John Corvino’s latest post could be read with profit by some leaders in the American Psychiatric Association. We did not even have a debate planned; we had an academic program planned for over 7 months. Then, group four as identified in this essay became vocal and as the APA wrote, “misinformation and rhetoric” became the story.
Here is the punchline, but please read the whole piece.
Then there are those who wonder whether the silence I’m lamenting really is a problem at all. My Aquinas cancellation suggests that it is: intentionally or not, the cancellation sent students the message that this topic is literally unspeakable. But the problem is by no means limited to one side. Last year I did a same-sex marriage debate (with Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family) at another Catholic college. A week before the event, my host told me that a student was trying to organize a protest. “Because he doesn’t want a gay-rights speaker on a Catholic campus?” I asked.
“No, because he doesn’t want your opponent here,” she answered. The student thought that opposition to same-sex marriage should not be dignified with a hearing. On a Catholic campus!
That student, like the rest of us, would do well to recall the words of John Stuart Mill. In his 1859 classic On Liberty Mill argued that those who silence opinions — even false ones — rob the world of great gifts:
“If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
The moral of the story? Let’s keep talking.
I just noticed that this may not be John’s latest post as it was first posted on 365Gay on April 28. However, it is timely…
The Washington Times has a lengthy article on the APA cancellation with an interview from David Scasta. For now, I only have time to post it. I hope to have more comment about the whole situation soon.
May 3, 2008
Other articles about the symposium have come from MedPage Today, Citizenlink and Worldnetdaily.
First a couple of corrections and observations about these articles. The MedPage Today article leads by saying the symposium was to have covered “the ethics of ‘therapies’ for homosexuality.” Not so. We were not going to discuss therapy for homosexuality as if homosexuality is a disorder to be treated. In a related statement, the reporter referred to me as “closely identified with therapies to ‘cure’ homosexuality.” Again not so. That would require me to hold a view of homosexuality as a disorder which I do not.
The Citizenlink article makes a similar mistake in reporting that the symposium was to provide a “‘balanced discussion’ on the origins and treatment of homosexuality.” See the above on the treatment issue and the symposium was not going to discuss causal factors relating to homosexuality.
The Worldnetdaily article is interesting as I think it is largely accurate about some of the factors which led to the demise of the program. For instance, the Gay City News article of last weekend was an attack piece and may get a separate post to outline the problems with it. The WND article incorrectly identifies David Scasta as past-president of the APA (he is past-president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, a related group). Another point of the WND article is the quote attributed to Peter LaBarbera: “it wouldn’t be correct to ‘paint Warren Throckmorton as the religious right.'”
Peter’s quote highlights something I recently taught in social psychology: The more familiar one is with a group, the more one sees the diversity of that group. Social conservatives are not of the same mind when it comes to homosexuality. Case in point, this blog posts from Derek Keefe at Christianity Today and the Indegayforum regarding the different ways to respond to the Day of Silence. Those outside the social conservative world may very well lump me in with “efforts to cure” as a part of the “religious right” (is there a membership card?). However, those closer to those circles see the differences and experience them as very significant. As I have talked and listened to people of various ideological leanings, I see the same thing on the other side. I continue to hope for opportunities for dialogue, despite the efforts of those who worked to undermine the symposium.