Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Biological Basis for Same-Sex Attraction? - UPDATED

There are several stories you can find reporting on a study done by Anthony Bogaert, who is a Psychology Professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada about one possible biological basis for same-sex attraction in men. Such headlines appear as "Men with older brothers more likely to be gay" or "Womb environment makes men gay." No doubt these headlines are deceiving. I have yet to find the study itself so I can not comment on the study but I will comment on a few things found in the articles about the study. The gist of the study is this: "Having several older brothers increases the likelihood of a man being gay...." Bogaert says, "It's likely to be a prenatal effect" which "suggests" a biological basis for same-sex attraction in men (emphasis added). Notice that it is a suggestion - not proven.

It should come as no shock to those who read on the issue of same-sex attraction to see studies trying to understand a biological basis for same-sex attraction. It has been, for sometime now, thought that somehow in fetal development, a fetus could be pre-disposed toward same-sex attraction. One theory has tried to explain this pre-disposition via the lines of hormonal washing of the fetus in the uterus through the hormones coming from the mother. This hormonal washing leads to a certain exposure of too much estrogen or too little testosterone upon the fetus in which the brain development is geared differently than what should be. Underlying such theories is the understanding that the male and female brains are different. So, for a man with same-sex attraction, he may have a more "feminine" brain, and for a woman with same-sex attraction, she may have a more "masculine" brain. This biological pre-disposition is just that, something that creates the possibility for a man or woman to have same-sex tendencies.

Bogaert, in his study, suggests there is some sort of prenatal factor that is a "maternal immune response to succeeding male fetuses" similar to "the maternal immune response that can occur when a mother has Rh-negative blood but her fetus has Rh-positive blood. Without treatment, the mother can develop antibodies that may attack the fetus during future pregnancies." But he did not speculate about the exact nature of this maternal immune response. And his research applies only to men, not to women.

Having biological (as opposed to step- or adopted) older brothers does not necessarily mean a younger brother would have a same-sex attraction. "This needs to be looked at in context of the overall rate of same-sex attraction in men, which he suggested is about 3 percent. With several older brothers the rate may increase from 3 percent to 5 percent, he said, but that still means 95 percent of men with several older brothers are heterosexual." Did anybody notice the first shocking statement in this paragraph? The study author, Bogaert, believes that the rate of same-sex attraction in men is at about 3% - not the usual 10% reported in the media and propaganda for "gay" rights and issues. The second statement concerns the study in particular; that 95% to 97% of men with several older brothers are heterosexual.

One thing notably disturbing about the study is Bogaert's attempt to dismiss environmental influences on same-sex attraction. He dismisses environmental influences upon the basis that "men raised with several older step- or adopted brothers do not have an increased chance of being gay." To get at this assertion, Bogaert studied "944 heterosexual and homosexual men with either 'biological' brothers, in this case those who are the same mother, or 'non-biological' brothers, that is adopted, step or half siblings." "He found that the link between the number of older brothers and homosexuality only existed when the siblings shared the same mother." This part of the study assumes, wrong in my opinion, several important distinctions: That the upbringing for biological siblings would be the same and that these siblings are identical in personality and habit. The study seems to suggest that these men would not have unique characteristics and personalities. No child is the same and I don't see how one could rule out environmental factors solely on the basis of biological or non-biological siblings.

While this study explores same-sex attraction in men, where does this leave women and same-sex attraction? Would they have a separate biological basis for a same-sex attraction disposition? This theory leaves much to be desired, first because of its attempt at dismissing without hard evidence environmental influences, and two because it is ultimately a theory and not much of one with conclusive evidence. That is part of the difficulty with the study being done by a psychologist and its limitations in understanding the biological and chemical interactions.

If I come across the study and find something interesting or helpful in explaining things better, I will provide an updated post about my discoveries.

Update: In response to the comment from Diane regarding my thoughts on the subject as well as her questions, I have added below a section regarding the intrauterine influences on the brain development of fetuses.

The quotes you will see below are from Dr. Jeffrey Satinover's article "The Biological Truth about Homosexuality" which appears in Same-Sex Attraction: A Parent's Guide edited by John F. Harvey, OSFS and Gerard V. Bradley.

First, in his article, Dr. Satinover alludes to the possibility that there is some genetic variable in which a person may be more likely to have same-sex attraction. "Whatever genetic contribution to homosexuality exists, it probably contributes not to homosexuality per se but rather to some other trait that makes the homosexual option more readily available than to those who lack this genetic trait." No study has shown with definitive evidence that there is a genetic cause of same-sex attraction.

Second, Dr. Satinover discusses intrauterine influences upon brain development of fetuses.
The hormonal enviornment in which a baby develops is a balance of androgenic (male) and estrogenic (female) hormones. A genetically male baby signals the mother to generate a more heavily androgenic environment than does a female baby. The particular hormonal balance then determines whether the baby will develop typically male or typically female genitalia, bodily characteristics, and brain structures. Because the maternal hormonal response varies, the masculinizing or feminizing influences are different for each developing baby.
And while our reproductive organs divide us as male or female, in regards to traits and characteristics, men and women are a mix of male and female traits. There are cases of men who have feminine physical traits and women who have masculine physical traits. All of this is within the normal range of variance for men and women. This difference of the noticeable physical traits carries over to the unseen brain and its development. Here there is overlap as well. There are men who have behavioral characteristics typical of women and vice versa for women.
From time to time the chemical signals get crossed. The maternal hormonal milieu of, for example, a genetically male baby will then be very far to the feminine end of the spectrum. In these unfortunate cases, her genitalia, body type, brain, and behavior will develop physically as a normal-appearing female. She remains, however, genetically male and therefore infertile.... In rare cases, the milieu is ambiguous. Regardless of the baby's genetic structure, the baby will emerge a hermaphrodite - one with variable proportions of male and female features.... Clearly, then, an important determinant of at least certain behavioral predispositions is the hormonal environment. Thus, some proportion of what appears to be genetic in homosexual behavior may actually be a nongenetic intrauterine effect on the parts of the brain that influence sexual behavior. (emphasis added)
Much of this influence of hormones remains unexplained, probably because of the difficult nature of understanding the brain and its development. Dr. Satinover concludes his article discussing what he sees as the larger factor in the development of same-sex attraction, and that is environmental influences.

My opinion follows closely with what Fr. John Harvey, founder of Courage and co-editor of this book from which I am quoting, argues. There is not ONE single cause of same-sex attraction. It is more likely to be a complex series of causes stemming from biological and psychological development of the individual. I hope my update has provided more clarity regarding this issue. Feel free to submit questions or comments and I'll try to respond as best as I can.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Promotion of Evil

When I read stories like the one I just read on Lifesite.net, I am grateful that my wife and I will homeschool our children. I can not imagine what it would be like to send my children to schools that openly promote and glorify evil.

The article on LifeSite "CA Senate Committee Passes Bill to Defund Schools That Don’t Promote Transsexuality, Bisexuality, Homosexuality" discusses a bill in the California Assembly that would penalize public schools in California that do not "adequately promote transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality in its school policies." In addition, the bill also "repeals the current state law prohibiting transsexual, bisexual, and homosexual curriculum from being forced upon local schools, and authorizes the state Superintendent to develop new curriculum that affirms transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality in all its forms."

It seems that everything must be sexualized nowadays. Television, movies, literature, advertisements, education. The sexual revolution hardly has stopped. I do not know the likelihood of such a bill being signed into law in California but it should serve as a reminder and warning of the state of things that lie ahead. It should be noted that the important legal precendent here is the Lawrence v. Texas decision from the US Supreme Court. In his dissenting opinion, which is often quoted for its prescient predictions, Justice Scalia finds that the majority opinion of the Court in the Lawrence case embraced the view that even if "the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral" that fact "is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice." If the majority of a state or nation cannot prohibit something it finds as immoral, then what can it prohibit? Scalia rightly points out that "this [notion] effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation." Of course, the irony here is that while it decrees the end of "traditional" morals legislation, the decision paves the way for a different sort of morals legislation whereby people are coerced or forced to violate their own consciences. One need only scan the internet for such stories in which pharmacists are either forced to provide abortifacients or lose their jobs. Or the recent story of the transportation commissioner in Maryland being fired for his views on homosexuality.

Homosexual acts are legitimate and even protected acts under the US Constitution. Why stop here? Why not allow incest? or bestiality? or prostitution? The Court's majority opinion argued that there is "an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in decision how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex." Why does this not extend to minors as well? Shouldn't they partake of this "emerging liberty"?

The legitimization of abherrant behavior has opened the door for its further normalization and glorification. Since it is no longer illegal or unacceptable, schools should now teach about it and instruct students so they are no longer hampered with homophobia and the like. Indeed, our society moves ever closer the fuller promotion of evil. How many souls will be lost to such filth?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Rehabilitation of Patriarchy

I do not pay attention to many television shows nor do I really see many movies, especially since the birth of my daughter Cecilia. But ever since I became a father, I have noticed more and more that it is hard to find a positive father figure in these media, not that I look for one to follow in the media. But it seems most men in these shows reflect a Homer Simpson-esque disposition and maybe Homer Simpson is the epitomy of modern "fatherhood." I mean, how many movies or television shows have you seen that show a postive father role for a man? These "fathers" seem inept, lazy, indulgent, selfish, etc ad nausem. No doubt this stereotype is perpetrated to get back at patriarchy and its misuse throughout the centuries.

Understood and lived out correctly, patriarchy need not be an ugly word. In our day and age, the concept of patriarchy needs rehabilitation. It seemed unthinkable sixty years ago for someone to say it is better for a child to live without a father. But that thought seemed acceptable and even commendable just twenty years ago. What seemed unthinkable at either of those times was that a child could live without a mother too! Yet with the perpetuation of homosexual "marriages," technological advances such as in vitro fertilization, and the adoption of children by homosexual couples, it seems children can do without a father or mother as long as they are "loved." The "best interest" of children has become a fluid concept. When will it become true when a company or an organization can adopt a child? Just think of the movie the Truman Show. We are not very far from the exploitation of children in this way.

Indeed it appears that our current situation of fatherhood and motherhood has been building over the years. Just think of all the changes in the family over this time. Not in any particular order but I find the following thoughts to stand out as representative of the culture waves during the past fifty years: 1) sex doesn't mean anything but pleasure; 2) women, as homemakers, you have no lives and you need to have a career to be successful and fulfilled; 3) if you don't want to be pregnant anymore or if you have enough children, have an abortion; 4) children are burdensome and expensive; 5) children don't need fathers or mothers! 6) patriarchy is evil.

Please don't think I am against adoption of children by a loving couple of a man and woman who are married together and seek to offer a home for those in need. But it would be adoption under those circumstances alone which merit recommendation.

It seems that our culture has presented a two-fold attack against what it means to be a man/husband/father and woman/wife/mother. All of this has great repercussions for family and societal life. I don't mean to represent the pre-1960s era as being wonderful and perfect. It had its share of problems but atleast certain elements were respected and even admired. Motherhood and Fatherhood had defined roles and expectations, for better or worse. Now these roles have become reversed, confused, and obliterated.

John Paul II took great effort to rehabilitate the concept of woman and elevate the dignity of women. You can see it from his first encyclical in Redemptor Hominis, in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, in his Theology of the Body audiences, and in the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, just to name a few writings. You may ask why begin with motherhood. I believe it was for the simple and important reason that women are the bedrock of society, the great deposit and foundation of moral wisdom, and it is upon such firm and fertile ground that a new culture can begin. If women said no to abortion, no to contraception, no to promiscuous sex, no to adultery, no to pornography, no to immodest clothing, etc, then men have to take notice and shape up or face a lonely bachelor existence of sin and worthless hardships. Women, together, united for the cause of holiness and the good can rectify many things through God's graces. The fruit of all this labor of John Paul II slowly has worked its way and the full effects will not be felt for sometime. But you can begin to see fruits of it in the many women who find joy and love in their motherhood and family and in the women who find a love in the religious life.

Now, I think it is time that the Church begin to rehabilitate man/husband/father because it is now needed more than ever. For those of you intrigued about this topic, I suggest you pick up the book Calling God "Father": Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood & Culture by John W. Miller. It speaks of the crisis of fatherhood in the breakdown of the family and society. He urges a recovery of the understanding of God as Father in order to rehabilitate an authentic patriarchy. With an authentic patriarchy, more men will come to understand their roles as fathers, after the mold of God the Father. Our culture desperately needs
strong and loving men in the homes and in the parishes because has Pope Paul VI noted, in an address to members of Consilium de Laicis in 1974, "contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Look Up to Heaven

Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily on Sunday in Krakow, gives a beautiful reflection on the Ascension of Our Lord. "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?" is a question directed to all of us. "The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman." Pope Benedict then points to two directions for understanding man's existence. First, it involves where we are. We are on the earth and we are standing. But why?
Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end.
God did not abandon us in our sinfulness but came into our history most intimately through the Incarnate Word, Jesus the Son of God. Human history became transformed into salvation history. Thus the end of man does not find fulfillment in or on the earth but rather beyond this earth.
“Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We have read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.
As we approach the Solemnity of Pentecost, may we keep our eyes lifted toward heaven through all the difficulties and challenges we face, and may we find the peace and joy in our ultimate destiny which lies in God himself.