Stats Watch! Number 1

A new feature for this blog. In an irregular series we’re going to look at claims made about research in the area of sexuality that affects the debate in the Church and the wider society. Here’s our first candidate – Anglican Mainstream’s post yesterday on “Good reasons why SSM is a bad idea”. Let’s see if this first good reason has any substance.

1/ Sexual exclusivity (i.e. sex only with one’s partner) is not the norm for partnered gays. According to recent research (1) done by the leading American National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System, Center for Diseases Control, ‘monogamy’ or sexual exclusivity is not a commonly-held norm for partnered gays.  The research sample is huge—11,000 gay men were interviewed.  Of those, 68% of those who had a primary partner also had approximately two casual sex partners outside their relationship each year (i.e. they were ’open’).

Gay marriage (GM) advocacy groups know this is true but continue to exploit heterosexual ignorance by describing their partnerships in terms of their ‘stability’, ‘faithfulness’, and ‘commitment’.  These terms and the realities they represent are commendable but do not define actual sexual behaviours.  In fact, the term, ‘monogamy’, is even deployed but it has been redefined to mean love and commitment.  According to this research, over two-thirds of partnered gays operate according to a paradigm which at first sounds much the same but on closer inspection is fundamentally different. They love and commit to one, but can have sex with others.  It is called having one’s cake and eating it.

But more here is at stake. GM advocacy groups are not publicly repudiating the ‘open’ partnership paradigm; they are not insisting their partnered members sign up to traditional notions of sexual exclusivity (‘forsaking all others’).  In fact, many are suggesting that ‘open’ relationships are the way forward, for the future and well-being of marriage.  They are presented to the world as trendy and progressive —no doubt the rest of the world will soon catch up.

(1) Rosenberg, E. S., Sullivan, P. S., Dinenno, E. A., Salazar, L. F., & Sanchez, T. H. (2011). Number of casual male sexual partners and associated factors among men who have sex with men: results from the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance system. BMC Public Health 11; http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-11-189.pdf

(2) Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal (1995); http://www.thecouplesstudy.com/; The NY Times: ‘Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret’;http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html?_r=1&%20r=3

OK, let’s look at the argument being made here. Let me repeat what has been claimed and see whether (a) the research actually says that and (b) whether it has any bearing on the issue of the definition of marriage. Here’s claim number one.

Sexual exclusivity (i.e. sex only with one’s partner) is not the norm for partnered gays.

Let’s look at the actual data. This is a copy of the relevant table from the referenced document.

Right, what does the table actually tell us? The first highlighted section underlines a clear truth that comes out time and time and time again in these types of surveys, namely that those who self identify as homosexual tend to have far more sexual partners then those who don’t (in this case 3 times as likely). However, the claim made is that “sexual exclusivity is not the norm for partnered gays”. For this assertion we need to look at the next set of results highlighted. What they tell us is that for the 32% of those surveyed (regardless of sexuality) who don’t have a regular male sexual partner, on average they have 2.7 (6.5 / 2.4) times more sexual partners then those who do have a “partner”.

However, nothing is this particular observation makes any separation between the sexual orientation of those who are in the “2.7 times more sexual partners” category. Yes, self-identified heterosexuals make up only 1% of the sample (lots of “straight” men have sex with men) but that’s enough to have an impact on the figures.

But this is just the start – the paper makes no precise definition of what “partner” means in the context of this research. The definition used was

someone you feel committed to above all others

and this could mean a number of things to different people. We need to ask what “committed” actually meant – one person’s committment is another person’s three or four week affair.

But this is not itself the crux of the criticism. What is being opposed here by citing this research is same-sex marriage, i.e. a same-sex couple in an expressed, monogamous union sanctioned by law. There is absolutely no data in this research that covers that subject. It could be that 7596 men who had one “main partner” includes 500 men in civil unions / gay marriage (as defined in the municipality where they reside). If every single one of these men was strictly monogamous then the remaining 7096 would have an actual average number of partners of 2.6 (go do the math if you don’t believe me). That’s a pretty small uplift for taking out a significant proportion of this sub-population who might be monogamous.

Here’s the point – if the attempt of citing this article is to argue that those men who enter into same-sex marriage will be far more likely to not be monogamous then current heterosexual couples who enter marriage, no evidence has been provided to support such a proposition. In some senses we are in a good position to make such a judgement – we now have hundreds, nay thousands of gay couples who have entered civil partnerships / civil unions / same-sex marriage on both sides of the Atlantic to repeat this research asking the relevant question on domestic status and dividing out the results appropriately. But this survey does not do that, it doesn’t ask that question. It doesn’t explore the likelihood or otherwise of any particular gay man with any particular attitude to monogamy to want to enter into gay marriage or civil partnership of not.

Furthermore, there is no comparison to married couples or other heterosexual couples who consider themselves “partnered”. For all we know they could demonstrate exactly the same promiscuity rates! Remember, the definition of “partner” is loose enough to cover all kinds of relationships.

One more observation. The following claim is made,

According to this research, over two-thirds of partnered gays operate according to a paradigm which at first sounds much the same but on closer inspection is fundamentally different

This is completely unsupported by the data above and I would like to see someone who disagrees demonstrate where it is. I am presuming the “two-thirds” figure is taken from 68% of those surveyed who had a main sexual partner, but that simply means that over two-thirds of those surveyed reported having a partner. By definition the remaining 32% are not partnered so to say “over two-thirds of partnered gays operate according to a paradigm which at first sounds much the same but on closer inspection is fundamentally different” is utterly incorrect.

So what can we learn from this? A simple lesson, that moving from generalisations to specifics is a dangerous thing when dealing with research. Like those (on both sides) who misinterpreted the latest research from Jones and Yarhouse on sexual orientation change efforts, we need to learn that pieces of statistical research tell us the things that they are designed to tell us and often little else. We always need to clarify terms and definitions and stick to them.

If the question being asked is “What are the promiscuity rates for gay men who say that they have one partner (whatever that means) compared to other gay men”, then the survey helps us. It tells us that those gay men who have a “partner” are almost three times less promiscuous then those who don’t. Within that group will almost certainly be gay men who are strictly monogamous. However, if the question being asked is “Are gay men who seek to enter a partnership / civil-union / marriage more promiscuous then straight men who seek to do the same”, the survey can tell us absolutely nothing about that since it only covers men who have sex with men. That means, to use it by itself as an argument comparing gay men to straight men, let alone to talk about the subset of those who want to enter “gay marriage” is fallacious at best and duplicitous at worse.

Update

As Philip points out in the comments below, the survey itself was a self-selecting sample from those attending gay clubs and bars. This just compounds the inaccuracy of using it to make any meaningful statement about the wider gay population, let alone those who wish to enter formalised unions.

Stats Watch Ranking

1 out of 5

Whilst the research does tell us (interestingly enough) something about how gay men who partner actually decrease their promiscuity dramatically in comparison to gay men who don’t, since it has neither any questions about being in civil unions / gay marriage or even the intent to enter a civil union / gay marriage OR any statistics on comparitive rates of promiscuity for straight men, it cannot be used to support an argument against same-sex marriage in any meaningful sense.

Addendum

Unlike Anglican Mainstream who do not permit comments and therefore don’t let anyone interact with their assertions, you are welcome to engage with the research below. However, stick to the matter in hand which is the research itself, not ad hominems on the authors of any particular blog post. Anyone impuning motives as to the way this research has been represented or expressing derogatory remarks will find themselves banned very quickly. If you’re at all curious as to whether a comment might get you banned, don’t write it. I am absolutely not going to permit anyone to do anything but discuss the research on this thread.

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25 Comments on “Stats Watch! Number 1

  1. Well said, Peter! Thank you for putting your statisticians hat on and telling us what the research actually says. There is far too much spurious claiming going on in the area of sexual orientation research based on poor analysis – by both ‘sides’ in the debate. This is a very good example of Anglican Mainstream making a claim which is not supported by the research.

    >>That means, to use it by itself as an argument comparing gay men to straight men, let alone to talk about the subset of those who want to enter “gay marriage” is fallacious at best and duplicitous at worse.<<

    It's actually even worse than your statement here. If you go to the paper then the 'data (is) from the first MSM cycle of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance system, conducted from 2003 to 2005'. If you go further down then the method states the following about how data was collected:'The NHBS-MSM1 sampling strategy and rationale have been described previously. Briefly, venuetime-space sampling was used to systematically recruit participants in venues, such as bars, dance clubs, and social organizations, frequented by MSM'.The sampling method is therefore to visit 'gay scene' venues to recruit survey participants and collect data. This is a perfectly comprehensible approach given the basic objective of the survey to monitor high-risk behaviour for HIV transmission amongst the gay community. The survey however only tells us about a sample (admittedly a large sample) of gay men and MSM participating in the gay scene, where large numbers of partners and multiple concurrent partnerships are known to be common. It tells us nothing about the large numbers of gay men who do not participate in the scene.It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Anglican Mainstream is deliberately scaremongering by taking survey data collected from a targeted group of gay men and MSM known to be promiscuous and generalising the findings to all gay men, without any qualification at all.This is worse than duplicitous, it is outright deceit and deeply dishonest! Conservative evangelicals quite rightly criticise gay advocacy groups when they make conclusions that are not supported by the research. We must come down even harder when those who claim to share our own theology on sexuality behave in the same way. Well done on this post!

    • What? Anglican Mainstream deliberately scaremongering? You never! What on earth makes you think that they’d do a thing like that?

      •  And when Peter put on his statistician’s hat and had a look at The “Christian” Institute’s interpretation of stats in regard to the lifting of the ban on “homosexual blood”, did he not find that the “C”I were also lying too? What are the odds! 
        ;-)

        • No, I did not find that they were lying. The exact words of my judgement were:

          It’s easy to see from this that the SaBTO decision was not based on political pressure or societal mores but rather on hard facts. Indeed, it was the hard facts that prevented them from taking the line that Peter Tatchell and others wanted, namely to lift the ban altogether. Allegations that the ban was lifted simply for political purposes have no substance. What we actually have is a policy change that will provide more blood to be transfused when necessary at little or no extra risk.

          You might think that they were lying, but I believe they were mistaken, but mistaken for reasons I am unable to discern (as, if you are honest, you are as well). Please re-read the last paragraph of this post and respond appropriately.

      • Do you really think that its carelessness? I assume that the author is Dr Lisa Nolland as her photo is next to the article. That’s a major piece of carelessness for a Ph.D! I really think that it’s quite intentional to make the point that they want to make without being honest about what the study actually says, or even any attempt to qualify the interpretation she is giving.

        I think that is dishonest and disgraceful behaviour, as I posted earlier. If Lisa Nolland has integrity she should be apologising for that article.

        • I don’t think it’s a matter of plain lying. You decide what the data ought to tell you, and then you find what you’re looking for. It’s a little bit like the word search games that we used to give children sometimes when I was a teacher: they’re presented with a square full of jumbled up letters and they have to find sequences that form actual words. Except that in this case you know in advance exactly what the words are, and so you look for those and no others.

          • I think that there’s another name for the phenomenon that you’re describing, Will. It’s called ‘quote mining’!

  2. I see that Lisa Nolland has posted a clarification of her original article at Anglical Mainstream. The main part of the clarification is:

    ‘Please note, first, that the survey it quotes relates to men who identify with the gay community. Gays who do not identify with the gay community will not necessarily conform to the patterns which emerged’.

    That’s not actually a full reflection of the survey as it comprises participants drawn from gay men and MSM active on the ‘gay scene’. There are many self-identified gay men who are not active on the gay scene. I would have prefered a clarification that included this recognition.

    That said, it’s very welcome that a clarification has been issued on this particular survey. Well done, Lisa!

  3. Well, Peter.  I expect you are pleased with yourself with
    this splendid piece of detective work. 
    You have got out your magnifying glass and tweezers and examined Lisa’s
    article piece by piece to see what you could find to criticize, and when you think
    (wrongly, in this case) you have found something, instead of ringing her up and
    talking it over, which would have been the decent thing to do, you blazon it
    all over your blog.  Why have you done
    this?  To me this seems like
    self-aggrandizement – to show us all how clever you are – at somebody else’s
    expense.

     

    Your article on the recent
    conference is another case in point. 
    Instead of taking the trouble to find out exactly what did happen (which someone as rigourous as yourself should certainly do) you
    take as gospel the word of somebody who was there for the sole purpose of rubbishing
    it.  If you are so keen on being sure of
    facts before you go into print, I think it might have been a good idea to check
    with one or two other people who were also there to get their version of events.  No, there were not great numbers there, but
    there never are, and anyhow, so what?  So
    long as there are people around who need this kind of support, it is worth
    doing. 

     

    As you know, Lisa has
    organised several of these conferences. 
    Why does she do it?  Because she
    likes being a target for gay activists, and enjoys being rubbished and
    reviled?  I don’t think so.  She does it because she cares.  She cares about people who are unhappy with
    same-sex attraction.  How many people
    actually do this?  I can tell you that as
    well as working her socks off to make these events pleasant occasions, she puts
    a lot of her own money into them too. 
    She has even paid for people to come who can’t afford it.

    Your recent attacks on her
    seem to me like petty, vindictive acts of spite.  Shame on you!  The ‘other side’ must be rubbing their hands with glee.

    Jill

     

    Your recent attacks on her
    seem to me like petty, vindictive acts of spite.  The ‘other side’ must be rubbing their hands
    with glee.  Shame on you!

     

    • Jill,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Where to start? If you read my piece properly you would see that I wasn’t just “nit-picking” – I actually went into the kind of depth that Lisa should have done to see what these surveys were actually saying. It seems to me that Anglican Mainstream has a tendency just to copy from secondary sources without actually checking the original sources and trying to understand them.

      As regards the recent conference, I spoke to four people who were there, two from each “side”. Each of them agreed that the event was an unqualified disaster. And Jill, just distance yourself from this and reflect for a moment – if the purpose of the conference is to reach out to gay people, why does a huge amount of the conference have to be filled with sessions on the various sexual practices of a sub-population of the gay community (and others) and the various political questions now at hand? What on earth does that have to do with reaching out? All it does is continue to foster a public appearance of wanting to demonise gay people and seek the worst, not the best.

      Why am I doing this? Well that’s a good question, but it’s not as if we haven’t done this before is it? I have had numerous private conversations on the way that focussing on these aberrant sexual behaviours doesn’t help the conservative cause one bit, on how constantly trying to find examples of promiscuity misses the point that we actually need to be finding theological and sociological arguments against the best example of our opponents’ case, namely the “Permanent, Stable, Faithful” couples that do exist and are known to the many of the people we are trying to reach.

      Frankly it comes down to this – I don’t doubt for one moment that Lisa’s heart is in the right place, but her methods and approach are completely wrong and do a great deal of damage to the conservative position. This is a message of which I am just one messenger and she and Chris have been told about this on a number of occasions. Since private advice from many has not worked, now is the time to stand up and give clear public criticism in order to make the clear point that this kind of approach is flawed. Her latest defences of her piece have too many holes in them to be defensible. Has she actually read the new material she quotes to support her case? No she has not, because one of the references is to what is clearly a secondary source (and can be easily evidenced) and doesn’t refer to any actual real academic paper you can hold in your hands (or read on your screen). Seriously – if you start quoting from press releases without reading the actual academic papers you will get torn apart once people read the real thing. I have copies of all the actual Solomon and Rothblum papers right here in front of me – Lisa couldn’t even tell me which one her figures came from because she hadn’t actually read them.

      This is very much an iron sharpens iron moment Jill. Either you can think that I’m doing this because I get off on it, or you can pause, reflect on the substance of what I’ve written, get copies of the original papers and see that everything I’ve written about how the research cited does not support Lisa’s position is correct and then start to move forward from there. This is not about personal animosity, this is about mutual accountability – you need to have people on your board of reference who are skilled in this area, you will tell you when you are making a mistake and who you will listen to.

      But now you know, with my wide readership and my relevant academic and commercial experience, that I am going to read every single academic paper that Lisa references and hold her to account, perhaps it might cause her to actually produce more reasonable pieces. After all, if what I write is incorrect and could be so demonstrated from the papers we are talking about, don’t you think Lisa would have done it by now?

      And on that note, you REALLY should go and read the relevant papers in the last two pieces by Lisa. Really. Go and read them properly, because the longer you have an article up arguing that gay relationships are promiscuous when the actual piece of research it cites that shows that gay couples in civil unions have more stable relationships then their siblings who are married, the longer I have to put up a post that highlights that very fact.

      • Peter, I think you need to separate in your mind people who have unwanted same-sex attraction and gay activists.  It is the first group of people that the
        conferences are aimed at.  Gay activists will always hate the work of Anglican Mainstream because it exposes what is really behind the façade that they wish to present to gain public approval.

         

        You are right; I haven’t read the latest material, partly because I don’t have the time, partly because it is outside my field of expertise, but mainly because – having heard (directly from people who know) about the gay ‘guardians at the gate’ of the APA who will not allow any material for consideration which contradicts their current orthodoxy, I am suspicious about it.  There are vested interests at stake here.  The real truth will probably not come out for decades. 

         

        I personally would have thought it was obvious that Lisa was referring to gay activists rather than committed same-sex couples in the material she has used.  You have given the impression that you have discussed this article and the conference post with Lisa before going public, but that is simply not the case.

         

        There is a great deal at stake here, as you well know.  Marriage is on the line.  As a father you should be very worried about what your children are likely to be taught when they encounter sex education at school as a result of gay activism (and indeed which some children are already being taught). 

         

        Why not channel your considerable energy into countering some of that, instead of undermining someone who is already doing so? 

         

        Anybody reading this blog who is interested in hearing Lisa’s version of events should contact her at ls.n@talktalk.net

        • Jill,

          Let’s take this paragraph by paragraph.

          i) I have no doubt this is who you are aiming the conference at, but you have yet to explain how cataloguing the varying forms of sexual depravity that all kinds of people do helps with this target audience? What are you going to do when someone in your audience goes, “I know a gay couple who have been together for 30 years, have never had anal sex, have never slept with anybody else, have raised 3 well-adjusted kids and look like many of the straight married couples I know”? These are the kinds of couples that are opponents are presenting, and we need to be able to argue why such a couple shouldn’t be “married”. If you/we can’t do that the game is over.

          ii) Jill, can you not see that if you haven’t read the research in depth then you have absolutely no right to comment on it? The fact that if when faced with a page of numbers you don’t understand them is not an excuse to simply ignore those numbers. I don’t dismiss the red flashing light on my car dashboard because I don’t really understand internal combustion engines. Instead I go to a mechanic and get a professional opinion.

          As for the APA, what a ridiculous argument in relation to the Solomon and Rothblum paper. If you don’t trust academic papers in this area because of bias, why is Anglican Mainstream selectively quoting from them in the first place? Solomon and Rothblum’s research has nothing to do with the APA whatsoever. It is a longitudinal study examining the first generation of Civil Union partners in Vermont, reporting at key stages. The APA were never involved because it isn’t in their jurisdiction.

          But the APA does respond well to good research in this area. That’s why Jones and Yarhouse, despite political pressures within the APA, are making good headway in their presentations and writing in this area, because they follow standard procedures and practices and publish in proper peer review journals.

          iii) It is not obvious Lisa is referring to a particular group of people. Indeed, it is almost never obvious. And I don’t think I gave the impression I communicated with Lisa on the specific post on the conference before I wrote it – I never made that claim.

          What you and I do know though is that I have on a number of occasions raised my concerns about these issues and I have been consistently ignored. For example, I was sent a pdf copy of “God, Gays and the Church” for comment, literally hours before it was being printed. When I raised major concerns over the use of Paul Cameron’s material I was ignored and told it was too late to do anything about it. Subsequent to publication, this was the section most criticised in varying reviews.

          Jill, Lisa has NEVER asked me to overview anything she has written on this subject, despite knowing of my concerns and my expertise. She cannot then complain if, as an independent observer, I cast the same critical eye over what she writes as I would do anybody in this area. If you want my opinion on something that you are going to publish, if you want me on board, send me it before you publish it. If I then tell you that X, Y and Z is incorrect and you still go ahead and publish, don’t expect me to not say anything for the sake of your political expediency.

          iv) I know what’s a stake and that’s why I’m doing this, because as I pointed out above, badly researched articles damage our cause rather than promote it.

          Let me add finally that I have NEVER to my knowledge impuned Lisa’s character in my criticism of her work. Far from it, even in this thread I have commended her motives but pointed out that unfortunately they are substantially undermined by what she publishes. Compare this to your response to me (and to Lisa’s email to me yesterday) which don’t even attempt to engage with the issues I raise with the research cited. Instead, there is an attack on my motives and for bringing these things out in the public.

          Finally finally, please, please, please read my final paragraph in my previous reply to you above.

          • I do think, Peter, that in your anxiety to forensically
            examine this study and that study, you are missing the bigger picture. My
            mention of the APA was just an example. We know that because of political
            correctness a lot of information is just suppressed.  Why, for instance, does the general public
            still believe in a gay gene?  Why does
            the general public still regard the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandals as
            relating to ‘paedophile priests’ when most of them were in fact homosexual
            abuses?   While you are busy with your magnifying glass,
            gay activists are continuing with their work unimpeded.

             

            I do think the stuff you do is important, but I think the
            stuff Lisa does is important too.  The
            same-sex attracted strugglers already mentioned are as disgusted as the rest of
            us with the material presented at the conferences.  This is the kind of life they want to escape.
            These materials are there to warn the uninformed of the horrors of the gay
            lifestyle – while this is suppressed by the mainstream media it is important
            that as many people as possible are kept informed, otherwise you get the ‘useful
            idiots’ who think that gay marriage (and therefore gay sex) is no different to
            marriage, and who will teach this to our children if we don’t make a push to
            stop them.

             

            We are on the same side. 
            We should not be attacking each other.

            • Really, Jill, what evidence do you have that the general
              public still believes in a gay gene? I admit that I haven’t done any kind of
              survey on this, but I’d bet you any money that if one were done, you would find
              that the majority neither believe nor disbelieve in a gay gene (and that quite
              a number wouldn’t even know the meaning of the concept), and that an even
              larger majority couldn’t care less whether such a thing exists or not. If you
              can provide evidence otherwise, please do.

               

              Dean Hamer thought some years ago that he had found A gene –
              not THE gene – that causes people to be gay. It is now generally agreed among
              researchers in this field, including Hamer, that, IF there are any genetic
              factors involved in the determination of sexual orientation, they will not be
              traceable to a single gene. This has not been suppressed either by Hamer or by
              anyone else.

               

              You ask why the general public still regards the Roman
              Catholic sex abuse scandals as relating to ‘paedophile priests’ when most of
              them were in fact homosexual abuses. Well, it depends on your definition of ‘paedophile’.
              Strictly speaking, the word should be used only of adults interacting sexually with
              pre-pubescent children. But in popular usage, the word has often been used incorrectly
              of adults interacting sexually with anyone who is under the age of consent. Whatever,
              this behaviour by a minority of RC priests is sexual abuse. When teenage boys
              are involved, I see no more reason to keep referring to it repeatedly as
              homosexual abuse – as though we didn’t all realise that it was – than to keep referring
              to cases involving under-age teenage girls as heterosexual abuse.

              • I have to agree with jill on this one small point – from anecdotal evidence, most people do now believe there is a gay gene, or that people are “born gay” or “born straight”.  I really never meet anyone (who is not conservative on sexuality) who think anything else.  I have spoken to a senior priest in the Church of England who actually thought it was a given, that it was now in the science books and a gay gene had been found and deciphered. I would be surprised if anyone else had experienced anything different.

                • If your senior priest friend thought that a “gay gene” had been found and deciphered, then he obviously wasn’t very well informed. But any conspiracy to suppress the knowledge that no such gene has been found exists only in Jill’s imagination (and in that of people of a similar turn of mind).

            • jill – I can see your point, but there is really nothing wrong with Peter’s endeavours.  I realise that there is a battle going on but as Christians we should be more concerned with seeking after truth and allowing truth to speak into the lives of those around us rather than drawing up battle lines.    

  4. Let’s step back and review what has gone on since the original Anglican Mainstream article and Peter’s responding article looking at what the statistics are actually saying:

    1. Lisa Nolland (LN) at Anglican Mainstream posted an article that claimed that the research that she referenced showed that ‘Sexual exclusivity … is not the norm for partnered gays’ and that ‘According to this research, over two-thirds of partnered gays operate according to a paradigm which at first sounds much the same but on closer inspection is fundamentally different’.
    2. Peter posted a responding article which carefully and thoroughly showed that LN could not make the claims that she did from the research that she quoted. He did not accuse her of anything beyond bad use of research and urged anyone posting on his article to avoid ‘impuning motives as to the way this research has been represented or expressing derogatory remarks’.
    3. LN responded with a welcome clarification on her interpretation of the research that the ‘survey quote(d) (in her first article) relates to men who identify with the gay community. Gays who do not identify with the gay community will not necessarily conform to the patterns which emerged’. In her response however she also claimed that ‘the tendency towards sexually open partnerships that emerges (amongst gay men) finds support in the survey of the first cohort of Vermont civil unions (2000-2001)’ and quoted the supporting paper.
    4. It was pointed out to LN that she was firstly quoting from a online article rather than the paper itself and secondly that the paper did not support the conclusions that she drew, in the same way that the research quoted in her first article did not support the conclusions that she drew.
    5. Peter has made one fundamental point – that LN cannot make the claims that she has based on the research that she has quoted. He has supported his point with a full analysis of what the quoted research actually says.
    6. LN has made claims that are not supported by the research that she quoted – not once but twice. Those claims remain out there on the ‘net, without clarification or qualification in the case of the second piece of quoted research.

    In my view, the issue here is very straightforward. When anyone makes claims in the public domain that are not correct they should be corrected, also in the public domain. When they make claims that research says things which it does not then they should similarly be corrected. When such people are Christians they should be especially concerned to be both accurate and truthful, otherwise it is poor witness.

  5. Apart from the principled arguments about getting as close to the truth as we can, I think there is a very strong pragmatic argument for not tolerating bad usage of stats, namely that if Peter doesn’t debunk these statistics, someone else will. And they won’t be doing it as a candid friend, but as a determined enemy.

    In any case, as Peter frequently points out, the sociological evidence is at best a sideshow for the theological and moral debate. If HIV had never emerged, and if SSA folks were indistinguishable from non-SSA folks in their sexual behaviour and mental health outcomes, it would barely alter the nature of the Christian arguments about homosexuality.

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