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« The Problem of Beauty, Continued | Main | "Gay Genes," Continued »

“Gay Genes” and Religious Homophobia

My writings have often been used by those whose views diverge from my own. Christians in particular. To my dismay, many of them embraced The End of Science because they wrongly saw it as an implicit endorsement of non-scientific, religious solutions to existence. This made for some uncomfortable conversations between me and Christian radio-talk-show hosts.

Religious homophobes have also misunderstood and misused my writings on the biology of homosexuality, particularly “Gay Genes Revisited,” Scientific American, November 1995. In it I report on weaknesses in the claims of scientists—and particularly Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute, “discoverer” of the “gay gene”--that homosexuality has a genetic basis. (Hamer is one of the most suspect researchers in the suspect field of behavioral genetics and someone I’ve continued to whack over the years, most recently in “Do Our Genes Influence Behavior?”)

Christians who view homosexuality as sinful and oppose gay marriage cite “Gay Genes Revisited” to make the case that homosexuals can change their behavior through “conversion therapy.” See, for example, how these Mormon and Catholic sites use “Gay Genes Revisited.” Also, I just received a book in the mail that makes the same use of “Gay Genes.” The book is Striving For Gender Identity, a “workbook” on “Homosexuality and Christian Counseling” published by the German Institute for Youth and Society. (My first thought on seeing the book was, Europe has anti-gay Christians too?)

A few points: First, being a good tolerant liberal, of course I support gay rights—including the right to marry. Second, I can think of no dumber reason for doing or not doing something than what the Bible supposedly says. Third, I suspect that homosexuality is probably at least in part innate, even though the evidence so far is flimsy.

But I also see human sexuality as much too complicated, diverse and mutable to be explained in simple biological terms. Although the aforementioned Dean Hamer and many gay activists insist that a bisexual is really just a homosexual in denial, bisexuality is clearly a genuine phenomenon.

My views have been affected by two of my best friends, whom I’ll call Dick and Jane. They consider themselves bisexual. Each had been in both straight and gay relationships before they met and fell in love 15 years ago. They’ve been happily married now for eight years, and everyone who knows them thinks they’re a great match. I hope this doesn’t sound too sappy, but to my mind their love for each other as individuals transcends categories as crude as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.

But what do I know? I’ve asked Dick and Jane to comment. I hope to post their responses soon.


nigel cook

In England there is a problem that many of the single, unattached, beautiful females turn out to be lesbian.

I'm completely happy for other people to do what they want, except that you get tired of going on dates with the few 'available' beautiful single women who tell you straight away they are lesbian or bisexual and just looking for a guy to be friends with.

From the fact that there are more single men looking for women than single women looking for men, there seems to be a skew: more lesbians/bi women than men.

Every lesbian relationship locks up two females who would otherwise be available for dating and marriage, and it seems as if there are far more lesbians than gay men, so single men will tend to lose out.

If there were exactly the same number of lesbians as gay men, things would be OK. It is the asymmetry which makes things tough if you are a nerdy straight guy.


I'm seventy-nine years old and I've finally come around to it: Who needs sex? Who cares?

The sex drive is a practical joke played by Nature on her helpless spawn. Sex means so much to the individual life form. Sex is so compelling, so delightful, so. . .so. . ! Sorry, but all of that is just Nature's trickery, Nature conning the life form into the act of propagation. Why Nature is doing this, God knows.

We're all hard-wired for sex. Maybe there's a short circuit here and there, and maybe some of us have done a little re-wiring, but as I said above, who cares?


Nigel, when all the attractive women you meet tell you "sorry, I'm a lesbian" you might want to consider other possible explanations :-)

Andrei Kirilyuk

I am sorry to interrupt John's poetic attitude towards idyllic "bisexual marriage" with a dry rational thought, but as we all have a strong rational inclination, I can see a logical contradiction in that situation, so that already a statement of "(happy) bisexual marriage of two" looks "mathematically" incorrect; a simple estimate shows that (truly) bisexual people marriage should include at least four participants to be REALLY "happy". It should be promiscuous, in other words. Because where there are four, there are forty four. Now, a "promiscuous marriage" (often presented as a "new", "modern" model for totally "liberated" people) is a nonsense in itself: if you like THAT kind of liberty so much (for whatever reason), why do you finally opt for marriage, which is one of the strongest known limitations of human liberty?! Love between yourselves as you want, straight, bi, homo, sado, maso,..., but no, after proclaiming their full and complete liberation, they still need to insist on such its incredibly strong limitation as marriage! THAT is perversion, much more so than the preferred way of sexual satisfaction, that grotesque ("American"!) combination of "correct" way of sexual life organisation and its absolutely "liberated" practice. As well as the related infinite talks about "liberty", always more liberty, nothing but liberty (of "rights")... As if anybody's liberty can really be limited in a world, where even top (and ordinary) catholic priests adhere massively to all kind of sexual abuse?!

Liberty is a problem number one where it is severely suppressed, but where it is a long-standing tradition and omnipresent practice, the main, and truly interesting/complicated, problem is how to properly, harmoniously fill in that formal liberty with a particular, "omni-suitable" content. The "filling" is ever less harmonious, anywhere and in all aspects, but unfortunately, everything remains strongly at a "political" (or ideological, "religious") level even in most "developed" countries (then what do you mean by "developed"?).

The main point is definitely not about "liberty" or various political or religious attitudes, it is about harmony (or more formally "ethics") of human relations. Although the story of "Dick" and "Jane" looks nice, I do not think that it is along a general way to harmony, for many people, for society in the whole. If in this case everybody is happy, so much the better, but we are not specially discussing this particular case as such (in that respect John is slightly incorrect because he provides us with an example of generally "nice" people and couple having a bit "special" sexual preferences, but there may be no particular relation between these characters and general problems we discuss). Thinking about general harmony, the same way of "total liberation" should also include various traditionally forbidden sexual relations between close relatives, or those involving ever younger children, etc., and so, where to stop with that animal "harmony"? Again, I do not think that in today's "developed" societies we are in a situation of "severe" practical choice or possible "punishment" for "deviations", it's rather a question of general, human attitudes and related free choices in society. Maybe a way to harmony should involve smaller dependence on sexual and other "animal" instincts in principle, irrespective of particular "preferences", as another comment here seems to imply. Instincts do not need to disappear or even become weaker, but could become less important components in the "system" of human behaviour (because it's intelligence that should become stronger and more important component!).

While discussing "gay genes", etc. in an "intellectual" community, why not to acknowledge, first of all, that even the very nature of the phenomenon in question remains rather obscure (even before its origin). On one hand, there seems to be a part of "physical disability" (e.g. impossibility of giving birth to children "within" homosexual relations), but actually it's not a "sexual handicap" because the latter would be closer to impotence, inability to have "efficient" sex, while here we deal apparently with some very complicated "re-wiring" (as noted in another comment): it is a qualitatively different sexual (and psychological!) behaviour, which in addition can only be strongly rejected by "natural evolution" (but then why is it increasingly reappearing?). Maybe, if we just push the libido beyond any reasonable level, we can obtain that result because then the opposite sex has a (relative) DISadvantage of being different?

Another obscure point is related to those "political" issues. Homosexual (and other "sexually advanced") personalities are often considered (and present themselves) as intellectually indeed more advanced than usual, "straight" (almost "plain") counterparts. But if that is true, then why homos' behaviour is SO much more dominated just by their sexual, low-level, animal instincts? A heterosexual couple may also have quite special and non-traditional sexual preferences, but why don't they put it into public discussion, or perform their special "sexual parades", or fight for their "right" to love each other as they want? But homos do all of it and much more, without anybody trying to follow or influence their private life in any way (in today's "developed" countries at least). No, it does not seem to be just "another way to make love"... And then it's not just a question of basic liberty of personal choices defended by John Horgan and quite attractive for many of us. And then, when THEIR communities very thoroughly organise themselves within a liberal, tolerant society for e.g. mutual PROFESSIONAL promotion (without relation to actual professional merits/results!) or any "success" achievement, including various "prizes", "honours" and "top positions" (which are well-known FACTS!), it does NOT look as a "fight for civil rights", but rather as banal, selfishly motivated corruption of values within a corrupted system of power and actually as implicit, but real limitation of liberty of "straight" professionals (e.g. in science) that tend to be more "straight(forward)" also with respect to "plain" professional ethics (usually they are not so "advanced" as to relate e.g. one's scientific promotion with his sexual behaviour!)... There are various other aspects that show, again and again, that it is the detailed, complex content of "liberty" that actually matters today, rather than its formal, simple, juridical/religious realisation ("gay marriages", etc.). Even if we insist on a popular "maximum-freedom" attitude stating that someone's "personal" liberties can be limited only by prohibition of definite harm or danger to someone else's life, we can see that everything is not as simple as a "straight" liberalism would like it to be, as the observed patterns of deadly dangerous AIDS propagation (in "developed" countries) seem to clearly demonstrate... Religion has nothing to do with it, it's just real, practical complexity of real society and human behaviour in it.

And finally, Nigel's openness provokes temptation of a man-to-man advice. You should try something like "hey, baby, you just never had the true guy, I gonna show you what it can be!" (you can easily amplify my poor English here!). You see, PASSIVE sex homosexuality has an essential distinction from that of active sex... Or else, even better, when you really have enough of your spoiled English "beauties" (poor old good England!), just come to Ukraine for refreshment because here women are fantastically attractive even in average (by "internationally confirmed" opinions!), they can be somewhat simple, a bit greedy, a bit sick, and all are sexually "liberated" from birth (always ready for everything, bitches!, and emotionally vibrating, you know), but NONE would ever refuse you under the pretext that she is lesbian! (without any opposition to, or absence of, lesbians). It's not about sex, money or politics, it's about your old, spoiled, marasmic and decaying society. Would you have to solve hard problems of everyday survival, as people still should here, you would bother much less about "advanced" problems of bisexual lesbian behaviour!

nigel cook

Andrei: thanks for that idea, I'll try it on the English girls before moving to Ukraine.


To force this into a nutshell, Andrei, we might try the old Red Skelton line on "these" people: "You know, you just don't look right to me."

Mike Cook

The wonderful thing about natural selection is that it is such a sweeping proposition that it can be used to explain away anything. With regard to sexual orientation you have to strain a little bit, but the place to start is with other primates.

We used to have a gorilla in a Tacoma shopping mall named Ivan. His job was to amuse shoppers, which for many years he did. From an early age he lived alone in a cage, so naturally he didn't know anything about guerilla sex.

Eventually Ivan was moved to a more humane, zoo type environment where suddenly there were females. Ivan had not the slightest idea what to do with them. The stage of development in which he needed to imprint that behavior had probably long passed. Nevertheless, zoo officials tried showing him dirty ape movies and put him alone with a variety of females. After several years a particularly aggressive young female finally got him to do the act.

The point here is that primates don't waste a lot of brain program space on making procereation a strictly instinctive behavior. It has to be taught. Traditional religious values usually hold that teaching monogamous heterosexual behavior exclusively is the way to go for a nation's social health. That is not only true of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion, but most pagan ones as well. Even the Dalai Lama has disabused Western liberals of the idea that Tibetan Buddhism is compatible with propensity to reach Nirvana by means of following every sexual urge that comes along either individually or socially.

The job of religion is to brainwash, indoctrinate, model, reinforce, laud, and educate young skulls full of mush in monogamous heterosexuality only. That's never been an easy task because youth will notoriously experiment with anything. Romanticism from time to time has aided the conservative religious goal.

A very recent study from Holland indicates that cosmopolitan areas tend to produce a significantly greater proportion of people who self-identify as gay than do rural areas. That probably equates as well to the prevalence of gay behaviors.

What this really indicates is that people don't really "choose" anything. A complex meld of social incentives and intellectual rationalizations guide us all. The multi-billion dollar American advertizing industry has always assumed this to be true. People really don't like choice, they crave social cues and celebrities to emulate.

The bottom line--stigmatize something sufficiently and you generally get less of it (cigarette smoking for instance.) Subsidize it, like gay marriage, and you will get a lot more of it. If it is true that the good looking single women of England are on a surge of lesbianism, I would strongly suspect that practical economic reasons and intellectual indoctrination by sexual leftist academia has greatly expedited recruitment for same, as well as retention of all experimenters who once upon a time might have tried something out in a college dorm but later gone back to a conventional and quite happy married life with children in the suburbs.

The natural selection aspect of this suggests that rich, secure, elitist-dominated cultures have a kind of death wish programmed into them. For the good of general human advancement, this has probably been fortuitous.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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