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Speaking truth to prejudice

Friday, October 14, 2005

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Why the APA Delisted Homosexuality in the DSM in 1975 - Part I

EW asked:
So when the APA, before 1975, considered homosexuality a disorder, were we then simply to defer to their judgment? Was homosexuality really a disorder before 1975 simply because the APA said so, but not a disorder after simply because they changed their position?

Yes, we defer to the experts since they are best informed about the reality of the situation we are facing. When my wife discovered a lump in her breast, we followed the experts' advice and she had a mastectomy. She's been cancer free for the 18 years since.

Science is an ongoing process. Science is never exact, particularly in the social sciences. We zero in toward the truth through objective research with the results published in peer reviewed journals. I'm fascinated by the many stages researchers went through to determine the age of the earth, for example.

A hundred years ago, most psychiatric diagnoses were carried over from the nineteenth century. Freud's seminal work, The Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1900. Freud did no scientific research after publishing a paper on the sex organs of eels as a student. All of his insights were derived from his keen observations of his mostly neurotic patients. The few homosexual patients he had, truly were suffering from serious psychological problems. Yet if we look at a random sample of any group of people we will find some with psychological problems. To associate these problems with homosexuality, as Freud did, was later shown to be a mistaken inference based on a biased sample. His analysis was based on only those gays with problems serious enough to bring them to his office in the first place.

Little research was done in this area during the first half of the twentieth century, so Freud's armchair speculations stayed on the books, as it were. After WWII, researchers were given access to a train load of information in the form of the Army Alpha series of tests which were given to most who were inducted into the service as a result of the war. The GI Bill produced an influx of money making more available for research, and research funding became available from other sources as well. Many found funding to do verifiable research to scientifically prove that Freud's ideas about homosexuality were correct.

Imagine the surprise then, when study after study came back showing not even a correlation, let alone a hint of causation between any of the upbringing factors which Freud had suggested lead to a person ending up gay. No "distant father." No "overbearing mother." No this, no that, no anything whatsoever. Being gay is an all but random happenstance like left-handedness. Environment can modify its expression, but it cannot change its intrinsic nature.

At the same time, psychometricians used the multiple choice style psychological tests in the Army Alpha series as an example of a test which produced valid results for large numbers of people in a cost effective machine scorable format. This was never to be a substitute for personal interviews by trained diagnosticians, but these tests allowed interviewers to focus on problem areas more quickly.

Yet with none of these new standardized tests, nor with any other tests that researchers and eager graduate students attempted to devise for this specific purpose, could anyone come up with a diagnostic test which could distinguish gays as a group from straights as a group. Sure, gays suffer from all manner of psychological problems, but in no significantly different pattern or proportion than the population in general. So, if we can devise no test designed to identify psychological disorders which can objectively determine who is gay and who isn't, how can we say that being gay by itself is a psychological disorder in the first place?

There are two other compelling scientific findings which, when added to the above, made the delisting of homosexuality in the DSM all but inevitable. Thirty years of continuing research since then fully supports this decision.

I stand behind the experts in this matter, and the nearly 60 years of solid scientific research which confirms their decision.

From a post at: Family Scholar's blog Comment #59

4 Comments:

At 10/16/2005 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cancer and homosexuality are hardly on par as far as scientific certainties go. Very poor analogy but as it implies that same-sex attraction is a verifiable problem that can be scientifically identified and which can be corrected or ameliorated through medical treatments.

 
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