Only the gay die young? Part 5 – Morten Frisch responds to Kirk Cameron

Just after I posted my evaluation of Drs. Cameron’s gay life expectancy report, I received the following email from Morten Frisch which is a reply to Kirk Cameron’s letter in rebuttal to Dr. Frisch.

Dear Dr. Throckmorton,

As sadly anticipated, Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron were not objective when writing their report ’Federal Distortion of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring Early Gay Death?)’ (1). The mission statement of their professional affiliation, the Family Research Institute, concludes as follows: ”We welcome all who would join in the fight to restore a world…where homosexuality is not taught and accepted, but instead is discouraged and rejected at every level.” As a consequence, any report on human sexuality originating from this institution will by definition be devoid of objectivity and of questionable scientific value.

As a statistical researcher, Dr. Kirk Cameron must know well the inferential problems that prevail when comparing the average age at death in two study groups with vastly different age distributions. Elementary textbooks in epidemiology warn against such undue comparisons because they lead to apparently common-sense, but overtly wrong, conclusions (2). Assume for the purpose of illustration that Cameron and Cameron had restricted their study to all newly-married and all newly-partnered people in Denmark during the study window 1990-2002 (Norway 1997-2002) with the aim to make the studied groups of homosexuals and heterosexuals more comparable. In Danish men, the median age at first homosexual partnership was 4 years higher (32.6 years) than the median age at first heterosexual marriage (28.6 years) in the period 1989-2001 and, in women, the difference was about 6 years, being 32.6 years for first homosexual partnership vs. 26.5 years for first heterosexual marriage (3). Among those relatively few newly-married and newly-partnered people who actually died in the short observation period, the average age at death would likely be higher in the homosexually partnered group than in the heterosexually married group, simply because of the older age distribution of the homosexually partnered group. Using the Camerons’ flawed logic of inference such a modification of their study design would lead to the opposite conclusion; i.e., that heterosexual marriages shorten peoples’ life span. Obviously, this conclusion would be as unsubstantiated as the one reached by the authors.

Working to promote their anti-homosexual agenda, the Camerons presumably have plenty of time and resources to discuss these issues at length. As a researcher continuously fighting hard to obtain the required funding and time for my projects and those of my students I will have to stop here, leave the Camerons with their tragic parody of science, and focus on true scientific questions instead. I have previously published studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals that were warmly applauded by gay advocacy groups (4) as well as studies that made me a persona non grata in the same circles (3). I don’t have an agenda or a political mission for my scientific work, but I certainly have a different starting point than the one expressed in the mission statement of the Family Research Institute. Unlike what Dr. Kirk Cameron believes, I don’t object to the theoretical possibility that homosexual persons may have somewhat shorter life spans than heterosexuals or, for that matter, the other way around. We just don’t have meaningful prospective data available to inform us yet.

Although the Camerons’ report has no objective scientific value, the authors should be acknowledged for providing teachers with a humorous example of agenda-driven, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook that will make lessons in elementary study design and scientific inference much more amusing for future epidemiology students.

Morten Frisch, MD, PhD, DSc(Med)

Senior epidemiologist

Copenhagen, Denmark

References

1. Cameron, P. and Cameron, K. Federal Distortion Of Homosexual Footprint (Ignoring Early Gay Death?). 1-27. 2007. Family Research Institute.

2. Rothman KJ. Introduction to Epidemiologic Thinking. In: Rothman KJ (ed), Epidemiology – An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 1-7

3. Frisch M, Hviid A. Childhood family correlates of heterosexual and homosexual marriages: a national cohort study of two million Danes. Arch Sex Behav 2006;35:533-47

4. Frisch M, Smith E, Grulich A, Johansen C. Cancer in a population-based cohort of men and women in registered homosexual partnerships. Am J Epidemiol 2003;157:966-72

  • http://www.exgaywatch.com Timothy Kincaid

    Although the Camerons’ report has no objective scientific value, the authors should be acknowledged for providing teachers with a humorous example of agenda-driven, pseudo-scientific gobbledygook that will make lessons in elementary study design and scientific inference much more amusing for future epidemiology students.

    Ironically, the Camerons may well achieve fame for their efforts – as just such an illustration. In much the same way the Baron von Munchausen has become well known for his tales of adventure, the Camerons could become known for their approach to statistical analysis.

    Perhaps it could be called the Cameron Method.

  • Michael Bussee

    “As a consequence, any report on human sexuality originating from this institution will by definition be devoid of objectivity and of questionable scientific value.”

    Couldn’t the same thing be said of NARTH?

  • Joey Tranchina

    The Cameron’s pseudo-science is a text-book example of the misuse of statistics. They disgrace the values of the science that they pretend to practice. We, virtually all of us here, have known that for decades. The problem is that they do not depend upon the peer-reviewed and verifiable annals of science, they pitch to the dirty curtains where ignorance, bigotry and blind-faith house fear, desperation and spiritual chaos. These demagogues do not seek colleagues but shock-troops who they arm with nonsense that passes all the tests it’s put to. “Gobbledegook” is good enough for their intended market. Their contribution must be measured not by its academic defects but by the harm it does in the hands of those who enter the world armed with slings and arrows of toxic disinformation. There must be a greater and more-immediate price to pay for malpractice when practiced in the name of science.

    In the name of science, there must be a higher profile of public humiliation for pandering faux interpretations of data lacking in integrity. We need an international prize for bad science, that comes attached with notoriety. Call it “The Benedict Arnold Prize, for flexible integrity in pseudo-scientific research.” it doesn’t matter what it’s called. What is important is that public scorn echoes outside professional circles and is attached to the miscreants so that it limits the impact of the suffering they inflict in the name of “science.”


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