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The Innate-Immutable Argument Finds No Basis in Science
A. Dean Byrd, Shirley E. Cox, & Jeffrey W. Robinson
The Salt Lake City Tribune has published several articles in recent months regarding homosexuality. While many of the articles are well-written, they do not reflect the scientific literature. In fact, the social advocacy of many of the articles seem to suggest a greater reliance on politics than on science.
Leaving aside the politics of the issue, perhaps it is time to examine the innate-immutable argument about homosexual attraction. First of all — although the issue is enormously complex and simply cannot be reduced to a matter of nature vs. nurture — the answer to that debate is probably "yes" — it is likely that homosexual attraction, like many other strong attractions, includes both biological and environmental influences.
What is clear, however, is that the scientific attempts to demonstrate that homosexual attraction is biologically determined have failed. The major researchers now prominent in the scientific arena — themselves gay activists — have in fact arrived at such conclusions.
Researcher Dean Hamer, for example, attempted to link male homosexuality to a stretch of DNA located at the tip of the X chromosome, the chromosome that some men inherit from their mothers. Referring to that research, Hamer offered some conclusions regarding genetics and homosexuality.
Citing the failure of his research, Hamer further writes,
What's more interesting is that when Hamer's study was duplicated by Rice et al with research that was more robust, the genetic markers were found to be nonsignificant. Rice concluded.
Simon LeVay, in his study of the hypothalamic differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men, offered the following criticisms of his own research:
Indeed, in commenting on the brain and sexual behavior, Dr. Mark Breedlove, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, demonstrated that sexual behavior can actually change brain structure. Referring to his research, Breedlove states,
Our Perception of Science Alters Politics
LeVay made a interesting observation about the emphasis on the biology of homosexuality. He noted, "...people who think that gays and lesbians are born that way are also more likely to support gay rights."
The third study, which was conducted by Bailey and Pillard, focused on twins. They found a concordance (both twins homosexual) rate of 52% among identical twins, 22% among non-identical twins and a 9.2 % among non-twins. This study actually provides support for environmental factors. If homosexuality were in the genetic code, all of the identical twins would have been homosexual.
Prominent research teams Byne and Parsons, and also Friedman and Downey, each concluded that there was no evidence to support a biologic theory, but rather than homosexuality could be best explained by an alternative model where "temperamental and personality traits interact with the familial and social milieu as the individual's sexuality emerges."
Are homosexual attractions innate? There is no support in the scientific research for the conclusion that homosexuality is biologically determined.
Is Change Possible?
Is homosexuality immutable? Is it fixed, or is it amenable to change? The 1973 decision to delete homosexuality from the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association had a chilling effect on research. The A.P.A. decision was not made based on new scientific evidence — in fact, as gay-activist researcher Simon LeVay admitted, "Gay activism was clearly the force that propelled the APA to declassify homosexuality."
In reviewing the research, Satinover reported a 52% success rate in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attraction. Masters and Johnson, the famed sex researchers, reported a 65% success rate after a five-year follow-up. Other professionals report success rates ranging from 30% to 70%.
An article in the Monitor on Psychology reviewed the research of Dr. Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah, who concluded that "Sexual identity is far from fixed in women who aren't exclusively heterosexual." What is more intriguing is the research of Dr. Robert Spitzer, the prominent psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University. Dr. Spitzer was the architect of the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the diagnostic manual, a gay-affirmative psychiatrist, and a long time supporter of gay rights. His current study focused on whether or not individuals can change. His preliminary conclusions are:
What was most interesting was Dr. Spitzer's response to a journalist who inquired what he would do if his adolescent son revealed his homosexual attraction. Dr. Spitzer's said he hoped that his son would be interesting in changing and would get some help. It is interesting to note that Dr. Spitzer has received considerable "hate mail" and complaints from his colleagues because of his research.
Is homosexual immutable? Hardly. There is ample evidence that homosexual attraction can be diminished and that changes can be made.
Comparative Levels of Mental Health: The Data
What is particularly disturbing is the lack of attention paid by the media to the research evidence reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry which concluded that gay, lesbian and bisexual people were at higher risk for mental illness, specifically suicidality, major depression and anxiety disorder.
While one might suggest that society's oppression of homosexual people may be the cause of such mental illness, this may not be the case. In fact this study corroborated the findings of a prior, a well-conducted Dutch study, and Dutch society is a very gay-affirming and gay friendly society.
Bailey (of the twin study) offered other possible reasons for significantly more mental illness in homosexual individuals: "homosexuality represents a deviation from normal development and is associated with other such deviations that may lead to mental illness" or, another possibility, "that increased psychopathology among homosexual people is a consequence of lifestyle differences associated with sexual orientation." Bailey cited "behavioral risk factors associated with male homosexuality such as receptive anal sex and promiscuity." He noted that it would be a shame if "sociopolitical concerns prevented researchers from conscientious consideration of any reasonable hypothesis."
Regarding change and the right to treatment, lesbian activist Camille Paglia offered the following observations:
Gay activist Doug Haldeman, at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association, focused on the right of individuals who were unhappy with their homosexual attraction to pursue treatment aimed at change. He stated,
Finally, lesbian activist and biologist Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling of Brown University offers some interesting insight. Referring to the "born that way" argument, she states,
When asked about how much of her thinking about change in sexuality comes from her own life, Fausto-Sterling responded,
A Moral-Philosophical Issue, or a Scientific Issue?
Gay-activist researcher Dean Hamer makes a revealing statement about science and morality. He states,
Homosexuality is an issue of ethics and morality. Individuals who experience unwanted homosexual attractions have a right to treatment aimed at reducing those attractions.
Whether or not others agree with that choice is not as important as respecting their right to make the choice. In fact, tolerance and diversity demand that they do so.
"The Innate-Immutable Argument Finds No Basis in Science" Narth (May 27, 2001).
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