Point By Point: A Look At Paul Cameron’s Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do
January 31, 2006.
Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute, is the author of the pamphlet Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do, one of seven FRI pamphlets which were written and distributed in opposition to various gay rights initiatives. These pamphlets describe homosexual behavior as being dangerous to individuals, families, children and society. As a professional researcher who has been published in professional journals himself, Dr. Cameron’s writings have exerted a tremendous influence in the ongoing national debates for more than two decades.
Dr. Cameron earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1966. He quickly made a name for himself when he was among the earliest researchers to demonstrate a link between second-hand cigarette smoke and lung cancer in 1969.A These findings were very controversial at the time, yet they now form the foundation for many anti-smoking initiatives today.
But Dr. Cameron has long since left the study of second-hand smoke to others. In the early 1980’s, he turned his energies towards opposing gay rights measures in his home state of Nebraska. He founded the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality (ISIS), which later became the Family Research Institute (FRI). The FRI has become the research and publishing house for many anti-gay tracts and pamphlets, as well as the source for many of his articles published in the journal Psychological Reports.
In Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do,B Dr. Cameron explains in detail what he considers the many dangers that gays and lesbians pose in society. This pamphlet, which has been in existence under varying forms and editions since the mid-1980’s, become a primary source for many of the more well-known statistics used by many gay-rights opponents. Some of the more striking claims found in Medical Consequences include:
- Gay men on average have more than 100 sexual partners per year.
- The average lifespan of gay men is 42 years. For lesbians, it is 44 years.
- 70% to 78% of all gay men have had a sexually transmitted disease.
- Gays who travel throughout the world engage in a "biological swapmeet" of new and ever-changing pathogens.
While Dr. Cameron has written several articles in professional journals, Medical Consequences was written for a lay audience, using language that ordinary readers can easily understand. Nevertheless, it’s accompanied by an impressive thirty-three footnotes, most of them citing articles in professional journals, which lend his claims a scholarly credence. So while Medical Consequences isn’t subject to peer review (a critical step in the publication of any article aimed at a professional audience), he documents exactly where he gets his information so that anybody who wants to review his work can do so. Unfortunately, very few of his critics have bothered to do this.C
And very few lay readers are able to do this either. The average reader, when confronted with a pamphlet citing thirty-three references as this one does, is likely to conclude that Dr. Cameron’s claims are backed by solid scientific evidence. Few are willing to spend countless hours pouring over highly technical articles in professional journals to verify these claims. The typical layman will probably consider himself unqualified to take on such a task — after all, that’s why we turn to professionals to explain these things for us.
Of Truth, Lies, and Statistics
Most of Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do is focused on statistics describing homosexual activity. These statistics, based on numerous surveys and scientific studies, are central to Dr. Cameron’s thesis that large numbers of homosexuals engage in unsafe practices, and the medical consequences of these practices are a danger to society. In order to properly evaluate Dr. Cameron’s claims, it is important to have a basic understanding of how surveys work. For a brief overview, please read “The Survey Says... What Everybody Should Know About Statistics.”
This series is intended to provide exactly that sort of critical examination. I will lead you through each of Dr. Cameron’s statistics one by one. Using the Dr. Cameron’s own source material, I will examine where he got his statistics and show whether the data he presents is supported by his sources. This is the only way to demonstrate, once and for all, whether his allegations are valid or whether his critics are correct.
This series is organized into twelve parts, corresponding to the major headings in the pamphlet. Each article begins with a quotation from the pamphlet, along with the list of references cited in that section. I have preserved Dr. Cameron’s numbering for his footnotes (although for most of them I have changed the formatting for consistency and completenes). Since his footnotes are numbered, my own reference citations are lettered in order to avoid confusion (i.e. mine are indicated in superscript by A, B, C...). I will then go through each of his claims, examine the reference for that claim, and show you exactly what that article says in comparison to Dr. Cameron’s claim. I think you will find the results very informative.
With that in mind, let us begin.
Please continue with:
A. Cameron, Paul; Kostin, John S.; Zaks, Jeffrey M.; Wolfe, John H.; Tighe, Gregory; Oselett, Barry; Stocker, Richard; Winton, Jeffrey. “The Health of smokers’ and non-smokers’ children.” Journal of Allergy 43, no. 6 (June 1969): 336-341.
B. Cameron, Paul. Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do (Colorado Springs: Family Research Institute, 1999). Available online at http://www.familyresearchinst.org/Default.aspx?tabid=73 (accessed March 21, 2004).
C. One of the best online critiques of Dr. Cameron’s work can be found at Dr. Gregory M. Herek’s website at http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_cameron.html (accessed March 17, 2004).