When the Scientific Establishment promotes ideology above evidence: Who would Galileo support?

By Dr Michael Davidson

 First Published by “Evangelicals Now”, Jan 2014 edition, reprinted with permission.


The professional mental health bodies in the UK permit therapists to assist clients towards achievement of desired life goals whose attendant risks range from relatively minor (a person nervous at having to make a speech) to potentially serious (a person seeking sex-change surgery) – with one exception: attempts to reduce same-sex attraction, even with the purpose of saving one’s marriage, are forbidden.[1]  Therapists may assist a man or woman to accept homosexual feelings, but not to reduce or eliminate them. 


The largest organisations are all in agreement on this:


·          The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) affirms that conversion or reparative therapies ‘have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons’.[2]

·          The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) warns that “There is overwhelming evidence that undergoing such therapy is at considerable emotional and psychological cost.”[3]

·          The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that therapy to change a client’s sexual orientation can be “deeply damaging”.[4]

In similar vein, the British Medical Association’s Annual Representative Meeting in 2010 affirmed in a majority vote that ‘conversion therapy’ was “discredited and harmful to those ‘treated’.”[5]


The responsible thing for the church, when faced with such ‘evidence’, is of course to assess it, and if necessary to revise its position.  Some evangelicals feel that, in the light of such ‘scientific’ findings they must reconsider and liberalise their position on the status and practice of same sex attraction, and the appropriateness of therapies to reduce it.  At first sight it may appear that this is a re-run of Galileo with his new science standing against the medieval indoctrination of the church.   But what if in this case the proposed new evidence is faulty?  What if the charge of indoctrination should be more properly ascribed to the professional mental health bodies than to the church?

It is often implied that the American Psychological Association (APA) states that therapeutic initiatives for Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) are harmful to clients.  But the APA (2009), following the methodology of Scott Lilienfeld, a leading authority in harmful psychotherapies, found “a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE” and lamented the “lack of rigorous research” in this area.  Lilienfeld himself compiled a list of psychological interventions liable to cause harm to clients, but SOCE was not mentioned.[6]

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