University lecturers left their classrooms this week to lecture Focus on the Family's James Dobson to tell him he has no class. The tenured were teed off and staged a revolt because they were revolted by how Dobson had perverted their work in TIME magazine. In a guest column criticizing Mary Cheney, Dobson justified his trashing of gay families by citing the work of renowned researchers. But instead of allowing their work to be distorted, the scholars hollered and told Dobson to stop lying for the Lord.
The first professor to profess her displeasure was Dr. Carol Gilligan, a renowned psychologist and author of In a Different Voice. Gilligan has also taught at Harvard and University of Cambridge and has more degrees than a thermometer. She is so well-respected that Dobson tried to justify his argument against same-sex families in TIME by citing her work. The devious goal of Dobson was to force reasonable people to think, "If a learned scholar likes Gilligan says gay families are harmful, maybe Focus on the Family is right."
The problem was Dobson deliberately got it wrong. I contacted Gilligan and she was "stunned" and "mortified" by the way Dobson had manipulated her research. Indeed, she wrote a letter to Dobson demanding that he "cease and desist from quoting my research in the future."
"Not only did you take my research out of context, you did so without my knowledge to support discriminatory goals that I do not agree with," continued Gilligan in her letter and reiterated in a video airing on You Tube. "What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work."
A second researcher I contacted was Dr. Kyle Pruett, professor at Yale University School of Medicine and the author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child." Pruett was also unaware that Dobson had butchered his scholarship.
"You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly, in my view, discriminatory purposes," wrote Pruett in a letter to Dobson. "This practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles. There is nothing in my longitudinal research or any of my writings to support such conclusions (about same-gender families)."
If this wasn't embarrassing enough, this week, Angela Phillips, author of "The Trouble With Boys," and professor at Goldsmiths College in London, said she was "incensed" to find she was misquoted in another Dobson article.
"It has come to my attention that my book 'The Trouble with Boys' has been seriously misrepresented in writings by James Dobson," she wrote to Focus on the Family. "I would be grateful if you could publish this letter prominently on your website."
Of course, Dobson will never apologize to Dr. Gilligan or stop using Dr. Pruett's research or place Professor Phillips' letter on his website. As long as his organization is raking in nearly $150 million a year and he is on the White House's speed dial, Dobson will mock the truth with mendacity. Bearing false witness is his modus operandi.
In June, Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, said Focus on the Family twisted her study on lesbian teen suicide.
"The research has been hijacked for somebody's political purposes or ideological purposes and that's worrisome," Saewyc told CBC news. Focus on the Family justified its lie by misquoting the work of Columbia University's Dr. Robert Spitzer, who felt it necessary to respond.
"Unfortunately Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights," said Dr. Spitzer.
Feeling the heat of international condemnation, Dobson turned to character assassination on his webpage this week, suggesting his accusers were hostage to "liberal groupthink." I suppose, as a group, these acclaimed scientists do think that misrepresenting science is wrong. And, of course, it is worth noting that Dobson respected these very researchers enough to quote them last week. He only changed his tune after they upbraided him for unethical and unprofessional conduct.
Focus on the Family's big "ah ha" moment was more like a "ha ha" moment, as it was quite laughable. They pointed out that I was the one who first contacted all of the professors. But, Focus neglected to say that if Dobson had been honest, I wouldn't have had to make these calls. Finally, Focus on the Family derided Dobson's detractors as name-callers. However, some of Dobson's fiercest critics have come from the far right.
In October, former ultraconservative Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) said that Dobson is a "real nasty bully" who commands a "gang of thugs."
I would agree that his organization more often acts like Crips than Christians. It is time to take the Dramamine, as Dobson is about to spin legitimate criticism in the same dishonest way he spun the actual studies he is being criticized for distorting.
Great article, Wayne! Keep shining the light on this devious SOB who dares to call himself a Christian, and all of his buddies. I've had quite enough of these so-called "Christians" who preach hate and intolerance. That kind of preaching accomplishes only two things: (1) it hurts GLBT people who just want to live their lives peacefully as citizens and human beings, and (2) it lets those who preach against us and those who believe it feel self-righteous about being hateful and intolerant.
I'm holding out hope that maybe some of his followers will have enough ability remaining to think for themselves to realize that they're listening to a charlatan who's preaching hate.
FOTF's response is ridiculous, but I especially love the part where they claim that their goal is not to disparage "...Mary Cheney or her partner Heather Poe". No, FOTF isn't disparaging them, they're just claiming that the couple is robbing a child of a father. I am so glad we cleared that one up.
posted by Chris L., at
12/20/2006 12:43 PM
Off topic: NJ gov makes gay unions official http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061221/ap_on_re_us/gay_marriage
posted by Anonymous, at
12/21/2006 10:39 AM
I'm really surprised nobody's thought before to contact the researchers whose honest work is being hijacked by the religious right. I guess the assumption has always been that they've always known about it, but couldn't be bothered to get involved in politics. But between teaching and doing research and getting published, they often don't have a lot of time to pay attention to much outside their field of study. It isn't surprising to me that a lot of them don't know about this.
So...bravo for taking it on yourself to contact them about this Wayne! I say make it a point from now on, every single fricken time the religious right cites a real scientist to support their claims, to ask that scientist if they agree with how their work is being used. I've seen so many, many times how this game is played and it's been sickening me for years. I wish I had a dollar for every time one of those crackpots misuse Bell and Weinburg's 1978 study Homosexualities to "prove" how promiscuous gay men are. Thank you so much, for taking a first step at putting a stop to this kind of thing.
posted by Bruce Garrett, at
12/21/2006 10:16 PM
Well, it's good to expose dobson as a fraud. But there are other scientists who see things differently. So in your title Science strikes back, you really mean SOME science strikes back.
I am ex gay and I know it's possible for some people. But Dobson must be stopped for skewing research.
posted by Anonymous, at
12/23/2006 6:40 PM