Sexual orientation hardwired according to WorldNetDaily columnist – The Soy Agenda, Part 3

So now it is settled. When WorldNetDaily comes into the biological determinism camp, can the entire conservative world be far behind? Anti-soy crusader, Jim Rutz, writing in his WND column this morning says this:

No study says that soy dooms a child to homosexuality, but it’s not hard to believe that at some point during pregnancy babies are hardwired for sexual preference. (See the Psychological Medicine article in endnote 27 below.)

More on Dobson: Time (or someone) corrects Jennifer Chrisler

Yesterday, Focus on the Family released a reaction to an article written by Jennifer Chrisler, of Family Pride, in Time magazine. Ms. Chrisler’s article was a rebuttal to an article by James Dobson.

In Jennifer Chrisler’s original Time article, she wrote:

According to the 2000 census, the vast majority — more than 75% — of American children, are being raised in families that differ in structure from two married, heterosexual parents and their biological children.

However, in the current Time article online, she writes:

According to the 2000 census, the vast majority — more than 75% — of American households differ in structure from two married, heterosexual parents and their biological children.

I discovered this discrepancy this morning when I was preparing to blog about the Focus on the Family rebuttal.

Maggi Gallagher posted a letter from Jennifer Chrisler explaining a bit more about the matter.

Obviously Time corrected it but it is unclear how it initially came to their attention.

There is an unconfirmed report that the US Census may ask Ms. Chrisler to refrain from quoting Census data…

The controversy over Dr. Dobson’s Time editorial

Old news by now, there is a dust up over Dr. Dobson’s column regarding Mary Cheney and subsequent complaints by writers Dobson quotes. While not much is happening on this story in the mainstream press, blogs are all over it.

I have not looked into the matter much and am undecided how much time I am going to spend on it. It seems to me as I read the column that Dr. Dobson cites aspects of the work of these researchers but does not say they agree with his position. This happens all the time in academia. You quote people to make points with which they themselves might disagree. Data are, but how one interprets the data is another matter and certainly influenced by one’s presuppositions. First blush reaction; if I get into it more perhaps I would see it differently.

One article and discussion that I found interesting (and perhaps worth getting into) is at the website Inside Higher Ed. Many of the discussants there seem to echo my current point of view. The dialogue is spirited but on point most of the time.

One provocative comment from the Inside Higher Ed page that caught my eye was made by Stanislaus Dundon who wrote:

Using research data independently of conclusions

If Carol Gilligan has a complex argument in which the data of important distinct advantageous contributions of father and mother is somehow over-ridden by the unique advantages of same-sex or single parent homes, or at least equaled by them, let her prove that via additional data or highlighting the contrary data she has already presented. The idea of refusing to let Dobson use her data sounds a bit like the Catholic Cardinals who did not want people to look through Galileo’s telescope.

Dr. Dundon is Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at California State University – Sacramento.

UPDATE: Here are two reactions from Focus on the Family that I do not think are widely circulated. The first rebuts an article from Jennifer Chrisler who was given space by Time to respond to Dr. Dobson’s earlier op-ed. The second provides supporting documentation for Dr. Dobson’s initial op-ed.

The Soy Agenda

A bit more on the soy agenda.

Jim Rutz provided blogosphere with a rich diet of comic material with his articles here and here.

In his articles there is a pattern of selectively quoting material and using questionable sources next to authoritative ones.

Just a couple of examples.

In the most recent article, he quotes an FDA report saying that there was immediate controversy regarding the FDA guidelines regarding the beneficial health consequences of soy. While it is true that there was controversy, this is true of all such regulations. He failed to provide the context and history of dietary guidelines which came in the next sentence in the FDA report:

This [controversy] came as no surprise to Elizabeth A. Yetley, Ph.D., lead scientist for nutrition at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition . “Every dietary health claim that has ever been published has had controversy,” she says, “even the relationship of saturated fat to a healthy diet.”

Rutz later makes this statement: “…the FDA has encouraged Americans to eat 25 grams of soy protein a day as a way to prevent heart disease. This FDA health claim has doubled the consumption of soy protein in the U.S., yet was recently discredited when the American Heart Association changed its position on soy, now saying that soy does not lower cholesterol and does not prevent heart disease!”

It is true that the AHA did change its view on soy as prevention of heart disease. However, the organization did not advise people to avoid eating soy and even said “While the analysis of recent studies didn’t show any specific action of soy protein on heart risk factors, the authors said using soy protein products such as tofu, soy butter, soy nuts or some soy burgers could be beneficial. The reason is the high content of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and a low content of saturated fat that could replace other high-fat proteins in the diet, the researchers noted. “Soy products may have benefits when replacing other foods such as hamburgers,” Sacks said. “Soy burgers have no cholesterol or saturated fat and have high amounts of fiber.”

So if the choice is a McDonald’s hamburger or a soy patty, go with the soy.

Soy boys = Gay?

Can soy formula make kids gay? A minister named Jim Rutz thinks so. In a WorldNet Daily article called, “Soy is making kids ‘gay'”, Rutz claims: “Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.” Soy formula is the blame, says Rutz, for the “rise in homosexuality.” And here I thought it was a shortage of tennis rackets and pillows needing a beating.

I researched this a bit and found some concern about mice but no adverse effects in humans. So if preventing nelly mice is your thing, go easy on the Soy Chow. For further information about the subject, read this and this and this. The summary of the latter article from the Journal of the American Medical Association says:

Long-term Effects of Soy-Based Formula on Health

Dietary phytoestrogens, including soy isoflavones, have been shown to influence hormone-dependent states. To determine whether exposure to soy-based infant formula is associated with long-term effects on health, especially reproductive health, Strom and colleagues evaluated adults aged 20 to 34 years who had participated in controlled feeding studies during infancy. Women who had been fed soy formula as infants reported slightly longer duration of menstrual bleeding and greater discomfort with menstruation. For more than 30 other general and reproductive health outcomes, however, no statistically significant differences were observed between the group of adults who had been fed soy-based formula as infants and those who had been fed cow milk formula.

You know though, I have been eating a bunch of soy protein in my Kashi cereal lately. Colors do look a little brighter, and I don’t say “dude” as much as I used to and I even think Cher sounds better (not looks better, that would require another type of substance). Perhaps, I should have a more open mind…

60 Minutes segment: Mother of fraternal twin boys a lesbian

In this 60 Minutes segment “Gay or Straight?” the mother of the young fraternal twins is a lesbian who was artificially inseminated to form a fatherless family. For some reason, I think I had heard this from some source that I cannot now find. The web story on the segment is available on the CBS News website. Dr. Michael Bailey disclosed this information today in response to a question from the audience at the Catholic University of America conference on sexual orientation. The 60 Minutes segment was shown to lead off the day.

While this fact alone does not invalidate potential biological explanations, it does call them into question as the only plausible explanation. In the interests of reporting the facts of the story, CBS News should have at least mentioned the context of the twins existence. Leaving aside this disclosure, ruling out parental influence in this situation flies in the face of what we know about how parents regard and treat fraternal twins. Parents often think of them and rate them on a variety of personality dimensions as more divergent than they actually are. It is entirely conceivable to me that a parent might take any temperamental difference and accentuate it (e.g., at 18 months of age, one twin’s desire for a Barbie while the other wanted a fire truck). This may not have happened routinely, of course I don’t know, but to rule it out requires the discounting of other well-established evidence.

NARTH article reviews Danish study on childhood correlates of gay and straight marriage

Lifesite News ran an article by Linda Ames Nicolosi summarizing a research report by Morten Frisch and Anders Hviid. I covered this research last month.

While I believe the research points to the potential influence of environmental factors broadly speaking, I think the Lifesite article overstates some of the findings.

Mrs. Nicolosi correctly notes the population size – 2,000,355 native-born Danes between the ages of 18 and 49 but does not clarify that the research did not examine childhood correlates for the unmarried Danes. For gays that would mean that the study examined social factors for the married gays or about 1-5% of the gay population in Denmark (n=1890 men; n=1573 women). The study is still quite large but conclusions cannot be generalized with certainty to unpartnered gay people.

In reading the Lifesite article, one could get the impression that gays and straight were directly compared and interrelated. In other words, if homosexual rates of marriage go up then heterosexual rates go down. Not necessarily so. The childhood correlates were independently compared to gay and straight marriage decisions. People with unknown fathers were indeed less likely to marry heterosexually (“Men and women with “unknown fathers” were significantly less likely to marry a person of the opposite sex than were their peers with known fathers”) but there was no significant relationship between unknown fathers and elevated homosexual marriage. Reduced heterosexual marriage rates do not necessarily mean increased same-sex marriage. I do not think Mrs. Nicolosi’s article is clear on this point.

Another point that is misleading from the Lifesite article is this bullet point: “Men whose parents divorced before their 6th birthday were 39% more likely to marry homosexually than peers from intact parental marriages.” While this is a true finding, Mrs. Nicolosi does not report that there were only 35 men in this category and that the difference in marriage rates between this group and the comparison group was not statistically significant. Thus, although true, one cannot attach much importance to it.

It is also relevant to point out that nearly 83% of the gay men in the study did not experience parental divorce prior to their 18th birthday. Thus, the vast majority of these men enjoyed intact families through their childhood.

As I read the study, there are several provocative findings, including:

1. The fraternal birth order effect did not show up, 2. Cohabitation is correlated with higher probability of marrying homosexually, 3. Divorce has negative impacts on marriage rates for staights, and 4. Elevated rates of homosexual marriage are associated with being born in a metropolitan area versus lowered rates if you live in a rural area.

UPDATE: 1/3/06 – Warner Huston has posted an article about this study on several conservative websites. He draws heavily from the NARTH article I reference above. My comment about his piece is here.

Violent Video Games May Emotionally Arouse Players

I briefly discussed this effect in my social psychology class yesterday. I was not sure about the nonviolent game effect although I speculated that these games might also turn off the prefrontal cortex. According to this research, apparently not to same degree.

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 29 /Standard Newswire/ — Adolescents who play violent video games may exhibit differences in activity levels in areas of the brain associated with emotional arousal and self-control, according to new research at the Indiana University School of Medicine and announced Nov. 28 at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago.

The study randomly assigned 44 adolescents to play either a violent video game or a nonviolent but equally fun and exciting video game for 30 minutes. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain function immediately following the play time, researchers documented differences in brain function between the video game groups. Adolescents who had played violent video games exhibited more brain activity in a region thought to be important for emotional arousal and less activity in a brain region associated with executive functions. Executive functions are the ability to plan, shift, control and direct one’s thoughts and behavior.

“Our study indicates that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing an exciting but nonviolent game,” said Vincent P. Mathews, M.D., professor of radiology at the IU School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study.

The group that played the nonviolent game exhibited more activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain, which are involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control. They also showed less activation in the area involved in emotional arousal.

“This data differs from our earlier studies because in this study adolescents were randomly assigned to play either a violent or a nonviolent game,” said William Kronenberger, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine. “Therefore, we can attribute the difference between the groups specifically to the type of game played. Earlier studies showed a correlation between media violence exposure and brain functioning, but we did not actually manipulate the teens’ exposure to media violence in those earlier studies.”

Read the entire release here.