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Keith Burton, where is that Sullivan “scientific article” in the 1984 CMAJ?

Keith Burton, where is that “scientific article” in the CMAJ by bonafide scientist Peter Sullivan?

Keith writes:

Had they done their research, they would have seen that bonafide scientist Peter Sullivan also drew fire for coming to the same conclusion in his 1984 scientific article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The problem is that there is no article on that topic in the CMAJ by Peter Sullivan, although there are two short letters by him.

There’s one letter in February in which he tosses out an idea and a shorter letter in October where he reacts to someone.

That’s it.

There is no “scientific article” by Peter Sullivan on the topic, as Keith claims.

Here are the letters, (one of which Googles up on homosexuality and addiction very easily.)

Re: Keith.

It’s hard to take someone seriously when they write a whole article asking where all the thinkers have gone and yet they get their one cited source wrong while trying to cloak their soundly dismissed opinion with scientific prestige.

Keith’s commentary includes several gross logical fallacies and is sans quotes when referring to others who used quotes of him in their comments previously, as is standard academic practice. (Note what I did above.)

But even worse is when Keith, while whining about the loss of careful thinking and argumentation refers to an scientific article that does not exist.

Furthermore, as far as I can tell, having looked through the 1984 abstracts, there is no “scientific” article in the CMAJ that directly supports Keith’s bizarre theories about the gays being homosexual because of sexual addiction.

Where have all thinkers gone? How about we start with getting people to read carefully and get their sources right, especially when writing under the Spectrum banner? You know, telling the difference between a letter and a peer-reviewed scientific article. . .


The letters by Peter Sullivan.

The database search of everything published by Peter Sullivan.…

I hope that I’m wrong, but it appears that Keith called a letter a scientific article in an commentary in which he complains about other people not thinking.

The Spectrum community expects and deserves better.

I also posted this on the appropriate commentary. I’ve turned off comments here to keep them all together, and a little easier to read chronologically. So to read them head over here, where I have crossposted this comment.

Keith Burton has requested that his response to Alex (which is posted as a comment to his article) also be posted here to provide equal access – website editor

Below are the “full” texts of the “articles” I reference from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (I use the term “article” to refer to a published piece in a printed collection). As you can see, the first article takes the form of a “brief note” in which Dr. Sullivan attempts to clarify his intent in an earlier “letter” (Can Med Assoc J 130/4 [February 15, 1984: 338]) in which he reports his thesis on “the parallels between the personal and social effects of chemical addiction and sexual obsession.” The second article listed below makes no reference to Sullivan’s earlier contribution, but is a critical and emotional response to his brief note

I will concede that my use of the term “scientific article” does suggest a heavily documented full length essay. Although Dr. Sullivan is indeed a scientist and the brief article appears in a scientific journal and is based on scientific observation, given its format my use of “scientific article” is indeed hyperbole, and for that I bare my back for Mr. Carpenter’s chastisement.

Nonetheless, my attempt at exaggerated emphasis which resulted in the rendering of misleading words should not alter the point I made (i.e. the view of homosexuality as an addiction is not unknown to the scientific community). I really don’t know Peter Sullivan’s current view on homosexual marriage, or the process that led him to his 1984 position. However, we do have documented evidence of his suggestion about the possibility of homosexuality being an addiction and the consequent fire he drew from three of his colleagues.

Peter Sullivan, “Homosexuality: an addiction?” Can Med Assoc J 131/8 (October 15, 1984): 848.

I am well aware of the gender spectrum within all of us. I am also well aware, pace Dr. Brian C. Willoughby (Can Med Assoc J 1984; 130: 1262, 1264), that homosexuality is still regarded as an aberration by the vast majority of the human race.

The point at issue in my letter (130: 338) was the parallels between the personal and social effects of chemical addiction and of sexual obsession. I suggested that sexual

obsession may be treated in a manner similar to that used for chemical addiction. I have since learned that such treatment programs have already been offered by chemical addiction

treatment centres in the United States.


49 High St., Ste. 204

Barrie, Ont.

J.R.M. Smith, D.J. Meen, and H.W. Backe, “Homosexuality: an addiction?” Can Med Assoc J 132/7 (April 1, 1985): 737–738.

Sullivan (Can Med Assoc J 1984;131: 848) does seem confused about homosexuality. Presumably when he talks of “the gender spectrum” he means the spectrum of human sexual orientation, which is quite another matter.

That the “vast majority” would currently regard homosexuality as aberrant is of what significance? Popular prejudice regarded slavery as normal until the advent of such pioneers as Bishop Wilberforce and David Livingstone. Left to extrapolate from their limited experience alone, the “vast majority” would probably still regard as natural a risk of famine, a high perinatal mortality rate and a life expectancy 20 to 30 years less than our own. They would certainly be unaware of the huge volume of published material on same-gender affectional and sexual preference emerging from the social sciences.

It is not clear whether Sullivan believes homosexuality to be an obsessive disorder or an addiction. Either way he is certainly out of step with the American Psychiatric Association: the only mental disorder related to homosexuality that is recognized in the 1980 edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” is ego-dystonic homosexuality, which is the inability to accept one’s homosexual arousal.

Sullivan’s error may derive from a mistaken impression that all homosexual men lead the much-publicized promiscuous, multiple-encounter lifestyle. In fact, a plurality of gay lifestyles exists, including bisexual expression, celibacy, monogamy, primary spousal relationships and a limited circle of regular sex partners.

While both sexual compulsion and limerance addictions (romantic infatuation)may certainly occur, they do so in heterosexuals and homosexuals alike and in both genders. However, in caring for over 2000 homosexual men and a smaller number of lesbians in Winnipeg, we have encountered these problems in less than a handful of cases. Much more frequent is the profound disruption to our patients’ lives caused by the corrosive effects of “homophobia”. Difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships are among these effects.

Finally, one must suppose that Sullivan is aware of how offensive the tone of his correspondence must be to the 5% to ‘10% of his colleagues who are homosexual and to the much larger number of Canadian physicians who have gay children, relatives and friends. It is unfortunate that his views are likely

to preclude his openly meeting any of the thousands of homosexuals who are quietly pursuing the same personal and domestic goals as heterosexuals.

J.R.M. Smith, MB, BS

D.J. Meen, MEd

H.W. Backe, BN

Winnipeg Gay Community Health Clinic

Winnipeg, Man.

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