Friday, September 02, 2016

New anti-lgbt 'study' latest in religious right habit of cherry-picking science

The anti-gay right has terrible habit of cherry-picking science

Recently, I've written several posts about a supposed new study which disputes the idea that people are born gay or transgender. The supposed study, published by Drs. Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh, has been pushed by members of the anti-lgbt industry as a supposed breakthrough and a new development with regards to the lgbt orientation.

However,  others were quick to point out how its credibility is damaged by the motivations its publishers and authors. Last month, The Daily Beast published an article detailing the extensive anti-lgbt bias of one of the authors, McHugh.

On Monday, Dean Hamer, Ph.D. and scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health, blasted the report in an issue of The Advocate:

The article claims to be “a careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research — from the biological, psychological, and social sciences — related to sexual orientation and gender identity.” It claims to show sexual orienation is chosen and not fixed, and that gay people are not "born gay." In truth, it is a selective and outdated collection of references and arguments aimed at confusing rather than clarifying our understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 . . . The authors' review of the role of genes in sexual orientation, the area of my own research, is revealing of their methodology. Of the six studies using proper probability sampling methods that have been published in the peer-reviewed literature in the past 16 years, they include only one — and it just so happens to be the one with the lowest estimate of genetic influence of the entire set.
They then discuss, at great length, an obscure study of 7th- to 12th-graders, published in a sociology journal, that doesn't even measure sexual orientation, instead relying on a single question about “romantic attraction.” It's an odd choice of articles to review given Mayer and McHugh's emphasis on proper trait measurement; perhaps they were driven by the fact that it failed to find any heritability, thus supporting their claim that nobody is “born gay.” A very different conclusion was reached by a careful meta-analysis of all the available twin data, recently published in a large review that Mayer and McHugh fail to even mention.

Hamer's accusations isn't the first time that various members of anti-lgbt and conservative groups have been called out for scientific cherry-picking when making their case against lgbt equality.  Over the years, I've catalogued a few incidents:

In 2012, Seton Hall professor Dr. Theodora Sirota complained that Rick Fitzgibbons of  the NARTH (the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) misused her work to make the case that children in same sex households are not raised better than children "in stable homes with a mother and a father."

In 2011, Tom Minnery, a spokesman from Focus on the Family, was dressed down by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) during a Congressional hearing for deliberately misrepresenting a study. Minnery initially used the study to claim, as Fitzgibbons did in his misrepresentation, that same-sex households are inferior to two parent mother/father households.

In 2010, John Horgan, a science journalist and Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, also cried foul about how his work was being distorted.

Other incidents: