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"Birth order effect" - environmental or biological?

Science struggles to explain why a man who has several adult siblings is more likely than average to be gay

David Rap, Haaretz, News and Walla!

Maybe it would have been better to leave the mystery in the closet. Canadian researchers reported in the mid-nineties a clear correlation found between homosexuality and the birth order of boys in the family. They claimed that each older brother increases the chances of the next one to become homosexual. The correlation between the data has since been repeatedly confirmed, but to date no serious explanation has been given to it. Other studies have shown that there is no connection between the number of older sisters and the newborn's chances of becoming gay as an adult, nor has a correlation between brothers or sisters and lesbian tendencies been proven.

In an article published in the "Journal of Biosocial Science" in 2004, the author, William James from the Department of Biology at University College London, presents some of the explanations that have been proposed for the "birth order effect" in the last decade. Immediately after that, he rules out the biological explanations one by one, and offers to test positively the theory that holds that the correlation between the number of male siblings of a child and the likelihood of him being homosexual - originates from environmental influences.

James presents a possibility, not particularly politically correct, according to which living in a masculine environment (of older brothers) increases a male child's chances of developing a homosexual tendency. To support this concept, he reopens the old debate on the question of whether in boarding schools for boys the rate of reporting sexual experience with men is higher than usual (and, contrary to other researchers, claims that it is). James actually claims that homosexuality is sometimes a learned trait.

From among the pages of the article it seems that the ideology of the writer also stands out. And reading articles written by James' colleagues makes it clear that he is not alone: ​​where science and homosexuality meet, a quasi-religious fervor arises (even in the scientific journals).

The debate focuses on a stubborn question - whether homosexuality is an innate or acquired phenomenon, and perhaps a combination of the two. Every new "discovery" on the subject (such as the "homosexuality gene", whose discovery has already been reported several times in the last decade, although in fact it has not yet been located) is given special prominence.

Among the biological theories for the birth of homosexuals there were those who tried to provide explanations for the "birth order effect" as well. For example, the thesis according to which a certain protein secreted by male fetuses may trigger a reaction of the immune system in the mother. With increasing probability (which increases from pregnancy to pregnancy) the antibodies of the mother's immune system are activated on the fetus and affect areas of its brain, which are responsible for sexual behavior in adulthood.

One can argue with any of the explanations for homosexuality, but one can also wonder why this issue - which concerns a very small percentage of the population - occupies such a central place in the public discourse. Some argue that a biological explanation will once and for all remove the claims that homosexuality can be "treated". But it is possible that the tireless drive to explain the phenomenon actually hides an old and bad homophobia.

They know evolution - the rise of man

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