January 25, 2007

"The more we play God or try to improve on Mother Nature, the more damage we are doing with all kinds of experiments that... turn into nightmares."

That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist, but hostility to scientific research comes from the progressive side when the question is the source of sexual preference.

That quote is from Martina Navratilova, who is one of the many critics of Charles Roselli, a researcher who is studying why some male sheep have a sexual preference for other males. Roselli tells his critics that he hates the idea of trying to manipulate the sexuality of human beings and claims that his real interest is in fact sheep.

Don't we accept the idea of sheep breeders doing what they can to get sheep who will in fact breed? Should someone who objects to efforts to cure human beings of homosexuality resist efforts to manipulate sheep? Assuming you don't care about the individuality and personal fulfillment of sheep -- and note that PETA started the campaign against Roselli -- don't you have to admit that any learning about sexual orientation will be applied to thinking about human beings?

But shouldn't we want to know the truth? Shouldn't gay rights advocates care when they sound like the religious fundamentalists they usually deride?

111 comments:

jult52 said...

Leftist anti-progressivism has just as deep roots as Right-wing anti-progressivism (see the Luddites).

Judging from your comments, I assume you haven't read Virginia Postrel's "The Future and Its Enemies". I recommend it; a very interesting book.

MadisonMan said...

The problem is that journalists have no clue about science. When speaking of results, scientists use carefully chosen language. Journalists and editors feel free to move or elide words to make a story fit, changing the tone of the story.

I appreciate that the original authors of the slam, being called in onto the carpet by other journalists, refer things to their boss on the road. I'm not sure why they can't own up to their own words.

Gahrie said...

The gay rights crowd is terrified of finding out that homosexuality is the result of some easily corrected genetic defect.

buffpilot said...

gahrie,

That is something the gay rights crowd is fundamentally terrified about. If there is a 'Gay gene", even if only turned on with certain environmental situations, that gene can be tested for. And if it can be tested for it can be chosen to be aborted or not used for fertilization just likes Downs syndrome. If there is no 'gay geme' then being Gay is a lifestyle choice not something that they are born with and so could be "cured". A huge problem for the entire gay culture.

And the Luddites are everywhere.

Hamsun56 said...

But shouldn't we want to know the truth?

I agree. We need to understand the RAMifications of this.

Lawyapalooza said...

Gahrie,
What is your basis for claiming that "the gay rights crowd" (whatever that is) is terrified of a determination that homosexuality has a genetic basis? We certainly are tired of the typical "it's a choice" idiocy.

The problem with your response is that you consider a genetic basis a "defect", and most GLBT people do not agree with that. We agree that we are born different, and that in many respects we have a harder go of it, but we would not change who we are.

Any genetic deviation from the majority could be considered a defect. Would you support research into eliminating left handedness? Since we still have a huge racial gap, should we explore the genetics of skin color to make us a bunch of happy whities? Actually, since most anthropologic evidence suggest that our ancestors were black, maybe we should root out the gentic deviation that made people white-- God knows the skin cancer rate would drop if those mutants were weeded out before birth.

What "the gay rights crowd" wants is to be treated with fairness and respect. To the extent that a gene is someday identified to correlate with homosexuality, fairness and respect dictates not changing people. As younger generations grow up in a more tolerant environment, perhaps these conversations will become a mere scientific curiosity rather than a threat to wipe out a people.

The Drill SGT said...

I think the real irony is in the penultimate sentence. The prospect of parents’ eventually being able to choose not to have children who would become gay is a real concern for the future, Dr. Wolpe said.

The real issue will be that this touches the "third rail" of progressive politics: Abortion.

1. The Gay community keeps saying that gayness must be genetic, e.g. 5-10% of the population.

2. Sheep farmers say, this is real money

3. Researchers will eventually discover the genes, develop pre-natal tests, and gene therapies.

4. When this research ultimately crosses over into people, as it will, given the importance and incentives, does one doubt that;

5. parents will want to know the gender alignment of fetuses, and then either chose to treat or abort the fetus?

6. Hence the pro-choice community will need to say, it's a "woman's right to chose, except when...."

catch 22 comes to the abortion debate.

Anonymous said...

As a "scientist" and a member of the "gay rights crowd", I can assure you that it's only a matter of time before stupidity is revealed to be an easily corrected genetic defect

Mike said...

Ann said: "That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist..."

To me it's more akin to the "Frankenfood" nutjobs.

Nataraj said...

Gahrie said...
The gay rights crowd is terrified of finding out that homosexuality is the result of some easily corrected genetic defect.

There, exactly, is what concerns people who may be affected. It is the certainty that homosexuality is a "defect" that should be "corrected". I'm left-handed, and my 2nd grade teacher was going to tie my hand behind my desk to "cure" me of it (until my mom got wind of it). There is no doubt in my mind that scientists will isolate the gene sequence that makes me a lefty. But should it be "corrected"? Should science "cure" me? Just because science CAN do a thing doesn't mean they should. But I'd bet money that MANY people think homosexuals should be cured, right Gahrie? Ponder the slope...

Anonymous said...

Likewise, the "God hates fags!" crowd is terrified of finding out that stupidity is the result of some uncorrectable genetic defect.

Anonymous said...

The obvious irony is that the same type of people who throw a fit over the possibility of an end to homosexuality also are gung ho for abortion. The close term threat is that the genes for homosexuality will be determined and many parents will opt to abort as many do the developmentally disabled. That will produce some fun policy fights.

I doubt we will end homosexuality because all the the studies I've seen imply that it is a combination of nature and nurture. Twin studies show that genetics seem to give a predisposition but its not the same as traits such as blue eyes. You get blue eyes or you don't while with homosexuality you get a maybe.

Meanwhile much of the anecdotal evidence I've seen myself says that nurture can play a big part especially with women whose sexuality seems intrinsically more malleable. One place I worked was all straight. A lesbian came to work there and within six months 4 out of 6 women were in lesbian relationships. I kid you not. I didn't stay long enough to see the long term effects but would guess that many of those "conversions" were temporary.

Frankly I see the people in this story as similar to those deaf people in the news who would choose to ensure that their child was deaf so as to be the same as the parents. Yes, you can have a fine life either way but wanting your child to have such a condition says much about your own narcissism. Being gay is like being a little person in a way. Yes you have social acceptance, or at least toleration, but the simple fact of being a rarity makes certain that you will have a variety of social barriers to overcome. Why would you want that for your kid if you had a choice in the matter?

rightwingprof said...

You realize that this whole thing was a PETA stunt, don't you?

Anonymous said...

The gay rights activist in me has no problem with this kind of research. I think its interesting and useful for better understanding human sexuality as well as demonstrating that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon across many animal species.

The animal rights activist in me is less impressed with this kind of research, which kills a lot of animals in service of a public interest that seems closer to testing cosmetics than curing cancer.

Pogo said...

Re: "the result of some easily corrected genetic defect."

Or the more worrisome (but modifiable) feminizing and demasculinizing effects caused by endocrine disruptors in widely used farm herbicides like atrazine. The DNA studies are barking up the wrong tree. (Or is it 'Baa-ing' up...?)

Feminizing Frogs

Assessing the Impact of Endocrine Disruptors on Environmental and Public Health
"Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor that chemically castrates and feminizes amphibians and other wildlife. These effects are the result of the induction of aromatase, the enzyme that converts androgens to estrogens, and this mechanism has been confirmed in all vertebrate classes examined (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, including humans)."

Karl said...

Another case of "progressives adopt tactics/tone of religious right" can be found in Michael Crichton's excellent essay "Environmentalism as Religion".

-kd

Simon said...

Just a thought: does it follow that everything that is biologically-compelled is genetic? What if it isn't as simple as a gay gene that can be easily detected; or even, what if it isn't in the genes at all - what if it's chemical, if it's just the result of neurobiology? Or perhaps some combination - suppose that what we are dimly grasping to discover is that homosexuality is actually the result of neurobiology, but a person is predisposed towards that neurobiology by genetic factors spread throughout the gene sequence?

If it isn't as simple as a gene sequence, the abortion scenario surely doesn't even come into play. Compare depression, for example, which is thought by some scientists to be a psychological manifestation of a neurobiological process in the brain (there's a fascinating discussion of this in Peter Kramer's book Against Depression). There are pharmacological tools that can leaven depression, but no one has yet cured depression. And depression is something that we can all agree is an "ailment" in need of a "cure"! Homosexuality, surely, is sui genetis.

Palladian said...

"The gay rights crowd is terrified of finding out that homosexuality is the result of some easily corrected genetic defect."

Spoken like someone who is as ignorant of science as the so-called "progressives". Your use of the word "correct" reminds me of the scene in "The Shining" where the maître d' is talking about his naughty daughters:

"My girls, sir... they didn't care for the Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a pack of matches and tried to burn it down. But I... corrected them, sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty I... corrected her."

"Corrected" in this case meant "chopped up with an ax". Perhaps you should be just as terrified that someone will come along and figure out which genes cause your "defects" and "correct" them.

Unfortunately, the so-called progressives have, for the most part, become much more hostile to science than almost anyone on the ideological spectrum. This extends to nearly every area of inquiry, from space travel to crop science. This hostility seems to be simply a continuation of the ancient superstitious mode of dealing with the world, except it's completely un-moored from any cohesive religious doctrine. This completely free-associative miasma of half-baked animism, misguided romanticism, paranoia and superstition is dangerously clouding the vision of more and more people, creating a stumbling mass of ignorance, united by nothing other than overlapping delusions, the likes of which the world has never before seen. The "progressives" have to decide: do they truly have the stomachs to be members of the "reality-based community"? Do they truly believe in reason and the methods of science or were they just using that as a bludgeon against religion? Because if they're not (and in most cases they're not), then they're just another flavor of romantic conservatives and they need to accept that and relinquish the label "progressive" now and forever.

Tip of the day: disregard the opinions of anyone who uses the term "Mother Nature".

Sean E said...

"The animal rights activist in me is less impressed with this kind of research, which kills a lot of animals in service of a public interest that seems closer to testing cosmetics than curing cancer."

Most domesticated animals are raised solely to be slaughtered once they reach a certain age. As long as they are treated humanely, why should we care if they are killed for research rather than for food?

Anonymous said...

Ah, good point Pogo. And don't forget the Pathogenic theory of homosexuality.

"The Pathogenic hypothesis of homosexuality, or the gay germ hypothesis, argues that a pathogenic cause of homosexuality is pointed to by the reduced number of offspring produced by homosexuality, meaning evolution would strongly select against it, by the low identical twin concordance for homosexuality, which further argues against genetic influence, and by analogue with diseases that alter brain structure and behavior, such as narcolepsy, which are suspected of being triggered by viral infection. It is inaccurate to refer to this hypothesis as a theory, as a theory represents a well-tested and verified hypothesis that has withstood all currently possibly scientific scrutiny and inquiry."

Whatever the case we will find the cause eventually and shortly after that find a "cure." This is why I think Ann missed the boat on this story. Yes, she's right that the scientist honestly just cares about sheep and is a scape goat for this larger issue. But the reality is that this is a discussion that our culture is going to have to have sooner or later.

The way science is moving probably sooner.

Sean said...

It's funny when gay rights activists sound like religious fundamentalists and right-to-lifers, but it isn't any funnier than the way that most law professors (I don't include Prof. Althouse, which is why she is worth reading when most of her colleagues aren't) are all gung ho for executive privilege when we have a Democratic president and a Republican congress, and then do a complete about face when the situation is reversed.

Anonymous said...

"The animal rights activist in me is less impressed with this kind of research, which kills a lot of animals in service of a public interest that seems closer to testing cosmetics than curing cancer."

One's view of which end of the spectrum of research priority all this lies will be heavily influenced by whether or not you are a sheep farmer who depends on rampantly heterosexual rams to impregnate his or her ewes.

Although 'rent-a-ram' (where you are guaranteed a regular tupper) is an option, this is generally only available for single breeds and less so for the average 'leg-at-each-corner-and-baas-a-lot' flock.

So with about a one in twelve chance of buying a ram that won't breed with ewes, it's understandable that sheep farmers, operating as most of them do at very low margins, are keen not to purchase a ram that won't tup. (There's no 'tup or return' policy of course.)

Not only is there the capital cost of the animal - several hundreds of pounds - but also there is the hassle of waiting to find out if he will keep his side of the bargain. Some farmers use paint dye on the under-belly of the ram so they can note which sheep are being mounted.

If the beast then lets you down - from your if not his - perspective that's lost money and you start all over hoping to beat the odds this time.

Granted all this is not big outside of the world of sheep farming, but it's pretty sizeable within it.

About eighteen sheep a year die in the cause of this science. I appreciate that for PETA that's eighteen too many, but it hardly compares with the several millions slaughtered for food annually.

Nor does it in any way compare with PETA supporter Peter Singer's statements on the joys of infanticide, euthenasia and the transplantation of organs from people with severe disabilities into sick animals.

Do we know who is sponsoring this research? If it were an organisation called something like 'Faggots'R'Firewood' I would then begin to have some concern about the intent behind it all. But in the likely absence of such a factor, let the man help save sheep farmers from wasting their money.

Anonymous said...

Sean & Peter: I'm not saying that this was a good choice for PETA to attack, just that I think there's more to object to here if your concern is animal rights than gay rights. As per your comments about most animals living only to be slaughtered for meat, I don't think animals should be killed for food either. But there is a general sense among many people that it is more justifiable to kill animals for some purposes (food, research into curing life-threatening illnesses) than others (testing cosmetics, killing for sport). I think killing animals to learn about human sexuality or to make the sheep breeding industry more efficient or profitable falls among the less justifiable purposes.

in_the_middle said...

Gross generalizations (including slimy and uneducated use of the term 'defect', which comes close to crossing the line) don't help anyone's argument here other than to prove ignorance and bigotry.

Perhaps Ann had you included Ms. Navratilova's quote "How does this help humanity" might frame the discussion in a fairer, less broad b "when gay rights activists sound like fundamentalists" light.

Perhaps it's good for the livestock breeders (although a 8% "failure to breed" rate in my guesstimation due to sexuality is much lower than that of say disease).

It's a slippery slope but I don't think many people are saying 'stop the studies', just wondering what the point is, even if it will make the fundie's argument that it's a 'choice' (interestingly alluded to in your use of the word 'preference') go away.

Pogo said...

Frogs are "the canaries in the coalmine" for human disease. Human survival depends on human sexuality (true for all animals, of course). Frog survival has been declining worldwide because of sexual disorders, possibly related to herbicides. It's quite possible we face the same fate .

So some of this research is about actual species survival, which is no small matter.

Anonymous said...

Gahrie: The gay rights crowd is terrified of finding out that homosexuality is the result of some easily corrected genetic defect.

buffpilot: If there is a 'Gay gene", even if only turned on with certain environmental situations, that gene can be tested for. And if it can be tested for it can be chosen to be aborted or not used for fertilization just likes Downs syndrome. If there is no 'gay geme' then being Gay is a lifestyle choice not something that they are born with and so could be "cured". A huge problem for the entire gay culture.

These statements make pretty clear that you two don't know much about "gay culture" or the "gay rights crowd" let alone "modern science".

Anyone who has been gay or has known a gay person well understands that homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is not a "lifestyle choice". Gay people have free will to choose whether or not to ever have sex just like straight people do, but they don't choose to be gay or straight. Environmental factors may have an effect on how a genetic predisposition plays out, but again, the environmental factors at play (generally in utero or at an early age) are not sufficiently within a person's conscious control to make sexuality a "choice" based on free will.

The gay reaction to this research is not based on fear of understanding the scientific basis for sexuality. Gay people are generally very supportive of such efforts. The reaction is based on bad reporting and fears generated from misconstruing a reference to eugenics, something that is not a fear unique to gays and lesbians.

Its notable that the article relies for the gay perspective on a tennis star and a PETA representative who happens to be gay rather than any of the many established gay rights organizations that would usually be quoted in this context.

price said...

Can we call a moratorium on the concept of a "slippery slope"? The metaphor doesn't exist outside of op-eds and blog comments.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has been gay or has known a gay person well understands that homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is not a "lifestyle choice".

You're exactly right except for all the times that you are wrong. I've noticed that much of the gay community has become very intolerant and works to exclude lots of people as undesirable. Too often it seems as though bisexuals and transgenders cramp your style. Also militant is the "We don't have a choice." argument to an extent that you get nasty about it. I'm certainly open to the possibility that some people don't have a choice and that it isn't psychological but have met too many people where that isn't the case, especially among women, to accept that as the absolute standard. Among men I've met any number guys who are textbook, before the textbooks were changed, cases of molestation, domineering mothers, etc. I suspect that my experience is common. You do your cause a disservice when you are nasty to people for believing their own eyes.

Anonymous said...

"Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte."

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

...Pastor Martin Niemoller [Probably, though attribution uncertain and contested. Many variants over the years. The version that first surfaced in America left out the first stanza. Wonder why?]

That do for a metaphorical slippery slope?

Simon said...

Price - not really, because it isn't always a logical fallacy.

Joseph,
"Anyone who has been gay or has known a gay person well understands that homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is not a lifestyle choice."

Shouldn't that read "anyone who IS gay," not "[a]nyone who has been gay"? "Has been" implies "and is no longer," i.e. that people cease to be. If people "don't choose to be gay or straight," if it is an innate characteristic, how can someone cease to be gay?

Karl said...

"price said...

Can we call a moratorium on the concept of a "slippery slope"? The metaphor doesn't exist outside of op-eds and blog comments."

You forgot Supreme Court opinions.

-kd

Fatmouse said...

Humor me here, a bit of stream of consciousness thinking.

If there is a way to choose if your child is gay or straight, then gay people will cease to exist in developed countries within two generations. My random reasoning goes like this:

From a strictly Darwinian perspective, homosexuality is a defect. Barring artificial insemination or social pressure to fake being straight, the genetic line is stopped dead in its tracks.

Most people that decide to have children also want grandchildren, and as such would want offspring that are naturally inclined to reproduce. Thus, for every oddity like Moby who would make their straight kid gay, a hundred would do the opposite.

As this goes on, the current homosexual population would shrink from its current ~3% to, say, 1%. That's where the second part of the equation comes in.

If you have children, you generally hope that they'll grow up and find someone to love, right? Well if your child is straight, he theoretically has 50% of his age group to find a mate in. A gay child, on the other hand, has only the ~3% pool to look in. As this pool quickly shrinks due to the aforementioned desire for grandchildren, it will become harder and harder for gay people to find an appropriate significant other. Even parents who might want a gay child will decide to make them straight to make it easier for them to find someone. This results in fewer homosexuals, forming a vicious circle.

In places like China with one-child policies, this will take place much faster - if you're putting all your eggs (pun intended) in one genetic basket, you want to make damn sure it keeps on going long after you're gone.

Elizabeth said...

I reject the notion that our choices are binary, to approve of any and all scientific research or to be hostile to it. Medical and scientific research should proceed apace with debate over the ethics of the research and its applications. This is done on a professional level as well as a popular level. The popular level is in danger of falling prey to naive or fundamentalist thinking, while the professional is vulnerable to being divorced from social and moral dimensions. Nonetheless, so long as the ethical discussions are going on, we continue making scientific progress and correcting its excesses. Gay people may or may not be overreacting to this particular example, but we have past experiences with abusive so-called therapies to "correct" our "defect" to keep us alert to the prospect of more abuse.

Revenant said...

That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist, but hostility to scientific research comes from the progressive side when the question is the source of sexual preference.

The religious right gets a lot of bad press, but the progressive left is at least as anti-science as they are.

It amuses me that so many of the same people who sneer at Bush's ban on federal funding for stem cell research turn right around and applaud attempts to ban animal testing.

Anonymous said...

Gerald: You do your cause a disservice when you are nasty to people for believing their own eyes.

First, sexuality is complicated. I did not mean to imply that it is static or that everyone must be either gay or straight or that there is no variation. But I do stand by my statement that the overwhelming majority of the human population does not choose their sexual orientation (whether gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, etc.). They may choose to fight it or lie about it or experiment, but their base sexual orientation is determined by factors, some of which may be environmental, that are outside our conscious control. In relaying your anecdotal evidence that sexuality is a choice, you confuse environment/nurture with opportunity.

Second, perhaps I was too "nasty" in my response and I apologize if I made gay rights advocates look bad. But as a self-respecting gay person I have a hard time accepting shame for being nasty from someone who in comments above says that gay rights advocates are "gung ho for abortion" (no one is gung ho for abortion, least of all gay people who almost never have abortions), suggests that parents will abort gay children if they have the chance, wonders why anyone would have a gay kid if they had a choice in the matter, and refers to homosexuality as a disorder in need of a cure. Now that's nasty.

Anonymous said...

We ALL have birth defects. And homosexuality certainly is a birth defect as it goes against reproduction. It is a birth defect.

Big deal! So are my webbed toes and my ADD. So is your color blindness or your being tone deaf.

But as a Christian, murdering a child for any reason is anathma to me. And personally, I would be much happier to have a gay son or daughter than one with other birth defects like Downs Syndrome. The former can be adjusted to while the latter limits a person their whole life.

Trey

Pogo said...

Well done, Palladas.
I, too, fail to understand the specious claims that the "slippery slope" metaphor "doesn't exist outside of op-eds and blog comments." In fact, it comes forth wherever someone can take an inch, bend a rule, obtain a favor, get special treatment, undermine tradition, exploit naivete', profit dishonestly, or shirk with impunity.

Like entropy and dust bunnies, it requires a constant vigilance, not a Pollyannish blindness.

Thorley Winston said...

That do for a metaphorical slippery slope?

Seriously invoking the “First They Came for . . .” poem as an argument or as a response to an argument has to be one of the most tired clichés of internet debates. At least try to find something more original.

Palladian said...

There is no such thing as the "gay community". It's as much of a fiction (for those who embrace the notion as well as those who rail against it) as the "international Jewish conspiracy" or "liberals". I understand the convenience of the compartment, but it causes people to make too many errors of generalization.

ed said...

Hmmm.

@ jult52

In what possible way are "Luddites" **Right-Wing**? The two are completely unrelated in every single possible way.

Or is this some rather absurd usage where modern American political conservatives are being equated to 17th century artisans trying to "conserve" their craft?

Tell me it's not the latter as that's just complete and utter nonsense

RebeccaH said...

Whatever the results of the study, shouldn't we also remember that, gay or straight, we are in fact human beings, not sheep?

CatoRenasci said...

I don't know what the "gay rights crowd" is or is not terrified of, but it seems to me that if there is a gene that determines homosexuality, and either abortion remains widely available or gene therapy to change it is available, we will ultimately see a significant reduction in the amount of homosexuality.

After all, the largest majority of those who have children are straight and most of those -- even those who are perfectly OK with other people's children being gay -- would prefer their children be straight. Significant number of those people might well avail themselves of genetic theraby or abortion, reducing the number of children born with the gene.

On the other hand, if homosexuality is not primarily genetic, it becomes a lifestyle choice which is subject to society's general moral standards as is any other lifestyle choice.

Unfortunately, I think the vast bulk of the progress that homosexuals have made in societal acceptance over the past 25 years or so is predicated on the notion that "gay people are born that way" -- that is one should not discriminate against them because they "can't help it." But if homosexuals can help it, long term there is no reason society could not choose -- as it has over the past 2000 years or so -- to repress homosexuality.

All in all, I think the prospects long term for homosexuality being fully accepted are grim, despite the apparent progress in the current period.

Jim said...

jult52 writes, at the top:

Leftist anti-progressivism has just as deep roots as Right-wing anti-progressivism (see the Luddites).

That's because they **are** the same roots -- not mere "anti-progressivism", but anti_enlightenment.

Daryl Herbert said...

The gay rights activist in me has no problem with this kind of research

I think Ann wants to know how you feel.

(sorry!)

Matthew said...

Which religious fundamentalists are you talking about? The only issue where Catholics are against a scientific procedure is where it harms human life, namely abortion, and by extension the creation and destruction of embryos for experimentation. I don't see how holding a moral opinion is any more anti-science than science can be said to be anti-moral.

Geoff said...

Mark Steyn posted this letter from the author of the study of the study in question (Jim Newman). Unfortunately, the hyperlinks didn't carry over:

For those who don't want to read it, the summary is that the new reports don't match reality.

BEGIN QUOTE:

From Jim Newman from Oregon Health & Science University, the institution referenced in your article on Sunday.

Of course we realize that your article is based on the recent Sunday Times piece. However what you may not know is that the Times article was literally filled with errors - many of which were repeated in your commentary

I think it's also helpful to note that the campaign against this research is based on untruths. It was started by PETA - the animal rights group - six months ago. (a fact that was fairly well hidden in the Times article) Here's a link to one of PETA's initial false postings for the research.

The reality is that the public is being "duped" by an animal rights group with an agenda. To meet their goal of criticizing the research, PETA crossed the line and started making baseless assertions here and here.

As for the science fiction about this research, some of which was unfortunately repeated in your article, here's the reality.

- The universities have never tried to turn "gay" sheep straight. Years ago, researchers were interested in learning whether hormones played a role in determining partner preference. They boosted the hormone (testosterone) in pregnant sheep. However the research was inconclusive. If it provided conclusive results, the sheep would have preferred a same-sex partner - not an opposite sex partner. NOTE: Also - human sexuality is much more complex than that of rams - so we don't refer to the animals as gay - that reference was created by the press.

- Based on this former point - the Times assertion, that we have had "success" is wrong. It was the opposite of what was studied and the study was to test of a hypothesis, not a seach for a "cure" (a truly offensive suggestion)

- Martina's criticism is based on PETA's false claims about this research. While we respect her right to comment, we are of course concerned that her opinions are based on many of the major factual errors about this research. These errors can be confirmed by reading the published studies in respected medical journals.

- It's also important to note that this research is now almost 5 years old. We did international news stories on it then (in 2002). However, now that PETA has falsely called us "homophobes trying to cure homosexuality," it is receiving attention as if the research were new. Another major deception by PETA.


While I don't want to overwhelm you with info - I wanted to show you just how error-filled the Times piece was, Here's a full list of their mistakes:

- The subtitle of the article says that the "experiments claim to cure homosexuality." This is not true. A review of the published data proves this point

- The first line of the article claims that scientists are trying to change the sexuality of gay sheep. This is not true and in fact a major factual error. This is in reference to the test of a hypothesis, which is what all science does, where the scientists wanted to determine whether a change in biology during development of sheep influenced partner preference In fact, the scientists were trying to see if limited androgen resulted in same-partner preference (animals that preferred same-sex mates) the exact opposite of what the reporter states.

- Therefore the reporter's following statement: "The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes." is false. The reporter misunderstood the research and reported the opposite of what was investigated (again, in testing a hypothesis)

- This statement "Experts say that, in theory, the "straightening" procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch." These experts were not us was left unattributed, so the reader has no idea who made this bleak suggestion. This statement shows a clear lack of understanding of the research and frankly a simplified, science fiction statement that has no basis in reality.

- The story states that the scientists have had "considerable success" in changing animal's sexual preference. This is not true.

- The article claims that there is great public outcry. This is not true. Our university has never been contacted by any lesbian/gay group that is opposed to this research. In fact we have communicated with such groups that support the research because it validates their view that the research demonstrates a biological connection to homosexuality. As for Martina Navratilova's letter (which we never received by the way), it came from PETA and the phone numbers listed in the letter to reach the tennis star are actually PETA phone numbers. Here's a link to the OSU letter as PETA's link to the OHSU letter does not work.

- The article says the research is being conducted to improve the productivity of herds. This is not true. It is a basic science study merely aimed at understanding the role of brain structure and chemicals involved in partner preference. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health and not being done for farming purposes.

- The article says electronic sensors are being implanted in animals' brains by cutting the sheep brains open. This is not true. A review of all of the published research will show that this is not part of the research.

- The article says that the study is currently under peer-review. This is not true. This statement in the article suggests that there is an ongoing scientific question about the validity of this research - there is not. Prior to funding by the NIH, the research was peer reviewed and approved for funding. This is a very significant distinction.

- The article repeatedly suggests that the research is being done to cure homosexuality. This is not true. This has never been suggested and in fact the researchers have proactively explained for years that this is a basic science study. The only people suggesting a human use for this research is PETA and that claim came in the summer of 2006 (4 years after the research was announced).. Clearly PETA is attacking this research because it involves animals.

- The reader does not find out until page 2 of the article that PETA is the pressure group mentioned in the lead. It is curious for the reporter to bury such an important detail.

I hope that helps.

Jim Newman
Oregon Health & Science University
Portland, Oregon

Anonymous said...

"At least try to find something more original."

Snow slides off cedars
Falling on head of thorley.
Martin Neimoller smiling.

...that do you? A haiku wot i wrote.

Anonymous said...

About eighteen sheep a year die in the cause of this science. I appreciate that for PETA that's eighteen too many,

Given that PETA has deliberately killed over 14,000 animals at their own headquarters over a recent 8.5-year span, I'd say they ought to suck it up and let these researchers have their 18.

Mike said...

Revenant said: "The religious right gets a lot of bad press, but the progressive left is at least as anti-science as they are."

More, in my opinion. Much more.

Thanks for the Crichton link, Karl.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction to this story was that these gay folk are overreacting. Afterall, I have some faith in human decency and integrity. People don't want human reproduction to be about breeding out "undesirable" characteristics, be it eye color, skin color, sex, or sexual orientation. Right?

After reading some appalling comments, I have to admit to being more sympathetic to the people raising hay about the applications for this research. If commenters here are at all representative of the general population, people are all too eager to show off their sick fascination with eugenics and how we can rid ourselves of those poor, pathetic homos in just a few generations. Even faster in China!

Homosexuality is not a birth defect or disease in need of curing. It is a natural variation which has been shown to exist throughout history and across many species, which seems either evidence that God thinks there's some use for us or that homosexual animals have played an evolutionary role in helping their species thrive. Far from being "against reproduction" homosexuals can and do bear children. They also adopt children that straight people abandon. Together with childless straight people they also support society in ways that parents find difficult to manage.

Being homosexual is not some terrible burden for a child to bear. It has its difficulties and it has its benefits, just like being a woman or being a racial/ethnic/religious minority. A person of integrity should not want to use eugenics to breed us out of existence.

Anonymous said...

"We're all individuals!"

BRIAN:
Look. You've got it all wrong.
You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!
FOLLOWERS:
Yes, we're all individuals!
BRIAN:
You're all different!
FOLLOWERS:
Yes, we are all different!
DENNIS:
I'm not.

buffpilot said...

The Gay community will be in big trouble, as so logically pointed out by fatmouse and others, if technology reveals a 'gay gene.' I have nothing against being gay, don't really care one way or another, but the facts are if that gene is found there will be lots of people who will do gene therapy, abort, or not pick that fertilized egg for implantation. That's just the facts and all the huffing and puffing will not change it.

You can expect a LOT of changes in the way we reproduce as high-speed computers, cheap DNA sequencing, and bio-tech advances to the point were we can get the designer babies. I can't imagine that most of the current know genetic diseases (Down Syndrome etc) won't be easily detectable and either curable in vitro or will be aborted in less than 10 years. As our knowledge gets more and more advanced we will get more options. Would you not select a smart child over a random one? Or straight? or tall? or not pre-disposed to carrying weight? or with 20/10 eyesight?

I have children, but if I could have paid money to ensure my kids would have these things I would have paid. So would most. I would expect almost all to get the test to weed out the bad, and once you pull the material to do the important tests (to avoid the bad) its just a short jump to do the tests to select for the 'good'. And can’t everyone see the government stepping in to make this mandatory so as to avoid the costs of expensive malformed babies? Especially with the government running universal health care? Is there any doubt??

Expect to see the first adopters to be the rich and probably done overseas considering the Luddites on both the left and right.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who has been gay or has known a gay person well understands that homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is not a lifestyle choice."

Actually, not true at all. Whether one is attracted to members of one's own sex is entirely irrelevant to whether one lives the lifestyle. One can, after all, live a celibate lifestyle while being either hetero- or homosexual. Similarly, while one can argue that pedophilia is a "natural" inclination -- after all, do pedophiles want to be attracted to children? -- we don't put people in jail for that, we put them in jail for attempting to act on that attraction.

Hence, calling it "biological" or "genetic" is really beside the point.

Daryl Herbert said...

Can we call a moratorium on the concept of a "slippery slope"? The metaphor doesn't exist outside of op-eds and blog comments.

Utter foolishness, debunked by no less than Eugene Volokh. (follow the link and search for the word "slippery" to find a bunch of law review articles he's penned on this)

When you can rebut those arguments, you'll have something interesting to say. Just getting up and saying there is no such thing as a slippery slope (because in this case its existence is inconvenient to you) is baloney.

Revenant said...

And homosexuality certainly is a birth defect as it goes against reproduction. It is a birth defect.

That's not necessarily true, TMink. Most female honeybees are born sterile, but that's not a birth defect. The sterile honeybees work for the benefit of the one female bee that CAN breed -- the queen. It may be that homosexuality has a similarly useful adaptive purpose for your family, or for the species as a whole.

Of course, it is also possible that homosexuality used to serve some purpose and now no longer does. For example, there used to be good reason to want children even if you were homosexual, because your children were your labor force. A homosexual would stop having kids when he had enough to meet his needs, whereas a heterosexual, who has sex for pleasure, would likely impregnate his wife too many times and produce too many children, reducing all of their chances for survival. So homosexuality might have resulted in *more* survival success, thousands of years ago, and only recently shifted to lower survival chances now. Whether that would make it a "defect" today is an open question.

All this is purely speculative, of course -- I just wanted to point out that while homosexuality is in my opinion probably a birth defect, it isn't guaranteed to be one. The question *I'm* curious about is whether atheism's a birth defect. :)

Daryl Herbert said...

Whatever the results of the study, shouldn't we also remember that, gay or straight, we are in fact human beings, not sheep?

If so much of who we are is not a choice, but is hardwired into us, are we not sheep?

Roux said...

What if they could find the "gay gene" and some people would abort babies that had it. Do you think that make gay activists Pro-life?

Menlo Bob said...

Am I wrong to wonder if this has implications for the beastialty crowd? After all, if said sheep expresses a preference it might lead to legislation making non-consenual sheep sex illegal--oh wait, it already is illegal? Such intolerance.

Michael McNeil said...

Revenant wrote:
(Quoting Ann:) That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist, but hostility to scientific research comes from the progressive side when the question is the source of sexual preference. (End quote)

The religious right gets a lot of bad press, but the progressive left is at least as anti-science as they are.

It amuses me that so many of the same people who sneer at Bush's ban on federal funding for stem cell research turn right around and applaud attempts to ban animal testing.



The left's antiscience bias doesn't just appear in the case of sexual preference, but is exhibited in precisely the same area in which Bush has been so heavily criticized and even ridiculed: embryonic stem cell research.

The British scientific journal Nature reports that Greenpeace (not exactly noted as a conservative bastion) just got a German court to knock out a patent that researchers had been awarded, which anticipates regrowing nervous tissue from stem cells — clearly an important medical development — because the cell line (originating before 2002, as specifically allowed by German law) may have derived from the destruction of an embryo.

This is basically exactly the same policy, instigated by Greenpeace and promulgated via judicial fiat, as the much-maligned denial of Federal financing by the Bush administration with regard to embryonic stem cell research — except that in the administration's case, the government is merely withholding Federal funding, not demolishing researchers' patents on which their further progress depends. The researcher's work — despite being supported by a grant from the German ministry of research — was even labeled by the court as “contrary to public order”; a black mark the scientist will now have to live down.

The story was reported in the December 14, 2006 issue of Nature (vol. 444, p. 799), in a news item by Alison Abbott titled “Stem-cell technique ‘contrary to public order.’” Since the piece is unavailable except via subscription, for everybody's convenience here's how it reads:

MUNICH
A German court has revoked a patent on a method for generating a class of human embryonic stem cells. The 5 December ruling is seen as yet another setback for stem-cell research in a nation where it is already constrained by tight regulation.

The federal patent court in Munich heard a charge brought by Greenpeace that the patent, held by University of Bonn neurobiologist Oliver Brüstle on a way to generate precursor nerve cells, was ‘contrary to public order’. The environmental group argued that the derivation of the cell lines in question had involved the destruction of human embryos, which breaches guidelines issued by the German Patent Office. The judge, Eva-Maria Schermer, quickly ruled in Greenpeace's favour — much to the dismay of Brüstle, who arrived in court with three bodyguards to protect him.

The ruling will become binding in a few weeks. It was made in the wake of a public call by Germany's largest research agency, the DFG, for a relaxation of stem-cell laws, which are stricter than those of many other European countries (see Nature 444, 253; 2006).

Brüstle says he will now appeal to the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe, arguing that the ruling goes beyond German law, which allows the use of human embryonic stem-cells lines created before 2002. Just last year, the ministry of research awarded Brüstle a grant for work with human embryonic stem cells derived before 2002. He points out that the ministry stipulates that its grantees should attempt to patent inventions from projects that it supports.

But a ruling by the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe could take years. “In the meantime, it is very hard on me and my family,” Brustle [sic] says, “particularly for kids whose father has been accused of doing things so bad they are considered to be against public order.”

(End quote.)

AwaWiYe said...

>Likewise, the "God hates fags!" crowd is terrified of finding out that stupidity is the result of some uncorrectable genetic defect.

Probably not. The "God hates fags!" crowd would have to square their morality (no abortion) with their personal preferences (no gay or stupid children, assuming they even care about stupidity) - not a proper moral dilemma, but everyone has their skeletons when morality conflicts with desires.

First, remove the emotion and consider: suppose an increased likelihood of characteristic "X" can be detected during gestation, and that abortion is legal. It doesn't matter whether "X" is Downs, basic stupidity, homosexuality, or a heart defect.

The "God hates fags!" crowd should, on principle, accept God's trial chosen for them to face and persevere. It is the people for whom a child might be in some way inconvenient and for whom abortion is non-objectionable that will seek abortions. And why would anyone else who isn't opposed to abortion care about the reasons for having one?

exhelodrvr said...

Joseph Hovsep,

"I think killing animals to learn about human sexuality or to make the sheep breeding industry more efficient or profitable falls among the less justifiable purposes."

You do realize that making the sheep breeding industry more efficient will result in fewer animals being killed, right?

Palladian said...

I'm lookin' for a good shepherd... baa, baa...

Anonymous said...

Thorley wrote:

"Seriously invoking the “First They Came for . . .” poem as an argument or as a response to an argument has to be one of the most tired clichés of internet debates."

I strongly suspect you only find it tiresome because you've tired of your failures at finding an effective counterargument.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

Matt Drachenberg said...

The problem with your response is that you consider a genetic basis a "defect", and most GLBT people do not agree with that. We agree that we are born different, and that in many respects we have a harder go of it, but we would not change who we are.

Well, my wife was born with a genetic defect (we just found out about) that will eventually kill her. She and I certainly consider it a defect. Yippee! She was "born different". This only means that I will be a widower much sooner than either of us would like.

Anonymous said...

A person of integrity should not want to use eugenics to breed us out of existence.

A person of integrity should not want to use eugenics for any scheme to alter future generations.

There is surely an evolutionary logic to the existence of homosexuality in human societies. I don't know what it is, but I doubt it can be "switched off" by genetic manipulation, and I'm fairly certain that any effort to do so would have big unintended consequences.

Not everything that distinguishes people and thus creates minorities is necessarily a flaw, especially when that difference doesn't immediately implicate survival. Something like homosexuality might be an individual adaptation, or a species-wide adaptation, that brings benefits. I'm not saying we can't know what those benefits are. But I'm casting doubt on our ability to know it, even through the rigors of science. We carry things from the past into the future; we don't know which things encoded in our genes we're going to need for what may come.

Mike said...

Per Geoff's post: Are journalists stupid because they are born that way or does the environment of J school make them stupid? I think I'll prepare a grant proposal. It shouldn't be necessary to kill more than a few journalists to learn the answer.

MadisonMan had it right in the 2nd post in this discussion.

Revenant said...

You do realize that making the sheep breeding industry more efficient will result in fewer animals being killed, right?

Not only that, but it will result in a smaller overall number of sheep being raised, with the correspondingly lesser impact on the environment.

Daryl Herbert said...

Gay people may or may not be overreacting to this particular example, but we have past experiences with abusive so-called therapies to "correct" our "defect" to keep us alert to the prospect of more abuse.

In what way are they abusive? (I do agree that they are)

Is it just because they're making false promises? If the therapies worked, would it still be "abusive" for an adult to go in of his own free will?

If we are going to allow transsexuals to change from male to female, shouldn't we allow a gay man to transition to being straight if that's his consistent desire?

Bill Dalasio said...

Okay. I know I'm going to get flamed with this question, but I actually am trying to understand people's thinking here. If we assume that homosexuality is genetic and that the condition can be reversed through gene therapy, so what? Who's hurt? The fetus? How so? Not giving birth to gay people doesn't seem to necessarily correlate with intolerance of gay poeple. Are people keeping score or something?

Anonymous said...

You do realize that making the sheep breeding industry more efficient will result in fewer animals being killed, right?

Not only that, but it will result in a smaller overall number of sheep being raised, with the correspondingly lesser impact on the environment.


As far as the sheep are concerned, its a zero-sum game where the they are being conceived for the purpose of being slaughtered... the absolute number is somewhat irrelevant. The environmental impact is one exception, but realistically that would still be minimal.

Scott Free said...

Well, now we know why there are no homosexuals on Star Trek - it takes place in the future.

Anonymous said...

Johnstodder wrote, "There is surely an evolutionary logic to the existence of homosexuality in human societies."

I'm aware of three current theories, although sitting here, drinking, I can only think of two, and of those two, only one interests me; it's called overdominance.

An example of overdominance is the allele in black Africans that confers resistance to malaria when present in one chromosome (heterozygous), but causes sickle cell anemia when present in both (homozygous).

So, the idea is that some allele exists which confers an evolutionary benefit when present in the heterozygote (stronger sperm, for example), and confers homosexuality in the homozygote. This is how a genetic cause of homosexuality could persist in sexually reproducing species.

Anonymous said...

Just a random note, I want to say that the idea of micromanaging your fetus strikes me as, well, tacky. But, yes, people are certainly going to do it.

Second, it would be horrible to be born gay to parents who hate homosexuality and know you're gay before you do.

Anonymous said...

"suggests that parents will abort gay children if they have the chance, wonders why anyone would have a gay kid if they had a choice in the matter, and refers to homosexuality as a disorder in need of a cure. Now that's nasty."

I don't think I did the last one but cop to the others. Again I'm just using my eyes. Science is moving to give parents more and more choices about their children. This is mostly a good thing as it will rid us of intractable problems such as massive differences in IQ that cause such social problems and the heartbreak of developmental disabilities.

The fact that most parents would choose to have a straight child over a gay one is not "nasty" but normal and understandable. The fact that the interim technology will likely be used through abortion is unfortunate and you could probably guess that I'm not a supporter of that usage of the tech. Nevertheless it will happen. The good news is that not long after the ability to jigger the genes will come into play and abortion will no longer be necessary.

I am blond and and have blue eyes. I wouldn't be surprised to see many dark haired/eyed parents select these traits for their offspring. Is this a statement about me as a person?

I urge to gay people to understand that what parents decide to do in the interests of their kids does not have anything to do with you as a person. I myself am an introvert. I fully expect parents to choose to have children that are more gregarious when given the choice and genes that select for extroversion to be chosen by most parents for their kids.

Taking that action is not a statement about me. What I am doesn't enter into it. I don't see the possibility of an end to people who share this characteristic with me to be a personal attack or "nasty."

sonicfrog said...

Maybe this article will help explain the complexity of this issue.

This whole AC/DC Ram thing is a long, long way off from manipulating the development of a fetus in the womb. The fix on the sheep is only temporary, meaning they have to continually inject the brains "BRAINS!!! WE NEED BRAI....." Oh, sorry, got carried away.... to affect the change. One doesn't have to look too far to see the ill effect of extensive hormone treatments "BONDS!!! WE NEED BARRY BON...." Crap, it happened again.... in humans. Attempts to lessen the ravages of menopause in women via estrogen treatment caused an increase in breast cancer. Plus, there is still questions about the exact role genes play in being gay. They still have no clue why identical twins are often not identical when it comes to sexuality. Where one monozygotal twin is gay, the other is straight 22% to 50% of the time, depending on the study.

And if this doesn't convince you not to worry, how 'bout this. You can give chemicals to people that make them do all sorts of things. Check out your nearest Christmas present stealing crank addict (yes this happened to a friend this xmas, his brother playing Grinch). Hell, even I'm not immune! I got drunk once and slept with a GIRL!!! Of, coarse she must have been really drunk to sleep with me :-)

Revenant said...

As far as the sheep are concerned, its a zero-sum game where the they are being conceived for the purpose of being slaughtered... the absolute number is somewhat irrelevant.

I'm really not getting your argument, here. We're killing a small number of sheep now in order to learn how to avoid killing a larger number of sheep later. Where's the downside, to us *or* to sheep in general?

Its a livestock animal, for pity's sake. It wouldn't exist at all if it wasn't delicious.

Simon said...

Matt - I'm sorry to hear that. That's awful.

downtownlad said...

Ann - It's quite offensive for you to declare that gay rights advocates sound like the fundamentalists they deride.

Please provide some evidence.

Does Martina Navitilova speak for the entire gay community? Since when.

Andrew Sullivan spoke about this over a month ago and came out very strongly in favor of this research. I have absolutely no qualms about this research either. So I resent the charge that I am somehow alligned with fundamentalists. That's a complete misrepresentation of the truth.

I also have no problem if parents want to make their kids straight. Who cares. What I care about is when society DICTATES how I should live.

Personally, if I had a kid - I would damn right get an abortion if the kid were deemed to be straight. In fact - sometimes you can't tell until they are 3 years old. And if science told me my kid was straight when he was 2 and 1/2 years old, then I think infantacide is a perfectly acceptable option.

Why should we allow another bad dresser, uncreative, straight, fat person to walk this Earth? That's cruel.

Anonymous said...

Matt Drachenberg: Saying that gay people are born different (rather than "with a genetic defect") doesn't in any way detract from the gravity of your wife's condition. (I'm guessing that it isn't homosexuality). Homosexuality is not a defect, it certainly isn't fatal, and making that observation is not the same thing as saying "There is no such thing as a genetic defect".

A gay couple can't have children as easily as a heterosexual couple can, sure--but why is this some kind of shocking evolutionary problem? I know that the change from small hunter-gatherer communities to massive megapolises might be a little too subtle for some of you to pick up, but trust me. Gay people aren't going to make the human race extinct.

Roux: That would be very interesting, considering that I'm sure there's a lot of overlap between pro-lifers and homophobes. Of course, I love the way that your comment doesn't criticize people that might do that sort of thing (because that is honestly sickening--and, yes, I am still pro-choice, though this might not be relevant since I'm not really an activist). Instead, you just gleefully anticipate mass migration of gay activists to the pro-life side, you opportunistic bag.

Gahrie: "The gay rights crowd is terrified of finding out that homosexuality is the result of some easily corrected genetic defect."

So...gay people don't deserve rights unless their numbers can increase fast enough?

Andrew Shimmin said...

Lawyapalooza said...
Actually, since most anthropologic evidence suggest that our ancestors were black, maybe we should root out the gentic deviation that made people white-- God knows the skin cancer rate would drop if those mutants were weeded out before birth.


Whiteness actually is being selectively bred out of existence, if slowly, and naturally. No normal person would call it eugenics (though, to my eye, a couple of the instances of that word in this thread aren't particularly defensible, either), but within my lifetime, a majority of North American newborns will be of mixed race. Barring a radical change of immigration policy (or the resurrection of popular racism), the same will be true throughout Europe, soon enough. Just because a trait is genetic doesn't mean it will always exist, or even that it ought to.

Homosexual equality is at odds with Darwinism, inherently; even when Darwinists come up with explanations for homosexual utility, they're not about individual equality. Darwinism is not a useful basis, generally, for forming humane philosophies. Haven't we already learned this lesson? There are other things it's good for; that's enough.

ronbo said...

baa humbug.

It's obviously behavioral, not genetic: the sheep are merely imitating the shepherd.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to most of the other commenters, I don't think that a genetic test for gayness in a fetus would lead to the rapid elimination of homosexuality due to selective abortions.

What segment of the population is most against abortion, for any reason? The right generally, the religious right in particular. What segment of the population is most intolerant of homosexuality? The same bunch (not that all on the right are opposed to homosexuality, far from it, but almost all who are opposed to or intolerant of homosexuality are on the right). So for selective abortion to reduce the ranks of the homosexuals, either a whole lot of progressive-minded pro-choice people will have to suddenly decide that homosexuality should be stamped out OR a whole lot of pro-life folks will have to abandon their opposition and begin to practice elective abortions. I don't see either of those happening for a long, long, LONG time.

Now, if this research should lead to some kind of in-womb hormonal treatment to "cure" homosexuality before birth, then that might have a significant impact on the homosxual population. But if the only way to prevent the birth of a gay child is to abort it, that's just not going to happen in any great numbers.

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote: "The question *I'm* curious about is whether atheism's a birth defect. :)"

Nah. It is spiritual retardation. (ducks)

Good post on the birth defect thing by the way.

Trey - mostly joking (except for the compliment)

Revenant said...

Unless the State itself gets involved in eugenics again, I don't see how homosexuals are going to be bred out of existence through genetic engineering. After all, it will presumably be just as easy for gay parents to select gay kids as it will be for hetero parents to do the reverse.

So even if it were wrong to breed a trait out of existence (and I don't think there's anything wrong with it at all), it isn't actually POSSIBLE to do it to humans unless all the governments in the world conspire together to do it. That's basically guaranteed to never happen, especially since the homophobic religious people are generally opposed to genetically modifying human beings, too.

Kirk Parker said...

Thorley,

Yes, yes, Niemoller's poem is over-cited, trite and all that, and moreover is a poem. I know what you mean.

It does have the singular advantage of describing a situation that actually took place, however.

Anonymous said...

"Well, now we know why there are no homosexuals on Star Trek - it takes place in the future."

[You can use some HTML tags, etc...it may say that but I can't make it work! And where's the spell-checker? These big words are doing my head in!]

Sulu was gay. Well at least George Takei was/is. (Saw it on 'Will and Grace' so must be true.) But I guess he was 'in' not 'out' on The Bridge, so maybe doesn't count.

Though come to think about it now, there was a certain way he would say 'Warp factor nine, aye aye Captain' that was a dead giveaway. Just didn't see it at the time. Doh!

Ann Althouse said...

downtownlad said..."Ann - It's quite offensive for you to declare that gay rights advocates sound like the fundamentalists they deride. Please provide some evidence."

Please provide a big "never mind" after rereading the post. Where do I say all gay advocates are sounding like fundamentalists? The word "when" has meaning.

Anonymous said...

Does this woman never sleep!

hdhouse said...

it would explain a lot if he did his research. i mean how else can you explain or at least understand foley and the pages.

Jaafar said...

Just some comments to the effect that "it's not that simple,folks."

I have been well and thoroughly exposed to the intolerance of the "gay community" when I published my small book "Twins and Homosexuality," pointing out that all environmental explanations had failed, and that it seemed there had to be something biological going on here.

A lot of the commenters here seem to adhere to the 95-5 model, which claims that 95% of men are straight, and 5% are gay. You can make that 90-10 or 98-2 without changing the underlying thinking, which makes no allowance whatsoever for bisexuality -- for Oscar Wilde having a wife and children to name just one example. I don't have the time or space to go into this in detail, but I suspect the truth is closer to 20-30% absolutely straight, 5-10% absolutely gay, with another 50-60% being open to various levels of bisexuality. Again, not enough space here, but I personally have twice had a young male lover who was carrying on with his girl-friend as well as me. If you venture out of America into Muslim or Asian lands, a lot of this is more apparent.

Therefore, "the gay gene" seems to have vanished as a possibility. Another complication to consider is that there are so many types of gay men, from drag queens through macho construction workers, pederasts, etc. Again, "the gay gene" ("the single gay gene") seems unlikely.

Finally, let's consider the one place where we actually have some data and a theory to go with it. Ray Blanchard believes he has found a biological condition which explains some male homosexuality, perhaps 7%. This can be rapidly described as a maternal intolerance to having too many sons. Some gay men have more older brothers than chance would allow. So it looks like the mother goes, "Oh, not another son!" and the womb goes into a sort of reaction, the result of which is a gay son. (I myself am third in a family of four boys!)

But how would the purifiers of the race handle this? The parents go to the doctor, wanting to know if their son will be gay. The doctor doesn't even look at the fetal genes; he looks at the maternal genes. He reports back, "With those genes, and two sons already born, your chance of having a gay son here is 7.6%"

It's not that simple...see what I mean?

Simon said...

DTL - the word "when" is "mere surplusage ... entirely without meaning, if such is to be the construction." See, it can all tie into Marbury, Ann. ;)

Simon said...

Jaafar - neither of those anecdotes necessarily support the theory of rampant bisexuality. That Oscar Wilde was married with a child can be as well explained by denial as it can by bisexuality, and Arab cultural cognitive dissonance towards homosexuality is well-covered in Phyllis Chesler's book The Death of Feminism. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that the evidence doesn't support the conclusion.

Jaafar said...

A further note: there is no such thing as a working "therapy" for male homosexuality. The Kinsey Institute has a standing cash reward of some $10,000 waiting for the first genuine change in sexual orientation. No winners, yet. The men who wanted the award were all gay men who got married and fantasized about having sex with men while actually having sex with their wives.

Abusive therapies? Well, my high-school classmate discovered he was gay while a freshman at Cornell. His parents sent him off for "therapy." Back in the 1970's, that meant wiring him to a set of eight car batteries in series for twenty minutes at a time. They did this about eight times, and he emerged a gibbering idiot. Before the "therapy," he was a brilliant physicist and poet; now he's a devoted fundamentalist and devoted Marxist who lives in a tiny shack and talks to himself about the ecology of worms.

Some improvement, huh.

Jaafar said...

What theory of "rampant bisexuality?"

What I said was that perhaps 50-60% of men were open to some degree of bisexuality. You could consult the Kinsey scale for more information, all the way from Kinsey 0 (exclusively heterosexual) through 6 (exclusively homosexual). I myself am a Kinsey 5, meaning that I am (or was) open to some degree of bisexuality. All this means was that I tried sex with women and didn't like it. I'm quite sure that lots of men have tried sex with other guys and found it not to their taste. This is hardly a theory of "rampant bisexuality." It is, rather, an attempt to explain how some guys can actually prefer girls and live with a girl-friend, but make a living as a male hustler. In Asia, where "bar hosts" are common in gay bars, it's not unusual to find a "bar host" who is married!

By the way, I have my own working definition of "absolutely straight" and "absolutely gay." These are guys who ("absolutely straight") simply cannot function with another man, even in a prison situation, just as the man who is "absolutely gay" views the idea of sex with a female with complete horror.

If you want "rampant bisexuality," you should go read up on the bonobo chimps (our closest relative!)

Jaafar said...

By the way, "Arab cultural cognitive dissonance about homosexuality" is also well-covered in Ibn Warraq's "Why I am not a Muslim," but he uses a simpler term: hypocrisy. (See the chapter on "Wine, Pigs, and Homosexuality" in that book.)

"Hypocrisy" seems to cover the actual situation quite well: publicly, Arabs are "horrified, just horrified" by the concept, but it goes on all the time, especially among unmarried males. I've lived there and I speak from experience, although from your comments I suspect I need to clarify one thing: one of the young male lovers I mentioned, who was also carrying on with his girl friend, had black hair and blue eyes, was Caucasian, and lived in Palo Alto -- a true red-blooded American. My comments don't apply just to Muslims and Asians: they apply to Mexicans and Americans and people all over the globe. Have a look at Tokugawa Japan or Ancient Greece some time.

Simon said...

"What theory of 'rampant bisexuality?' What I said was that perhaps 50-60% of men were open to some degree of bisexuality.

That theory! Heh. If you had a disease that affected 50-60% of the male population, it would rightly be regarded as not only rampant, but epidemic. By your theory, Jaafar, one in two men are "open to some degree of bisexuality." Check a friend - if he isn't, you're it. Nino, Clarence - be honest, now. The Chief's a very handsome man. ;)

It's intriguing that you characterize "absolutely gay" men as "view[ing] the idea of sex with a female with complete horror" (a position I find utterly incomprehensible, frankly), while "absolutely straight" men "simply cannot function with another man," as if the problem were purely one of dysfunction, the inability to accomplish a task presumed to be ordinary. I think most men - rationally enough - recoil in absolute horror at as much as the idea. One would not say that most men "simply cannot function with a horse," one would say that they "view[] th idea with complete horror." Well, except that one guy on Springer, but you're not making claims about a few weirdos, you're making claims about one in two men.

I think we have enough male Althousians (sorry, Victoria!) that we can disprove your theory here and now. Let's have a show of hands of how many guys are "open to some degree of bisexuality." ;)

Jaafar said...

Asking American men to admit to bisexuality or homosexuality on a public forum is hardly a way to advance our knowledge.

Surely, you must realize that the taboo against men showing physical affection for one another is one of the strongest taboos in America. Read your own comment!

Over here in Thailand, it is a common, everyday experience to see male friends strolling around with their arms across each others' shoulders, in groups of 2 or 5. Same with girls.

Nobody freaks but the tourists. But sometimes they really freak.

In Ohio, two girls who are great friends and who are displaying physical affection for one another can set an entire restaurant to shocked gobbling.

Clayton said...

"Likewise, the "God hates fags!" crowd is terrified of finding out that stupidity is the result of some uncorrectable genetic defect."

Say what you want about Rev. Fred Phelps (and I don't think much positive of him)--but stupid doesn't seem to fit. Before he was disbarred, Phelps won awards from the NAACP for his work in pursuing racial discrimination, and 11 of his 15 children are attorneys.

See http://www.ocweekly.com/news/machine-age/a-lovehate-thing/18104/

Palladian said...

Jesus Christ, Clayton Cramer, you've now taken to defending Fred Phelps?

I know you're drawn to all things gay like a fly to s**t, but really... I'd hate it if you started buzzing around here.

Elizabeth said...

Daryl, I had in mind not to the current ex-gay idiocy, but older, Snake Pit style psychological "treatments" such as electroshock, ice baths, hormone treatment and aversion therapy; some were subjected to these without their own permission, as well.

As for the current situation, anyone's free to decide to try out another sexual orientation. But that doesn't mean legitimizing the snake oil salesmen who call themselves "therapists" or their methods. I have no objection to someone with cancer seeking out any alternative treatments they can find. But we shouldn't stop regulating medical treatments and exposing the fraudulent ones.

Jaafar said...

I have your permission to say what I like about Fred Phelps?!

Well, he's a brain-dead Fundamentalist hate-preacher, whose main theme is "God Hates Fags."

?Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (born November 13, 1929) is the pastor and leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas that is listed as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[1] He is known for preaching that "God hates fags" and that God will punish homosexuals as well as people such as Bill O'Reilly and Howard Dean, whom his church considers "fag-enablers".[2][3] His church says he is a "Five-Point Calvinist".[4]"

Or so says Wikipedia.

That's one of the problems that always arises when discussing "homosexuality" with Americans (or Brits). You are faced with assumptions:

Assumption #1: "Homosexuality" is "evil."

Assumption #2: 98 percent of males are "straight," and just two percent are "gay."

If you try to debate either of these entrenched ideas, you get the truly God-forsaken Fred Phelps thrust in your face.

Lately, Phelps and his minions have been trying to desecrate funeral services for soldiers killed in Iraq. I guess it all makes sense to them, and "they are not stupid."

If Fred Phelps is not stupid, who is???

Jaafar said...

O, Freddie sees America as "A sodomite nation of flag-worshiping idolators."

But he's not stupid. Right?

Palladian said...

"That's one of the problems that always arises when discussing "homosexuality" with Americans (or Brits). You are faced with assumptions"

Yes, because the source of all badness in the entire universe is Americans (or Brits). There is positively nowhere else in the world where your assumptions about "homosexuality" are confirmed.

As your average Arab or Iranian about homosexuality:

Assumption #1: "Homosexuality" is "evil." (Because it's not homosexuality if I'm always the "top"!)

Assumption #2: 100 percent of males are "straight," and 0 percent are "gay" (either because there is no such thing as "homosexuality" among Muslims or because we've killed the 2 percent).

Assumption #3: Why are you asking this question, huh? Police! I've found one!

And by the way, invoking "Fred Phelps" is sort of like yelling "Hitler" in a crowded comments section. His "beliefs" prove no larger point beyond the fact that he is a grotesque attention whore. What he says and does has no relevance to what any other Christian, American or multi-cellular organism thinks or believes. His entire "church" is made up of his trashy extended family.

CatoRenasci said...

revenant said:

Unless the State itself gets involved in eugenics again, I don't see how homosexuals are going to be bred out of existence through genetic engineering. After all, it will presumably be just as easy for gay parents to select gay kids as it will be for hetero parents to do the reverse.

Well, perhaps not absolutely bred out of existence, but consider, if homosexuals are 5% of the population (probably a high estimate) and heterosexuals 95%, even if homosexuals and heterosexuals had offspring at the same rate, if heterosexuals in large numbers began to explicitly select to exclude homosexuality, you would have a significant reduction in the number of homosexuals over a fairly short period of time - a generation or two, even if the homosexuals parents selected for homosexuality. And, homosexuals do not have children at the same rate as the heterosexual population, so the reduction effect would be greater.

The fundamental point, made by many here, is that even among heterosexual people who are not prejudiced against homosexuals, think homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, and would accept finding out an adult child was gay with something approaching equanimity, many of those same heterosexuals, if they had the opportunity before a child's birth to ensure the child would not end up homosexual, would probably take advantage of the opportunity, if only because they want the 'best' as they see it for any children they have, don't want them to go through the pain and difficulty homosexuals go through, and they do want grandchildren.

And, among people who oppose homosexuality to one degree or another, the incentive to take advantage of an opportunity not to have homosexual children would be much greater, perhaps even strong enough to overcome an abortion taboo.

It's ironic that the best arguments against discrimination against homosexuals ("It's genetic") may ultimately lead to the substantial reduction in the number of homosexuals.

Geoff said...

Jafar,

Regarding Phelps, he can be evil while being intelligent. The notion that people who disagree with you must be stupid/insane is a phallacy.

FTR, I view Phelps as an evil man.

Thorley Winston said...

The fundamental point, made by many here, is that even among heterosexual people who are not prejudiced against homosexuals, think homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, and would accept finding out an adult child was gay with something approaching equanimity, many of those same heterosexuals, if they had the opportunity before a child's birth to ensure the child would not end up homosexual, would probably take advantage of the opportunity, if only because they want the 'best' as they see it for any children they have, don't want them to go through the pain and difficulty homosexuals go through, and they do want grandchildren.

I think you pretty much nailed it in one. It’s a mistake to divide the country into just people who support abortion and homosexuals and people who are opposed to both abortion and homosexuals. There is a whole mushy middle that holds a variety of imperfectly nuanced positions in between. And should we get to the point we can successfully alter genes then even the concerns over the moral problems of abortion as it pertains to selecting children would pretty much disappear.

sonicfrog said...

Hey Simon, I'm raising my hand :-)

I was in love with a wonderful woman in my twenties. Thank God it didn't work out and we didn't marry. As strong as my feelings were for her, I knew even then my feelings and desires to be with other men was stronger and would sooner or later win out. It was a miserable time for me, being so close to conforming, being "normal", yet knowing in my heart what was the right thing to do, or in this case, not do.

At the time, I knew a lot of men who had a wife and kid(s) at home, but still went out on the town, cruising for what kids today call a "Hook-Up" with other men. Saw lots of very nasty divorces.

AwaWiYe said...

>I don't think that a genetic test for gayness in a fetus would lead to the rapid elimination of homosexuality due to selective abortions.

The only factor necessary for selective abortions is for people who desire offspring to also hope for (one day) grandchildren. I consider it nearly axiomatic that people in developed nations have children because they want children and almost never for any other reason. Consider what that might mean about their hopes for grandchildren. Are they likely to wish for B if they wish for A, and act accordingly?

Simon said...

SonicFrog -
Well, to be clear, I'm not saying that no one feels that, I just find it impossible to believe that it's one man in every two does. ;)

Jaafar said...

Simon said: "I just find it impossible to believe that it's one man in every two does. ;)"

You must enjoy beating up straw men, Simon. I never said that. What I did say, and you apparently cannot understand, is that perhaps 50-60% of men are open to some degree of bisexuality.

To try to make myself clear one more time: THAT INCLUDES ME! Everyone who knows me knows that I am gay; I only seek out other men to have sex with. But I am in fact not a Kinsey 6 ("exclusively homosexual") but a Kinsey 5, since long ago I did experiment with girls. I found it not to my taste, but I was capable of doing the deed and did it, and so that means that I am to a very tiny degree bisexual. The same as men who experiment with another man and decide it's not for them.

There are other degrees, of course, like our recent poster, whose bisexuality goes as far as falling in love with a woman.

The whole point lies in the wording, really: to some degree, to one degree or another.

And that's all I have to say on the matter!

Simon said...

Jafaar - how can you possibly contend that it is manufacturing a strawman to say your statement that "50-60% of men are open to some degree of bisexuality" amounts to a statement that one man in two are open to some degree of bisexuality? 50% is one man in every two!