Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Genetic knowledge and morality

Nicholas Kristof looks at the implications of scientific evidence for homosexuality being genetic in origin: Look at your fingers. They may tell a lot


That sexual preference is generically determined should not be surprising. Sex is what we're here for and choosing who or what to do it with has been selected for for some considerable time.

A problem with a gene for homosexuality is how can it be selected for when it would, by definition, not be able to replicate? Even though some gay people do have children such a gene would still be under tremendous extinction pressure. Bryan Sykes in "Adam's Curse" argues a case for a genetic origin of homosexuality that does not rely on a specific gene.

The other issue that Kristof looks at is the moral and ethical implications of such knowledge. Needless to say knowing that sexual preference is genetically determined really has no bearing on how gays should be treated - which is just like heteros. Science is not a new God to which we can turn to for moral absolutes. Whatever the origin of sexual preference we are on our own as to how we choose to respond.

But consider if paedophilia is genetic (and I am in no way trying to make any connection between paedophilia and homosexuality). How would that change our perception of the problem and its solution? It may be argued treating paedophilia not as a matter of personal choice would lead to a lifelong treatment/incarceration regime. So in this instance genetic knowledge could influence the way we treat people with this particular sexual preference.

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