Monday, July 18, 2011

Attacking Bachmann

Michele Bachmann has gotten enough support that her enemies are trying to destroy her. Here are some quotes that make her look foolish.The LA Times reports:
Wall Street Journal on Monday took a look at Bachmann's oft-repeated assertion on the stump that she has worked as a tax attorney. Bachmann, the Journal reported, in fact worked as counsel for the Internal Revenue Service
But the biggest attack is on the gay issue. The NY Times reports:
All week, Mrs. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, a therapist, had been caught in a swirl of media attention over whether the clinic practices “reparative therapy,” or so-called gay-to-straight counseling. On Friday, in an interview published in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dr. Bachmann finally defended himself.

“We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy of trying to change someone,” he said, adding that the clinic would offer reparative therapy only “at the client’s discretion.”

That stance puts Dr. Bachmann at odds with most mainstream medical associations; a 2007 task force put together by the American Psychological Association concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.”
The 2009 American Psychological Association report is here. The APA says that its statement is guided by this political belief:
Since 1974, the American Psychological Association (APA) has opposed stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and has taken a leadership role in supporting the equal rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals (APA, 2005).
I looked at the report just to see what the scientific evidence is. First of all, it is about changing sexual orientation. It is not clear that Mr. Bachmann even believes in sexual orientation, so it is not clear that any of it applies to him.

The report said that reparative therapy could have both benefit and harm, according to those who have tried it. The same could be said about any other psychotherapy. The report did not say that reparative therapy was any more risky or harmful than any other therapy.

It is, of course, very difficult to get anyone to change behavior. Fat people stay fat. Smokers keep smoking. Alcoholics may stop drinking, but they rarely solve their alcohol problems. Most people getting psychotherapy get no significant benefit from it, and many are harmed by it.

Maybe the APA policy is successfully de-stigmatizing homosexuality, I don't know. It seems to me that the APA is mostly in the business of stigmatizing people, so that they will see psychologists for therapy.

Separately, Tim Pawlenty is being blamed for deferring to scientists on whether being gay is a choice. Many atheist scientists today deny that anything is a choice. They believe in a scientific determinism that says that we have no free will. Even those who do believe in free will sometimes argue that we have almost no choice in our religion, temperament, personality, and politics. So any talk about what is a choice is meaningless unless it is compared to beliefs about whether these other things are choices.

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