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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

More on the 60 Minutes Gay or Straight Segment

During the segment, Leslie Stahl asked Michael Bailey's views of how gay and straight men compare.

"... Straight men are more interested than straight women in having casual, uncommitted sex. Gay men are like that, too," says Bailey.

"One has the impression that gay men are much more inclined toward casual sex than straight men," Stahl said.

"They're just more successful at it, because the people they're trying to have sex with are also interested in it," Bailey explained.

"But don't you find this interesting that the one big area where gay men are more like straight men is in sex? I mean, that is…both amusing and odd," Stahl said.

"It suggests that whatever causes a man to be gay doesn't make him feminine in every respect. There must be different parts of the brain that can be feminized independently from each other," Bailey replied.

Could be. Or this lack of consistency could mean that the theory is wrong. Saying "there must be different parts" doesn't make it so.

The producer Shari Finkelstein was defended by Brian Montopoli on the CBS Blog by saying:

"The key for Finkelstein – as it was for Scott Pelley in a piece on global warming – was to stick to science."

If the writers had stuck to the science, then the show would not have come to the conclusions it did. In fact, given the state of the science, there would not have been conclusions. On point, here is a quote from the piece: "There are many more questions at this point than answers, but the scientists 60 Minutes spoke to are increasingly convinced that genes, hormones, or both — that something is happening to determine sexual orientation before birth." If there are many more questions than answers then how can the scientists be "increasingly convinced?"

How is this stance sticking to the science?

Comments:
There are a lot of similarities between Bailey and John Money, at least style-wise. Both make sweeping generalizations from very limited or even fictional data. Both have had serious ethical problems. Both seem to have made names for themselves based primarily on the public image and attitude they cultivated rather than the strength of their actual scientific work. Basically, Bailey knows how to give a good sound bite. It takes some digging and some technical knowledge to get to his fallacies, and the modern media isn't really set up to do that.
 
I don't see why the two statements are incompatible.

There remain many unanswered questions. That does not alter the fact that solid evidence for a biological basis for sexual attraction has emerged. Obviously those researchers are convinced about that. The question remaining is not whether there is such a basis, but the exact mechanism/s of it.

Here's a good illustation for the readers: go play "20 Questions" with a bunch of kids. If they manage to correctly piece together the answer before they've been given all questions... you just observed the scientific method in action.

Knowing, after just 2 Yes/No questions, that the object is both "big" and "a bird" answers a great deal about what the object is not. You can sure it's not a whale. Or a gay man.

Whether it's an ostrich, rhea, cassowary or emu remains to be determined.
 
Seems more reasonable to me to take a more tentative approach when there are so many inconsistencies in the evidence.
 
You may feel that way. It's worth asking though: what proof would you require?

Related to that, and I know I've asked before: I would still like you to outline what you believe these inconsistencies are. You often mention they exist, but I've yet to see you lay out what they are (and why you think they are an inconsistency).

While you may not want to state what you think will eventually be concluded at this point, you should at least be able to say what remains unanswered for you. Yes?

I'm not going to speculate here what your motives may be, but we'd have to consider there is a real possiblity that you are playing with "God of the gaps" in order to promote doubt in and of itself. This, of course, helps many avoid a crisis of faith...
 
So did 60 Minutes talk about us lesbians at all? Or are we just too complicated....?
 
The question Leslie Stahl asked Michael Bailey was a very good one. This view of men, whether heterosexual or homosexual, being more interested in anonymous sex than women, is largely due to Donald Symons's famous book on the evolution of human sexuality.

Symons concluded that the fact that men were more interested in casual sex than women regardless of whether they were gay or straight showed that this tendency was a more basic part of male sexuality than preference for the same or the opposite sex. This seems highly plausible, and should worry anyone who thinks sexual orientation is biologically determined.
 
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