Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Picking Up Pieces - Science

Blog Post #15. Dave Glesne (pastor and author of Understanding Homsoxuality) writing to Lars Clausen (pastor and author of Straight Into Gay America). Today Dave goes back and picks up the Science piece. Lars plans to respond and then we're both agreed we'll try to move onto the topics of God, Bible, and Theology.

Dear Lars,

I am hopeful that you had a happy Thanksgiving and have enjoyed a change of pace the last few days. My wife and I were able to get away for three days and we enjoyed time with family.

I want to go back and pick up concerns expressed by you, Lars, and some of our readers, over my use of science and data in chapter three of my book. Specifically, the data cited there regarding the gay lifestyle is questioned. The judgment that Cameron (and Jay & Young’s) surveys are bad science and therefore unreliable touches on two aspects: 1) kind of gay behavior and 2) frequency of practice of that behavior.

A Look at the tree in the forest – the gay sub-culture

The male sexual practices under scrutiny in this discussion are those I cite by Dr. Stanley Monteith on pages 44-45 of my book Understanding Homosexuality. It has been pointed out that these figures are based in turn on research done by Paul Cameron. As I have stated, apart from how others may use these figures I am citing them as being descriptive of male sexual practices taking place in what might be called the gay sub-culture.

Reliable studies tell us that the over-all gay population in America numbers between 1 – 3% of the American population. For our purposes here, then, let us say that 98% are heterosexual and 2% of the population is homosexual. I do not know what percentage of this 2% homosexual population would be considered as part of the gay sub-culture.

In our discussion, I have cited alongside Cameron’s figures the figures of Jay & Young in The Gay Report, the first major survey on homosexuality and one of the largest studies conducted. By putting these figures beside one another we have survey results from different persuasions as it were, since Jay and Young are both gay activists. Their work is still cited today in academic work.

When one compares the figures presented by Monteith and Jay & Young, they are remarkably similar: Oral sex – Monteith 100%, Jay & Young 99%; Anal intercourse – Monteith 93%, Jay & Young 91%; Rimming – Monteith 92%, Jay & Young 83%; Fisting – Monteith 47%, Jay & Young 22%; Golden showers – Monteith 29%, Jay & Young 23%; Scat – Montieth 17%, Jay & Young 4%.

These practices are cited by Monteith and Jay & Young as real and practiced in the gay sub-culture, in the ?% of the 2% gay population. A visit to gay websites will confirm the reality of these practices. Homosexual literature speaks of these behaviors as well. I am going to proceed as though we acknowledge that these male homosexual behaviors in the gay sub-culture are real and not simply figments of some anti-gay imagination. What is not under question, then, in Cameron and Jay & Young’s surveys, is the nature and reality of these practices.

Are these surveys reliable? We are proceeding as though the surveys are reliable with regard to the nature and reality of these practices. What is being challenged, then, it would appear, is the percentages of those who practice these male sexual behaviors within this gay sub-culture.

My question to those who challenge the figures is, “How do critics know that the percentages in these two studies are not accurate? How do critics know they are not accurate unless they have done their own studies?” Anyone has a right to challenge and criticize survey results. But if the challenge is made that Cameron and Jay & Young’s percentages are not reliable because they are judged to be bad science (i.e. small sample size, methodological problems, etc), then how bad is the science and how inaccurate are the percentages? Are the percentages regarding anal intercourse in the gay sub-culture (Monteith – 93%, Jay & Young – 91%), for example, totally unreliable? somewhat unreliable? slightly unreliable? Do results based on better science reveal percentages in the 70s? 50s? 30s? If those who criticize the two surveys’ results have done their research, where are the results? Any study can be improved upon. Both the surveys by Cameron and Jay & Young have had their critics. In such am emotionally and politically charged debate, that is not surprising. Are the criticisms warranted? Maybe – but they are hard to sustain. We are always open to better studies.

The objection is brought forward that I cannot argue this way. But this isn’t an argument. I am NOT arguing that because we don’t have better statistics, therefore Cameron and Jay & Young’s figures are accurate and reliable. I am NOT putting forth the absence of better and more reliable figures as proof of the reliability of Cameron and Jay & Young’s figures. I agree, that kind of logic and argument would be illegitimate. But I am NOT putting forth such an argument. I am simply inviting what would be deemed better studies by the critics to the table and remaining open to embracing better and more reliable statistics.

By way of summary then:
These two surveys are saying that these male homosexual behaviors are real and practiced in the gay sub-culture.
These two surveys are saying that the percentages are reflective of the frequency of the behaviors practiced within this gay sub-set which comprises ?% of the 2% homosexual population.
These surveys are NOT saying that all these male homosexual practices are practiced by the overall (2%) gay population.
These surveys are NOT saying that these percentages are representative of the overall gay population.

A Look at the Forest – questions raised

The male homosexual behaviors and their frequency in the gay sub-culture, however, do raise additional questions about wider realities. And here we step into the realm of the speculative. But looking toward answering these questions might be an important aspect of this discussion as well. Those questions would include the following.

Are some of these male homosexual behaviors practiced in the gay sub-culture practiced frequently in the overall gay population as well? For example, how widespread are the practices of oral sex and anal intercourse in the overall gay population? Again this is a speculative question. Might not the percentages within the gay sub-culture with regard to these two practices be relatively similar to percentages in the overall gay population? If anal intercourse, for example, is an essential element for many gay men, then this homosexual behavior practiced in the gay sub-culture may very well be practiced in a widespread fashion in the gay population as a whole. Where do research surveys weigh in on answering these questions?

To what degree is the widespread promiscuity in the gay sub-culture reflective of practices of the overall gay population as well? Andrew Sullivan, a leading proponent of gay marriage, in his 1996 book Virtually Normal wrote, “Among gay male relationships, the openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds. There is more likely to be a greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman. …Something of the gay relationship’s necessary honesty, its flexibility, and its equality could undoubtedly help strengthen and inform many heterosexual bonds.”

Troy Perry, former moderator of the largely homosexual denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church, made the same point. He told The Dallas Morning news, “Monogamy is not a word the gay community uses. We talk about fidelity. That means you live in a loving, caring, honest relationship with your partner. Because we can’t marry, we have people with widely varying opinions as to what that means. Some would say that committed couples could have multiple sexual partners as long as there’s no deception.”

In the Netherlands where gay marriage is legal, a recent study suggests that Troy Perry is correct. Even among stable homosexual partnerships, researchers found that men have an average of eight partners per year outside their “monogamous” relationship. We are now hearing about “monogamy without fidelity.” [These three testimonies are taken from an article entitled “Speaking Out: Why Gay Marriage Would Be Harmful” in Christianity Today, October 19, 2006.]

Articulating the perspective of many gays, gay author Gabriel Rotello says that “Gay liberation was founded … on a ‘sexual brotherhood of promiscuity,’ and any abandonment of that promiscuity would amount to a ‘communal betrayal of gargantuan proportions.’” (Sexual Ecology, page 112) It would be worthy of study to investigate if Rotello’s perception of gay promiscuity, which he criticizes, is supported by scientific surveys today. Or is male homosexual promiscuity the big elephant in the room that many are afraid to talk about?

Should we be concerned about the physical and mental consequences of the gay sexual practices of our homosexual neighbors? It needs to be said that these sexual behaviors occur among both heterosexual and homosexual persons. But the question before us here focuses on the healthy or unhealthy nature of sex among men.

In The Health Risks of Gay Sex, John R. Diggs, Jr., M.D. a board-approved Internist, quotes a British researcher, R.R. Wilcox who summarizes the physical danger of sex among men as follows:

“Male homosexual behavior is not simply either ‘active’ or ‘passive,’ since penile-anal, mouth-penile, and hand-anal sexual contact is unusual for both partners, and mouth-anal contact is not infrequent…. Mouth-anal contact is the reason for the relatively high incidence of diseases caused by bowel pathogens in male homosexuals. Trauma may encourage the entry of micro-organisms and thus lead to primary syphilitic lesions occurring in the anogenital area…. In addition to sodomy, trauma may be caused by foreign bodies, including stimulators of various kinds, penile adornments, and prostheses.”

Diggs then goes and on and in significant detail speaks of human physiology and the diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners as a result of anal intercourse. The rates of anal cancer are sobering. With regard to oral-anal behavior he documents the extremely high rate of parasitic and other intestinal infections, so numerous that a syndrome called “the Gay Bowel” is described in the medical literature.

Diggs’ summary comment is that the medical and social science evidence indicates that homosexual behavior is uniformly unhealthy, producing diseases that have consequences that range from trivial to serious to deadly, resulting often in a shortened life-span.

I would reiterate here that these male homosexual behaviors are cited not to degrade or demean the people involved. Its intention is not to be a judgment on gay persons (who we are is different from what we do) but to make possible an honest and straightforward and graceful assessment of the behaviors. The question is “Ought not love and compassion for one’s same-sex neighbor move one to address the physical and mental health consequences of gay behavior?”



shamrock_isle said...

i honestly don't know why I read these anymore...they make me so angry...

Dr. Glesne...have you ever stopped to consider you might be wrong? Have you ever stopped to consider that these are people you are talking about and not statistics that read like that sexual exploits of Wilt Chamberlain? Would you be willing to post statistics that state the exact opposite of what you are trying to prove? Look for them even? Are you willing to admit that the data that you use if from a very small sample and perhaps not a true sample of the gay community at large? Are you willing to consider that a homosexual relationship is not all about sex in its various incarnations that you have more than once brought up?

It seems like you have tunnel vision on the topic of homosexuality and are not willing to see the different trees in the forest you are standing in.


Tim Fisher said...

A quick note to Chrisy above . . .

You have every right to be angry, I feel. More people should be expressing their anger at how Dave Glesne has handled the existing research. I believe that anger that is channelled usefully can be a very good thing.

I, for one, have supplied Dave with statistics that look very different than the ones he insists upon. So far, he hasn't responded to them. Maybe he hasn't had the time . . . But why he didn't know about these stats before he wrote his book, so he could include them and provide a more "balanced" picture, is anyone's guess.

I hope to respond more fully to Dave's current post in the next several days.

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Anonymous said...

I feel like you do, Chrisy - I keep reading and it just makes me more upset. I just don't think Dr. Glesne is understanding that his selective biased research (which is then presented as though it is academic and balanced) has real consequences. His book was sent to thousands of pastors - people who counsel and minister to parents, brothers, sisters, and children every day. Those parents, those brothers - that includes my own parents and my own brother, who have (with support I'm sure of their Lutheran pastor) chosen to disown me from their life several years ago. So thanks Dr. Glesne, for you have reinforced and supported this decision by presenting the gay community as some scary place where we all lick each others anuses - surely you know that the mere shock factor will ensure that this is what people will remember from your book.

Dr. Glesne seems to have a keen interest in the sexual behavior of gays. I'm certainly no prude, but I just don't sit around concerning myself with whether my gay best friend eats his boyfriend's feces. I certainly don't think that I am on some moral high horse and have the authority to tell him that I need to "address the physical and mental health consequences" of his behavior. In fact, if Dr. Glesne feels he has some higher level of morality and authority to "address the physical and mental health consequences" of gays, why stop there? Maybe he should stop every smoker he passes on the street and inform them of the physical and mental consequences that smoking has?

--Becky Penar

Joe Norquist said...

Take heart, Becky Penar. Just remember not all smokers die of smoke-related illness; the Roman Catholic Church exonerated Galileo in 1991; not all Jews are pushy and control the banks of the world; not all AfricanAmericans are shiftless, lazy and like watermelons; not all people on welfare are third-generation leeches on society. And not all Lutheran pastors are bigots.
Dr. Joe Norquist

Joe Norquist said...

Dr. Glesne. I have been trying to find what the "Institute for Sex Research" is, which you refer to on page 43 of your book. I find the "Kinsy Institute for Research of for Sex, Gender and Reproduction" but I know they wouldn't say what you say this sound-alike institute is reported to say about promiscuity. (or is it the Kinsey institute? you're referring to?) Your footnote for that is "Video documentary The Gay Agenda: The Report by Ty & Jeannette Beeson, 1993."In the same paragraph you mention bath hosues. haven't all or most bath houses been closed since the 1981 HIV epidemic began? Thank you. Joe Norquist

Nadine Anderson said...

Dr. Glesne asks how critics know that the statistics he cites are not accurate. That question was answered before so clarification is not his intent. Perhaps he is trying to get others out there to be more accepting of his answers. If I get sexual behavior data from swingers, how would anyone know that it is not a good description of the behavior of most heterosexuals? Because most people know information about an unusual sub-group tells nothing about others in the larger group. And the data he cites is about a small subset of male homosexuals, but he constantly talks about homosexuals in general.

Dr. Glesne, you now say “These surveys are NOT saying that all these male homosexual practices are practiced by the overall (2%) gay population. These surveys are NOT saying that these percentages are representative of the overall gay population.”

You do not say this in your book or in your ongoing comments. You still speak generally of homosexuals. You never in your book define the sexual lifestyle so that most people would think you are referring to all people who are homosexual and living among and sharing community with other homosexuals, both men and women. That is clearly purposeful as you continue to do it. In your blog writing you claim Chapter 3, “The Gay Lifestyle and Agenda” is about “?% of the 2% gay population” participating in the gay lifestyle. Let’s see whether there is anything in that chapter that supports this claim. In your book you refer to homosexuals and the lifestyle there of without any indication you do not mean all G&L people on page 43, 44, and 46, Page 45 gives extreme forms of male sexual behavior and implies they are done by percents of the entire gay male population, not the more limited group. On pages 46-52 you talk about the gay agenda. While it is not clear who in the GLBT community backs this, your implication is that this is the agenda of the majority of the community and that part of this agenda is seeking to overcome the ELCA’s reluctance to accept any form of homosexuality.

I think that some light is being shed through this discussion. Pr. Lars is identifying areas of disagreement. Ted above identifies one divide as what is considered sin. A lot of information has been provided on the bad science Dr. Glesne cites. We raise our blood pressure and have no effect on those with other views when we try to convince them to accept our views. Look at this as writing to all those out there who have heard of or read Dr. Glesne’s book and need to have it clarified rather than as an attempt to change Dr. Glesne or those who strongly hold his views. They won’t change their view. We won’t change our view. But maybe some who are still seeking will be influenced.
Nadine Anderson

David Ludwig in Orlando said...

Dear David and Lars,

I have been faithfully following this dialogue since its inception, and I am increasingly frustrated. We are spending a lot of time and words discussing the health implications of certain "homosexual" behaviors, when it doesn't seem to me to be pertinent to the issue at hand. I imagine, Lars, that if negative health consequences to any behaviors are agreed upon, you might say something like "let's address these health issues medically, scientifically and compassionately." I don't think you would take these health consequences as a sign of the evil or wrongness of homosexuality. Likewise, Rev. Glesne, I could imagine that if we were to agree that there were NO negative health consequences to certain "homosexual" behaviors, you might say something like "I am glad about this, and these behaviors still have to stop. They are not what God desires for humans." I don't think we would have moved forward much towards the heart of any disagreements or misunderstandings.

Despite this overall frustration, I was looking forward to this post in which you, Dr. Glesne, write that you will "go back and pick up concerns expressed by you, Lars, and some of our readers, over my use of science and data in chapter three of my book." "Specifically," you write, "the data cited there regarding the gay lifestyle is questioned."

Over the past weeks, Rev. Glesne, I have read the comments by readers who questioned this scientific data, and I was looking forward to something substantive and scientific in response. I see, instead, nothing new from you in response to these questions. In this most recent post, I read the same statements and assertions that I previously read in your first post.

I see your response to questions of scientific study data summed up in three of your comments from this most recent post:

1. "When one compares the figures presented by Monteith and Jay & Young, they are remarkably similar."

2. "How do critics know they are not accurate unless they have done their own studies?"

3. "I am NOT putting forth the absence of better and more reliable figures as proof of the reliability of Cameron and Jay & Young’s figures. I agree, that kind of logic and argument would be illegitimate. But I am NOT putting forth such an argument. I am simply inviting what would be deemed better studies by the critics to the table and remaining open to embracing better and more reliable statistics."

The first statement quoted above is a repeating of the statment found in your first post, dated October 9: "When you compare the two sets of figures they compare reasonably closely."

The second and third statements are also a repeating of statements found in that same October 9 first post, which I quote here at length. "It is hard to put a great deal of weight on their criticisms. They might be right but figures like Monteith's and Jay & Young are the best figures we have and those who criticize them need to come forth with better and more reliable figures. That is what we all are after, after all, the best and most reliable figures."

As a frustrated reader, I will here say that I think those who are calling the figures which you cite into question are NOT looking for "after all, the best and most reliable figures." They are looking only for RELIABLE figures. To determine that the figures that you cite in your book are UNreliable does not require better figures to be found, but only for methodological problems to be brought to light. As you know, this is how scientific peer review works. Scientists do not judge whether a study's findings are reliable only by waiting until other studies show similar or more accurate results, but also by examining the methods unsed in conducting the study. When the methods are faulty, then the data is unreliable. In such cases, the scientists who reviewed the work of their colleagues do not usually conclude "the study was flawed and its data are unreliable and possibly inaccurate and our scientific community will continue to use these data until newer studies are done and better, more reliable data are found." That the data are unreliable does not mean that they are necessarily inaccurate; it does mean that, if they are accurate, it will be by chance. Without the proper methods, we have no way of knowing how accurate any unreliable data are, and unreliable data should not be used or referred to.

I feel disappointed that, after many weeks of dialogue back and forth, with lots of specific references by readers to specific websites and particular studies on the unreliability of certain statistics, I see only a re-stating of what you, Rev. Glesne, said in you first post, before (I assume) you were directed to particular and specific criticisms of those early studies. I hear you saying that "it is hard to put a great deal of weight on their criticisms" and yet I have not heard you state in this blog what those criticisms are and respond specifically to them. Only then will I know if the criticisms hold up under your own review.

I know that you are aware of all of this, because you yourself write (as I quoted above), "I am NOT putting forth the absence of better and more reliable figures as proof of the reliability of Cameron and Jay & Young’s figures. I agree, that kind of logic and argument would be illegitimate. But I am NOT putting forth such an argument. I am simply inviting what would be deemed better studies by the critics to the table and remaining open to embracing better and more reliable statistics." I imagine that we all would welcome more reliable statistics, and that is a good point of agreement, a point which sidesteps the issue of addressing the reliability of these statistics, something which can easily be done even when no better studies or statistics are currently available.

Now, if you are still with me, I thank you for reading this rant. If I had not written this, I would not be able to continue reading the blog.

I have made a lot of statements, and I will leave with some questions.

1. Why do we care what the exact statistics are in the context of this dialogue? If we were to find out that NO homosexuals suffer from disease relating to certain homosexual behaviors, would we then be willing to say that homosexuals should be ordained by the church and have their unions blessed? If we were to find out that EVERY homosexual suffers from some disease, would we then say that this is a sign that homosexuality is cursed by God? (In other words, I wonder why we are discussing disease so much. I assume that we are all united in wanting to curb disease, promote health and be compassionate to those who are suffering from physical disease.)

2. To put it another way, if no negative health-related consequence were to come from two homosexuals loving each other, would any "behaviors" in which they might engage still be objectionable? Is one woman kissing another woman wrong? Is it wrong only if it leads to disease or other negative health consequences? Is it wrong only when the two women are sexually aroused while kissing?

3. If peer review (or our own review) has truly found the data which we are discussing to be unreliable (and therefore accurate only by sheer chance, if at all), shouldn't we then stop referring to it and quoting it? I think that we should stop using it, and yet I hear Rev. Glesne saying that we should continue to quote it until something better is found, and I wonder, "Why?"

4. When can we have a dialogue that speaks to the homosexual practices that matter to those whom I love? Are caring for each other, sharing the love of God with the whole creation, creating strong and welcoming households, rearing children and receiving supportive help from the entire community to do so, and lots of other important things, outside of the realm of this discussion?

5. Will we ever get to discuss questions of justice and injustice? Of compassion and the building of strong, welcoming communities which invite people to experience the way of God?

I am hopeful that the dialogue will get to such a place and I hope that my writing can give us a nudge in that direction.

Peace to you all, and thanks for continuing to write and to serve.

David Ludwig

Joe Norquist said...

When research is published, it frequently is picked up inaccurately by publications like Christianity Today. The Pattison paper sited by Dr. Glesne (p.167) was picked up by CT with a headline "Homosexuals Can Change", which is partially true. But Pattisons reported that they contacted the data of 300 ex-gays from a Pentacosatal crisis program. Of those, 30 were chosen to interview. Of those reviewed they obtained the cooperation of 11 white men to collect personal data on them. Of those 11 , 2 were free of homosexual dreams, fantasies and impulses. Three still had significant, bothersome same-sex impulses. So this means that 2 of 300 is not too encouraging for those who would like to change, and hardly rates headlines on the cover of CT. But those 11 highly-motivated, "very religious" men who believed that "heterosexuality was a necessary component of a mature member of the Church", did indeed feel they had changed to varying degrees toward a heterosexual orientation. Pattison's paper states, "The general tenor of professional opinion is..permanent eradicatiion of all homosexual inclinations appears to be very rare." Similar to what Spitzer said, "The likelihood of altering sexual orientation is probably rare." 2 of the 7 happily married were married before they had experienced change. Much of the Exodus propaganda gives false hope to gay and lesbian people. Dr. Joe Norquist

Sean Kelly said...

Take heart, Dr. Norquist. If Dr. Glesne is a biggot, then that makes you simply ignorant.

First-hand witness of Pastor David Glesne's everyday behavior, Sean Kelly