Like many other bloggers, I picked up on a story in the Sunday Times of London about researchers working on homosexuality in sheep. Today, the New York Times is reporting that the researchers objected to being portrayed as abusing animals and potentially contributing to medical "cures" for homosexuality in humans.
It should be said that the Sunday Times article was wrong about devices being implanted in the sheep's brains. But, after reading the scientists' rebuttal, I'm not convinced that much else about the article was wrong. Sheep are, in fact, killed in the experiment. To which the researcher, Dr. Charles Roselli, responds: "Why would you pick on a guy who’s killing maybe 18 sheep a year, when there’s maybe four million killed for food and clothing in this country?" OK, sure, he's not a flagrant example of animal cruelty, but he's still killing animals for less-than-necessary research.
To charges that their research finding a fix for homosexuality in sheep fuels the idea that human homosexuality should be fixed, rather than accepted, Roselli responded that they had never claimed their research would help find a cure for human homosexuality. When he wrote that the research "has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans," he was using "control" in a scientific way that we laypeople couldn't possibly understand. And, he said, he only mentions human implications because scientists are "forced to draw connections [to humans] in a way that we can justify our research."
Now that is the weakest claim of all. It essentially says that, however disturbing the potential human use of his research might be, you can't blame Roselli for doing what he has to do to get money. That argument wouldn't even stand if the research were more vital than increasing sheep fertility.
The Times article is way too sympathetic, making gay activists look too stupid to understand science, and letting Dr. Roselli off the hook without even asking him if he would reject grant money from the mad scientists at, say, the Foundation for the Family.