Science with an agenda

I love it when the mainstream media gets breathless over the latest scientific finding that seems to confirm their cultural predispositions.  It’s also perturbing to see scientific studies that appear prompted by the same sort of thing.  I got sent this news article by a friend who knows how irritated I get over these things… He expected a reaction, and got one.

So, lesbians’ brains react differently to “sex pheromones” than do heterosexual women. No big surprise there: if they didn’t, then one would expect that they wouldn’t be lesbian. The same research group did a study of homosexual men and found similar results. What is telling is their rather objective analysis of their own data:

The difference between HoM and HeM could reflect a variant differentiation of the anterior hypothalamus in HoM, leading to an altered response pattern. Alternatively, it could reflect an acquired sensitization to AND stimuli in the hypothalamus or its centrifugal networks, due to repeated sexual exposure to men. A third possibility is that HeW and HoM associated AND with sex, whereas HeM made a similar association with EST. These tentative mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, nor can they be discriminated on the basis of the present PET data.

I’d totally agree with that assessment. They found brain differences, but they have no way of determining from their data how those came about. Now, let’s see what the media has to say about the new study, which I can’t find the full text of yet:

In both cases the findings add weight to the idea that homosexuality has a physical basis and is not learned behavior.

“It shows sexual orientation may very well have a different basis between men and women … this is not just a mirror image situation,” said Sandra Witelson, an expert on brain anatomy and sexual orientation at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“The important thing is to be open to the likely situation that there are biological factors that contribute to sexual orientation,” added Witelson, who was not part of the research team.

First, physical basis and learned behavior are not mutually exclusive. The brain is not static. Second, so what if there are biological factors that contribute to sexual orientation? That doesn’t mean that the behaviors resulting from said orientation are any less deplorable. There are biological bases for lots of different conditions that we don’t treat as normal–alcoholism, depression, bipolar disorder, or any number of other mental conditions. One could interpret this data in any number of different ways, depending on what your agenda is. My agenda, being a traditional Catholic, is that no amount of biological data excuses sin, and for that matter, biological data might confirm it as something to be treated, not accepted. I’d imagine you can figure out what the media’s agenda is.


12 Responses to “Science with an agenda”

  1. 1 jeff May 8, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    I love it when the media attempts to interpret scientific data for the public.

  2. 2 Theocoid May 8, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Ah! It’s a neurological difference. So maybe they can treat homosexuality with psychoactive drugs.

  3. 3 Edmund C. May 8, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    Exactly, Theocoid! Why not? After all, it was considered a mental illness until the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove it from the DSM diagnostic manual–I think in the early 70’s.

  4. 4 Bekah May 8, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    So, could we classify this as ‘brain damage’? Something has occured in these people’s lives which has had the net effect of changing their responses from normal to deviant. And instead of working on a treatment, medicine, media, and society at large are in collusion to deprive these people of normal lives in order to celbrate diversity and tolerance. Can’t you feel the love?

  5. 5 Edmund C. May 8, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it “damage”–let’s just say abnormal function 😉

  6. 6 Bekah May 8, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    Ok, ‘brian damage’ might be a bit harsh. And yet…I’ve seen where left-handedness was referred to as brain damage. 😉

  7. 7 Theocoid May 9, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Oh, well, I think you’re right, er, CORRECT about that, Bekah. 😉

  8. 8 Mary May 13, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    So what’s your point?

  9. 9 Edmund C. May 13, 2006 at 2:15 pm


    My point was that the scientific data in this case is essentially neutral: it depends on the social/political/religious agenda behind those interpreting it how it is used. It does not by any means disprove the traditional notion that homosexual acts are sinful. It doesn’t even address the idea the homosexuality is “hardwired”. It merely reports how the brains of self-reported homosexuals respond to pheromones when compared with heterosexuals. That is so common-sensical as to be almost silly.

  10. 10 Mary May 16, 2006 at 12:04 am

    So, is the sin of homosexuality worse than other sorts of sins? Would Jesus hate homosexual sin more than the sin of pride, say? Oh, and would He hate the sinners?

    Just asking.

  11. 11 Paul Druce May 16, 2006 at 12:47 am

    So, is the sin of homosexuality worse than other sorts of sins? Would Jesus hate homosexual sin more than the sin of pride, say? Oh, and would He hate the sinners?

    Yes (presuming you are talking about homosexual acts, which are the sin, there is no sin in the orientation itself), yes, and no.

  12. 12 Edmund C. May 16, 2006 at 7:24 am


    I must ask you: why is a Buddhist feminist hanging around on Catholic traditionalists’ websites?

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