Warren Throckmorton’s Response To Paul Cameron
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.