Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Under the Tuscan Sun

An Italian regional government will be starting a campaign to put the weight of the government behind one of the key Dogmas of The Church of Gayness: that babies are born gay.

Talk about sexualizing the youth.

Personally, I would have put on the tag "escaped the abortionist." But maybe that's just me.

The Vatican, of course, tut-tuts, and so that makes that the lead on the ANSA report, while the openly gay philosopher's skepticism is at the bottom of the story. (There's more details of what Gianni Vattimo said here, but I can't find the original article in Corriere Della Sera, in Italian or English).
Gianni Vattimo described the campaign as “excessive” and said the slogan included “is too biology-centric. Of course for a homosexual it is natural to be gay, but I'm not too sure it is determined by genetics.”
The text on the poster -- "sexual orientation is not a choice" -- actually would be defensible if not for that ridiculous image, which pushes you to take a radical (and absurd) reading of the various ways that sentence can be parsed.

As I never tire of pointing out, there is in fact not a single shred of evidence -- yes, not a one -- that says homosexuality, even as a disposition, in determinedly inborn, which is the only way it can be meaningful to label newborn babies "homosexual" (and why not bisexual or transgendered).

Still, there is some suggestive evidence for much-more-modest claims -- that genes or hormone levels in pregnancy dispose toward homosexuality; that psychological events prior to puberty and/or conscious sexual agency affect one's sexuality; that an adult "sexual orientation" can be very difficult (in some cases impossible) to alter. While, on a moment's reflection, all serious people know that there is *an* element of choice involved in sexuality (not the same thing as saying it's fully and consciously chosen) and that change is *possible* (not the same thing as saying it's likely) ... certainly these facts do not make homosexual attractions a full-blown choice comparable to, say, what career to have.

Where there is not willful lying, obscurantism, ignorance, unwillingness to listen ... I think part of the reason so many people believe the "born gay" or "sexual orientation is not a choice (in any sense)" falsehood is the tendency to view one's own life and others' lives in narrative terms, i.e., in teleological terms. In other words, people reason from "how I am" or "I have XYZ features" (you'll notice I'm not talking specifically about "sexual orientation" yet) to "I am supposed to be this way." And then, since all forms of personality formation are two-sided processes, the "present" becomes retroactive justification, baptizing the "past," while the "past" ("present") continues to create the "present" ("future") that does the baptizing. You justify what you become and you become what you justify.

I am 40 years old and never had a sexual thought for a woman in my life and have had some thoughts about men for more than 30 of those years. It would therefore be very easy for me (and I doubt I'm alone in this respect) to assume that this was how it was meant to be. As the Italian gay MEP notes above, it even becomes, in a certain sense, "natural" for you or for that class of person. It's a thought that even comes in religious flavors, gussying up everything in your life with providential labels like "God's will" and "this is how God intended it." And it's no leap at all then back to "God made Mary Cheney gay."

Theodicy is a thorny question obviously, particularly if "God doesn't make mistakes." But keeping their eyes too focused on the present, the "gay-friendly" Christian says "and since God made me gay, being gay cannot be a mistake, ergo homosexual acts are good." And if all Scripture and 2,000 years of tradition say otherwise ... well ... hmmm ... "God is still speaking." Because to justify how far along the "gay-friendly Christian" already is, and cannot go back on, He has to be.


Terry Nelson said...

Excellent post. Excellent.

Rick said...

"Still, there is some suggestive evidence for much-more-modest claims -- that genes or hormone levels in pregnancy dispose toward homosexuality;"

I think the gene hypothesis has more than just passing support, but the argument is complex and comes in two steps.

First take a look at the work of the behavior geneticist, AJ Klar, whose work on handedness is pioneering. He is at the National Cancer Institute (btw: he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the genetics of schizophrenia.)
Here’s the link:

Step One:
What Klar shows about handedness (right handedness or left handedness) is that the genotype is manifested by a readily observable feature in the scalp, the rotational direction of the hair whorl. Using the hair whorl phenotype, Klar has shown that this basic feature of the scalp has a strong link to a genotype for handedness. Using the whorl as a genotypic indicator, Klar can show that certain genetic formations leave one ambi-valent for the handedness phenotype. Here’s how he explains it.

Roughly 95% of people are genotypically right-handed, (and have a clock-wise whorl) and the remaining 5% are ambi-valent (and have a left-handed whorl). This is a key distinction; the counter-clockwise whorl is NOT a sign for a left-handed gene, it is rather an indicator for an AMBI-VALENT gene, that is, a gene that leaves the person open to becoming either right OR left handed, depending upon early experience. That is, the phenotypical right-handed person is almost always genotypically right-handed. The phenotypical left-handed person, is NOT genotyped left-handed, but is genotyped ambi-valent. That is, the non-right-handed gene person are not genetically left-handed or right handed, but can be nudged in either direction; a nudging the occurs early in the child's development. But then becomes relatively stable early on.

Of the genotypic right-handed, over 95% are phenotypically right-handed, and the remainder are ambidexterous or left-handed. Now, of the 10% genotypic ambi-valent, roughly ½ are right-handed and ½ are left handed, and a few are ambi-dexterous. This results in the widely known fact that today 90% of people are right-handed, and the remaining 10% are left-handed.

Here's the main conclusion: Klar argues that the 95% of the right-handed genotype are almost completely UNAFFECTED by the environment in the manifestation of the right-handed phenotype—although a very few genotype right-handers are phenotypically left-handed-- whereas the ambivalent genotype is HIGHLY modifiable by the environment (hence the roughly 50-50 split between phenotypic right and left- handedness. )

Step Two:
Klar found that the hair whorl phenotype is also correlated with homosexual behavior in men. Here’s the abstract to the article.
Here’s the reference:
Excess of counterclockwise scalp hair-whorl rotation in homosexual men.
Klar AJ J Genet 2004 Dec 83(3):251-5

A few behavioral geneticists I know, who have spoken with Klar think that handedness and sexual orientation (in males) operate under similar genetic mechanisms, and these mechanisms are (curiously) correlated with the hair whorl phenotype.

Here’s the position as I understand it: (a) homosexuality as a consistent phenotype is relatively rare (less than 5% of the male population). (b) The homosexual does not have a genotype for homosexuality in the same way that the heterosexual is genotyped for heterosexuality. Rather, most phenotypical homosexuals are genotypically ambi-valent for sexual orientation. (c) Early experience can push the genotyped heterosexual to homosexuality, but it takes a very hard push. (d) the genotyped sexual ambi-valent need only be nudged in either direction, to phenotypic heterosexuality, or phenotypic homosexuality. The odds suggest that the assignment is random, and that in the beginning, the "nudge" to either side is not very hard. (e) however, once the pattern sets in, it becomes difficult to change (as in the case of handedness.) The other ½ were pushed to heterosexuality. This is a summary of the behavioral genetics from Klar as I understand it. I don't recall Klar or anyone else discussing the developmental features of the nudge, that is when the nudge is most likely to produce the effect. I am not a behavioral geneticist, and I may have missed something, however, so read the articles.

However, I am well studied in the sociological literature of sexual behavior, and I think this "nudge effect" is shown in the research literature (the best is in the NHSLS survey) on the distribution and modifications to homosexuality over time. The ambivalent feature of homosexuality is suggested by the survey data that show about 10% of the male population experiencing some homosexual behavior, but over two-thirds eventually revert to heterosexual phenotype (usually by their mid-twenties). I discovered these results when the NHSLS survey was first published in 1994. Satinover has a well-developed article on the phenomenon at the NARTH website that he published about two years agos- his analysis of the NHSLS findings is completely accurate.
As I recall, Satinover does not know about Klar's work, and in other articles by Satinover, he does not discuss the ambi-valence hypothesis.

Marty said...

That image is some of the sickest propaganda I've ever seen.


inked said...

The data are definitely NOT THERE to support this campaign. It's a nice sentimental scientism at work, but not hard science with demonstrated correlations. Unless you are also willing to accept "the God gene" and various other pseudoscientific hypotheses.

On-going study certainly indicates that evaluation is in progress. THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC CERTAINTY of this allegation.

Chairm said...

The ad undoes itself.

The image of the newborn child reminds that the nature of human generativity is both-sexed.

The image reminds that gay identity politics is first and foremost about labelling, and herding, human beings. Both those obviously labelled, and those who witness it.

Anonymous said...

i very much like your explanation..one of the clearest descriptions i've come across...i have family members with SSA & looking back wonder if there is some genetic basis..like my own disorder (bi-polar) perhaps there are several factors at work..very interesting..

Tom S. said...

I repeat a comment I Made some time back: I miss your insights, I hope all is well.

May the rest of your Advent be blest, and Merry Christmas.

Tom S.

Jennifer F. said...

I just re-discovered this post (and linked to it) and wanted to echo what someone else said: miss your insights, hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

I hope all is well (as others have) and also want to say that I miss hearing your thoughts. You're in my prayers this Christmas season, and I'll keep checking back here... God bless.

Tom S. said...

Merry Christmas Season.

Panic Attacks said...

There have been studies about the neural conflict in our brains regarding the male and female thoughts. It might be possible that aside from the genes, this factor is also significant.