Friday, August 17, 2018

Liberty Counsel links to a wacky conversion therapy study

Hate group leader Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel
According to “Liberty Counsel Staff”— Study Lends Credence to This About Same-Sex Attraction Counseling. Uh, no it does not. Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBT hate group. Before I go any further, this “study” is published by Linacre Quarterly which is the “journal” of the Catholic Medical Association. Peer review consists of conformity with Catholic Church teachings.

Now about the authors of this piece of work. The lead investigator is Paul L. Santero, PhD. The bio link says Southern California Seminary in El Cajon, CA. He is not on the faculty; not even an adjunct or staff member. In 2011 Santero wrote a 346 page book with a similar title: The Effects of Therapy on U.S. Men with Unwanted Same-sex Attraction. I cannot find what Santero's supposed doctorate is in or where it was obtained. The book was probably vanity published. Perhaps Santero was with the seminary when this study was actually done in 2011.

The second author is Neil E. Whitehead, PhD. He is designated a “corresponding author.” Whitehead's PhD is in biochemistry which he obtained in New Zealand in 1971. He has been an anti-gay crusader for many years, usually through selective literature reviews. In 2000, Whitehead authored a book titled My Genes Made Me Do It. He claimed, and continues to claim, that homosexuality is a choice. To be fair he admits that genetics plays some role but he claims that genes are not tyrants.

The third author is Dolores Ballesteros, PhD. She too is referenced to Southern California Seminary. She too, is not listed as part of the faculty or staff. I have no idea, whatsoever, what her PhD is in or where she obtained it.

My guess is that these are three defenders of the Catholic faith. According to the abstract:
The American Psychological Association and other organizations have formally claimed that sexual orientation change therapies should not be used because they are probably ineffective and may cause harm. A survey asking for negative and positive experiences of 125 men with active lay religious belief who went through sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) strongly conflicted with those claims.
First off, they obtained their sample through “ex-gay ministry groups and private practitioners.” This would never pass peer review at a real journal because the providers are going to offer people who claim to have changed. This is not just a convenience sample. This is a convenience sample with an unknown sampling method because selection of participants was up to, and influenced by the individual ministry groups. Then there is this:
Over a six-week period (January 2011–February 2011), 197 surveys were filled out online, and completely, by 150 men and 8 women. For cultural and gender consistency, the survey sample was reduced to 125 male US residents. A few incomplete questionnaires were included if missing data would not affect calculations.
This is old stuff. It correlates to Santero's 2011 book with the slightly different title. I do not know what “cultural and gender consistency” means nor how they reduced their sample by 37%. They admit it was not due to incomplete questionnaires. Moreover, I cannot find any indication of whether the surveys were anonymous.

Another issue is the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum. The only way to produce an intellectually honest result (one that would survive mainline peer review) is to measure where people are at in the continuum just as they are starting conversion therapy and then to follow up over a period of time. A year perhaps? I am not a scientist.

Whitehead does not have the credentials to design a study like this. Aside from his biases he is a biochemist. This is not his field. Paul L. Santero has provided no information about his credentials and the one reference to the seminary does not pan out. I checked the end notes of his book. Not there either. If Santero had a PhD in, say, sociology or even psychology it would probably be indicated on the study.

Furthermore, most studies provide contact information for the investigators. The only person that has an email address on the study is Whitehead.

This study says what Liberty Counsel wants to hear. They failed to examine it critically. According to them:
This current research also strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior and identity.
They don't even realize that it is not “current research” and they are misstating the supposed results. As I have written many times, Liberty Counsel is interested in conversion therapy because it serves as the basis for discrimination and opposition to nondiscrimination laws.

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