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Friday, June 28, 2013

Homophobia Phobia: Bad Science or Bad Science Comprehension?

Homophobia Phobia: Bad Science or Bad Science Comprehension?

"I discussed evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup’s theory about the possible adaptive function of homophobia, or, more broadly defined, negative attitudes toward gay people. Central to his position—which, he assures me, has not since wavered—is that homophobic responses "are proportional to the extent to which the homosexual [is] in a position that might provide extended contact with children and/or would allow the person to influence a child’s emerging sexuality." I also described a set of studies meant to test some hypotheses related to this theory, and which, according to Gallup, offered provisional evidentiary support.

I expressed some unease with the implications (and insinuations) of Gallup’s line of argument. But I was also rather unabashed in my conviction that his theory, though impolitic, was not only plausible, but also insightful and worth revisiting, particularly now, when homophobia may be too hastily, and simplistically, characterized as "socially learned." To explicate, using the neutral language of evolution, the idea that homophobia may be adaptive, and furthermore that it is adaptive because children exposed to homosexuals may themselves develop same-sex attractions, is a delicate affair, to say the least...

It’s no secret that many evolutionary biologists have a "problem" with evolutionary psychology, holding its practitioners in almost the same regard as creationists. "Ugh," wrote one Pharyngula commentator, "[e]volutionary psychologists make the rest of us look bad. I have to smile and make nice when we pass in the faculty lounge. It brings me great pain." What Christ-like behavior indeed...

BERING: Let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s embarrassing for me to even ask this of you, since the answer is so obviously "no" to me. Is your theory a justification of your own homophobia?

GALLUP: A lot of people think that if a person has a theory it’s a window unto their soul. I have lots of theories. (See CV (pdf).) I have a theory of homophobia, I have a theory of homosexuality, and I have a theory of permanent breast enlargement in women, just to mention a few. So that would make me a homophobic, homosexual who is preoccupied with women’s breasts...

BERING: Evolutionary biologists, but also non-specialists, casually deride evolutionary psychology as generating "just-so stories." Jon Wilkins, for example, of the Santa Fe Institute, reminds us that, "plausibility is NOT scientific proof." Likewise, Yoder layers his critique of your work with references to Brother Grimm fairy tales. Larry Moran of the University of Toronto, writes, "Why is it that respected evolutionary psychologists think these just-so stories are an important part of their discipline?"

How has this just-so-story rhetoric affected your research, and what, in your view, are the implications of this type of Gouldian-era language for the discipline as a whole?

GALLUP: Just as the title of my 1996 reply to John Archer implies, everything in science boils down to a matter of evidence. I have never taken the position that plausibility is a substitute for evidence. My 1995 paper along with my reply to Archer is based almost entirely on evidence. It is interesting how my critics tip-toe around the fact that my approach is based on a testable hypothesis, and how they go out of their way to side-step the fact that the data we’ve collected are consistent with the predictions. Whether it is politically incorrect or contrary to prevailing social dogma, is irrelevant. In science, knowing is preferable to not knowing. Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they’re open. If I were a homosexual, I’d want to know about these data...

BERING: [PZ] Myers is, of course, notorious for such over-the-top statements—like the Jim Bakker of New Atheists, a caricature of sweat, histrionics and stage glitter, he sees religious conspiracies as often as evangelicals see the Devil...

GALLUP: In contrast to women, men have what amounts to a monopoly on paraphilias and kinky sex. This is consistent with the idea that there may be a critical period following the onset of puberty that leads to sexual imprinting in males. This can be used to generate a number of testable predictions. Sexual experiences that occur before or after the critical period ought to have little or no lasting effect on sexual orientation. With parental homophobia, evolution doesn’t always result in perfect outcomes. As evidenced by the 1995 data from the third study, parents show a generalized concern for young children that are perceived to be impressionable.

According to an imprinting model, prepubertal boys who are sexually molested by older males should be relatively unaffected in terms of their sexual orientation. I would also predict that heterosexual men sent to prison and coerced into same-sex relationships with other inmates, ought to resume heterosexual lifestyles on being released. There are data that show that being sent to all male boarding schools increases the incidence of homosexuality; I would predict that this effect would be conditional upon whether they were in such schools when they went through puberty. As detailed in my 1996 reply to Archer, we’ve collected data from male homosexuals that show that most gay males don’t report getting a clear sense of their homosexual orientation until they have their first same-sex postpubertal sexual experience. I would also expect other "sex object choices," such as fetishes, to be tied to sexual experiences males have in association with sex shortly after the onset of puberty.

BERING: You claim, citing several older datasets, that homosexual men are more likely to have sexual relations with children and adolescents than are heterosexual men. In an email exchange with Ray Blanchard, perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the study of "erotic age orientation," he confirmed that a major analysis of penile responses indeed shows that, "homosexual pedophiles constitute a disproportionate number of pedophiles." But he also adds an important caveat, which is that most homosexual males are teleiophiles—attracted to adults—and they are no more attracted to children than are heterosexual teleiophiles...

GALLUP: The evidence reviewed in my 1996 response to John Archer shows that the incidence of gay males who have sex with minors—although these are likely to be postpubertal age—is far higher than Blanchard suggests. There is also evidence that shows that the propensity to have sex with minors is positively correlated with promiscuity among homosexual males. Unlike heterosexual pedophiles, homosexuals who have sex with minors target young postpubertal victims. Although they rarely admit it, heterosexual males experience sexual arousal to photos of young postpubescent females as well. Homosexuals are merely expressing a generalized evolved male strategy that puts a premium on youth. Unlike a man, a woman’s capacity to reproduce following puberty is inversely proportional to her age...

With the help of a transfer student from Taiwan, the surveys used in my 1995 paper were translated into Chinese. When this student returned to Taiwan several years later, she was able to replicate all of the effects I reported in a sample of native Taiwanese college students. While this doesn’t prove the results are a cross-cultural universal, it certainly implies that they aren’t an artifact of Western culture...

Before anyone accepts the unfounded assertions that my work is an attempt to somehow demean and diminish homosexuality and promote homophobia, they should read my 1995 paper. If you do, you will learn that the theory also predicts that even homosexuals ought to be homophobic under certain circumstances.

Contrary to the claim that most evolutionary psychologists make evolutionary biologists look bad, it’s my critics who haven’t bothered to read the literature and should know better, that make themselves look bad...

As I emphasized in my original post, Gallup’s 1995 study is imperfect, as all early-stage research endeavors are, and indeed his findings are not without alternative explanations (incidentally, however, not a single one of these critics—Myers, Yoder, Wilkinson, Wilkins, or Morgan—actually engages with Gallup’s specific findings, but instead simply brush off the data as "bad science" or "ridiculous"). But Gallup’s findings are the only data available, and they do indeed, as he says, support his hypotheses...

Evolved social biases—in whatever form they take—can only wither away the more by shining a mercilessly bright light of science on them. If this reveals unsavory blemishes, such as the stereotype that gay men are pedophiles, so be it. Some are—and as Blanchard’s data reveal, homosexual males are in fact overrepresented in this category"


(Luckily the author has Gay Privilege)


This would explain why people get very agitated when they talk about "protecting the children".
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