May 16, 2017
By Hendrik van der Breggen
May 16, 2017
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, may one day find his recent "answers" in the House of Commons' question period listed in university textbooks on reasoning—in the sections on fallacies.
Various Conservatives and even NDP Thomas Mulcair asked the PM a simple question, and they asked this question 18 times. Only to have the PM evade it—18 times.
Here's the question: How many times has the PM met with the ethics and conflict-of-interest commissioner (to see if there is a conflict of interest in the PM vacationing with a billionaire on the billionaire's island)?
The PM's response—18 times—was, simply and basically, this: "I am very pleased to work with the ethics and conflict-of-interest commissioner to answer any questions she may have."
This isn't a fallacy of logic in the sense that an argument—a mistaken argument—is being set out by the PM, because the PM didn't set out an argument. Nevertheless, it is a fallacious response: it is a dialogical error, i.e., the mistake of not participating properly in a reasonable dialogue by not answering the question at hand.
Such a mistake could be innocent, because perhaps the question was not understood. But in the PM's case the question was repeated not just once, not just twice, but 18 times. The PM's response was clearly deliberate. And evasive. He was knowingly avoiding the question.
But things get worse.
Later, in response to the seventh time he was asked the same question, the PM said this: "Canadians expect clarity and they expect consistency, and when asked the same question I will give the same answer. That's what Canadians expect. I will work with and answer the questions the ethics commissioner/ conflict-of-interest commissioner may have."
Well, I am a Canadian, and I expect that the PM should know that consistency in making a mistake is not an intellectual virtue. Giving the same mistaken answer over and over again doesn't make the answer right. No matter how consistent one is in saying 2+2=5, the fact is that 2+2 doesn't equal 5.
In other words, the PM mistakenly thinks that two wrongs make a right. Actually, in this case, that 18 wrongs make a right.
But things get worse yet.
Later, in the PM's ninth response, the PM uses another evasion tactic: he attempts to change the subject—a.k.a. red herring.
Here's the question (again): How many times has the PM met the ethics commissioner?
The PM answers as follows: "I'm happy to accept and work with the ethics commissioner on answering any of the questions she may have. That's the kind of thing that is important to Canadians. What's also important to Canadians is making investments in the middle class, in growth for the economy, in putting forward a budget that will put more money in the pockets of the middle class, and raise taxes for the wealthiest one percent. These are the focuses that our government has. The priorities of our government is serving the middle class and those working hard to join it."
If this were a court and I were a lawyer, I'd shout "Objection! Irrelevant!" And the judge would instruct the jury to ignore the PM's attempt to bamboozle by setting out a red herring. (The PM does this twice, in fact.)
In sum, the PM commits three serious mistakes: avoiding the question (x18), two wrongs make a right (x1), and red herring (x2).
Mr. Prime Minister, you say Canadians expect clarity. Yes, we do. We also expect truth.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)
May 10, 2017
|The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,|
Prime Minister of Canada
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, May 11, 2017
May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. At risk of being labeled “phobic,” I will set out five critical comments/ questions.
But first let's hear from The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, who last year officially celebrated the day with these words:
“Everyone deserves to live free of stigma, persecution, and discrimination—no matter who they are or whom they love. Today is about ensuring that all people—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity—feel safe and secure, and empowered to freely express themselves.”
Trudeau adds: “On this important day, I encourage all Canadians to raise awareness, and mobilize to end the violence, prejudice, and judgment faced by LGBTQ2 persons.”
Yes, there should be no violence and prejudice against anyone, and all people should be safe, secure, and able to freely express themselves—including persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/ questioning, two-spirited, etc.
Nevertheless, reasonable concerns remain.
1. The concept of phobia needs clarification.
A phobia is an irrational anxiety or fear or hatred concerning X (see Mayo Clinic's online entry on “phobia”). But one is not necessarily phobic if one has evidence-based concerns or questions about X. Being concerned about large spiders near little children doesn't mean one is arachnophobic.
Significantly, many intelligent people of good will have expressed reasonable, evidence-based concerns and questions about LGBTQ2. See, for starters, psychiatrists Paul McHugh and Miriam Grossman, former transgender Walt Heyer, former homosexual Sy Rogers, and the ex-gays at Restored Hope Network. But such people are often simply dismissed, in knee-jerk fashion, as “phobic” (or “bigoted,” etc.).
Thinking people should ask: Aren't these knee-jerk dismissals an unreasonable application of, to use the PM's words, “stigma”/ “prejudice”/ “judgment”?
Is this logic-phobia? Evidence-phobia? Phobic anti-phobia?
2. Freedom of expression has limits. Freedom to express one's self by swinging one's fists ends at the tip of another's nose. Safety and security of others is important, too.
Thinking people should ask: Does the freedom of expression of, say, a man who claims to be a woman include expressing himself by using women's multiple-occupancy bathrooms, change rooms, and showers?
Does the allowance of such expression open doors too widely to sexual predators—rapists, pedophiles—who pretend to be transgender? (For further thought, see my column "Men in women's bathrooms?")
Also, should freedom of expression permit LGBTQ2 ideologues-cum-educators to teach school children that gay life is fine when there's considerable evidence it isn't? See, for starters, the 2017 book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals.
Surely, it's reasonable—NOT phobic—to raise these concerns.
3. When our PM says “everyone”—EVERYONE—should live free of stigma, persecution, and discrimination “no matter who they are or whom they love,” does that include men who love children?
Yes, we shouldn't persecute pedophiles. But isn't some stigma and discrimination appropriate?
Just as drug addicts shouldn't be left alone in a pharmacy, pedophiles shouldn't be left alone with children. Surely, pedophiles shouldn't be allowed to be babysitters or Sunday school teachers.
Surely, too, we should discriminate—intellectually distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate, true and false, right and wrong—in such matters. This also is not phobic.
4. If we accept that gender identity is wholly subjective, which is au courant in public discourse, do feelings run amok over actual reality?
Should we accept as true the “identity” of the 52-year-old Canadian father of seven who now “feels” he is a six-year-old girl? Surely not. I submit that subjectivity doesn't trump objective reality.
5. Yes, I'm making a “judgment” here. But notice that I am attempting to judge in the sense of making careful discernments of truth based on evidence and reason.
Of course, a reader might say I'm mistaken. But that is a judgment too.
To arbitrate let's have respectful, open-minded, well-reasoned, truth-seeking investigations of relevant evidence—without fallacious ad hominem charges of phobia.
Prime Minister Trudeau, maybe we should celebrate an International Day of Logical Thinking and Truth Seeking?
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)
Addendum—May 21, 2017
Homosexuality (and Bible)
Replies to my critics
Addendum—May 21, 2017
Objections and replies
Several people have posted my above article "Phobic anti-phobia?" on Facebook, etc. and many people have said much about it (some positive, much negative). I don't have the time (or energy) to address all the objections that have been set out, but I would like to deal with a dozen of them.
I hope my replies to the following objections from my critics are helpful.
1. Objection: Mr. van der Breggen is not a credible and responsible source.
Reply: I am a philosophy professor who has some expertise in argument assessment. I studied argument seriously as an undergrad as well as in grad school and over the past decade-plus have taught 13 installments of a university-level Critical Thinking course. I am a member of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation, plus I have received positive acknowledgments in two critical thinking textbooks. I also have studied arguments surrounding the justification of LGBTQ issues for about 15-20 years. I have twice taught a university course wholly dedicated to the ethics of homosexuality (examining sources pro and con) and I have covered the topic in my general ethics course at least a dozen times. I have three degrees in philosophy from respectable Canadian universities: BA (Calgary), MA (Windsor), PhD (Waterloo). I have received scholarships and writing awards.
All this to say that to dismiss me as "not a credible and responsible source" is, well, not credible and not responsible. Sure, I sometimes make mistakes. When I do, I do my best to correct them and learn to do better. (I like to think that this adds to my being a credible and responsible source.)
2. Objection: The higher rates of various health problems associated with homosexual etc. sex are due primarily to the oppressive attitudes towards homosexuals, etc. of the population at large. These problems thus are society's fault, i.e., they're due to homophobia, etc.
Reply: No doubt some of this is society's fault, but very apparently not all of it is. We should keep in mind that in gay-friendly societies, such as the Netherlands, the pain and suffering continues in spite of non-homophobic attitudes. Much pain and suffering seems closely related to embracing sexual activity/ identity that departs from the clearly apparent physical design of sexual complementarity. Further thought/ inquiry is needed, for the sake of truth and, especially, for the sake of helping those who engage in homosexual etc. sex. Such further thought/ inquiry needn't be deemed phobic.
Consider the following passage from psychiatrist-physician Miriam Grossman:
"Individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual report more problems with mental health too: higher rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. While I'm sure that for some people, societal bias contributes to their distress, the entire onus for these difficulties—emotional and physical—cannot be placed at the feet of a 'heterosexist' society. It's just not intellectually honest.
"The Netherlands is probably the world's most open-minded and sexually tolerant country in the world. At the vanguard of homosexual rights for decades, gay marriage was legalized there in 2001, with over 75 percent of the population supporting the bill. A 1998 study examining sexual attitudes in 24 countries asked the question, 'Is homosexual sex wrong?' Only 26 percent of U.S. respondents indicated 'not wrong at all' or 'only sometimes wrong'; the corresponding number in the Netherlands was 77 percent.
"In light of that country's stance, it is worth noting that, as in the United States, young gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in the Netherlands report more high risk sexual behaviors, higher rates of infection with HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea, and more mental health problems than their heterosexual counterparts. In these studies, younger age was not protective; even as Dutch society became more accepting of sexual minorities, the health disparities persisted. Clearly, societal bias is not to blame for the disproportionately higher numbers in the homosexual populations in the Netherlands."
(Miriam Grossman, You're Teaching My Child WHAT? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child (Regnery 2009), pp. 142-143. This book has been recommended by Nicholas Cummings, a former president of the American Psychological Association, and Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University.)
3. Objection: The book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals (referred to in my article) is "premised on almost 70 year old research."
Reply: Huh? This book was published in 2017 and is based on peer-reviewed research from the last 5 to 20 years, including studies published in 2016. Is such a dismissal, obviously made without investigation, an irrational aversion to evidence (i.e., what I refer to in my article as "evidence-phobia")?
4. Objection: The book The Health Hazards of Homosexuality: What the Medical and Psychological Research Reveals is published by the socially conservative group Mass Resistance and thus the evidence it presents should be dismissed.
Reply: This is a case of attacking the messenger instead of examining the message/evidence presented. It's a version of the ad hominem fallacy (the mistake of attacking the arguer instead of his/her arguments) but directed to an organization. The book's evidence, which consists of recent and respectable scientific sources, should be examined for truth plus relevance and sufficiency as grounds for the conclusions drawn, not dismissed before investigation. Sure, one might have grounds to suspect bias from a group that has an agenda, but mere suspicion is not enough to dismiss the evidence that the group presents. One must show that the group's agenda actually interferes with the evidence, i.e., that it skews interpretation, results in confirmation bias, tunnel vision, etc. To dismiss the book out of hand without investigation of its contents may be to succumb to an ideological bias that is not open to careful investigation of contrary views. (Is my term "evidence-phobia" appropriate here, too? Maybe I should tweak this to "evidence-that's-contrary-to-preferred-view-phobia"?)
5. Objection: The APA (American Psychological Association) says homosexuality is fine.
Reply: Yes, but it turns out that not all psychologists agree with the APA.
For example, one of the sources to which I appeal (in another column) is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a U.S.-based organization of psychologists and counselors who help people overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. Often critics set out their preferred source—the American Psychological Association (APA)—which dismisses the legitimacy of NARTH's work. But this dismissal is too hasty from the point of view of careful thinking.
We should concede to critics that the APA is a large and influential organization whereas NARTH isn't. But, if we investigate further (which, I've discovered, my critics often don't), it becomes clear that the appeal to the APA as a scientific authority faces two debilitating difficulties.
First, that there is a majority consensus in the scientific community doesn't automatically mean that the minority is mistaken. Often, as the history of science shows, a scientific minority's arguments can have a better handle on truth. Lesson: Even in the face of a major scientific "consensus", we should encourage further investigation—in the name of good science.
Second, the alleged APA consensus in psychology to which critics so confidently appeal is in fact fractured and dubious. Consider Jeffrey Satinover's book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker 1996). Satinover—a psychiatrist educated at MIT, Harvard, and U of Texas—reports on the well-known infringement of political ideology into the scientific investigation of homosexuality during the 1970s and up to the 1990s. It turns out that many members were cowed/ intimidated by pro-gay activists.
Consider, too, psychologists Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings' more recent book Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm (Routledge 2005). In this collection of essays, various highly respected psychologists argue that in the scientific and professional world of psychology "special interest groups have used faulty—even false—science to promote political agendas."
Significantly, Dr. Nicholas Cummings is a past president of the APA, is a champion of lesbian and gay rights, and was a keynote speaker at a 2011 NARTH conference—yes, a NARTH conference. It turns out that Cummings is more supportive of NARTH than the APA!
Cummings says the following in an interview with NARTH: "The APA has permitted political correctness to triumph over science, clinical knowledge and professional integrity. The public can no longer trust organized psychology to speak from evidence rather than from what it regards to be politically correct."
Cummings adds: "At the present time the governance of the APA is vested in an elitist group of 200 psychologists who rotate themselves in a kind of 'musical chairs' throughout all the various offices, boards, committees, and the Council of Representatives. The vast majority of the 100,000 members are essentially disenfranchised." (See http://narth.com/docs/cummings.html.)
Surely these are significant remarks from a former president of the APA, enough to cast at least some reasonable doubt onto the scientific authority of the APA which purports to present a "consensus."
Surely, it's not phobic to say this.
For further reading and links, see my July 25, 2013 column "Questioning a critic's credibility."
6. Objection: Language meanings can change, i.e., language is "fluid," and it is "widely understood" that the words homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia don't mean clinical phobias. So Mr. van der Breggen is mistaken in his concern about phobia.
Reply: Yes, language is "fluid," i.e., language meanings can change. Ambiguity is a well-known feature of language. But THAT is why the notion of "phobia" needs clarification (see point 1 of my article). In fact, I'm not at all confident that it's "widely understood" that homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia don't mean clinical phobias. Surely, it is widely understood that the term "phobia" DOES mean clinical phobia.
Consider this. According to the Mayo clinic, a phobia is an “overwhelming and unreasonable fear of objects or situations that pose little real danger but provoke anxiety and avoidance." Phobia, per Healthline. com, is "an excessive and irrational fear reaction." Yes, these are medical dictionaries. But also see the popular Dictionary. com, which defines phobia as “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it." See also the online entry for phobia from the popular dictionary Miriam-Webster: "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation." See also the entry for phobia in the popular Webster's New World Dictionary (paperback): "an irrational, excessive, persistent fear of some thing or situation." And so on. Popular dictionaries reflect popular language usage.
It very much seems, then, that phobia is widely understood in the sense of clinical phobia. And thus it very much seems that reasonable, evidence-based concerns about homosexuality, bisexuality, and transexuality are being subsumed under the clinical sense when the words "homophobia," "biphobia," and "transphobia" are being used in popular parlance. Hence the concern of point 1 in my article remains: we need clarity on the notion of phobia before those of us who have reasonable, evidence-based questions are dismissed without a hearing (as some of my critics are in fact doing).
Note: I am not alone in this concern. The well-known University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson is also concerned, as are many who see Dr. Peterson as their spokesperson.
7. Objection: In the article in point 2, Mr. van der Breggen "defines" transgender women when he writes (asks) "does a man who claims to be a woman include expressing himself by using women's multiple-occupancy bathrooms."
Reply: Nope. Here my article is being misrepresented. I am not defining transgender; I am merely presenting an attribute to ask a question related to that attribute. I am not setting out a definition or a set of necessary and sufficient conditions of transgender. Rather, I am pointing to a man who claims to be a woman to illuminate the problems and limits of freedom of expression (again, see my point 2). The context of my next sentence should make this clear: "Does the allowance of such expression open doors too widely to sexual predators—rapists, pedophiles—who pretend to be transgender?" At least a charitable reading of my work should make this clear.
8. Objection: Why the fuss over men in washrooms? Won't predators/ pedophiles bent on molesting do it anyway? How offensive! Van der Breggen is saying all transgenders are pedophiles!
Reply: Please read and think carefully. My view is that those who have a propensity towards pedophilia/ rape may, by being allowed in women's washrooms, be encouraged (i.e., their propensity exacerbated) by new-found ease-of-access to prey. According to Janine Simon, a molestation victim (in an article to which my article "Men in women's bathrooms?" links), "Pedophiles ... are 'just looking for a chance' to hurt children due to a compulsion that seemingly defies treatment. It is an addiction like no other. And yet, we’ve just created a law that makes it easier for them to access their victims..." If, to accommodate transgenders, we say Yes to men in women's bathrooms (change rooms, showers), then it encourages those persons who are inclined to rape or engage in voyeurism. Sure, saying No won't stop those who are "bent" on this, but saying no will discourage them (like laws against texting and driving won't stop those bent on it, but will discourage some/ many).
No, I am not saying that all transgender people are sexual predators and perverts (though perhaps some are). Rather, I'm saying that there are too many rapists and pedophiles (whether transgender or heterosexual or whatever) from whom we, as responsible citizens, must protect the vulnerable, in this case women and children. The concern here, then, is not with transgenders, but with rapists and pedophiles who pretend to be transgender. While we should do our best to care for persons who sincerely self-identify as transgender, we must also protect women and children from the voyeurism of men and boys pretending to be transgender. In other words, opening physically intimate spaces such as public multiple-occupancy bathrooms, showers, etc. to anyone who claims a transgender identity allows sexual predators to stalk their prey much, much too easily. It's not phobic to raise this as a concern.
The well being of persons who identity as transgender is important—of course. But their bathroom and shower room needs can be easily accommodated by adding some single-occupancy gender neutral facilities. And this can be done without opening all women's bathrooms and shower rooms to every man or boy who claims he feels female. Ditto for men's facilities and women or girls who feel they're male. We can call such an additional facility a "family washroom," or "bathroom," or "washroom," or "rest room"—whatever is helpful.
Notice that the trans woman who appears near the end of this video agrees with my position: "The unintended victims of bathroom bills and locker room policies" (11 minute video).
For further reading on this topic, see my May 10, 2016, column "Men in women's bathrooms?"
9. Objection: Former homosexuals and former transpersons do not exist.
Reply: But, apparently, they do exist (check out the links I provided in my article and see below). And, surely, if they do exist, to deny their existence is a serious case of marginalization. At least we should hear their personal stories.
Growing evidence involving religiously based as well as non-religiously based behavioural therapies shows that many homosexuals who desire to change can and do change. Although the rate and extent of the change have sometimes been exaggerated, research indicates that significant change does occur. Some people claim to have had their sexual attractions changed to varying degrees, and some (many, especially those who are/became Christians) claim that their core identity has changed so that it isn't centered in their sexual attractions.
Here are some key findings from psychologists Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse on their study of Exodus International, a Christian ministry to homosexuals (for more on Exodus and its closing see my reply to the next objection):
● By most measures, the average participant experienced statistically significant change in his or her sexual identity and sexual attractions.
● Such changes were generally modest, though, with decreasing homosexual attraction more significant than increasing heterosexual attraction.
● Exodus can describe 38 percent of its programs’ participants as successes, changing to either a “meaningful but complicated” heterosexuality (15 percent) or a stable chastity (23 percent).
● Surprisingly, a “truly gay” subpopulation showed the clearest changes in sexual identity and attraction.
● No evidence of increased distress was found.
[Source: Tim Stafford, “An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement: The 30-year-old ministry now offers realistic hope for homosexuals,” Christianity Today, September 14, 2007. The book from which the above key findings come is Stanton Jones & Mark Yarhouse, Ex-Gays? A longitudinal study of religiously mediated change in sexual orientation (Downer Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2007).]
Also, according to the 2009 landmark study What Research Shows (done by the U.S.-based National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality/ NARTH), “over a century of experiential evidence, clinical reports, and research evidence demonstrate that it is possible for both men and women to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality [and] that efforts to change are not generally harmful.”
Also, see testimonies at the following websites:
● Restored Hope Network
● PeopleCanChange.com; now Brothers on a Road Less Traveled
● Living Out
See, too, the testimonies of the following people:
Beckett ("Homosexuality was my identity"; interview from Anchored North)
● Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith)
● Charlene Cothran (former gay activist and publisher of Venus magazine)
● Joe Dallas (author of The Gay Gospel?)
● Michael Glatze (co-founder of Young Gay America magazine and former advocate for gay rights)
● Walt Heyer (former transgender)
● Jackie Hill (spoken word poet well-known for speaking out against the popular pro-gay I-can't-change song by Macklemore)
● Charlene E. Hios (author of "Leaving My Lesbian Past"; Bridging the Gap Ministries)
● Anne Paulk (executive director of Restored Hope Network)
● Sy Rogers (testimony)
● Christopher Yuan (author of Out of a Far Country)
Also, see the documentary Such Were Some of You.
(Significantly, there is even an organization that defends the rights of former homosexuals: Voice of the Voiceless. https://www.voiceofthevoiceless.info/)
To deny the very existence of people who are former gays and former trans persons (or at least have a significant degree of transformation) is deeply unfair to such people. I submit it's the ultimate in marginalization.
10. Objection: Exodus International (a ministry to former gays) closed down.
Reply: Yes, it did, but not for reasons having to do with failure to help people actually turn from undesired same-sex desire.
For further reading, see my January 15, 2014, article "Three clarifications concerning 2013's news."
Here is part of what I wrote (see original article for links):
In 2013 this large evangelical umbrella organization of ministries, which for nearly four decades helped people with unwanted same-sex attractions, shut down. The organization's last board of directors voted unanimously to close Exodus. Also, Exodus's last president Alan Chambers apologized to the LGBT community for the organization's failures. Moreover, Chambers said that "99 percent of people who went through gay-conversion therapy did not lose their same-sex desires, himself included."
No doubt the attitude of many persons toward Exodus International is simply this: good bye and good riddance.
For the sake of truth and clarity, however, it should be noted that there is more to the story.
It turns out that in recent years in Exodus International a considerable shuffling of board members occurred to accommodate the theological/ ideological views which reflect those of the president, resulting in an exodus of many ministries from Exodus.
In fact, in 2012 many former Exodus ministries regrouped to form Restored Hope Network, a new umbrella organization devoted to helping people with unwanted same-sex attractions.
According to Anne Paulk, a former lesbian who is now executive director of Restored Hope Network, "we are at this point half the size of Exodus in ministry number" (in comparison to "the year leading up to their implosion") and "almost all [our members] used be an Exodus ministry." Also, according to Paulk, Restored Hope Network will soon be seeking out other former Exodus ministries to join them. (Anne Paulk, personal correspondence, January 11, 2014.)
What were the theological/ ideological concerns? It turns out that the theological/ ideological view of the former Exodus president and now defunct Exodus board is what some have called "cheap grace": i.e., there is no requirement to repent of behaviours deemed by Scripture to be sin. That's significant, surely, and should be taken into account in a charitable and accurate description of Exodus's closing.
What about Chamber's claim that 99 percent of same-sex attracted people don't lose their same-sex desires? I'll use this question to segue to the next section.
It's true that the highly respected psychiatrist Robert Spitzer recently changed his mind about his 2003 study wherein he concluded that homosexual orientation can change to heterosexual orientation. Spitzer decided that his study had a "fatal flaw": i.e., there was "no way to determine if the subject's accounts were valid." The only question his study could answer was the following: "how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?"—a question Spitzer dismissed as "not very interesting." (Robert Spitzer, 2012 letter to Kenneth J. Zucker, editor of Journal of Sexual Behavior; cited in Ex-Gay Watch, April 26, 2012.)
But we should ask: What follows from Spitzer's flawed study?
Significantly, from the fact that Spitzer's study is flawed it does not follow logically that people cannot or do not change, nor does it follow logically that all his subjects were lying or deceived. Surely, whether or not people do in fact change remains an open question, open to further investigation.
I submit that more study is needed, especially in view of the fact that Spitzer's own study showed that many individuals did in fact describe changes in sexual orientation—and especially in view of the fact that there are many other people who also claim to have had same-sex attractions and say they were able to change these to various significant degrees.
Spitzer's study focused on 200 individuals. What about others? [See above and below.]
Consider, for starters, the testimonies of the following people as evidence (these people also claim to have had their sexual attractions/ identities changed to varying degrees): Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith); Joe Dallas (author of The Gay Gospel?); Michael Glatze (co-founder of Young Gay America magazine and former advocate for gay rights); Jackie Hill (spoken word poet well-known for speaking out against the popular pro-gay I-can't-change song by Macklemore); Charlene E. Hios (author of "Leaving My Lesbian Past"); Anne Paulk (executive director of Restored Hope Network); Sy Rogers (syrogers.com; testimony); Christopher Yuan (author of Out of a Far Country).
Consider, too, the testimonies available at these organizations (which help people with unwanted same-sex attractions): Ex-gayTruth.com; LivingOut.org; Restored Hope Network; X-Gays facebook group. There is even an organization that defends the rights of former homosexuals: Voice of the Voiceless.
Surely, not all people who claim to be ex-gay are lying or self-deluded. Surely, further investigation—i.e., non-flawed studies—should be promoted.
Again, from a flawed study concerning sexual orientation change, it doesn't follow that sexual orientation change can't or doesn't occur to some significant degree.
For further reading on Spitzer, I suggest Christopher H. Rosik, "Spitzer's 'retraction' of his sexual change study: what does it really mean?" LifeSiteNews, May 31, 2012. Rosik, a clinical psychologist, is president of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
See, too, the recent (2016) testimony of Pastor Ray Yoder, one of the pastors at my church: http://mysouthland.com/messages#Marriage_2016/Homosexuality_and_Redemption
11. Objection: Conversion therapies should be banned, especially for kids.
Reply: From a recent article (written by a gay man):
We’ve forgotten that children are children. Children believe what they read online, what adults tell them, and do not understand the nuances and stereotypes around sex and gender. If we tell children that a boy liking pink means he might be in the “wrong body” we put them at risk. Just because a child says something doesn’t mean it’s true or we should accept it. Especially children who are different, like tomboy girls, boys with a feminine side, girls unhappy in puberty or who feel attracted to other girls, and autistic children are at risk of misinterpreting their feelings. Article after article on “trans children” show kids coerced into a lifetime of under-researched treatments and surgeries because they don’t conform to gender roles....
Trans rights are the social-justice cause of 2017. But many on the virtue-signaling Left are unwisely backing an activist agenda they do not understand, and can’t see is actually dangerous. Bills to take away freedom from medical professionals [who seek to help children be happy in their bodies] will funnel children towards sterilization and serious lifelong harm. So-called conversion therapy bans ironically prevent unhappy children caught in the trans contagion from accepting their natural bodies, and benefit an increasingly profitable gender clinic industry....
Opposing this dystopian bullsh-t of making children into transsexuals shouldn’t even be a political debate between Left and Right. It’s just about a basic moral assurance that we shouldn’t harm kids. So let’s stop it.
(Marcus Gregory, "Conversion Therapy Bans Will Trap Transgender Children," The Federalist, May 11, 2017. http://thefederalist.com/2017/05/11/conversion-therapy-bans-trojan-horse-ensnaring-transgender-children/ )
For further reading, see my January 18, 2017, column "Transgender ideology." http://apologiabyhendrikvanderbreggen.blogspot.ca/2017/01/transgender-ideology.html
12. Objection: Van der Breggen's article "Phobic anti-phobia?" is offensive and should be deleted from Facebook, etc.
Reply: Offensive or not, please know that I am sincerely trying to seek what is true and I am trying to do this graciously. Of course, I sometimes (perhaps often) fail. So I sincerely apologize if I have needlessly hurt anyone's feelings. But I do not retract the concerns I set out, because the objections to my concerns are weak.
Also, please keep in mind that freedom of speech is precious. Please don't succumb to the impulse to shut down truth-seeking speech, especially when such speech is not politically fashionable. That impulse, it seems to me, is at the root of fascism.
I hope my replies to my critics' objections are helpful in our pursuit of what's true, good, and beautiful.
Other Apologia columns on related matters, for further reading:
Homosexuality (non-religious criticisms)
- Lady Gaga and moral reasoning
- Is being gay like race?
- Homophobia, bigotry, intolerance?
- It's all society's fault?
- Born gay?
- Think for baby's sake
- Careful thinking
- Reductio ad absurdum
- Is promoting same-sex sex wise?
Homosexuality (and Bible)
- Jesus and homosexuality
- Homosexuality and history
- Evangelical Christian Gay-Straight Alliance Club?
- Debunking Internet Arguments: Bible and Homosexuality
- For the Bible tells me so – Critical Review
- Evangelical Christian Gay-Straight Alliance Club?
- Cakes and conscience
- Pride Parade pros and cons
- Politically Incorrect Thoughts: Orlando massacre, HSD and LGBTQ
- Men in women's bathrooms?
- Bill 18 needs revision
Replies to my critics
April 26, 2017
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, April 27, 2017
“Is Truth Dead?” asks Time magazine’s recent cover. Apparently, in view of our so-called “post-truth” culture, this is a rhetorical question.
But before we pronounce on the death of truth, perhaps we should identify the alleged victim. Our first question should be “What is truth?”
Two thousand years ago, the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate famously asked this question of Jesus of Nazareth. Pilate, however, didn’t seem interested in waiting for an answer.
Without entering into the deep theological/ philosophical waters of what Jesus meant by claiming to be The Truth (let’s call this capital T truth) it might be helpful today to get clear on the ordinary notion of truth: truth with a lower case t.
When contemporary philosopher Francis Beckwith was asked “What is truth?” he promptly replied: “Do you want the true answer or the false one?”
Beckwith’s answer is both humorous and insightful. The humor in Beckwith’s answer disarms us while revealing, almost glaringly, that we already know what truth is. Truth is telling it like it is. (Yes, journalists and politicians, please take note.)
The concept of truth Beckwith helps us intuit isn’t anything new. Aristotle understood truth similarly when he wrote, “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.”
Read Aristotle’s words again, slowly. Don’t let the fact that none of Aristotle’s words has more than five letters escape your notice, and don’t let this fact take away from the profundity of the words. The commonsensical, garden-variety understanding of truth that Beckwith and Aristotle set out is what philosophers call the Correspondence View of Truth.
In other words (longer words I’m afraid), on the correspondence view of truth, truth is a condition or state of affairs that exists when a statement of what is the case is the case. That a claim or proposition is true means it corresponds with or accurately represents what is the case in reality.
Falsity, on the other hand, is a condition or state of affairs that exists when a statement of what is the case is not the case. Lies are deliberate falsehoods, that is, lies are falsehoods intentionally presented as truths.
A corollary of the correspondence view of truth is that, as contemporary philosopher J. P. Moreland points out, “Reality makes thoughts true or false.”
I would add that reality can also make feelings true or false. For example, when an all-too-thin woman with anorexia nervosa feels she is fat and requests liposuction, we rightly think she is mistaken in fact. (Also, I dare say, when a man feels he is a woman and requests sex-change surgery, we can rightly think he is mistaken in fact, too.)
Sure, we don’t know everything (we are not God) and our knowledge of the things we know isn’t exhaustive or infallible (again, we are not God).
And sure, we are sometimes or even often deceived.
Nevertheless, to know we are sometimes or often deceived requires knowledge of sometimes or often not being deceived.
Happily, by careful examination of evidence and careful reasoning therefrom we can know when a claim is false or someone is lying.
Truth is not dead, folks. Rather, we have to liven up our investigative efforts to pursue it.
Perhaps the love of truth is dead.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College.)
Further reading on truth: