Sociologist: Gays Not ‘Born That Way’

News: US News
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  October 15, 2019   

Fr. Paul Sullins: 'No single genetic determinant that causes same-sex sexual behavior'

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DETROIT ( - A Catholic sociologist is speaking out, saying there is no "gay gene."

Father Paul Sullins, a research professor of sociology and director of the Leo Initiative for Catholic Social Research at the Catholic University of America, is analyzing a study released in September which concluded there is no singular genetic marker predisposing people to homosexual behavior and that social and environmental factors play a bigger part.

Sullins noted in his Sept. 30 article "'Born That Way' No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation" that the "dominant cultural narrative about sexual orientation — which sees homosexual persons as a distinctly bounded biological class of people who were 'born that way' — simply cannot be true."


The study of Andrea Ganna et al., from the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is one of several concluding that genetics play little to no role in the determination that a person is homosexual.

It is important, however, in that it surveyed responses and performed genome-wide association studies on data from over 470,000 people in the United Kingdom, the largest study of it's kind.

Sullins notes the study made two important findings:

First, it found that the effect of the genes we inherit from our parents (known as "heritability") on same-sex orientation was very weak, at only .32 on a scale from 0 (none) to 1 (total) heritability. This means that a person's developmental environment — which includes diet, family, friends, neighborhood, religion, and a host of other life conditions — is twice as influential on the probability of developing same-sex behavior or orientation as a person's genes are.

Second, rebutting decades of widespread belief, the study established that "there is certainly no single genetic determinant (sometimes referred to as the 'gay gene' in the media)" that causes same-sex sexual behavior. On the contrary, "the variants involved are numerous and spread across the genome." Each of these genetic variants increases a person's propensity for same-sex behavior by an infinitesimally small amount. In scientific terms, same-sex orientation and behavior are highly polygenetic.

A 2017 article in the journal Nature titled "Genome-Wide Association Study of Male Sexual Orientation" suggested that researchers found genetic markers indicating homosexual men may have a possible genetic predisposition to homosexuality.

It faced heavy criticism, however, from fellow scientists who suggested the results of the study were politically motivated.

Oxford University researcher Gil McVean declared that researchers found "weak evidence for genetic variation that influences self-reported sexual preferences in men."

He went on to criticize the study, noting "the sample size is small, the results have not been replicated in an independent study and the level of evidence presented doesn't meet the threshold of significance typically required within the field."

He added, "I don't think the work would have been published if it were on a less controversial topic. It is, at best, preliminary."

Jeffrey Barnett, a researcher at a prestigious British genomics and genetics research institute Wellcome Sanger Institute, notes, "This study is way, way, way too small to draw any meaningful conclusion. None of their findings meets the accepted thresholds for statistical significance in a genome-wide association study."

He goes on to say the conclusions "are utter speculation and don't belong anywhere near a modern genetic study — we had decades of such claims that never held up because they didn't meet statistical significance."

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