Genes and sexual orientation: Tale of two activists

Over at Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), Pete LaBarbera alerted his readers that he was on WGN last night in connection with a story about “gay genes.” He noted in a mass email yesterday (did anyone see it?):

Americans For Truth will be featured tonight in a story on the cable super-station WGN-TV, based in Chicago, concerning the latest academic pursuit of the “gay gene.” It will air between 9:00 and 10:00 Central Time on WGN which reaches across the country. You can learn more about the (liberal biased) Northwestern U. “genetic homosexuality” study at www.gaybros.com. As you know, pro-homosexual advocates are seeking to prove that homosexuality is genetic — with the hope of then declaring the issue outside the bounds of moral debate.

While this is not a strong denouncement of the project, it appears that AFTAH believes the research led by Alan Sanders is biased from the start. LaBarbera is right that some activists would like to prove a genetic source of homosexuality (case in point below). However, what if there are genetic components to sexual orientation? Is there any way to discuss or research these factors without being considered “liberal” and/or “biased?” Isn’t a blanket dismissal of pre-natal factors just as biased?

On the other hand, as if to prove LaBarbera’s point, enter Wayne Besen’s new videos from Dean Hamer and Jack Drescher.  To Dean Hamer, Besen poses the question, “Is homosexuality inborn?” Hamer replies that “there is more and more evidence that sexual orientation has a strong biological component.” Hamer then points to two “population based studies of twins.” One is Kendler’s study in the US and the other is Bailey and Martin’s study in Australia. Hamer says these studies “have shown that genes are the single most important factor in whether a person is gay or straight or somewhere in between.” He said the studies have been replicated and are convincing. I will save for another post a detailed response to those statements, but for now I will say that I do not agree with Dr. Hamer’s characterizations. For instance, in the Australian study, the actual concordance of homosexuality among male identical twins was only 11%. Kenneth Kendler and colleagues in 2000 found a higher concordance (31.6% combining males and females), but did not designate genetics as being a determining factor. About his study of twins, Kenneth Kendler told the BBC,

By no means is sexual orientation genetically determined but clearly genes are playing some role by interacting with a range of environmental factors.

Dr. Drescher’s video provides a more nuanced and I think accurate reading of research. About those who say they know what causes sexual orientation, Dr. Drescher says, “The truth of the matter is, we don’t know, nobody knows, and anybody who says that they know is lying to you.” Drescher also presents a reasonable view of the role of sexual abuse saying that for individual people, such abuse could play a role but as a general rule, believing abuse to be at root is an unfounded stereotype.

Now, coming full circle back to the website LaBarbera noted in his email – gaybros.com, we find a nuanced and I believe accurate view that cuts between activists Besen and LaBarbera. Here are a couple of excerpts:

At the present time, there is no uniformly accepted theory of why some men and some women develop a sexual orientation that is more or less exclusively focused on members of their own sex.

and

Most contemporary researchers believe that sexual orientation – the general disposition of people toward homosexuality, bisexuality, or heterosexuality – is the result of both biological factors and psychological experiences. Most researchers do not believe that sexual orientation is the result of nature (biology, including genetics) alone or nurture (environment) alone. What researchers want to know is how specific factors in biology and psychology interact to guide sexual development. These researchers therefore look for biological and psychological differences between homosexual and heterosexual people, both men and women.

Then after listing the many studies which find biological factors correlated with sexual orientation (e.g., finger length ratio differences, brain differences, etc.), the website says this:

These studies are designed to show a correlation between a trait and sexual orientation. This is not the same as showing that a trait causes sexual orientation. What is not yet known is whether these traits and sexual orientation have a common origin in genetics or other biological influences on development, though these hypotheses are being pursued. In any case, these lines of research are suggestive rather than definitive. Among other factors, it is these and other uncertainties that prompt continued research.

These statements sound anything but biased to me. All concerned would do well to heed them. Working hard to spin what is known may play well to activists but saying homosexuality is or isn’t all “genetic” or “inborn” or “environmental” does not well represent what is known. We need to follow the research where it leads and hold our theories loosely.

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  • NickC

    I know there’s no love lost between you and Wayne Besen, but your potshot at him here is almost hilariously overstated.

    First you say, “as if to prove LaBarbera’s point (re bias), enter Wayne Besen’s new videos from Dean Hamer and Jack Drescher. ” Yet you go on to say that one of the two videos is actually “nuanced,” “accurate,” and “reasonable.” So even if you feel that Dean Hamer overstates the current case for the role of genetics in orientation, how does posting these two videos simultaneously make Wayne a crazy, biased activist?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Nick you may be right to point out that it is the Hamer video with which I have the biggest issue. Anyone watching that would not get a balanced view of the science on this subject. I guess that makes Jack Drescher’s comments all the more striking – anyone who says we know is lying. The Hamer video leaves the clear impression that genetics is the single biggest factor. The Drescher video warns against that kind of dogmatic stance. So perhaps I should have pointed out the confusing picture painted instead of making it seem like it was all one way. In any event, the main point of my post is to discourage dogmatism about a subject where there need not be sides.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    What I find heartening is hearing some (out in the blogosphere) Evangelical – and otherwise – Christians who ten years ago would have denied ANY biological component to sexuality now start to admit that biology may very well play a part :)

  • Drowssap

    Ok, I gotta get in on this. 8-)

    First of all Dean Hamer says,

    these studies “have shown that genes are the single most important factor in whether a person is gay or straight or somewhere in between.”

    I call shenanigans on that statement. Genes probably do play a role, but all evidence to date shows that they are bit players in SSA.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY (and Hamer knows this because he is 10X smarter than me) what the genes do is the most important part of the equation. They may have nothing to do with personality, sexuality or sex differentiation. The “gay” gene could be a blood type gene. This would be a strong indication that we are talking about an immune system issue, not a sexuality issue. If you read BoxTurtle recently you might have seen mention of a new study that found a correlation between blood type and SSA.

    It’s In The Blood

  • Hob Bope

    ‘About those who say they know what causes sexual orientation, Dr. Drescher says, “The truth of the matter is, we don’t know, nobody knows, and anybody who says that they know is lying to you.” ‘

    In my opinion, people can know that things that happened to them were responsible for their sexual orientation – in the same way that they know that anything that happened to them made them behave or feel in a particular way. What Drescher says might sound reasonable, but I don’t think one can accept it without saying that people’s ideas about what causes their feelings and behaviours are all completely worthless.

  • Drowssap

    These studies are designed to show a correlation between a trait and sexual orientation. This is not the same as showing that a trait causes sexual orientation.

    That’s probably the most important statement in the article.

    Example

    Narcoleptics have small body temperature differences when compared to you and me. Scientists learned that by manipulating a Narcoleptics body temperature they could reduce some of his/her symptoms.

    So is Narcolepsy a result of body temperature? No. Narcolepsy is due to a defecit of Orexin, a specialized neurotransmitter that regulates sleep. It appears that a virus moves in like a smart bomb and takes out the cells that produce this chemical without damaging anything else. The minor body temperature differences, as well as the sleepiness are byproducts of the Orexin deficit. (Google this if you are interested)

    People with SSA also have slight physical differences when compared to straights. But phenomenon like slight hormone variations that are still within the range of average straights are not definitive. These traits are probably just another byproduct of whatever causes SSA and right now we don’t know what that is or how it works.

    One Sentence Version

    Traits may tend to occur together but that doesn’t mean they cause each other. It doesn’t even imply that they cause each other.

    /sorry two sentences

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    It would be a nice thing to stop comparing homosexuality to a disease. :)

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    But…. Jay! Gay people don’t have babies. That’s the whole thing. If 2% of men had an exclusive and lifelong attraction to post menopausal women it would be the same thing. It’s all about babies, not so much anything else.

    Our brain is the biggest sexual organ in our body, and our sex drive is designed to produce kids. When someone is exclusively and unshakably attracted to partners that can never produce offspring, and this lasts for a lifetime you can be that something is up.

    What it is, I dunno, but it’s something and it would have a hard time spreading around through genes. So that strongly suggests environment…. which ultimately means external input of some sort.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    I agree with you on almost all points but when you say things like:

    When someone is exclusively and unshakably attracted to partners that can never produce offspring, and this lasts for a lifetime you can be that something is up.

    You forget to take into account all the heterosexual couples who don’t have babies out of their own choosing, those who get together knowing they can’t have a baby together, and older couples who meet later in life after their child-bearing years.

    Sure, our brain is the biggest organ in our bodies, but just because a couple can’t produce offspring doesn’t necessarily mean “something is up” :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but our sex drive is so much more than about having children. We are not simply animals at the mercy of all our passions Drowssap – at least I don’t consider us to be. As much as I love the natural sciences, they can only tell us so much about what it means to be human :)

  • ken

    Drowsap said in post 90134:

    Gay people don’t have babies.

    I find it interesting how you rail again Hamer’s inaccuracies about the importance of genetics, yet you make this statement. which to me is just as bad.

    1st, because it is wrong. Many gay people do have babies (biological off-spring). Either through opposite-sex encounters, or through artificial insemination, surrogate parenting etc. And it is clear that many have the same drive to have and raise biological children as straight people do.

    Further, the statement is highly mis-leading with regards to genetics. It implies that if they can’t have babies the trait can’t be genetic. If every red-headed person on the planet was sterilized, would that mean there would be no more red-headed people in a generation? No, and for the same reason even if gays couldn’t reproduce, that wouldn’t mean that homosexuality couldn’t have a strong genetic factor.

    (on a completely unrelated note, is there a problem with the APA symposium thread? It doesn’t have a discussion box to submit comments)

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    You forget to take into account all the heterosexual couples who don’t have babies out of their own choosing, those who get together knowing they can’t have a baby together, and older couples who meet later in life after their child-bearing years.

    But… Gaaaah….. 8-)

    It isn’t that people have kids or not. It is that they are exclusively attracted (for a lifetime) to partners that can NEVER have kids. The same hetero couples who don’t have kids today, would have had plenty just a few generations ago. It wasn’t until this century that family size began to really plumet.

    Side Note:

    Family size isn’t done falling by a longshot. Watch what happens when male birth control goes on the market in the next decade or so. It will probably drop in half again.

  • Eddy

    Ken–

    Warren occasionally shuts a thread down for new comments when we get caught in a ‘snarky’ loop. It’s sometimes better to take the comment box away rather than have someone compose a comment only to find, when they try to submit, that the comments are closed. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened over there.

  • Drowssap

    ken

    Many gay people do have babies (biological off-spring). Either through opposite-sex encounters, or through artificial insemination, surrogate parenting etc. And it is clear that many have the same drive to have and raise biological children as straight people do.

    If this technology had been available and widely used over the last 250,000 years of human existance you would have a point. But even in that case the numbers are harsh. If gay people produced 99 children for every 100 that straights did the “gay gene” would completely die out in a few thousand years.

    If every red-headed person on the planet was sterilized, would that mean there would be no more red-headed people in a generation?

    Not one generation, but in a few dozen generations it would be extinct.

    Think of genetics like a casino. The house has just a tiny advantage and yet if you play long enough the house always keeps 100% of your money. A gene without parity or an advantage over competing genes is a gonner every single time.

  • Eddy

    Drowssap– I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this statement:

    If gay people produced 99 children for every 100 that straights did the “gay gene” would completely die out in a few thousand years.

    LOL! I don’t understand it but I don’t even know what to ask to clarify it. Can you elaborate? (I was an ‘easy A’ student except for things to do with numbers, percentages, odds, etc.)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    You didn’t really address the heterosexual couples that get married knowing that one or both of them are incapable of having kids, OR the couples who meet when they are passed the age of being able to have children. All you talked about were those couples who CHOOSE not to have kids.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    It should probably also be pointed out that we don’t really know how many gay men there are in this country, which makes your figure of 2% sketchy. Wikipedia suggests that the best ESTIMATES to date, for ALL gay people fall somewhere between 2.5 – 7%. My guess is that these estimates are always going to fall short though because defining gay can be difficult and because many gay people won’t admit publicly to being gay, even though they are.

  • ken

    Drowsap said in post 90150:

    If this technology had been available and widely used over the last 250,000 years of human existance you would have a point.

    My point was that you were wrong about gays reproducing. Further, my comment about current technological advances does not mean that this reproduction was a recent occurrence. Additionally, even if gays could not reproduce it does not mean that homosexuality could not have a strong genetic component.

    “If every red-headed person on the planet was sterilized, would that mean there would be no more red-headed people in a generation?”

    Not one generation, but in a few dozen generations it would be extinct.

    No this is incorrect. Red-heads are NOT the only ones who carry the genes that cause red hair. Simply removing those who express the trait (red-hair) from the gene pool does not eliminate the genes themselves.

  • Drowssap

    Eddy

    LOL! I don’t understand it but I don’t even know what to ask to clarify it. Can you elaborate? (I was an ‘easy A’ student except for things to do with numbers, percentages, odds, etc.)

    Well, it’s the old casino explanation of natural selection. If one gene has even a slight advantage it obliterates the other gene in time. It might take 1 generation, or maybe 10,000 generations. But if one gene has an advantage it ultimately wins.

    In the real world genes tend to find balancing points where they coexist. But with SSA there really isn’t an environment where it could triumph over OSA. There isn’t a balancing point. between more and less kids. That’s a wipe-out for the more kids side.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    What it is, I dunno, but it’s something and it would have a hard time spreading around through genes.

    We’ve already had this conversation Drowssap – sigh. It would not have a hard time spreading through genes. Gay people have natural kids of their own all the time – sometimes through bad heterosexual marriages/relationships, or through surrogate moms, etc. There are also those who are BISEXUAL, who most likely have the genotype and would spread it through any offspring they might have from heterosexual relationships.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    And like Ken said – you don’t have to express the gene(s) in order to be a carrier.

  • Mary

    Purpose of reproduction for most of civilized society was to increase one’s wealth and influence. And this did not matter if you were gay or not. Most everyone did this (reproduced) for that purpose.

    You guys need to read a variety of sociology books, biosociology, growth and spread of Roman influence, rules of law and family etc…

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Yes, gays and bisexuals have children but their fertility rates are lower. This is really not a debate. It is a theoretical problem which occupies scholars of the first order – how does a trait that does not give reproductive advantage survive?

    It makes great sense that brains would be wired in such a way so as to promote reproduction. In brain scan work I have seen, gays and straights have the same neural pathways for sexual activation. The target of attraction is different but the same pathway is activated that sets off a host of brain events geared toward completion.

    This is not a moral assessment of gays as parents or what policy should be; it is a discussion of why a certain trait exists, if indeed it is a biologically based trait.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Warren,

    Did you read my posts above? IT doesn’t just have to be about gay parents passing this onto their children. Bisexuals could easily carry this trait and pass it on to their offspring from heterosexual unions, and if some people are right, there are FAR more bisexual people than gay people. It could also be a trait that doesn’t have to be expressed in order to be carried. I’m sure this does occupy scholars of the first order, but that’s probably because there are many different possibilities.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Warren,

    It may also be true that brains are somehow wired for reproduction, but we are not animals subject to every whim of our passions. Our brains are more complex. I’m sure there are other neural and biochemical pathways that are at play in what we call love and attraction.

  • Drowssap

    Jayhuck & Ken

    I’m afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on this point. Male SSA is a personality trait that never comes in handy for spreading DNA in any known environment. Over time any gene responsible for SSA would get obliterated by OSA genes. I know you guys disagree but that’s my opinion.

    As for genes that increase or decrease the likelihood of SSA those probably are out there, maybe even dozens of them. Gene scans are getting cheaper and better all the time. Once we find one of these genes (or a few) it should tell us a lot about how SSA comes together. That I’ll definitely go along with.

  • Drowssap

    ken

    No this is incorrect. Red-heads are NOT the only ones who carry the genes that cause red hair. Simply removing those who express the trait (red-hair) from the gene pool does not eliminate the genes themselves.

    If we sterilized every person with an expressed red haired gene it wouldn’t be long until the gene was extinct. It might take 5 generations or even 25 but that trait would certainly disappear from human populations very quickly.

    In the real world you don’t have to sterilize animals to eliminate a trait. Red haired people would only have to produce half as many kids as brown haired people and they would ensure their ultimate extinction. It might take a while, but it will happen every single time.

    In the case of red and brown hair there is probably a balancing point where both traits would coexist. Red hair might work better in cold climates, brown in hot climates and both would exist to some degree in middle climates. There is no balancing point for male SSA/OSA because there isn’t an environment where SSA beats OSA for making babies.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    Over time any gene responsible for SSA would get obliterated by OSA genes

    Forgive me, but that is just patently false, as we’ve shown above. The fact that you can’t accept all the other viable possibilities sort of leaves me in awe. There are many books out there by reputable scientists talking about how a gay genetic trait could be passed on. If you’d like for me to refer you to them I’d be happy to do that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    jayhuck – Yes, there are other systems responsible for attachment but these also make evolutionary sense in that once the baby is born, the adult must feel the love and the baby must latch onto the care giver. I am not sure what theoretical base you are advancing but it doesn’t address what evolutionary advantage SSA would bring.

    Yes, there are theories but what is the empirical support for them? Bailey tested the theory that gay uncles provide more resources for children of straight sibs and found no support in that the resources were not greater nor were gay Uncles found to live closer. It is true that there are theories but it not correct that any of them have consensus or the benefit empirical support. If you have references to studies which support a theory of fitness for SSA, please provide them. But it is not necessary to keep saying you think there is an advantage.

  • ken

    Drowssap said in post 90213:

    Red haired people would only have to produce half as many kids as brown haired people and they would ensure their ultimate extinction.

    This will be my last attempt at explaining this to you. Having red hair is a recessive genetic trait. That means unless both chromosomes have the gene for red hair, a person will not have red hair. So it is possible for people to carry the gene for red hair and not have red hair. Even if you eliminated all red headed people from the gene pool, you have not eliminated all of the genes for red hair. Your initial assumption (post 90134) that if people with a specific trait cannot reproduce, then the trait cannot be genetic is wrong.

  • ken

    Warren asked in post 90196:

    how does a trait that does not give reproductive advantage survive?

    The reproductive advantage does not need to be on the individual level, but may provide an advantage on a family, colony, tribal etc level. Worker bees are sterile, yet they provide an important role for the colony that helps the colony survive.

  • Eddy

    It’s been years since I’ve been involved in a ‘nature vs nurture’ conversation. I’ve always leaned towards the belief that it was both. But I’ve noted that ‘nature’ goes in search of a gene or trait that has been passed on and ‘nurture’ seems to largely go towards upbringing and environmental influences while growing up. What I wonder about is the potential for pre-birth nurture.

    Say that a gene or trait has been passed on at conception, can factors in the womb environment influence the way a gene or trait expresses itself? The physical and/or emotional health of the mother during pregnancy, her diet and other exposures from her environment?

    Using the red hair example, it wouldn’t be so much a ‘red hair gene’ but a ‘red hair propensity gene’. So from conception the child is destined to have red hair but perhaps the degree of redness is impacted by the womb environment?

    I think of my brothers and I, it’s obvious that we all got mom and dad’s short genes but I’m even shorter than all of them. What post-conception but pre-birth influences impact our genes or traits?

  • Drowssap

    Alright Ken and Jayhuck we are going round and round forever so I’m bringing out the big guns. 8-) Top of the story, Ken Kendler

    By no means is sexual orientation genetically determined but clearly genes are playing some role by interacting with a range of environmental factors.

    That statement sums up precisely where science is at on SSA. They haven’t found any gay genes but twin studies suggest that some are probably out there. More importantly scientists believe that OUTSIDE ENVIRONMENTAL INPUT plays a roll. That could be socialization, nutrition, hormones or a combination of those or anything else in the environment. My favorite theory is that SSA is the result of a common, childhood infection that occurs very early in life.

    Scientists know that hand orientation can switch from right to left due to a common childhood infection so it’s certainly not unprecedent. (Google meningitis and left handed) The fact that gay people are more likely to be left handed also suggests an infection is a likely candidate. If the gay gene turns out to be a blood type gene that’s one more piece of evidence that a common infection is a likely candidate.

  • Eddy

    Re gays and left-handedness: Isn’t it also possible that someone who is left-handed (whether post-meningitis or simply because they are) has simply been conditioned to ‘think outside the box”?. In reconciling with their own left-handedness, an individual would logically conclude that the world at large sometimes call things wrong simply because they are different or in the minority. (Even if a left-handed person didn’t experience verbal pressure and therapy to go ‘right’, they continually encounter situations and devices that are designed for the ‘right’ suggesting that their left-handedness is somehow unacceptable.)

    It seems that a person who survived anti-left-handed pressure would be less likely to accept ‘conventional wisdom’ as a life guiding force due to their early awareness that ‘conventional wisdom’ is often wrong.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    Where are the big guns??? :) Scientists have been saying for years that all of our behaviors and traits are a combination of genes and our environment – you speak as if this is new, but its not – and this goes for homosexuality AS WELL AS heterosexuality. What no one knows, for either, is the combination or amount of each.

    Warren,

    I actually wasn’t talking about fitness above, but if you’re interested in exploring this subject more, a quick Google search will bring up several theories on the subject of evolution and homosexuality, and there is also a book I ran onto the other day titled: “Straight Science?: Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation”.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Warren,

    These are just more theories as to the possible evolutionary advantages of homosexuality:

    “Most likely, homosexuality as a behavior is a more complex phenomenon than just blue or brown eyes- a number of factors are considered- including the number of older male siblings a person has. Scientific research out of Toronto has shown that the more older male siblings a man has, the more likely he is to be a homosexual. The hypothesis is that the mothers becomes immunologically sensitized to the successive male fetuses within her, since they contain male proteins that she is not used to. According to this hypothesis, by the time the youngest male child is being carried in utero, she has developed anti-male antibodies which effectively diminish the normal masculinization process, resulting in a tendency towards homosexuality. But there may be some other benefits to the mother- a recent study from Italy showed that the maternal relatives of homosexual men have more children than the maternal relatives of heterosexual men. If this is repeated, it would suggest that there is a reproductive benefit to women whose DNA tends to result in homosexual male children- they have more children overall, meaning that their evolutionary fitness is actually increased because of the fact that they have homosexual sons. ” – Zachary Moore

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Warren,

    It is true though, that any evolutionary advantages regarding homosexuality that we discuss are only going to be speculation. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t viable theories out there however :)

  • Eddy

    According to this hypothesis, by the time the youngest male child is being carried in utero, she has developed anti-male antibodies which effectively diminish the normal masculinization process, resulting in a tendency towards homosexuality.

    If my mom would have stopped having children when I was born, my experience would look like a support of this theory since I have 3 older brothers. But she had 3 more male children after me…all straight. With this theory, you’d think that the 7th male in her brood wouldn’t have a chance of being straight.

    Or perhaps producing me–(less than masculine according to this theory)–reduced those anti-male antibodies and gave my younger brothers fresh access to normal masculination.

    I just love theories!

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Yes – theories are fun :)

  • Mary

    Eddy,

    I survived the left handed obstacles (I am ambidexterous). And yes, constantly, the same as being gay, you are confronted with a world that is fitted for the majority. Toilets are right handed. Doors, driving, computer keyboards with the numbers on the right, cell phones with right sided controls for the thumb, golf courses, some dance moves, the coffee pot that gets put back by a right handed person etc… Right handed people or straights don’t think of these things. Interesting that you have observed it.

  • Mary

    And yes, we have a tendency to ” think beyond our borders” as it were and find solutions in new and fascinating ways – it makes us different.

  • Drowssap

    Jayhuck

    Scientists have been saying for years that all of our behaviors and traits are a combination of genes and our environment – you speak as if this is new, but its not – and this goes for homosexuality AS WELL AS heterosexuality. What no one knows, for either, is the combination or amount of each.

    Then what are we debating? That’s exactly where science is at and this includes Dean Hamer. There is no gay gene. There is no recessive gene that occasionally expresses and makes people gay. No scientist is suggesting there is a gay gene and no research supports the notion that there is one.

    However there probably are genes that make people more or less likely to be gay even though none have been identified. If they are out there, they’ll certainly be found given enough time. Gene scans get cheaper and better all the time.

  • Drowssap

    Eddy

    Isn’t it also possible that someone who is left-handed (whether post-meningitis or simply because they are) has simply been conditioned to ‘think outside the box”?

    It is certainly possible but unlikely. Left handedness is tied to virtually every fitness reducing condition you can Google. It isn’t that left handedness is necessarily bad. There is a healthy, natural genetic version and an unhealthy pathological version. The pathological version is a result of some type of damage or misdevelopment. For some reason when the brain is damaged in even the TINIEST way hand orientation can switch from right to left. As an example half of all premature babies are left handed. Right now scientists can’t look at someone and know if they are naturally left handed or left handed because of some tiny (or not so tiny) damage or misdevelopment.

    I only learned about this a few months ago. I was chatting with Timothy Kincaid on this very board when I accidentally ran across pathological left handedness in some related story to our chat.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    There is no gay gene. There is no recessive gene that occasionally expresses and makes people gay. No scientist is suggesting there is a gay gene and no research supports the notion that there is one.

    What????? I’m not sure if you’ve been ignoring all of our posts for the last several months on this topic or you just decided to put your foot down and believe that this is true regardless of the evidence to the contrary. If you’re talking about just ONE gene, then you’re absolutely right – no one gene is going to determine a complex trait such as sexuality, but if you’re saying there are NO genes that predispose someone to homosexuality or that help determine our sexuality, then you are wrong. There is plenty of indirect evidence out there that genetics are playing a part in our orientation – gay, bisexual or straight – And there are many good scientists out there spending a great deal of time, effort and money to try and figure this out.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Eddy,

    I culled this from a Wikipedia article on Left-handedness:

    In 1998, a study suggested that approximately 7 to 10 percent of the adult population was left-handed. Studies indicate that left-handedness is more common in males than females.[1] Left-handedness, in comparison to the general population, also appears to occur more frequently in identical twins,[2][3] and several groups of individuals with neurological disorders (such as people with epilepsy,[4] Down’s Syndrome,[5] autism,[6] mental retardation[7] and dyslexia). Statistically, the identical twin of a left-handed person has a 76 percent chance of being left-handed, identifying the cause(s) as partly genetic and partly environmental.[8]

    The article itself is pretty interesting and can be found here:

    Left-handedness Article

  • Eddy

    Jayhuck–

    I have no idea why you directed your last post on left-handedness to me. I only mentioned left-handedness in one of my posts and, in that post, I was only hypothesizing that a lefty was more likely to “think outside the box’ due to the pressures they experience for being left-handed.

    Should your comment have been directed to Drowssap or are you suggesting that lefthandedness is, in fact, not just different but wrong? LOL! I’ve been trying and I just can’t find a connection between your comment and my post.

    Mary–

    LOL! It’s like I said in another thread. I’ve been ‘studying’ people all my life and, although I was never a ‘lefty’, I noticed first that a school desk seemed to be designed to favor a right-handed person. After that, whenever I noticed that something was designed ‘just perfect’ for my right-handed needs, that meant it had to be a touch awkward for a ‘lefty’.

    The notion that it would cause a person to ‘think outside the box’ comes in part from being so short. I deal with shirt sleeves piled up at my wrist, pants with cuffs even when cuffs aren’t in, security peepoles that are above my eye-level, urinals that are mounted too high on the wall, couches and chairs that don’t allow my feet to touch the floor, products that I can’t reach and labels I can’t read on upper shelves at the store, yard and garden tools (shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows) that don’t respect my center of gravity. I am not short based on any disease model and yet these things are all daily reminders that I’m not a part of the norm. So, I learned very early that ‘not being normal’ did not mean that there was something wrong with me…it simply meant that society wasn’t thoughtful enough to accommodate my uniqueness. As a result, from an early age, I was used to the idea that society caters to those who fit it’s preconceived notion of normal. LOL! Next weeks topic: The subliminal messages of mass-production.

    (As recently as two months ago, a neighbor wanted to turn her car keys over to me while on a trip so that I could move it for her if we got a snow emergency. LOL. We had to first go out and make sure that we could adjust her drivers seat enough for me to reach the pedals while still being able to see over the dashboard.) Oh, and I’m not the only guy in my family who rides a ‘girls bike’ because it better accommodates short legs. LOL! Forced to ‘think outside the box”!!!!

  • ken

    Drowssap said in post 90285:


    By no means is sexual orientation genetically determined but clearly genes are playing some role by interacting with a range of environmental factors.

    That statement sums up precisely where science is at on SSA.

    I don’t disagree with Kendler’s statement. The purpose of my post in 90139 was to point out that you while you were arguing against Hamer’s inaccurate statement, you were making your own inaccurate and misleading statement.

  • Mary

    Eddy, Try being a woman in a man’s world. LOL!!!

    Obese people face it, children face it, single fathers who are homeless can’t get assistance as easily, and on and on the list goes. Big breasted women have to have their blouses taylored for them, the seatbelt doesn’t fit right, squeezing by someone in an aisle at church is awkward, sitting at a desk, excercising is difficult – golf swing is altered etc… Face it unless you fit into the average male and average female world – you are going to face particular issues that you must find a way to handle.

    We really need to look at people for who and what they are and from their perspective – it is a different view.

    BTW, my mom is always picking on me for having smaller feet than the rest of the family (mine are average). She makes sure I feel the pain!!! LOL!! She wonders how I balance and stand up at all. While I can’t understand why she would take a cruise to anywhere with the canoes at the end of her legs she could be across the ocean before we boarded!!

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    but if you’re saying there are NO genes that predispose someone to homosexuality or that help determine our sexuality, then you are wrong.

    You missed the second half of my post

    There is clearly no gay gene but…

    “However there probably are genes that make people more or less likely to be gay even though none have been identified. If they are out there, they’ll certainly be found given enough time. Gene scans get cheaper and better all the time.”

    Twin studies suggest the strong possibility that genes might play some role in SSA.

  • Drowssap

    Since we are on the subject of left handedness and genes…

    Most people (including myself not long ago) assume that left handedness and genetics are always tied together. Scientists know otherwise.

    This explains why in a field with almost no money like SSA research scientists managed to scrape together funding to do dozens of studies that asked one question, “Are gay people more likely to be left handed.”

    The reason is obvious. It is an easily testable question and a very important piece of information.

    This is the 2000 Meta Analysis of 20 of these studies.

    Sexual Orientation and Handedness in Men and Women: A Meta-Analysis

    From the conclusion:

    With regard to homosexuality, this meta-analysis points to an early neurodevelopmental basis involving disruptive events causing developmental instability. It is very likely that the disruptive events modify sexual differentiation of the brain, perhaps through hormonal or immunological mechanisms.

    That sentence is one of the reasons I believe a common childhood infection is probably part of the equation. If the gay gene turns out to be an immune system gene that would be another powerful piece of information.

  • jayhuck

    Eddy,

    You are right – my comment should have been directed to Drowssap – LOL

    Drowssap,

    I didn’t miss the last half of your post, I was just trying to make sure I understood you.

    I am still making my way through that meta-analysis, but I wanted to post the entire writing of that conclusory paragraph:

    The findings reported in this article support the view that sexual

    orientation has an early neurodevelopmental basis. The notion of

    developmental instability can explain why non-right-handedness is

    related to homosexuality in both men and women. It does not,

    however, identify the specific neurodevelopmental mechanisms

    underlying sexual orientation. Much remains to be learned about

    the etiology of sexual orientation. With regard to homosexuality,

    this meta-analysis points to an early neurodevelopmental basis

    involving disruptive events causing developmental instability. It is

    very likely that the disruptive events modify sexual differentiation

    of the brain, perhaps through hormonal or immunological mechanisms.

    Future studies are necessary to determine if homosexuality

    in men and women is associated with other signs of developmental

    instability.

    Interesting ideas though – thanks for sharing that! :)

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    What you hilighted was absolutely correct. The meta analysis doesn’t show what causes SSA. What it strongly suggests is that some type of outside, environmental input is at work.

    perhaps through hormonal or immunological mechanisms

    That means hormones or germs. I think it’s germs for many reasons, but as of now scientists just don’t know.

    Side Note:

    Half of all premature babies are left handed. So what triggers premature births? One cause appears to be the Herpes virus.

    Herpes Virus Linked To Preterm Births (Feb 24, 2008)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    Just keep in mind – and perhaps you already know this – that just because the immune system may be involved doesn’t mean that a “germ” necessarily is.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    What it strongly suggests is that some type of outside, environmental input is at work.

    I just want to clarify something – Genes are almost ALWAYS interacting with the environment. It wouldn’t matter whether you were gay, straight, left-handed, etc. Your genes, regardless of your orientation, are acting with the environment to make you who you are. Complex traits such as orientation will never be determined solely on genes along. So while you are correct to say that an outside environmental input is at work, that is also true for every single one of us.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    So while you are correct to say that an outside environmental input is at work, that is also true for every single one of us.

    That is certainly true. All human traits are a combination of the natural environment on Earth and the genes that evolved to operate in that environment.

    Just as an example (and I’m not comparing them to SSA) there are many genes that increase the likelihood of Shizophrenia and Autism. But none of these genes cause these disorders. If they did natural selection would make short work of them in just a few generations. In both cases it appears a common infection is responsible. The genes merely offer increased susceptability for unknown reasons.

    Schiz and Autism linked to common flu virus

    Common cat pathogen linked to Schizophrenia

    Schizophrenia tied to common infections

    Autism tied to maternal immune system

    Obviously in this last one there isn’t a gene for “attack babies brain during pregnancy.” Something went wrong and it will probably come right back to an infection gone awry.

    Damaged genes also seem to play a role in Autism. Why are they damaged? Nobody knows who the culprit is but a pathogen is at the top of the list.

    Bonus Link:

    OCD and Tourettes caused by common infection

    Fascinating Tourettes Article from 2005

    He says that 80 to 90 percent of those with OCD and Tourette’s are strep carriers. “They may not get a sore throat but they can shed the bacterium,” he explains. “Something is different about their immune system.”

  • http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com Timothy Kincaid

    A thought:

    Suposing that some genetic combination resulted in a person who, when exposed to the element nitrogen, turned green. As nitrogen is a common element found in all environments on Earth, all such persons with this genetic soup mix would be green (and able to star in Wicked without makeup).

    The question: was it their genes or their environment that “caused” their green skin?

    I bring this up because of the question as to whether a “germ” is a factor in sexual orientation. Perhaps the presence of some environmental stimulae is required; but if so, it would seem that such stimulae is present in all cultures, on all continents, in all social strata, and over all known times. Perhaps this ubiquitous environmental variable is no variable at all but is simply the environment in which we all live.

  • Drowssap

    Timothy Kincaid

    Tim you bring up a good point and one that I’ve thought about a lot.

    What if some common factor in the environment is responsible? Nitrogren is as good an example as any. The problem with that theory is the humans wouldn’t be able to spread common genes that weren’t as effective in Nitrogen as other genes because Nitrogen was all around them. Genes need a competive advantage in a given environment to spread and become common. The other problem with that theory is that Nitrogren isn’t evenly distributed across the globe. As Nitrogen increased and decreased so would the rate of SSA. But we don’t really see obvious clusters of gay people around the globe. There aren’t more gay people in cold climates, or near mountains or at the equator. SSA is pretty much everywhere. If we ever found that gay people were born clustered in artificial environments like cities that’s a huge red flag for a pathogen.

    So why germs? Well first back to the Nitrogen example. Nitrogen never changes or evolves. It’s easy for humans to develop genetic defense mechanisms against something like that. Pathogens aren’t so easy. They evolve tens of thousands of times faster than we do. Whatever we come up with, they eventually find a way around it. That’s why disease has been part of the human condition forever. Only futuristic, yet to be developed technologies will change that. If a germ somehow found a way to make people gay we’d have a tough time defending ourselves against it, even after thousands of years of evolution. It isn’t that our genes couldn’t do something but as always it would be a long, drawn out slugfest with both sides evolving against each other.

    Example:

    Syphillus has changed considerably since it first arrived in Europe

    Link

  • jayhuck

    Timothy,

    Perhaps the presence of some environmental stimulae is required; but if so, it would seem that such stimulae is present in all cultures, on all continents, in all social strata, and over all known times. Perhaps this ubiquitous environmental variable is no variable at all but is simply the environment in which we all live.

    Excellent point – and one that has crossed my mind as well :)

  • Marty

    The party line of the pro-gay activist is that gay people “are born that way, and cannot change”. The Media buys it and repeats it over and over and over.

    I think everyone here agrees that it is at best a gross exaggeration, and at worst a baldfaced and indsidious lie.

    But they still get away with it, and the media still repeats it for them…

  • jayhuck

    Marty,

    I don’t necessarily agree with you!

  • Drowssap

    Timothy Kincaid & Jayhuck

    Here is one more problem with pathogens that I neglected to mention.

    Our genes don’t have the luxury to evolve against one pathogen. They must evolve against countless pathogens that attack our bodies in different ways.

    Sometimes a gene that provides a good defense against pathogen A makes a lousy defense against Pathogen B.

    Blood type works that way.

    Sadly I can’t get into the main article but thats ok because the first paragraph sums it up pretty well.

    “It’s no accident of nature that human blood has split into a handful of distinct types: A, B, AB and O. People with type O blood are at less risk of dying from malaria but more vulnerable to cholera and stomach ulcers, suggesting that different diseases put different pressures on how blood evolved.”

    I had a much better article written by an Undergrad but the link died. 8-( It explained in a lot better detail how blood type is full of pluses and minuses for our immune system. It’s why we have different blood types in the first place.

  • concerned

    Marty,

    I agree with you and it baffles me except there are other issues that the media also distorts in favor of their own political leanings.

  • Eddy

    A quote from Timothy echoed by Jayhuck:

    Perhaps the presence of some environmental stimulae is required; but if so, it would seem that such stimulae is present in all cultures, on all continents, in all social strata, and over all known times. Perhaps this ubiquitous environmental variable is no variable at all but is simply the environment in which we all live.

    The word “all” almost always gives me pause…makes me wonder how we can know that–especially all social stratas of all cultures over all known times. But your average conservative Christian would likely see that environment as the ‘sin environment’, the fallen world that we are all born into.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jayhuck2point0 jayhuck

    Eddy,

    The word “all” almost always gives me pause…makes me wonder how we can know that–especially all social stratas of all cultures over all known times. But your average conservative Christian would likely see that environment as the ’sin environment’, the fallen world that we are all born into.

    Drowssap also acknowledged he had been thinking about this as well. I can’t really speak for Timothy, but I’m guessing he was talking about recorded history. For conservative Christians the “sin environment” may very well be all the explanation that they need, but Drowssap, Timothy and I were talking about science.

    I absolutely agree with you though that some Christians would understand that sin is involved in this process, as it infects every single one of us.

  • Drowssap

    BTW, because this came out this morning…

    Back to Narcolepsy

    Narcolepsy is due to a lack of a specialized neurotransmitter called Orexin (Hypocretin). Without it our sleep patterns go haywire. But that’s not all, Narcoleptics also experience the weird side effect of having slightly different body temperatures than you and me.

    And now this,

    Study finds that the majority of Narcoleptics have eating disorders

    It’s one more piece of evidence that suggests that the loss of just one Neurotransmitter due to an infection can have all sorts of weird, side effects.

    And in the case of human Narcolepsy it appears that the culprit is a virus.

  • J. James

    Jayhuck wrote:

    I absolutely agree with you though that some Christians would understand that sin is involved in this process, as it infects every single one of us.

    I find your Christian misanthropy revolting. Yes, it’s Christian. It’s also dead wrong, and borderline evil.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    J. James – I get it; you have issues with Christianity. The thing is, we do not bash religions here. As much as some of us might like to see you turned from Saul to Paul, I will not post additional comments which do this.

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Gaybros says, “We are seeking families with two or more living gay brothers to assist us in our research.” What they are really looking for are those to help them support their own beliefs and causes. It is bias from the getgo. Come on, anyone in their right mind can see the “social desire” written all over this. Their website should really read: “Join us in our Social Agenda”. Have a great day everyone!

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    I am late coming into this discussion, for that I apologize (well, not really) but I like how NickC started it all off with the question: “.. how does posting these two videos simultaneously make Wayne a crazy, biased activist?” OMG, now that is classic. As if we need to pinpoint something to explain the obvious.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Jim – How else would you research the genetic linkage without people related to one another?

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Warren,

    Yes of course, the sample would be related (brothers); however, the credibility of the study is compromised given that the site is clearly attracting samples toward social desire, which is no secret to support the “born that way” ideology.

    -Jim

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    Jim – I still do not get it. What are you saying the researchers will do with their results? Are you suggesting they will fudge the results due to bias? The lab work is objective stuff and the volunteer nature doesn’t impact the results since the linkage will either be there or it won’t. I do not understand what you mean by “social desire.” Maybe Sanders wants a heavy genetic component, but I fail to see how wanting it will translate into the analyses in the lab.

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Warren,

    I am not saying they will fudge data. Although I hope they use independent researchers to verify the findings. I am not taking about results. I am talking about the basic limitation of the study, that of the sample being drawn online sources without randomization. The lab is one thing, but I am talking about the two-foldness of the study that includes questionaire data.

  • ken

    Jim Phelan said in post 90897:

    I am not taking about results. I am talking about the basic limitation of the study, that of the sample being drawn online sources without randomization.

    How did you determine that the only method of soliciting subjects was from online sources?

    And what aspect of the study requires that the subjects be randomly chosen?

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Ken,

    Thanks for you further inquiry. In staying with the post, I have gathered my conclusions for the site gaybros that Warren listed. If you know of other sources. please advise.

    While not a requirement, per say, randomized samples are the gold standard in research and adds to greater reliability.

  • ken

    Jim Phelan said in post 91010:

    I have gathered my conclusions for the site gaybros that Warren listed.

    So you basically jumped to conclusions without even attempting to get any information, or even examining your own source very closely. At the bottom of the web page is a link to a pdf flier that indicates they are soliciting participants from more than just the internet.

    If you know of other sources. please advise.

    Sure:

    malegene@enh.org

    866-364-7571 (toll-free)

    Alan R. Sanders, MD

    1001 University Place

    Evanston, IL 60201 USA

    I’m sure Dr. Sanders would be able to provide you with a lot more information about the study. However, I get the impression you really aren’t that interested in the details.

    While not a requirement, per say, randomized samples are the gold standard in research and adds to greater reliability.

    As I’ve pointed out to you before, that really depends on what the research is trying to do. And you clearly don’t know enough about this study to be making such sweeping generalizations.

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Ken,

    All roads lead to the same — the gaybros site from what I can tell. Yes, I saw the pdf, but the pdf is from the website. I had to go to the website to get the pdf. I am sure if they want a large enough sample they will have to spread the word, nevertheless.

    I see you accuse me of the some things, however — suggesting I have not even examining my own source, that I clearly don’t know enough about this study, and that I am am making sweeping generalizations. And finally, you suggest I am not really that interested in the details. These are just accusatory and off centered to the topic. Please make your point and move on. Thanks.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Jim – In this type of study how would you get a random sample of gay brothers?

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Just like any other.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Cop out.

    But Wait!

    I forgot, there is a registry of all gay men in the US with the sexual orientation of their siblings listed. All we need to do is to go in and randomly choose gay brother pairs and compel those randomly chosen to take part.

    Why didn’t I think of that?

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Warren,

    Making your point without the sarcasm would be more becoming and better appreciated.

    Gay men have been sampled in randomized manners before. A simple question would be to ask the group if they have gay sibling(s). Based on responses, subsequent work would follow.

  • http://www.JimPhelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Another thing, why are these researchers (and ones before them) so interested in men? Doesn’t homosexuality occur in women? This type of research (biological study) is becoming gender bias.

  • ken

    Jim Phelan said in post 91045:

    Please make your point and move on.

    My point is you are so biased against this study you have made false and misleading statements about it. And for whatever reason, you dislike this study so much you can not even see how your bias is affecting your judgment in this matter.

  • http://www.jimphelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    Ken,

    You want to hear about bias, read my last post!

  • Evan

    Hello, again! I have been away for a while, but I am trying to keep abreast with the issues discussed.

    This whole debate over small details of what makes the needle point one way or the other will be probably outshined by a more general one in the not-so-distant future. Catherine Dulac of Harvard Medical School already pointed out that sexual dimorphism in the mammalian brain of the rat is insignificant in determining mating behaviour — actually both male and female have very similar neural wiring for mating and reproduction (I have seen the same conclusion drawn by Drosophila researchers). Based on what homology teaches us in relation to humans, let’s say we expect something along the same lines, but in relation to the visual system. We are not from a different class, after all, so we have a significant legacy bequeathed from the ancient biological paths.

    We have no device to measure attractions, still we have research indicating at least 32.8% for men and 65.4% for women support for same-sex attractions in the general population (Santtila et al., 2007). I think that’s underreported, due to reasons that pertain to self-concept and gender identity (especially in the case of men). The same human faculty that decides what to report also decides what attractions to act upon. But report is ‘cheaper’, in moral terms…

    So I am expecting research to reveal some kind of a bi-sex wiring base that gets activated more or less on one side or the other according to some variables that we’re playing with right now when we study the extremes of the interval of sexual attractions (levels of aggression and activity, gender nonconformism, hormonal influences). Some of them might have links with pathologies (mood disorders, anxiety), others might not, but clearly that information will be coded in some genes, be they deficient or not (it’s hard to think that there might be dedicated genes for same-sex attractions). There must be an internal image of the gendered body in the brain which connects with a use-it-or-lose-it faculty which might get lost in the sex atypical story (observation first stated by LeVay and confirmed by other people I have been talking to), however that may not be the common path for all cases of same-sex attractions.

    As a general word of warning, we should not acquiesce to geneticists’ tendency to overstress the importance of genetic markers — it’s only natural for them to do just that :). But I am still waiting for them to look for heterosexual markers: will that mean that social and political concerns determine what we look for in a genome or that we found something REAL?

  • http://www.JimPhelan.vox.com Jim Phelan

    We have no device to measure attractions, still we have research indicating at least 32.8% for men and 65.4% for women support for same-sex attractions in the general population (Santtila et al., 2007).

    Evan,

    Please check that sentence. What are you really saying there? Also, please provide the full reference.

    Thanks


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