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Mormon Reorientation group fraudulently misquotes Collins

Timothy Kincaid

February 25th, 2011

How very infuriating it must be to have anti-gay activists misquote you and claim that you agree with notions that you find abhorrent. But such has become the plight of Francis Collins, onetime director of the Human Genome Project.

In April 2007, A. Dean Byrd, a devout Mormon who was at that time the incoming president of NARTH, wrote an article titled Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,” Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project. It claimed:

Estimates of heritability are based upon careful analyses of studies conducted with identical twins. Such studies are important and lead to the conclusion that heredity is important in many of these traits. It is important however, to note that even in such studies with identical twins, that heritability is not to be confused as inevitability.

As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.

But Dr. Collins did not agree. Nor was he pleased by the political advocacy of those who misquoted a statement from an appendix to his book and wrote to Ex-Gay Watch to say so:

It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

Your note indicated that your real interest is in the truth. And this is about all that we really know. No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.

You would think that having been publicly refuted would be reason enough not to continue to distort the work of others. And, indeed, for people of integrity, it would be so.

But Dean Byrd and his associates have little integrity and no interest in honest portrayals of science. So here they are back again.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune, members of the Foundation for Attraction Research (an organization founded by Byrd), are trotting out their distortions of Collins’ work to claim that his conclusions were that “homosexuality, like other traits, emerges from some combination of nature and nurture,” and to imply that Collins endorses their reorientation theories.

But they didn’t stop at defaming the character and scholarship of Collins, they also implied that Dr. Robert Spitzer endorsed their views.

Spitzer offers the following: “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could only be resisted, and that no one could change their [sic] sexual orientation. I now believe that to be false. Some people can and do change.”

It should also be observed that the type, degree, and potential for change vary with each individual, and many debates about change could be avoided by a more nuanced discussion about it.

Setting aside for the moment the methodology and the documented fraud involved with the effort to fool Dr. Spitzer, it is telling that Byrd’s associates chose to delete what Spitzer actually had to say about the “type, degree, and potential for change.” (NY Times)

But after enduring an avalanche of criticism from peers who said he had given too much credence to the accounts of his subjects, many of whom were leaders of ex-gay ministries, Dr. Spitzer now says many advocates of sexual reorientation have misrepresented his views.

“Although I suspect change occurs, I suspect it’s very rare,” he said. “Is it 1 percent, 2 percent? I don’t think it’s 10 percent.”

But you wouldn’t know that from this Mormon opinion piece.

Because Dennis V. Dahle, John P. Livingstone and M. Gawain Wells set out not to present scientific discovery or empirical evidence of their position, but rather to deceive the public. The observations of Collins and the opinions of Spitzer – had they been portrayed honestly – would have refuted the claims of the Foundation for Attraction Research. So instead Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells followed in the footsteps of Byrd and hijacked the reputations of honorable men to attach them to their dishonorable goals.

Ironically, the premise of their opinion statement was that “true religion and true science, when they are found, are never at odds.” And what an unfair disservice they have done to fellow Mormons.

For if true religion and true science go hand in hand, then it is only a logical conclusion that the religion of con-men Dahle, Livingsone, and Wells surely must be as fraudulent as their “science”.

Comments

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cowboy
February 25th, 2011 | LINK

Thank you Mr. Kincaid. Thank you for taking the time and writing about this.

The comments online at SLTRIB are very revealing. It does my heart good to read the comments, which reference exgaywatch and Dr. Throckmorton.

It’s this very blog (BTB) which deserves kudos for everyone’s analysis and editorial. The power of the internet can be mightier than the sword.

Sincerely, again, thank you.

a.mcewen
February 25th, 2011 | LINK

I put a comment on the site regarding Collins’s claim to have never made the hardwired statement. I hope they publish it.

Reed Boyer
February 26th, 2011 | LINK

This is something like the 18th instance over the years in which researchers have objected to such distortions of their work.

Time for an updated list?

Jimmy Mac
February 27th, 2011 | LINK

If it isn’t in the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, or Doctrine and Covenants, it is only false writing anyway. They can feel free to quote and misquote at will when it comes to “non-scriptural” (from their point of view) stuff.

Timothy (TRiG)
February 27th, 2011 | LINK

Quotemining is the refuge of pseudoscientific liars everywhere. They must teach it somewhere.

TRiG.

cowboy
March 4th, 2011 | LINK

And to Salt Lake Tribune’s credit they offer this rebuttal:

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/02/25/30906#comments

The three authors of this opinion piece say pretty much what Timothy Kincaid and BTB has said.

Please note: Two of the authors are from BYU. Will they be excommunicated or their professor emeritus status be affected in any way?

cowboy
March 4th, 2011 | LINK

oops..my bad! Here is the correct URL:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/51356807-82/orientation-sex-attraction-homosexuality.html.csp

Timothy Kincaid
March 4th, 2011 | LINK

Cowboy,

Actually, I think the three more closely mirror the thinking of the LDS leadership (or at least the direction of the public position) than do the reorientation group.

Wouldn’t you agree?

cowboy
March 4th, 2011 | LINK

I think what these three authors take a contra issue with Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer’s assertion. I think most Mormons believe in what the reorientation group said in last week’s opinion piece.

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