New Study: Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone May Influence Adult Sexual Orientation

image003The causes of sexual attraction continue to be of significant interest. This study will focus attention on prenatal factors, far outside of an individual’s control. These findings may also direct attention to the administration of Progesterone.

PRESS RELEASE
Progesterone and bisexuality: Is there a link?
Giving progesterone to prevent miscarriage could influence baby’s sexual orientation in later life
Heidelberg | New York, 3 April 2017
Bisexuality is quite common among men and women whose mothers received additional doses of the sex hormone progesterone while pregnant. This is one of the findings of a study led by June Reinisch, Director Emerita of The Kinsey Institute in the US, published in Springer’s journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study tracked the sexual development of 34 Danes whose mothers were treated with the hormone to prevent miscarriage.
According to the research team, progesterone appears to be an underappreciated factor influencing the normal development of variations in human sexuality and psychosexuality. The findings warrant further investigation given that little is known about the effects on offspring of natural variations in levels of maternal progesterone and that progesterone is widely used to treat pregnancy complications.
Men and women all naturally produce the sex hormone progesterone. It is involved in women’s menstrual cycles, and helps to maintain pregnancies and development of the fetus. It plays a role in neural development and the production of other sex hormones as well as steroid hormones that help to regulate stress responses, inflammation, and metabolism in the body. Physicians often prescribe progesterone and its bio-versions to support the fertilization process, to prevent miscarriages or premature births, or to increase babies’ birth weights.
The 34 participants in the study were drawn from the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort, which comprises information collected from virtually all children born between 1959 and 1961 at the university hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 17 men and 17 women were selected because their mothers exclusively received the progesterone lutocyclin to prevent a miscarriage. These men and women were compared with a carefully selected control group who were not exposed prenatally to lutocyclin or any other hormone medication, but who otherwise matched the study participants based on 14 relevant physical, medical, and socioeconomic factors. The participants were all in their mid-20s when asked about their sexual orientation, self-identification, attraction to each sex, and sexual history using questionnaires and a structured interview with a psychologist.
It was found that men and women whose mothers were treated with progesterone were significantly less likely to describe themselves as heterosexual. One in every five (20.6 percent) of the progesterone- exposed participants labeled themselves as other than heterosexual. Compared to the untreated group, the chances were greater that by their mid-20s they had already engaged in some form of same-sex sexual behavior (in up to 24.2 percent of cases), and that they were attracted to the same (29.4 percent) or to both sexes (17.6 percent). Both exposed males and females also had higher scores related to attraction to men.
“Progesterone exposure was found to be related to increased non-heterosexual self-identification, attraction to the same or both sexes, and same-sex sexual behavior,” says Reinisch. “The findings highlight the likelihood that prenatal exposure to progesterone may have a long-term influence on behavior related to sexuality in humans.”
The research team believes further studies on the offspring of women medically treated with progesterone and other progestogens during their pregnancies as well as studies examining the effects of natural variation in prenatal progesterone levels are warranted to provide more insight into the role that this hormone plays in the development of human behavior.
Reference: Reinisch, J.M. et al. (2017). Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone Affects Sexual Orientation in Humans, Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI: 10.1007/s10508-016-0923-z

Calling All Former Participants in Studies of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

Writing on Tuesday about Joseph Nicolosi’s new reparative therapy study got me thinking about the other studies of sexual orientation change efforts which have come and gone. I know a few participants in the Spitzer, Shidlo and Schroeder, Jones and Yarhouse studies who once told researchers they had changed orientation but now identify as gay. I suspect some have stayed about the same as they were when they participated in the research. It would be interesting to find out if there are any patterns in experience since those studies were published.
With that in mind, I am calling for subjects in any of the studies designed to assess sexual reorientation to contact me. If you participated in the Spitzer, Shidlo and Schroeder, Jones and Yarhouse, or any study which asked if you had changed orientation (including my 2005 study), please contact me at this email (SOCEFollowup@gmail.com). Those interested don’t have to reveal their identities at first and feel free to write with any questions about this effort.
It seems pretty clear to me that some erosion in the percentage of people claiming change has occurred since Exodus International shut down. Several former leaders in Exodus have recently come out as gay and there may be others who participated in studies from that era who have gone in a different direction. While this isn’t exact science, it may help to shed some light on the long term experience of those who once claimed to have changed orientation.
 

Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

Why Christians Should Listen to the Pope's Encyclical on Climate Change

The Pope’s encyclical on climate change will probably change the conversation among religiously conservative people.
Writing on the Biologos website, Katherine Hayhoe and Edwin Maurer argue that religiously conservative Christians should heed and follow the encyclical.
Biologos’ press release begins:

INTRO: Yesterday saw the release of “Laudato Si’,” an encyclical letter from Pope Francis. Although the massive document provides counsel on many contemporary issues, its primary focus is the worldwide ecological crisis caused by modern human activity. It explicitly affirms the reality of human-induced climate change, and urges Christians to move beyond debating the causes to stopping the damage. Today, we feature a response by world-renowned climate scientist and evangelical Christian Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, along with her colleague Dr. Ed Maurer. Look next week for further thoughts by the BioLogos staff as well as scholars in our community.

Hayhoe and Maurer agree with the pope and add a good bit more:

The Pope is not alone; the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative , the 2011 National Association of Evangelicals report, “ Loving the Least of These ,” and the 2013 letter from 200 evangelical scientists to Congress all state in clear and unmistakable terms that the basis for caring about climate change is nothing less than love—a fundamental Christian value espoused by any believer from any denomination. So whom should we believe? As scientists, we know the importance of evidence; whether revealed through God’s written word or through creation. There is nothing in the Bible that says human-induced climate change isn’t possible. And there is plenty in creation that tells us that it is.

In my opinion, Hayhoe and Maurer are bringing good information to Christians. The work I have seen certainly indicates a human element to the elevation of temperatures, as well as other problems.
Read the entire article here.

Science Retracts 2014 Study of Attributions About Gay Marriage Over Objections of Lead Author

This retraction had been anticipated, but just a little while ago, Science made it official. The 2014 study of attitude change toward gay marriage had been widely criticized. The now-retracted study abstract indicated that brief contacts with pro-gay marriage people could generate significant attitude change.

Can a single conversation change minds on divisive social issues, such as same-sex marriage? A randomized placebo-controlled trial assessed whether gay (n = 22) or straight (n = 19) messengers were effective at encouraging voters (n = 972) to support same-sex marriage and whether attitude change persisted and spread to others in voters’ social networks. The results, measured by an unrelated panel survey, show that both gay and straight canvassers produced large effects initially, but only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups. We also find strong evidence of within-household transmission of opinion change, but only in the wake of conversations with gay canvassers. Contact with gay canvassers further caused substantial change in the ratings of gay men and lesbians more generally. These large, persistent, and contagious effects were confirmed by a follow-up experiment. Contact with minorities coupled with discussion of issues pertinent to them is capable of producing a cascade of opinion change.

Science’s Office of Public Affairs provided the following press release:

Subject:For Immediate Release: Retraction of Science Report by LaCour and Green
Date: May 28, 2015 at 2:00:16 PM EDT
Dear Science press package registrants,
Today, Thursday, 28 May, 2015, Science, with the concurrence of author Donald P. Green, is retracting the 12 December 2014 Report “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” by Michael J. LaCour and Dr. Green. Mr. LaCour does not agree to this retraction.
Science provided three key reasons for the retraction: (1) the misrepresentation of survey incentives; (2) false statements of sponsorship; and (3) the inability to produce original data, which makes it impossible to verify or alleviate concerns about statistical irregularities documented in an independent online response to the original work. Please refer to the “summary of irregularities” cited in the retraction.
Science had previously published an Editorial Expression of Concern about the study, on Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, to alert readers to the fact that serious questions had been raised about the validity of the study’s results. This was after receiving a retraction request from Dr. Green, on Tuesday, 19 May, 2015.
Reporters registered with EurekAlert! can also refer to the original Science Press Package summary of this study and related materials, which have been updated with a retraction notice.
A link to a related news story by John Bohannon, a contributing correspondent to Science’s news department, can be found here: http://news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2015/05/science-retracts-gay-marriage-paper-without-lead-author-s-consent
Links to Retraction and other Materials Cited Above:
Report: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6215/1366.abstract?sid=42205fe4-b4a6-4cde-bc1a-3c3caaecfdc5
Retraction: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/05/27/science.aac6638
Independent Online Response:http://stanford.edu/~dbroock/broockman_kalla_aronow_lg_irregularities.pdf
Editorial Expression of Concern:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/05/20/science.aac6184
Original Science Press Package Summary: http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/sci/summaries-12-12-14.php#C
Sincerely,
Science Press Package Team, Office of Public Programs
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue, NW | Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-326-6440 | E-mail: scipak@aaas.org
Twitter: @scipak | www.aaas.org

 

Can Science Make a Fine-Tuned Case for God? – A Response to Eric Metaxas

In his Christmas Day Wall Street Journal article, author Eric Metaxas promises that he will explain how science makes a “relatively recent case for God’s existence.”  He then spends a significant part of the op-ed telling us that scientists have been looking for life sustaining planets since the 1960s but have yet to find any. Metaxas reminds readers that Congress defunded the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in 1993. He then tells us that researchers continue to look but that “As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.”
In addition to the absence of habitable planets, Metaxas says humans shouldn’t be here.

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

As I read the article, I had the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right.
On examination of NASA’s program to discover habitable planets, I found information which tells a very different story than told by Metaxas in the WSJ. For instance, in February 2014, NASA announced discovery of a “motherlode” of exoplanets, four of which orbited their stars in a habitable zone.  Then in April, NASA announced the discovery of a potentially habitable planet about the size of Earth. Watch:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/RlidbLyDnPs[/youtube]
And then just a week ago, NASA announced that the Kepler mission has discovered 1,000 planets with a total of eight being in the habitable zone.  In contrast to the pessimism implied by Metaxas, planet hunters seemed pleased with the results of their work:

“With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth,” said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. “The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

While eight is not a gazillion; as of now, it isn’t bubkis either.
However, it is not particularly scientific or helpful in any sense to pick a side and declare the debate over. While NASA’s planet hunters are optimistic, some experts are skeptical about life on other planets. Furthermore, the newly discovered planets might not be habitable, or they might not even exist. Recently, a team from University of Texas in Austin provided data which cast doubt on the existence of planets orbiting in the habitable zone of dwarf star Gliese 581. However, the scientific attitude is to pursue the evidence wherever it leads. The technology to find evidence of such planets is in very early stages and with advancements may lead to better understanding.
Lead researcher Paul Robertson in the Gliese study takes the position that the techniques which allowed his team to rule out a planet orbiting Gliese will allow them to find other real planets in the future. In the McDonald Observatory press release on the study, Robertson said:

While it is unfortunate to find that two such promising planets do not exist, we feel that the results of this study will ultimately lead to more Earth-like planets.

In light of their findings, I asked another member of the UT-Austin team, Michael Endl research scientist at the McDonald Observatory at UT-Austin, his view of Metaxas’ article. I wondered if he was pessimistic about finding habitable planets since he had helped disprove one such planet existed. In reply, Endl said:

One common mistake that Metaxas does is to take the null result from SETI and draw the incorrect conclusion that this means life is rare. Complex, intelligent, technological life might be sparse but simple life might be quite common. For most of its time, Earth was a planet inhabited by microbes. There could be less complex life on habitable planets around every single star in the night sky and we wouldn’t know it.

Regarding the future of planet hunting, Endl is ebullient:

NASA’s Kepler mission has already shown that small planets are common around other stars, and soon we will know how common Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars in the Kepler field are. New missions like TESS, K2 and PLATO will find more of these planets closer to us, around nearby stars. And with the next generation of large aperture ground-based telescopes, as well as new space telescopes, like the James-Webb Space Telescope, we might be able to probe some of them for bio-signatures in their atmospheres.

I also asked Endl for a list of the 200 criteria for planetary life mentioned by Metaxas. Endl replied:

This is also bogus. There is no list of criteria that scientists use. You can make this list arbitrarily long or short, depending on your viewpoint. Sagan was talking in the broadest terms, distance to star and mass/radius of the planet. Since we do not know what criteria are really needed for life to form, such a list is very artificial.

The more I gather evidence, the more I am feeling like the WSJ op-ed is both outdated and premature. It is outdated because Metaxas primarily relied on a 2006 statement from a retired political scientist (Peter Schenkel) as an authority to discredit the search for habitable planets when, in fact, there is currently great optimism about the Kepler research program and technological advances among scientists. However, the article is premature in that the search for habitable planets has a long way to go with numerous advances in technology to come. We know more than Metaxas told us but we don’t know enough to say much for certain. Thus, it is hard to sustain enthusiasm about the article’s premise.
It is tempting to scold Metaxas for taking us all on a ride by failing to incorporate a more complete and accurate picture of his topic. However, I want to conclude more positively.
I don’t take strong issue with one of the points Metaxas brings us. There are times when scientific research work dovetails nicely with what we believe about God. I point out this common ground frequently in my classes. For instance, I think the social psychological study of self-serving bias provides a nice point of contact with my theological views of human depravity.  Likewise, I think the work on ostracism and attachment match up nicely with theological conceptions of humans existing in the image of God. However, I don’t think we can push this too hard in areas where our knowledge is tentative.  As Kurtis McCathern pointed out yesterday, studying the cosmos looking for God could lead us to several different images, some of which might be hazardous to our preconceptions.
In another context, I summarized my approach to faith and science:

I start with the premise that science is no threat to faith. If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better. Extending that belief to history, I do not need the founders to be evangelicals in order to enjoy and defend American freedom for people of my faith, another faith, and no faith.
Loving God with all my mind doesn’t mean splitting it in two. If a study of science or history tells me something uncomfortable, I do not retool the science or history to make me comfortable. I walk by faith, live with the tension, and accept what is in front of my face.

Finally, I actually agree with Metaxas’ WSJ conclusion: this universe and our place in it is a miracle. My personal belief is that it is a miracle brought about somehow by God. However, I don’t need science to tell me that. I know it when I listen to Led Zeppelin with a friend over tacos, hear my granddaughter say Papa, hold my grandson, watch my children grow and change, and experience the love and kindness of my wife. And after surviving open heart surgery a little over two years ago, I am more convinced than ever that every minute of life is a miracle.

Note to One News Now: The New Genetics Study Replicated Xq28

When I read the recent One News Now blurb attempting to attack the reports of the linkage study involving gay brothers, I thought of Inigo Montoya:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk[/youtube]
Replication refers to finding the same or similar results in a research study. Peter LaBarbera says lack of replication is a problem for genetics studies of homosexuality. Inconvenient for LaBarbera is the fact that the new study, which he claims to know something about, replicates the finding of linkage at Xq28. While it is true that prior efforts have been mixed regarding Xq28, there has been prior support for the region and this study found linkage there. Thus, this study replicated prior studies, including the work of Dean Hamer.
I would be willing to bet Mr. LaBarbera has not read the study. If he had, he would know that he told ONN something opposite of the truth.

New Study of Gay Brothers Renews Interest in Genetic Factors in Homosexuality

Papers in Australia and the UK published stories late yesterday about a study recently described at the 2013 International Association for Sex Research by Alan Sanders and then yesterday by Michael Bailey at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on genetics and homosexuality. According to an abstract of a 2012 presentation of the study, the researchers conducted a genome-wide linkage study involving over 400 pairs of gay brothers. The team identified two regions of interest: the pericentromeric region of chromosome 8 and Xq28, the region previously reported by Dean Hamer in 1993. According to the 2012 abstract, the findings “suggest that genetic variation in each of these regions contributes to development of the important psychological trait of male sexual orientation.”
The study has not been published but will surely renew interest in genetic factors involved in homosexuality. According to Bailey, as reported in the Guardian, sexual orientation is not a choice. However, this does not mean that sexual orientation is completely determined by genes. It appears that the regions identified in this study contribute in some manner to variation in the trait of sexual orientation. The linkages identified in the study do not eliminate the role of other factors in sexual orientation, including the balance of hormones during fetal development.
The new study is consistent with our statement in the recent letter to Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni:

From a scientific perspective, the causes of homosexuality are only partially understood. While it is unlikely that there is one simple biological or genetic cause for homosexuality in all people, there are neural, cognitive and personality differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals which appear to have at least some basis in biology.

Truth Wins Out has an interview with Alan Sanders about the study and related issues in interpreting the role of genetics in homosexuality.
 
 
 

Note To David Barton And Kenneth Copeland: PTSD Is Real

Kenneth Copeland’s and David Barton’s teaching on post-traumatic stress disorder struck a raw nerve.
On Veteran’s Day, Copeland and Barton claimed that the Old Testament book of Numbers 32 is a promise that soldiers who fight for God are promised that they will return from battle and can get rid of PTSD if they cast out demonic influences. Reaction was swift and negative. Predictably, left leaning groups castigated the two. However, equally strong was the reaction from evangelical and conservative circles. These groups have good reason to react negatively, the advice given by Barton and Copeland was dangerously misinformed.
I rarely treat PTSD these days. However, when I owned a group practice in Southern Ohio, I had a contract with the Veteran’s Administration to treat Vietnam Vets with PTSD. Before he died, my uncle struggled with his experiences in WWII, often using alcohol to quiet the raging memories inside. The intrusive thoughts and sense of dread are quite real to the person who suffers. Advances in brain imaging have begun to reveal some answers to why some people experience symptoms after trauma and others do not. And Numbers 32 has no role in the differences.
A recent VA study found that the parts of the brain which encode incoming information remain active in PTSD patients whereas non-sufferers show more neural flexibility. Study co-author Lisa James said, “The deficit that we see in PTSD is the absence of that ability to modulate.”
Acting along with pre-existing vulnerability, trauma seems to actually erode the resilience and mood regulating functions of the brain. A 2011 NIMH funded study found fewer neurons responsible for passing chemical messages through the brain in victims of trauma than in brains of controls participants. The brain scans below depicts the difference:

Patients with PTSD (right) had significantly fewer serotonin 1B receptors (yellow & red areas) in their brain stress circuits than healthy controls (left). PET scan images show destinations of a radioactive tracer that binds to serotonin 1B receptors. Front of brain is at bottom. Source: Alexander Neumeister, M.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine

A quick review of the other NIMH work and many other studies showing real changes as the result of trauma demonstrate the harmful nature of the advice given by Copeland and Barton.  One cannot just “get rid of it” as Copeland counseled.
Copeland and Barton should immediately offer an apology and point people to the VA and/or other credible medical and psychological professionals.
 

Based on Biased Reading of New Mortality Study, Paul Cameron Gives Sen. Portman Parenting Advice

In this month’s edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology, Morten Frisch and Jacob Simonsen reported a new study of mortality in Denmark. Paul Cameron wasted little time trotting out the study to give Senator Rob Portman advice on how to parent his gay son – tell him to get married to a woman. Apparently, any woman will do. After all, in the words of the song, what’s love got to do with it?
Cameron says he even went to Ohio to deliver his advice:

COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 24, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Dr. Paul Cameron, the first scientist to document the harms of secondhand smoke, went to Ohio’s capital to call upon U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to reconsider his recently announced support for gay marriage. “Sen. Portman, gay marriage is hazardous to one’s health. For the sake of the son you love, urge him to marry a woman.”

Cameron did say at least one thing that was true in his presser:

Cameron said, “Bad science is bipartisan…”

Proven by Cameron’s own press release, bad science is indeed everywhere.  And bad advice. One of the findings of the Frisch and Simonsen study is that mortality for same-sex married men is better than “unmarried, divorced and widowed men.” It is also important to note that the mortality rates for gay married men have improved since Frisch’s last study. Cameron doesn’t tell you that.
Cameron and Frisch tangled on this blog back in 2007 and 2008. Cameron made his mortality claims in a “study” presented before the Eastern Psychological Association and Frisch responded to him as a part of a nine-part series I did on gay mortality claims. Frisch’s first study on gay mortality was done in part to address Cameron’s spurious claims.
To understand more about Paul Cameron and his feelings about gays, read part 9 of the series. Disturbingly enlightening.
I have asked Morten for additional reactions and will have more reflections on the study in a coming post.