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Gay Germ Censorship

The notion of a Gay Germ—homosexuality transmitted as some sort of infection—probably horrifies many mainstream intellectuals unfamiliar with the details of modern evolutionary biology.  Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that my recent column [1] discussing that subject quickly provoked a striking example of Internet censorship.  But the circumstances were different than people might naively expect.

Most of the responses to my analysis were quite reasonable and respectful.  Anthropologist Peter Frost published a column [2] questioning some of my arguments, which generated an extended comment thread.  George Mason University’s Genetic Literacy Project also provided a brief summary [3] and link.

However, a target of my critique had been Dr. Gregory Cochran, a leading Gay Germ advocate, who had recently ridiculed the intelligence of my old professor E.O. Wilson for remarks supporting the contrary Gay Gene hypothesis.  I merely pointed out that to the extent powerful selective pressures would have weeded out any hypothetical Gay Gene, exactly those same selective pressures would have tended to remove susceptibility to a Gay Germ as well, so that to a considerable extent the two theories suffered from similar theoretical weaknesses and were not so obviously distinct.

Now Cochran is a notoriously arrogant and irascible researcher, and he reacted to my views by launching a blistering attack [4] on his own blogsite, sharply questioning my intellect and knowledge.  Moreover, when I showed up to explicate my analysis [5] as a commenter, he quickly banned me, possibly because I was defending my position a bit too well, and perhaps thereby “confusing” his coterie of worshipful fanboys.  My impression is that publishing a lengthy blog attack against someone and then banning the victim when he politely attempts to provide his own side of the argument is considered “bad form” on the Internet, but there are obviously individuals for whom these usual rules do not apply.

My dispute with Cochran had hinged on a very simple point, namely whether or not the hypothetical Gay Germ in question induced the orientation for some deliberate reason or whether the effect was merely a more or less random byproduct of the pathogen’s bodily activity.  Cochran has provided no suggestion of the former possibility, which seems equally implausible to me, so his theory hinges on the notion that gayness is simply an unintentional aspect of the infection.  However, such a hypothesis seems to suffer from severe theoretical weaknesses.

Host/parasite systems are always undergoing the fiercest sort of evolutionary struggle, with both sides facing powerful selective pressures to gain the upper hand.  Indeed, many evolutionists in recent years have concluded that one of the most fundamental and important of all plant and animal traits—namely sexual rather than asexual reproduction—probably evolved primarily as an anti-parasitic defense mechanism.

But now consider the hypothetical Gay Germ.  If the induced orientation serves no useful purpose for the bug, maintenance of that particular extended phenotype would not be supported by any selective pressure, while the genes of the host would be under enormous contrary pressure to eliminate the trait by producing modifier genes or other neutralizing responses.  As a result, the evolutionary arms-race would be entirely one-sided, and we would expect the gayness-inducing aspect of the Gay Germ to quickly disappear, whether through changes to host or to parasite.  The human body is already filled to the brim with germs, and since the hypothetical germ produces no other apparent symptoms, the host DNA certainly wouldn’t care about one more free rider hanging around once it stopped trying to fatally compromise host reproduction.  A mutually-acceptable evolutionary truce would have been declared.

While it is possible to hypothetically posit that the induced orientation provides no benefit to the germ but is nonetheless inextricably linked to the pathogen’s life-cycle, this seems quite unlikely.  As I pointed out in a couple of my comments [5] on Cochran’s blog, the harmful effects of virtually all other diseases are directly due to the needful activity of the germs in question.  Sometimes these involve digesting the body-organs of the host, sometimes clogging up the circulatory system by multiplying and spreading, or sometimes even manipulating the host’s behavior in order to more effectively spread to other hosts.  Since the alleged Gay Germ seems utterly asymptomatic, I find it doubtful that a germ would induce gayness and attack the host’s reproductive system merely out of pure maliciousness toward the host’s DNA.

Cochran countered by citing as a counter-example the “sterility belt” of Central Africa, in which Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, sterilizes up to 30% of all adult women. He argued the germ gained nothing from inducing this trait while the infected host population suffered massive harm.

In response, I pointed out that the likely benefit to this particular STD activity was quite obvious.  Such sterilized African women would probably be divorced by their husbands and cast into dire poverty, thereby often being forced into a life of formal or informal prostitution as a consequence.  Since prostitutes might have hundreds of times as many sexual partners each year as married women, the gains to the transmission-vector of such a sterility-inducing STD would be absolutely enormous, providing exactly the sort of powerful selective pressure able to balance that operating on the host population.  Thus, such a “Divorce Germ” makes perfect evolutionary sense in the way a Gay Germ seemingly does not.

Now Cochran has devoted the last decade almost exclusively to these sorts of evolutionary biology issues, and for him to have apparently spent all those years believing that a 30% germ-induced host sterility rate—with absolutely enormous selective impact—served no useful purpose for the responsible pathogen is tantamount to revealing that he has Creationist-leanings.  Hence he immediately banned me from his blogsite for making such “lawyerly” arguments, and later declared that the corpus of my published articles had anyway proven that I was simply a “loon.”

There is an ironic subtext to this minor blogosphere contretemps.  In his own political views, Cochran is an extreme right-winger, and he and his friends are always denouncing our mainstream media for its climate of total censorship and bias against views that contradict the reigning Blank Slate theory of human nature.  Such criticism is perfectly valid.  But I find it a bit amusing that the moment anyone politely points out the holes in Cochran’s own pet scientific theories, his guillotine comes down and the heretic is expelled to the Outer Darkness.

Early in the twentieth century, the Trotskyites endlessly bewailed how their Stalinist foes had gained the upper hand and brutally purged them.  Yet I’ve always suspected that if the Trotskyites had been the ones who ended up on top, they would have treated their defeated opponents in exactly the same manner.

 

On a related matter, a reader of my previous column happens to be an old friend of Robert Trivers, one of the world’s foremost evolutionary theorists, and forwarded him my remarks, soliciting his opinion on the Gay Gene/Gay Germ question.  Trivers explained that the evolutionary problem of homosexuality had been an important focus of his thinking and research for thirty years and that no one had yet proposed a satisfactory model; he sketched out the various hypotheses and their obvious weaknesses.  Given my cursory knowledge of the field and his great eminence, I found it reassuring that my views were quite compatible with his.  However, he didn’t seem to think that anyone had ever seriously proposed a Gay Germ theory, so perhaps my original discussion gave far too much attention to that particular bit of occasional blogosphere speculation.

His theoretical brilliance aside, Trivers has also occasionally attracted attention for his politics.  Although evolutionary biology is frequently perceived as a stronghold of reactionary sentiment, perhaps due to years of public vilification and dishonest smears by Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, and other critics of their ilk, the actual facts seem otherwise, with leading figures such as Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson being strong liberals.  And Trivers himself turns this stereotype completely on its head, being a figure of the Radical Left.  For example, he was one of the tiny handful of whites who joined the Black Panther Party during its heyday, and apparently still holds those same views, having personally dedicated his most recent book to the memory of Panther leader Huey Newton.

My personal inclination is to focus on the scientific validity of a theory rather than the ideological leanings of the particular figure providing the analysis.

 

On another matter, I’m pleased that my article How Social Darwinism Made Modern China [6] continues to generate steady traffic six weeks after publication, with total readership time now heading toward 20,000 hours.

Finally, the front page [7] of his morning’s New York Times announced that NYC’s Cooper Union had officially ended its 150-year-old tradition of providing a top-quality education without charging tuition.  I had previously provided [8] my own opinion on that proposal earlier in the year.

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#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

“EliteComminc: you can have your own opinion but not your own facts. And since you are discussing science while not being a scientist, maybe you shouldn’t be so bold in forming an opinion at all. ”

Ohhh Yawn, the you can’t participate unless you are a such and such. And yawn. I provided a definition as the basis of my conclusions. It is the definition used prior to 1973 by the APA and is a standard definition for the term.

I have had these discussions with people in the scientific community, some agree and others do not. You seem to be assuming that all scientists agree on the matter. I think you should think about getting out more. Outside your indivvidual conclave who agree with you. You’ll find you’ll extend your ability to respond beyond the suggested, “your too dumb for us,” response.

But allow me to address your examples.

“It’s like saying people can never kick soccer balls because the only “normal” function of your feet is to walk…. and then when shown evidence of, say, geese using their wings to bludgeon rivals instead of for flying, or thresher sharks using their tails as whips instead of for swimming, likewise condemning that too as an “abnormality” that only further proves the weirdness of those soccer-ball-kicking abominations.”

I am a bit disappointed in that are incorrect. A persons feet has multiple purposes: walking, standing, running, hopping, jumping, crouching, leaning, strectching and of course kicking, certainly not an exhaustive list. Now there are all kinds of kicking: kicking balls, kicking dances, kicking, marches, kicking in play, kicking to allevieate a pian, kicking to remove something on the leg which doesn’t belong, like a bug might be an abnormal entity that one might want to kick off, kicking as pushing, even kicking so as to get another’s attention, and kicking in self defense — all part and parcel to what the legs are designed to do, again not an exhaustive list. far be it from me to suggest that anyone so engage one leg or two is behaving abnormally. Unless that leg kicks unvoluntarily, beyond a person’s control. I am quite content to recognize the various uses of the leg beyond walking, standing, running, etc.

I think your exampled, analogies are woefully inadequate. As the one description you provide is certainly part and parcel to what the leg is designed to do and so engaging is a function of legs.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

As for our pals in the animal kingdom: “geese using their wings to bludgeon rivals instead of for flying, or thresher sharks using their tails as whips instead of for swimming, likewise condemning that too as an “abnormality” that only further proves the weirdness of those soccer-ball-kicking abominations.”

One could only say, that both appendages: wings and shark tails in the instances you describe are quite within the norm of what these appendages were designed to do aid in the animals survival. Certainly wins could be quite effective bats and a tails shark well, there’s no accounting for the uses of a powerful slapping around a potential or manuvering tight turns in play. But again, while the use of these appendages are quite normal and interesting — they are inadequate examples of the argument you are attempting to make.

Having played soccer, I can from personal experience say the only abomination of the game is having to play a professional German team as HS student — that was abominable. I never knew that soccer was just a tackle shy of US football.

I suggest that before you atempt to engage me on te matter again. That you first read my post throroughly. Men as to function for their sexuality are designed to couple with females. And there’s a very specific reason for doing so. That coupling while it has several purpose has one that is unique and it can only occur via the coupling between men and women. I will allow to figure out just what that is. The consequence of such is normal. Now there is another manner of understanding normalcy. It is examining a thing from the perspecive of what is practiced or occurs as to a general population. I won’t get into a spat about what the numbers are, but the evidence makes it very clear that homosexuality is not the norm. Now I am not sure what school of science you are coming from but I think most scientists would conceded my understanding of norm — even if they hated doping so. Even at three percent, such a population would not be the norm.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

The argument that you are making and one that has become popular about the term normalcy is not one rooted in science or math. It is rooted in a pathos. It is the argument which appeals to the emotional import or impact. The current use of the term normal as it is being applied is an argument designed to alleviate the stigma associated with homosexual behavior.

So here’s what I think is the actual contention you are aiming at. Abnormalities are not unique among animals. That abnormailities themselves are not abnormal. But one would certainly not attempt to bend all of those abnormalities into the standard as the norm. Of course not . . . , but that is exactly what has been and is going on so as to alleviate the stigma and some emotional pain of those whose sexual practice contradicts most (and that is no small number) on the planet.

The APA decision in 1973 to change the classification of this behavior is not based on science, but a desire to alleviate and address the emotional turmoil occurring in the mind. So the APA violating their own principles of evidentiary inquirey, did just that.

The behavior is and was abnormal. I have not interjected any religious or moral view on the dynamic.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 29, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

The fact that some men and women have found other uses for their sexual reproductive organs — does not ean that such use is normal.

#5 Comment By TTT On April 29, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

I don’t think many scientists would agree with or respect your selective and ad-hoc definitions of which extremely common behaviors found throughout the entire animal kingdom are actually “normal” and which are not. Nor would many be impressed by your attempted lectures on “leaving the conclave of those who agree with you” while obtusely refusing to read the print sources that have been cited.

You don’t know anything about animal behavior and your bluffing on the matter is woefully inadequate.

Oh, and the “p” in APA stands for “psychiatric,” so it does no good to invoke it in the same breath as a discussion of how animals behave.

#6 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On April 29, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

This “gay germ” theory is one of the most idiotic ideas I’ve ever encountered (and this is the first time I’ve heard of it), perhaps equaled only boy some of the wilder “911 Truth” theories.

How is a germ supposed to cause only this specific behavior of seeking out the intimate company of one’s own gender, but somehow leave no other symptoms, physical or mental, that can be discerned? For example, how would a germ that attacks the brain and nervous system manage to instinctively “know” enough to attack only those pathways that have to do with sexual orientation, and do this in both genders? How does such a disease tell a nerve cell that is part of the sexual orientation of an individual from one that is involved with vision, or hearing? Diseases that attack the nervous system cause damage to sensory and motor systems, cause pronounced physical symptoms, and sometimes can cause violent or aggressive behavior. Even a “venereal disease” type explanation is silly, since it would take more than damaged genitalia to change sexual orientation, and even tertiary syphilis in the brain has never been known to change sexual orientation, for the reasons stated above.

I am not an expert in these fields by any stretch, but I defy anyone to come up with a biological mechanism by which a “gay germ” could operate this way. It defies common sense, but perhaps some expert here might at least have a plausible theory.

#7 Comment By M.N. On April 30, 2013 @ 2:09 am

A.G. Phillbin,

If you are legitimately interested in finding out how it is evolutionary theorists can feel a “gay germ” is a decent hypothesis, I offer these.

A good start is the 1999 Atlantic Monthly article in three parts. This will give you a good background and look at the Germ Theory:

Part 1: [9]
Part 2: [10]

Part 3: [11]

Next, try this on for size

[12]

Then, go to the blog West Hunter [13]

These particular posts:

[14]

[15]

[16]

[16]

[4]

[17]

[18]

[19]

Not all directly explain how it is a neurotropic pathogen could strike a portion of the brain responsible for our sexual search image, but many do.

There are more on the net, but these can get you going.

You might also want to read some Paul Ewald .

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 1, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

“You don’t know anything about animal behavior and your bluffing on the matter is woefully inadequate. ”

What I know about animal behavior is only what I have read and studied the matter as to communication. On a lighter note: I live with ten cats. I think I know something. You accuse me of bluffing about what I have no idea. The accusation makes no sense. I do know that pointing to animal abnormalities in support of human abnormal behavior begs the questions. It only that abnormalities occur in nature to include human beings — it does indicate that such abnormalities are normal in any manner. By the way this is not a new advance. And my response to it is the same now as whenever it is posited.

There is no bluff, no attempt evade. I have tackled the matter head on. Asking me to read literature that there are some in some cultures that enage in this behavior when i already acknowledge that such is the case is redundant. your making hay where there is none to be made. Ohh did you that Romans and Greeks practiced it as well? Snore? Again, I may be dubious about the extent and the scope. But that such exists — more of no kidding.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 1, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Oh, and the “p” in APA stands for “psychiatric,” so it does no good to invoke it in the same breath as a discussion of how animals behave.

Now we come to it. The American Psychological Association has been examing this matter for quite some time. And they have tackled it in conjunction with biologists, anthropologists probably long before evolutionary researchers. No slight on them. But the APA is the premeir organization in this area of research — my opinion. To include research of the animal behavior of a similar kind. It’s not as if I have read no material by evolutionary researchers — the problem and what is at the heart of all is hard evidence. The theoretical speculation is fine. But no school has uncovered a biologic determinent for this behavior. And if they did that would still not indicate normalcy. Which I will address in a later post. I am keenly aware that there are homosexuals who influence the reasearch and the language of the research. But to date, neither evolutionary biology, psychiatry, neuro-sciences or anthropologists have said — “Eureka. We have it found it.” I doubt that they ever will. So when i read the research on this matter especially from scientists — I have but one question and one goal — to examine the evidence. The theory is fine — but the support is crucial. I learned that in elementary school. It has been reinforced in every academic arena I know.

Now on a more serious note: You don’t have a clue what I know or don’t know. You don’t know what I have read or haven’t. Further nothing I have said indicates any lack of knowledge about anything. You are attempting to reach conclusions based on what I don’t do. That’s a conclusion based on negatives — maybe you are part of that let’s go attack Iraq because of what I don’t know.

I suggest that you read the posts on the ,matter. What you hear is what could be. And that is not disrespectful of anyone’s back ground, experience, research or education — it just what it is. It could be this and here’s why. Ok gt it. the what that supports the why?

#10 Comment By M.N. On May 4, 2013 @ 2:24 am

1.) The APA is like all organizations that wish to remain relevant: they fall to political pressure. They wish to be “scientific” yet they don’t want to cost their practioners clientele. In short, the APA lacks credulity on a whole host of things. Thus, invoking it for support of a position is a highly risky strategy.

2.) As for the “all or most animals practice homosex” argument….sheep and human beings are the only mammals that evidence exclusive sexual attraction to their own gender and disinterested in breeding.

#11 Comment By Titanium Dragon On October 17, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

It is incredibly unlikely that there is a “gay germ” primarily because there is just no clear way how this could benefit the organism. If only men were gay, there would be a possibility, but as women are gay as well, it makes it very difficult to envision just how this organism would even function (as while, say, “forcing” attraction towards men or women seems possible, switching both men to men and women to women seems unlikely). There’s no route, either, that doesn’t go through a lot of straight people as well, which further complicates the issue.

The most likely explanation is that homosexuality is neither pathogenic nor genetic but environmental. It would explain the low-but-seemingly-present level of heritability of gayness, particularly if the environment in question is the mother’s womb.

While obviously genes would play a part, it wouldn’t be in the form of a gay gene, but rather in inappropriate activation of a suite of genes designed for the opposite sex (or possibly, in the inappropriate deactivation of others), probably by some combination of environmental factors.