Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Swift Boats of Science

The Nation
The Swift Boats of Science
Ari Berman

Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute, calls gays and lesbians "death marketers."

"I am not sure how long they will take to destroy the US from within, but sufficiently weakened, the US will probably fall to another state before that occurs," he recently told the Boston Globe.

In 1983, Cameron cofounded the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality, where he published reports claiming that homosexuals were more likely than heterosexuals to molest children and commit other crimes. Shortly thereafter, the American Psychological Association barred Cameron from its membership. The American Sociological Association said that "Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism."

But Cameron resurfaced with the Family Research Institute, publishing studies titled "Gay Parents More Apt to Molest." In recent years, his pseudoscience has been cited by dissenters in the Massachusetts ruling legalizing gay marriage, in a Florida Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on adoption by same-sex couples and on behalf of a Virginia proposal requiring that adoptive parents reveal their sexual identities to social workers. The media frequently credits the Institute as an alternative to the 150,000-member American Psychological Association.

Cameron's Institute, along with the American College of Pediatrics--a right-wing splinter of the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics--seek to blur the distinction of what is and isn't accepted science, the Boston Globe reports. And these fraud think tanks are multiplying. "Created as counterpoints to large, well-established medical organizations whose work is subject to rigorous review and who assert no political agenda," the Globe writes, "the tiny think tanks with names often mimicking those of established medical authorities have sought to dispute the notion of a medical consensus on social issues such as gay rights, the right to die, abortion, and birth control."

Cameron's "studies" are distributed through the Christian Communications Network, run by anti-choice advocate Gary McCullough, the press agent for Operation Rescue and the parents of Terri Schiavo. Press releases in the past few weeks included: "Gays Twice as Apt to Drive Under the Influence, says Family Research Institute," "Gays 6X More Expensive Than Smokers, says Family Research Institute," and, "Weird Behavior Among Gays Due to Mental Illness? Asks Family Research Institute." Until the Globe article, the 43,000-church Traditional Values Coalition listed Cameron's work on its website. He's briefed White House aides on his adoption theories.

Articles published in Psychological Reports, an obscure Montana journal described as "a scientific manifestation of free speech," lends Cameron's junk agitprop academic cover. "I'm amazed that he is able to continue to be published," says Dr. Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics at the Tufts-New England Medical Center. Perrin and other established scientific experts have found no important difference between children raised by same-sex and heterosexual couples, nor a higher tendency toward "antisocial" behavior among gays and lesbians. "Cameron's work is methodologically weak and in many cases the conclusions he draws from his data are not valid," adds Dr. Gregory Harek, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis.

It's as if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth discovered science.