Two opinions do not a consensus make
In my column earlier this week, “Abandoning logic for misplaced faith,” I referenced a report by Drs. Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University, entitled, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings in the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.”
I received an email from a reader in response, which reads, in part:
“I do think that academic freedom is worth the risk of crackpottery. However, the ‘paper’ that McHugh and Mayer posted was not peer reviewed and the outlet was a pretentious quarterly blog published by a conservative Christian organization. McHugh has been retired for some time. He is an admitted defender of the faith and the paper is more faith than science. It is little more than anti-LGBT conservative Christian propaganda.
“You failed to note that these men are at substantial odds with their own peer organization and neither have published peer-reviewed independent research on human sexuality.”
The reader attached a link to a letter published by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which says:
The report “misleads readers about the state of scientific research and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines addressing the health of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ).
“As researchers with expertise in gender and sexuality, and/or as clinicians who serve LGBTQ people, we are called to correct the record. A substantial body of research points to stigma and its consequences as contributing to the mental and physical health disparities among LGBTQ people.
“Based on scientific consensus, many major medical associations have issued guidelines and policy statements calling for clinicians to affirm and support the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of their patients as part of a standard, evidence-based approach to high quality, patient-centered healthcare.”
The letter says that although the report cites many peer-reviewed scientific articles, their interpretation, analysis and summary of those articles was not reviewed by their peers.
“In summary, as researchers and clinicians with expertise in gender and sexuality, we affirm that the ‘Sexuality and Gender’ report does not represent prevailing expert consensus opinion about sexual orientation or gender identity related research or clinical care.”
The letter was signed by more than 600 doctors, researchers and clinicians.
In my earlier column, I wrote, “Johns Hopkins’ science contradicted their faith.” This was very much the case in the way I interpreted what I had read.
If the Vanderbilt letter is accurate, then the Johns Hopkins report was more faith than science. Regardless, McHugh and Mayer and their peers are not in agreement.
It appears that there is very little, if any, consensus with the findings of the JHU study among peers.
I regret that I did not investigate the matter fully before voicing my opinion on it.
The email in response to my column illustrates the point I was trying to make overall — if your belief is contradicted by fact, fact should always triumph.
Science, faith and logic should not be enemies. True, solid faith is built upon reason, upon evidence.
News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-265-5307.