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May 12, 2005

Nature or Nurture debate ignored for homosexuals

As I reported a couple of days ago, the New York Times carried an article about a Swedish research project that claims to have discovered that homosexual men respond to scents the way women do, rather than the way heterosexual men do. The National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuals has offered a critical analysis of the research.

This study is being reported in the mainstream press as more evidence for a biological basis for homosexual behavior. However, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a lecturer in Civil Liberties and Constitutional Law at Princeton University disagrees. According to Dr. Satinover*:

The key statement in the New York Times interview with one of the authors of the article is this:

"We cannot tell if the different pattern is cause or effect," Dr. Savic said. "The study does not give any answer to these crucial questions."

The same discussion arose after LeVay's study and he finally conceded--years later--that repetition of homosexual activity can change the brain to produce the effects he discovered--likewise here as the researchers state directly.

This study says nothing about homosexuality being innate (whether on a direct genetic or indirect, epigenetic hormonal-developmental basis). Likewise, if one changes the state of one's sexuality. The pheromone response would presumably change in consequence of behavioral-induced alterations in the underlying hypothalamic structures.

Dr. Satinover is author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.

The NARTH article also offered:

Dr. Warren Throckmorton has also examined this latest study and draws the following conclusions:

  • The study does show involuntary hypothalamic response associated with self-assessed sexual orientation
  • The study shows that gay males do react to the estrogen condition but in a different manner than they react to the testosterone condition
  • The study cannot shed light on the complicated question of whether sexual orientation of the participants is hard wired.
  • The brains of these participants may have acquired a sexual response to these chemicals as the result of past sexual experience. In other word, the response described in this study could well have been learned.
  • If these results hold up, this could explain why varying sexual attractions seem so "natural." Also, such conditioning could give insight into why changing sexual attractions is often experienced by those changing sexual preferences as a process of unlearning responses to environmental triggers.

What's also ironic is that Science Daily covers a study published in the current issue of Journal of Personality, that contends that “religiousness” is in part determined by genetics.

An analysis of self-reported religiousness showed that MZ twins maintained their religious similarity over time, while the DZ twins became more dissimilar. "These correlations suggest low genetic and high environmental influences when the twins were young but a larger genetic influence as the twins age" the authors state.

MZ is short for monozygotic, which means identical twins. DZ is short for dizygotic which means fraternal twins. I bet they could do the exact same study, but replace “religiousness” with taste in music, interest in sports or any of a number of trivial things, and get close to the same results.

Posted by Danny Carlton at May 12, 2005 07:52 AM

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