What does a great scientist do when he is wrong?

In particular, what does a great scientist do when an error of judgement has harmed a community? He apologises — like Dr Robert Spitzer just did. Even if he is 80 years old and struggling with Parkinson’s. And he was a great scientist, who almost single-handedly de-stigmatised the gay community in the 1970s, and a couple of decades later, harmed them.

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  1. gaddeswarup

     /  May 19, 2012

    It is still puzzling. The article says “The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it did not test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study.

    Several colleagues tried to stop the study in its tracks, and urged him not to publish it, Dr. Spitzer said.
    Yet, heavily invested after all the work, he turned to a friend and former collaborator, Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker….The paper did not go through the usual peer-review process, in which unnamed experts critique a manuscript before publication. “But I told him I would do it only if I also published commentaries” of response from other scientists to accompany the study, Dr. Zucker said.

    Those commentaries, with a few exceptions, were merciless…..”
    He was already very famous, considered the most influential psychiatrist of the twentieth century after his DSM work. Why was he so desperate to publish it and after the reactions of the experts, why did he wait so long? I am puzzled, particularly after his 1973 work when he got homosexulaity removed from DSM list of mental diseases. Did he want to put the last nail in the coffin by taking a contrary view? It is not at all clear to me.

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