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Warren Throckmorton’s Response To Paul Cameron

Jim Burroway

April 24th, 2007

There has been some new developments in regards to Paul and Kirk Cameron’s “Scandinavian Gay Lifespan” study. This was the study that Paul Cameron presented in a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association’s convention in Philadelphia last March. His subsequent press releases later drew a sharp condemnation in an official statement from the EPA’s president, Dr. Phil Hineline, in response to my inquires.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton has carried the ball further. As I mentioned before, he contacted Danish epidemiologist Dr. Morton Frisch, who responded with a strong rebuke of the Camerons’ methods and conclusion. This prompted Dr. Kirk Cameron, Paul’s son, to mount a rather weak defense (in my opinion) in a letter he sent to Dr. Throckmorton. (This is, as far as I know, the first time we’ve heard from Kirk directly. His father typically handles such communications.)

In that defense, Kirk continues to defend the “gay obituary” methodology without actually addressing its many weaknesses — except one. He does mention the problem of closeted gay men and women, but dismisses it this way:

It was partly because of the uncertainties in self-report that we decided to examine other kinds of data. Obviously, obituaries depend upon human reporting but are not ‘self-reports.’ To keep one’s past sexual behavior secret after death can be difficult unless no one else knows, presumably even one’s own partners. As Ben Franklin wisely said, “three can keep a secret, but only if two of them are dead.”

Is this to mean that when a closeted individual dies, his or her former lovers are going to come out of the woodwork and place an obituary in the Washington Blade?  Does that even mean that the Blade will accept such an obituary?  Remember, they don’t even publish a general obituary section.

Nevertheless, Cameron the younger has the audacity to conclude:

Further, careful examination of our work and of the charges against us reveals that — while no one is perfect, including us — we have performed our work with scientific integrity and honesty.

Today Dr. Throckmorton has responded to Cameron’s letter with a thorough analysis of the Camerons’ paper. In it, he highlights a long stream of unsubstantiated assumptions and glaring weakness, all of  which builds toward what is both an unproven conclusion (that registered-partnered gays in Scandinavia die some twenty years younger than their heterosexual counterparts) and a decidedly unscientific publicity campaign:

To conclude, I have many objections to this study as well as the way you portrayed the results in the media. You define multiple assumptions which must be true in order to establish central tendency which I do not believe are reasonable to assume. The news releases convey a confidence in your findings which seems quite unscientific.

Further, I object to what appears to me to be your effort to establish the homosexually inclined as a distinct, monolithic group of people. It seems to me that gays and lesbians are quite diverse in their behavior and values. Being same-sex attracted tells me very little, if anything about the way one lives or the activities one chooses. One might find some small effect size for a risk factor, say depression, but that cannot say much about a “typical” homosexual. I think it fine to crusade against sexual promiscuity, risky sexual behavior, drug abuse, smoking, using seat belts, etc. You will have many people join you, both same-sex attracted and opposite-sex attracted. However, to say that being in a class of people is to expose oneself to risk via membership in that class is a misleading use of measures of central tendency, in my opinion. Hogg et al’s statement seems worth repeating here:

“It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive measure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor. (Hogg et al, 2001, p. 1499).”

You can read Dr. Throckmorton’s splendid analysis here.

Comments

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Lynn David
April 25th, 2007 | LINK

To bad that peer review wasn’t forthcoming before the Poster Session at EPsyA. Someone in that Association dropped the ball at just even a cursory look at the presenters.

Kevin
April 26th, 2007 | LINK

There are so many flaws in the Cameron obituary analysis that it was impossible for them to construct a scientific study based on the criteria in selection they used. But worse, the amazing lack of information about even the simplest process in reporting an obituary for even a regular, mainstream newspaper seems to elude these charlatans. There is simply no academic excuse for such lame investigation.

It doesn’t even matter if every “gay” newspaper had some means of publishing every obituary in the community. Because of the way laws are constructed and varied in various states in regards to funeral arrangements, reporting procedures vary for even the mainstream newspapers. In some places, ONLY the recognized relative is granted the legal authority to provide information to the funeral practioner, who is often the one doing the reporting via an obituary form at the funeral home. These forms are either processed through a computerized system to the newspaper or faxed. And that is only ONE method in which obituaries are reported to regular, COMMUNITY dailies which attempt to publish ALL of them.

The editing process for those obituaries rests with the newspaper staff person, but it is usually performed by the funeral practioner, rather than the reporter in some cases. In other newspapers, obits are taken by multiple persons – meaning there can be ten obits for the same person if friends/relatives are willing to pay for each submission.
Newspapers who take the obituaries as advertisements are more likely to name a same-sex partner – hell, most are likely to allow a sentence or two describing how much you loved your dog or your goldfish.

And that is only TWO methods of obituary gathering used in the community newspaper business – and these are the regular, “mainstream” newspapers, not even the gay press.

It is painfully obvious that the Camerons did not do enough initial background research into the use of obituaries in studies to even begin to create a controlled model to study.

Phillips
May 26th, 2007 | LINK

ha, or maybe it should have posted this here. You really do persistent posts on this guy:

Everything people are complaining about was noted at some time in the report. This is what science is, or rather, what is should be. Work with the data you have, while noting any variables. The scientific method requires that studies be replicable. FRI has done this with gay obituaries in the U.S. and age distributions reported in sexuality studies from 1858 through 1993 (published in Omega, 1994), as well as 4 other lines of evidence published in Pyschological Reports, 1998 – 1) additional obituaries from the gay press, 2) findings from two national random-samle surveys, 3) the age distributions of registered homosexual couples in Scandanavia, and 4) the age distributions oh homosexuals and drug-abusers taking HIV tests in Colorado. As recent as ’02, FRI published another study in Psychological Reports using additional obituaries from the gay press and findings from two large, nationwide random sexuality surveys – both of which were consistent with a shortened lifespan (in one of these, the CDC study, the oldest woman who reported sex with a woman in the previous 12 months was 49 yr., the oldest man who reported sex with a man in the previous 12 months was 54 yr.) No one has produced any empiracle evidence to refute their conclusion, only complaints, and I predict no one will.

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