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SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of Ã¢â‚¬Å“gayÃ¢â‚¬Â sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.
The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.
It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“straighteningÃ¢â‚¬Â procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.
The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.
Navratilova defended the Ã¢â‚¬Å“rightÃ¢â‚¬Â of sheep to be gay. She said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?Ã¢â‚¬Â She said gay men and lesbians would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“deeply offendedÃ¢â‚¬Â by the social implications of the tests.
But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the Ã¢â‚¬Å“broad questionÃ¢â‚¬Â of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at Ã¢â‚¬Å“curingÃ¢â‚¬Â homosexuality.
Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.
The scientists have been able to pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of Ã¢â‚¬Å“male-orientedÃ¢â‚¬Â rams by studying their brains. The animalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.
By varying the hormone levels, mainly by injecting hormones into the brain, they have had Ã¢â‚¬Å“considerable successÃ¢â‚¬Â in altering the ramsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ sexuality, with some previously gay animals becoming attracted to ewes.
Professor Charles Roselli, the Health and Science University biologist leading the research, defended the project.
He said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“In general, sexuality has been under-studied because of political concerns. People donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want science looking into what determines sexuality.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a touchy issue. In fact, several studies have shown that people who believe homosexuality is biologically based are less homophobic than people who think that this orientation is acquired.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The research is being peer-reviewed by a panel of scientists in America, demonstrating that it is being taken seriously by the academic community.
Potentially, the techniques could one day be adapted for human use, with doctors perhaps being able to offer parents pre-natal tests to determine the likely sexuality of offspring or a hormonal treatment to change the orientation of a child.
Roselli has said he would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“uncomfortableÃ¢â‚¬Â about parents choosing sexuality, but argues that it is up to policy makers to legislate on questions of ethics.
Michael Bailey, a neurology professor at Northwestern University near Chicago, said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Allowing parents to select their childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sexual orientation would further a parentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s freedom to raise the sort of children they want to raise.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Critics fear the findings could be abused.
Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has written to the researchers pressing them to stop, said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is typical of the US to ignore the global context in which this is taking place.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics. There is a danger that extreme homophobic regimes may try to use these experimental results to change the orientation of gay people.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said that the techniques being developed in sheep could in future allow parents to Ã¢â‚¬Å“play GodÃ¢â‚¬Â.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the pressure group, condemned the study as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity and a colossal waste of precious research fundsÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The tests on gay sheep are the latest in a long line of experiments seeking to alter the sexuality of humans and animals.
GÃƒÂ¼nther Dorner, a scientist in the former East Berlin, carried out hormone-altering tests on rodents in the 1960s in the hope of finding a way to eradicate homosexuality.
In 2002, Simon LeVay, an American neurologist, claimed to have discovered that homosexual and heterosexual men had physically different brains. His tests on the corpses of gay men who had died of Aids were widely criticised.
I had this in response on another fourm outside of drunk duck where I found the new article via an thread:
Yeah. there's no real proof this could even work on humans. and John Who raises an good point--what's the point if it only works on male sheep?
oh yeah, that's right.. it's not really about homosexuality, it's about raising the male sheep's value to farmers... so they don't really focus on the females.
so if it was to work on humans... what would be the point of there being no gay men at all but there being lesbians? oh yes, that's right... lesbians are known to be much more "socially acceptable". there's millions of men out there who thinks the very idea of male on male repulsive but they'll get turned on by lesbians. there's even women who finds that kind of logic Okay because they base it all on the aesthetics-- Men are ugly, so the idea of ugly people together is ew. But on the other hand women are known to be much more aesthetically pleasing even if they're not a perfect model... plus they base it on the women's Psyche, how they're much "more inclined to love" than men.
crazy, messed up societal views.
By the way if you couldn't tell, I think that idea of using hormones to ensure that your children is "straight", is sickening. It has nothing to do with me supporting Gay rights or anything, but based on the fact that if we allow that kind of thing then other things would follow-- using genetics to ensure that your children will look "perfect", to ensure no kind of flaw is ever found in your own children. and all that jazz. What next? we find some way to biologically dermine that the children will follow in thier parent's footsteps or to ensure that the kids are perfectly skilled at everything for some future jobs that thier parents wants them to have?
And how will we dermine what is "perfect" and what isn't in humans? Most imporantly, the Media has already an negative effect on how people has self-image problems, or even unreal expections of what "beautiful" and "perfect" is. So if this hormone thing was to lead to using such a thing to also dermine how your children looks, some people actually might end up wanting thier children to look more like celebrities or something. It also may lead to increased amounts of parents having VERY high expections of what thier children should be like.. unreal expections too at that.
I think parenting should be all about loving your own children, everything about them despsite the fact that they may have some "less-than-ideal" characterstics that you might wish they didn't have but still love them anyway.
this sort of thing may lead to parents being competely intorelant of ANY "non-perfect" characterstics in thier own children, leading to some damaged relationships.
Also, we as humans need to learn that nothing is perfect. that we may have to accept how things are, even if we don't like part of it. inducing our uncles, sisters, brothers, etc being gay.
So what do YOU think about this? kicking off this debate, new year style!