Sunday, June 25, 2006

Why Homosexuality is Considered to be Biologically Based

The purpose of this post is to point out the biological basis of homosexuality. For religious and political reasons this is a topic that seems to always be in hot debate. It is really nothing more than the nature nurture argument, and we find that people who are in the extremes in this argument are usually wrong.

All human traits are on two continuums. They are on a continuum for the particular trait, and they are on a nature nurture continuum. For example, for the trait sex, we have male on one side, female on the other, and intersexed individuals in the middle. In the case nature nurture, biology is the primary factor that determines sex. Sexuality is a trait like all others and is on the two continuums. It is on a continuum for the trait itself and a nature nurture continuum. The source of hot debate is that people with their own political agendas want to show that homosexuality is either all nature or all nurture. However, it is believed by the scientific community that sexuality is more biologically based than environmentally based this is not so say that environment does not play any role. Lets face it, in extreme situations like prison and some other historical situations, homosexuality is or was a consequences of environment. However, these are extreme and oppressive environments and the choice ins't/wasn't whether to be hetero or homo, but whether to have sex or not. In today's society, it is more difficult to be homosexual so I would say that not many would want to choose to be that way. Admittedly, there is a certain amount of bumper sticker logic to that statement, and I am always afraid to apply such logic to any situation. The fact is, many people choose to do things that are counter productive. I think the important thing to remember is that homosexuality is a difficult lifestyle so there must be more than simple choice involved.

I would like to apologize because this is really nothing more than a book report from here to the conclusion. I am too lazy to look through the journals on this particular topic so I am going to rely upon a text book called the Biological Psychology Seventh Edition by James W. Kalat. Second, I would like to make it clear that I am not claiming that homosexual behavior is 100% biological. My point is simply that there is a strong biological basis for homosexual behavior

Genetic Evidence
Here Kalat combines several studies into a chart on page 327 that shows the genetic basis of homosexuality. These charts show the likelihood of siblings of a twin being homosexual if one twin reported being homosexual. Notice that there is a very high likelihood for a monozygotic twin to be homosexual if one twin has reported to be homosexual.

Related to a Homosexual Man
Monozygotic Twin
52% homosexual

Dizygotic Twin
22% homosexual

Adopted Brother
11% homosexual

Related to a Homosexual Woman
Monozygotic Twin
48% homosexual

Dizygotic Twin
16% homosexual

Nontwin Sister
11% homosexual

Adopted Sister
6% homosexual

Prenatal Environment
Kalat later goes on to sight a comparative biology study where with the use of testosterone during sensitive times in pregnancy researchers were able to induce homosexual behavior in female rats. Next he mentions that there have been several studies where prenatal stress was induced to increase the likelihood of homosexuality. In the stress studies they did find that with different environmental factors it was possible to induce bisexuality versus strict homosexuality.

Differences between men and women
Finally Kalat points out that there are differences in the male and female brain. Heterosexual woman have several areas of the brain that are larger than in heterosexual men. This comparison includes the interstitial nucleus which has a relationship to sexual behavior. It has been found that homosexual men have greater similarity to heterosexual women than they do to heterosexual men in these brain areas.

Finally, while there is still work to be done in this area to clear up specific questions about the role of biology, it is apparent that social psychologists, sociologists, religious scholars, and others with a vested interest in disproving the biological nature of homosexuality have had little success. There is meager evidence that environment can induce bisexuality versus strict homosexuality, but it does not lessen the central idea that it is primarily nature that determines one’s propensity to engage in homosexual acts. Finally, I do not see the occasional person reporting that he or she has chosen heterosexuality over homosexuality as being evidence of the environmental nature of homosexuality. Since sexuality is on a continuum, logically those on the extreme ends will claim to have had no choice as to their sexuality while those individuals who have sexuality that is in the middle of the sexuality continuum, may report that they chose their sexuality or environment may have played a role.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Religion Leading People Astray in the Nature Nurture Debate

I spoke with someone the other day about nature vs. nurture. She was approaching the argument from a particular religious standpoint so she took the position of nurture being the most important. I think that her belief stems from the idea of God being just. For God to be just, people must have freewill (the ability to choose right from wrong) before they can be justly punished. If we have freewill the only thing that can set us off track is bad environment/nurturing. Of course, I could be giving her undeserved credit for being consistent. She may just be one for confabulation, or maybe I am?

I do not want to digress too far, but I happen to disagree with any notion of freewill. It is odd to me that religious people accept the idea of freewill; as Max (a scholarly friend) has often pointed out, God’s omniscience and therefore omnipotence rest upon the idea that we do not have freewill. Max and I, like good scientists or Calvinists, are determinists. Nonetheless, many religious people believe that we have freewill which means that we cannot be biologically determined to behave in a certain way, so it then follows that nurture must supersede nature.

I then pointed out to her that they are both important, and depending on the issue one may be more important than the other. I explained to her some of the results of twin studies and how certain traits seemed to have stronger biological components.

She then said in her mind, "facts smacts you can prove any ol' thing with the facts," and changed talking points. She then said aloud, “If environment causes any change at all in a behavior or trait then environment is the most important.” I did not quite get it at first, but after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that she meant that environment is the only thing we can control so genes and inheritance do not matter as much.

Finally, I think that it is a silly debate. People can argue back and forth about which is more important, but they work together. Whether one can be manipulated and the other cannot they are together. It is like saying that the Earth is more important than the Sun to life on this planet because we have some control over the Earth.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why "Intelligent Design" (ID) Is Not Science

"ID is not a scientific theory and should not be taught alongside the Theory of Evolution. It offers nothing to help students understand how science works. It is merely a statement of how complex life seems to be - not even worth an hour of classroom time."
Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#707 WHY "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" (ID) IS NOT SCIENCE
The posting below is a nice, succinct, statement on what science is, why "intelligent design" isn't science, and therefore why it has no business being taught as such in high school or college science courses. It is by Dr. Pennilun (Penny) Higgins, a research associate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester. It is reprinted with permission from the Creation & Intelligent Design Watch hosted by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
Rick Reis
UP NEXT: Getting the Big Picture of How Things Work in the World of Higher Education
Tomorrow's Research
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WHY "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" (ID) IS NOT SCIENCE and why, therefore, it should not be taught in a science curriculum By Penny Higgins
Science is a tool used to describe our world, to understand why the world is the way it is, and to predict what the outcome of a mixture of characteristics may be. Science attempts to do this by studying only phenomena that are "material," meaning countable, measurable, visible, tangible things, and by making the fewest assumptions possible. By being this way, scientists hope to eliminate faulty thinking and conclusions due to matters of opinion, professional conflict, personal experience, or biased knowledge (among other things).
Scientists approach their work by asking testable questions (hypotheses), running the tests (experiments), and by always providing within the hypothesis some means by which the hypothesis can be unequivocally disproved. Most experiments test the predictive power of the hypothesis: "If I mix chemical A and chemical B, I should get chemical C and a flash of light", or "People who hate tomatoes also hate ketchup."
In their experiments, scientists seek to validate their hypotheses - that is, to make observations that support their hypothesis and never once observe the evidence that disproves their hypothesis. If ever, even for a microsecond, that one thing that disproves the hypothesis is observed, then the whole hypothesis has been shown to be false. At this point, the scientist starts over with a new or revised hypothesis.
The most important point is that only one tiny little event can falsify a hypothesis: "I got chemical D" or "This person who hates tomatoes absolutely loves ketchup." However, absolute proof can never be achieved, since there is always the chance that the single falsifying observation may have been missed.
If a hypothesis is subjected to test after test over many years and by many different people and does not fail, it will most likely be elevated to the level of "Theory." The term "Theory" is science-ese for "we are pretty darn sure this is absolutely true, but since absolute proof is impossible by the nature of science, we'll just call it something besides 'absolute truth.'" This is basic scientific honesty; you can't run every experiment or make every observation.
One of the most harassed theories today is the Theory of Evolution, which posits that all organisms on this planet are related through a common ancestor, and that it is gradual change over extreme spans of time that accounts for the diversity of species today. With this theory, we can predict and understand how and why organisms behave the way they do. If a person wants to understand why dogs, wolves, and coyotes are capable of interbreeding, but they generally don't, one only has to look to evolution. To understand why birds' "knees" bend backward - look to evolution. Why do we sometimes, when we're particularly upset, find ourselves behaving like apes, and what can we do about it - turn to evolution. How can DNA from a virus infect a human cell - we're talking evolution.
As noted earlier, science restricts itself to material knowledge. And it seeks to develop hypotheses that will assist us in understanding and predicting the nature of our world. Recently, the concept of "Intelligent Design" (ID) as been brought forward as an alternative "theory" explaining the origin of the diversity of life on Earth. The key to ID is the notion that many of the basic parts that all organisms share are too complex to have arisen from gradual change. ID proposes that some external agent or intelligence is responsible for making these critical bits.
But is ID Science? Should it be taught in a science classroom alongside the Theory of Evolution? Well, can it be tested? Are there falsifying observations? ID could potentially be disproved by observing a more primitive intermediate form of some part that has been touted as 'too complex' to be natural. But then, the individual running the ID experiment can alter his hypothesis to say that this new structure is that which was installed by the Intelligent Designer. Because of this, there is no part of ID that can be unequivocally falsified by material science.
The second part of ID calls for an external Designer. This idea is neither fully supported nor fully falsified by material observation. There is no scientific way to test for the presence or absence of the Designer, as the Designer is defined as unobservable, or at least, only observable by a chosen few.
One of the most important characteristics of scientific hypotheses and theories is the predictive power they provide. ID does not offer any new explanation or observation about these complex structures that the Theory of Evolution does not already provide. The observation that some structures in organisms are too complex to have originated from gradual change will not help scientists to develop a better antibiotic, for example. In fact, the idea that "some things are too complex" is anti-scientific, since it seems to suggest that we shouldn't try to understand the origins of the complex structures. ID discourages us from looking and asking questions. True science, however, moves on. If it is later found to be the case that some structures in organisms do not have more primitive counterparts, science will observe and recognize this fact, and the new knowledge will be incorporated into evolutionary theory.
ID is not a scientific theory and should not be taught alongside the Theory of Evolution. It offers nothing to help students understand how science works. It is merely a statement of how complex life seems to be - not even worth an hour of classroom time.
Dr. Pennilyn (Penny) Higgins is a Research Associate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester. Penny's research interests include: Stable isotope geochemistry of biogenic apatite and of carbonate minerals; annual-scale studies of ancient climate and dietary sources of fossil vertebrates using stable isotopes of tooth and bone apatite; atmospheric CO2 concentration and effects on plant metabolism through geologic time; uranium geochemistry and its relation to uranium ore deposition and fossil preservation; vertebrate taphonomy; and application of GIS to problems in paleontology.
You can write Dr. Higgins directly at: or
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

What I Dislike About Hippies

I know that this seems a bit mean or harsh, but I have a good deal of pent-up frustration when it comes to hippies. After attending a hippie college and dating hippie chicks, I suggest to all that they choose their hippie friends wisely. I suppose that it is safe to say that a true hippie is someone who practices ultraliberalism/postmodernism. While, I suppose that there are certain individuals in the white population who smoke marijuana and think they are hippies, I tend to think they are posers.

In scientific debates, hippies tend to support postmodern ideology claiming that there is no absolute truth, and they tend to seek odd reconciliations between religion, science, and other disciplines. Furthermore, hippies like throwing around words like paradigm hoping that no one knows the meaning.

Also, hippies are often backstabbers. Since hippies like to avoid confrontation, they find that the best approach is passive aggressive behavior. If you anger a hippie, don’t expect a face-to-face talk or confrontation. Expect to have your car keyed. Expect to be talked about behind your back, and I don’t mean just about what did happen; expect many lies to develop. If you work with one or many, expect Machiavellian meetings unbeknownst to you plotting your termination.

The Google Toolbar

I know that this may seem frivolous, but I used the Yahoo toolbar for about a year, and when I installed Google Earth on my computer, the installer clandestinely installed the Google toolbar. I began comparing the two and Wow! Yahoo has a lot of fluff on its toolbar, but when it comes to searching, Google's toolbar is the best, and I guess, not surprisingly.