December 31st 2006
Would you opt for the patch, or would you allow nature to run its course? This isn’t mere musing; it could very well be a decision parents have to make in the not too distant future. Here’s a report from the Times of London:
SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.
The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.
It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.
The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.
Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.
But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the “broad question” of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at “curing” homosexuality.
Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.
Let’s dispose of Navratilova first. Rams don’t have a “right” to be gay because they don’t understand rights. Nor are the experiments homophobic — one of a dozen or so lefty worlds that are designed to terminate all discussion, says Dennis Prager. Can you be homophobic about an embryo? It seems unlikely.
However, apply pro-choice arguments, Navratilova actually stumbles onto a point. If we argue that we have no right to take the life of a human God has created in the womb, do we have the right to change that human from gay to straight through the application of hormones?
We operate on children in the womb to correct birth defects, but if we use this as justification for the application of “straightening” hormones , we are saying that homosexuality is a birth defect. Of course, under the findings of this research, it is: A mere shortness of certain hormones during pregnancy. That will not make it a popular position with gays, however.
Navratilova is also right in saying gays may be deeply offended by the experiments. Should they be, though? Shouldn’t they want to know what made them gay? They certainly could be offended by the application of the experiments — but to be offended by a scientific quest for a better understanding of a complex human issue? That seems extreme and unjustifiable.
That leads us to the couple with the news from the obstretician.
Would you “straighten” your baby? We know that gay life expectancy is shorter and suicide rates are higher. We suspect that the term “gay” is a poor cover for a lifestyle that typically does not bring with it as much happiness as comes with straight lives. And we know that no matter how open-minded we may be, others in society will not be so kind.
On the other side of the argument, some may say que sera sera, and let the child be born. Some may say their gay friends are indeed gay in the old sense of the word, so why not? And some may not want to dabble in God’s work.
Now, what if the couple at the obstretician is gay? How many of them would opt, knowing what they know, to “straighten” their child?
Conversely: If there is a hormone that “straightens” an embryo, could there not also be one that turns an embryo gay? Should gays be allowed to apply this hormone to their straight embryonic offspring?
My thoughts: I would use the hormone (assuming it’s thoroughly tested and well understood) because all my gay friends have had pretty tough lives, and I’d like to give my child the best shot at happiness I can. I suspect my gay friends would make the same choice.
And for the same reason, I would oppose gay couples forcing gayness on straight embryos.
And all in all, the whole thing smacks of eugenics and I must say that this is an area I would just as soon see science not get involved in.