William Lane Craig’s promotion of anti-gay pseudoscience

In my post on Craig’s defense of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, I mentioned how Craig is “willing to traffic in almost any kind of fundamentalist pseudo-intellectual garbage when it’s convenient for him,” and promised to write more about it in the future. One of the major examples I had in mind is Craig’s promotion of anti-gay pseudoscience.

Craig does this in a chapter in his book Hard Questions, Real Answers about homosexuality. Re-reading it in preparation for writing this blog post, I want more than ever for people to realize how dangerous Craig is. The chapter starts with a stock rendition of Craig’s moral argument, which looks out of place until you realize Craig is setting up the argument that either we have to accept the Holocaust could be okay, or we have to accept what God says about homosexuality no matter what.

If you see Craig as just a guy who makes a few bad arguments, think about that next time you hear his moral argument. Also think about the fact that Craig thinks slaughtering an entire tribe could be moral if God says so, but think about the gay issue because it’s one where Craig’s views hurt real people today.

But on to my main point: after reciting the Bible verses that condemn homosexuality, Craig comments on the usefulness of having non-Biblical arguments that homosexuality is immoral, and so begins arguing that it’s harmful by citing a series of statistics designed to pain gays and lesbians as, in general, hyper-promiscuous, disease-ridden, mentally ill substance abusers.

The source for these claims is Thomas Schmidt’s Straight & Narrow? I first found out about this book in college, and spent quite a bit of time fact-checking it, but never found a place to publish my long write-up of my findings. I’ve decided to make it available in a Google Doc, but since it’s so long (>12,000 words), here’s the executive summary.

The biggest, recurring problem with Schmidt’s statistics was that they were rarely based on random samples. As I explain in the full write-up:

A representative sample is what is needed to make inferences of the form, “X% of group Y members in this study were Z, therefore roughly X% of group Y as a whole is Z.” To give an obvious example of how such an inference could go wrong, no one would think that a study of heterosexuality whose subjects were recruited from a red light district would be able to tell us much about the straight population as a whole. Though this is an extreme illustration, some of Schmidt’s misuses of data approach this level.

It turns out that about a third of Schmidt’s sources include explicit warnings to the effect of, “hey, this is a non-representative sample, you can’t generalize from it.” And in about a third of the cases, there are obvious reasons why the sample may have been skewed, for example, because the authors recruited men seeking help with STDs. If you want to understand just how problematic this is, I recommend the parody “The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths.”

There are other problems with Schmidt’s statistics. One thing that sticks out is that in spite of Schmidt’s claim that he relied solely on secular sources, at one point he cites a paper by the fundamentalist, anti-gay, and thoroughly discredited Paul Cameron. And, rather disturbingly, Schmidt shrugs off the problem that high rates of depression among gays are likely the result of homophobia, not anything inherent about homosexuality (this is also an issue Craig totally ignores).

On the basis of Schmidt’s book, Craig says he thinks it would be reasonable (without quite saying it’s what we should do) to deny equal opportunity in housing and employment to gays and lesbians:

For example, would you want a practicing lesbian to be your daughter’s physical education teacher at school? Would you want your son’s coach, who would be in the locker room with the boys, to be a homosexual? I, for one, would not support a law which could force public schools to hire such individuals.

But this is all kosher, Craig insists. If Christians pass laws denying equality to gays and lesbians, they aren’t forcing they’re values on anyone, because Schmidt’s book totally gives them a secular rationale for those laws.

Oh, and then to wrap up the chapter, Craig pushes ex-gay therapy: “seek professional Christian counseling,” he tells the gay readers who I really hope he doesn’t have. “With time and effort, you can come to enjoy normal, heterosexual relations.” (This was a few years before even the ex-gays admitted there are no ex-gays.)

So… yeah. That’s Craig on homosexuality. Feel free to use the comments for this post to discuss all things Craig-related, including posting links to things he’s written that you’d like me to blog about. Those are really useful to me, because they let me blog about Craig without having to read too much more of his stuff.

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