Friday, July 09, 2010

One Funny, One Serious ...

... note.

Based on this article.The funny is the picture of a bunch of mice, on the right hand side. The caption: These mice have preferences. Seriously? That's your caption? Duh.

Now, for the serious stuff.
A GENE has been discovered that appears to dictate the sexual preferences of female mice. Delete the gene and the modified mice reject the advances of the males and attempt to mate with other females instead.
Which gene, and how?
The gene the team deleted is for an enzyme called fucose mutarotase, which adds the sugar fucose to proteins. Park believes that disabling the gene exposes parts of the developing mouse brain linked with sexual preference in adult life to extra oestrogen. The hormone masculinises the brain in mice - though not in people.

In a normal female mouse fetus, this extra oestrogen would be "filtered out" by a substance called alpha-fetoprotein. But AFP only functions properly when adorned with fucose. So without the gene that makes the enzyme, AFP cannot keep the flood of oestrogen at bay.

As a result, the female mouse brain develops as if it were a male. "The mutant female mouse underwent a slightly altered developmental program in the brain to resemble the male brain in terms of sexual preference," says Park.
I don't really intend to get into the whole nature/nurture debate on homosexuality. To me, I honestly don't care if it is a personal decision, or has some sort of genetic basis, or is a mixture of both, or varies dependent upon the person.

What I do care about is the road that such studies could go down. So what if scientists could establish a link between a single gene and lesbianism? Seems like it'd be to screen for. That is where my concerns arise. And they are not concerns I hold alone. The US Council of Catholic Bishops have a page discussing the moral implications of prenatal testing. Here is the "money quote" from that page, and they cite Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
But since the possibilities of prenatal therapy are today still limited, it not infrequently happens that these techniques are used with a eugenic intention which accepts selective abortion in order to prevent the birth of children affected by various types of anomalies. Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible, since it presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of “normality” and physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia. (no. 63)
Bold emphasis is mine. I do not think it is such a large leap to think that some people would consider homosexuality to be considered an "anomaly" just like one might view a child with Down's Syndrome to be considered an "anomaly". I think we need to be very careful when we head down these roads. It is one thing to wish to understand the things we experience in this world. I think it is another thing entirely to create tests to screen for them afterward. I don't think any small amount of irony should be lost on the fact that the Catholic Church -- an institution that many (not all, but many) of the more liberal-minded people in this country despise -- would be the first to step up in the defense of all people who could be construed as an "anomaly".

Further reading: Evangelium Vitae

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