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Nature or nurture? The debate continues…

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  1. Then when it comes to Pandas – Penguins – dolphins etc………………….. are we talking about nurtured / nature too ???

  2. Peter Tatchell has written an interesting article on the nature/nurture issue and arrives at a challenging conclusion.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5375/

  3. Welp I definitely was born gay. After all the garbage I went through as a child for liking another girl…I’d have never chosen such abuse. I get really offended when someone tells me that I “chose” to be called a monster pretty much. =_=;

  4. Hmmm, this one is a bit of a mystery to me. I saw Channel 4′s documentary “The Truth About Gay Animals” in which a reporter went looking for examples of gay relationships in the animal kingdom. One interesting piece of scientific data that came from that was that on a ranch where scientists had been studying gay rams (no, it wasn’t THAT kind of documentary!) those that had passed away had had their brain chemistry analysed and compared to that of straight rams, and it turned out the gay rams were missing a hormone present in the straight ones, the hormone that makes them randy when ewes are around. This led the scientist to speculate the same could be true in humans.
    Whatever the case, whether it’s genes, social conditioning or what, I’m pretty sure choice doesn’t come into it. Given the choice I would’ve been straight because gayness was a total social handicap where I grew up. Not many gay people would willingly wish that on themselves when there is such social pressure to conform.

  5. Agreed Flapjack, I saw that documentary too. Well put.

    I have to say, the nature/nurture argument is mainly relevant to the religious right and bigots who are quite happy to dismiss us all as an irregularity of upbringing. As a scientist myself, it worries me when people try to reduce sexual attraction, something evolution spend millions of years of adaptation to perfect, to something as simple as your mothers f*cked up personality, or a few gene sequences. To be blunt, to anyone who knows what they’re talking about, human physiology and physiology is not that simple.

    Regardless of the causes as to WHY we’re here, complex and many as I suspect them to be, the obvious evidence is simple:- we ARE here, and we are many. Nature doesn’t make “mistakes” on that magnitude, so logically homosexuality has a purpose, even if we don’t see it. And nearly all of us (those who are mentally balanced, that is) say we were born that way. As its unlikely we’re not ALL born liars, I should say no one really has a case to say its a choice. No one intelligent, that is.

  6. well said Will, it is irrelevant whether it’s nature or nurture. Nurture is all part of nature anyway. I’d be concerned that if it turns out to be genes and hormones alone, parents will force their offspring to be straight before they are born….designer straight babies. All the money being spent on this type of research should go in to education around sexuality, thanks Stonewall for the campaign “Some People Are Gay, Get Over It”. Being gay isn’t a desease, or a perversion, it is part of the diversity of life, so don’t waste money on how to find a reason why, and therefore a possible “cure” to stop it happening.

  7. I know that I was born gay. End of. Looking back at my childhood, I can see many signs that I wasn’t aware of then because I was too young. I tried to ignore/repress my sexuality to fit in and because I lacked confidence, living in an isolated area. It didn’t work…. I was born gay and it’s just part of who I am. I don’t understand why anyone would say it was nurture. It makes no sense. Nurture might make you repress something, but it doesn’t change what’s inside you.

  8. Will,

    You might find the latest research on the evolution of homosexuality, as reported in The Economist, interesting.

    http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12465295

  9. Thanks Ivan, very interesting. I had not seen he research by Dr Zietsch before, so thank you.

    Now, if only the religious types spend more time reading book than burning them, we might actually get somewhere!

  10. Excellent post there Will, very well thought out… you condense the argument into an intellignet sumamary that I think I’ll use in future when people approach me on this subject in the local ;-) Its a pity other so called “postings” on this site don’t always share your skill at the logical and the articulate.

    Ivan, I read that article, a little of a convolution, but very good none the less. If you read the comments section, you see alas, that a religious idiot tries to use the article as proof that we’re a “disease”. Religion is truly the refuge of the stupid.

  11. Thanks chaps. I confess the Economist article is one of those things I needed to read twice.

    In a more Hello! magazine frame of mind, one sentence does strike me:

    “…..genes which cause men to be more feminine in appearance, outlook and behaviour……confer reproductive advantages as long as they do not push the individual possessing them all the way to homosexuality”.

    David Beckham anyone?……:-)

  12. Mirjam Bader 26 Nov 2008, 2:52pm

    Nature? Nurture? Does it matter?

  13. Mirjam, as Will’s post quite rightly pointed out, it does matter to the one who dislike us so. They’re hoping for the proof that we’re sin choosing deviants. I am certainly for the scientific research into this, it will open our eyes and hopefully our minds of the ones who despise us so, or at least take away their support. We all know we were born this way, but the question of why we are what we are has always fascinated me. Well done Will and Ivan for such informative comments.

  14. Catherine – I suspect that if the cause turns out to be provably nature rather than nurture, the religious right will suddenly reject everything they’d previously said about eugenics being bad and start funding ways of detecting gayness in the womb.
    It would be an interesting thought experiment to see which constitutes the higher priority for them: protecting the rights of the unborn child or eradicating gayness in all its forms!

  15. Thanks Catherine (though I can asssure you that when thinking of David Beckham I’m not necessarily using my intelligence).

    I would caution against thinking the genetic argument would be the end of the issue as regards discrimination. What we are then left with is the “moderate” religious position of “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This is as mad and thoroughly offensive as saying “love the black skin, hate your natural rhythm” but there you go. Even at best, to be tolerated with a “poor dears, they can’t help it you know” attitude is far from ideal.

    As the Peter Tatchell article I posted in comment #2 asks, are we so insecure that we need to justify ourselves to straight people in this way? Perhaps better, as Peter continues, to work for a better society where consensual behaviour betweeen adults that causes no harm to anyone else is seen as completely unremarkable.

    Even this might have a downside. As the historian David Starkey said, without the problems that go with growing up GBLT, would we turn out to be different and special anymore? I suppose two teenagers hanging from the end of a rope in Iran would take a bit of ordinary as a price worth paying, but you see his point.

    Just a thought (or three).

  16. hey people!!
    ive always wondered what makes someone gay so i could hopefully “help” them….by “curing” them.
    im 22 now and i dont think anyone will find the 1 definitive answer to my question and that a lot of you would take offense to the previous sentence….but…..i dont see how anyone can think its ok to have people ramming a cock up your arse (sorry for my use of language but how would you describe it?lovemaking???) c’mon people?! surely thats just common sense? to be honest when i read this post i was hoping that most gays would attribute it to nurture or even better: choice! but alas nothings that easy/simple. and i think its a mix of all 3.
    but hey! thats my opinion! im entitled to it aren’t i? and its an opinion thats always open to change….
    hmmm i say change but i doubt i could ever see being gay as normal human behaviour.
    wow i bet your opinion of me changes with every sentence!
    some peoples opinions you will never be able to change i suppose…and that works both ways.

  17. I was very surprised to see this controversial article on your
    website…but it does deserve serious examination because
    explaining homosexuality is far from simple…it’s a very complex
    situation with many inaccuracies, errors, untruths, ignorance,and
    prejudicial presentations which causes much emotional pain,
    physical harm, and social grief for many.
    I read the Econmist article and it’s pretty well meaningless in
    its presentatioin. I made the follow observations of its “facts”
    if you want to call them facts.

    The Economist article is filled with such notations:
    The evidence suggests that homosexual behaviour is partly genetic…Various answers have been suggested…One proposal is that. ..That seems unlikely to be the whole story…. The other idea, . Originally, the thought was … They think…Other evidence. ..To a lesser extent…Lesbians tend to be… Their first observation was …According to the final crunching of the numbers,. Thus looks quite plausible…There are also data which suggest .The explanation usually advanced… Less research has been done… What data there are, however, suggest … That may, Dr Zietsch speculates..Their first observation was… According to the final crunching of the numbers,.. Thus looks quite plausible

    None of this offers much evidence to give any insight to the
    nature/nurture picture. I’ll have some further input later, after
    any comments on this comment.

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