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Dr. Stanton Jones Replies

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2007

Dr. Stanton Jones, co-author of Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, responded to my preliminary review in the comments. I wanted to elevate his comments to another post for visibility and to start a new comment thread. I’d like to thank Dr. Jones for sharing his thoughts. I ask that all commenters treat the subject matter with similar civility. Thank you.


Dear Mr. Burroway and the readers of the Box Turtle Bulletin:

Some brief reflections on your review (with a quick added note that we will not be responding much in this type of format; the demands are simply too great):

1. Above all else, thank you for a substantive and thoughtful preliminary review that actually engages the factual, scientific and intellectual issues of the study instead of engaging in the types of character assassination and other negative tactics of some commentators. While I obviously disagree with your conclusion that “we’re still left waiting for that definitive breakthrough ex-gay study. I don’t think this one is it,” you have nevertheless made clear the grounds on which you have made this judgment, have discussed those grounds rationally, and those grounds are areas of legitimate debate.

2. There seems to be considerable confusion about the book not being available until October. The book is in fact available now; it was released the same day as the paper presentation in Nashville. Quite a number of your questions are answered in the full book presentation; the paper is a sampling of the findings, with an emphasis in the paper (admittedly) on the clearer findings that led us to our conclusions. Now to four substantive issues you raise:

3. Psychophysiological measurement: You ask about our failure to use MRI technology. First, we report in this paper and book on the data gathered up to two years ago, and the MRI technology was unavailable then. Second, even today I would not use it. The “No Lie MRI” appears to be just the latest hyped and unproven version of the hope for a foolproof lie detector. A recent New Yorker article by Margaret Talbot (“Duped: Can Brain Scans Uncover Lies?,” July 2, 2007) presents a readable and thorough discussion of just how overly-hyped and poorly validated this new technology is. There is inadequate scientific basis to believe the “No Lie MRI” would be a suitable measure for our subjects.

4. Retention: You put quite a bit of emphasis on our drop-outs and chided our efforts to contact and assess drop-outs without benefit of reading our account of this in the book. You particularly compare us unfavorably to the Add Health Study. Remember that the Add Health Study was a study of adolescents with parental approval, so those researchers were remarkably advantaged in terms of being able to track down missing participants through their families. We had no such advantage with an adult population. We went to extreme lengths to keep people in the study, involving multiple pleas and contacts including those through families and friends, and, when we had contact information at all, with personal calls and pleas from me. At some point, you must respect people’s wishes not to be contacted. We remain proud of our retention rate in the study.

5. Representativeness of sample: You say “I think at least one demographic variable they provided [i.e., age] is ample evidence that their sample is not representative.” To the best of my knowledge, there is only one study that can come close to the claim of getting a representative sample in this area, and that is the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin Australian twin study (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000) that concluded that genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation; this is a great sample because it was an exhaustive sample of every twin born in Australia! (Update: Dr. Jones has more on the Australian twin study here.) At some level, the ultimate representativeness of all other samples is debatable. The evidence you cite in your dismissal is a good example of our difficulty: You state your impression that Exodus conferences draw a younger crowd while our sample age is older, and that therefore that we have a bad sample. But you have provided no justification that your impressions of Exodus conference ages are valid, nor stated the bases for your inference that conference attenders are in turn representative of those who seek help in local Exodus ministries. We do acknowledge that we cannot prove the representativeness of our sample, but have numerous reasons, cited in the book, for why we think we got something like a representative sample. And one final note: samples have to be adequate to the task of the study, and we discuss in the book the reasons why the sample is adequate to test an absolute hypothesis (that change is impossible) and a strong hypothesis (that the change attempt is often and decisively harmful).

6. Truly prospective: We explicitly discuss in the book the implications of including the Phase 2 group. I would soften your criticism of the retrospective implications of this group, because in contrast to the Spitzer study where subjects could be looking back over many years or decades to remember their prior experience, our Phase 2 group were looking back into their immediate past. More importantly, however, it is vital to note that while the average changes noted were less strong for the Phase 1 group, Phase 1 subjects were proportionally represented in all of our success categories, so an easy dismissal of significant changes in this group is simply not possible.

Again, it was a delight to read a thoughtful review of our study. No study is perfect. To argue that ours is the strongest study yet done in this area is not the same as to argue that it is exemplary or perfect. It is a stronger study than any available, one particularly suited to the hypotheses investigated.

Stanton L. Jones

Comments

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Timothy Kincaid
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

Dr. Jones,

Thank you for responding to our preliminary observations. And now that I know the book is available, I will read it and not have to rely on summaries.

I do understand that your sample size, or even your use of Phase 1 and Phase 2 samples are adequate to address your hypothesis of the impossibility of change in orientation. Indeed any sample would be adequate if the results included at least one person who had changed from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation.

Unfortunately, as best I can tell, this study does not provide any examples of such a change.

Now I know that my standards are more exacting than yours. While you would accept reduced same-sex desire and increased opposite-sex desire as being successful, I return to the actual hypothesis you seek to disprove.

You, I, and indeed any other casual observer are well aware that when claims are made that change is impossible (those claims you seek to disprove), the persons making the claims are not talking about the quasi-heterosexuals that you are claiming as success. Nor are they talking about starting with individuals who have multiple experiences with women.

They are talking about going from plain old vanilla gay to plain old vanilla straight.

I am open to the possibility that such change (from real gay to real straight) may happen in some persons. But if I read your summary correctly, this did not occur in this study.

And because you published this study, the results are predictable:

Anti-gay activists will claim that this proves that 60% of gay people can become straight (they’ve already done so). Gay activists will review the study and point out that no one became straight. And the culture wars will simply entrenchen. This study will be disgarded for any real legitimate purposes and will be little else than a political tool.

Which, sadly, I suspect was the real motivation for Exodus in the first place.

Martin Lanigan
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

I think Jim Burroway has done an excellent job in critiquing this study. He has shown that this study does not meet the burden of good science in many respects.

Nevertheless, I think the following is worth repeating:

a) this is a study that is not published in a peer reviewed journal;

b) the study sponsors and the study authors cannot be regarded as objective;

c) this study is already beginning to generate grist for the propaganda mills of the religious right.

I think that most of us recognize that the real intent of this study is not to advance our understanding of human sexuality, but rather to support an ideological position that is flawed in its very conception (e.g. homosexuality requires a cure).

Scott
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

I’m curious if Mr. Jones will speak out against people like Focus on the Family misusing the study.

Today they claimed that the study showed a 67% rate of success.

http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000005482.cfm

To my knowledge, that is NOT what the study showed.

n8yc
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

Thanks Martin, your a) and b) points have been running around my head since commenting on BTB’s first post earlier today.

Does anyone know the reputation of the Australian twin study Stanton Jones cites?

Jason
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

Timothy, hate to nitpik, but you switched your homos and your heteros in your second paragraph!
(capitalization is my emphasis)

“…Indeed any sample would be adequate if the results included at least one person who had changed from a HETEROsexual to a HOMOsexual orientation.”

I think you meant to say “…included at least one person who had changed from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation.”

It is so hard to keep our homos and our heteros straight! (Pun respectfully intended)

Jayhuck
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

Timothy and Dr. Jones,

I have to agree with statements made by Timothy above. This study really changes nothing. Anti-Gay activists will use it, and most likely twist it to to their advantage – as I’m sure the other side will do. I think we really need to watch for the researchers’ peers to critically analyze it – not that Mr. Burroway hasn’t done made an excellent start on that.

And again Timothy – you are right. This study will just become a part of the Exodus artillery – something to be used against gay people desperately fighting for equal rights. But, if my intuition is correct, people are beginning to tire of Exodus’s constant preaching and hypocrisy regarding not being like/of the world, and then watching them entrench themselves so deeply in it and its politics!

And lastly – I think it would be interesting, although unlikely, to see a study done showing “highly motivated” individuals moving from a heterosexual to a homosexual identity. But, because gay people are still so oppressed in our society, a study of this nature (with highly motivated individuals) is most likely not going to occur – in the foreseeable future anyway. I do think its interesting to note, though, that should our Evangelical researchers ever offer the world a solid process for moving between orientations, that that method/process could easily be applied to moving either direction – in theory anyway :)

Jayhuck
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

LOL – OMG – I’m sorry – I have to share this – but its incredibly humorous to read Dr. Stanton’s reply next to that realjock Google ad on the left ;)

Emily K
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

So there were some people who just absolutely refused to be tracked. Huh. I wonder why they would be so adamant about that.

Lynn David
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

It makes a difference if you read the Baptist Press article and the new one from Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink. Maybe they think they can do their own eisegesis on a scientific document as they do on their holy books. But an eisegetical viewpoint is no excuse for the lie they are attempting to propogate. One begins to wonder if the Baptists and Focus’ Dobsonites, in fact, follow a Christian morality in the least.

grantdale
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

A response but a non-response, from Dr Jones; but we also appreciate him taking the time to stop by. Jim’s questions are basically left unanswered, except to assure us that all the evidence “is in the book”. In half the wording used, Jones could have instead answered the questions. /sigh

(Well, we understand the undoubted demands on Jones’ time and what else should one to expect in this sad commercial World; but it’s always annoying none the less.)

Interestingly, for the few real statements that Jones has actually made in the reply even we can immediately pick up on some very basic errors. This is not nitpicking — these should never be made by any professional researcher who is expert in and familiar with the study of sexuality (and especially not if they are deliberately quoting from a particular paper).

***

The Australian Twin Registry is not an “exhaustive sample of every twin born in Australia”. I don’t know why Jones has that impression, but it is dead wrong.

The ATR is a non-government, not-for-profit that provides “a national register of twin pairs and their relatives who are willing to consider participating in health related research”. Registration is voluntary (Kirk, who has co-authored with Bailey estimates the registry holds 10-20% of Australian twins) Participation in any research study is, of course, itself also entirely voluntary. One of the Bailey et al study authors (Martin) was instrumental in setting up the registry. [1].

This is a mysterious error given that the ATR is specifically described in the very paper that Jones is addressing.

***

Jones’ further claim about the conclusions of that Bailey et al (2000) study is particularly misleading.

The authors did not find “genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation”. Those are Jones’ words, not theirs.

What they did conclude? eg:

“Twin concordances for nonheterosexual orientation were lower than in prior studies. Univariate analyses showed that familial factors were important for all traits, but were less successful in distinguishing genetic from shared environmental influences. Only childhood gender nonconformity was significantly heritable for both men and women. Multivariate analyses suggested that the causal architecture differed between men and women, and, for women, provided significant evidence for the importance of genetic factors to the traits’ covariation.”

In other words: “something” is indeed in there, but we are unable to determine “what exactly that is”. Do their words even remotely mirror those empahtically used by Jones? Well, no.

Alas, there’s more to this than misrepresenting a single study.

It is disturbing that Jones failed to mention the immediate followup study conducted by Kirk, Bailey, Dunn, and Martin (2000). Disturbing, because the follow-up study set out to address the very weaknesses the authors were at pains to mention in the earlier paper — weaknesses that the authors acknowledged caused the inability to separate the genetic influence per se.

Kirk et al undertook a fuller multi-variant analysis and were able to determine a better profile. Their follow-up conclusion?

“…significant additive genetic influences were found for homosexuality in females and males, with heritability estimates of between 50 and 60% for females and approximately 30% for males.”

They further noted that

“…results of the present study are consistent with those obtained previously, with heritability estimates for measures of psychological sexual orientation falling within the (admittedly wide) confidence intervals of Bailey et al.”

In other words, the more powerful analysis did in fact find that genetic factors were a statistically significant contributor to causation — in both men and women — and that this finding was within the boundaries of what could have been concluded in the earlier analysis.

What Jones likes or dislikes about either paper is beside the point: what is very wrong of him to do is to initially (mis)present a study, and then compound that by neglecting to mention that the very same authors had gone on to conduct a fuller analysis that gave a result utterly contrary to his claims.

We’ll stop here, but if that reply — and it’s two horrid, obvious errors — is any indication of the academic integrity we may expect… we’re certainly not looking forward to getting into the nitty-gritty of the book itself.

Well, we are. But having to check on even the basic facts, rather than concentrate on the results, makes for heavy going.

————————

PS: The papers are available online eg [A] and [B] Read them yourself people: don’t take our words at face value either.

grantdale
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

n8yc — with regards to the ATR, we can (see above for the link). Oh, never mind — here it is again :) ATR

The Register does not hold all twins, or even a majority, but is a much used and highly regarded source for this type of work.

We understand, from people who’ve had twins, that a suggestion about registration is often made by hospitals/doctors etc. The larger it get’s, the better it will be.

Hope that helped.

David Roberts
September 18th, 2007 | LINK

I’m curious if Mr. Jones will speak out against people like Focus on the Family misusing the study.

Scott, I asked Jones that very question via email a few days ago. I understand as well the restraints on his time, however I think it is ethically vital that the authors make it 100% clear if they indeed disagree with this kind of erroneous grandstanding.

Great work as always, Jim. I wish all the reviews were this honest.

n8yc
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

grantdale, thanks so much. That response (and the links to the papers) was what I was looking for.

Dr. Jones is reinforcing for me how important it is to have work submitted to peer reviewed journals and presented at conferences. In those arenas it’s slightly more difficult to use misinterpreted (or misrepresented) findings from landmark papers as background.

Jimbo
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

In reply to grantdale’s comment.

I think their link (A) to the first paper should have been
Bailey, Dunne & Martin

In fairness to Dr. Jones, I think his comment was probably based on the Discussion section of that paper which notes:
“In contrast to most prior twin studies of sexual orientation, however, ours did not provide statistically significant support for the importance of genetic factors for that trait.”

As grantdale pointed out, the later study (Kirk, Bailey et al.) did support genetic influences.

Jayhuck
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

Dr. Stanton,

My question is a fairly simple one, but with all that we know today regarding reported “change” and what Ex-Ex Gays have told us about believing they had changed and then realizing they were just suppressing a part of themselves – how do we know that when someone says they have experienced a satisfactory change in the desired direction that what they are experiencing isn’t simply a suppression – not change – of their normal homosexual desires? Is there any meaningful/objective way of measuring this, or are you simply going on what people, who are “highly motivated”, self report?

Jason
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

so essentially we’ve found that people can “change” if you redefine what “change” constitutes.

Increasing the odds by lowering and widening the standards.

Kind of how “froot loops” contain no actual “fruit” or the textured vegetable protein sold as “chick’n nuggets” contain no actual chicken.

Perhaps, to be honest, they should call it “chaynge” so that they can define it however they want to?

Emproph
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

Scott: “I’m curious if Mr. Jones will speak out against people like Focus on the Family misusing the study.

Today they claimed that the study showed a 67% rate of success.

http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000005482.cfm

To my knowledge, that is NOT what the study showed.”

David Roberts: “Scott, I asked Jones that very question via email a few days ago. I understand as well the restraints on his time, however I think it is ethically vital that the authors make it 100% clear if they indeed disagree with this kind of erroneous grandstanding.”

I for one will make sure to hold my breath.

THIS IS RIDICULOUS
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

This study really is bogus. It will be used by the right to justify their discriminatory efforts. Can Jones or Yarhouse defend or explain the quotes below? The quotes clearly illustrate not only their bias but their hidden agenda and inability to separate research from political views.

Please review the policy statements of ten medical and mental health organizations, which shouldn’t be overthrown by a completely biased 4 year study.
http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/justthefacts.html

-Its is abundantly clear that both researchers (Yarhouse & Jones) are biased in thought and opinion and therefore unable to reach a balanced conclusion. They are self proclaimed Evangelical Christians and have publicly made homophobic remarks.– SEE LINKS BELOW
-The methodology of the study (self reporting) is the least reliable research method. Self reporting was conducted by a participants filling out questionnaires and mailing them back as well as follow up phone calls every 6 months.
- The research was funded by Exodus international and the participants were paid by Exodus international- a well known ex-gay ministry
- Mark Yarhouse is a Professor at Regent University which was founded by Pat Robertson who is also the President. Marks sexual identity institute is funded by Regent University.
-It is highly unlikely that both researchers would jeopardize their relationships with Regent, NARTH, or Exodus. Nor would they allow the findings of their study contradict years of claims made by themselves and others.

STANTON L. JONES
Hours of debate at the Episcopal governing convention left dangling the issue of whether to sanction ordination of active homosexuals.

Psychologist Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton, Ill., said those who support ordaining homosexuals are trying to “to normalize a pattern which is destructive and abnormal.”
Cornwell, George. “Debate Over Sexuality Fails To Resolve Issue Of Ordaining Homosexuals”. Associated Press. 15 July 1991.

MARK YARHOUSE
He said he tells clients that the simple fact they are attracted to the same sex does need not be the trait that identifies who they are. Indeed, a devout Christian can decide that “Christ, or God, has a pre-existing claim on their sexuality” that trumps same-sex attractions, Yarhouse said.
Vegh, Steven “Some groups offering gays opportunities for “recovery”. The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)14 September 2004.

Why did you decide to focus on this particular topic?
…as evangelical Christians, it seemed to us that homosexuality is the area where more pressure is being put on the church to depart from the explicit moral teachings of scripture than any other area.
http://www.narth.com/docs/jonesyarhouse.html
20 April 2006

PLEASE READ THIS
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

I especially “love” the footnote excerpt from page 22 in the book.

“It would be naive of us here not to acknowledge the way that this argument will be used against our claims in this study that we are falsifying the claim that change of sexual orientation is impossible. Yes, Falsification is complex, and our critics will, as we say here, claim rather loudly that our methodology was faulty or that we are dishonest. Falsification, we would reply, is complex, but not impossible, and further we are honestly reporting or results and our methods are “good enough” for the purpose.”

They know all the right needs is a “study”, any “study” to support their intolerance and ignorance. Im so glad they feel the research that so many will use for bigotry, hate and discrimination is considered “good enough” for them. They are destroying lives and all they can say is its “good enough”.
They are sheep in wolves clothing.

Ben in Oakland
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

I posted this on the other thread. Timothy and Jim, I hope it is all right to re-post it here, slightly altered and expanded, with the hope that one of these good doctors will answer my questions. Perhaps I’m just crazy and talking to myself, but I think the basic question requires an answer, if not from them, then from someone who thinks like they appear to.

I have a question, or more accurately, a set of related questions, and it is one that I hope that Throckmorton especially, as well as Nicolosi, and the authors of the study, would address. And address here. In fact, I think it would be a very interesting study, and throw a great deal of light on the question these good “doctors” are studying.

Pardon my crudeness, but the crudeness is, I believe, the only way to arrive at the nature of the answer without any equivocation or dissembling. To wit: Why are YOU (and by you, I mean the evangelicals, conservatives, and so forth) so obsessed with what makes MY dick hard? Absent any complaints from me as GayEveryman, why are YOU so obsessed with CHANGING what makes MY dick hard? Is this a sign of mental health and maturity, or is it merely prurient interest and a political agenda? I don’t know anyone among my gay and straight friends who is interested in someone else’s sexual proclivities unless they are actually INTERESTED in those sexual proclivities–and I don’t mean academically. In the absence of any real evidence that homosexuality is harmful, pathological, dangerous, emotionally immature, dangerous to society, the family, marriage, or the military (for a start)– or anything else that it is supposed to be, or intrinsically in any way inferior to heterosexuality– why is it required that you change it, stop it, or anything else?

I do not doubt that there are gay people who wish they were straight for any number of reasons. I have no objection to them attempting to seek help to change, though as Freud himself pointed out, there is no real reason to, the likelihood of changing is very small, and that isn’t what therapy could actually accomplish. But what about those of us who have no religious or other desire to change. And what about the political agendas of those anti-gay industry groups, including those that commissioned this study, especially in the matters of using the gay issue to raise money and extend conservative Christian political power?

We know from quantum physics and the social sciences that the observer is necessarily a part of and intimately connected with that which is observed. Where do you fit into that? How much money do you make out of “curing” what isn’t a disease, and does that have any bearing are your willingness to “cure” it?

In short, why are you not studying homophobia and homoprejudice with the same fervor which you study the effectiveness of ex-gay therapy?

We know that homosexuality is not a disease or, per se, a mental or emotional impairment. (And were it not for the homophobes, I suspect the ex-gay therapists would not have jobs.) I am in a great relationship, I function at a high level, by all measures, I am mentally healthy in every way, as is just about every gay person I know and have known. We all have our problems and issues, and I have certainly known gay people who are total messes– just like straight people. Being gay or straight has nothing to do with it. In fact, there is not ONE true statement about gay people as a group that can be made, except that we prefer members of our own sex for love, sex, and romance. Just like straight people– no one statement describes them. So why does this require “therapy” as if it were a mental illness.

The reason the APA dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders was that there was absolutely no evidence that being gay is a mental disorder. (see the studies by Evelyn Hooker). They had a definition of mental disorder, but to make it stick for gay people they had to ignore their own definition, and say that “Of course. Gay people are mentally disordered BY definition. Just not our usual definition.” It could not hold up to any kind of scientific scrutiny. The really homophobic psychiatrists, like Bieber and Soccarides (father of a gay son!!!), the ones who earned their living “curing” gay people– just like you–tried to force a referendum on the APA in 1973, but it also failed. The whole procedure underlined that prejudice was really the defining issue, not homosexuality, as is often the case on this particular issue. (Not surprisingly, religious reactions to gay people are very similar). First, a whole category of people is defined as mentally ill (or particularly sinful) with no scientific or experiential (or biblical) reason to do so, only a cultural and religious prejudice. Then they have a vote, and presto-change-o, a whole category of people who were terribly ill are “cured” overnight. Then, the people who whose livelihood depend on the the “mental illness” issue try to make another vote to make all of those people “sick” again.

Clearly, from that vote alone, this is not a matter of good science or good medicine. What could it really be about? I think prejudice, money, and political power. You might call it the politics of diagnosis. But diagnosis should not be politicized.

The religious arguments holds no more water than the scientific argument. There is a great deal of controversy about the meaning and the relevance of the biblical passages which purport to condemn homosexual acts. Churches and denominations are being torn apart by it. But: there is no actual TRUTH, there is only belief. There is no monolithic religious response to homosexuality any more than there is to any other issue, religious or not, including the nature of god, his message to the world, whether he had a son, capital punishment, war, whether Islam is the last word from the former Midianite storm god known as YWWH, or how much he cares about what makes my dick hard.

They all say they are promoting God’s word, but they all disagree as to what God’s word might be. What objective evidence to we have that any of them are actually speaking for God?

Large portions of religious believers– in some cases the majority of the denomination, in most others a significant minority–claim that the traditional interpretations are wrong. How do we know that they are WRONG and you are RIGHT? Maybe these large numbers of religious people are God’s way of telling you that you are dead wrong. People like Ted Haggard, Paul Barnes, Lonnie Latham, and a host of others are strong evidence that prayer, church membership, and belief do nothing in the face of sexual orientation. Your own study’s failure to produce even on person who went from 100% homo to 100% hetero, despite the combination of prayer, religion, and “therapy”, is further evidence for the conclusion that perhaps God is nowhere as interested in sexual orientation as you and the anti-gay industry are.

I won’t go into all of the arguments here on either side of the religious question. They are not really relevant. But I will point out this. There are many old testament passages that condemn many other activities, but these excite no one. No one apart from orthodox Jews cites the OT as a reason for not partaking of the abomination of shellfish. There are lists of sinners in the new testament, but no one is starting ex-greedy people ministries, or ex-adultery ministries. There are ex-drunk ministries, but then, alcoholics have an observable and verifiable problem, one that does not require a belief in God to deal with.

In short, there is not a lot of evidence that this whole thing is really about God’s alleged word, though it certainly SOUNDS better to say it is about religious belief than it is to say it is about the other possibilities that I have presented.

My belief is obvious. This is about prejudice, and nothing but prejudice, given a thin veneer of respectability by organized religion, right-wing politicians, and therapists who claim to cure but in fact, as the J&Y study shows fairly well, just make money off of the situation.

Here’s how else I know this is not about religion. As a Jew, I reject the Christian story, and as a thinking human being, I reject so-called Biblical morality, which any thinking person who has read the thing and thought about it can see is certainly not moral. (Those babies whom god murdered in the flood were not sinners needing to be punished. They couldn’t commit a sin even if they wanted to. WHO really sinned here? Judging God by his own standards does not bode well for God).

My rejection of Christianity bothers the religious beliefs of no one but the most rabid fundamentalist, nor would any but the most clueless dare say so in public for fear of rightly being called a religious bigot. But let me say that I’m gay, that I reject just this tiniest part of conservative Christian belief, and that I demand an end to the prejudice, and suddenly, religious beliefs are offended, any pretenses to logic, reason, science, or even theology (irony of ironies) are thrown out, letters to editor are written, right wing ministers and conversion therapists make a lot of money, and right-wing politicians get elected and make a lot of money as well.

In sum, as far as your your study goes, prayer and religious belief are ineffective in changing sexual orientation, and therapy does not cure it either because apparently there is nothing to cure. There are some behavioral changes, but basic orientation has not changed. So, I am left with two questions:

1) Why, when it was clear from the results of your study that actual, “uncomplicated” change from hetero to homo does not occur, at least by your methods, why do you advocate change, especially by your methods? My homosexuality, like the heterosexuality of my many straight friends, is very unequivocal and very uncomplicated. If the best that you can come up with are celibates and the “complicateds”, then I put it to you that you are leaving something not changed.

2) Why are you not studying homophobia and homoprejudice with the same fervour which you study the effectiveness of ex-gay therapy? How much money is at stake? How much power do you accrue? How many political concerns of other interested parties are addressed?

I am awaiting an answer. I hope you will have the courtesy to address my questions.

grantdale
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

Thanks Jimbo — yes, bad us, it was meant to link to that one. Too many links to papers on our hard drive I’m afraid!

As for the “in fairness” etc — perhaps we should have explained better, any confusion is our fault.

So (if not for you, then for anyone else) it’s got to do with the stats methodology used: “cannot say it does” and “it does not” aren’t the same things. The language used to describe the testing results is precise, but not in any normal sense of English.

(Stats people love double negatives.)

Martin Lanigan
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

Scott’s great question from early on in this thread demands a prompt answer from Dr. Jones et al.:

“I’m curious if Mr. Jones will speak out against people like Focus on the Family misusing the study.”

Well Dr. Jones…what say you?

While you are at it, kindly enlighten on us which religious therapies are so promising in the conversion process.

Do these therapies involve the exorcism of demons? Or does it involve the laying on of hands? Speaking in tongues? What exactly are these “successful” religious therapies? With this knowledge, perhaps others could replicate your results.

David
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

I am concerned with the dismissal of methods of confirming what participants self-report.

It is naive to believe that in our extremely biased society, using participants drawn from an extremely biased subset of that society (conservative Christianity and ex-gay ministries), those subjects will be fully honest about their sexual attractions.

This particular dismissal:

“The “No Lie MRI” appears to be just the latest hyped and unproven version of the hope for a foolproof lie detector.”

is both ironic and belittling, given that ex-gay ministries and therapies are just the latest hyped and unproven version of the means of controlling and oppressing homosexuals.

In order to measure change over the course of any process, the initial state must be quantified in a concrete, falsifiable fashion, as objectively as possible. This must then be followed up with repeated measurements using the exact same methods to confirm that change has occured.

This standard is not met in this study, and makes its results largely heresay.

Lastly, in my opinion, the absolute largest flaw in the study is the huge differential between the number of people Exodus claims to help, and the number who participated and reported change. After all, with Exodus claiming to have helped thousands of people, that only a handful report some shift suggests a success rate measured after the decimal 0.X%.

I think that an unbiased study, upon finding that only a hundred or so subjects, out of thousands or tens of thousands would participate, would have concluded that change does not occur with any significance.

Paul
September 19th, 2007 | LINK

I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if someone else observed this:

* Exodus was reportedly uncooperative in making sure the study had enough participants to be meaningful.

* Exodus is using the study to trumpet how good their program is.

William
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

In her paper “The case against reorientation treatment: A reply to Dr Avshalom Elitzur”

http://www.gay.org.il/claf/docs/care1.html

the Israeli psychologist Ronete Cohen describes reorientation treatment as “trying to destroy someone’s natural (and therefore strong) sexual desire and replacing it with something that is not quite the real thing”. It strikes me that this is a very fair and succinct summary of what the ex-gay ministries have, at most, achieved.

Ben in Oakland
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

I guess I wil never hear from the good doctors, or anyone else. damn, that was a lot of writing for nothing.

It reminds me of many years ago, when I was fighting an anti-gay state initiative. I used to have to appear opposite a a fundamentalist woman named Margaret, who pulled out all of the usual gays-are-chuild-molesting-serial-killing-family-hating perverts. At the end of one of our debates, I said to her “You know, i’d really like to talk to you about what you have to say.” She said very warmly: “Here’s my address. Please write to me.”

I did. i took her campagn literature and politley, carefully, and respectfully showed her actual documentation where she was in error, misrepresenting, misconstruing, and occasionally outright lying. I never heard back from her.

I ran into her a few weeks later at another event. I asked her if she received my information and what she thought. She looked at me as if i had just come out from under a particularly slimy rock, literally sneered at me, and said “I don’t have time to waste on homosexuals.” And walked away.

It told me all I needed to know. as I stated in my open letter to J&Y, this is not about religion. and it certainly isn’t about truth.

Randi Schimnosky
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

Ben, its not a waste, you provide points that other LGBTs will read and be armed with when they have discussions with the anti-gay bigots and those who waver. You may not get any response from the hard-core religionists but you can and will influence the reasonable middle people who are simply unfamiliar with LGBTs

Ben in Oakland
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

Thank you randi. actually, I know that, and that is why I write. I hope that other gay people will read it and remember. I have a tremendous reserve of knowledge about events in the last 30 years, and i think I see things fairly clearly.

Nevertheless, I was hoping for some sort of response from these good doctors. But that has been my experience with these people. If they have any honesty about them at all, they run when you show them facts and truth and reason. margaret certainly did

William
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

And there’s another thing, Ben. It probably keeps her under control, even if only to a limited extent.

In a city not far from mine, there’s a strident woman who’s one of the favourites for British radio and television to wheel in when they want someone to represent the homophobic angle in a phone-in show or documentary. On BBC’s Radio 5 Live she cited Paul Cameron’s research to “prove” that gay men are far more likely than heteros to sexually abuse children. I immediately wrote to her, pointing out that Cameron’s “research” was phoney, and enclosing pages of documentation.

Then she wrote a pontificating letter to the Daily Telegraph, this time citing a paper by Freund and Watson – which she clearly hadn’t read, since she got both Freund’s name and the name of the journal in which the paper had appeared wrong – to “prove” the same point. (She had obviously lifted the citation from some other anti-gay source.) I wasn’t able to lay my hands on the paper, but I was able to write confronting her with Freund’s abstract of it, in which he explicitly repudiated what she was trying to maintain.

I’ve never had a reply from her, but I believe that the knowledge that her pronouncements are being monitored and that there are people ready to stand up and challenge her is probably stopping her from being even more reckless.

So keep going, Ben, and more power to your elbow.

Stanton Jones (via Jim Burroway)
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

Dr. Stanton Jones asked me to pass this reply on. He appreciates the comments and regrets that he’s pressed for time and unable to address everyone’s concerns. And by the way, I know what it is to quote from memory myself. — Jim B

Stanton L. Jones replies to “grantdale”:

Well, you reply in a hurry from memory and you misstep; hope history does not repeat itself. Time to own up to my error and to defend a statement.

In my earlier post I stated as a tangent:

“To the best of my knowledge, there is only one study that can come close to the claim of getting a representative sample in this area, and that is the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin Australian twin study (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000) that concluded that genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation; this is a great sample because it was an exhaustive sample of every twin born in Australia!”

“grantdale” in his September 18th post reacts strongly to my statement and argues:

  • “The Australian Twin Registry is not an ‘exhaustive sample of every twin born in Australia’. I don’t know why Jones has that impression, but it is dead wrong.”
  • “Jones’ further claim about the conclusions of that Bailey et al (2000) study is particularly misleading. The authors did not find ‘genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation’. Those are Jones’ words, not theirs.”

Based on this “grantdale” concludes:

“We’ll stop here, but if that reply — and it’s two horrid, obvious errors — is any indication of the academic integrity we may expect… we’re certainly not looking forward to getting into the nitty-gritty of the book itself.”

1. My error:

In responding rapidly and from memory, he is right that I mischaracterize the sample as “exhaustive.” His description is completely accurate; “grantdale” says “The ATR is a non-government, not-for-profit that provides ‘a national register of twin pairs and their relatives who are willing to consider participating in health related research’. Registration is voluntary (Kirk, who has co-authored with Bailey estimates the registry holds 10-20% of Australian twins) Participation in any research study is, of course, itself also entirely voluntary.”

While I misspoke about the exhaustiveness of the sample, I stand by my characterization of that sample as vastly superior over most used in the study of etiology of sexual orientation. Kirk, Bailey, Dunn, and Martin (2000), who “grantdale” cites, says this sample “reduces the volunteer biases inherent in the recruitment procedures of other studies.” This is thus a superior sample for studying causal variables (which was my point). And there are of course a few other examples of good samples in the study of homosexual persons, including the Laumann study. Again: I misspoke in calling the sample exhaustive, and apologize.

2. My defense:

“grantdale” goes on to say that “Jones’ further claim about the conclusions of that Bailey et al (2000) study is particularly misleading. The authors did not find ‘genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation’. Those are Jones’ words, not theirs.”

Really?

Compare my words:

“genetic factors were not a statistically significant contributor to causation”

to Bailey, Dunne, & Martin’s words in the original report where they say that their new study “did not provide statistically significant support for the importance of genetic factors” (p.534) in causing homosexual orientation.

I do not believe I was guilty of being misleading, of fabrication or misrepresentation.

The significance of their raw findings of this study should not be minimized. Working from Table 1 on page 14 of the version available on-line here.

For males, there were 27 identical twin pairs in which one or both co-twins were gay by a “strict” (!!; strict = a Kinsey score of 2 or higher!) standard out of a total of 287 identical twin pairs. Of these 27 identical male twin pairs where at least one twin was gay, in only three of the pairs (the “++” pairs) were both twins gay. The numbers are roughly similar for females.

27 identical twin pairs in which one or both co-twins were gay, and in only 3 of these pairs were both twins gay? No wonder there was no statistically significant finding for genetic influence on homosexual orientation. And lest the reader think that I am pushing environmental causation, I note that since these twins were all or almost all reared together, these findings of identical twin discordance pose every bit as much challenge for uterine hormonal and familial environmental causation of homosexual orientation as they do for genetics.

What then of Kirk et al.?

“grantdale” argues “the more powerful [Kirk et al] analysis did in fact find that genetic factors were a statistically significant contributor to causation.” They make that argument, but given the facts of the raw findings of the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin article, I am frankly unimpressed by their argument. To conclude as Kirk et al do that lesbianism is 50-60% heritable when among the 22 identical twin female pairs where at least one was lesbian, in only three of the pairs (the “++” pairs) were both female twins lesbian strikes me as problematic. Kirk et al achieve this finding by putting together many variables in ways that strike me as problematic. So I am more persuaded by the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin conclusions. And I am unrepentant for this conclusion and believe it defensible.

Ben in Oakland
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

I’m glad the Dr. Jones found some time to respond to someone, if not to me.

But I will have to say, Dr. Jones, that it does not matter the slightest bit about the twin study, or whether being gay is genetic or not. I happen to believe that it is quite a subtle and multi-variable combination of genetic propensity and environmental/nurture factors, which would explain the twin results. But I can’t prove that.

Nor, ultimately, does it matter. Because, as my lengthy post that you never bothered to respond to indicates, (he said, petulantly):

(take a breath) THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. If you want to know what I am certain it is about, read my post. Or read some studies about societies, such as modern Thailand, or ancient Greece or Rome, or feudal Japan, where it just wasn’t an issue, and hence, there was nothing to do about it.

I’m going a bit out on a limb here, but I am going to say that even if it proved to be entirely genetic, you would still feel it is your god-given mission to change, suppress, or eradicate it, and oppose any normalization of gay people in law, culture or society. If I am wrong about this, please tell me, and I will apologize. But I don’t think I am or you will.

Even if being gay is not genetic, it still seems to be as deeply ingrained as if it were genetic (Is being left handed genetic? I don’t know. But it also does not seem to be changeable, and the damage done to one of my teachers exemplifies the danger of trying). By the results of your own study, it does not appear to be changeable in any meaningful, uncomplicated, and unequivocal sense.

As I said in my previous post, as far as your your study goes, prayer and religious belief are ineffective in changing sexual orientation. Therapy does not “cure” it either because apparently, by APA standards, there is nothing to cure. And since many gay men, my partner and myself included, have had good to excellent relationships with our fathers and other male figures during childhood, as have most of my friends, in ex-gay terms, there is no “brokenness” to “heal” either.

There are some behavioral changes, but basic orientation has not changed. So, I am left with the same question:

Why, when it was clear from the results of your study that actual, “uncomplicated” change from homo to hetero does not occur, at least by your methods, why do you advocate change, ESPECIALLY by your methods? My homosexuality, like the heterosexuality of my many straight friends, is very unequivocal and very uncomplicated. If the best that you can come up with are celibates and the “complicateds”, then I put it to you that you are leaving something not changed.

And whether it is genetic or not is not relevant either to you or to me.

As a frIend of mine once commented: “The only reason some people want to find out what causes homosexuality is so that they can eradicate it.”

I wonder why that is?

Emproph
September 20th, 2007 | LINK

What I don’t understand is why the accuracy of the scientific representativeness of any study even matters to Jones or Yarhouse, when they consider science itself irrelevant.

From: Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate

Stanton L. Jones & Mark A. Yarhouse

From the last 5 pages of the book, starting on p 179:

Coming Full Circle: Summary and Concluding Thoughts on Homosexuality

“(4) the origins of homosexual attraction are unclear but grounded ultimately in our human fallenness and rebellion against God, and (5) that there were persons in the New Testament fellowship who were once participants in homosexual practice but who identified with such practices no longer.”

Basis: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. And that is what some of you were

(P 180):

“Simply put, the supposed teachings of “science” were and are being used to convince the church that it can no longer hold to the traditional moral judgement regarding homosexual practice.”

And my personal favorite (p 181):

”Even if the homosexual condition of desiring intimacy and sexual union with a person of the same gender is cause in its entirety by causal factors outside of the personal control of the person, that does not constitute moral affirmation of acting on those desires. If it did, the pedophile who desires sex with children, the alcoholic who desires the pursuit of drunkenness, and the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder who desires the thrill of victimization and pain infliction would all have an equal case for moral approval of their exploits.”

Thus, the “moral” template that Jones and Yarhouse speak from.

So it’s not just not about science, it’s about the active pursuit to define – in the public arena – the consensual sharing of love between two gay persons, as morally equivalent to the willful harm of others.

And they actually think that their inability to distinguish between love and evil makes them morally superior.

Ben in Oakland
September 21st, 2007 | LINK

Well, emproph, you gave me dr. jones’ answer, though i was hoping to hear from him directly. If i have time today, i might like to write a little something about the shifting history of homophobia.

Timothy Kincaid
September 21st, 2007 | LINK

And they actually think that their inability to distinguish between love and evil makes them morally superior.

Emproph,

normally I would think this sort of sentence is hyperbole and ignore it. And yet, you illustrated your point with clear example.

So while that sentence seems like a wild accusation … it also seems to be accurate. How sad.

Ben in Oakland
September 21st, 2007 | LINK

I would also add that they seem equally incapable of distinguishing between the love of two adult human beings and between a man and a box turtle.

Jason
September 21st, 2007 | LINK

I seem to have no trouble distinguishing my partner from a bottle, a child, a plant and or animal. To both my mind and my eyes there are miles of difference between my partner and children, animals, plants, or objects. In shape, size, age, color, material composition.

I don’t think I have ever confused the ferns for my man.

Perhaps that’s the special power of being gay, the ability to classify nouns?

I must be lucky.

grantdale
September 21st, 2007 | LINK

Reply to Stanton L. Jones

———————–

We’ve addressed one part already:

it’s got to do with the stats methodology used: “cannot say it does” and “it does not” aren’t the same things. The language used to describe the testing results is precise, but not in any normal sense of English.

Perhaps we were unfair to you by precluding an option. So we’ll reword.

“Jones is either being misleading, or he knows diddly-squat about statistics.”

You chose.

———————–

You haven’t actually read the Kirk study have you?

“Kirk et al achieve this finding by putting together many variables in ways that strike me as problematic. So I am more persuaded by the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin conclusions…

Oh yes, the Bailey, Dunne, & Martin conclusions.

As opposed to the Kirk, Bailey, Dunne, & Martin conclusions?

Same authors. Notice.

Same sample. Notice.

———————–

And leaving the worst for last…

Dr Jones, please do us the good grace of not lying to our faces.

You didn’t have a brief, unexpected, uncharateristic lapse in memory.

“…the Australian twin registry, which registers every twin pair born in the entire country.”

Your words. From 2004. (try here)

“the entire Australian Twin Registry, an exhaustive listing of all twins born in its population”

Your words. From 1999 (here)

google “Stanton Jones Australian Twin Registry” and you’ll embarrassingly find the web full of you and your uncharacterisic lapse in memory.

You have been wrongly categorising the ATR as exhaustive for years. A monumental error, but not a sin.

Lying however….

You may therefore keep your apologies.

Warren Throckmorton
September 24th, 2007 | LINK

From the Bailey et al study on page 534:

Consistent with several studies of siblings (Bailey & Bell, 1993; Bailey & Benishay, 1993; Pillard, 1990; Pillard & Weinrich,1986), we found that sexual orientation is familial. In contrast to most prior twin studies of sexual orientation, however, ours did not provide statistically significant support for the importance of genetic factors for that trait. This does not mean that our results support heritability estimates of zero, though our results do not exclude them either. Our findings are also consistent with moderate to large heritabilities for both male and female sexual orientation,
and the confidence intervals of our estimates include estimates from earlier studies (Bailey & Pillard, 1991; Bailey, Pillard, et al., 1993; Buhrich, Bailey, & Martin, 1991). Our findings demonstrate the necessity of very large sample sizes to resolve
familial variance into its genetic and shared environmental components,
when one is studying traits with unfavorable distributions,
such as sexual orientation.

I am aware of what the follow up analysis reported, so I do not need to hear about that. I am also aware that Bem analyzed the same data and found no relationship between genetic similarity and sexual orientation similarity. There are significant questions about what we know in this regard.

Ben in Oakland
September 24th, 2007 | LINK

Dr. Throckmorton:

I am wondering if yoyu would care to respond to the comments i made on September 20?

grantdale
September 24th, 2007 | LINK

Warren — why did you bold the first sentence, but not the following?

Bailey et al are at pains to say that they cannot preclude genetic factors; even in the very quote you have given. (They did find heritability — they could not establish what it was due to.)

They plainly did not say genetics “were not” a factor. That completely overstates their careful wording.

They. did. not. preclude. genetic. factors.

“Is homosexuality genetic?”
“Our study did not provide statistically significant support.”
“Right… so it isn’t genetic?”
“I didn’t say that. I said our study did not provide statistically significant support — however this does not mean that our results support heritability estimates of zero. It may be.”
So you are saying it might be, or it might not be???”
“Correct, that is what I just said!!!”

Good grief.

—————————–

For those wanting/needing to read more…

Bem’s ref to Dunne et al is actually a different paper. (at that time unpublished)

The one under discussion is (or was) another one, by the same authors.

(unfortunately this team of authors have written so many papers from so many different statistical directions it does get very confusing.)

Regardless, Bem has said he used the same data set. Unfortunately, that’s not where the difference lies.

Bem strictly used a Kinsey0 for “heterosexual” and K1-K6 for “homosexual”. He got the results that he reported.

Kirk et al did not do that in their analysis — theirs was multi-variant, specifically to avoid the very simplification made by Bem.

“A further limitation of previous studies of sexual orientation is that they have focused on definitions derived from Kinsey et al. (1948). This approach neglects
the possibility of obtaining additional information from questionnaire items via multivariate techniques. Here we use multivariate structural equation modeling techniques
to maximize the information obtained from a number of distinct but closely related measures of sexual orientation and expand on the focus of Bailey et al.
(2000) by including measures of both behavioral and psychological sexual orientation.”

(fingers crossed, the links seem correct — lucky Jimbo’s here to do everyone’s QC!)

—————————–

“Using statistics the same a drunk uses a lamp post — for support rather than illumination.”

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