One of the central tenets of contemporary religious and conservative opposition to homosexuality is the belief that homosexual behavior is unnatural. But, within the past decade, a number of scientific studies have unequivocally hinted that this is not the case. And, in addition to these findings, there are significant dogmatic and ideological reasons why these two groups should relinquish their discriminatory positions.
Through a recent study out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, an interesting fact has been determined regarding sexuality and the brain: orientation-opposites (that is straight male-lesbian female or gay male-straight female) have brain similarity. Firstly, it has been understood that the size of the right hemisphere of the male brain is slightly larger than the left hemisphere where this is not the case in the female brain. In light of this data, researchers Ivanka Savic and Per Lindström of the Institutes’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience have discovered that this is not the case with all males and females. Precisely, the brain of a homosexual male has the same proportion as a straight female’s (symmetrical) and a homosexual female’s brain has the same proportion as a straight male’s (larger right hemisphere). Additionally, through positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) these researchers showed that connectivity of the amygdala region of the brain (important in emotional learning) was also orientation-opposite symmetric.
This similarity naturally leads to our next analysis – desire.
If the brain’s of orientation-opposites are roughly symmetrical, what meta-features do they share (i.e. character traits)? A number of studies conducted point to desire as being one of those shared features. One such study, by the same team from the Karolinska Institute, showed that sexual attraction can be triggered in men and women by ”pheromone-like” odors. The results of this study showed that odors correlated with males attracted gay men and odors correlated with females attracted lesbian women. Although a few issues with the test merit prudent interpretation (inability to distinguish between cause and effect in regards to orientation, pheromones not being completely proven and the “pheromone-like” AND and EST levels were highly concentrated), when taken in conjunction with another test out of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, the naturalism picture becomes begins to solidify. Unlike the Karolinska Institute, the Monell test used naturally occurring odors from men and women of both orientations and found that pleasure and displeasure of odors fell uniformly down lines of orientation.
Genetics and The Environment
In terms of a genetic basis for sexuality, two studies come to mind. The first, was conducted by Dr. Sandra Witelson, a neuroscientist at McMaster University. First, working with colleagues at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Witelson studied the brains of healthy, right-handed, 18 to 35-year-old heterosexual and homosexual men using structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Through this work Witelson, et al. discovered that there are a disproportionate amount of left handed homosexuals compared to the greater population at large. After viewing this data through the lens of a previous research she had conducted (which proved that left handed individuals have a larger band of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain), Wittelson decided to employ another MRI test whose aim was to determine whether right-handed homosexuals also shared this larger portion of the brain. When all was said and done, her research showed that this was the case. And because the size of this specific portion of the brain is largely inherited, Witelson’s findings ultimately reinforce the view that sexual orientation has a genetic basis.
The second study is a twins study conducted at Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and reported in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. This study focused on a group of 3,862 identical and fraternal twins between the ages of 20 and 47 and found that 35 percent of homosexual men’s nature could be specifically attributed to genetics and that in terms of lesbian females that number was 18 percent
What does this all mean?
Some may say that if sexuality is truly due to genetic factors, the work out of Queen Mary’s School should have shown 100 percent of the identical twins having the same orientation. Firstly, this is is not at all the case. Genetic factors do not rule out biological factors and as other studies have shown, sexuality may also be decided in the womb. Secondly, and of the greatest import, who cares? Why should naturalism be the test case for treating another human being decently – especially when their actions are of no consequence to others?
With that out of the way, lets us now take a deeper look into the religious and ideological outlooks that have been the traditional purveyors of intolerance against these groups. In terms of religion, I will focus my attention on the Judaeo-Christian variety.
What ever happened to ‘do unto others’? Or to ‘we are all god’s children’ and ‘equal in the eyes of the lord’? But then again, “the good book”also says that in addition to homosexuality, cursing your parents, committing adultery, using the services of or being a medium, and working on the sabbath are all offenses punishable by death (Leviticus 20). The fact is that there are a number of outlandish claims and contradictions in the Bible and as a result the way to treat others can not be left to its contents (insert professional ethics and philosophy perhaps?).
In terms of conservatism, one must look no further than its central philosophy to find guidance on how to regard heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. That is, the philosophy of small government, and the freedom from intrusion into one’s affairs. But if this central tenet is true, why work so hard against the union of two consenting adults, against the ability of adults to work in the profession of their choosing, to disallow individuals from the privilege of raising the young? Why fight so hard to intrude into another’s life?