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1.0 out of 5 stars Olympic gold medal winning conclussion jumping, 3 Aug 2010
This review is from: Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation (Paperback)
This book claims to prove homosexuality as inborn but barely scratches the surface of the science. The authors use research to do with identical twins that is not only out of date but discredited ignoring the research that disagrees with their position. They then do the same with the research on hormones and homosexuality in non-human species. If this book was not by such eminent researchers it would be funny, but because of their status in the UK university system this book is dangerous.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Aug 2010 17:42:03 BDT
The trouble is that any book on this subject will soon go out of date, because scientific research is continually coming up with new data. I have no doubt that if Wilson and Rahman were to re-write this book now in 2010, they could strengthen their case considerably.

Mr McIntyre describes this book as "dangerous" but does not tell us why. If the authors' theory is mistaken, then no doubt we shall find that out in the fullness of time. But why, in the meantime, a book espousing the theory that homosexuality is inborn should be regarded as dangerous I completely fail to see. Indeed, compared with, for example, the theory that homosexuality is some kind of illness or disorder which is caused by negative influences such as poor parenting and which can/should be "cured" through tampering by "ex-gay" ministries and "conversion therapies", the "born gay" theory - even if it should ultimately turn out to be wrong - strikes me as positively benign.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 10:48:21 BDT
The authors are dangerous because of their misuse of science. They claim hormones and genes cause homosexuality but give no proper proof. They ignore the research by Hamer and others that does not support the born gay argument, including the reality that neither Le Vay or others have replicated his research into the hypothalamus and that Hamer nor any other researcher has replicated Hamer's findings on the gay gene. They ignore the reality that the most up todate research published before the original decision of their book shows that in identical twins the rate where one twin is homosexual the other is also homosexual is 10% (25 % if you include bi-sexuality) and that researchers like Prof Michael King of University College London, Bailey and Pillard, and other twin researchers state that their research only shows biology to play a small part and the larger part of be environmental and in particular social and psycholgical. They fail to explain why in 90% of cases where one identical twin is gay the other is not.

They also ignore the evidence from studies from nature that show that when dominant males are culled then the rates of homosexuality in non-dominant males disappear. This is before we notice that they fail to wrestle with the issue that Hamer's research has been reported to the authorities in the US for falsifying evidence, that this same research has been dismissed by the person who came up with the test Hamer used as not meeting the criteria so that the published results do not stand up to basic scrutiny, or the claim by the then head of the human genome project that there is no evidence for the gay gene. They fail to explain the recorded phenomena (by Kinsey and others) that sexuality can spontaneously change without intervention, that people with homosexual feelings suddenly loose them and become straight. This is because of the position they take that sexuality is not fluid in the light of the evidence that shows this.

Finally, they fail to recognise or speak about the danger of this evidence being found. Already people like Bailey and others are speaking of the right of parents to abort children with the gay gene, that medicine can be used to stop the child in the womb developing lesbian tendencies. If, as Raman and Wilson claim, homosexuality is inborn the evidence they use is based on the hypothalamus or genetic code being different from heterosexuality. If so they are close to placing homosexuality on the level of schizophrenia or downs syndrome - that homosexuality is an abnormality. Does Mr Fisher support this? It is interesting to note that leading gay campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic do not support the conclusions in this book and rarely quote it in a positive light. Many of the arguments used in this book were dismissed in scientific journals before the book was published, so it is unlikely considering the lack of fresh evidence to support the gay gene or hypothalamus that the argument could be strengthened by a 2010 rewrite, and that is before mentioning the dubious issue of the use of claims about finger length and penis size used within the homosexuality community to support the born gay argument.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2010 19:51:17 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Sep 2010 10:03:33 BDT
Phelim McIntyre accuses Wilson and Rahman of misusing science. The charge is not convincing. He complains that "They claim hormones and genes cause homosexuality but give no proper proof." If by "proper proof" he means conclusive proof, as I take it that he does, then that is true, but there is no proper proof, in this sense, of any other theory of the cause or causes of homosexuality either. The authors believe (or did believe when they wrote this book) that sexual orientation is innate, and what they have done is to set out the evidence which they believe points to this conclusion. They make no secret of the fact that other researchers have failed to replicate Dean Hamer's results. Nor do they suppress the information that research has yielded contradictory results. Mr McIntyre complains that "They fail to explain why in 90% of cases where one identical twin is gay the other is not", but he ignores the authors' own explicit declaration that they do not suppose that genes alone are the cause of a person's sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, it is now known that monozygotic twins do not have to be absolutely identical. (The expression "identical twins" is merely popular linguistic usage, not a scientific description.) It is even possible, although extremely rare, for a pair of monozygotic twins to be of different sexes. That being so, a concordance rate of only 10% for homosexuality does not resolve the genetic question one way or the other.

Homosexuality in animals is a different phenomenon from homosexuality in humans, a point which Mr McIntyre has himself stressed elsewhere. Observations on animal homosexuality, if indeed it may be properly so termed, are not therefore simply transferable or perhaps even relevant to human homosexuality. I presume that when Mr McIntyre mentions "the then head of the human genome project" he is referring to Dr Francis S. Collins. In 2008 Dr Collins wrote, "No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years." It is true that some people's sexual orientation is fluid, and that complete change of orientation from homosexual to heterosexual and vice versa is not unknown, but in males, at any rate, it is very definitely the exception, not the rule. Such cases are not automatically fatal to a biological theory of sexual orientation, since there is no obvious reason why a fluid sexuality could not be as biologically determined as a fixed one. As Simon LeVay noted in his book "Queer Science", male-pattern baldness is very strongly influenced by genetic factors, but most bald men once had a full head of hair.

Mr McIntyre asks whether I would support the right of parents to abort foetuses with a gay gene (if such genes were discovered to exist), or to administer drugs to prevent a female foetus from developing "lesbian tendencies", and whether I would support classifying homosexuality as an abnormality on the basis of the hypothalamus or genetic code in homosexual people being different from that in heterosexual people. Most certainly I would not. There is no parental right to have children only if they are of a particular sexual orientation, and a difference in the brain or in the genetic code or any other physical difference, IF any such exists, would be simply that - a difference. It would not of itself indicate any abnormality at all in a medical sense. To argue that it would is to beg the question (in the original sense of that now much overused and misused phrase), i.e. to use an argument that tacitly assumes the very thing that one is trying to prove. While not wishing to deny the existence of a potential danger here, I would observe that the danger arises, not from believing (rightly or wrongly) that homosexuality is congenital, but from the unjustified à priori supposition that, whatever its cause or origin, it is some kind of illness or defect and that it therefore needs curing or preventing. It isn't and it doesn't. A similar danger arises where homosexuality is assumed to be an acquired or developed trait: officious cranks, often on the basis of quaint religious beliefs, try to persuade gays that their sexuality is pathological or that it is a form of "sexual brokenness" and that it needs to be "healed" or otherwise interfered with by means of "reparative therapy" or "ex-gay ministry".

I concede that, in the final analysis, Wilson and Rahman's book leaves the question "born gay?" unresolved, as it equally leaves the question "born straight?" unresolved, and that it is already in some respects out of date. But dangerous? I think not.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2011 20:41:01 GMT
Just a footnote to Mr McIntyre's assertion that "the most up to date research published before the original decision of their book shows that in identical twins the rate where one twin is homosexual the other is also homosexual is 10% (25 % if you include bi-sexuality)." Mr McIntyre does not state here the source of this statistic, but I gather from his remarks elsewhere that it is derived from a study by King and McDonald in 1992.

The data on concordance rates for homosexuality in pairs of monozygotic twins are conflicting, different studies having come up with disconcertingly disparate rates. Most of these studies have been criticized on one ground or another, and that includes the King and McDonald study. Zucker and Bradley (Gender identity disorder and psychosexual problems in children and adolescents, 1996) note that the King and McDonald study found the lowest concordance rate among MZ twins, but they describe it as "methodologically weak, in that the assessment of sexual orientation was poorly described and none of the subjects were interviewed directly."

Yet, despite his own insistence on his blog that a study has to be replicated to be of any real evidential value, Mr McIntyre apparently takes it for granted that, of the differing concordance rates which the various studies come up with, the lowest must a priori be the correct one, or the most nearly correct. He does not disclose the criterion on which this assumption is based, nor does any obvious one suggest itself, other than his personal preference for the figure most favourable to his own views.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2011 14:32:13 GMT
Mr Fisher fails to recognise the issue of research bias. In the Bailey and Pillard report, that is quoted by the Rahman and Wlison, the researchers gained their subjects by advertising in the gay press. This then is a poor study due to the heavy bias in sampling. Bailey did a later piece of research using the twin registry in Australia. In this the pairing of homosexuality in twins was 25% when including bisexuals. With the removal of bisexuals, and focussing on just those with only sexual attraction to the same sex, thie statistic drops to around 10%. This statistic is supported by other research by Baily and Pillard and other researchers who have used twin registries or randomised sampling. None of these pieces of research get a proper airing in Born Gay, though the outdated study that gave a pairing of over 50% does.

If Mr Fisher bothered to read the research that is available then he would see that with the exception of the research by Bailey and Pillard, the other twin studies give similar results. If Mr Fisher bothered to read the research he would see that, with the exception of the early Bailey and Pillard paper so loved by the pro-gay lobby, that each of them recognise their bias and show the steps taken to allow these studies to stand. There are statistical tests that can be applied to these surveys, entitled scaleability matrixes, which are designed to show whether the research passes the criteria. This allows individiual suverys to be compared against each other.

This falls into the catergory of quantative research as they are surveys. Tests by Hamer and Le Vay against the human gene, due to the labratory conditions of the tests and the statistical tests in place, should be replicable as they fall under the category of qualitative research. We should be able to study the same area of gene or hypothalamus under the conditions of the original research and find the same results. The reality is that this has not happened. With statistical surveys, as I have now explained on my blog but Mr Fisher has ignored, these rely on the checks and balances of matrixes to allow us to compare similar pieces of research, whether twin studies, results of a psychological intervention or views on a politcal party. These pieces of research are also peer reviewed. If within these surveys we find a conglomeration of similar finding as we do in all twin studies with the exception of Bailey and Pillard then we can plot these on a chart to predict what a similar piece of research should give us, if there is a major difference between the prediciton and the findings we then have to look and see what the cause is such as where the subjects interviewed were gathered. School children are taught this in GCSE Statistics byt Mr Fisher seems to have not grasped this. The major factor in the Bailey and Pillard, by their own admitance, is that the subjects were gathered via the gay press. This would explain the huge difference between their findings and all others which when plotted statistically all fall into the same pattern.

The fact that the lower statistics, inclduing the recent twin registry studies, are ignored in favour for rsearch that was already outdated before the book was written Wilson and Raham fail to answer why in so few cases where one twin is homosexual the other is also homosexual, something that the latest research into chromosnal differences in mono-zygotic twins fails to explain with the failure of the research to distinguish between pre and post natal chromosonal damage.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2011 14:45:57 GMT
Mr Fisher needs to read the following statistics that all show around a 10% homosexuality (25% including bi-sexuality) and undermine the views of the authors of Born Gay.

Bailey JM, Dunne MP, Martin NG. 2000. Genetic and Environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78:524-36

Bearman PS, Brueckner H. 2002. Opposite-sex twins and adolescent same-sex attraction. American Journal of Sociology 107:1179-205

Kirk KM, Bailey JM, Dunne MP, Martin NG. 2000. Measurement models for sexual orientation in a community twin sample. Behavior Genetics 30:345-56

Buhrich N, Bailey JM, Martin NG. 1991. Sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sex-dimorphic behaviors in male twins. Behavior Genetics 21:75-96

Hershberger SL. 1997. A twin registry study of male and female sexual orientation. Journal of Sex Research 34:212-22

Langstrom N, Rahman Q, Carlstrom E, Lichtenstein P. 2010. Genetic and Environmental Effects on Same-sex Sexual Behavior: A Population Study of Twins in Sweden. Archives of Sexual Behavior 39(1):75-80

Alanko K, Santtila P, Harlaar N, Witting K, Varjonen K, Jern P, Johansson A, von der Pahlen B, Sandnabba NK. 2010. Common Genetic Effects of Gender Atypical Behavior in Childhood and Sexual Orientation in Adulthood: A Study of Finnish Twins. Archives of Sexual Behavior 39(1):81-92

Kirk KM, Martin NG, Bailey JM. 2000. Etiology of male sexual orientation in an Australian twin sample. Psychology, Evolution and Gender 2.3:1-11

Verweij KJ, Shekar SN, Zietsch BP, Eaves LJ, Bailey JM, Boomsma DI, Martin NG. 2008. Genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in attitudes toward homosexuality: an Australian twin study. Behavior Genetics 38(3):257-65

Bailey JM, Bobrow D, Wolfe M, Mikach SM. 1995. Sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. Developmental Psychology 31, 124-129

He should also be aware of the following chromsonal studies into human sexuality which failed to replicate Hamer's original research "Hamer DH, Hu S, Magnuson VL, Hu N, Pattatucci AML. 1993. A linkage between DNA markers on the X-chromosome and male sexual orientation.Science 261:321-7" two of which included Mr Hamer on the research team.

Hu S, Pattatucci AML, Patterson C, Li L, Fulker DW, Cherny SS, Kruglyak L, Hamer DL. 1995. Linkage between sexual orientation and chromosome Xq28 in male but not in females. Nature Genetics 11, 248-256

Ramagopalan SV, Dyment DA, Handunnetthi L, Rice GP, Ebers GC. 2010. A genome-wide scan of male sexual orientation. Journal of Human Genetics 55:131-2

Mustanski BS, DuPree MG, Nievergelt CM, Bocklandt S, Schork NJ, Hamer DH. 2005. A genomewide scan of male sexual orientation. Human Genetics 116:272-8

Rice G, Anderson C, Risch N, Eber G. 1999. Male homosexuality: absence of linkage to microsatellite markers at Xq28. Science 284:665-7

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2011 18:12:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jan 2011 19:01:32 GMT
Even if I were to read all the studies cited by Mr McIntyre, I doubt that I could fully understand them, since I have to admit that my comprehension of scientific jargon and of mathematics and statistics is as limited as Mr McIntyre's literary competence.

That does not matter too much, however, since the abstracts of many of the papers listed by Mr McIntyre are available on the Internet. Unless it is the accepted practice to publish abstracts of papers that are in complete contradiction to their actual contents, they do not do what Mr McIntyre claims for them.

The 2008 study by Verweij et al. is not on possible factors causing homosexuality at all, but on familial attitudes to homosexuality, and is not therefore even relevant. Neither is the 1995 paper by Bailey, Bobrow et al. on "Sexual Orientation of Adult Sons of Gay Fathers".

The 2010 study by Långström et al. concludes: "Although wide confidence intervals suggest cautious interpretation, the results are consistent with moderate, primarily genetic, familial effects, and moderate to large effects of the nonshared environment (social and biological) on same-sex sexual behavior."

The 2010 study by Alanko et al. concludes: "Quantitative genetic analyses showed that variation in both childhood gender atypical behavior and adult sexual orientation was partly due to genetics, with the rest being explained by nonshared environmental effects. Bivariate analyses suggested that substantial common genetic and modest common nonshared environmental correlations underlie the co-occurrence of the two variables."

The 2000 paper by Kirk et al. claims to have found "statistically significant evidence for a partly genetic etiology of male sexual orientation."

The 2005 study by Mustanski et al. "A genomewide scan of male sexual orientation" I have actually been able to peruse, but, not surprisingly, I find it beyond my comprehension. However, Timothy F. Murphy, who is professor of philosophy in the biomedical sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, and who is therefore presumably equipped to understand it, wrote of it as follows in the British Medical Journal in April 2005:

"The study involved a complete genome scan, the first ever conducted for the study of sexual orientation. Like the others before it, this study is far from conclusive, but it adds to the growing sense that genes play a role in male sexual orientation."

I wonder what next. Shall we see the works of Richard Dawkins cited as evidence against the theory of evolution?
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