Friday, August 26, 2016

Austin Ruse on the attack - including a certain slowly boiled amphibian

Austin Ruse
Friday, Austin Ruse responds to the critics of a recent study authored by Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer. It is designed to denigrate LGBT citizens by torturing science to conform to scripture and the catechism of the Catholic Church. Ruse has his hands full because the study does not hold up to even cursory scrutiny and its principle investigator is an ultra-orthodox Catholic and Defender of the Faith (as is Mr. Ruse). 

I am going to take some time with this, and apologize for verbosity, because there are others who are bound to chime in. After all, the mission of the paper in question is to convince the public that the teachings of the Catholic Church represent scientific conclusions. They do not!

Quoted material is from Ruse's polemic at Crisis Magazine titled “Reasoned Analysis vs. Blah, Blah, Sneer, and Blah.” The quoted portions are selective and in order but do not represent his entire post.

That is the argument today on the question of homosexuality and transgenderism. On the one side there is reasoned argument, science, social science, analysis. On the other, nothing much more than mockery, slander, laughter, and dismissal. Sure, there are studies on the other side, many of them shoddy and ideological, and others that actually back up our own claims.
The two sides are easily discerned and defined. Real scientists are agnostic to the result of their experiments and observations — they go with the evidence. The overwhelming conclusion of the those scientists is that homosexuality and gender dysphoria are innate and a natural variant in human sexuality. On the other side are mostly religious folks who contend that gays and transgender people are choosing unhealthy behaviors. Their conclusions are formed by conservative Christian and occasionally orthodox Judaic precepts that require us to accept that God works in simplistic ways; Everyone is heterosexual and either male or female. That settles it.

Ruse claims that none of the detractors respect Dr. McHugh's training and experience. To the contrary, it is really quite disgraceful for someone like McHugh, with his extensive erudition, to routinely challenge the peer reviewed science with un-reviewed blog posts, usually in conservative Catholic outlets.

What ruse refers to as “reasoned” arguments are underpinned by religious belief. Rather than being agnostic to a results and going with the evidence, these folks work the scientific method backwards. They start with the conclusion and then, with selective observation, find evidence to support the preordained result. That is why their work is usually not published to peer reviewed scholarly journals (including the “study” at issue). There is nothing “reasoned” about religious arguments regurgitated as science. It is illogical and arbitrary spew.
The LGBTs are in full sneer this week with the release of a major new report from two world-renowned scientists, Drs. Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh. In “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” Mayer and McHugh have reviewed hundreds of studies across half a dozen scientific disciplines and have concluded much of what the public thinks about LGBT issues is simply wrong. Almost everything ideologues in the academy, the media, government, and the law is simply wrong on the issue of homosexuality and transgenderism.
“Sneer:” a contemptuous or mocking smile, remark, or tone. Indeed, bogus research earns my contempt. What the public believes is less relevant than the conclusions of a mountain of peer reviewed research. If one wants to successfully challenge peer reviewed research they do so with peer reviewed research. These folks have posted a meta-study to what is essentially a pretentious Catholic blog. Ruse would not have me mock junk science.

Austin Ruse runs an anti-gay hate group, C-Fam. It is not designated a hate group because Austin is a terrible person. It is a hate group because Ruse routinely misinforms about LGBT people because of his conservative religious beliefs. He is doing just that again.
Much of the LGBT’s sneering response is focused on the credentials of Mayer and McHugh, so let’s look at what their sneering about.
Criticism has become “sneering.” Bullshit. I concede that McHugh and Mayer have stellar academic credentials and have not criticized them ad hominem. I have previously written that, when it comes to LGBT people, McHugh prioritizes his religious beliefs over science — regardless of his credentials. I have questioned whether Mayer's credentials lend themselves to an evaluation of human sexuality. He is a biostatistician and epidemiologist. I am more interested in what they have written than what I concede are impressive credentials. That allows me to skip a bunch-of-Ruse (thank dog).
And what do the sneering LGBTs say about these accomplished and even august men? The anti-Christian $50 million-a-year Human Rights Campaign referred to them as “Anti-Trans All-Stars…” HRC says Mayer and McHugh use “scientific credentials to feign expertise on gender and sexual orientation.” HRC says Mayer and McHugh are “far outside the medical and scientific mainstream” and that McHugh is associated with a “hate-group.” What hate-group? The American College of Pediatricians!
Yes, Austin. The American College of Pediatricians is an anti-gay hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In spite of the deceptive name they are a minuscule Christian splinter group. The real peer organization is the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Further down the food-chain, but not by much is Right Wing Watch run by the hard-left People for the American Way. Right Wing Watch went after the publisher of the study, The New Atlantis, accusing the journal of not being “peer reviewed.” (More on peer review below.)
I did not know that there is a food chain of LGBT advocacy. RWW is correct. The New Atlantis is not peer reviewed. It is a journal in name only. It is a pretentious quarterly blog.
Right Wing Watch went after McHugh for his religious beliefs, even though there is not a single mention of scripture or encyclicals or anything religious in the report. McHugh is automatically suspect for being Catholic. They go on to smear the report for being praised by left-wing bogeymen Brian Brown and Ryan Anderson.
Actually it would be less pernicious if the paper did reference scripture or encyclicals. We are not all stupid. McHugh is an 85-year-old ultra-conservative Catholic whose views on sexuality are at odds with his own professional organization; are often presented by him in conservative Catholic outlets like Witherspoon Institute's blog; and consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Still further down the LGBT food-chain are the smelly little blogs. One little-read blog is called Slowly Boiled Frog run by a retired businessman in Florida.
Aww, Austin. By the way I was quite surprised myself by the number of page views the Frog is getting these days. Be assured that we keep our pond smelling fresh and clean despite the crowd of waders.
Laced with the de rigueur vulgarity, the blog goes after the supposed Catholicism of the Ethics and Public Policy Institute, a partner with The New Atlantis. EPPC is not “Catholic,” by the way. The blog does mention Mayer’s credentials as a biostatistician and epidemiologist but says he is “out of his depth.” One wonders about the depth of the gay fellow running the blog. Does he have the credentials to question Mayer’s?
I have hundreds of examples of Mr. Ruse's vulgarity for comparison one of these days, but not now. EPPC not Catholic? It is run by Ed Whelan and George Weigel. Give me a fucking break. And EPPC is not a partner with New Atlantis. EPPC publishes New Atlantis. I do not require credentials to question Mayer's. He is not qualified in the field of human sexuality. He is forced to rely on McHugh's sampling.
The blog then smears McHugh’s Catholic faith and then insists everyone involved with the paper is a “Defender of the Faith.” The blog then pivots to Cardinal Ratzinger. A constant and rather boring feature of the blog is its attacks on Christians and most especially Catholics. It is as if they have a key-stroke that produces “Catholic” so they don’t have to type the whole thing out constantly ad nauseum.
I know - It's sophomoric
In point of fact, the paper in question is a defense of the Catholic faith as practiced by the radical fringe. The majority of Catholics support gay rights in proportions that exceed the general public. In point of fact, the Catholic Church is the world's leading purveyor of anti-LGBT propaganda. It choreographed Proposition 8 and, in Maine, it came out of the closet to openly champion Question 1. The pope is obsessed with what he calls “gender ideology” which basically sends the message: “Don't believe the science.”

As for Ratzinger, his treatise on same-sex unions represents a relatively recent example of the Church's homophobia and judgment of gay people as “objectively disordered.” Ratzinger writes that we do violence to children when they are raised by gay couples. He also has the chutzpah to insist that Catholic politicians have obligations to the Church that supersede their oaths of office and their respect for the U.S. Constitution.

To the point of this study, Dr. McHugh believes that gay people are objectively disordered. It is superstition over science. He also believes that the pope is inerrant and, therefore, that the pope's disdain for gender ideology means that transgender people do not exist. The objective of this study is to misinform the public.

Were a group of Hasidim, out of their headquarters in Borough Park, Brooklyn,  engaging in similar endeavors. I would have the same criticism for them. But they are not. The simple fact is that the Catholic Church promotes ignorance, misinformation and anti-LGBT hate and the enterprise is organized and well funded. Were it not for the teachings of the Church, C-Fam would not do the things it does to have it designated as a hate group.
The blog does engage the research, sort of, well not really. Rather, in a sentence or two the blog attempts to shoot down the key findings in a Monty Python “that’s-not-argument-that’s contradiction” kind of a way. So again, more sneering and name-calling.
Papers that are not peer reviewed are junk science per se. I did point out the flaws in Ryan Anderson's summary of the key findings which may, or may not, require a sentence or two or three.
And that is kind of it. These are their counter-arguments to a 143-page paper with 27 pages of academic footnotes.

What does the report really say? Start with the fact that the report has 27 pages of notes. The authors read and analyzed dozens of studies and reports from the biological, psychological and social sciences.

They were concerned to discover what the most rigorous scientific findings tell us about the “born that way” proposition so they looked at twin studies, genetics, environmental issues, and hormonal factors. They looked at the best existing brain science. They explored issues related to mental health as they are concerned that gays and transgenders experience levels of mental health issues far above the general population. They looked specifically at “stress factors,” that is, homo and transphobia. They analyzed dozens and dozens of studies.
I am going to keep this simple. I don't give a rat's derriere if this opus were thrice its size. A meta-study requires substantial footnotes since it is dependent upon the work of others. Unless a paper is peer reviewed I presume that the results (achieved through other studies) are the product of selective observation. A thousand pages of unreviewed findings are still just a large quantity of bullshit. Were this really, as Ruse suggest, “the most rigorous scientific findings” then it would have been published to a peer reviewed scholarly journal and not what amounts to a pretentious quarterly blog.

Until then, I will inform others that the overwhelming conclusions of peer reviewed research are that:
  1. Sexual orientation is innate and efforts to change sexual orientation are unsuccessful and potentially harmful and; 
  2. Transgender people have gender dysphoria. It is rare and it real. There exists no known medical intervention to treat gender dysphoria other than support. Dr. McHugh knows this but apparently is indifferent to the science in his own field.
And yes, The New Atlantis is not peer-reviewed, though both Mayer and McHugh have published in peer-reviewed journals and in the top-tier, too. One suspects they chose this route because peer review has become so politicized, particularly in the area of LGBT. Why go through the trouble of attempting peer review on such a controversial paper only to be shot down and give the other side that arrow to shoot you with?
Perhaps Mr. Ruse can point to peer-reviewed articles by these folks regarding gay or transgender people. Ruse is offering an excuse based upon a faulty premise. Peer review is primarily concerned with methodology. Does it meet sound scientific standards. Scientists (who might peer review such an article) are going to be agnostic to the result. My premise is that they know that this will not stand up to the rigors of peer review at a respected scholarly journal. If this is good research then it belongs in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Perhaps The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences.
There are ample reports out there about how phony peer review has become. How in many cases it is little more than “log-rolling,” you give me a good review and I’ll give you one. Moreover, there are legendary stories out there about how later Nobel Prize papers were repeatedly rejected for peer-review. The peer review argument is a dodge they use to avoid real engagement.
Ruse does not provide an example to support his charges. What Nobel Prize paper was rejected for peer-review? Peer-review does not reject papers. Reviewers work with submitters (in a double-blind environment at the most prestigious journals) to offer a scientifically sound paper.  And if it is that simple (as Ruse suggests) to do a peer review back scratch then why not? If McHugh wants to challenge the scientific consensus then he should do so with a peer reviewed article. Again, peer review is focused on methodology over conclusions. It's not a dodge and noting the lack of peer review is real engagement. There is certainly no argument to support the notion that the lack of peer review makes a paper superior to one that is peer reviewed.
It is unfortunate we have reached a point where such good men as these can be slandered with such ease and that opponents feel free to avoid real engage and do no more than sneer and call names. It means we are far behind in the public debate. If they thought we were a threat, they would have to engage.
If, somewhere in Ruse's polemic, he has offered counterpoint to the four points that I made, I cannot find it. If Ruse wants to engage then he should engage. Apparently criticism is now slander. More bullshit.
The good news is that today even laymen are being forced to become experts. All of us. It is like with the faith itself. We can no longer rely on the institutional Church for our faith, we must make our faith our very own. Otherwise it is built on sand. In the same way, we can no longer rely on experts in social issues, we must make these issues our own, too.
In a sense Ruse is correct. There are ample resources that support faith over science including McHugh's post. People need to decide which is more reliable.
Every single one of us needs to download the Mayer and McHugh report, read it, and even study the footnotes. Believe me, it is tough sledding, but well worth it. The executive summary is excellent.

If you have a gay child or a gender confused child, it will also bring you comfort, great comfort. Even the science is on our side.
That is called child abuse. If one has a gay or gender non-conforming child (which does not mean that they are confused) most people would opt for science over superstition. Most people have the common sense to seek qualified professional counseling for both the parents and the child.

I will inject some personal experience. I have an extraordinary therapist. Due to his increasing academic responsibilities I have not seen him in some time. However, Dr. Rene Hernandez Cardenache is, I think, a conservative Catholic. As a professional (and a very smart guy) he is able to separate himself from Catholic teachings in treating patients. Dr. McHugh is unable to make that separation, and it shows. Attacking McHugh's critics is really argument ad hominem (as in calling this blog smelly).

Austin Ruse is a dedicated ultra-conservative Catholic. He is a Knight of Malta which is no easy accomplishment. It requires service to the poor and disadvantaged. Ruse believes in obedience to the Bishops. In attacking the critics, Ruse is trying to defend controversial research that has not been submitted to peer review. His prior effort which was published at Breitbart had numerous flaws. His task is nearly impossible.

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