Bradley Eli
Bradley Eli

Bradley Eli has an M.Div. The process of obtaining an advanced degree (even in divinity) should have refined his critical thinking skills, stimulated his intellectual curiosity and created a respect for intellectual honesty. Either the process failed, the (unknown) institution failed or Mr. Eli failed because none of the three are present in his essay titled: “NO SCIENCE BEHIND ‘GAY GENE’ THEORY.”

I have been unable to determine exactly who formulated this gay gene theory that Eli is referring to. About the only people who seem to theorize about a so-called gay gene are people who claim that it does not exist. Moreover, there is considerable scientific evidence that genetics play some role in the formation of sexual orientation. For the record, there are no identifiable genes corresponding even to race (it’s a very lengthy discussion that I will not get into). Yet race is clearly genetic.

Mr. Eli’s dishonesty has a purpose. In order to support the teachings of the Catholic Church (none of which were formulated by people with the appropriate erudition) Eli is trying to make a case that sexual orientation is a choice. Ironically it is Mr. Eli’s fantasy that has absolutely no scientific support.

Things deteriorate further with the subtitle:

Research from Johns Hopkins University shows no one is “born that way”

Ah, yes. Time for a Paul McHugh/Lawrence Mayer rehash which isn’t research and isn’t from Johns Hopkins University.

McHugh and Mayer did a literature review. That’s not research — particularly when not subjected to peer review. The fact that McHugh is retired from Johns Hopkins and the fact that Mayer has a loose relationship with the university doesn’t mean that the article they wrote is “from Johns Hopkins University.”

In fact, Johns Hopkins University publishes an academic psychiatric journal called American Imago. One of the founders of the journal was Sigmund Freud. You will not find McHugh and Mayer’s work in that publication.

Mr. Eli continues (quite predictably):

After analyzing up-to-date research on sexual orientation from various scientific fields, reputable researchers have concluded that people with same-sex attraction are not born gay.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh, gave a “careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research — from the biological, psychological and social sciences — related to sexual orientation and gender identity.” Their report, Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological and Social Sciences, was published in fall 2016 in The New Atlantis, a scientific journal.

“Reputable researchers” publish their investigations to scholarly journals that subject submissions to double-blind peer-review. The New Atlantis is not, as Eli claims, a scientific journal. It is nothing more than a pretentious blog published by a conservative Christian organization. It is a Christian journal that is anything but scientific.

The problem with literature reviews — particularly when not peer-reviewed — is that they are prone to selective observation. McHugh and Mayer were out to prove that sexual orientation is not organic. They found articles to support their point of view, counting only the hits and ignoring all of the misses. In this case, the misses substantially outweigh the hits. The amount by which that is true increases with modernity. So just counting more of the older papers can create the desired result.

The view of science and the professional peer organizations is that sexual orientation is the result of genetic and environmental factors. Environmental means anything that is not genetic. A good example of environmental would be the birth mother’s hormones. If Mr. Eli had any intellectual curiosity and was willing to go with the evidence then he would have researched both the male sibling effect and the twin studies.

With respect to the male sibling effect, the potential for being gay increases with each male offspring.

Twin studies are less arcane. If one fraternal twin is gay then the probability of the other being gay is about 25% which is five or six times greater than the general population. This has been tested with twins raised in different households. Same result. If an identical twin is gay then there is a 50% probability that the other is gay. In other words, more genetic material corresponds to more, well … gayness.

A popular talking point for Christian conservatives is that genetics would require both identical twins to be gay. That demonstrates a lack of awareness of the sub-genome. Identical twins often have many different traits.

Findings from the study concluded, “[T]he idea that people are ‘born that way’ is not supported by scientific evidence.” The report also found youth with same-sex attraction typically change their sexual orientation as they grow older, “as 80 percent of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

That is entirely false. It is based on the 40 year old “Sissy Boy Study” which is flawed to the point of irrelevance. Gay adolescents become gay adults and the term “same-sex attraction” does not exist anywhere in the scientific literature. It is a creation of the Catholic Church to suggest that a sexual orientation it disapproves of is comparable to a drug or alcohol problem or predisposition. Doing so mystically relegates sexual orientation to behavior. Moreover, a literature review is considered a secondary source that will not include new or original experimentation. To call one published to a blog a study is misleading.

This mess leads to a predictable and erroneous conclusion:

Regarding same-sex attraction, the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2357 says, “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.” The fact that many people with a homosexual orientation were sexually abused, however, can’t be denied. An undercover video shot in a gay bar reveal many of the men admit to such abuse, and credit that abuse as a factor in their same-sex lifestyle.

Childhood sexual abuse does not cause people to be gay. That’s another contrivance to assign sexual orientation to something that can be resolved with talk therapy or pray-away-the-gay crackpottery. A video shot in a gay bar does not constitute research by any stretch of the imagination. Levels of childhood abuse among gays is slightly higher than the general population. Research explains this as caused by the abuser sensing that the child is gay and apt to be more cooperative. As theories go, that makes a great deal more sense than suggesting that sexual orientation (caused in part by genetics) was influenced by childhood abuse. Or does sex changes genes?

As for the catechism, we can be pretty sure that paragraph 2357 was not written by anyone with applicable credentials. It dismisses genetics entirely which is likely the handwork of celibate males with repressed sexuality and no real training in medical or social science.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.