A Biological Mandate
June 27th, 2006
This from the AP/San Francisco Chronicle:
Men who have several older brothers have an increased chance of being gay, researchers say, a finding that adds weight to the idea that sexual orientation has a physical basis. The increase was seen in men with older brothers from the same mother — whether they were raised together or not — but not those who had adopted or stepbrothers who were older.For a long time, conservatives have been fighting the idea that homosexuality has a biological basis. The obvious reason they do so is that if homosexuality is biological, that means it is natural, and therefore not a "lifestyle choice." If being gay is natural, it would mean that most of the anti-gay arguments made by conservatives would collapse and they would no longer have a ostensibly "rational" shield to disguise their homophobia. Even more, a natural genesis for homosexuality would suggest for creationists that God made homosexuals the way they are, which would devastate many religious homophobes, unless they came to the conclusion (which they probably will) that God created these evil people as a test of our morality. I've even heard conservatives go so far as to claim that gay people themselves say it's a choice; to do so, they had to dig way back into the early days of the gay rights movement and find a few radicals who made that claim as a way of asserting control over their sexuality. Few gay people make such claims, however; an overwhelming majority report being gay as a natural consequence, one they did not choose. The common phrasing is, "why would I choose to be someone who is so discriminated against?" We've long heard the idea that homosexuality is biological; various researchers have come to that conclusion, and in that sense, this new study is nothing really new. Nor is the study conclusive. It does, however, bolster the general case, and helps opens the way for further study and research. Conservatives naturally refute these findings:
Tim Dailey, a senior fellow at the conservative Center for Marriage and Family Studies disagreed. "We don't believe that there's any biological basis for homosexuality," Dailey said. "We feel the causes are complex but are deeply rooted in early childhood development." ... "If it is indeed genetically based it is difficult to see how it could have survived in the gene pool over a period of time," Dailey added.That's another common argument against homosexuality having a biological basis: how could the genes for such a thing be passed on? Well, of course, there are many answers to that. For example, if it is genetic, it can be passed on as a recessive gene. But this study, which found that homosexuality occurs more often in men with many brothers, strengthens the case for homosexuality being a consequence of fetal development, and therefore not in the least dying out because a homosexual man does not have children. Apparently Mr. Dailey did not even understand the basis of the new study, or else this lame non sequitur was all that he had to fall back on. There is also a biological and evolutionary advantage to homosexuality that has been forwarded, one that fits in very well with the idea that men with several older brothers have an increased chance of being gay. If a family group in prehistoric times had too many children and not enough caregivers, it could put the group in danger of not having sufficient resources to raise the children well. Gay members of the group would therefore be an advantage, adding to the number of caregivers who themselves do not produce offspring. The fact that this would kick in only after several heterosexual offspring were produced bolsters the case, suggesting a natural evolutionary solution to a life-threatening problem: family groups with more caregivers once a population threshold had been reached would be more likely to survive. It is also heavily ironic in light of the policy of many religions which pressure their adherents to have larger families, especially with an emphasis on producing many male children. Such religious mandates would have the effect of increasing the homosexual population. In any case, this theory, if true, would explain homosexuality quite nicely in evolutionary biological terms. Or even if you don't believe in evolution, it still would make the case for natural, and therefore God-ordained homosexuality. If the theory can be proven, that would go a very long way to breaking down the societal objections to homosexuality, and perhaps, in time, even overcome the more primitive foundations of homophobia. One can hope. Just don't expect it soon.