Thursday, September 22, 2016

Born That Way? A False Hypothesis

Literature reviews are a common thing in the world of academic research. They often involve esoteric topics confined to a narrow universe of scholarly interest. Few literature reviews, however, have generated as much controversy as the recently published paper “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological and Social Sciences,” by Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh.

Among the issues attracting attention in the Mayer-McHugh paper is the claim that the causes of sexual orientation are poorly understood, but — most importantly — that genetics is not the sole determinant of sexual orientation. The hypothesis that those who have lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) orientations were born that way is found to be inconsistent with the data. Mayer and McHugh write:

There is virtually no evidence that anyone, gay or straight, is “born that way” if that means their sexual orientation was genetically determined. But there is some evidence from the twin studies that certain genetic profiles probably increase the likelihood the person later identifies as gay or engages in same-sex sexual behavior.
Mayer and McHugh reviewed research on potential environmental factors, such as abuse, but did not find the evidence convincing for any specific environmental factor. They suggest additional research on potential environmental influences.

A team led by J. Michael Bailey published a literature review on this topic at about the same time that Mayer and McHugh published theirs. At times making different inferences than Mayer and McHugh, particularly when the research evidence is ambiguous, Bailey et al. also conclude that genetics is not the most important causal factor for sexual orientation:

Based on the evidence from twin studies, we believe that we can already provide a qualified answer to the question “Is sexual orientation genetic?” That answer is: “Probably somewhat genetic, but not mostly so.”
Both of these research teams reached the same conclusion about the role of genetics in the development of sexual orientation by reviewing studies of twin siblings. With twin studies we want to know the concordance rate: If one member of a twin pair has a same-sex orientation, what is the probability that the other twin also has a same-sex orientation? Identical (monozygotic) twins share all of their genes in common. If sexual orientation is entirely due to genetics, or perhaps a combination of genetics and prenatal environment, then the concordance rate for identical twins would be one, or quite close to one. Fraternal (dizygotic) twins have the same number of genes in common as any two, non-identical siblings. If the concordance rate for identical twins is greater than that of fraternal twins, then clearly genetics plays a role. When considering studies that used the best sampling methods, Bailey and his colleagues found an average concordance rate for identical twins of .24 and .15 for fraternal twins. Yes, genetics plays a role in the development of sexual orientation, but the environment plays a larger role.

Those who desire a rigorous understanding of the science of sexual orientation should read both of the recent literature reviews. Unlike the data on the role of genetics, the data on environmental factors is often open to more than one interpretation, so considering multiple perspectives is helpful.

Epigenetics helps explain why the born-that-way hypothesis is false even though genes play a role. The epigenome affects the expression of genes. While our genome is relatively static, our epigenome is influenced by the environment. Thus some identical twins come to look different, behave differently, and have differing risk for psychological disorders. Each twin has different environmental experiences. The differing epigenomes result in different expressions of their common genes. Even if a “gay gene” exists, the born-that-way hypothesis would likely be false because interactions with the environment could affect the expression of the gay gene.

The born-that-way hypothesis is important to people on all sides. Members of the LGB community and their allies often believe that a stronger case can be made for societal embrace of the LGB lifestyle if sexual orientation is caused by genetics. Supporters of traditional morality may also feel more comfortable disapproving of behavior when they believe the behavior does not have a biological foundation.

All complex human behavior has a biological foundation. For example, sociobiology suggests that males are hard wired with a propensity to mate with many partners. Even if males are born this way and it is 100 percent due to biology, it does not follow that mating with many partners is moral. The degree to which any behavior is genetically based has no bearing on its morality, nor its benefit to society. We have considerable control over our biological predispositions; civilization would not be possible otherwise.

The nature vs. nurture question has been, in a sense, settled; the answer is (to some degree) a matter of both. Because the answer involves both, those who argue for the virtue, or lack thereof, of any behavior need to always consider legal, societal, or religious claims rather than strictly biological claims.


Karma is a wonderful thing

The monstrosity above turned a joke into an offence.  She would have been eased out long ago except for her abundant melanin

An academic who triggered a row over Sir Tim Hunt which led to Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt losing his job, has had her own hours cut back.

Sir Tim resigned from his honorary professorship at University College London last year after Connie St Louis’s report of his allegedly sexist remarks at a conference in South Korea.

Heatstreet reports Ms St Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at London’s City University, has had her postgraduate course downgraded, with her teaching hours severely cut.

While giving a toast at the conference in Korea, Dr Hunt joked: 'It's strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists.

'Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?'

Ms St Louis was criticised at the time for quoting Dr Hunt selectively, triggering a worldwide debate which ultimately cost him his job.

But her own cv was questioned in the wake of the debate, including claims she had written for national newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the Sunday Times and the Independent.

City University in London appears to have dropped her course, according to a timetable seen by Heat Street, and she has been given only one two hour-long class to teach every week for two months.


The wisdom of a Muslim intellectual

Media wonder boy Reza Aslan is behind the curve on this one: this particular talking point has already been debunked (not that he would care, or stop repeating it, if he knew). Back in June 2015, the New America Foundation published a study that garnered enthusiastic international publicity, as it purported to demonstrate that “right-wing extremists” and “white supremacists” were a larger threat to the U.S. than Islamic jihadis. The study was obviously skewed, as it was based on the number of those killed by jihadis and by right-wing extremists since September 12, 2001, leaving  out 9/11. The study also ignored the many, many foiled jihad plots, and the fact that jihadis are part of an international movement that has killed many thousands of people, while right-wingers and white supremacists are not. It stated that right-wing extremists had killed 48 people from September 12, 2001 to June 2015, while Islamic jihadists had killed only 26 people in the U.S. in that span. If 9/11 had been added, the tally would have been 3,032 killed by Islamic jihadists and 48 by purported right-wing extremists. And even by the New America Foundation’s rules, the Orlando jihad massacre makes the death toll stand at 76 killed by Islamic jihadis, and 48 by purported right-wing extremists (I repeat “purported” because to get to its count of 48, the NAF counted as “right-wing” attacks killings that were perpetrated by people who were obviously deranged psychopaths devoid of any ideology). Will Reza Aslan retract and apologize? What do you think?

The semi-literate and fact-free Aslan is the living embodiment of how repeating politically correct shibboleths can enable you to go far in this world. Aslan has made the ridiculous claim that the idea of resurrection “simply doesn’t exist in Judaism,” despite numerous passages to the contrary in the Hebrew Scriptures. He has also referred to “the reincarnation, which Christianity talks about” — although he later claimed that one was a “typo.” In yet another howler he later insisted was a “typo,” he claimed that the Biblical story of Noah was barely four verses long — which he then corrected to forty, but that was wrong again, as it is 89 verses long. Aslan claimed that the “founding philosophy of the Jesuits” was “the preferential option for the poor,” when in reality, that phrase wasn’t even coined until 1968. He called Turkey the second most populous Muslim country, when it is actually the eighth most populous Muslim country. He thinks Pope Pius XI, who issued the anti-fascist encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, was a fascist. He thinks Marx and Freud “gave birth to the Enlightenment,” when it ended in the late 18th century, before either of them were born. He claims that “the very first thing that Muhammad did was outlaw slavery,” when in fact Muhammad bought slaves, took female captives as sex slaves, and owned slaves until his death. He thinks Ethiopia and Eritrea are in Central Africa. A “renowned religious scholar” such as Reza Aslan should not make such elementary mistakes. But this is, of course, the man who writes “than” for “then”; apparently thinks the Latin word “et” is an abbreviation; and writes “clown’s” for “clowns.”

There is a sinister side to this sideshow: Aslan is a Board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). NIAC has been established in court as a lobbying group for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Said Michael Rubin: “Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s policy director, now appears to push aside any pretense that NIAC is something other than Iran’s lobby. Speaking at the forthcoming ‘Expose AIPAC’ conference, Abdi is featured on the ‘Training: Constituent Lobbying for Iran’ panel. Oops.” Iranian freedom activist Hassan Daioleslam “documented over a two-year period that NIAC is a front group lobbying on behalf of the Iranian regime.” NIAC had to pay him nearly $200,000 in legal fees after they sued him for defamation over his accusation that they were a front group for the mullahs, and lost. Yet Aslan remains on their Board.


Teenager, 19, accused of plotting nail bomb terror attacks at London landmarks appears before an Old Bailey judge

A teenager accused of planning nail bomb attacks on famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace appeared at the Old Bailey today.

Haroon Syed, 19, allegedly researched potential targets including the Queen's London residence and Oxford Street in London's West End. He is also looked up military bases between 12 April and 9 September this year, it is said.

Syed is accused of attempting to buy guns and bomb making material online with a view to carrying out an attack 

He was arrested on 9 September following an investigation by the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.

Syed appeared in court today via video link dressed in a grey prison tracksuit.

Listing his case for a three week trial beginning on 13 March, Mr Justice Saunders said: 'Mr Syed, I have done my utmost to make sure this comes to court at the earliest possible opportunity.

'In the meantime you are remanded in custody'.

Syed, of Hounslow, west London, is charged with the intention of committing acts of terrorism engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to that intention.

He is due back in court on 13 January for a pleas and case management hearing.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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