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A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation Hardcover – June 13, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (June 13, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786860812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786860814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,183,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If there is one lesson to be taken away from reading this report on "the search for the biological origins of sexual orientation," it's that science at its best is always an ongoing process. Combining profiles of the top researchers of sexual orientation with straightforward explanations of the results of their experiments in neurobiology, genetics, and other fields, Burr provides a fascinating glimpse of men and women for whom science is not the pursuit of definitive answers about the way things are, but the motivation for constant questions. He also gives them a voice to vent frustration at the ways their research has been misrepresented by non-scientists trying to fit objective data into subjective moral and ethical arguments. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Burr's detailed, elegantly written report takes us to the front lines of research into a possible biological or genetic basis for homosexuality. He dispassionately reviews the scientific and political controversy surrounding the report in 1991 by gay British neuroanatomist Simon LeVay that a cluster of cells in the brain's hypothalamus is larger in straight men than in gay men. National Cancer Institute molecular geneticist Dean Hamer's 1993 finding that a specific region of the X chromosome is linked to homosexuality in some men led to intense debate over how a "gay gene" might function in creating a homosexual orientation. Boston University geneticist Richard Pillard theorizes that the sexual centers of gay men's brains are not "defeminized"?a hormone-regulated process that routinely occurs in the embryonic brains of male heterosexuals. Burr, whose 1993 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly led to this book, ponders the ethical issues swirling around Affymetrix, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that is building a semiconductor chip made of silicon and human DNA that may make possible widespread testing for a gay gene. Illustrated. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 10 customer reviews
This book will be of great interest to anyone researching homosexuality, and related issues.
Steven H Propp
It all comes together beautifully, scientific explanations simple enough to be understood by the layman but thorough enough to insure understanding.
BearMaster
I have long suspected that scientists' views on these definitional questions are almost, if not quite entirely, worthless.
David Walters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By BearMaster on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is wide ranging, covering topics as diverse as handedness (and how to tell if a rat is left handed), bird songs, vision problems in siamese cats, and far, far more than I ever wanted to know about the reproductive tract of hyenas. It all comes together beautifully, scientific explanations simple enough to be understood by the layman but thorough enough to insure understanding. It is also a fascinating look at genetic research at the end of the 20th century, and how technical problem are sometimes easier to solve than political ones.
Buy it, read it, loan it to family and friends. Give it to anyone who still thinks that sexuality is a choice. The only thing wrong is that it's gone out of print, but I hope that's because the author is preparing a second edition.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The excellent book A Separate Creation by Chandler Burr provides a fascinating account of the search for the genetic origins of sexual orientation.

Burr interlaces the story of scientific discovery with tales of eccentric and passionate characters, political intrigue and the moral and ethical implications of the research. He carefully unravels the scientific evidence, explaining the concepts in simple but not simplistic terms much as a mystery writer spools out clues for the reader. Besides being informative and provocative, this book is enormously fun to read.

It is true that Burr discusses the manner in which scientific reearch can be politicized and misused. However, to suggest, as the Amazon.com reviewer does, that Burr "criticizes" the conclusions of the research for this reason is incredibly inaccurate. Burr makes abundantly clear that the scientific evidence is what it is and can only be supported or opposed with other scientific evidence. Nor does Burr criticize Levay's research, as the Amazon.com reviewer suggests. Since his book is primarily about genetic research, Levay's research, which is anatomic and not genetic, is simply not the central focus of the work. Burr's analysis is both balanced and reasonable.

This book is a superb example how to research, explain and narrate scientific research. The writing style is lucid, and the concepts are explained clearly for a non-scientific audience. It is provocative, sensitive, balanced, intersting, funny, infuriating and an all around good read.

You are missing an exceptional book if you don't read this one
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A Separate Creation offers a valuable perspective on the underlying truths about homosexuality. The points raised evolve toward a discussion about gender and how we are divided, male and female.
In the world today, it seems conceded that, although the specific mechanism is still disputed, homosexuality is something that arises biochemically. The disagreements on this point are interestingly enough coming from both the left and the right. The left reiterates its continued desire to view humanity as a "blank slate" upon which genetics has little or no influence. The religious right has far too much invested in categorizing homosexuality as a moral failing to consider the alternatives. Speak to most any gay man or lesbian and you will likely find that very few were molested or otherwise "recruited" into their orientation. Nor are many anything other than law-abiding citizens (sodomy violations aside). Gay people are homosexual the same way they are right or left-handed, it is just something that exists.
Author Chandler Burr does a very good job at highlighting the current research. My only negative comments revolve around his failure to link the genetic discoveries regarding gender and homosexuality into a cohesive whole.
In the scenario presented with the gay man who decides to become straight, the subject's attitude is too cavalier. Burr misses the 800 pound gorilla in this scenario; many gays want to become straight because of their desire to become a part of a family. This means a nuclear unit balanced by the different male and female contribution and dynamic, with the outcome being offspring that are born and carry with them the memory and genetic make-up of their parents.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julie Vognar on September 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My favorite part of the book is Hamer (the geneticist who discovered Xq28--the GAY-1 gene, responsible for the gayness of 17% of the gay male population) saying"....you have to be sure first that the trait isn't chosen before you look for its gene." He pauses, incredulous, "Can you imagine any sane, reputable biologist spending years of their life and their resources looking through chromosomes for a gene for something that's CHOSEN? I suppose you could do it, but you'd have to be a complete idiot because it would be the equivalent of staking your entire scientific career and reputation on finding a gene for"--he searches for an example--"being a Methodist."

OR

"Personality has been uprooted, modified, ironed, tamed, altered. And through it all, no Prozac capsule, no psychopharmaceutical, no hormone, no drug, no surgical procedure* has ever changed anyone's sexual orientation. It seems, Weiss noted with a raised eyebrow, that our sexual orientation is an even more deeply rooted part of us than our personality."

Interesting, exciting, and sometimes really funny, the book is accessible to even those of us who had trouble with first year algebra and geometry...though an occasional chart or set of figures will give such people pause (don't give up! Go on to the next sentence...).

As far as being wide-ranging is concerned, I once read a short story in which a guest lecturer in a 10th grade high school science class based his entire lecture, and the following discussion, called "The Genetics of Baseball"(sic) on what he had learned from this book...

*see pages 124-125 for some of the horrors we learned from the Nazis and--used--in the 1950s.
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