Thoughts on homosexuality not being genetic

A couple of weeks ago I posted this:  Evidence homosexuality is not genetic | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  It was a link to a discussion of how identical twins (who share the exact same genes) are not particularly likely to both be gay (something that happens in only 10% of the cases).  That would indicate that homosexuality is not genetic, or, if there is some kind of genetic component, it isn’t causative or determinative.  That post attracted more than ten times the usual traffic on this blog!  But there is more to say on the matter:

(1)  Homosexuality cannot be genetically transmitted.  Or if it is, that would strike a mortal blow against Darwinism.  You don’t have to believe that natural selection gives rise to different species to believe that natural selection is a real phenomenon.  That simply means that genes that aid survival and (more importantly) reproduction will be passed on to the next generations.  Same-sex attraction does NOT promote reproduction.  Rather, it prevents reproduction.  So that trait, if it is genetic and inheritable, would tend to die out.  And yet it hasn’t.  So it’s hard to imagine how it could be genetically determined and handed down.

(2)  Just because homosexuality isn’t genetic, that does not mean it is just a “choice.”  It might have causes that are psychological, physiological, medical, cultural, environmental, or some combination of these or other factors.  It’s too bad that the politically-correct conviction “not that there’s anything wrong with it” is inhibiting research into the causes of homosexuality.

(3)  The Lady Gaga diagnosis–”I was born this way”–has indeed helped homosexuality become broadly accepted today. This, however, may not be true.

(4)  There would seem to be no moral issue if a person can’t help his or her sexual orientation. And yet having a desire is not the same as acting on that desire (which is certainly evident in heterosexual attractions), so moral agency remains.  To be sure, our inner desires to do what is forbidden–our “concupiscence”–are sinful and testimony to our fallen condition.  Nevertheless, the will is operative.

(5) And yet, Christianity teaches that the will is in bondage to sin.  As a result, we cannot simply choose to stop sinning.  This applies to all sins and not just to homosexuality.  Sin inheres in our “flesh.”  Sin is part of our fallen condition.  In that sense, sin–including but not limited to homosexual desires– is inherited (even though, contrary to Darwin, it has no survival value).

(5)  All have sinned, including homosexuals, whose sin goes far beyond sexual transgressions, just as heterosexuals sin in more ways than in their sexuality.  And what all sinners need is grace, forgiveness, redemption, all of which is freely available from Christ, who covers their sins with His blood.   Self-righteousness, though–the conviction that “I am good as I am” and “I don’t need forgiveness”–is what keeps sinners away from Christ and all His free gifts.

Can you think of any other corollaries?

And I’m curious about this, from you Lutheran theologians.  It seems that Lutheranism has a view of sin and of human anthropology that is very realistic, though different from that of other theologies with a higher view of the will and a lower view of sin.  Does Lutheran theology throw any distinct light on this issue?


The moon as our 51st state

It isn’t just that Newt Gingrich wants us to go back to the moon or that he wants to set up a colony there.  He is thinking that when the population of the lunar colony reaches 13,000 the moon could apply for statehood.  Yes the notion is crazy, absurd, and inappropriate.  But imagine!  The moon as the USA’s 51st state!  Think how indignant the rest of the world would be, looking up in the night sky and seeing America.

First Read – Gingrich promises US moon colony by 2020.

Evidence homosexuality is not genetic

Wheaton provost Stanton L. Jones corrects an article in the New York Times and cites evidence that homosexuality is not genetic after all:  Identical twins, who have exactly the same genes, are not very likely (contrary to some reports) to both be gay.

Frank Bruni, in his essay “Genetic or Not, Gay Will Not Go Away“(New York Times, January 28, 2012), makes a broad point regarding which I am in complete agreement: Our societal, legal, and cultural debates will not be solved by science. But when you do cite the science, you ought to get it right. . . .

In support of the argument that at least sometimes sexual orientation is a condition of birth, Bruni describes how “One landmark study looked at gay men’s brothers and found that 52% of identical twin brothers were also gay.” This brief explanation both fails as a description of that 20+ year old study and fails to reflect the better research published since.

Bruni gets the number right; the 1990 landmark study by Bailey and Pillard reported a 52% “probandwise concordance” for homosexual orientation among genetically identical sibling groups, but this does not mean what Bruni says it means. A proband wise concordance is a technical calculation, one that in this case results from the following actual results: There were 41 genetically identical sibling groups (40 identical twin pairs and one triplet trio) and of these 41 groups, only in 14 of the groups did the genetically identical brothers match for sexual orientation; in the remaining 27 sets the identical twin brothers did not match.

But this 1990 study was actually based on a sample that was apparently distorted by volunteer bias and hence not representative of homosexual persons in general. Bailey’s own study of a decade later, and the recently published “gold standard” study by Långström et. al. of the Swedish Twin Registry, both found even lower matching among identical twins with much larger and more representative samples. Both studies reported about 10% matching (for Långström, 7 identical twin pairs matched with both identical brothers gay out of 71 total pairs of male identical twin pairs).

So in plain English, the best contemporary scientific findings are that when one identical twin brother is gay, the probabilities of the second twin being gay are approximately 10%. This suggests that the contribution of genetics to the determination of homosexual orientation is modest at best.

via The Genetics of Same-Sex Attraction » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The truth about sexual violence statistics

More ways to lie with statistics.  From an article by Christina Hoff Sommers:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?

The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” . . .

The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?

It found them by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault. Consider: In a telephone survey with a 30 percent response rate, interviewers did not ask participants whether they had been raped. Instead of such straightforward questions, the CDC researchers described a series of sexual encounters and then they determined whether the responses indicated sexual violation. A sample of 9,086 women was asked, for example, “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?” A majority of the 1.3 million women (61.5 percent) the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced this sort of “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.”

What does that mean? If a woman was unconscious or severely incapacitated, everyone would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape — indeed, a nontrivial percentage of all customary sexual intercourse, including marital intercourse, probably falls under that definition (and is therefore criminal according to the CDC).

Other survey questions were equally ambiguous. Participants were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by “telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?” All affirmative answers were counted as “sexual violence.” Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by “repeatedly asking” or “showing they were unhappy” was similarly classified as a victim of violence.

via CDC study on sexual violence in the U.S. overstates the problem – The Washington Post.

Perhaps the CDC researchers are sensing that all extra-marital sex has an element of exploitation about it, but since moral absolutes must be left out of the equation, they are instead trying to employ secular legalisms and the feminist ideology that says women are always being oppressed by men.  But that does not excuse  “constructing” data like this.

Latin as the language of botany

The field of botany has changed its requirement that new species have their official scientific descriptions be written up in Latin.  Now an English description–though not a description in some other language–will be acceptable.  (The scientific name will still be Latin based.)  The article on the subject, though, shows just how important Latin has been and still is important in the sciences.  For one thing, ironically, the English technical vocabulary that will replace Latin itself derives from Latin etymology.  From the Washington Post:

For at least 400 years, botanists across the globe have relied on Latin as their lingua franca, but the ardor has cooled. Scientists say plants will keep their double-barreled Latin names, but they have decided to drop the requirement that new species be described in the classical language. Instead, they have agreed to allow botanists to use English (other languages need not apply). In their scientific papers, they can still describe a newly found species of plant — or algae or fungi — in Latin if they wish, but most probably won’t. . . .

Although botanical Latin paid homage to the great Roman plant chronicler, Pliny the Elder, it quickly evolved into a specialized, descriptive and scientifically precise language far removed from classical Latin. The late British scholar William Stearn, who wrote the definitive reference book on botanical Latin, said Pliny would have understood the work of Clusius but not that of 19th-century botanical luminaries.

The wry joke is that even with the diminished role of Latin, the argot used by English-speaking botanists might as well be Latin. In describing flower parts, they speak of “the corolla tubular with spreading lobes.” The familiar thick green leaf of the magnolia is described in one encyclopedia as “elliptic to ovate or subglobose, obtuse to short-acuminate, base attenuate, rounded or cuneate, stiffly coraceous.”

As botanists increasingly seek to deconstruct organisms at the microscopic level and through DNA sequencing, the vernacular descriptions become even more opaque, said Alain Touwaide, a researcher and Latinist at the Smithsonian who would translate for botanists.

Keeping the Latin description, he argued, would ironically make it more understandable. “To make these notions understood, you have to create Latin words that have an etymological root that renders the word self-explainable,” he said.

via Botanists agree to loosen Latin’s grip – The Washington Post.

China to put a man on the moon

China, the new America:

China has declared its intention to land an astronaut on the moon, in the first official confirmation of its aim to go where Americans last set foot nearly 40 years ago.

While Chinese scientists have previously discussed the possibility of a manned lunar mission, a government white paper published on Thursday is the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal.

China will “conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing”, the white paper said.

Although a manned moon mission is still some time off – Chinese experts say after 2020 – the statement highlights Beijing’s soaring ambitions just five months after the US retired its space shuttle programme . “Chinese people are the same as people around the world,” Zhang Wei, an official with China’s National Space Administration, said at a briefing. “When looking up at the starry sky, we are full of longing and yearning for the vast universe.”

According to the white paper, which serves as a blueprint for the next five years, China will develop new satellites, accelerate efforts to build a space station and strengthen its research in space. Laying the foundation for a mission to the moon, the government also plans to launch unmanned lunar probes and make “new technological breakthroughs” in human space flights by 2016.

via China push to put astronaut on the moon –

Remember when we used to have grand ambitions like that, thinking we could do anything and then doing it?  Our last manned moon landing was in 1972.  Back then we were in a competition with the Soviets in a “space race.”  As the new and improved version of communism that China has devised outperforms us economically, I doubt that we will even care if China takes up where we left off in outer space.  For better or worse, we don’t have the same energy and optimism that we used to have.  Evidently, China has it.