They Haven't Found the Gay Gene Yet

Comments

1
Something I've always wondered and actually thought about asking you before, Dan: what would be you think the practical and political impacts of the discovery of such a thing, with scientific evidence being confirmed once and for all?
2
hey, what kind of disinterested sceintist makes judgemental comments like that? Throws the whole interview process in question. (Hey are you a lousy scum sucking adulterer or are you a good husband?)
3
Was it my imagination, or was there a Tim Minchin post up for about 5 minutes?
4
@1 People believe what they want. When I went to the Pride Parade a few years ago the Christians had a huge sign that asked "Is it in the genes or are you just perverts?" or something like that. And so I asked the guy holding the sign if he believed in genes did he therefore believe in evolution? The sign came down. The people who think the bible is god's word and can't be wrong will never change and never admit they are wrong.
5
"...a love of horror films..." Well shit. I'm doomed...

But I particularly enjoyed wrapping my head around this: "it seems reasonable to assume that people with DRD4 aren't just more likely to commit adultery. They would also be more likely to admit to having committed adultery. And people who don't have the risk-taking gene aren't just less likely to have committed adultery; they're less likely to admit to having committed adultery"

*blink*blink* I need another espresso to parse that, I think :-)
6
@2

Umm... Most of them.
7
Dan - great point about the potential to "admit" adultery, which is essentially what they were testing, not necessarily the potential to have an affair. This is a problem with self-reporting studies.

Re: transgressing... one-night stands are transgressions against your mother, I thought.
8
What if the gene has some effect on development of the frontal lobe, or is in some other way associated with the development of impulse control. It would then also be linked to things like speeding, saying socially frowned upon things in polite conversation, speaking out of turn in class, etc. It seems like the sexual link was chosen to give the article a media hook.

In the world of publish or perish, I suspect that on line access (even if they consider themselves "peer reviewed") are the bottom feeders of scientific journals.
9
hmm. I've got the love of horror movies, "openness to new social situations," and "political liberalism," and I certainly can see the appeal of sleeping with lots of people, but I think the fear of STDs, pregnancy, rape, assholery, etc. was put into me to such a degree at such a young age that I haven't been willing to do the adultery/one-night stands. Not that I'm hating on the one-night stand-ers. I feel like I definitely have all those strong impulses toward alcoholism and promiscuity and whatever else is completely inappropriate, but the concern for my safety (or ability to keep a job, not be accused of sexual harassment, etc.) always wins out. Not that I don't have a hell of a lot of fun when I have a glass of wine as an excuse to flip off my "don't say that in public" switch. I always figured this trait was a bit more nurture than nature, but it does appeal to me to have a genetic explanation for why I'm so unhappy all the time, having to control these impulses to do things I'm not supposed to do.
10
While "transgression" was a poor choice of words, I am not in favor of anyone using genes as an excuse for making certain social choices. It perhaps would be valuable for someone to know they have a propensity for a certain behavior but you don't boil down statistics for use in a singular situtation: "It's in my instincts, the genes made me do it". I'm not talking about core indentiy genes like race and sexuality - this appears to be a study of specific human activity where each individual made a choice to do a particular thing and those choices were statistically recorded. Understand your proclivities, I say, but take ownership of your choices.
11
They have finally isolated the Speed gene...now I know!
12
A correlation to a correlation to social liberalism?! It MUST be a factor!

How DARE you cite glaring methodological problems and erroneous assignment of social behaviors to genetic causes, Dan? This is Science we're talking about here; anything with the label Science is categorically beyond question! It's not like the scientific method involves questioning, testing, and refining ideas, results, etc...

The whole thrill-seeking behavior thing (for which a genetic component seems reasonable to me) strikes me as a more likely predictor of something like serial monogamy (including one-night-stands) than adultery. There's also apparently a bias that "infidelity" has to be uncommitted at work here: one can't "cheat" with the same person or persons for ten years? Perhaps a link to compulsive "infidelity" (which would result in a weaker, though perhaps not much weaker, given the cultural proscription against non-monogamy, correlation with infidelity in general, as presumably ALL compulsive cheaters cheat but not all people who might cheat under only certain conditions do so) makes more sense: the other behaviors listed aren't thrill-seeking/risk-taking so much as they're compulsive (alcoholism, compulsive gambling). I guess "New Study Finds Genetic Link to Addiction" doesn't bring in the readers nor grant money, what with it being old news and all...

Of course, Science! News! isn't exciting unless you can link it to some sort of hot-button social issue.
13
@Knitpicker

Online doesn't mean much these days. Pretty much all scholarly journals are released online as well as in print. This is partly as a result of and partly a cause of Academic Libraries preferring the electronic medium for articles to print.

Not to say this is necessarily *good* research (I haven't looked through it yet, and it isn't my field), but it being online isn't a mark for/against it.
14
@8: A lot of articles give online access now days. Doesn't have much of anything to do with the quality.

The quote picked from the article DOES mention that the gene also probably supports more outgoing/risky social behavior, which can be advantageous in some situations.

I think it's important we talk about genes with implications like this a little less like a disease of some sort.
15
re: one-night-stand transgressors

gee Dan for a "sex columnist" you're sure an ignorant prick.

one-night-stands are the best way to spread STDs (really fast...)

spreading everybodies' bodily fluids to everybody else makes sure the bugs get the maximun opportunities to infect new hosts.

and so on.

and so on....

how do you think homosexuals wind up with an impressive 20% AIDS rate?

they have more short term hookups.

(and more breakups. which lead to broken hearts and suicide. in fact; the homosexual and heterosexual suicide rates correlate nicely to number of relationship breakups. we wonder if THAT gets better....)

who are the 'victims'?

>future one-night-stand partners. a high percentage of whom will get a going away gift.

>future long term partners, if any.

>whomever is paying for the health care costs (most likely, all of US...)

>society art large, which, thanks to some people's selfish slutty behavior, must endure high STD rates.

choices carry consequences, Danny.

some choices are wrong.
16
btw Danny,

every 8th grader who didn't sleep through health class would know that one-night-stands are high risk behavior.

even for a Gommorahan Pervert this is an EPIC FAIL
17
Who needs castration when there's modern gene science.

Why were they even trying to figure this out in the first place? Work on cancer or something!
18
The goofy attempts to connect these kinds of studies with partisan politics is really irritating. It reminds me of when this happened. I mean sure, we all think Republicans are whiny, but encouraging this sort of "science" is just going to backfire on everyone.
19
@16: I can deal with your dogmatic idiocy in most respects, so I'll just ask you to change in one respect.
"Gomorrah" is correctly spelled with ONE 'm', and TWO 'r's. Okay? Stop raping my internal spellcheck!
20
@17 -- Yeah, but everyone's working on cancer. You want your grant money, offer up something new!
21
When are they going to test for the rollercoaster gene? People either love rollercoasters or they don't - it's clearly genetic!
22
#8: Whether this particular article is the final word on the DRD4 gene or not, PloS One is a solid science journal and is in no way trying to cause sensational news stories. Or caring about the popular news media at all. As an example, here is the title another recent article from the same journal:

"Expression and Regulation of Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases in Human and Rat Pancreatic Islets"

Doesn't sound like it's catering to the pop-media at all, now does it?

Also, I believe it's worth doing research into the biology of human sexuality, and my guess is that there are more geneticists prejudiced against this type of research than are influenced to do it because it sounds interesting in the popular press.
23
Actually, we have found some precursor genes, but it's not at the proven stage yet, and it's way more complex than we thought. Lack of power, complex systems, and it's a lot fuzzier than you'd think.

Problem is that a lot of closeted gay Republicants lie about their sexual behavior, which makes the studies difficult. So you're forced to mouse and primate models, really. I suggest we look at dolphins - they'll sex up anything that moves.

(ducks)
24
@19 That's like suggesting physicists should be working on cancer; psychology is a different field. I understand what you're getting at though, a lot of the seemingly random and insignificant psych studies make more sense when you see that the whole field is about unpacking how the mind works. Random studies lead to directed studies, which lead to relevant breakthroughs that can help people.
25
Do people actually think that these scientists set out to find the gene that makes people cheat on their partners or something? Because it sounds to me like they were just studying how this gene can affect a person's sex life, and these were the results they came up with. I, for one, think it's nice to understand what our genes do, and I think it would be awesome to be able to learn what a person might be like based on a reading of their DNA.

I hate it when people read a crappy, sensationalized headline of a complicated scientific study and then shake their heads at science for doing such stupid studies.
26
Holy Moses, they found a gene for... basically being me? I'm liberal, love horror movies, and I'm a massive slut, if an ethical one. I've always known that I have to avoid gambling, booze and so forth because my family have a history of addictive behaviours. Can I sign up for the next round of this study? I want to find out about my DRD4 polymorphism!
28
at #8:

The point of publishing research is to have the maximum number of people read it. When people have to pay $37 to "buy" your article, they are less likely to read it than if your paper is freely available.

Additionally, in my own work, I've found no correlation between online-access of papers and low quality of research (this is the field of glial neurobiology, it may be different in, say, physics).

Finally, an article in Science has shown that "free" research is sited just as often as "subscription only" research (presumably, “bad” research is less frequently sited than “good” research), but it is sited MORE often in poorer countries (presumably countries where scientists don't have as much funding to waste on subscriptions).

So, while this particular piece of research has its faults, there's no need to diss the free exchange of ideas.
29
I know two straight Genes.
30
"The adultery stat is interesting: 50% of people in the study with DRD4 told researchers that they had committed adultery, compared with 22% of those who didn't have the gene. But since this particular gene is associated with risk-taking, and since admitting to a researcher that you've committed adultery could feel like a risk all by itself (what if it got back to the person you cheated on?), it seems reasonable to assume that people with DRD4 aren't just more likely to commit adultery; they would also be more likely to admit to having committed adultery. And people who don't have the risk-taking gene aren't just less likely to have committed adultery; they're less likely to admit to having committed adultery. So that 22% figure could underestimate the number of non-DRD4ers out there who've fucked around on their spouses."

Sorry Dan, but that's a logical fallacy. The first part is true, those with a thrill-seeking gene would be more likely to admit to adultery. However, those without this particular gene aren't necessarily less likely. This is A thrill-seeking gene, not necessarily THE thrill-seeking gene. Plus their could also be genes for say, honesty. However, 22% does seem a little low. The population estimate is anywhere from 20%-75%, so it seems to depend on the sample and how the question is asked.

@27 thrill-seeking and non-monogamy do not have to be correlated for non-monogamy to be innate. Thrill-seekers might just be non-monogamous regardless of the social climate, while non-thrill-seekers might only be non-monogamous if the social climate is conducive to such things. Even if some people do not act on a desire to cheat or have one-night stands, that does not mean they have to desire to do so.
31
The actual importance of this study has little to do with the social implications of this polymorphism, though that is what the authors played up. We now know that the D4 receptor can be altered in a way to increase desire for multiple partners. This means the D4 receptor could be the target for a drug to help people with sexual addiction.