Saturday, July 09, 2011

Scientific feuds

The 1998 book, Great Feuds in Science: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever, has nice explanations of feuds like Galileo, Newton, Darwin, age of the Earth, continental drift, and Margaret Mead. It ends with:

The feuds included in this book showed a variety of ways in which resolution can take place. One method not included that I'd like to mention is resolution by a commission, or study group. This approach can be useful in helping resolve social issues, including such questions as the desirability of nuclear power or whether the greenhouse effect is really upon us.

Resolution of such issues is particularly important, for without it, society is hard put to make reasonable and widely acceptable decisions concerning what, if anything, to do about the problems inherent in such controversies.

One such vexing problem was solved in this way. The question was whether homosexuality is a disease. For years there appeared study after study, paper after paper, angry response after angry accusation, with no resolution. Should it, for example, be included as a disease in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual of psychiatric disorders?

Finally, it was put to a vote among members of the association. Result: Members, by a vote of about two to one, decided it isn't a disease.
No. A vote might tell us what view is popular, but it will not tell us what is correct. Votes would have given wrong answers for several disputes in the book, such as continental drift.

The story of that association vote has been recently edited out of the Wikipedia DSM-IV article:
A forced hand

Dr. Ronald Bayer, a pro-homosexual psychiatrist has described the events of 1971-3 in his book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. (1981)

Bayer explains that the first attack by homosexual activists against the APA began in 1970 when this organization held its convention in San Francisco. Homosexual activists decided to disrupt the conference by interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, homosexual activist Frank Kameny worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA's convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled, "Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you."

Homosexuals forged APA credentials and gained access to exhibit areas in the conference. They threatened anyone who claimed that homosexuals needed to be cured.

Both under threat and presented with questionable new data from researchers such as the bisexual Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, the seventh printing of the DSM-II, in 1974, no longer listed homosexuality as a category of disorder. But through the efforts of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, who had led the DSM-II development committee, a vote by the APA trustees in 1973, and confirmed by the wider APA membership in 1974, the diagnosis was replaced with the category of "sexual orientation disturbance".[10]
Science standards are very low in psychiatry and psychology. A lot of the other so-called disorder are more political than science.

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