Tue | Dec 7, 2021

Guilty silence, indictable ignorance or what?

Published:Wednesday | June 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Clinton Chisholm, Guest Columnist

Even non-lawyers know that though an accused person need not utter a word in her defence - since the burden of proof is almost always on the prosecution - that right to silence could be read as 'guilty silence'.

Before I expose the burden of this piece, let me say that I have no degree in law or any of the sciences. In fact, I failed biology at O'Levels.

Confession aside then, it troubles me that amid the ongoing claims and counterclaims regarding the causative and/or contributory factors to same-sex attraction (hereafter SSA), reputable medical doctors, counsellors and natural scientists plead ignorance or exercise their right to silence.

In my research, I have identified at least three (3) scientific reasons why SSA could not have been influenced in any clinically significant way by genes and students of genetics ought to know these 'putative' facts.

Reason #1 - There is no single gene or plurality of genes that influence and determine behaviour except in very simple organisms (cf. the gene fru in the courtship ritual of the male fruit fly, p. 1134 of Campbell Biology, ninth edition)

In the 2013 edition of My Genes Made Me Do It, Neil Whitehead says on Page 18: "The gene's function is biochemical. The DNA contains genetic coding that spells out the instructions mostly for making proteins: usually one gene for one protein ... . We could sum this up crudely and rather incorrectly by saying genes make proteins, not (sexual) preferences. (Actually, they are only recipes for proteins, and don't do the work themselves.)"

Mind you, physical conditions (like muscular dystrophy, sickle-cell anaemia, Down's syndrome, etc.) can and do result from "breakdowns of biological processes, or faults in genes. They are not behaviours, though distinctive behaviours may result from them - as in Down's syndrome ('simple' behaviour)." (p. 21)

Reason #2 - SSA could not even be the result of genetic mutation.

"In each genetic disorder from a mutation, only a very small proportion of the population is affected, in each case, about 0.025 per cent at most. All conditions combined affect only about one per cent of the total population. Homosexuality, at 2.4% of the population, does not fit into the category of genetic disorders or epigenetic effects because its occurrence is 90 times too high. So SSA does not seem to be a mutation." (pp. 23-24).

Whitehead explains epigenetics thus: "Epigenetics is control of genetic expression by factors other than the genes. These factors may be prenatal or postnatal (occurring at any time of life), often coming from the exterior environment, both biological and social. Epigenetic marks (changes in protein configurations around the DNA) can also be passed on to descendants - but only to some extent." (accessed June 19, 2014 at http://www.mygenes.co.nz/epigenetics.htm)

Reason #3 - Genetic SSA could not maintain itself in the population.

"A behaviour which produces fewer-than-average children cannot be 'genetic' and also continue to exist in the population. Obviously, genetically enforced exclusive homosexuality would die out of the population in several generations.

"As unlikely as it sounds, surveys show that of persons classifying themselves as exclusively homosexual, about one in three has a child. At that rate, a homosexual gene, or genes, still could not be replaced." (p. 29)

So as recently as 2013, the 1984 summary clinical comment of Masters, Johnson and Kolodny still holds credibility. They said: "... The genetic theory of homosexuality has been generally discarded today." (W.H. Masters, V.E. Johnson, R.C. Kolodny, Human Sexuality, 1984, p. 45)

If, as it is in law, one is presumed to know what one ought to know, the folk who hold degrees in the appropriate scientific disciplines who are unaware of the basic data from genetics I have unearthed can be charged with indictable ignorance.

Those who know the data but choose not to share it may be charged with guilty silence or intellectual cowardice.

The Rev Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and clintchis@yahoo.com.