About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
On the biological basis of homosexuality
The same group of scientists had previously found that the anterior hypothalamus is activated in response to AND (which is found in sweat) in both homosexual men and heterosexual women, while the same brain region responded to EST in heterosexual men.
All of this strongly hints at some biological basis for human gender preferences, which implies that so-called “re-education” programs – strongly advocated by Christian conservatives – may not work because the “problem” (such as it is) is not a matter of individual choice, but rather of biological preference.
Two caveats, as usual. First, “biological” here doesn't (necessarily) mean genetic. Savic's research shows that the brains of her subjects reacted differently, but it doesn't imply a genetic basis for such differences. Brain structure is known to be strongly affected by environmental influences, particularly by exposure to various hormones while in utero. Still, the same is true for, say, natural propensities for music or math, and nobody in his right mind would suggest that an individual that shows such propensities should be “re-educated” out of them.
Second, one can always argue that biological tendencies, as strong as they may be, can be resisted by cultural conditioning or will power. For example, I have a strong natural tendency to eat fat and sugar, but I fight it (mostly) successfully every day of my life. Then again, the assumption here is that homosexuality is bad for the individual or for society. While I can see the argument when it comes to the dangers of obesity, I fail to grasp why societies should care about the sexual preferences of individuals.