Creative Destruction

August 26, 2006

Prenatal Link to Male Homosexuality Found

Filed under: LGBT Issues,Science — Brutus @ 12:06 pm

A new study in Canada points to evidence that having older brothers increases a male’s chances of being homosexual. Researchers are continuing their attempts to isolate a cause for homosexuality, which includes answering the nature vs. nurture question. This particular study comes down of the nature side, the theory being that mothers have some sort of memory for male gestations or births that affect sons born afterwards.

This area of inquiry has never made sense to me. If there is a certain incidence of a particular trait in humans, say blond hair or freckles, even though there may be observable predictors, they usually fall well short of being mechanisms we could control. Genetic defects are a different category, and it makes sense to me to try to limit them. But homosexuality isn’t a defect, at least to those who accept it as a regularly occuring variation (behavioral, genetic, or otherwise).

Advertisements

16 Comments »

  1. It may not be a “defect” but it certainly is the opposite of the general biological function of sex. And even though it is a variation, given the small population size of homosexuals should it not be considered an anomalous variation as opposed to a regularly occuring one?

    Comment by toysoldier — August 26, 2006 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  2. Homosexuality is regularly occurring as it exist across geography, throughout history, and even in other species. Even though it’s a statistical minority, like freckles, I don’t agree that homosexuality is an anomaly, which stigmatizes it as aberrant. That’s certainly the old school of thought, but I don’t subscribe to it.

    Further, sex is more than its mere biological function. That’s recently been shown to be true in species other than humans. I apologize that I’m too lazy to get a cite.

    Comment by Brutus — August 26, 2006 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  3. Further, sex is more than its mere biological function. That’s recently been shown to be true in species other than humans.

    One theory I’ve seen sometimes thrown around about the genetic roots of homosexuality is that certain tendency for homosexual attraction is beneficial to populations that have this, that is, it is a side effect of humans being capable of forming positive-sum relations with other humans of same sex.

    If homosexuality occurs more in social animals than solitary ones, it supports this. And bonobos and dolphins at least do the nasty in same-sex manner, both intelligent and social (thus close to humans).

    If we all acted from a narrow, selfish fror invidual viewpoint manner (that grosses over the fact the fact our [humans] dominance has been mostly caused by the fact we are so social and capable of trade and formation of complex societies) “Die, competing sperm-shooter!” would pretty much be how men would treat each other. (Yeah, I know, I’m forgetting lesbianism, but it is not as important because sadly, women don’t have to like it*)

    Pure homosexuality would simply be an extreme manifestation of those traits, whereas on the opposing side of the gauss curve would be men who are revolted by even casual contact with other men.

    Then, on the other hand, I do think “gay” and other such classifications are also partly about social construction, I suspect the reality of human sexuality is more complicated, and people somewhere in between, or out-of-scale, are strongly pushed towards the extremes in societies which find it, for some reason, important to put people in neat little classification boxes (Straight, gay, bi, asexual etc.). Completely socially constructed just can not be the answer, though, for any non-organized religion person who believes in evolution. Who was the first social constructer? (in the case of homosexuality, did gay aliens from Uranus land to ancient Greece to teach about same-sex relations… Okay, that was juvenile).

    * It is quite possible for men to be made to have sex agasinst their will, but due to difference in average strengths, and due to the fact that it makes no sociobiological sense for women to get pregnant by someone who is weak, I suspect, on the grand scheme of evolution, that this was rare.

    Comment by Tuomas — August 26, 2006 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  4. What happened to my comment?

    [It was accidentally identified as spam. I’ve restored it. –Amp]

    Comment by Tuomas — August 26, 2006 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  5. Ah. Damn WordPress… It was long one.

    Okay, here goes:

    One theory I’ve seen about origins homosexuality as a regularly occuring variety is that some homosexual attraction is beneficial to the species, if it is social and forms communities (barring simple nepotism, even insects can do that).

    Thus on the other side of the variety gauss curve would be people who are utterly revolted by any physical contact with their same-sex peers (obviously not a winner strategy in most instances), and on the other side would be, perhaps even rarer, those who are vice versa (revolted by opposite), obviously not a winner strategy either.

    It also seems to be that quite a lot of all it is also social construction (but never all, for obvious reasons), namely the fact that many people do IMO spend far too much time in putting people in neat little classification boxes.

    Comment by Tuomas — August 26, 2006 @ 5:23 pm | Reply

  6. Brutus, I concede that is occurs regularly, though in obviously small quantities. However, I do not think calling it anomalous stigmatizes it as aberrant. The latter is a social construct and typically involves some religious reasoning while the former is simply an observation. And though sex has more than one function (which is likely why we experience orgasms), we would be remiss to dismiss that its primary function appears to be the creation of more humans. That could explain the small population of homosexuals in context of the survival of our species. It would be interesting to see what will happen once we begin using artificial wombs.

    Tuomas, people are quite fond of categorization. It makes it much easier to separate oneself from others, typically for one’s own benefit. Our fascination with labels and categorization has become so frequent that soon we will create labels and seek people to place them on.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 26, 2006 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  7. What happened to my comment?

    I don’t know. I used to have the ability to see a list of comments that had been blocked as spam, and reinstate the occasional false positive, but the link no longer works, so I can’t tell if this is what happened to you.

    Perhaps Adam or Barry, whose magic powers exceed my own, will be able to help.

    Comment by Daran — August 26, 2006 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  8. Thanks Daran. I used to have access to the spam filter too (and occasionally cleaned it). I tried to submit the comment, and when it did not appear I tried again and got the message that I had already said it. It may be genuinely lost, but I presented the same ideas (in shorter form) in comment 4.

    There appears to be something wrong with our spam filter, judging from the numerous messages from Mr’s Blow Job, Bizzare and Shaved, among others.

    Toysoldier: Good point, sadly true (I’ve done it too).

    Comment by Tuomas — August 27, 2006 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  9. FWIW this is pretty old news.

    Comment by ohwilleke — August 27, 2006 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  10. I believe there is a biological basis for most homosexuality, but there is also an increasing number of females that are simply choosing homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.

    Comment by SBW — August 27, 2006 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

  11. Tuomas and Daran, I’ve just tried to increase your magic powers, so perhaps that link will start working for you again.

    Comment by Ampersand — August 28, 2006 @ 2:48 am | Reply

  12. Oh, and our spam-filter had a bug in it, which the spam-filter-makers have now (I hope) fixed. If it keeps on being a problem, I’ll email them.

    Comment by Ampersand — August 28, 2006 @ 2:49 am | Reply

  13. I believe there is a biological basis for most homosexuality, but there is also an increasing number of females that are simply choosing homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.

    Let’s remember that there is no reason to assume that male homosexuality has the same cause as Lesbianism.

    Another point here is that “nature” is not the same thing as “genetic.” The potential cause of homosexuality mentioned here is “nature” bit not “genes.” This actually makes it a more plausible explanation than a gay gene, which would have a difficult time propagating itself.

    One theory I’ve seen sometimes thrown around about the genetic roots of homosexuality is that certain tendency for homosexual attraction is beneficial to populations that have this, that is, it is a side effect of humans being capable of forming positive-sum relations with other humans of same sex…

    Pure homosexuality would simply be an extreme manifestation of those traits, whereas on the opposing side of the gauss curve would be men who are revolted by even casual contact with other men.

    That would make more sense if there were more bisexual men. In reality, there appear to be more men who are gay than bi.

    Comment by Glaivester — August 30, 2006 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  14. Let’s remember that there is no reason to assume that male homosexuality has the same cause as Lesbianism.

    Quite true.

    That would make more sense if there were more bisexual men. In reality, there appear to be more men who are gay than bi.

    I’m not sure if that’s true, Glaivester. For one, quite many men defined as “gay” come out of closet quite late in life, and possibly have even been married and have children at this point.

    My point about labeling is that many men that simply have preference for men over women* (not an evolutionary dead-end) get defined as gay, even by gay community (political clout is the key here).

    This actually makes it a more plausible explanation than a gay gene, which would have a difficult time propagating itself.

    It could also be interaction of several genes, or a side effect of otherwise beneficial gene combination.

    * That is, but not exclusively.

    Comment by Tuomas — August 30, 2006 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  15. Ampersand:

    Tuomas and Daran, I’ve just tried to increase your magic powers, so perhaps that link will start working for you again.

    Thank you, it does.

    And now that I have the power to delete comments (he says, giggling maniacally), any further “messages from Mr’s Blow Job, Bizzare and Shaved” won’t last so long.

    Comment by Daran — August 31, 2006 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  16. This is quite an interesting discussion. I read the Canadian research and its findings are quite controversial but not for what is said here, the survey does not conclude as to why brothers would increase the likelihood of being gay, the survey only suggests that the mother’s body somehow would change after a pregnancy, no method of change is suggested, no biological data is given or even observed. Are gay sperms different? One thing which is observed is that is not the numbers of brothers in your upbringing that counts, but the number of brothers your biological mother had. This finding reinforces the notion that being gay is an innate condition.

    I think this research is well done under the circumstances. The data is clearly organized and the researchers have tried to maneuver past the inherent problems associated with obtaining information relating to this issue. Getting the right sampling is very difficult here, can you pay a fixed group of men to force each one to give his sexual orientation truthfully? Do you find a group and hope that it represents the members at large of the community?

    Let us remember that many still do not view themselves as gay even if they clearly have gay sexual preferences in their minds. Many women prefer the stimuli of a woman’s naked body, may be quite interested in their male’s body but still do not view themselves as gay because they are married. Most men in the priesthood, in the military, or even with strong religious beliefs will refuse to admit to their real orientation. That cannot help researchers.

    I think what is important and controversial in this servey, and the reason why it was not widely reported by the gay community is that it contradicts the general understanding that 7% to 10% of humans are gay. The study concludes that this number is closer to 4%. This number is quite low, it represents less than 1 out of 20 people. Do a little experiment, take a school yearbook, open it and point to those you know are gay, the numbers are surprising, generally in a class of 100 men and women, there will be more than 2 men and that clearly contradicts these scientific findings.

    One question I would like to ask to this group relates to the sexual orientation of identical twins. If in fact 5% to 10% of males are gay, and sexual orientation is not genetic, then 10% to 20% of twin sets would have twins with different sexual orientations. If being gay is genetic, then we should not be able to find identical twins with different sexual orientations absent a twin having come out and the other being closeted.

    I honestly do not know? Is there anyone here who is a identical twin who knows the answer or who has researched the situation? All of the twins I know have the same orientation. That would be helpful.

    Comment by Vilon — December 1, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: