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Old 08-29-2019, 09:56 PM
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Gay genetics - good news or bad?


So there's a study out, which will no doubt be vastly misquoted and overblown, that suggests that gay men and Lesbian women share certain genetic interactions different from people with a heterosexual orientation.

On the one hand, if this research bears out, it will drive another nail in the "gay is a (sinful) choice" shibboleth beloved by homophobes.

On the other hand, let's look out 25 years or so. I fear a push to have geneticists identify all the "gay genetics" for all the wrong reasons - genetic modification, abortion of fetuses with the "wrong" orientation, and a sort of "someone must be gay/straight because genetics is destiny" overreaction.

So am I looking at this the wrong way? Would you prefer taking a genetic test when you're an adolescent to tell you those sexual feelings you're having are because that's what your genes tell you to feel? When you and your partner are expecting a baby, what would you say if the doctor offered to run a few tests to tell you both the physical characteristics and sexual orientation of your baby?

Last edited by Kent Clark; 08-29-2019 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 08-29-2019, 11:30 PM
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We live in a physical universe. Why would it be a surprise that genetics governs biological entities?
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Old 08-29-2019, 11:36 PM
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Why would you need to take a test to tell you what you feel? That does not make sense.

Genetic testing is useful for things like telling you have a 65% risk of developing such and such a metabolic disorder.
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Old 08-30-2019, 08:16 AM
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Are we reading the same study?

How does
Quote:
"We also found that it's effectively impossible to predict an individual's sexual behavior from their genome," Neale said. "Genetics is less than half of this story for sexual behavior, but it's still a very important contributing factor."
put any nails in the idea that it is a choice, or that there will be a test for gayness in 25 years?
Quote:
a study out, which will no doubt be vastly misquoted and overblown
Indeed.

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Shodan
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Old 08-30-2019, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent Clark View Post
So there's a study out, which will no doubt be vastly misquoted and overblown, that suggests that gay men and Lesbian women share certain genetic interactions different from people with a heterosexual orientation.
I don't know exactly what you mean by "genetic interactions", but the study shows nothing remotely like what you're suggesting.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6456/869

Quote:
They discovered five loci that correlate with ever having same-sex behavior...when they combine the effects of these loci together into one comprehensive score, the effects are so small (under 1%) that this genetic score cannot in any way be used to predict same-sex sexual behavior of an individual.
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Old 08-30-2019, 08:54 AM
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I've read at least 12 studies on genetic/environment causes of homosexuality and while the study results (and quality) varied quite a bit, when I teased out an avg with higher weights given to the larger, more controlled studies, it seemed to me the consensus pointed to roughly 35% genetic, 65% environmental. Of course that breakdown is over the whole population. There could be a subset of that population whose sexual preference is determined nearly 100% genetically. I was very surprised that it skewed towards environmental.
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Old 08-30-2019, 09:41 AM
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Really what this means is that the 23andme chip couldn't find a marker.


Remember that these chips only have a very limited amount of coverage as even their newest chip version only reads about 640K of around 10 million SNPs or less than 7%.

Quote:
A range of different chips have been used for the 23andMe test since the introduction of the service:
  • v1: November 2007
  • v2: September 2008, ~555K SNPs
  • v3: November 2010, >900K SNPs
  • v4: November 2013, ~570K SNPs
  • v5 August 2017, ~640K SNPs (change made to Illumina Global Screening Array BeadChip)
While these types of studies do have value by constraining future searches they are absolutely not exhaustive at all.

As an analogy: if you think your cell phone is in your house and you don't find it when you check in the kitchen; you don't need to check the kitchen again.

These consumer direct DNA companies have to stretch the truth in order to make money...and while the researchers working for them most likely understand this they really have to temper how they word public releases to protect their revenue stream.

Also note that these chips have a 85% false positive rate for very rare variants in one study.

So really these studies provide more hints but really don't provide much as for actual evidence at this point in time.
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Old 08-30-2019, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent Clark View Post
So there's a study out, which will no doubt be vastly misquoted and overblown, that suggests that gay men and Lesbian women share certain genetic interactions different from people with a heterosexual orientation.
No, it doesn't. It quite explicitly says that they did not ask about orientation.
Quote:
Importantly, most participants were asked about frequency of same-sex sexual behavior but not if they self-identified as gay or lesbian.
Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-30-2019, 10:06 AM
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What is the debate here?

I don't think it's controversial that genetics makes a partial contribution to behavioral traits.

I am always skeptical when people try to use biology to justify their choices. If someone says "don't persecute me for being gay, I have the gay gene", what does that imply for gay people who lack a gay gene? Does their gay card get revoked? What about bisexual people?

Be who you are, let others do the same, don't make moral judgments based on genetics.
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Old 08-30-2019, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMS Irruncible View Post
What is the debate here?

I don't think it's controversial that genetics makes a partial contribution to behavioral traits.

I am always skeptical when people try to use biology to justify their choices. If someone says "don't persecute me for being gay, I have the gay gene", what does that imply for gay people who lack a gay gene? Does their gay card get revoked? What about bisexual people?

Be who you are, let others do the same, don't make moral judgments based on genetics.
The main way I see it being "used" is for various homophobic factions to dismiss it as a "choice" or to justify beliefs in cruel pseudoscientific laws and conversion therapies.

While pop-science is almost always really really bad this false belief is bolstered when media outlets like time use poor clickbait headlines like: "There is No Such Thing As a 'Gay Gene,' a New Study Argues"

Remember that due to the "The Fundamental Attribution Error", us humans tend to apply what we view as failings of members outside of our group as "moral failings".


Obviously we will never see an honest headline like:
Quote:
Meta-study of SNP-chip DNA test with <7% SNP coverage fails to identify a single SNP correlation with self-reported sexual histories. Note: [1] SNP-chips are highly inaccurate for genotyping rare and clinically-actionable variants. [2] Self-reported assessments of sexual behavior are prone to a number of measurement concerns which may affect the reliability and validity the data.
Outside of getting free press for selling DNA tests, the main purpose for it going viral is due to the implications for those who wish to impose their personal religious beliefs on others.

Last edited by rat avatar; 08-30-2019 at 11:38 AM.
  #11  
Old 08-30-2019, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rat avatar View Post
The main way I see it being "used" is for various homophobic factions to dismiss it as a "choice" or to justify beliefs in cruel pseudoscientific laws and conversion therapies.

While pop-science is almost always really really bad this false belief is bolstered when media outlets like time use poor clickbait headlines like: "There is No Such Thing As a 'Gay Gene,' a New Study Argues"

Remember that due to the "The Fundamental Attribution Error", us humans tend to apply what we view as failings of members outside of our group as "moral failings".


Obviously we will never see an honest headline like:


Outside of getting free press for selling DNA tests, the main purpose for it going viral is due to the implications for those who wish to impose their personal religious beliefs on others.
One thing I know for sure - you're never going to get a job writing headlines.
The Time article you linked to said something true - there is no single "gay gene." Which should go without saying, but unfortunately it seems that some people believe in such a thing. Showing that there is only a 25% - 30% (I forget the exact number) genetic impact on the measured behavior, and that genetic impact is distributed, is useful for heading off homophobic gene editing.
Sure homophobes can use anything to support their bigotry. But they're using the lack of information to support it also. Someone can misuse any study.

And as someone with lots of published journal articles, and even more reviews, and even some journal editing, it pisses me off when some random person points to a study published in Science and says "they don't know what they are doing. I know better."
You don't.
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Old 08-30-2019, 01:49 PM
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For those who are interested, the actual study is here.

https://science.sciencemag.org/conte.../6456/eaat7693

I just skimmed it so I may have it wrong, but here are my impressions.

There are a number of different components to the study, that as usual are getting glommed together and mis-represented by the media.

Part of the study looked at the relationship between overall shared genetics and agreement with sexual orientation (as defined by ever having had a same sex sexual encounter.) This came in at around 32% and is probably the best measure of the overall relationship between genetics and this definition of sexual orientation, since it is depend on of whether the relevant genes were actually on the array or on the architecture of any model. It gives an upper limit in terms of how accurate a genetic model could possibly be it is useless in terms any actual understanding of the mechanism of that relationship.

The second part of the study which actually tried look at the mechanism was not really successful in terms of pointing out any specific "gay gene" but instead was based primarily on trends and enrichments that were higher than what one might expect by chance. As a way to see this, imagine I have a friend I'm playing a game with that involves rolling a die. He does this behind a screen and tells me the numbers he rolls, but sometimes he decides to cheat. If I found that after 60,000 rolls, he says he has gotten a 6 11,000 times, I can guess that he probably cheated about 1,000 times, but I wouldn't be able to tell you which of those 11,000 sixes were the ones he cheated on. Similarly the scientists can say that there is a relationship without being able to tell you exactly which genes are involved. All that they could say is that somewhere buried in the noise were enough traits to account for about 8-25% of the variability.

Note that this rate is way too small to actually be useful as a screening device. Assuming 5% rate of homosexuality, a test for which 80% of the homosexuals who took the test come back negative, and 80% of the people who come back positive are heterosexual would have a correlation of 0.16.

Some other interesting things which came up was that there was an enrichment between the genes associated with "at least one homosexual experience" were associated with "cannabis use, risk-taking, and the personality trait “openness to experience.”" So it may really be identifying people who are willing to go against the cultural norm and experiment sexually. On the other hand the genetic factors that were associated with increase proportion of same sex parteners (distinguishing bi-sexuals and people who experimented in college from people who are exclusively attracted to the same sex) were entirely independent of those that indicated at least one experience. So there is a variety of factors at play.

Long story short, there is evidence that genetics plays a factor in sexuality, but absolutely no risk of genetic testing resulting in a gay genocide. That doesn't mean that some unscrupulous people might claim they have a test and hook some people to pay for it.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 08-30-2019 at 01:51 PM.
  #13  
Old 08-30-2019, 02:40 PM
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This is a very well-written article about the study, covering both what it does and doesn't show, along with the ethics and potential impact.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slate Magazine
Ultimately, this paper represents to my mind the best possible way that a modern study of the genetics underlying sexual orientation could have turned out. It was informed by the community most affected by its results, designed to account for at least some of the complexity of sexual orientation (that identity vs. behavior distinction), and proved unable to produce the basis for a reliable genetic test of sexual orientation. That said, the hazards of this line of research aren’t really mitigated by ethical research practices, in the conventional sense. Those hazards lie not just in how the work is conducted and presented, but in how society receives it.
And regarding this point...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck Godot View Post
Note that this rate is way too small to actually be useful as a screening device. Assuming 5% rate of homosexuality, a test for which 80% of the homosexuals who took the test come back negative, and 80% of the people who come back positive are heterosexual would have a correlation of 0.16.
...it has a good way of looking at it:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slate
If the baseline probability of [having had sex with other men] is about 4 percent (the frequency of gay men in the U.S. population), that means that out of 1,000 random guys on the street who carry that variant, 44 have actually had sex with other men. For comparison, something like 154 out of 1,000 men living in San Francisco identify as gay or bisexual—which means simply knowing a guy who lives in that ZIP code is as much as three times more indicative that he might be gay than knowing he carries the right variant at this one locus.
  #14  
Old 08-30-2019, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
One thing I know for sure - you're never going to get a job writing headlines.
The Time article you linked to said something true - there is no single "gay gene." Which should go without saying, but unfortunately it seems that some people believe in such a thing. Showing that there is only a 25% - 30% (I forget the exact number) genetic impact on the measured behavior, and that genetic impact is distributed, is useful for heading off homophobic gene editing.
Sure homophobes can use anything to support their bigotry. But they're using the lack of information to support it also. Someone can misuse any study.

And as someone with lots of published journal articles, and even more reviews, and even some journal editing, it pisses me off when some random person points to a study published in Science and says "they don't know what they are doing. I know better."
You don't.
Note how you resorted to ad hominems and then built a strawman, ignoring both my words and my cites.

23andme has used a customised version of the Illumina Global Screening Array BeadChip for the past couple of years. Note how it has much smaller custom marker capacity than the fixed markers.

Quote:
Fixed markers: ~ 654,027
Custom marker add-on capacity: Up to 50,000
Note that 704,027 is not even close to being able to claim that:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
there is no single "gay gene."
As sexuality exists on a spectrum I fully expect researchers to find multiple causes, and yes I am betting there is unlikely any single SNP causes.

As for your appeal to authority....as the above cited analysis found 40 percent of variants associated with specific diseases from DTC genetic tests were shown to be false positives when the raw data was reanalyzed.

If you can't address that cite and claim....it is a pity the standards aren't higher to publish journal articles or to write reviews. Perhaps you work in an area that isn't as hard on it's requirements for evidence?

Let us choose another pop-sci sites version.

Quote:
No individual gene alone makes a person gay, lesbian or bisexual; instead, thousands of genes likely influence sexual orientation, a massive new study of the genomes of nearly half a million people suggests.


Or this headline...

A scientific study has established that there is no “gay gene”

Now as the original study link was provided above, please provide any evidence that "No individual gene alone makes a person gay, lesbian or bisexual;"

Now let's look at a more responsible headline writer.

Massive Study Finds No Single Genetic Cause of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior


Heck even the term "same-sex attraction" is too absolutist to be useful because it ignores that there are may fascists to the equation....for example romantic and sexual attraction are not always the same for all people.

Now I fully agree that the idea of Xq28 was debunked a long time ago.
But once again in case you didn't read the OP link

Quote:
The researchers acknowledged that limitation and emphasized that the study's focus was on behavior, not sexual identity or orientation. They also note that the study only involved people of European ancestry and can't answer whether similar results would be found in other groups.
So...feel free to provide a cite on how sexual behavior relates to either sexual or romantic attraction and personal identity ... Now try to explain that outside of a modern European bias maybe by explaining how the ancient greek erastes-eromenos relationship would have related to this.

Perhaps I am just way too optimistic that our social vocabulary has extended enough to explain the breadth of diversity here.

Feel free to come back with more claims of authority....but please not without how a cite showing that sexual identity, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation are not only closely related but not distinguished. Or perhaps a quote from the papers author clarifying their above statement. They had to work with what they had and full sequencing is expensive and slow but the typical claims are not met by the evidence.

Last edited by rat avatar; 08-30-2019 at 04:40 PM.
  #15  
Old 08-30-2019, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rat avatar View Post
Note how you resorted to ad hominems and then built a strawman, ignoring both my words and my cites.

23andme has used a customised version of the Illumina Global Screening Array BeadChip for the past couple of years. Note how it has much smaller custom marker capacity than the fixed markers.

Note that 704,027 is not even close to being able to claim that:
The emphasis of the study was in looking at larger amounts of data than had been available before. Should it not have been published unless they could get large amounts of data with more complete information?

Quote:
As sexuality exists on a spectrum I fully expect researchers to find multiple causes, and yes I am betting there is unlikely any single SNP causes.
The study did not attempt to address the spectrum of sexuality. It only addressed sexual activity (at least one time, not even frequency) of whites. Not others, not trans people for example.
Quote:
As for your appeal to authority....as the above cited analysis found 40 percent of variants associated with specific diseases from DTC genetic tests were shown to be false positives when the raw data was reanalyzed.

If you can't address that cite and claim....it is a pity the standards aren't higher to publish journal articles or to write reviews. Perhaps you work in an area that isn't as hard on it's requirements for evidence?
My point was that I understand the hierarchy of journals and where Science stands on this hierarchy. The authors shared their results with many others in the field before publication, to some extent because of the controversial nature of the work. Given that, I expect that criticisms of "obvious" flaws come from a misunderstanding of the work.
Which is not to say that the subject is now closed. Obviously not.
Quote:
Let us choose another pop-sci sites version.



Or this headline...

A scientific study has established that there is no “gay gene”

Now as the original study link was provided above, please provide any evidence that "No individual gene alone makes a person gay, lesbian or bisexual;"
The study showed that there were several genes correlated with the behavior studied (not being gay.) As I mentioned, the headlines were reacting the the belief of some that there was some sort of gay gene. For the purposes of a headline, it was reasonably accurate. The reason I was poking fun at your headline was that it didn't seem to show you had the concept of what a headline is. Your headline might be too long for a paper title, even.
Quote:
Now let's look at a more responsible headline writer.

Massive Study Finds No Single Genetic Cause of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior
Different readership, different headlines.
Quote:
Heck even the term "same-sex attraction" is too absolutist to be useful because it ignores that there are may fascists to the equation....for example romantic and sexual attraction are not always the same for all people.
I assume you meant facets, not fascists. The study did not consider same sex attraction at all. So, yes, saying anything about same sex attraction would be misinterpreting the study. I'm sure some clown somewhere did this. The extensive Times article on this made what the study studied very clear.

Now, if several genes contribute to sexual behavior, it is not unreasonable, in the popular science press, to say that the genetic correlation to orientation are at least diverse as the genetic correlations to behavior. And the genetic correlations are not even primary. If the pop-science editor wants people to come away with one idea from the study, there are worse choices than "no gay gene."

I'm not going to waste my time nitpicking an article published in Science. Being an expert in a couple of fields has taught me that I'm not an expert in other ones. Reviews sometimes ask you to give your level of confidence in the review. Here might would be about -10. What's yours? And if this study had been published in the Podunk Journal of Popular Genetics I'd have a lot less confidence in it. Appeal to authority is legitimate if the people are actually authorities.
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Old 08-30-2019, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TroutMan View Post
This is a very well-written article about the study, covering both what it does and doesn't show, along with the ethics and potential impact.



And regarding this point...

...it has a good way of looking at it:
Your last Slate quote represents an error in sampling, in a sense. Sampling from the population by chance in San Francisco is not going to get you the same results as sampling randomly in the population at large. So comparing a random selection versus a selection made using the genetic markers has to take this into account. Now environment is shown to be very significant, but that's not applicable here because moving to the Bay Area does not make one gay.
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Old 08-30-2019, 07:34 PM
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To me it doesn’t matter. Let’s take something we know to be 100% genetic by comparison, having blond hair. Someone born with blond hair can dye their hair black, and someone withv black hair can dye their hair blond. Either way it doesn’t matter because black or blond, the color of one’s hair doesn’t make someone a good or bad person. Similarly being homosexual or heterosexual doesn’t have any bearing on whether someone is a good or bad person, and therefore it doesn’t matter if someone is gay due to genetics, the environment, or any combination of the two.
  #18  
Old 08-30-2019, 08:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent Clark View Post
So there's a study out...
On the one hand, if this research bears out, it will drive another nail in the "gay is a (sinful) choice" shibboleth beloved by homophobes....

On the other hand, let's look out 25 years or so. I fear a push to have geneticists identify all the "gay genetics" for all the wrong reasons - genetic modification, abortion of fetuses with the "wrong" orientation, and a sort of "someone must be gay/straight because genetics is destiny" overreaction.
***nods***

At the risk of GOdwinization... Establishing that being FOrmerly DIsparaged IDentity #14 or whatever is biological [i]does not[/] make one, or that identity, immune from persecution, as Herr H and his eugenics based genicidal policies would indicate.

It may be biological, it may not be. Choosing sides withIn a science question based on what you [i]think[i] it will let you argue is intellectually dishonest, scientifically illicit, and politically stupid.
  #19  
Old 08-30-2019, 08:37 PM
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OK, I may have misinterpreted/misunderstood the initial study, but I have to say, this thread is not measuring up to the standards of discourse I've come to expect from GD.

Consider the first responses to my post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by octopus
We live in a physical universe. Why would it be a surprise that genetics governs biological entities?
I never said I was "surprised."

Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK
Why would you need to take a test to tell you what you feel? That does not make sense.
It may not make sense to you or me, but it might seem perfectly reasonable to a confused, ambivalent adolescent.

In fairness, later responses were better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rat avatar
The main way I see it being "used" is for various homophobic factions to dismiss it as a "choice" or to justify beliefs in cruel pseudoscientific laws and conversion therapies.
Thank you, rat. That's exactly the type of concern I was trying to express in my OP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck Godot
Part of the study looked at the relationship between overall shared genetics and agreement with sexual orientation (as defined by ever having had a same sex sexual encounter.) This came in at around 32% and is probably the best measure of the overall relationship between genetics and this definition of sexual orientation, since it is depend on of whether the relevant genes were actually on the array or on the architecture of any model. It gives an upper limit in terms of how accurate a genetic model could possibly be it is useless in terms any actual understanding of the mechanism of that relationship.
Thank you, Buck, for your clear, concise explanation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager
Now, if several genes contribute to sexual behavior, it is not unreasonable, in the popular science press, to say that the genetic correlation to orientation are at least diverse as the genetic correlations to behavior. And the genetic correlations are not even primary.
And thank you, Voyager, for pointing out how how serious scientific research gets boiled down to clickbait.

But for the sake of the discussion, if genuine, authentic, scientific research "proves" that genetics plays a 25%-30% factor in sexual orientation, and testing is developed that can determine that genetic makeup in individuals, are we better or worse off as a society?
  #20  
Old 08-31-2019, 12:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Your last Slate quote represents an error in sampling, in a sense. Sampling from the population by chance in San Francisco is not going to get you the same results as sampling randomly in the population at large. So comparing a random selection versus a selection made using the genetic markers has to take this into account. Now environment is shown to be very significant, but that's not applicable here because moving to the Bay Area does not make one gay.
I don't think you understood the point being made. You would expect that sampling from a completely random group of 1000 men would give 40 who slept with other men. Sampling from a preselected group of only those exhibiting the marker would give 44. Sampling from a preselected group of SF residents gives 154. The point is that selecting from the population based on genetics gives trivially different results versus a random selection, especially when compared to other means of preselection.
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