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Gay Germ Theory
October 3, 2005 10:18 PM   Subscribe

What if being gay were a disease?
posted by missbossy (102 comments total)

 
Preferential homosexuality, sexual interest in males, rather than females, is very rare. The only two species known to exhibit this behavior, at the-few-percent level, are men and sheep. It may be worth noting that men and sheep have often been found in close association.

Well, this kind of bizarre association drawing based genetics sums up what I personally think of that article. interesting read though.
posted by johnj at 10:24 PM on October 3, 2005


Cochrane suggests that genetics cannot explain homosexuality because such genes would get weeded out from the population over time (unless they conferred some genetic benefit we are unaware of). He suggests that homosexuality should get lumped in with peptic ulcers, MS and even heart disease: conditions which appear to have bacterial or viral causes...
posted by missbossy at 10:25 PM on October 3, 2005


What if liking chocolate were a disease?

What if having blue as a favorite color were a diease?

What if not liking rock music were a disease?

What if you could label someone else's preferences as a disease?
posted by SkelPaff at 10:25 PM on October 3, 2005


And Gregory Cochran's views are significant why?
posted by wilful at 10:27 PM on October 3, 2005


And Gregory Cochran's views are significant why?

Because he's standing up against the PC establishment and daring to ask the hard questions.

hee.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:29 PM on October 3, 2005


This guy gets evolutionary????? theory. Good for him.???????

And then jumps to homosexuality is like a bug?????? like malaria???

This guys uses more weasel words than Dubya.
posted by fenriq at 10:30 PM on October 3, 2005


What do we know? We have a lot of indications that there has been some change in the brain. After, all that's the most logical location for the cause of a change in behavior. Simon LeVay and others see differences in hypothalamic nuclei (similar to those seen in sheep). There are associated changes - the lisp, increased neuroticism and depression, etc.

I find your ideas intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by monosyllabic at 10:32 PM on October 3, 2005


But SkelPaff, not to give any credence to this article, but none of the things you listed have any bearing on the survival of the species. If every man on earth loved chocolate, the color blue or rock & roll, we'd all still continue to exist. If every man on earth loved other men to the exclusion of sex with women, we'd be dead within a generation. You do understand the difference, right?
posted by jonson at 10:33 PM on October 3, 2005


Missbossy, thanks for the gist above. I also wanted to add, before this becomes a pile-on, that this guy is who? I have tried to back navigate and only get the isp's home page. Is there any further whatever available on the identity of this guy so that we might evaluate his opinion more fully. After all, this article is an opinion piece. Is this nothing more than opinion-filter?
posted by johnj at 10:34 PM on October 3, 2005


It may be worth noting that men and sheep have often been found in close association.

Throughout history, most human diseases are come from animal diseases jumping species. This is more prone to happen whe dense populations of animals are in close proximity to dense populations of humans.

I think he's trying to suggest that men actually have some gay mad sheep disease as opposed hinting at the carnal liasons which sometimes happened between men and sheep... though he may be hinting it's an STD. So it seems this must have all been started by the Welsh.
posted by missbossy at 10:34 PM on October 3, 2005


He also makes startling leaps of logic:

But what about homosexuality? Well, from this biological perspective, it's surely a disease. Disinterest in the opposite sex reduces reproduction quite a bit - around 80% in American conditions. Does it hit in early life? Sure. Has it been around a long time? Certainly. Do you find it in non-African populations, people who never lived with malaria? Yes. So it's a bug. </em

Therefore, anything that reduces interest in the opposite sex is caused by a bug. Can we start looking for the masturbation bug now?

posted by signal at 10:35 PM on October 3, 2005


(unless they conferred some genetic benefit we are unaware of)

Imagine this: Think of genes for homosexuality more as genes for "really liking males".

A brother and a sister, sharing 50% genetic material, would both be pretty likely to inherit such an allele from their parents.

In the male, this might produce homosexuality.

In the female, this might produce a particularly good child bearer.

The reproductive advantage conveyed to the female might outweigh, on average, the reproductive disadvantage to the male, so it is possible there is a sum genetic benefit.

I'm not saying it's true, but it's a possible explanation of why homosexuality may be evolutionarily beneficial.
posted by Jimbob at 10:35 PM on October 3, 2005


SkelPaff, you're probably going to encounter a lot of people here (and elsewhere) who don't think sexual preference is a choice, and who will therefore object to your comparison of it to a person's favorite color. I'm not one of those people, but I just figured I'd warn you.

Once people started focusing on the idea of a genetic explanation for homosexuality, it was only a matter of time before homophobes switched tactics, embraced the concept, and took it to a more sinister level such as this.
posted by nightchrome at 10:35 PM on October 3, 2005


johnj - this guy is the real deal: His germ theory was discussed here sometime back though not in this context. See also Gay Germ Theory.
posted by missbossy at 10:37 PM on October 3, 2005


thanks Miss.
posted by johnj at 10:40 PM on October 3, 2005


What if not liking rock music were a disease?

I prefer to think it's the OTHER way around.
posted by HTuttle at 10:44 PM on October 3, 2005


Cooties!

I guess being a stupid asshole is a disease too. Certainly seems contagious. Can it be blamed on a virus too? That would be awesome.
posted by Pseudonumb at 10:46 PM on October 3, 2005


Oy.

Alright. Yes, Jimbob pretty much has it: one of the genes that contributes to a higher incidence of homosexuality in males also causes increased fertility in females. (There was a study on this about two years ago, though I can't be bothered to look it up.)

There's also the matter (1) of human males and females being closer, genetically, than the males and females of any other species (barring those hermaphroditic toads) and (2) humans being very moldable by both prenatal and post-birth environments. There are advantages to both of these, but they'll also result in occasionally someone being attracted to the evolutionary "wrong" gender.

increased neuroticism and depression

Yes, surely those must be genetic, and not a result of having been ostricised from society.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:47 PM on October 3, 2005


In the female, this might produce a particularly good child bearer

Bear in mind that the bulk of human evolution has occured without the benefit of modern medicine and a relatively short lifespan (40 years). As such, there was a limit to the number of children a woman could have (versus almost limitless for men). If a guy is having 80% less kids, his sister needs to be having 80% more kids for the gene to survive over time - otherwise its frequency diminishes and eventually is eliminated from the gene pool.

I think a more feasible theory is that in heterozygous form, the gene confers high degrees of horniness to men but in homozygous form, you are more likely to be gay. IE, if you are gay, your straight brothers should be screwing around more... any data points?
posted by missbossy at 10:47 PM on October 3, 2005


See also (btw).
posted by Tlogmer at 10:48 PM on October 3, 2005


there was a limit to the number of children a woman could have (versus almost limitless for men)

Almost limitless in theory; in practice, most men didn't have any children at all (most children were concieved by a few hugely disproportionately successful men). In this context, small advantages in male reproductive success can have large evolutionary consequences. (And being able to tell when women are attracted to you becuase you know what it feels like to be attracted to guys might be one such advantage.)
posted by Tlogmer at 10:50 PM on October 3, 2005


????????????????????????????????????????????I'm gonna start all my paragraphs like this from now on.
posted by neuron at 10:51 PM on October 3, 2005


See also this AskMeFi thread...
posted by fleacircus at 10:59 PM on October 3, 2005


What if being an idiot and having your own website was an epidemic? Ah, the possibilities.
posted by Rothko at 11:05 PM on October 3, 2005


Now we know the problems Barry Marshall and Robin Warren faced...
posted by missbossy at 11:15 PM on October 3, 2005


I know for a fact that heterosexuality is a disease. What but a severe sickness would make anyone put up with all that crap.
posted by HTuttle at 11:29 PM on October 3, 2005


Now we know the problems Barry Marshall and Robin Warren faced...
posted by missbossy at 2:15 AM EST on October 4 [!]


Except that Marshall and Warren did actual research and had to publish peer-reviewed work, like the kind that most real, adult, non-hand-waving, non-armchair, non-latent-self-hating-gay scientists have to do to win Nobels.
posted by Rothko at 11:34 PM on October 3, 2005


An oversimplification and misunderstanding of natural selection leads to a silly theory? How remarkable!
posted by kyrademon at 11:41 PM on October 3, 2005


I wonder how proponents of this theory account for lesbianism? Or is it just a theory of male homosexuality?
posted by boredomjockey at 11:42 PM on October 3, 2005


kyrademon: Exactly.
posted by boredomjockey at 11:42 PM on October 3, 2005


boredomjockey: don't you know, only male sexuality is important? Women are just vessels, after all. Objects. Things to be impregnated.

I wonder if the writer ever considered that having extra adults unencumbered by children is useful in a group and adds to the group's biological success.
posted by watsondog at 11:47 PM on October 3, 2005


I don't see how this theory can be brushed off so easily.

From a purely natural point of view, where one's primary desire in life is to reproduce (whether one be a human or animal) homosexuality is a disease.

Why are males naturally attracted to females, and vice versa? Why is the act of reproducing so enjoyable? Duh - to encourage us to reproduce more often!

So if one is born without the desire to reproduce, it definitely is a disease, or a bug, or however you want to put it - by this standard.

In modern times, reproducing does not define a successful life. This theory says nothing about the morality of homosexuality. It just states that it's unnatural.
posted by b_thinky at 11:48 PM on October 3, 2005


If homosexuality is unnatural why is it a phenomena that happens in nature, over generations, across species?

And penguins recruiting flamingos does not count as an answer.
posted by Rothko at 12:00 AM on October 4, 2005


It just states that it's unnatural.

Actually it simply says that it doesn't make sense that being gay is heritable. The traits must be passed on through other "natural" means eg germs.

The theory reveals an obvious weakness of the genetic theory of homosexuality and appears to be mathematically feasible. The only reason it doesn't make sense to me is that being gay is much more complicated than having a stomach ulcer. There are so many traits correlated with being gay (eg inclination towards show tunes) that I find it hard to believe one little virus can carry enough genetic "stuff" to make it happen. That and I'd rather not give the anti-gay movement any more dumb arguments to be...well... whatever it is they are.
posted by missbossy at 12:01 AM on October 4, 2005


From a purely natural point of view, where one's primary desire in life is to reproduce (whether one be a human or animal) homosexuality is a disease.

I doubt any animals except humans could be said to have a desire to reproduce. The desire in question is a desire to mate. A dog just wants to hump another dog -- the puppies simply show up as a consequence.

And I think the word "natural" is a problem in your argument. If some percentage of ants in a colony behave differently than the other ants, would we say these ants are behaving "unnaturally"?

On preview: Rothko: Exactly.
posted by boredomjockey at 12:01 AM on October 4, 2005


(scratches head) So if I could get a "doctor," say named Dobson or Frist, to sign a note, would that mean I don't have to go back to work, ever?

And Rothko, since it's flamingos that are flaming pink, isn't it more likely that they're doing the recruiting?
posted by rob511 at 12:06 AM on October 4, 2005


To elaborate...

Why are males naturally attracted to females, and vice versa? Why is the act of reproducing so enjoyable? Duh - to encourage us to reproduce more often!

...the mistake here is that you're assuming that reproduction serves some kind of purpose or goal. It's not that we have a mating instinct so that we can reproduce -- it's that we reproduce because we happen to have a mating instinct. If that makes any sense.
posted by boredomjockey at 12:12 AM on October 4, 2005


Why is the act of reproducing so enjoyable?

isn't a better definition for that "giving birth"? Doesn't seem too enjoyable to me...

So if one is born without the desire to reproduce, it definitely is a disease, or a bug, or however you want to put it - by this standard.

"unnatural" has lots of moral baggage with it, but nature is what nature does AFAICT.

Genes compete at the clan level tho, so what is suboptimal on the individual level may not a "bug" on the wider levels.

Plus when talking about the possible gene+gay nexus, we should try to look at how this operated over the millenia, in the absence of an actual gay culture. I know the terms genotype & phenotype, but gayness also has acquired a modern memotype (?), the acculturation of modern social gayness.

We don't know what this acculturation looked like over the broad canvas of human development.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:17 AM on October 4, 2005


the mistake here is that you're assuming that reproduction serves some kind of purpose or goal

That's semantics. Geneticists often use language that ascribes will to chemical reactions because it is an easy way to express why, say, one trait is more successfully transmitted into the next generation than the next. You could say that a gene is "strategically successful" if it carries a trait that tends to propagate. The fact is there is nothing strategic about it. But we use this language because it makes the selection process easier to understand than discussing pure statistics.

I agree, however, that many people don't get this distinction and think that their genes are a bunch of scheming little creatures.
posted by missbossy at 12:21 AM on October 4, 2005


missbossy: Agreed. The statement "one's primary desire in life is to reproduce" is what led me to suspect that I was hearing a scheming little creatures argument rather than useful explanatory shorthand.
posted by boredomjockey at 12:25 AM on October 4, 2005


If one identical twin is gay, the other has a 50% chance of being so, as well. This extremely significant correlation essentially proves (strongly suggests) that homosexuality is developmental in origin (but also it is not directly genetic, as it is not a perfect correlation).
posted by mek at 12:28 AM on October 4, 2005


This article is a bit too much. Sorry but it's hokum.

I find it rather bizarre that the vast majority of discussion, especially amongst pundits, politicians, theologians, journalists, and even scholars, regarding sexual preference and orientation is so rooted in what could be called "common sense", mainstream cultural norms, or more appropriately Judeo-Christian western ethics.

As far as western culture in relation to homosexuality goes, no one ever seems to talk about Greco-Roman culture, pre-Christian philosophy and lifestyle/belief systems or even how differing belief systems in regard to sexual persona existed concurrently with the rise of Judeo-Christianity.

Additionally, it doesn't seem like any of the pre-deterministic slanted studies like Mr. Cochran's even begin to approach non-western views on sexuality. It would appear that the existence of bisexuality contradicts much of his argument. Mr. Cochran also seems to ignore a great deal of evidence that sexuality is much more varied among hunter-gatherer societies and in many cases not as defined in rigid sets in the same manner that other social strata are not as rigidly defined.

How about this for a basic proposition. Sex and sexuality are based in culture; sex is primarily a communicative device between two or more people, despite the fact that procreation can occur from couplings. The manner in which sex is displayed is wholly dependent on the culture of the participants, this can be seen in subcultures, mainstream cultures etc, and of course as with anything any generalization it will fall apart on a per individual basis, though on average it will be more right than wrong.
posted by bluevelvetelvis at 12:32 AM on October 4, 2005


The theory reveals an obvious weakness of the genetic theory of homosexuality and appears to be mathematically feasible.
posted by missbossy at 3:01 AM EST on October 4 [!]


Such a theory could be studied (seriously) with epidemiological and bioinformatic processes (and then rejected).

Were homosexuality a trait spread by a virus, prion, or bacterial infection, etc. you would see an immune response to said agent across an entire population, across age ranges, localized geographically.

Organisms that cannot respond to the homosexuality "germ" will generally not reproduce sexually and their numbers will die out — likewise, the globin constituency of their immune system that lets them get infected by "the gay" will be removed from the gene pool, leaving behind immune "breeders" with "hetero" sets of immunoglobins. In the search for the genetic differences between gays and straights we don't see this difference.

Further, we would see geographically segregated "infected" pools of straight people-turned-gay and we could trace infections from bug to vector to host.

Gay people segregate or are segregated into ghettos, perhaps, but this has been studied and is clearly attributed to sociological behavior, not epidemiological (infection) events. Also, you don't see grown adults get sneezed on and then suddenly come down with a bad case of the gay — ask them and they'll tell you they were waiting years to come out of the closet.

Since we have a relatively constant, significant non-zero percentage of gay people across generations, across cultures, across geographies, it seems unlikely that a bug is spreading gayness.
posted by Rothko at 12:33 AM on October 4, 2005


Imagine this: Think of genes for homosexuality more as genes for "really liking males".

A brother and a sister, sharing 50% genetic material, would both be pretty likely to inherit such an allele from their parents.

In the male, this might produce homosexuality.

In the female, this might produce a particularly good child bearer.


It might also give the female a huge reproductive advantage to have a relative who would help care for and raise her offspring wthout competition. Lots of animals employ the non-reproducing adults or sub adults of the group to help raise their young, canids, primates, ants, termites etc. A group that had a reasonably high percentage of gay/lesbian members could conceivably be far more successful in an area with limited resources than one in which every member was producing offspring.
posted by fshgrl at 12:56 AM on October 4, 2005


The argument that homosexuality is not genetically advantageous is pretty common sense. AlexR covers why it's unlikely to be a viral or bacterial agent at work.

That leaves environmental issues or choice. I've had several gay friends long enough to know with 99% certainty that for them, at least, it isn't choice.

My vote is for hormonal irregularities in utero.

Check out Marc Breedlove's papers for some good reading on the topic.

Or hit The Boston Globe's article for a lite read on the topic.
posted by Ryvar at 1:03 AM on October 4, 2005


Cochrane suggests that genetics cannot explain homosexuality because such genes would get weeded out from the population over time

Yeah, this is narrow thinking. It implies that there is no interdependence/combination between genes, and that each and every gene is put to the test singly and tried on its individual breeding merits. The fact of the matter is that many genes may combined to exhibit one trait, that one gene may have consequences for several traits, and that it may combine with other genes, or not, to express traits.

And then there's the whole population/individual thing to consider.

scenario: gene A codes for 50% lower incidence of heart disease than gene B, but if the carrier also has gene C, the combination results in homosexuality 1% of the time. The benefit overall to the population is greater.

Even if you do buy that homosexuality is a Darwinian disadvantage to any individual, there is much, much more to consider.

And then there is the whole ques
posted by scarabic at 1:06 AM on October 4, 2005


What if being gay were a disease?

Well, first the Religious Reich would probably work to convince the public that all homosexuals needed to be quarantined or subject to a mandatory "treatment of some kind" (I'm betting that someone above probably pointed out that it used to be classified as a mental illness). There would be documentaries and whitepapers and talk show panels. And of course a 700 Club special.

Then they would start actively working with scientists and holding fundraisers to conduct research into abolishing the "mutation" from the gene pool forever. If a successful method was found (and I think that we already isolated the "gay gene", didn't we?), the resulting procedure would probably become mandatory for all true practitioners, and there would probably be unforeseen side effects that wouldn't be visible for a long time (until it was too late to do anything).

There. What do I win?
posted by deusdiabolus at 1:15 AM on October 4, 2005


One thing that concerns me is that if further research does prove beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt that orientation is determined in utero, homosexuality might be classified as a 'birth defect' as a result. You can bet that evangelical fundamentalists would jump on this and would begin mounting pressure for androgen monitoring for pregnant women ostensibly in order to 'prevent possible birth defects,' but really to bring society in line with their preestablished beliefs.

Whether or not homosexuality should be 'cured' if we had the means to do so seems like it would be a very, very nasty debate.
posted by Ryvar at 1:18 AM on October 4, 2005


What fshgrl said. I'm gay. My heirs are my sister's kids.

However, it until recently, in European culture, it was common for gay men to marry and have kids anyway, as a matter of duty (apart from camouflage). Gayness doesn't preclude reproduction.
posted by Goofyy at 1:33 AM on October 4, 2005


Disinterest in the opposite sex reduces reproduction quite a bit - around 80% in American conditions.
My God, this means pregnancy results for 20 per cent of gay male couples. What happens to all those poor babies?
posted by MinPin at 1:36 AM on October 4, 2005


It's still extremely common in Japan for gay men to marry and have kids, whilst living a double life. The cultural demand of getting married and producing children to be a productive member of society is far too overpowering.
Most gay guys I know here want to get married someday.
posted by nightchrome at 1:36 AM on October 4, 2005


Heck, as a followup and related topic, a lot of Japanese girls want to date gay guys. The primary reason is because they know they'll be treated well and they are "safe".
posted by nightchrome at 1:38 AM on October 4, 2005


because they know they'll be treated well and they are "safe"

I assume this means they don't have to worry about rape... which is kinda the point. Even rapists are more likely to get their genes into the next generation than "safe" guys.
posted by missbossy at 1:45 AM on October 4, 2005


Well, no, it means they don't have to worry about being mistreated or pressured into anything they don't want to do. Japanese may have a lot of social problems between the sexes, but it's not so bad that women expect to be raped on every date. :P
posted by nightchrome at 1:50 AM on October 4, 2005


Would susceptibility to the 'disease' be genetic?
posted by CeruleanZero at 1:57 AM on October 4, 2005


Metafilter: spread the disease.
posted by pmbuko at 2:00 AM on October 4, 2005


Gregory Cochran is an ‘independent physicist’ and presumably a part-time evolutionary biologist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is also co-responsible for a paper on The Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence (PDF), among other things.

It's odd that Mr Cochran, unless I've misconstried his essay, only seems interested in male homosexuality.

So it seems this must have all been started by the Welsh.

Much as I'd like to credit my people with inventing ‘teh gay,’ MissBossy, I daresay that human-ovine interaction of all kinds came to the British Isles much later than in South West Asia, Southern Europe, etc.
posted by misteraitch at 2:21 AM on October 4, 2005


a lot of Japanese girls want to date gay guys. The primary reason is because they know they'll be treated well and they are "safe".

I have difficulty believing this.
posted by dydecker at 2:22 AM on October 4, 2005


I have difficulty believing this.

Then you don't know much about the current social problems between the sexes in Japan.

Even aside from those problems, there's an entire genre of comic book devoted to women who idolize male homosexual relationships.
posted by nightchrome at 2:46 AM on October 4, 2005


You mean there's an official fag hag mag?! please please scan a few pics in for my benefit... pretty please with a cherry on top...?
posted by missbossy at 2:56 AM on October 4, 2005


I'm sure there are such magazines, but I'm talking about comic books where the romantic relationships are almost exclusively between men, and whose main audience is almost exclusively young women.
We're getting kind of off-topic now.
posted by nightchrome at 2:59 AM on October 4, 2005


nightchrome, please link to something that documents this social phenomenon of Japanese women who want to date gay men. None of us here have heard of this.
posted by dydecker at 3:12 AM on October 4, 2005


"YAOI.. Also known as shounenai or boy's love. Yaoi manga features romantic love between male characters. These homo-erotic titles which can sometimes be quite explicit are enjoyed by a great number of women in Japan, in fact, there are many more female readers of yaoi manga than there are male readers. There is no equivalent to shounenai in the world of Western comic books. "

http://www.theblackmoon.com/Gloss/agloss2.html
posted by bclark at 3:45 AM on October 4, 2005


I only skimmed the article and honestly don't know if this is included, but here's my wacky take on homosexuality. I do think--for the vast majority, at least, that being gay is something you're born with. Homosexuality would be damaging for a species if that species is still struggling for survival/dominance. That's certainly not the case with humans at this point in time--we've got some pretty signifigant overpopulation.

Homosexuality, then, is nature's way of cutting down on all those babies, though how nature does this is beyond me. Rupert Sheldrake has some theories--though admittedly not embraced by mainstream science--that members of a species "communicate" in terms of the whole number in that species. For example, he did an experiment in which people a group of people were given crossword puzzles, and then one day he slipped in yesterday's crossword puzzle, and everyone's scores shot up dramatically. Ergo, the human "hive mind" made it easier for them.

Just throwing out ideas here...
posted by zardoz at 3:49 AM on October 4, 2005


What if diseases were acts of God?
posted by furtive at 3:50 AM on October 4, 2005


Sorry dydecker, but that's not exactly something I save links to. And you don't want to know the kind of results you get back when you google for "japanese women dating gay men". If anecdotes from me and the people I know aren't enough, feel free to disbelieve.
posted by nightchrome at 3:55 AM on October 4, 2005


He seems to have a basic misunderstanding of evolution. Note his first, inaccurate, comment: "The first key idea is that evolution optimizes function" Evolution does not optimize function, evolution results in something that barely works. Any engineering undergrad could design a system *much* better than our spinal column (just to name one). Evolution produces what barely works, not what works best.

More to the point, he seems to have this bizarre idea that homosexuals don't breed, and that's self evidently false. One of the most famous homosexuals of all time, Alexander the Great, reproduced just fine.

Similarly his assertation that hunter gatherer cultures simply can't concieve of homosexuality is also false. Many North American tribes recognized homosexuality and some granted semi-mystical status to homosexuals (as beings who could comprehend both male and female). Some tribal cultures in Africa and Polynesia mysticized homosexual behavior between boys and men on the basis that only by sexual contact with men could boys truly understand male-ness and/or become male [1]

As for the assertation that homosexuality is genetic, I dunno. Culture seems to be important too, virtually the entire male population in Ancient Greece was bisexual at the least. If we assume that sexual orientation is purely genetic, then we must somehow assume that this gene manifested itself in the entire Greek population, then later vanished... Somehow that just doesn't seem likely.

[1] Usually via oral sex, the view was that semen contained some sort of "male essence" which had to be passed on via oral sex to make teenage boys able to fully become men.
posted by sotonohito at 4:19 AM on October 4, 2005


This is junk "science," based on a litany of easily disprovable erroneous assumptions, such that the lie that preferential homosexuality is limited to two species, and more widely, built on the bullshit premise that any trait that does not appear to be immediately advantageous to reproduction (to a biased observer) is a "disease." I'd spent some time picking it apart, but really: this is down there with the theories of inbred Jewish depravity that led to the Final Solution.

You could generate a similar essay that genes controlling skin color were responsible for poverty. But why bother. And if you bothered, why would someone on MeFi link to it? "Shape of Earth: views differ."
posted by digaman at 4:45 AM on October 4, 2005


[snip] Homosexuality would be damaging for a species if that species is still struggling for survival/dominance. That's certainly not the case with humans at this point in time--we've got some pretty significant overpopulation.

Homosexuality, then, is nature's way of cutting down on all those babies, though how nature does this is beyond me. Rupert Sheldrake has some theories--though admittedly not embraced by mainstream science
[snip]

Homosexuality occurs in a whole bunch of species. Among them, only humans are not still "struggling for dominance".

Homosexuality among humans also existed to the same degree in ancient cultures (Greeks, Romans) and does exist today in hunter/gatherer societies that are not influenced by modern society and technology.

So, bullshit, pretty much.
posted by uncle harold at 5:08 AM on October 4, 2005


what digaman (and some others) said.
posted by amberglow at 5:34 AM on October 4, 2005


There is some evidence now that anorexia and bulimia may be caused by a pathogen.
posted by Slothrup at 6:03 AM on October 4, 2005


I dnno, a few years ago I read an article in sciam about how animals would still today be asexual if not for some virus or bacterium however many ~millions of years ago when the first animal type creatures were not very complex.

at the time it was disturbing but later it seemed to make more sense.

it's hard to say/admit what parts of us are free will and what parts are hardwired, and whether/when that hardwiring is due to some sort of archetype/collective spirit thing at work, and when it's pure genetics.

I mean, it must be vastly easier to study the effects of evolution in animals without concious or semi-concious thought. maybe we should start with the apes and cetaceans and cephalopods before we look at ourselves.
posted by dorian at 6:04 AM on October 4, 2005


I don't see how this theory can be brushed off so easily.
posted by b_thinky at 11:48 PM PST on October 3


1) It has one citation.
2) It doesn't appear to have been reviewed by anyone.
3) It makes serious logical leaps.
4) Many of the "facts" are demonstrably incorrect.

Maybe this guy is right. And maybe the universe was born out of the Cosmic Egg. But I'm not believing either until I see some real corroborating evidence.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2005


Awesome. a theory that you can, in fact, catch teh gay.

I want to be able to catch teh straight and then go back and forth. Wait; would that be teh bi or someone who gets many different types of bugs?

(Is this why people with teh gay are sometimes called "buggers"? Just sayin')
posted by andreaazure at 6:17 AM on October 4, 2005


Some interesting ideas, but my problem with it (and I think most people's problem with it) is that it changes the definition of "disease," which is a word that carries with it a lot of negative associations.

The number two definition at dictionary.com, for example: A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

I did not see another definition that mentioned reproductive ability. Language is a powerful tool, and I think that if any word other than "disease" were used, then we would not have quite the same reaction (though I do have to admit that seeing a lisp among gay men listed as something genetic made me laugh).
posted by flarbuse at 6:39 AM on October 4, 2005


it's hard to say/admit what parts of us are free will and what parts are hardwired

Or there could be no free will.
posted by Ryvar at 7:09 AM on October 4, 2005


Is this why people with teh gay are sometimes called "buggers"? Just sayin'

Buggery?
posted by Ryvar at 7:12 AM on October 4, 2005


how does this research affect my chances of getting more blowjobs?
posted by NationalKato at 7:13 AM on October 4, 2005


Why do all of these homosexuals keep sucking my dick?
posted by phearlez at 8:29 AM on October 4, 2005


As for the assertation that homosexuality is genetic, I dunno. Culture seems to be important too, virtually the entire male population in Ancient Greece was bisexual at the least

Thats a rather broad statement, not to mention you have to define if the idea of homosexuality existed in Greece in the same manner as it exists today.
posted by Atreides at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2005


Not all genetic idiosyncracies are inherited, true?

Imagine seperate genes for:
- what physical gender you actually are
- what physical gender you think you are
- what gender traits you demonstrate
- what physical gender you desire in others
- what gender traits you desire in others

Now imagine that about 7% or so of the time the other version of one or more of these genes get's plugged in during the big schmuckus that is conception, or perhaps even two opposite copies together. Since there's more than one gene involved, we get a tremendous variety of behaviours that don't follow the Macho-man/submissive-woman pattern.

It's just a dice throw. It can't be bred out because it's a funky new accident every time.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:15 AM on October 4, 2005


Y'know, I have been around many, many straight girls and have never been able to get into the pants of one of them. But to think I've may have managed to infect them--do you mean to say they've been playing coy this entire time, pushing me away while really burning with deep, lesbian lust for my womanly charms? Hot damn!

(Yeah, I've heard of the Japanese girls dating straight guys thing, too. After knowing a smidgeon about the role gender plays in that culture it really isn't hard to believe.)
posted by schroedinger at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2005


The argument that homosexuality is not genetically advantageous is pretty common sense.

"Common sense?" Would this be the same common sense that tells me the sun moves around the earth? "Common sense" is often wrong, especially in science. What would common sense say about the evolutionary fitness of a species in which 99% of the members of the species cannot reproduce?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:14 AM on October 4, 2005


There is real scientific research showing how individual males who do not themselves reproduce can increase the chances of their own genes being passed on to the next generation. (If I may link to my own earlier FPP, here it is.)
posted by expialidocious at 11:00 AM on October 4, 2005


On the genetic theory side of things, there was a bit in "The Red Queen's Race" which talked about a theory that Homosexuality genes might be carried by mitochondrial DNA, which actually has a small advantage in ensuring that male offspring don't breed (since only female offspring pass on mitochondrial DNA). At any rate, there are several plausable explanations as to how homosexuality could be genetic, which doesn't rule out society having a big effect on things.

Also, teh gay is totally HOT. Can we gengineer more of them?
posted by freedryk at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2005


What if being stupid was a disease?
Being stupid decreases the ability to choose the best mate, and while stupid people often have more children with inferior mates, they are more likely to die in horrible accidents of their own doing.
But you'll notice that stupidity isn't totally heritable; plenty of stupid people have smart children and vice versa. It's also not regionally centered, like adaptive maladies.
So clearly, stupidity is some sort of disease that is acquired at a young age, possibly prenatally, and spreads through a viral vector. QED, right?
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2005


The first key idea is that evolution optimizes function.


Argh. Stop right there. First sentence and he already has it wrong. People are always using evolution to justify shit and they always start by assuming evolution is a force instead of an effect. The force in the case of evolution is gene mediated sexual reproduction. The effect is evolution. If being gay was something that evolution was going to weed out, you'd think it would have happened already, in the animals that present homosexual behavior as well as humans.

Furthermore, you can't be evolved out of a disease which totally screws up his metaphor. You can evolve a resistance to a disease, but that's a totally different thing. Until somebody comes up with a vaccination for homosexuality, which is probably impossible, disease just doesn't enter into it.

In fact his metaphor seems to be the blending of anything bad he can throw in the mix. Not only is his logic suspect, it's pretty cleary biased. If he had a real point to make, you'd think he could do it without incendiary language.

In short, crank.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2005


Can I just say to all you "this guy's retarded" types that if you can't refute this guy's theory with facts, don't try at all? Whether you like it or not, this is science, too - look at his wiki page linked above, too, he's not some wacko. He may have some unorthodox ideas, but challenging assumptions is the point of scientific theory.

Expialidocious, that's well documented, it's called allopatric parenting when like a bird with no eggs will sit on a relative eggs, because their survival passes on a fraction of their own genes. But homosexuality has little to do with that - it's still detrimental to their breeding action.

Devilsadvocate, I thought about bees for a second, but they are part of a rigid mating hierarchy, while we have a free-for-all, and it wouldn't matter if a few drones were gay. Maybe they're all gay. Human homosexuals don't compete in the mating game like heterosexuals, and so don't produce as many offspring. This should be enough to eliminate it as a genetic trait. Since it hasn't been eliminated, it must be acquired biologically or socially. The evidence seems to be that it is a biological condition, so I don't see why everyone is going so insane over this. It's a perfectly reasonable theory.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:25 PM on October 4, 2005


lumpenprole, did you read the article you think you disagree with? You're saying exactly what he said.

If being gay was something that evolution was going to weed out, you'd think it would have happened already...

So it must be something else, then... what could it be? perhaps the next best thing, a disease acquired in your mama's tummy...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2005


You're saying exactly what he said.

Uh, no I'm not. That part of what I said matches part, a very small part, of what he said. The reductive method you just applied to his logic practically points out his fallaciousness.

IE: "If it's not evolution, it must be a disease"

Forget that that runs counter to every defintion of disease there is, can't you apply the same logic to language?
posted by lumpenprole at 12:38 PM on October 4, 2005


So if one is born without the desire to reproduce, it definitely is a disease, or a bug, or however you want to put it - by this standard.

Except that being homosexual doesn't preclude the desire to reproduce. There are many GLBTs who have or want children.

Here's a theory:
Only the alpha male and female of a wolf pack reproduce (most of the time). There can be several adult wolves in a pack who do not reproduce. These non-reproducing wolves of both sexes do a lot of cub rearing and babysitting. Perhaps humans evolved similarly but opted to have homosexual sex so they could have sex (companionship) yet not reproduce. Maybe some sort of gene popped up to show up every so often so there would be child carers unburdened by their own offspring.
/crackpot

posted by deborah at 12:44 PM on October 4, 2005


Clearly there is no gross trauma - somehow, the brain has been damaged, but in a very limited and focused way. A key function has been messed up, which gravely impacts reproductive fitness, but homosexual men can still hold down jobs, including very complex jobs


I had to read this a second time to believe this. Yes, sexual preference is 'damage'. And golly, isn't it amazing that homos can hold complex jobs? Show me a goddam MRI of somebody being gay, and maybe I'll start to listen to you. Until then, this is just so unbelievably a thin veneer for ranting, I can stomach it.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:45 PM on October 4, 2005


Blackleotardfront: Kin selection as a theory has been around for a while, but I was under the impression that it hadn't been verified in the field until this study. It sounds different from what you're describing as allopatric parenting.

What I took from the wild turkey study I linked to was that these non-dominant males achieved more 'reproductive' success by not reproducing. In this turkey flock, being non-dominant was "detrimental to their breeding action" - enough so that non-dominant males produced an average of less than 1 offspring directly, and 1.7 offspring (using the mathematical relatedness coefficient mentioned in the article) by the actions of their dominant male relatives (who averaged 7 direct offspring).

To anthropomorphize just a bit: these non-dominant males could have been gay as geese, or cursed with heterosexual desires and no opportunity to get any action. Either way, their genes get passed on to the next generation. If homosexuality has a genetic component, kin selection shows how it might remain in the gene pool.
posted by expialidocious at 1:04 PM on October 4, 2005


This kind of misunderstanding of evolutionary theory really bugs me.

First, how much you reproduce is *not* the only factor determining whether or not your genes survive. In fact, (second) in certain cirucmstances, it is more advantageous for an individual not to reproduce at all. And third, the expression of a gene in one person may, in another person, not have the same expression due to other factors.

Let's posit this:

1) Population A has a gene which results, in 10% of the population, is expressed in such a way that it reduces their probability of reproduction. Population B does not.

2) As a result, Population A keeps its population within manageable limits for the resources available, and has an additional pool of childless laborers who have more time to do certain kinds of necessary work. Population B does not.

3) Population A forms a great civilization, with that gene being passed on to everyone, even though some people with it didn't have kids. Everyone in Population B has 30 kids, and they all die of starvation. Their genes are not passed on, despite their reproductive success.

Why is that so incomprehensible?

And that's just *one* way it could work. As many others here have pointed out, a fair number of gay people *do* have kids anyway, just as a certain number of straights don't. The whole theory is based on premises that are, well, stupid.
posted by kyrademon at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2005


Why attribute everything to genes and evolution?

In line with zardoz ("that members of a species "communicate" in terms of the whole number in that species") - also cf. the 'Selfish Gene' meme, we have evolved beyond pure gene-driven organism.

Homosexuality, if it is really exceptionally widespread in these times we live, could be triggered in our social mind by overpopulation.

Alternatively, if it is not exceptionally widespread, it is just a dominant meme because we (in the west) have been suppressing it so much.
posted by Laotic at 2:03 PM on October 4, 2005


Human homosexuals don't compete in the mating game like heterosexuals, and so don't produce as many offspring. This should be enough to eliminate it as a genetic trait.

Unless, as has already been pointed out a dozen times in this thread, they confer some benefit to their relatives. The benefit doesn't necessarily have to be transferred to direct descendants--just those who carry the same genes, which may be nieces, nephews, cousins, or even just members of the same species.

It's a perfectly reasonable theory.

I'm not saying it's not. What I am arguing against is your assertion (often repeated by those who have no more than a high-school level understanding of evolution) that homosexuality absolutely, positively, cannot be an inherited trait, because it would have been selected out of the population. I don't know whether homosexuality is wholly, partly, or not at all due to genetic effects. I do know that the hypothesis that it is at least somewhat due to genetics is also a perfectly reasonable theory, given current evidence.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:19 PM on October 4, 2005


Wait... homosexuality... narcolepsy...

Has the man watched My Private Idaho recently?

(but how do the sheep fit in?)
posted by Laotic at 2:29 PM on October 4, 2005


Eureka! I've figured it all out.

By doing hair, creating beautiful flower arrangements, writing pop songs and poetry, sharing gossip with women, and designing astonishing haute couture, gay men have been playing a crucial role in heterosexual reproduction for millennia, despite their sad and crippling disease.

Case closed.
posted by digaman at 2:32 PM on October 4, 2005


"Male Homosexuality and Popular Culture in Modern Japan", wherein pretty much everything that nightchrome was saying above gets confirmed. See especially ¶¶ 4, 14-17, 19-22, 27, 30.
posted by skoosh at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2005


> whose main audience is almost exclusively young women.

The audience isn't limited to Japan either. My two teenage daughters are both ardent fans of this stuff.

It has a name as well. I think it's called Yaoi, and isn't limited just to comic books but there are also whole genre's of fan fiction featuring characters from popular fiction, only engaged in gay activity. Captain Kirk buggering Mr. Spock sort of thing.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:34 PM on October 4, 2005


This week in the Baltimore City Paper a slash fiction author writes about her, um, craft. To give you insight into the minds behind the Harry-fucking-Draco phenomena, at least coming from American popular culture.
posted by schroedinger at 9:17 PM on October 4, 2005


What if, in a world where we are just not doing a good job of supporting many people across the planet, being a heterosexual breeder were a disease?
posted by marsha56 at 10:46 AM on October 5, 2005


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