Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gay Gene or Gay Germ?--Is Homosexuality an Infection?

When I was a kid my father came down with stomach ulcers. In those days, the doctors believed that ulcers were caused by worry and spicy foods. Thus, a good part of his medical treatment involved instructions to "Relax, be happy, don't worry," and "Avoid spicy foods." Today, we know that the advice he was given was worthless, at least as it relates to treating ulcers. The reason is that it is now known with certainty that stomach ulcers are caused by a germ.

The courageous scientist who battled the medical establishment to prove that ulcers are caused by a germ was Gregory Cochran. For years his theory was ridiculed until the proof that he was right was so overwhelming that it couldn't be ignored. Now, we treat stomach ulcers with antibiotics and other medicines targeted at the causitive germ.

Well, Mr. Cochran, an independent physicist, is at it again. And taking a lot of heat.

While conventional science seems hell-bent on proving the existence of a gay gene, Mr. Cochran theorizes that such a gene would have been bred out of existence, had it ever existed. His hypothesis, so far untested, is that homosexuality is the result of an infection of some sort, possibly viral in origin. Biology professor Paul W. Ewald has teamed with Mr. Cochran to make something of the hypothesis.

What Cochran suspected about homosexuality, he and his colleague now believe to be true for a large number of conditions—namely, that microbes, not genes, are responsible for them. Ewald and Cochran’s innovation is to consider disease from the perspective of human evolution. If your mother is obsessed with knowing when you are going to give her some grandchildren, then you are more or less familiar with the traditional perspective of human evolution: You were put on this earth to reproduce. Anything that gets in the way of reproduction is a problem that you better be prepared to explain. To judge the size of such a problem, evolutionary biologists assess its "fitness cost"—that is, the damage it does to your chances of procreating.

Genes with a substantial fitness cost do appear from time to time. Every so often a cell makes a mistake while copying its DNA—a mistake known as a random mutation—and this mutation may give rise to a gene harmful to the person carrying it. But in such a case, according to evolutionary theory, the new disease-causing gene would vanish after a hundred generations or so, gradually but inexorably, because damaged organisms reproduce less often and less prolifically than healthy ones. (There is an exception: Some disease-causing genes simultaneously provide a protective benefit—such as the gene for sickle-cell anemia, which also happens to ward off malaria.) The higher its fitness cost, the faster a gene disappears.

The math is unforgiving. If a genetic trait has a fitness cost of just 1 percent, it will sink to the very low rate of a random mutation after only 100 generations. Over the course of human evolution—roughly 800,000 generations so far—a trait would vanish even if its fitness cost were as low as 0.001 percent. According to the best available estimates, however, 3 to 4 percent of men and 1 to 2 percent of women in the United States are exclusively homosexual. That’s a lot of homosexuals. Too many, Cochran and Ewald believe, for the condition to be genetic.

This web site shows the results of an opinion poll about the cause of sexual orientation. Poll results show that most people believe sexual orientation results from a person's environment or some aspect of his or her upbringing. The gay gene theory has been gaining ground, however, because of publicity given to papers that suggest the existence of a gay gene.

One question for Cochran and Ewald is that even if it is eventually proved that gayness is caused by a germ, would gays welcome a cure for that infection? The web site linked in the previous paragraph mentions the Bible's explanation for homosexual conduct, which is Satanic demons that enter the body and cause people to "sin." Perhaps gays would welcome proof of the cause of homosexuality, so long as the scientists prescription doesn't involve exorcism. That burden of "sin" that is laid on gays by the Bible must be a tough burden to carry around all your life!



At 10:25 AM, Blogger Shawna M said...

hmmmmm....I don't believe the homosexuality is a it contagious....can you get it from touching the same doorknob as a homosexual...of course not. I believe that homosexuality is a mixture of nature and nurture. It's not genetic, because your mother is a homosexual does not mean you have a 50% chance of being homosexual also. Preference is in the eye of the beholder, and if a person perfers their own sex, so be it, how does it hurt you....and i don't think any homosexual would ever accept a "cure" if there ever was such a thing, that is who they are.....everyone needs to get over it

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

That sounds crazy to me, I think that you are born gay or straight. If you ask, most gays & lesbians say they knew they were that way since they were very little before you even know what gay is. A gay germ, what dummies!

At 7:51 AM, Blogger ryan said...

I believe that homosexuality has something to do with a person's genetic construction, but I also think that it has something to do with nurture as well, perhaps a change that takes place on a person's psyche in the early stages of that person's life.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Anthrogrl said...

We talked about this issue in great detail in my Physical Anth. class. As far as I know, there is NO physical evidence that homosexuality is caused by a gene or pairs of genes.

Additionally, people differ on what defines homosexuality. If a heterosexual man is raped and sodomized, does that make him homosexual?

Also, if it were true that homosexuality was caused by a "virus", then it would stand to reason adopted children raised by same-sex partners would eventuall become homosexual. Studies show that the opposite is true. Most homosexual grow up with heterosexual partners, and children raised by homosexuals are heterosexual the majority of the time.

Besides, even if homosexuality were caused by a virus, it couldn't be cured, just as the flu virus can't be cured. I think we should accept that there are too many factors in play that influence sexual orientation.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Julia said...

I think that homosexuality is more of a physiological thing, and while I agree that a "gay gene" doesn't make sense neither does a "gay germ."

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Carlos L said...

This scientist must really hate homosexuals. I agree with most of everyones comments. Although not quite proven homosexuality seems to have genetic origins but it may also be that social interactions may also play a role. In a news report by the ABC world news about 5 years ago reported a study done on brain slices that were studied to compare differences between homosexual people and non homosexuals. What they found was a minor difference in the shape of one of the parts of the brain, I can't recall which part of the brain but I remember it was located near the center. This is evidence of genetic variability. Other theories of genetic mutations may not be entirely correct. Even though incidence of homosexuality is low, which would ussually suggest a mutation, homosexuality is porbably just a genetic variation that is carried in some individuals. Genetics is very complicated and sometimes the genes for certain traits are never expressed. Some genetic traits may required certain stimulants to activate them so if a "gay" gene does exist it may be carried by through generations without ever being genetically expressed. The thought of a "gay" bacteria seems ridiculous. I don't know much about this scientist even though I do know a bit of information on what bacteria cause ulcers but this scientist seems like his previous accomplishment has made him believe he can prove anything.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Noah said...

Well all of these comments are very interesting and everyone has their own opinion. I personally don't beleive that it is something that they are born with and I think most gay people know that they are doing something wrong because their lifestyle generally reflects this guilt.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger HalheG said...

I do not really understand homosexuality and it kind of freaks me out, but I do not think badly of homosexuals or try to say they should not be allowed to do what they want. I do not think people have gay genes or a gay germ,it is more a state of mind I guess because you cannot really help the way you feel.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Jbrew87 said...

Homosexuality is even apparent in animals. Are we to believe their environment effects their sexuality?

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Nochman said...

How crazy would it be if in the future, you'd be queuing up to get ur kid a gay vaccine shot?

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a prick

being christian's far worse than being gay, espeically being a fanatic.

being gay is probably caused by a combination of genes and peoples environments.

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Melanie said...

im gay and i cant believe the bull that you people are writting.

an infection?? and you think u can fixit?

what is there to fix?? there is NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!
you people are sick and your the ones need cured.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous americasaforgottendream said...

not tryin to be rude but i never heard a homo-sexual go "I want to be cured" theres no need to even look for one if its what they want america doesn't even support gay marriges and we are the land of the free, freedom just means pay your god damn taxes and shut up.


At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

being gay is not wrong and is not a fucking diesease, and to me being a chirstian would to me be worse than being gay and also how do you know that being straight is the right way, you cannot because society does it and society is wrong and most americans are wrong because they believe in a book that contradicts itself!


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