Author Topic: Podcast #54  (Read 23623 times)

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Offline Leigh

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Podcast #54
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2006, 01:18:33 PM »
Perry, Perry, Perry...
I do luv the big fella...but...now that everybody is aware of the horrors perpetrated in the hope of ridding imaginary demons from the body, could we perhaps follow that up wih something along the lines of...what we can do personally or collectively to bring an end to this kind of practice?
Something practical, even if the chances of change are remote.
Surely that is why we are here. To exact change, no matter how small. Right?
I admit that I may be severely deluded, but I will never take the position of the cynic and sit on my hands. I welcome the challenge.
If I want to hear depressing and bloody tales of suffering, I need only flick on the tube. Plenty there.
Not many solutions though.
I live in hope.
quot;When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings": Bertrand Russell
www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/library.html

Offline Steven Novella

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Podcast #54
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2006, 09:06:18 PM »
With all due respect, Rebecca - I think you are comitting the false continuum logical fallacy.

Even though there may be many variations of sexual orientation, that does not mean we cannot meaningfully and reasonably designate certain individuals as basically heterosexual and others as basically homosexual.

Epidemiologists have much experience parsing out complex systems into manageable pieces. Sure - choices have to be made that affect the outcomes. There will always be a subjective component. But that does not mean the results are meaningless. Also, if the choices are stated openly, then their effect on the outcome can be transparent.

This is no different than medical statistics based upon race, height, age, diet, marital status, or any other fuzzy category. I see no reason to single out sexuality as uniquely impenetrable to epidemiology.
Steven Novella
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Offline Joe Shmoe

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Podcast #54
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2006, 10:45:30 PM »
I certainly believe it's possible, as I've said before I am a marketing exec, I've got some experience writing and reading polling data.  But I do believe that Rebecca has a point.

To use your list Steven race, height, age, diet, (debatably) marital status aren't things that you can or are very likely to hide.  Homosexuality is a completely different kind of demographic, there is a palpable sense of imminent violence in the air towards 'out' homosexuals in some regions of the country.   The 'in' population is far less likely to admit even to an anonymous poll that they are homosexual.  

For any other kind of data than lifespan I would argue that the affect of the 'in' sample would be statistically insignificant, however in the case of lifespan I have to express some doubt.  Specifically I would expect that a statistically significant portion of HIV positive gay men are 'out'.   That would have a noticeable affect on the results of any poll measuring lifespan.

[edit] dangling participle(s)

Offline Steven Novella

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Podcast #54
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2006, 11:27:33 PM »
I agree that Rebecca has a legitimate point - just not to the extent that getting meaningful data is "impossible."

Anonymous surveys do a pretty good job of dealing with the "stigma" or "fear" issue. There is also confidentiality. Sure - this is a source of bias that must be accounted for. But not unique. The same problem comes up with any stigmatized question - illegal drug use, adultery, etc.

So - we seem to agree that this is a legit source of uncertainty. We disagree as to the magnitude of the effect. Saying it renders epidemiology "impossible" is way overstating it.
Steven Novella
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Offline psyopsgr

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i don't know if god hates gays but a lot of humans do!
« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2006, 09:30:48 AM »
On the gay life expectancy debate, i think i found a reason the irish guy thinks gays die at 43. Check out this quote from the abstract of the paper Dr. Novella linked on the notes page (Int J Epidemiol. 1997 Jun;26(3):657-61 , Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men) :
     "Life expectancy at age 20 for gay and bisexual men ranged from 34.0 years to 46.3 years for the 3% and 9% scenarios respectively. These were all lower than the 54.3 year life expectancy at age 20 for all men. "
     The rightwing people who combine a creationist agenda with a gay bashing one provide support to the idea that racism correlates with stupidity, as they obviously couldn't figure life expectancy at 20 differs from that at birth, and the way to figuring out when you 're most probable to die with a life expectancy of 46 at 20...well it is by adding 20 to 46, which makes 66 (an obvious 6 away from proof of satanic intervention in gay lifestyles, which would undoubtedly put this irreverent podcast to shame).
     Rebecca has a point on the difficulty of pinpointing gays being a fair reason of being sceptical on gay statistics. Even simple percentage of the population being gay  notoriously differ. The article Dr. Novella posted actually used 3 different scenarios on the percentage of gays among men (3, 6 or 9%), so there are some ways of getting around that...but the problem remains fairly open to speculation and partisan agendas.
     Given the amount of hate and bigotry this issue can generate, particularly among right wing religious fanatics, people should just be really careful and critical of most facts found here and there. I personally feel the whole debate fast deteriorates from facts to opinions, given that facts are a lot harder to establish when opinion contamination gets in the way.
     And the real motive behind all that really is passing judgement on homosexuality as a sin.  The whole nature vs nurture debate on  homosexuality is also as perplexing as all such debate, the main motive behind it is a moral conviction on homosexuality and i dont think moral opinions have a lot to do with our sexual physiology anyway. People should accept other people on the basis of their common humanity and human rights, period. The rest to me is sophistry with a hidden agenda.
 cynic from Greece...my friends though would call me a sophist with a mean streak... I would describe myself as a concerned dreamer ;-)

Offline rebecca

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Podcast #54
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2006, 09:35:00 AM »
Quote from: "Steven Novella"
I agree that Rebecca has a legitimate point - just not to the extent that getting meaningful data is "impossible."

Anonymous surveys do a pretty good job of dealing with the "stigma" or "fear" issue. There is also confidentiality. Sure - this is a source of bias that must be accounted for. But not unique. The same problem comes up with any stigmatized question - illegal drug use, adultery, etc.

So - we seem to agree that this is a legit source of uncertainty. We disagree as to the magnitude of the effect. Saying it renders epidemiology "impossible" is way overstating it.


Steve, I have never ever overstated anything in my entire life. Hyperbole is a foreign term to me, and were I to be caught lying about that indisputable fact I invite you to cut my tongue out of my head and throw it into the ocean to be nibbled at by tiny hermit crabs.

Okay, okay -- not impossible. Highly improbable. And technically, I'm an agnostic, not an atheist.
Skepchick <- Now with updated URL for 2012!

Offline rebecca

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Podcast #54
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2006, 09:39:13 AM »
And just to add one more slightly more serious comment -- here's an interesting Wiki link summarizing the difficulties of determining the percentage of the population that is gay. The problems extend from defining what you consider "gay" and what others consider "gay," to determining whether or not you're talking about desire or actions, to controlling for truthfullness in survey answers.
Skepchick <- Now with updated URL for 2012!

Offline psyopsgr

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Can one be sceptical of a sceptic?
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2006, 11:04:02 AM »
An interesting line of arguement emerging from the gay statistics debate regards the fuzzy demarcation point between "scientific" and socially engineered opinion. I found myself considering that fuzziness many times over listening to your show and although i understand you like to keep the show pretty straightforward and simple, you should address that at some point.
     Dr. Novella claimed that a gay epidemiology study on a scientific peer reviewed journal is pretty factual stuff. I would be happier with it being something along the lines of the best approximation we can have of facts, which might also be an interpretation of Dr. Novellas remarks. Why is a peer reviewed journal such a gold standard anyway? Is it as democratic as it sounds? And should facts be established upon a vote? Certainly the history of science is full of times when the majority had it wrong. Don't the reviewers  have social biases and agendas, especially on such controversial social issues? And if peer review medical journals are so cool, why does a lot of BS finally end up in them? Can they really be immune to big pharma or even to social considerations, personal interest and agendas, micro and macro politics? I think the time people start getting sceptical of the way we do our peer reviewed science is near and lately science  has unfortunately given people a lot of good and bad reasons for being sceptical of its ways.
     To illustrate how the scientific community can be partisan too, i can think of politically incorrect Greece I blog from.  I am sad to report that alarmingly many psychiatrists would, if directly confronted, consider homosexuality some sort of mental disorder US gays got voted out of DSM. Now they wouldn't dare defy US psychiatric orthodoxy in a worthwhile peer reviewed journal, but they wouldn't have anything to gain out of that anyway, besides greece is too peripheral a country for serious scientific discussion.  There are even orthodox priests turned psychiatrists (talk about a serious anomaly here !) who claim that APA votes on homosexuality not being a mental disorder mean nothing or are an attempt by the insurance industry to deny proper treatment from those poor people afflicted from that horrible mental disorder called homosexuality. They actually say that on TV virtually unconfronted, which probably illustrates why some PC ought to be around!
     My point is having university degrees and being part of a scientific profession won't really guarantee social opinion and agendas from biasing scientific thought. And calling for the scientific community to defend that demarcation is a good but not perfect solution. Sometimes science even seems to follow the evolution of ideas rather than make a leading contribution to them. I hate postmodern nihilists too but as science is practiced today, it seems to be giving those guys a lot of arguements.
 cynic from Greece...my friends though would call me a sophist with a mean streak... I would describe myself as a concerned dreamer ;-)

Offline Jeff Nickerson

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Podcast #54
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2006, 11:39:44 AM »
Quote from: "Steven Novella"
I agree that Rebecca has a legitimate point - just not to the extent that getting meaningful data is "impossible."

Anonymous surveys do a pretty good job of dealing with the "stigma" or "fear" issue. There is also confidentiality. Sure - this is a source of bias that must be accounted for. But not unique. The same problem comes up with any stigmatized question - illegal drug use, adultery, etc.


The problem in my mind with comparing homosexuality to other stigmatized questions, such as drug use ect., is that if you ask a person (other the bill clinton) if they have used drugs they can say 'yes' or 'no'. There is a huge portion of the gay community that are still wrestling with the true nature of their sexuality. "am i really gay? or was this just a one time thing", "im attracted to my own gender, but also the opposite gender", "i cant be gay! i have (insert any number of hetero affirming actions)!". in such cases, the subject may be unable to give a definate answer.

Offline Anders Nilsson

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Podcast #54
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2006, 02:00:27 PM »
As in all epidemiological studies the wordings have an effect on the answers as have the wordings of the previous questions and the general context. That is not something unique to studies regarding sexuality so I don't understand why Rebecca et al have a problem with that in particular. When a large number of studies regarding homosexuality have been done the community will analyse the questioneers and will be able to suggest improvements to reach that elusive truth.
But why debate Ann Coulter, havent it been proved over and over that debates are not the way to settle scientific argument and that it only serves to give the pseudo-scientist a platform they do not deserve. Take them to court where they are forced to answer questions and can't make speeches. A pseudo-scientist can spew out so much garbage in an allotted timeframe that it would take the skeptic ten times that amount of time to explain everything that was wrong.

Offline Steven Novella

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Podcast #54
« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2006, 11:24:51 PM »
Peer review is not a democracy - it is a meritocracy.  There is no vote - relevant experts are asked to review a submission. They then examine it for method, completeness, conclusions, etc. They may suggest specific fixes to problems, and the paper is sent back to the authors for correction (papers are rarely accepted on their first go-round without revisions).

Peer review does not guarantee that the paper's conclusions are valid. But it is a significant filter. The journal's editors provide another filter.

A significant point someone alluded to is that no single epidemiological paper would be that reliable - because it is difficult to predict the net effect of all the biases. But if multiple papers all start clustering around a certain figure, that figure has increasing validity.

With this specific subject - homosexuality and llife expectancy - keep in mind the goal is to assess the effects on life expectancy of living a homosexual lifestyle. If someone is emotionally gay but in denial and living a heterosexual lifestyle, their life expectancy would probably be no different from emotional heterosexuals. So, the bigger an effect on life expectancy homosexuality would have, the easier it would be to measure.
Steven Novella
Host, The Skeptics Guide
snovella@theness.com

Offline Three

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Podcast #54
« Reply #26 on: August 08, 2006, 12:15:05 AM »
stupid question i need answered -- how does asking if someone's gay help you determine how long they'll live?

how do they actually figure the life expectancy if they're surveying living folks?
 didn't do it.

Offline Jeff Nickerson

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Podcast #54
« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2006, 12:17:36 AM »
i think we have all missed a crucial point in this discussion. the life expectancy for all hetero-sexuals has risen to 85 in the past few days (i came to this conclusion by closly monitoring the obituaries of my local newspaper and averaging the ages of the deceased. total sample size: 5 subjects)

Offline chris

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Podcast #54
« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2006, 01:58:16 AM »
Quote from: "Three"
stupid question i need answered -- how does asking if someone's gay help you determine how long they'll live?

how do they actually figure the life expectancy if they're surveying living folks?


I believe the survey went something like this:

Q.  Are you gay?

Q. Are you currently, or have you at any time been, dead?

Offline Luna

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Podcast #54
« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2006, 02:38:28 AM »
who cares?
Praise Jesus.

 

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