“The Science” Behind LGBTQ+ Discourse: Re-Reading the Narrative of Nature and Nurture: Part V

-Part V of a Continuing Series

The fact is that sexuality is an extraordinarily complex trait, and despite all the evolutionary and all the technological advances in the prevailing scientific method, it is difficult to say conclusively on complex traits whether they are completely natural or completely acquired. It is therefore important to find alternative frameworks. Utilitarian values of complex properties should be discussed. And for the great benefit of humanity, positive research on them should be carried forward.

In the previous part of this series, we elaborated on how the scientific discourse on LGBTQ+ has its own limitations in terms of validity and robustness.

We argued that research on sexuality has serious implications when it comes to applying the naturalistic method of inquiry to it; while fully acknowledging that in the absence of any other holistic and more structured social science methodology the results obtained should be carefully interpreted and elaborated and maximum caution should be applied to extrapolate such results when it comes to conclusively framing the narratives regarding as sensitive and as complex as sexuality.

It was also delineated how, once a hallmark of sexuality research, The Kinsey Scale has its own limitations and despite the wonders it produced in the realm of sexuality understanding it is still not the gold standard.
Now, taking the debate further, we explore how the LGBTQ+ discourse further loses its ground when one takes into consideration the following. (For the understanding and ease of the readers the points of scientific discourse are repeated in the following section)

  1. Naturalistic methodology can be applied to understand sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual deviation and it is effective and sufficient. (Which, probably, may not be the case!)
  2. Kinsey scale is a reliable scale for sexuality research. (Which is increasingly proving to be insufficient!)
  3. Sexuality and sexual behavior are characterized by sexual fluidity. (Indeed, but what next!) The above three points were contended in previous article and following are now presented in coming section:
  4. Sexuality and sexual orientation are not merely governed by gonads: the saga of developments within the womb and the neuroendocrine system.
  5. A part of sexuality and sexual deviations is characterized by genetic determinism.
  6. There is only a difference of complexity in terms of sexuality between animals and humans. That means, in essence, the sexual system is the same.
  7. Sexual orientation cannot be changed by any therapy. Research in this regard is further strengthening this hypothesis. (But is it the only case or something else is also emerging!)

Claim 4: Sexuality and Sexual Orientation are Not Merely Governed by Gonads: The Saga of Developments Within the Womb and the Neuroendocrine System

There is a plethora of studies on how gonads and other neuroendocrine system plays crucial role in sexual development and even impact gender identity but they yield varied results at times, contradicting each other (1) Hence, it is now almost universally accepted in scientific circles that sexuality and sexual orientation are controlled by many factors. The debate is no longer imprisoned in the binary of “natural” or “acquired” (viz. nature and nurture). This erstwhile binary essentially meant (for the “nature” camp) that sexual orientation and sexuality is natural and the person in question has no control over it. Environment and family do not affect it. These factors including past experiences, the environment and the family upbringing have no effect or control over shaping one’s sexuality – and this kind of narrative has been very useful and fairly successful for the spread of LGBTQ+ discourse as well as its constituents to establish a narrative of human rights around their demands.

On the other hand, there is the camp which believes in the theory of “nurture [only]” which says that sexual orientation, sexuality (homosexuality and lesbianism and all types of sexual spectrums go beyond the binary of male and female sexuality) are the result of the person’s environment, his childhood experiences, his training, his mental conditioning, his family and the sociocultural milieu he keeps. So essentially, this argument claims that nature does not have any role, instead, how sexuality is shaped depends solely on the individual and his environment. This camp is closely associated with those who believe in the Christian theory of creation or Orthodox Christian theology.

But the reality is somewhere beyond these two poles; they are both partially false. The research done so far indicates that both “nature” and “nurture” play a role in shaping sexuality and sexual orientation. Although some researchers with hardline views believe that sexuality is inherently natural and the individual has no role in it, but if the matter is closely examined, the reality is far more complex than what appears on the surface. Therefore, in science, the questions related to sexuality are referred to as “Deep Questions.” But the term is not commonly understood in the public sphere or among laypersons; further, the shortcomings of the extant research on the complex questions of sexuality and its practical manifestations are not revealed to the public either. And how severe are the shortcomings and limitations which sexuality research suffers from.

In fact, both camps only pursue research that strengthens their own narratives. As soon as new research emerges to the end that it presents different conclusions on these phenomena, either the LGBTQ+ lobby that believes in the “nature only” camp embraces it; or if it is to the contrary of their perspective, the lobby of Orthodox Christians and those who believe in the “nurture only” camp embrace it. Since those who believe in the LGBTQ+ as inherently natural narrative are currently dominating the horizon of research and other institutions of power, the narrative of “being natural “ is dominating ,the situation is such that a large number of people are beginning to believe that sexuality and sexual deviations, including gender orientation, are exclusively natural and intrinsic; however, it is not so.

Modern research suggests that the secretion of different hormones at different time periods in the womb affect the gender orientation and gender of babies born. (2) In this way, many stimuli determine the gender orientation, and sexuality of the child during the development of a child’s neural network in the womb. (3)
Similarly, there is a lot of research regarding the brain development of the fetus in the womb, which shows how the environment of the womb affects the gender identity of children. Animal experiments provide a lot of important evidence, but the usefulness of animal models on complex behavior or traits is becoming less and less. For example, the organizational hypothesis is largely true in monkeys, but cannot be applied to humans.

The organizational hypothesis states that steroid hormones completely regulate or organize the fetal nervous system in the womb, which is reflected in all male and female behaviors in adulthood. Therefore, under this point, there is a wide canvas of investigation, which cannot be covered here. But the gist of it is as follows:

  1. Sexuality and gender orientation are not inherently natural or completely acquired.
  2. These characteristics have been shaped by the many stages of development in the womb.
  3. Physiochemical & physiological interactions can & do vary in relation to the manifestations of sexuality in humans and animals. That is, the experiments on animals in relation to the phenomena of sexuality and the results obtained from them cannot be fully applied to the sexuality of humans.
  4. There is still no satisfactory explanation of the deciding trait in terms of sexuality.

Claim 5: A part of sexuality and sexual deviations is characterized by genetic determinism.

The extraordinary development of Molecular Biology has uncovered many human traits that were previously unknown. Through Molecular Biology, amazing progress has been made on the genetic origin of traits. In particular, the genes responsible for physical traits for the color of the eyes, or the genes of hair and skin color are precisely known at least in animals, especially in fruit flies and rats, mind-boggling changes have been made. Some fruit flies have been genetically altered in such a way that their body patterns were entirely changed.

Similarly, a genome editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 has been successfully tested to change the color of rats’ skin. Many physical features have been inserted by changing genes in other animals, but they are all controlled by one or two genes. The real problem arises when you turn toward complex traits such as higher levels of consciousness, religiosity, sexuality, personality and attitude, etc. It is not yet known which genes they are controlled by. And despite all the extraordinary investigations, the question – which gene or gene clusters are responsible for complex traits? – remains unanswered. There has been no substantial or clear success on this end so far.

Although the genes and genetic aspects of sexuality are considered to be of extraordinary importance in the LGBTQ+ scientific narrative and have had early successes, they are all supplementary or incomplete or cannot be proven at the highest standard of research. Who wouldn’t have heard the narrative of the “Gay Gene”? the euphoria of gay gene was such that the policy makers considered it as gospel truth and the narrative was woven around a false axis of “innate” or purely genetic basis of homosexuality.

After almost thirty-two years, it was revealed three years ago that there is no such thing. Sexuality is not simple enough to be judged by the absence or presence of just one gene. Jonathan Lambert wrote in Nature, one of science’s most renowned journals, an essay titled “No ‘Gay Gene’” – the study looks at the genetic basis of sexuality. Five DNA markers are linked to sexual behaviour — but can’t predict a person’s preferences (4). This research used the most plausible and robust model to prove that what sexuality research tells us about sexuality is that genetic predispositions are partly responsible for sexuality and its associated deviant behaviors. But it cannot be said with certainty that a person’s gender orientation, gender identity and sexual behavior etc. are determined due to genetics alone. Rather, they are determined by a number of environmental and genetic factors. No single gene or multiple genes are solely responsible for the entire make-up of a person’s sexuality and the behaviors associated with it. That is why the concept of sexuality as an inherent urge or force over which one has no control is a lie.

The story of genetic determinism is incomplete without a mention of Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). GWAS is a molecular biological data-driven technique which uses bioinformatics tools to study the genetic basis of traits. It was initially evolved to find qualitative traits or detect disease genes in plants or animals, in research on crop yield-enhancing genes, or in the discovery of genes responsible for the apparent characteristics of animals. It was later expanded to more complex areas such as religiosity, sexuality, behavioural research etc.

GWAS has played an extraordinary role in the discovery of beneficial genes, and not acknowledging its usefulness and discovery power is a scientific betrayal. But as soon as this technique was put to use for complex traits, inconclusive results are thrown in.

Using GWAS, Andrea Ganna et al published a paper in the journal Science in 2019. (5) This paper has sparked new debates on sexuality and the attempt to use GWAS for it. The most important discoveries of this paper are described below in simple terms.

  1. No single or several genes are responsible for homosexuality, but a cluster of genes may selectively provide a tendency towards it.
    The most important finding and recognition (to us) is that it should be examined how socio-cultural construction determines sexual orientation, and then, how it ultimately regulates the individual’s gene expression pattern.
  2. Most interestingly, the same clusters of genes that probably play an important role for “homosexuality” may also be responsible for cigarette addiction, drug addiction, and risk-taking and characteristics. So, how far can it be right to hold them responsible for a particular sexual behaviour?
  3. The Kinsey Scale may not be the best sexuality research scale.

While considering the arguments presented above, the reader will not fail to notice the remarkable change in the foundations upon which research on sexuality began evolve and reached at this tipping point wherein the scientific foundations that were considered the most important in the entire LGBTQ+ discourse and science behind it are one by one slipping away from the prism of the scientific narrative or becoming less important and the arguments based on them are gradually being exposed as rather hollow. What were these foundations?

  1. Human sexuality is a continuum, i.e. a long epistle with possibilities of sexual desire and orientation extending from both ends. (the new era of sexual fluidity is just began and we never know where it will take us!)
  2. The Kinsey Scale is an extraordinarily relevant scale for sexuality research. (It may not. It may be flawed.)
  3. Homosexuality is completely controlled by one gene or only gene (genetic determinism). In this, the human being is helpless. (It is not the case; sexual behaviors have myriad factors which determine the development of sexuality genetic factors are powerful but just “one” among them.)
  4. Environment does play an important role particularly in the gene expression which ultimately cements or may weaken the identity and other aspects.

The fact is that sexuality is an extraordinarily complex trait, and despite all the evolutionary and all the technological advances in the prevailing scientific method, it is difficult to say conclusively on complex traits whether they are completely natural or completely acquired. It is therefore important to find alternative frameworks. Utilitarian values of complex properties should be discussed. And for the great benefit of humanity, positive research on them should be carried forward.

Claim 6: “Animals and humans have the same sexuality and sexual system; the only difference is at the level of complexity and order.”

This Darwinian notion of sexuality was well placed, well received and augmented in the era of decaying Christian morals and religious dogmas of the then “Christian world”, wherein sexual pleasure was forbidden or had specific connotations and boundaries. LGBTQ+ discourse just ran with it. But in reality, this is a very misleading assumption. There are several flaws in this notion:

  1. There is difference between animals and humans in terms of sexuality, because animals do not choose a sexual partner using high level of cognitive ability. Human beings do so; it’s not a matter of order or level of complexity.
  2. Humans do not breed unregulated like animals. Instead, some of them are not even interested in reproducing. This is not just a difference between order, but of consciousness and perception.
  3. Human beings possess complex emotional features of ‘love’ and ‘loyalty’, some simple manifestations of which are not found in the animal world. (Some do…but those are few).
  4. Before and after the act of sex, certain acts or ways or behavior are found in humans alone whose simpler forms are either hard to find or nonexistent in animals such as caring for a sexual partner even after the passing of child-bearing or reproductive age.

But it has been seen that in spite of the shortcomings mentioned above in the scientific narrative of sexuality and LGBTQ+, evidence of the practice of homosexuality from the animal world is often presented – that such and such species also practices homosexuality, and it is a characteristic acquired during the evolutionary journey, etc.

The most interesting thing to see in the evolutionary explanation of sexuality is that the Darwinistic framework states that any trait that requires more resources for survival gradually disappears. Now, first of all, sexual reproduction is a feature that requires much more resources than asexual reproduction. Its (trait of sexual reproductions) survival is rather a mystery in evolutionary discourse itself. Second, if we add to it the deviant sexual behavior that can be defined as LGBTQ+ etc., then a very strange situation will arise because when the survival of sexual reproduction is a big question mark, then, LGBTQ+ sexual practices, which do not guarantee any kind of propagation of life or allow for any kind of reproduction – then, how did they evolve? Therefore, it may be concluded that probably the LGBTQ+ scientific narrative has less science and more scientism.

Claim 7: “Sexual orientation cannot be changed. It is congenital and no therapy or medication can change it”:

One of the biggest weapons of LGBTQ’s scientific narrative is the notion that once a person is born with a particular sexual orientation, it is no longer possible to change his or her sexual orientation. A little explanation is needed here. Sexual orientation and sexual identity are two different but connected terms. Sexual orientation refers to a constant attraction that an individual has towards another person (male, female, or none). Sexual identity refers to an individual’s self-perception and identity formation with reference to their sexual attraction or orientation towards others (male, female or none.) It is now believed that sexual identity may change, but not sexual orientation. But now “this foundation” has also begun to crack. A researcher named Lisa Ray writes about sexual fluidity (6):

  1. There is a huge variation in the data of sexuality and sexual fluidity and all its manifestation. (Does that mean it’s difficult to assert certain factual inferences which can be drawn from data?)
  2. Homosexual men may begin to sense or identify themselves as heterosexual at certain points in their life.
  3. Genetic fluidity is higher in women than men.

Although this research has its own shortcomings that have been mentioned previously, will the concept of sexual fluidity ultimately prove to be a blessing for sexual deviations? Or, will such investigations provide more material for the narrative of sexual duality/binary? Or, going beyond the unnecessary insistence on either narrative, will it form the basis of such an academic framework where sexuality will come to be considered as the natural but fundamental and most important tool for the survival of the human race?

We would like to conclude this critical analysis of LGBTQ+ and the scientific narrative with the observation of a great researcher working in the realms of sexuality, sexual behavior, and sexual identity: S. Marc Breedlove writes (7) “

“Most of us have wondered about the extent to which our behavior is a function of socialization, culture, and the learning process while growing up, and the extent to which our behavior can be attributed to more basic processes, which might be regarded as “biological” influences. Often this is posed as the relative contributions of nature versus nurture, or genetic versus environmental influences. But even a superficial understanding of the nature-nurture “debate”, or of environmental regulation of gene expression, reveals these distinctions to be very difficult to sort out when you consider the details. So instead of those amorphous, difficult-to-define distinctions, it may be more productive to weigh the relative contributions of a more precisely defined duality, namely prenatal versus postnatal influences. The one thing we can say with some confidence is that prenatal influences cannot be attributed to social interactions, as the fetus is insulated from awareness of the behavior of any individuals (other than the mother, and her avenues of social influence, her voice perhaps, are relatively limited). If events before birth influence the individual’s later behavior, at least we can say they could not have been initiated by the individual learning about behavior from others. Of course, to the extent prenatal events alter the individual’s future behavior, that altered behavior may affect the way other people respond to the individual. From thence we spiral down the rabbit hole of iterative rounds of environmental influences on gene expression, which affects later experiences, which influences future gene expression and so on, indefinitely. “

References:

  1. Cohen-Bendahan, C.C., van de Beek, C., and Berenbaum, S.A. (2005). Prenatal sex hormone effects on child and adult sex-typed behavior: methods and findings. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 29, 353–384.
  2. Ibid
  3. Rahman Q. The neurodevelopment of human sexual orientation. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005;29(7):1057-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.002. Epub 2005 Apr 25. PMID: 16143171.
  4. Lambert J. No ‘gay gene’: Massive study homes in on genetic basis of human sexuality. Nature. 2019 Sep;573(7772):14-15. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02585-6. PMID: 31481774.
  5. Andrea Ganna ,Karin JHV : Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior. SCIENCE 30 Aug 2019 Vol 365, Issue 6456 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7693
  6. Lisa M. Diamond : Sexual Fluidity in Male and Females. Curr Sex Health Rep (2016).DOI 10.1007/s11930-016-0092-z
  7. Breedlove SM. Prenatal Influences on Human Sexual Orientation: Expectations versus Data. Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Aug;46(6):1583-1592. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0904-2. Epub 2017 Feb 7. PMID: 28176027; PMCID: PMC5786378.

    0 Comments

    Submit a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *