting it:

In our experience from discussing with the subjects, an awful lot of them just want to move on. We had to really persuade people to stay in for this final assessment.

We finally agree on something, Jones. The subjects want to move on from the physiological damage you and Exodus have put them through.

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twinkie1cat | August 14, 2009 12:10 AM

Focus on the Family also insists that their Truth Wins Out works. All these programs are is behavior modification. "Appropriate" behavior is rewarded. Inappropriate behavior can be ignored or punished. The problem is that if there is no intrinsic reinforcement (comes from inside the person whose behavior is being modified.) it does not last unless extrinsic reinforcers continue to be used, essentially a life long program that rewards the desired behavior sort of akin to the chips given in 12-step programs. But it works for the rightwingers because deep down they don't believe that homosexual orientation exists. They acknowledge that a few people might be attracted to the same sex but generally write it up to abuse or lonlieness. If you call it behavior, you can modify it.

This kind of program was most memorably used in teaching autistic children to ride a tricycle. The researcher kept a spoonful of jam just out of the child's reach until he pedaled the distance the researcher wanted. The child rode the trike with his mouth open for his jam. If the program was successful, riding the trike became something that the child liked to do, so he kept doing it without the jam. Bike riding became intrinsically motivating.

Operant condtioning as a formal program has been used at least since the 1960s and was formally codified by B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who taught dogs to salivate when a bell rang.

Now if a person is gay, heterosexual behavior will never become self reinforcing and abstinence has no intrinsic reward other than feeling like the victim is being (self?) righteous. So the new behavior is not going to stick if it is generalized to settings that don't provide rewards stronger than the desire for intimacy with a same sex fellow or worse, that reinforce homosexual behavior---such as when one of Focus on the Family's employees got caught by an Advocate writer in a gay bar. He was re-trained, but eventually came out and was fired by Focus.

Another thought in these studies is that some of the "successful" clients were probably not gay to begin with, just questioning. They had limited sexual experience. I have seen that with Dobson's successes. A lot of people experiment with gay sex. So, beyond the "scientific" method, I doubt if there was any scientific, random selection of participants in the study.

Rick Elliott | August 14, 2009 1:48 AM

Fundies lost another one when the administration of Baylor University (Southern Baptist in Waco,
TX)tried to begin a School of Creation Science, offering even graduate degrees.
A professor of Biology, Dr. Eric Duhrkopf, raised a furor about it. He even made a major, front-page story in the Houston CHRONICLE. There was some serious "egg-on-face" suffered by the Southern Baptist fundies. University integrity was maintained.
See INHERIT THE WIND, starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March to get a picture of the 1920s Scopes "monkey" trial about a Tennessee teacher who wanted to teach Darwin in addition to the school required as science God creating the earth in 6, 24-hour days.

Thanks for expanding on the Jones study, which Examiner.com reported earlier. Glad to learn that funding for this bogus research has stopped. It was hardly a real-world study since it was confined to people who already had signed up Exodus International's so-called counseling. And even among those people, the most they could achieve was celibacy, more or less. But if they read their Bibles closely, they may be disappointed to learn that "lust in the heart" is just as sinful as actually committing the act. So if you're going to define homosexuality as sin rather than as an expression of God's diverse creation, be prepared for failure. Your daydreams or night dreams will rat you out.
The sad part is this study will be hushed up or distorted so as to lure more people into the blind alleys of the Ex-Gay movement. And some young people will be pushed into psychosis or suicide. Self-loathing people, accept yourselves and make joyful use of the different capacity for love that you have been blessed with.

The study was presented orally at a conference sub-group meeting, NOT published -- a telling fact, as well. Many fine scientific papers are first presented, then published. This paper, however, has been presented and will not be published in a peer-reviewed journal for many of the reasons that Mr Hudson has discussed, but basically because it's just bad science.

Another reason it may not be published is that those whose political agenda this study does not fit neatly with will exercise extreme organized pressure to ensure no publication will make room for it. The pro gay agenda has folks in high places in every association and publication and can turn the spiggot of protest and spite on whenever their word views are challenged. Most journals have simply caved after making the calculation it is not worth being a platoform for the exchange of ideas and research when it comes to gay issues. Same stuff happened with global warming and the orgin of life on earth. So much for enlightenment.

I read this to mean that they inadvertently demonstrated that people are born gay and that a small number of them can choose to act like heterosexuals.

In other words, homosexuality is inert, but heterosexuality is a choice!