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The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior Paperback – December 14, 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A chronicle of the scientific investigation through which Hamer, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, came to the controversial conclusion that he had discovered the "gay gene."
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

After reading books by Charles Darwin and Richard Lewontin, Hamer (a yeast geneticist at the National Cancer Institute) discovered that little is known about behavioral genetics in humans. He was intrigued enough to change his research direction. This book is a personalized account of the luck, pleasures, and pitfalls involved in scientific investigation-from the germ of an idea about genetic markers for homosexuality to results suggesting that the X-chromosome carries a marker for male homosexuality and speculation on the evolutionary and physiological mechanisms involved. Hamer's research included an intimate exploration of the development of homosexual behavior, family histories, and, finally, careful statistical and molecular analysis. Fortunately for Hamer, he already occupied a prestigious position that covered his day-to-day laboratory needs since the path he chose had many barriers, including hostility from celebrated scientists and intense public attention. While the topic may be offensive to some, this is an engaging odyssey through the mind of a scientist on a controversial path, with much musing, justification, and reassessment along the way. Recommended for both lay readers and specialists.
Constance Rinaldo, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, N.H.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (December 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684804468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684804460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,059,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I very much enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot from it both about the way in which these particular researchers are going about their work and about genetics in general.

Hamer is the Chief of the Section on Gene Structure and Regulation in the Department of Biochemistry at the National Cancer Institute. This book describes in lay terms the work that led to the publication of the scientific paper entitled "A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation". The goal of the study was to determine whether male sexual orientation was "genetically influenced" and what they found was "a statistically significant correlation between the inheritance of genetic markers on chromosomal region Xq28 and sexual orientation in a selected group of homosexual males." The statistical significance was strong: the odds of the correlation happening by chance was only 1 out of 100,000.

Before they started looking at genes, Hamer and his group considered the family histories of the pairs of gay brothers who he used in his study. The researchers found more gay men on the maternal side and eventually realized that this was due to recessive X-linked inheritance. "X-linked traits always are passed to men through the mother's side of the family, which is the pattern we were seeing for homosexuality."

The book carefully explains how the research was done and what conclusions could and could not be drawn from it. They did not find a gay gene; they only showed that one exists. It does not "determine" homosexuality; it is only one factor in the makeup of those gay men who inherited it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Again, Hamer presents well-grounded research to make us question what we think we know. I enjoyed his unfolding account of the possibility that a gay-gene does exist. He backs up his research and does not make claims that can't be scientifically supported.
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Format: Paperback
Dean Hamer wrote in the Preface to this 1994 book, "The aim of this book is to show that human sexuality can, and indeed must, be scientifically studied... the study must be based on carefully constructed observations and experiments, not on the hearsay, innuendo, and myths that characterize so much of the discourse on human sexuality and behavior. Second, it must produce specific and testable predictions, not just vague generalities that defy empirical examination. And lastly, it must ultimately be based on physical laws rather than on appeals to `nature's way' or `God's will' and the like. These are the principles that guided my search for the `gay gene' and led to the discovery that is the main topic of this book: the finding of a linkage between male homosexuality and DNA markers on the X chromosome... My purpose in writing this book is... to describe what we found using the tools of modern genetics, how biological findings can broaden rather than narrow our understanding of the diversity of human sexual expression, and what remains to be learned." (Pg. 14-15) [Later, he admits that Richard Lewontin's book Not in Our Genes "helped inspire me to launch the project in the first place." Pg. 130]

He states, "With the science approved and the funding assured, the only remaining hurdle was political... I knew the right wing would question our work because they think being gay is a `lifestyle' that people choose, not something genetic. The left wouldn't be happy, either, because they would worry about homosexuality being classified as a genetic defect that could be `cured,' instead of as a normal human variation." (Pg.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This was a very interesting book to read. It doesn't solve the trouble related to homosexuality, but it opened a new window through which we all must look at these issues. It is not an easy position for any side. Hope to see more development in this respect.
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