Genetics and sexuality: Why ask why?

The Toronto Star features an article about genetics and gayness. I thought the contrasts between Canada and the US were interesting and the explanations about behavioral genetics enlightening for a lay audience. Discussing Hamer’s early Xq28 research, the article notes the media fascination with the topic:

Because of the social, political, and cultural implications, his results – inevitably headlined “Gay gene found” – were hailed globally as a major breakthrough. Wrongly so, said the genetics community. The coverage was inflated, simplistic and misleading. No “gay gene” had been found, nor ever would be. Why? Because behavioural genetics is much more complex than “Mendelian” genetics. In other words, traits such as eye colour are 100 per cent inheritable but the genetic contribution to various behaviours, aggression, shyness, extroversion and so on, is considerably less, below 50 per cent.

Ruth Hubbard, Harvard emeritus professor of biology and biochemistry and author of Exploding the Gene Myth, has said that searching for a gay gene “is not even a worthwhile pursuit.

“I don’t think there is any single gene that governs any complex human behaviour. There are genetic components in everything we do, and it is foolish to say genes are not involved, but I don’t think they are decisive.”

Behavioral genetics research is going to continue to explode. The fun is going to be in examining pathways for the expression of various traits under various conditions.

6 thoughts on “Genetics and sexuality: Why ask why?”

  1. Did you address THIS is the blog? Perhaps I missed it. Regarding the AFA and propoganda sent to its members regarding the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that was exposed by :

    “A California lawsuit which is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court would make the use of the words “natural family,” “marriage” and “union of a man and a woman” a “hate speech” crime in government workplaces. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

    CNN and The Washington Post both reported that General Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, was fired because of his publicly expressed moral opposition to homosexual behavior.

    A bill now before Congress (H.R. 1592 / S. 1105) would criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a “hate crime” punishable by a hefty fine and time in prison. This dangerous legislation would take away our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion.

    Snopes lists all three as false.”

  2. Although this clearly holds no new information, I agree that it’s wonderful that at least they put it out there for a lay audience. Canadian audiences seem to have a different way of viewing the issue of same-sex attraction in general, and I’m glad they don’t seem to “dumb down” to their audiences as the American press seems to do.

    The Toronto Star is a fun paper…a great feel-good article that is quite related to same-sex attraction that they recently published?

  3. Frankly I think all the wrong people are looking for the gay gene. The people over at Creation Research Institute should be researching this, they understand all sorts of stuff that most other scientists don’t. They’ll know where to look. The gay gene is not independent, it’s part of the sin nature gene that’s been passed down from Adam and Eve. That’s the theory, now all they need is the evidence to back it up.

  4. For the gay gene crowd finding a gay gene could actually be worse than not finding one.

    There isn’t going to be a single gene, or gene cluster that causes homosexuality, but there are probably dozens that create susceptability. What if these genes have nothing to do with sexuality at all?

    Let’s look at deafness. Aproximately 1 in 1500 kids is born deaf due to heritable genetics and the Connexin-26 gene mutation is the most common cause. Here is how it works.

    “The hearing loss happens because the mutation is suspected of disrupting potassium flow in the inner ear.”

    Do gay gene advocates hope to discover an allele that causes something mundane like a reduction in Potassium flow during prenatal development? I get the feeling that most in the public think a gay gene is an allele that encodes for gay feelings and the gay experience. How will the public and the gay community react when it is announced that the gay gene has been found and it is a prenatal Potassium regulator?

    (Sidebar on deaf genes: How did the mutation get as common as 1 in 1,500 when it should be 1 in 10,000 or less? Deaf people tend to marry and reproduce with each other.)

  5. I should always mention, #1 and #2

    Reason #1

    A 20% monozygotic concordence rate indicates massive environmental input

    Reason #2

    A gene that spreads a common form of infertility? What the heck? Somebody do that math on that one and see how fast it spreads in a population.

    Lynn David, I think we are just gonna have to disagree on this one. 😎

  6. A gay gene doesn’t make any sense on many different levels.

    Reason #2153

    Humans have dozens of unique subsystems that develop prenatally. They include a reproductive system, circulatory system, immune system, etc. etc. If each subsystem was El KaBONGED 2% of the time because of heritable genes, background noise or random chance most people wouldn’t have any fitness at all. For gay men the reduction in offspring is about 50%, for gay sheep the reduction is a full 100%.

Comments are closed.