"Brokeback Mutton"

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Ok, I borrowed that title from an article at slate.com about the science of gay sheep.

Read the whole thing here!

An experiment to test which sex rams chose to mate with found out that about 10% of all rams are gay:

A bare majority of rams turn out to be heterosexual. One in five swings both ways. About 15 percent are asexual, and 7 percent to 10 percent are gay.

Why so many gay rams? Is it too much socializing with ewes? Same-sex play with other lambs? Domestication? Nope. Those theories have been debunked. Gay rams don't act girly. They're just as gay in the wild. And a crucial part of their brains—the "sexually dimorphic nucleus"—looks more like a ewe's than like a straight ram's. Gay men have a similar brain resemblance to women. Charles Roselli, the project's lead scientist, says such research "strongly suggests that sexual preference is biologically determined in animals, and possibly in humans."

Now, you'd think this sort of evidence would put conservative-types between a rock and a hard place, having to reconcile claims that being gay is opposed to nature with the fact that God's own creation includes gays. Not so! The article goes on...


Identifying gay rams wasn't enough. In 2000, Stormshak described an attempt to "alter" them. The idea was to "enhance their sexual behavior or performance" by making them act like straight rams. Three years later, Roselli told an OHSU committee that "information gained about the hormonal, neural, genetic, and environmental determinants of sexual partner preferences should allow better selection of rams for breeding and as a consequence may be economically important to the sheep industry." OSU president Ed Ray says the research "may define biological tests that can be used to identify" gay or asexual rams, "thus eliminating their use for general breeding purposes."

With new advances we may one day be able to influence the development of the brain during pregnancy to eliminate homosexuality. This kind of stuff makes me uneasy. What do you think? clearly this would be going against the natural course of things (ie 'God's design'), but is tampering with nature and engineering the brain development of a fetus justifiable in the name of creating "a more moral society" ? We already have amniocentesis to test for downs, and many women who consider themselves to be "pro-lifers" say they'd consider having an abortion if they knew their kid would have downs syndrome.

The Slate article concludes:

But killing is the horror scenario. The more likely path is gentler. Science will gradually convince us that sexual orientation is innate, more like the color of your skin than like the content of your character. Condemnation of homosexuality as a sin will subside. Freed from the culture wars, we'll turn to the biological differences between race and sexual orientation: Homosexuality defies the aspiration to procreate with your mate, and it's easier to isolate and alter in embryonic development. Resentment will give way to pity. We'll come to view homosexuality as a kind of infertility—a disability, like deafness. The rhetoric of "acceptance" will shift from liberals to conservatives. We'll inoculate our offspring against homosexuality out of love, not hate.

The sheep researchers intend nothing like this. But they didn't foresee the initial uproar over their work, either. It has come from the left, not the right. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has tried to quash their research, falsely depicting them as bigots. PETA, like President Bush, thinks that bad ideas come from bad people, and you have to stamp out the whole lot.

But bad ideas—communism, eugenics, wars of liberation—don't happen because they're bad. They happen because, in the beginning, they're good. What we do with the biological truth about homosexuality, for good or ill, isn't written in our hormones or our genes. It's up to us.

any thoughts?

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25 Comments

Jack said:

First, let's clarify something. Homosexuality is not a sin -- homosexual acts are.

Given that, the nature vs. nurture argument is moot. We are all sinners. We overcome that by acknowledging our sins and asking forgiveness for them, not by denying that they are sins.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

ok, nice apology, I guess.

On what grounds do you make that distinction?

also, what do you say to the question, "is tampering with nature and engineering the brain development of a fetus justifiable in the name of creating "a more moral society" ?"

Jack said:

1) The distinction is action versus inclination.

2) It would not work. Those who will try to justify one sin will try to justify another.

No Relation said:

Gay sheep? C'mon! They stuck sheep butt in the face of other sheep and the fact that it gave a response makes it a gay sheep?

These are ANIMALS, not logical reasoning beings. Animals hump things. Does a dog humping my leg make it a gay dog? That study is ridiculous. I hope my tax dollars aren't paying for it.

Oh, the humanity! Or is it 'zoomanity?' Anyway, God also created monkeys who throw their poop at visitors, so I guess that tells us all we need to know about 'creation.'

To answer your question means we have to accept the assumed premise of 'the biological truth about homosexuality.' The article referenced studies of brain differences and then treated certain results as given. It seems that topic should be the central point of debate rather then simply a postulate snuck in through a side door to make another point.

On the face of it, though, my answer to your question would be 'no.'

Kevin said:

"no" to "any thoughts?"?

NO - I was saying no to his specific question in the comments about engineering babies' brains. Sheesh you young guys can be sticklers.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

Joe:

the article says the brain chemistry of the "gay" rams was similar to that of female sheep. the "assumption" that this is true in humans as well was based on a 2005 study by the National Academy of Sciences, (which is a pretty respectable institution). Here's an article about that study:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=24094

but if homosexuality is determined during fetal development, would you then consider it to be a birth defect?


NR:

If it were simply a matter of animals humping things, shouldn't the study have shown that all rams were bisexual? I don't think your analysis can explain why some rams would only hump other rams ...as it were.


Jack:

re: "action vs. inclination." I got it. but you talk of "sin," which makes me think you're views are rooted in the bible. Yet the bible doesn't always distinguish between action and inclination. Just look at the 10th commandment for an example. I don't want to argue with you about what you believe are or are not "sins," but maybe you could be specific about where this distinction is made in the bible regarding homosexuality?

Jack said:

Lev 18:22 "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

Cor.6:9-10 "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

I will grant that there are translations that simply say "homosexuals," rather than "homosexual offenders."

Nevertheless, it is irrelevant. I, too, "commit adultery in my heart," as Jesus said. Nonetheless, I do not say it is not sin, but ask his forgiveness for it. THAT is the critical distinction.

If we could "innoculate" against homosexuality, they would still attempt to justify whatever other sins they were committing.

Unc said:

I think the guy that compared Rams to his dog had it about right...any excons out there??? Chime in if you can offer examples of what takes place in prison regularly...does that mean that the prison population is gay???...I would like to see the researchers try to tell that to the inmates?

Puft, your question again is a hypothetical, and those really do not interest me.

"If homosexuality was determined by breast feeding vs infant formula" is it good to be a "breast man?"

Sure, some would like to weigh in on that topic, but it's pointless until we know the facts.

As the publisher disclaims, "The articles in PNAS report original research by independent authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Academy of Sciences or the National Research Council."

It's just one study. Not much detail on how it was conducted. I might argue the response to the smell of sweat by gender could be determined by things other than biology -- such as if it reminded you of certain people sweating while you had sex.

So we're back where we started: To what extent should the behavior of animals guide our understanding of human nature. I would argue here that humans are held to a significantly higher standard in a great many areas, sexual behavior being paramount among them.

stay puft marshmallow man said:

Jack:

Ok, thanks. The OT says a lot of stuff is an abomination in the eyes of God, such as a woman wearing men's cloths, or anyone touching a dead pig, or a moabite marrying a hittite, but whatever.

I wonder who you mean by "they" when you say,

"If we could "innoculate" against homosexuality, they would still attempt to justify whatever other sins they were committing."

Unc:

I don't think prison is a good analogue top the experiment. As I understand it, in the experiment all of the rams has the choice between mating with male or female sheep, and a certain % chose the male sheep consistently. That's different from prison, in which there is a one-sex population.

Joe:

I don't agree that it's a purely hypothetical question. It's fairly likely that sexual preference is encoded in a person, rather than being a choice. It's just a theory, but the more research is done, the more apparent it becomes.

I understand what you're saying, though. ...yet you say,

"To what extent should the behavior of animals guide our understanding of human nature. I would argue here that humans are held to a significantly higher standard in a great many areas, sexual behavior being paramount among them."

Implicit in that statement is that being gay is a choice rather than a natural aspect of our species (a hypothesis).

Now this whole thread is based on a hypothetical, that through science, people will acquire the ability to prevent people from developing homosexual tendencies. My general question is, would you support that kind of science?

Jack said:

They, Puffy, are those who try to say that homosexual acts are not sins. Some people call them "revisionists," I call them "heretics."

"It's fairly likely that sexual preference is encoded in a person, rather than being a choice."

That, my friend, is what I call a not-very-scientific sentence.

Since we're taking that route, I would state it thusly: It's fairly likely that sexual preference is a choice. Because yes, that is what I believe. I believe sexual identity can be fluid and can be influenced by environmental factors.

I really don't have a strong opinion on your hypothetical question because I just don't see it ever being relevant.

If we could via chemistry cause babies to grow up to be philosopher-kings I might go for it - but then again maybe not. I'm never quite sure about them academic types ...

No Relation said:

I gotta say, read the thing again, poof. A little more than half were "straight", 20% "bi", 15% "asexual", and 10% or less "gay".

Assuming the study was done proper, that tells me that most sheep, traditionally one of the dumbest of animals, are too stupid to figure out what and when to do it.

And another thing...if it's a genetic issue, like the article says, how is that gene getting passed along by animals that are uninterested in reproducing?

Kevin said:

NR, the gene could be recessive.

Why do things have to be reduced down to nature OR nurture? It's very likely that it's both.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

Ok, I was just curious about what you guys thought about the genetic/social engineering angle.

Joe, you're giving this the ol' global warming treatment! Jack, I love you, man! Do you mind if I call you "Through-back Jack" is in, through back to the middle ages? :)

cheers,

Jack said:

I assume you mean "THROW-back."

Roci said:

What we do with the biological truth about homosexuality, for good or ill, isn't written in our hormones or our genes. It's up to us.

Gulp...

You mean it is a choice? That our actions are not governed by brain chemistry and wiring?

stay puft marshmallow man said:

Jack:
yeah, I was going for the olde english feel of the silent 'gh' :)

Roci:
again, this gets back to thoughts vs. action

Come to think of it, the "ol' global warming treatment" could accurately describe most of my waking hours.

Kevin said:

What behaviors don't change brain chemistry? What thoughts don't affect behaviors? What brain chemistry doesn't affect behaviors? I ask you.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:


chemistry and behavior are inseparable, I think. Now we're on the path to the free-will vs determinism conversation.

I think that because of the whole stem cell debate, there's a perception that as advancements in genetics raises more and more social controversies, the left will tend to side with these issues and the right will oppose them.

so the general assumption is that in the future liberals will be pro-cloning, pro-picking out the eye color of your kid, etc. and it'll be up to conservatives to preserve the essence of what it means to be human.

but in the here-and-now, it seems like conservatives are more eager to guide people to making (what they believe to be) the right choices. The marriage amendments are examples of how the right has used legislation as a blunt tool to do this.

...but what if there existed more precise ways of influencing the decisions people make?
Soon we'll be able to make morally superior citizens! Sure, people will still have a choice (free will) but science will allow Us to help them make The Correct Choice.

Think of the benefits to society! Think of all the souls We could save from the Eternal Flames! O, glory be to God who, in His eternal wisdom, hath granted us the ability to execute His Will on Earth! AHHHAHAHAHAHA!!

(cue twilight zone music, fade to black)

I think the asteroid will hit Earth before we are able to chemically engineer morals.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

there you go with your wacky ideas!

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