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October 20, 2001

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A dangerous misstatement
What Spitzer did not say

by Craig E. Tenke

After the hideous events of September 11, we were confronted by a direct
experience of the unity, respect, and cooperation that God intended for us. Out of respect for us all, many of us have postponed our comments about our denomination's controversies. However, on Oct 18, Rev. Crawford posted a dangerous misstatement of a study from my own institution. Since I've seen this error repeated in different forms a number of times, I felt compelled to respond.

Using Dr. Spitzer's Wall Street Journal piece on sexual orientation as a reference, Rev Crawford insists, "Homosexuality is not a genetic fact. It is a mental choice." While I am certain that these statements accurately reflect HIS impressions and feelings, neither of these assertions are supported by the work he alludes to. Dr. Spitzer was not saying this at all, but rather that the OPPOSITE position was NOT NECESSARILY TRUE. He was looking for evidence of an unorthodox, unexplored possibility of change in SOME PATIENTS.

For a more precise interpretation, Dr. Spitzer has graciously supplied me with the following paragraph from the discussion section of the complete paper, which is now being reviewed by a professional journal:

"The results reported here, that some individuals with a homosexual orientation can change their sexual orientation, could be misused by those who oppose the full integration of gay men and lesbians into the mainstream of American society. For this reason, it should be emphasized that the study in no way justifies coercive treatment. Furthermore, the study provides no support for the notion that homosexual orientation is a matter of choice or that any gay man or lesbian can change if motivated enough. Nor does it show that the potential benefits of undergoing sexual reorientation therapy, even for the highly motivated gay man or lesbian, outweigh the potential harm. The risk-benefit can only be answered by future research."

The BIGGEST controversy arising from Spitzer's report has nothing to do with its unorthodox nature, its technical or theoretical quality, its science, or its reproducibility. The empirical method of science will ultimately decide all of these in time. The real controversy is a purely political one, as evidenced by "inferences" such as those made by Rev. Crawford.

I trust that no matter how each delegate votes on Amendment 01 A, that they will not be distracted by rumor, misinformation, or coercion. Instead, let us remain focused on Christ.

Craig E. Tenke, an elder, is a neuroscientist from Center Moriches, NY

INDEX to News and reactions on Dr. Spitzer's study, as reported earlier on Presbyweb
Note: Under Viewpoint we publish unsolicited essays and letters that we believe deserve extra attention. To post or not to post a Viewpoint article is up to the sole discretion of the editor.

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