Josh Sabey
Josh Sabey circa 2014

At The Federalist (of course) Josh Sabey writes: Why Psychologists’ Selective Opposition To Gay Therapy Undercuts Their Field. The subtitle reads:

Psychologists oppose reparative therapy with religious fervor while using just as ineffective and possibly dangerous methods to treat a host of other more common issues.

Sabey was actually useful for a paragraph or two, suggesting that therapists should be consistent. If they oppose reparative therapy then they should oppose other ineffective treatments. Sabey should have left it at that but he decided to promote conversion therapy and oppose California’s conversion therapy ban.

In the way of background, Josh Sabey works (at least in part) for a tiny nonprofit organization; Parents-to-Parents. Its founder and president is Lisa Sabey. Sister? Mother? I don’t know. Sabey is a conservative Christian. I am guessing Catholic since he wrote a piece on his own blog about masturbation.

I must digress to comment on the fact that Parents-to-Parents represents everything that is wrong with our nonprofit tax code. According to the May 14 IRS Business Master File P2P received its ruling as a 501(c)3 in August, 2015. They filed a tax return for the year ended 12/2015. They have not filed a return for 2016 which was due six months ago at the latest. It’s just a damned e-postcard and they cannot comply. They have to miss two more filings for their nonprofit status to be revoked. We all subsidize these non-conforming nonprofit entities that receive tax-deductible contributions.

Getting back to Josh Sabey’s Federalist piece:

Sooner or later we are bound to come across a reparative therapy that works, whether it’s genetic alteration or a new form of cognitive behavioral therapy. Therapists need to be open to that fact and remain open to the possibilities and evidences of their science.

The above is testament to the art of intellectual dishonesty. In the first sentence Sabey is stating an opinion. By the second sentence it has become a fact. There is no reason to believe, by the way, that some form of successful conversion therapy is inevitable.

The only reason that any form of conversion therapy exists is the shame heaped upon gay people and their parents by religious conservatives who disapprove of homosexuality based on ancient texts. We don’t know of many secular gay people who are intent on becoming straight. That wasn’t always the case but society has advanced to levels of acceptance that religious conservatives have dreaded for decades. As an aside, tolerance has caused unhingedness.

It is unlikely that anyone is going to fund research that is so limited in practical application. Most sane people realize that the demand is contrived and probably should not exist in the first place. Moving along:

That’s why any attempts to unilaterally condemn all current and future conversion therapies (such as Assembly Bill 2943 in California) seems wrongheaded. I think people should have the choice to pursue reparative therapy.

The overwhelming consensus among scientists is that any form of conversion therapy is ineffective and potentially toxic. It is up to practitioners to prove that it is safe and effective. That is something that they have been unwilling or, more likely, unable to do.

Absent any evidence that it is safe and effective, reparative therapy, as a commercial service, is consumer fraud per se. People are free to consult a priest or pastor as long as money doesn’t change hands.

As crazy and unpopular as it may sound, I think the people who should be promoting experimental reparative therapies are research institutions suffering from liberal monopolies. This way they can protect the patients from dangerous treatments, honor the patient’s wishes, and prove that they care about ideological diversity. It may be the very price they need to pay to preserve their science.

That is as crazy as it sounds because institutions do not suffer from liberal monopolies in the first place. Irrespective of political views, scientists are much less religious than the general public. People who believe in miracles are in short supply in scientific research. There is no reason for a research institution to demonstrate that they care about ideological diversity when such diversity does not, and cannot, exist because science is inherently secular as it should be.

Religion is a belief system based on faith. Science is evidentiary. Once people substitute faith for evidence the scientific method no longer exists.

I don’t want people who believe in miracles to have any part of, say, medical research. I want to consume therapies that are supported by evidence.

Sabey is also a bit naive. Research institutions are mostly academic and they rely upon outside grants. Some of the people responsible for those grants might be religious but they set religion aside when it comes to the promotion of science.

Reparative, or conversion, therapy has always been just the opposite of responsible science. It is based on faith over evidence. If some interpretations of those ancient chronicles did not suggest disapproval of LGBT people then conversion therapy would not exist.

The gay-to-straight alchemy is an attempt to establish that some deity did not create gay or trans people. The narrative that people are born that way must be opposed by religious conservatives. Not because of evidence but because, if people are born gay or trans, then the religious dogma is challenged. All this is the very reason why science is so secular.

We see people like Ryan T. Anderson and Brian S. Brown refer to truth. Their truth is not real truth because it is based upon the teachings of the Catholic Church. It causes them to disregard contrarian evidence because religious dogma has replaced critical thinking. That, in turn, diminishes intellectual curiosity. They are afraid that they might discover irrefutable  evidence that defies the catechism. Even when evidence is seemingly irrefutable they torture logic to come up with some nutty alternative view.

Real science starts with an hypothesis that is subjected to tests and observations. Folks like Anderson start with a conclusion and then search for reasons to support the preordained result. They are accepting of just about anything that supports what they want and will rely on so-called experts whose opinions are similarly formed. It is the opposite of what researchers do. In real research, proving an hypothesis wrong is just as valuable as proving it to be correct.

Critical thinking and curiosity are essential to scientific research and there are no substitutes.

Related content:

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.