The “Science” of Homosexuality

The “Science” of Homosexuality

James R. Aist

“…the “science” of homosexuality is considered to be one of the “softest” of all the sciences.”

In order for one to get a grasp on the overall quality of homosexuality research, it is necessary to put the “science” of homosexuality into perspective. In the world of science, there are at least three categories based on the precision and reliability of the results obtained by scientific inquiry. Roughly speaking, the natural sciences are considered “hard” while the social sciences are usually described as “soft”. Features often cited as characteristic of hard science include: producing testable predictions, performing controlled experiments, relying on quantifiable data, a high degree of accuracy and objectivity and applying a purer form of the scientific method. Scientific disciplines can be arranged into a hierarchy of hard to soft, with physics and chemistry typically at the top, biology in an intermediate position and the social sciences at the bottom (click HERE). The “science” of homosexuality is squarely at the bottom of this hierarchy, being within the social sciences.

Let me illustrate briefly, with examples, how these three categories of scientific inquiry can produce different degrees of precision, accuracy, objectivity and reliability. The freezing point of water in a glass can be determined with a great deal of precision, reproducibility and objectivity (physics). The water has no control over the experimental result, and objective measurements are obtained. The effect of temperature on the growth rate of a fungus in a Petri dish can be measured with considerable precision, reproducibility and objectivity as well (biology). Although there is always some “biological variation” from one measurement to the next, the fungus just reacts as it must to its environment; it has no control over the result, and objective measurements are obtained. But to study homosexual behavior (social science), one must deal with a myriad of uncontrollable variables, many of which are not even known to the scientist, because people can think, emote, forget, imagine, interpret, lie and decline to answer when they are being interviewed or completing questionnaires related to their sexuality, and they may bring their own personal agenda (bias) to the process as well. Almost all of the “science” of homosexuality is plagued by this problem, because objective data are almost impossible to obtain in this soft science. The human subject has a great deal of influence on the reliability and accuracy of the data, and, therefore, the outcome is necessarily “subjective” and often highly variable. This subjectivity and relative lack of control of the variables, which is characteristic of the “science” of homosexuality, can make it difficult or impossible to draw scientifically valid inferences and conclusions. And that is why the “science” of homosexuality is considered to be one of the “softest” of all the sciences. (See ADDENDUM)

The manner in which homosexuality research is designed, executed, analyzed and interpreted by the researcher is also germane to the issue of the quality of the science and the accuracy and dependability of the conclusions. Marks (2012) discussed some of these issues as they relate to research on homosexual parenting, but the principles of sound scientific inquiry presented are applicable to the “science” of homosexuality in general. Of particular interest is what is called “Type II error.” This type of error occurs when the researcher concludes that there is no difference between two comparison groups when there is, in fact, a difference. There are several aspects of a study that can lead to Type II error, including small sample size, random variation, unreliable measures, imprecise methodology and unaccounted for variables. The difficulty of obtaining objective and reliable information from human subjects, discussed above, would be an example of what can lead to Type II error. Another example would be the sparseness of the homosexual population compared to the heterosexual population, which usually makes it difficult at best to obtain large, representative sample sizes for comparison.

Homosexuality is an emotionally charged research area, and it may be difficult for some scientists to be entirely objective in how they conduct and report their research. The researcher may have a personal, social agenda apart from conducting objective, scientifically sound research. In many cases, it would be easy to manipulate the outcomes of a study by omitting certain questions, crafting questions in a particular way, using biased sampling procedures, omitting selected demographics, and/or going prematurely to press with data sets that are so small that a real difference may appear to be no difference.

However, when the “science” of homosexuality is done objectively and competently, I believe that it can produce results and conclusions that are both reliable and useful, within the limits of a “soft science.” But, more so than with the other sciences, with the “science” of homosexuality one must constantly be on the lookout for “limitations” and “confounding factors” in the research that often make scientifically sound conclusions impossible. When that happens, one is left with the original hypothesis still untested.

Finally, because homosexuality is a prominent and emotionally charged social and political issue, there is all too often a disconnect between what the results of a particular study and did not conclude and/or infer and the version of it that is peddled to the public by the predominately liberal, pro-gay press. For example, a correlation of social stigmas with higher rates of mental health problems in homosexuals may be reported in the popular press as a scientific conclusion that social stigmas cause higher rates of mental health problems in homosexuals, despite the fact that the scientific report itself was careful to point out that the study did not show a cause-and-effect relationship at all. One can easily be led astray by popular reports of scientific studies, especially when the “science” of homosexuality is involved.

ADDENDUM

Here are two glaring examples of just how bad the “science” of homosexuality can be:

Landess, T. The Evelyn Hooker Study and the Normalization of Homosexuality. (click HERE)

Marks, L. 2012. Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting. Social Science Research 41:735-751. (click HERE to download article)

Reference Cited

Marks, L. 2012. Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting. Social Science Research 41:735-751. (click HERE to download article)

(For more of my articles on HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s