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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Male homosexuality starts in the womb?

Here we go again. A new study suggests, according to the Washington Post, that "Many men are gay because of biological differences wrought by their mothers before the boys were born." However, "The mechanism behind this apparent maternal alchemy remains a mystery." So we have a situation of wild speculation once again portrayed as science. Why is it that biologists and psychologists can get away with this? How can you say that the mother's womb is the place where homosexuality is determined and have no clue as to the mechanism that does that? Statistics you say. "No similar links have been noted for lesbianism. And even among boys, the birth order effect -- which becomes a prominent influence in boys with two or three brothers or more -- accounts for only about one in every seven gay men, Bogaert and colleagues have calculated." So, for six out of seven men another explanation for their sexual orientation should be found. Why is this news?

Well, I suggest that the reason this is news lies in the other part of the first sentence of this article, which says this is "a study that opens a new and contentious front in the same-sex marriage wars." So what we have here is not science, but a political debate. I know that many think that if homosexuality can be found to be inborn, than a greater support for gay marriage is likely. There is some evidence for this in polls. However, I remain unconvinced, too much formed by my European history that shows that people can be killed in mass numbers for inborn differences such as disabilities or being Jewish. Europeans have no monopoly to making inborn difference the basis of severe discrimination and mass murder. America's racism has claimed many victims.

I am glad that we don't have to hide the political nature of biological research, though I suspect that several of the researchers would be shocked, shocked I say, by the suggestion that there is anything political about their work.

I am curious though. How can we biologically explain a phenomenon that has a history of no more than 175 years? Really, that is a very speedy evolutionary development.

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