Are We OK With Science Predicting People's Sexual Preference?

There's another player (other than genetics) that helps dictate our sexual preferences.

The debate as to whether or not homosexuality is a choice is over. Science says so. Papers have shown it's something we're born with.


However, how our sexual preference is dictated — our sexual origins, if you will — is still under question. We know that why we're attracted to certain people has something to do with genetics, but researchers believe that may not be the entire story. Take identical twins, for example: Despite having the same genes, the twin of a gay man only has a 20 percent to 50 percent chance of also being gay. This suggests there may be more to the story.

Researchers heading up a new study believe it has something to do with epigenetics, a kind of “switch” that influences individual genes. During development of the fetus, chemical changes might occur to influence whether certain gene traits are turned on or off.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a predictive model for sexual orientation based on molecular markers," Tuck Ngun, lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.

The researchers found they could predict sexual orientation with up to 70 percent accuracy within their small sample size of 47 pairs of identical twins. They based their predictions on “the presence of specific epigenetic marks in nine areas of the human genome,” according to Reuters.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a predictive model for sexual orientation based on molecular markers," Tuck Ngun, lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.

The announcement of these results comes with some concerns. Outside of the sample size being too small to confirm that these findings have merit among a larger population, being able to predict homosexuality doesn't necessarily mean we should use it. The study of the origins of our desires is an interesting one, but there are those out there who might seek to use it for other purposes.

The researchers urge that it not be used for evil (e.g., test for sexual preference or to find some sort of misguided “cure").

After all, Bill Nye says homosexuality exists across species and throughout nature. Bonobo monkeys, for example, exhibit homosexuality. And Bonobo monkeys aren't going anywhere anytime soon. We should just live and let live.

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