Birds pick up a good smoking habit

6 07 2007

If you should ever find yourself at Exeter St David’s railway station in Devon, England, pay close attention to what happens when someone flicks away a burning cigarette. While it may very well get stepped on, kicked onto the tracks, or otherwise snuffed out, if you are at the station during a quiet period you may just see something phenomenal; birds that fumigate themselves with the used butts. In an article issued a few weeks ago in the Telegraph, Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) were observed picking up still-smoldering cigarettes, moving them to a more private location, and opening up their wings to collect the smoke. The intelligence of Corvid birds (crows and their relatives) is well-known, although this is perhaps the first time that these birds have been seen taking advantage of discarded suicide sticks to benefit themselves, probably in an attempt to kill parasites living on their wings.

When my friend Molly first sent me the article (hat-tip to Molly) a few weeks ago, the first thing that came to my mind was the behavior known as “anting.” Although I had never studied it in detail, I remembered that some birds pick up ants and rub them on their feathers, the formic acid the ants secrete in an attempt to defend themselves having a detrimental effect on the parasites living on the bird (as suggested by Kelso and Nice’s “A Russian Contribution to Anting and Feather Mites“). In fact, the first mental image was of a crow, holding a smoking cigarette in its beak, rubbing the ashes over its wings. As the article makes clear, however, this is not the case and it is not merely an example of the birds doing an old behavior with a new tool; they have done something that appears to be entirely new.

Still, I thought I would look into anting behavior a bit more; the benefits to birds that exhibit the behavior are clear, but stopping inquiry there would be rather adaptationist, claiming that birds do it because it benefits them, but why birds engage in this behavior at all might not be as straightforward as it seems. In a 2004 paper entitled “Bactericidal and Fungicidal Activity of Ant Chemicals on Feather Parasites: An Evaluation of Anting Behavior,” Revis and Waller found that the bacteria Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus subtilis, and fungi Chaetomium globosum, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Trichoderma viride were not inhibited by the natural concentrations of chemicals excreted by several species of ants (although concentrated formic acid did work), suggesting that the ants selected simply did not contain concentrated-enough doses of formic acid to provide the birds protection against the bacterial and fungi tested in the study. This is surprising, especially since tests don’t seem to support the idea that anting inhibits arthropod parasites either, yet the birds keep on exhibiting the behavior. Why?

What is often left out when anting is discussed is that the birds often eat the ants, supposedly getting a “two-for-one” kind of benefit from picking up ants. This could give us a clue to the real motive behind anting, however, and although I do not have access to the article, Judson and Bennett (1992) hypothesized that anting may actually serve to remove toxic formic acid from ants prior to ingestion. From the abstract to their paper “‘Anting’ as food preparation: formic acid is worse on an empty stomach“;

Anting is a behavior common among passerine birds, yet its function is unknown. The behavior consists of a highly stereotyped set of movements which start when a bird picks up an ant, usually one which sprays formic acid as a defense, and sweeps it with frenzied motions through its feathers. The bird will often also eat the ant. As formic acid is toxic, we have tested the food-preparation hypothesis, that is, that the birds are anting to remove a distasteful or toxic substance from the ant before eating it. In a pair of experiments on starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, we have found evidence in support of this hypothesis.

[Again, I don’t have access, but for information on the toxicity of formic acid to birds see Bennett, Llloyd, and Cuthill’s 1996 paper “Ant-derived formic acid can be toxic for birds.” It should also be noted that it is sometimes difficult to tell whether some birds eat or discard ants after using them in anting behavior, as described in Osborn’s “Anting by an American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)]

Indeed, anting behavior doesn’t always include ants, and the observations of birds “anting” with various other insects seems to support the notion that the birds are ridding their prey of noxious chemicals rather than trying to kill their parasites. One such example is described in Eisner, et. al’s “Pre-ingestive treatment of bombardier beetles by jays: food preparation by ‘anting’ and ‘sand-wiping’,” where Blue Jays subject bombardier beetles to anting prior to ingestion, making sure that they don’t get a stomach full of toxic chemicals. The study notes that the jays used in the tests did not always “ant” with the beetles, however; sometimes the beetles were repeatedly pecked, dropped, and picked up again before being consumed (“pre-milked” beetles were pecked and eaten quickly, so the “peck until the beetle is done discharging” seems like the primary way of handling the beetles). Snails, berries (VanderWerf, 2005), and caterpillars (Wenny, 1998) have also been observed being used during anting by birds, but in each of these three cases the prey was not eaten (or did not appear to be in the case of the caterpillar). These bouts of anting were followed by preening, suggesting that there perhaps there is some benefit to the chemicals present in all three organisms to the bird, although we cannot be sure of what. The incident that VanderWerf is even more interesting as the event was witnessed on one of the Hawaiian islands, where ants, the snail, and the berry are not native and the bird (the ‘Elepaio or Chasiempis sandwichensis) is non-migratory. This shows that even though ants are most commonly associated with anting, the behavior can incorporate a variety of different resources and is not restricted to species that come into contact with ants on a regular basis.

Animals other than birds exhibit anting behavior, however; just this year Verderane, et al. published “Anting in a Semifree-ranging Group of Cebus apella,” describing how one particular species of Capuchin monkey rubs ants all over its body, a behavior that correlates with the seasonal incidence of an ectoparasite. This, the researchers conclude, is true anting and actually does work on the pests in the primate’s fur, whereas the benefits of anting in birds (where it was first described) is still a bit of a mystery.

Part of the reason why anting is such a mystery is that it involves interactions between hundreds of species all over the world; I don’t know if it’s even possible (or wise) to impose an “always/never” rule on what benefits the birds may or may not be receiving from anting. While the evolution of the behavior likely started by trying to make prey insects expel their noxious chemicals prior to ingestion, it could very well have been co-opted to take advantage of naturally-occurring substances present on other organisms that may positively affect the health of the bird. Depending on where you are, the strength of chemicals in the available ant/organism, and the weaknesses of your particular parasites, anting behavior could be used primarily in terms of food prep or it could indeed have a medicinal purpose; the amount of research into all the existing combinations is staggering.

Anting aside, what the English rooks appear to be doing is something that seems to be more straightforward; I really do think that they are trying to kill the parasites on their wings, although they likely only recognize the unpleasant feeling of being inhabited by parasites and a cessation of that feeling when the smoke their own wings. What I would be interested to see (other than an actual test of this hypothesis) is the potential harm done to the birds respiratory system by the cigarettes they use. While it is true that they receive some health benefits from removing parasites from their wings, are their lungs adversely affected by the smoke in a way similar to ours? This could be a great opportunity for scientists interested in health, behavior, and toxicology to collaborate (it reminds me of one of a study I would like to do, checking the health/cholesterol of animals found in theme parks which sell fried foods vs. the health/cholesterol levels of other populations in cities, suburbs, parks, and forests). Hopefully some research will be forthcoming, but until then I hope keen folks continue to keep an eye out for amazing bird behaviors wherever they are.





Something stinks over at National Geographic…

18 06 2007

Update the 1st: In the interest of being accurate, I’ve posted what the article actually says below. I didn’t have it with me when I originally wrote the post, although there is little different from what I said. Expect a more in-depth post this week when I’ve finished Carson’s book and make sure I understand just what DDT and DDE is doing to people. The author of the article, Michael Finkel, writes;

Soon after the [malaria eradication program collapsed, mosquito control lost access to its crucial tool, DDT. The problem was overuse-not by malaria fighters but by farmers, especially cotton growers, trying to protect their crops. The spray was so cheap that many times the necessary doses were sometimes applied. The insecticide accumulated in the soil and tainted watercourses. Though non-toxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon [emphasis mine]. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says [Robert] Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”

Straw man, anyone?
___________________________________________________________________________

As I mentioned this past weekend, the new issue of National Geographic features a cover-story on malaria. Reading over the story last night, the author makes some jabs at Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (which I should finish tonight) and claims that not only did DDT only effect sea lions, salmon, and peregrine falcons, but that it has no harmful effects to humans, either. The author also included a quote from a researcher (I forget their name, I will include it when I do the final write-up) that says the ban on DDT may have killed 20 million children. I was quote outraged that National Geographic would print such drivel without any further clarification or facts to back up the assertions, so I decided to start looking through the technical literature to see what is known about DDT and organochloride toxicity. I’m going to do a longer write up tonight or tomorrow, but if you’re interested here are some resources you can check so you don’t have to wait for me.

Bug Girl has an entire serious of posts taking on recent attacks on Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and environmentalists in general. They serve as wonderful primers and are well-worth the time to read;

DDT, Junk Science, and the attack on Rachel Carson
New York Times, DDT, and an asshole
Rachel Carson and Chemical News
DDT, Junk Science, Malaria, and the attack on Rachel Carson
Malarial Drug Resistance: exciting new development!

Wikipedia- Organochlorides: Toxicity
Wikipedia- DDT
[Note: The Wiki DDT page is a bit of a muddle, and you can definitely see the influence of people who do not consider DDT to be harmful at all. I’d skip down to the Effects on Human Health section, although I’d check the sources for the information there as well.]

Also, beware the so-called “100 things you should know about DDT” page (by the contemptible J. Gordon Edwards and Steven Milloy), which is crass enough to show a photoshopped picture of Rachel Carson wearing a shirt that says “DDT: A weapon of mass survival.” What this page is doing on the Wikipedia entry under “Toxicity” I don’t know.

Here is the Scorecard entry for DDT as well, but it seems to be out of date and does not list its sources.

PubMed Abstract – Chronic nervous-system effects of long-term occupational exposure to DDT.
The paper suggests that there are long-term neurological effects among those who have applied the chemical.

PubMed PDF- Concentration of Organochlorines in Human Brain, Liver, and Adipose Tissue
Autopsy Samples from Greenland

Not about DDT specifically, but it does contain interesting information about organochlorines (DDT is one) and how they accumulate in marine mammals and people who eat those mammals.

1999 NJ DEP Fact Sheet – Historic Pesticide Contamination
This page is old, but it does suggest that up to 5% of my home state may still be affected by past use of pesticides like arsenic and DDT

Undated PDF – Peregrine Falcon’s in New Jersey
This page does not list its sources, but it states that DDT was banned in New Jersey in 1968, but use of the product caused a major crash in predatory-bird populations in the state (I also know of anecdotal evidence from an ecologist who helped re-establish ospreys in the Barnegat Bay area)

PubMed Abstract – In utero p,p’-DDE exposure and infant neurodevelopment: a perinatal cohort in Mexico.
Study suggests that DDE exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy may affect developing human children.

Abstract – The human health effects of DDT and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and an overview of organochlorines in public health
Very general abstract, but does note that some organochlorides do have effects on liver and neurological functions.

PDF Paper – Association of DDT and DDE with Birth Weight and Length of Gestation in the Child Health and Development Studies, 1959–1967
The study did not appear to come up with any strong correlation for male infants, advising that more study is needed.

PDF LEtter – Invited Commentary: Why DDT Matters Now
Summation of two paper appearing in a 2005 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. While the letter (and papers) are far from being iron-clad evidence, I did find this admission interesting; “…almost no data are available on the health effects of DDT exposure at the levels experienced by those living in sprayed homes.” In places where malaria is still a threat, the insides of homes are sprayed with DDT and people ingest DDE (either through metabolizing DDT themselves or the environment metabolizing it, which is then ingested). This brings up an interesting point; given the propensity of DDT to concentrate in tissues and be passed along in mother’s milk, over the course of various generations will DDT concentrations in humans go up, and if so, what effect will this have on health?

Paper PDF – Reduced Seminal Parameters Associated With Environmental DDT Exposure and p,p9-DDE Concentrations in Men in Chiapas, Mexico:A Cross-Sectional Study
This Journal of Andrology paper echoes what seems to be the case with DDT and reproductive effects, summed up by the authors as follows; “…nonoccupational exposure to DDT, as assessed by plasma p,p9-DDE concentrations, is associated with poorer semen parameters in men, indicating adverse effects on testicular function and/or the regulation of reproductive hormones.” The percentage of motile sperm went down, tail defects went up, and some suffered incomplete DNA condensation.

Fulltext Paper –THE HUMAN HEALTH EFFECTS OF DDT (DICHLORODIPHENYLTRICHLOROETHANE) AND PCBS (POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS) AND AN OVERVIEW OF ORGANOCHLORINES IN PUBLIC HEALTH
While the abstract states that there is “no convincing evidence that organochlorines cause a large excess number of cancers,” the section on DDT has some interested correlations between DDT exposure and some kinds of cancers.

JSTOR Paper 1st page – DDT and Wildlife
A pre-Silent Spring (1946) paper that seems to dismiss claims of conservationists that DDT is dangerous to wildlife and humans.





Is there a civet in your perfume?

3 06 2007

One of the most curious aspects of dating and relationships in technologically advanced countries is the need for people to cover up their natural scent with lots of different products. For my own part, my current shampoo, conditioner, body soap, deodorant, and cologne are all different, and I douse myself with foreign scents to make sure that I do not offend the olfactory sensibilities of others. But where do such scents come from? There are plenty of synthetic chemicals that mimic naturally (or unnaturally) occurring scents, but, interestingly enough, some fragrances still require animal sources. As Terry Pratchett wrote in The Unadulterated Cat (which ironically sits next to a basket of the products I mentioned above in the bathroom);

Civet

An 1894 Richard Lydekker painting of an African Civet

The civet cat has been a nervous animal ever since it discovered that you can, er, derive civetone* from it and use it in scent. Exactly how this is done I don’t know and do not wish to research. It’s probably dreadful. Oh, all right, I’ll have a look.

It is.+

*A 17-member ring-ketone, according to my dictionary, as opposed to the mere 15-membered muscone from the musk deer. Does the civet feel any better for knowing this? Probably not.

+Who invents these scents, anyway? There’s a guy walking along the beach, hey, here’s some whale vomit, I bet we can make scent out of this. Exactly how likely do you think this is?

Indeed, the civet’s (specifically the African Civet, Civetticus civetta) scent is also useful to those wishing to track big cats, a researcher in a recent issue of Natural History relating that central american jaguars (Panthera onca) are especially drawn to the civetone in Calvin Klein’s “Obsession.” Good to know if you’re in search of big cats, but it still leaves the question of what civetone actually is and why it is important. For that, I turn to Richard Despard Estes Behavior Guide to African Mammals, in which he describes the olfactory communication of the animals;

Olfactory Communication: scent-marking with dung, urine, perineal gland.
Perineal-gland marks appear to be concentrated on trees fronting roads and pathways, especially trees that produce fruit eaten by civets. A passing civet pauses every 85m or so to press the everted gland against a trunk. The secretion is a thick, yellowish grease that hardens and turns dark brown and more visible with age, while the powerful and disagreeable scent remains detectable for at least 4 months. The musk scraped periodically from the perineal gland of captive African civets is refined into civetone, which “exalts” the fragrances of expensive perfumes.

Why not just cut out the middle-man and press a civet’s butt to your arms, neck, or chest? Such is what a cartoon (and rather low-quality article) from the Softpedia article “Get the best perfume from the cat’s a**” portrays. This is not entirely accurate as the civet’s secretions must be combined with alcohol and other chemicals to bring out its “pleasant musky odor,” but this does not change the fact that for centuries fragrance makers have relied on greasy secretion near a mammals anus to produce more pleasant personal scents.

Fortunately, synthetic civetone has been produced, but many “high-quality” perfume manufacturers still prefer scraping a civet’s musk glad the old fashioned way. From Yilma D. Abebe’s “Sustainable utilization of the African Civet (Civetticus civetta) in Ethiopia” (which is also found complete here);

Despite civet musk being produced artificially in the late 1940’s, high quality perfume producers still prefer the use of civetone (Anonis 1997). Demands for a synthetic alternative have been growing in recent years however with the British Fragrance Association (BFA) and the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) of the opinion that perfume industries are more likely to use artificial musk (Pugh 1998).

Indeed, the harvest of “natural civetone” continues, (despite some web sites suggesting that it has stopped with the invention of synthetic civetone) and while the African Civet is not threatened it does not change the fact that cruel practices have been recorded among civet farmers and wild civets are continually caught to replace those that die of stress in captivity (I’ll leave you to imagine why they’re so stressed).

The author also notes that local superstitions and husbandry practices make the trade very hard to regulate and control, and the process is considered unsustainable (although unlikely to stop because of economic gain associated with civet farms). Also of interest is the assertion that predominantly Muslim farmers in Ethiopia harvest civetone from civets. The author writes;

In Ethiopia, only Muslim communities are practice civiculture. According to oral history the legendary leader Nessiru Allah, who lived in Limu, Keffa, suffered from an eye affliction that was cured by an application of civet musk. Once cured, Nessiru Allah ordered followers of Islam to farm African civets (Mesfin 1995).

So what are we to do? Personally, I would check your own perfumes to see if “civetone” is listed in the ingredients, and even contact various perfume companies to see if they’re using civetone derived directly from civets and to ask for a ban on using the harvested secretions from the carnivores. Even if large companies switched over to artifical civetone, however, the practice would likely survive to some degree in Ethiopia and would be resistant to reform, so local and government workers would have to work with the farmers to ensure humane practices (i.e. scraping civet musk off bars or posts they deposit it on rather than sticking a spoon into the animal’s gland) and open up other economic opportunities so that the farmers are not relying on civets for income (even in the IUCN report mentioned above, civetone seems to be bringing in less and less money to Ethiopia). Such is the problem with humane practices and conservation, however; merely establishing the science aspect will not convince the farmer who needs income from his practices, and care for both the animals and people is needed if a positive change is going to be made.

End Note: Civets aren’t the only animals to be farmed for particular scents or secretions; bears and musk deer (also important to the fragrance industry) suffer similar consequences as well, and both will require seperate posts to do their stories justice.

End Note 2: I’ve corrected some of the mistakes I made in the initial post. I started getting a pretty bad migraine in the middle of writing this so I didn’t entirely pay attention to what I was doing. I’ll have some more posts up when I recuperate.





Because I got high…

11 04 2007

Yesterday I posted about how eating fructose-laden fruits helps bats deal with ingesting ethanol (drinking alcoholo) in ripening figs and dates, as well as other animals that have been known to get intoxicated from time to time. For those of you who’ve never seen it, I’ve managed to find a video snippet featuring a lemur and giant millipede in Madagascar (where else would a lemur be?), illustrating that humans aren’t the only ones who like to get high;

Is anyone else a little put-off by the way the clip was narrated? Besides the “trippy” camerawork, the almost menacing tone of the narrator seemed a little over the top, especially when he asserted that the lemurs are “millipede junkies” always on the lookout for their next fix. How often these lemurs engage in this behavior, I honestly don’t know, but I can’t help but wonder if they are being made out to be hopelessly addicted to the millipedes for the sake of amping up the drama.





No, seriously man, I’m ok to fly

10 04 2007

A few years ago I caught a few minutes of an absolutely fascinating documentary explaining how many animals become (and deal with being) intoxicated. Lemurs seeking out millipedes which emit noxious substances, bees becoming drunk on a certain kind of sap, and other examples were covered, although I have never been able to track the show down to watch the rest of it. I was reminded of this show as some scientists are now wondering if certain types of sugar may help bats sober-up quicker.

As some fruits like dates and figs ripen, ethanol (drinking alcohol) accumulates in the fruit, but even a very small amount could be lethal to bats. Even if a lethal amount is not ingested, a drunk bat is a bat that likely will not be able to dodge predators or obstacles, so it is in their best interests to reduce the effects of ethanol in their systems. Of course, it is important to remember that in this discussion we’re primarily speaking of fruit bats, like the Egyptian Fruit Bat, and not of the little brown bats that might be flittering about your house at night. Anyway, upon testing researchers found that bats that ingested a small amount of ethanol with fructose (glucose and sucrose were also tested) showed a bigger drop in alcohol levels when given a breath test (which must have been an interesting sight). Indeed, bats also seemed to prefer more fructose-laden food, although overall bats preferred sucrose to anything else.

Overall, the behavior reminds me a bit of geophagy in tapirs and babirusas, where upon ingesting plants full of toxins the mammals eat certain clays that have a medicinal effect. Do the animals understand the cause-effect relationship of eating a certain food when sick? Possibly, but I don’t know enough about what goes on in a tapir’s head to really say either way. As for the bats, since they appear to prefer sucrose regardless of the alcohol content in their food but increasingly prefer fructose as they consume ethanol, perhaps it’s merely a matter of taste; some sugars are more appealing than others and perhaps tastes change as bats take in more ethanol from their food.

Intoxication in animals is a very interesting topic, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been well-studied. I remember clearly from the documentary I cited above that if a drunk bee came back to the have, it would be kicked out by guards at the entrance (the bee equivalent of a bouncer I suppose). If the same drunk bee continued to come back, the guards would bite off a few appendages, and I had never heard of such behavior in insects before. While further study would be needed, perhaps bees are like us in that they like to get “buzzed” every now and then.





Conan slept with Mother Theresa!

17 03 2007

Remember the mystery of female chimpanzee who managed to get pregnant in a community of males who had vasectomies? Well the paternity tests are in and it turns out that a 21 year old male named Conan is the father of baby Tracy (the results were revealed by the zoo, not on Maury). The place where this all occurred, Chimp Haven, is a refuge for chimps that were once kept as pets, used in entertainment, or subjected to medical experiments (which should no longer take place, in my opinion), all the males receiving vasectomies upon their arrival. While vasectomies are the most effective method of birth control currently available, there is still that pesky 1% chance that it won’t work (which can vary depending on whether you go to an experienced doctor or not), and it appears that Conan’s wasn’t as effective as hoped. I do have to wonder, however, given that these chimpanzees may have had stressful lives, will Theresa be a good mother? How will the males react to the baby? Will the baby pick of some of her parents neuroses? Hopefully a case study on Tracy will be kept in an attempt to answer these questions.





“It’s not eugenics, it’s Christian love for homosexuals”

14 03 2007

Congrats to PZ for being mentioned in a recent AP article about Rev. Albert Mohler’s recent uninformed statements about homosexuality, essentially stating that if a genetic basis for homosexual behavior is found Christians would have an obligation to eradicate it (i.e. turn a homosexual fetus to a heterosexual fetus) through medical technology (though not abortion). Here’s a quote from Mohler’s original post on the subject;

8. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.

9. We must stop confusing the issues of moral responsibility and moral choice. We are all responsible for our sexual orientation, but that does not mean that we freely and consciously choose that orientation. We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen. We do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations. Nevertheless, we are absolutely responsible for what we do with sinful temptations, whatever our so-called sexual orientation.

Statements 1-7 are mostly Mohler tap-dancing around his views, trying to appear more moderate by saying that homosexuals are children of God too, they just suffer from a particular form of temptation. *smacks forehead* Both conservatives and liberals have rightly chastised Mohler for his egregious remarks, and I was a bit taken-aback by the man’s reply to his critics. From the AP article;

“I realize this sounds very offensive to homosexuals, but it’s the only way a Christian can look at it,” Mohler said. “We should have no more problem with that than treating any medical problem.

Ugh, this guy is nuts. I find it funny how he hasn’t even the entertained the possibility (working with his framework of God “knitting” every individual together in their mothers womb personally) that God actually created homosexuals and loves them just the way they are like anyone else. No, no, the apparent self contradictions of God creating life but apparently hating homosexuality aren’t even considered, thus paving the way for people like Mohler to promote ideas that have more to do with eugenics than “love thy neighbor.”

The end of the article also pisses me off;

Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist critical of those who consider homosexuality a disorder, commended Mohler’s openness to the prospect that it is biologically based.

“This represents a major shift,” Drescher said. “This is a man who actually has an open mind, who is struggling to reconcile his religious beliefs with facts that contradict it.”

Clearly Mohler does believe there is a psychological basis behind homosexuality (hence the allusions to “temptation” and individual responsibility), his views seemingly confused in addition to being outright wrong. Mohler seems to want to have it both ways, claiming that homosexuality is a kind of temptation as a result of the Fall, but any predisposition or “gay gene” (which likely doesn’t exist) should be eradicated to remove the poor souls from having to endure God’s wrath. His position isn’t progressive or even indicative of a change for the better; if anything it is a step backward and has more in common with phrenology than scientific fact.

I’m tired of narrow-minded Christians claiming that homosexuality is a choice or that it’s a lifestyle of sin; by engaging in what they believe is Biblical literalism to uphold what they perceive as God’s truth they are merely creating an ideology of hate and exclusion, never contemplating how their view of a loving God is contradicted by the way they treat other people. This is why I don’t get along well with Christians; the condescending paternalism and the attitude of “Well we have the truth, it’s too bad if you don’t like it) are sometimes too much for me to bear.