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May 17, 2005

Pinker on the gay gene

Sniffing out the gay gene by Steven Pinker.

According to Pinker, there is a reason that the recent discovery of differing reactions to odor by gay and straight men was made in Europe.

In America, the biology of homosexuality is a politicized minefield that scares away scientists (and the universities and agencies that pay for their research).

Pinker also looks at the origins to 'homophobia.'

Why didn't evolution shape straight men to react to their gay fellows by thinking: "Great! More women for me!" Probably the answer lies in a cross-wiring between our senses of morality and disgust. People often confuse their own revulsion with objective sinfulness, as when they dehumanize people living in squalor or, in the other direction, engage in religious rituals of cleanliness and purification. An impulse to avoid homosexual contact may blur into an impulse to condemn homosexuality.

What is refreshing is that there is no mention of homophobia as a socially induced characteristic.

Unfortunately he ends with a fairly good essay with a whopper.

Regardless of where homosexuality resides in the brain, the ethics of homosexuality is a no-brainer: what consenting adults do in private is nobody's business but their own.

Not true. What we do in our bedrooms, even when it does not have the obvious consequence, shapes us as individuals. Now, Pinker could have said, "we should aim to construct a society that makes it nobody's business what consenting adults do in private." Not that it's completely possible, of course. Pinker should know better than anyone that parents will always invest time in training children to behave in a certain manner. It's in our genes. People who behave differently threaten that training activity. Which in turn provokes reaction.

People threatening the social order, even if it's no fault of their own, is something that functioning societies don't tend to ignore.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 05:20 AM