Friday, November 14, 2008

What Does Science Say?

The following is an article I sent to the Ventura County Star in response to an article in the Tuesday, November 11, 2008 edition, page B7 entitled, "Civil Rights not won at ballot box" by Jerry Clifford. See VenturaCounty

We are lucky to live in an era where so much is being discovered about our minds and bodies. Unfortunately, oftentimes scientific inquiry is driven by political expediency and so it becomes difficult for the general public to know what to believe. Complicated data are reduced to sound bites that often bear little resemblance to the conclusion of the actual research being reported on. Information about same gender attraction has been caught in the throes of this war of words, trying to sway the public’s opinion towards a notion of biological inevitability. However, this viewpoint is inconsistent with other scientific evidence.

In the last ten years neuroscience has made incredible discoveries. My opinion is that this research has been more objective since it has not been for the purpose of supporting a specific political agenda as in the case of research on homosexuality. What scientists overwhelmingly agree on is that the human mind is much more plastic (malleable) than had previously been believed and that humans are capable of learning throughout their life span. How wonderful to realize that we have amazing capacities to influence our own thinking, feeling and behaving. We are not bound by our biology but can choose to maximize or minimize whatever genetic predispositions we may have-whether they are physical, emotional or intellectual. You can improve your coordination, increase your I.Q., alleviate most depressive symptoms, overcome the ravages of strokes, learn to speak a new language after 50, etc. It is widely held that every aspect of being human involves nature and nurture. So even though they have found a gene for racism, and for most everything else by the way, no one is making the claim that people are justified in acting on those predispositions The same gender movement would have you believe that your sexuality is the ONLY part of your humanness that is beyond your control-that you are “born that way”.

In a recent article in this paper Dr. Clifford cites one study done in 1993 by Dean Hamer. Dr. Hamer is someone with same gender attraction and his study was on self reported same gender men. However, rather than citing the researchers own opinion he cites the conclusion picked up by the news media-that “genetics plays a significant role in determining homosexuality”. Let me quote Dr. Hamer in his own conclusion “...”suggesting the possibility of sex linked transmission in a portion of the population,”at least one subtype of male sexual orientation is genetically influenced.” Hardly a ringing endorsement for a gay gene. A study done by Dr. Rice trying to replicate Hamer’s findings, found “ our study was larger than that of Hamer et al, we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as reported in that study. Nonetheless our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation…”

It would appear that all human behavior is influenced genetically. But exactly how is still not understood. The same gender movement has researched every possible angle to prove sexual orientation is not a choice and so far the findings show correlations, descriptions but not causation. So it is inaccurate and misleading to use science to bolster claims for equal rights. It would be more honest to say this is something the same gender movement really wants but not something they are owed or should be granted based on their biology. There is insufficient evidence for the claim that homosexuality is a condition but lots of evidence for the argument that homosexuality is like all other human behaviors a complex interplay between biology and environment.


concerned for your clients said...

Dear Julann,

You wrote, "So it is inaccurate and misleading to use science to bolster claims for equal rights." You do not go on to provide information on what basis you would believe that gay and lesbian people should or should not have equal rights. Instead, you simply assert they should not. I am appalled and offended that you treat people in any way. I am very concerned for your clients as you have a dearth of objectivity on such a deeply personal, physical, spiritual, and relational phenomena. Please consider getting treatment before you continue to provide it.

Julann Nickolaisen, LCSW said...

I do not feel that ones' sexual orientation should be the main identifying characteristic of a human being. It is one descriptor of their behavior. People have rights. Someone with same gender attraction should not be granted different rights anymore than basketball players are granted special rights. You have the same rights I do-based on our being human. If you want to get married you have to follow the same restrictions that I do-you have to be 18 years old, you have to take a blood test, you have to get a marriage license and pay a fee and you have to marry someone that is your opposite gender. I treat everyone the same-regardless of their physical, intellectual or emotional characteristics. I feel it is more discriminatory to start creating special categories, especially based on an individuals behavioral choice. Our most important feature as human beings is that we have free will. I think the same gender movement is harming itself by asserting that you don't have any control over your sexual selves. I'm not sure why that would be an attractive notion to adhere to. I think it is more spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually correct to operate on the premise that regardless of your predispositions you still exercise choice.

J-Dub said...

Well written article and a great rebuttal. I appreciate your incite and informed presentation of the available data to us laymen.

Valerie said...

Thanks Julann for your courageous analysis of these hot-button issues. I listened to a KPBS broadcast today on prop 8 that was interesting, informative, but very one-sided. It's so nice to have a resource where I can get well-researched information presenting the other side of the issue.