Posted by: Chris | February 17, 2014

Another Germ of the Gaps Eradicated

Last year, when discussing the mythical gay germ, we noted that its proponents pointed to similar examples of conditions probably not caused by infections, but about which we know sufficiently little that the charlatans can pretend they are:

But wait, you might think, the gay germ theorists do attempt to defend their position with reference to certain other diseases that at least validate the plausibility of their claim.  The examples though, if you give them more than a cursory review, prove entirely irrelevant.  Cochran, for instance, repeatedly refers to narcolepsy as way of backstopping the gay germ hypothesis:

My model – not the only possible  model based on a pathogen,  but reasonable  – leans on a couple of natural examples.  One is narcolepsy.  We now know that narcolepsy happens when a particular kind of neuron, concentrated in a little region in the hypothalamus, somehow gets zapped.   99% of narcolepsy cases happen in the 25% of the population that has a particular HLA type – which suggests that something, probably a virus, triggers an overenthusiastic immune response that zaps a neuron subpopulation that produce a particular neurotransmitter (called hypocretin or orexin) that regulates appetite and sleep patterns.  And it doesn’t do anything else: narcoleptics aren’t stupid.

If you read closely, though, you realize that there is no evidence for the narcoleptic germ either; its just another germ of the gaps for another somewhat vexing neurological disorder (for those curious, most actual scientists believe narcolepsy is caused by an auto-immune reaction with a genetic component).  It is also worth noting that Cochran used to point to autism as the third neurological condition, along with homosexuality and narcolepsy, as likely candidates for a pathogenic cause.  However, one presumes that as scientists filled in the gaps and worked out a coherent explanation for autism (which resembles the going mainstream explanations for the other two), Cochran’s alternative lost its only leg to stand on and was quietly excised.

Score another victory for actual scientists.  A review article in Nature last month summarized a series of recent twin studies that pretty strongly suggest that narcolepsy is an auto-immune reaction with a genetic component, isolating the specific group of cells affected.  One suspects that professional  non-scientist and amateur mountebank Greg Cochran will neglect to admit to the error.

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Responses

  1. And what triggers the autoimmune reaction in narcolepsy? Looks like a germ, just like in Gregory Cochran’s model.
    http://www.nature.com/news/narcolepsy-confirmed-as-autoimmune-disease-1.14413
    “As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic swept the world in 2009, China saw a spike in cases of narcolepsy — a mysterious disorder that involves sudden, uncontrollable sleepiness. Meanwhile, in Europe, around 1 in 15,000 children who were given Pandemrix — a now-defunct flu vaccine that contained fragments of the pandemic virus — also developed narcolepsy, a chronic disease.”

    How can you not see that it’s right there in Cochran’s piece that you quote from:
    “99% of narcolepsy cases happen in the 25% of the population that has a particular HLA type – which suggests that something, probably a virus, triggers an overenthusiastic immune response that zaps a neuron subpopulation that produce a particular neurotransmitter (called hypocretin or orexin) that regulates appetite and sleep patterns.”

    And there you have a model for a gay germ: an autoimmune reaction triggered by a germ.

    • And what is it? You cannot point towards similar events and claim it is the same. That violates basic scientific principles.

  2. I’m completely baffled. I found a previous post of yours, On the Origins of Homosexuality, that shows you understand Cochran’s gay germ model, and further that you should know his model is not disproven by the review article you are citing above. Quoting you from the previous post:

    “One of Cochran’s preferred hypotheses is that many conditions we initially assumed to be genetic are in fact precipitated by viral infections, which are in turn made more likely by genetic factors. He cites narcolepsy, which researchers suspect might be caused by an virally-triggered auto-immune disorder that attacks specific neuron involved in the production of hypocretins (a sleep-related neurotransmitter) and only seems to affect people with a specific HLA (a super locus of genes involved in self-recognition in cells). The hypothesis is that homosexuality works similarly, with a viral infection and auto-immune irregularity wiping out, in a targeted fashion, neurons involved in proper orientation.”

    • ^^^

      ouch.

      is the author of this blog embarrassed in the slightest?


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