NARTH says Francis Collins is mistaken about his own work

Let’s start at the beginning of this story.

On April 4, 2007, Dean Byrd posted an article on the NARTH website titled, “‘Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,’ Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project” In this article, Byrd quotes from Collins book, The Language of God, citing Collins views of the genetics and homosexuality. In it, Byrd wrote:

As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.

Dr. Collins succinctly reviewed the research on homosexuality and offers the following: “An area of particularly strong public interest is the genetic basis of homosexuality. Evidence from twin studies does in fact support the conclusion that heritable factors play a role in male homosexuality. However, the likelihood that the identical twin of a homosexual male will also be gay is about 20% (compared with 2-4 percent of males in the general population), indicating that sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.”

Dr. Collins noted that environment, particularly childhood experiences as well as the role of free will choices affect all of us in profound ways. As researchers discover increasing levels of molecular detail about inherited factors that underlie our personalities, it’s critical that such data be used to illuminate, not provide support to idealogues.

On May 17, 2007, the editor of Ex-gay Watch, David Roberts, wrote an email to Collins asking him if Byrd’s article accurately represented Collins’ views. (The entire correspondence can be reviewed at this link.)

On May 20, 2007, Collins wrote back to Roberts saying about the Byrd article:

The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

On September 15, 2008, Greg Quinlan of PFOX told OneNewsNow that the human genome had been mapped and there was no genetic cause for homosexuality. Quinlan attributed this information to Francis Collins, seeming to paraphrase the NARTH article.

On September 19, 2008, Roberts again wrote to Collins to ask him to verify that the prior statement about Byrd’s misleading use of his views was indeed given by Collins.

On September 20, 2008, Collins wrote back to Roberts saying

Thanks for the heads up. I am truly sorry to hear that there is a continuing effort by Mr. Quinlan and others to distort this information about genetic factors in homosexuality. The facts have not changed since the e-mail message I sent you on May 20, 2007.

Regards, Francis Collins

On September 21, 2008, Roberts wrote back to Collins and asked him to copy me in the email exchange. Roberts did this because Quinlan accused Roberts of making fraudulent claims about Collins. Feeling I could be objective, Roberts wanted Collins to include me in the email loop given that I am not associated with any gay advocacy groups. I had also written Collins to verify the statements made on Roberts’ blog.

On September 21, 2008, Collins wrote back with the following message:

Hello David and Warren,

I am happy to confirm that these e-mail communications from May 2007 and yesterday are indeed authentic, and represent my best effort at summarzing what we know and what we don’t know about genetic factors in male homosexuality. I appreciate your continuing efforts to correct misstatements that seem to be circulating on the internet.

Regards, Francis Collins

This background is important in order to put NARTH’s response to Collins into context. Earlier this year, NARTH posted an article attacking David Roberts with the charge that Roberts misled Collins. NARTH did not like Collins response to Roberts and NARTH blamed Roberts for Collins’ response.

After the NARTH article came out, Roberts conducted a Freedom of Information Act request to find correspondence between the NARTH and Collins. As the result of his request, he received an undated letter sent from NARTH’s President Julie Hamilton to Collins. The letter is here and is summarized at XGW.

In this letter, Hamilton blames Roberts and me for Collins response to Byrd’s article. Is it really possible that Roberts and I persuaded the Director of the National Institutes of Health and one of the premiere scientists of our time to misread Byrd’s article? About NARTH’s letter, Roberts says,

In it, Collins is treated more like a doddering old man than the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Even though we sent a link to the original article with our email to Collins, and it is clear from his reply that he read it, Hamilton encloses a copy noting “Although Warren Throckmorton [see this post to see where he comes in] and David Roberts led you to believe otherwise, your statements were not misrepresented by NARTH.”  No, Dr. Collins, regardless of what you think, you do agree with us — sheer arrogance.

What is NARTH saying about Dr. Collins when they tell him that he was persuaded to misunderstand his own book? It appears that NARTH will not accept that Collins means what he says. Counting his response to the American College of Pediatricians (several NARTH board members are affiliated with this group), he has spoken out three times about the way NARTH has characterized his views. NARTH’s response is to his continue to blame the messengers.

For more, see

Francis Collins rebukes the American College of Pediatricians: A closer look

Skip Narth, read Collins – UPDATED with NARTH statement

 

  • Lynn David

    Well, what can you say? I’d further point out that Collins’ idea of environment is likely very much different than NARTH’s idea of environmental influences. Collins would likely look upon it in mostly biological terms, such as the environment of the womb or the environmental influences of hormones.

  • David

    How can they blame you for misleading Collins when you were only copied on the emails? Is it that the mere presence of your name on the cc line drives intelligent men to confusion?

  • ken

    David# ~ Nov 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    “Is it that the mere presence of your name on the cc line drives intelligent men to confusion?”

    To what “intelligent men” are you referring?

    Apparently, Collin’s never responded to the NARTH letter (I doubt XGW would have kept that response secret if he did). Which I think is telling enough about Collin’s opinion of the NARTH letter.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    No, Collins did not respond to NARTH. That is significant it seems to me since he did communicate with Roberts and then cc:ed me.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Man this is confusing, I was doing pretty good following along with the story until I got to the part about “Quinland said, blah blah blah” okay scroll back up, who is Quinland again, oh yeah PFOX, scroll back down continue reading. That saying, you can’t tell the players without a score card, it sure is apropo here. It sure would have been easier to read if up at the top of the article it listed the cast of charachters, LOL!.

    I did go to most of the links, and later will go read all of them, but my question is why is Warren bringing this up now? It looks like this shindig went down last March (2011). I think I was reading here last March but I don’t remember this story. Perhaps that is Warren’s point, as he seems like he is on a NARTH EXPOSED run lately and would like to let all of us know a further misreprentation by NARTH just in case we missed it last March. It would be great if someone could do the same format as NOM EXPOSED with NARTH. Just one website dedicated to exposing NARTH, just like as is done for NOM.

    I would also like to know the story about the Throckmorton and NARTH breakup. I wish Warren would write about that. I don’t even know who got dumped and who was the person who did the dumping. Did Warren walk or was he kicked out? Inquiring minds want to know. Since Warren is on such a NARTH tear right now maybe he will shed some light on that.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    In other news, dog bites man.

    Warren, while I greatly appreciate your lucid explanation here, the logical setting out of the situation point-by-point, I get the impression that you’re still surprised by this.

    It’s just NARTH being NARTH. It’s what they do.

    They are a “scientific research organisation”. Of course they know what Dr Collins meant, and Dr Collins doesn’t. He’s just an individual, and probably some kind of anti-Christian weirdo at that, promoting the Homosexual Agenda by distorting Dr Collins’ fine work.

    Let me tell you about how I got into Science. When I was at school (nearly said “when I was a schoolgirl” – which I never was, alas), I used to commit poetry. I was adequate at it. Even got invited to a Pacific Rim Poetry Seminar at Sydney’s primary humanities University, Macquarie, as the result of my published work. A big deal when you’re 14 years old.

    We were discussing and de-constructing (though that term wasn’t fashionable then, this was pre-post-modernism) various works, when one of my own came up.

    I listened in awe to the various Very Important People discussing my work, how it obviously showed influences from so-and-so and thus-and-such, exemplifying the technique of whatsisname with a soupcon of whosit.

    None of whom I’d ever heard of.

    They found subtleties and meanings within it that I’d never dreamed of. While not exactly a masterwork, it was reasonably good, if a bit raw and unpolished. Not crude, but simple and pure. Just as anger is an energy that can be harnessed to drive engines of compassion, so the torment of being trans at that age is the wellspring of a torrent of creativity that springs directly from the heart.

    When I pointed this out, they dismissively informed me with a sniff that I was a mere school child, whereas they were qualified Experts. They knew what I must have meant, and I, the author, didn’t.

    It was the end of the age of innocence for me, in a sense. I abandoned their power games, the charlatanry that had defiled something I valued as worthwhile and even beautiful, and while I never lost my love for language, I decided to seek for Truth elsewhere.

    Warren, they know what they know. Facts are there to be manipulated, and if necessary, manufactured to order, in support of their ideas. I’ve seen far too much of this, both in anti- and pro- GLBT politics. It’s a game to them.

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe Brain

    See this VA Senate campaign flyer.

    Note the misrepresentation of Dr Collins’ work is now being used for political purposes of the most foetid kind.

    It’s very disheartening for those of a conservative bent (like myself) to see what the Religious Right has done here. Deliberate, malicious lying. Bearing False Witness.

  • Gus

    It is not extraordinary for Creationists and Climate Change deniers to misrepresent any science.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    @Zoe Brain

    Warren, while I greatly appreciate your lucid explanation here, the logical setting out of the situation point-by-point, I get the impression that you’re still surprised by this.

    It’s just NARTH being NARTH. It’s what they do.

    I’m not sure one has to be surprised in order to document the facts. Not everyone is familiar with NARTH and having this information it in the record is important. I spent the better part of a month a couple of years ago trying to correct various blogs and news organizations that had reprinted this stupid statement in various forms. The one you highlighted comes directly from this incident. To date, one man followed through with a correction when given the facts.

    So even with extensive documentation it’s almost impossible to get people to correct these lies. It’s very, very frustrating.

  • Boo

    StraightGrandmother

    This is news now because exgaywatch just got hold of a letter NARTH sent to Dr. Collins telling him that they understand his work better than he does.

    http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2011/11/private-narth-letter-to-dr-francis-collins-displays-arrogance/

    “I would also like to know the story about the Throckmorton and NARTH breakup”

    I don’t claim to know the entire story, but I was actually tangentially involved in it. Warren can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the catalyst was a pair of scandals back in the fall of 2006 wherein a pair of articles on NARTH’s website from members of their “scientific advisory committee” were discovered that advocated the bullying of gender noncomforming children (that is literally what the article did) and an even more bizarre rant about opposition to slavery and the civil rights movement being masks for Marxist political correctness. When confronted with the writings, NARTH’s response in both cases was to dig themselves in even deeper, which prompted Warren to write a series of articles on the subject and then withdraw as a speaker from their upcoming convention. If you search “schoenewolf” on this website and exgaywatch.com you’ll get the meat of it.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Scandal #1 – Dr. Joseph Berger (NARTH)

    Scandal #2 – Dr. Gerald Schoenwolf (NARTH)

    No doubt there was more to Warren’s decision, which he can comment on if he likes, but these were pivotal issues, particularly NARTH’s response to them. As I remember, it was a comment by Boo that led Timothy Kinkaid, who was writing for XGW at the time, to the Schoenwolf scandal. It’s hard to believe that was 5 years ago. Then again, NARTH had not learned much when 2009 rolled by.

    I’ve not checked lately, but I believe both men remained with NARTH.


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