Here’s the basics. THere is some really cool research going on in Behavior science on Gay Sheep. But, this brings up serious political backlashes and concerns.
Scientific motives can differ from technological motives. The sheep researchers—Charles Roselli of Oregon Health and Science University and Fred Stormshak of Oregon State University—are investigating biological factors in homosexuality. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals accuses them of trying to “cure” homosexuality. Not true. Roselli and OHSU’s publicist, Jim Newman, have spent months dousing this fire. Roselli has never said or written anything against homosexuality. In fact, he has said that studies suggesting a biological basis for homosexuality tend to encourage tolerance.
Nor has Roselli tried, in any experiment, to make sheep turn out straight. He has tried the opposite: to make them turn out gay. He does this not to promote homosexuality but to find out whether the mechanism he’s testing—deprivation of estrogen during fetal development—accounts for homosexuality. Scientists such as Roselli don’t focus on achieving a preferred outcome. They focus on learning mechanisms. They want to know how systems—in this case, biological systems—work.
What Roselli and Newman have labored to convey in their fight with PETA is that you can’t infer motives from research on mechanisms. That’s absolutely true. Mechanisms are detachable from motives. But that truth cuts both ways. You can’t infer Roselli’s motives, nor you can you predict the motives of people who might exploit, in a later technological program, the mechanisms he’s clarifying. And there’s the rub.