A Separate Creation

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A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation
A Separate Creation.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Chandler Burr
Country United States
Language English
Subject Sexual orientation
Published 1996 (Hyperion)
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 354
ISBN 978-0786882403

A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation is a 1996 book about the development of sexual orientation by the journalist[1] Chandler Burr.[2] The book had a mixed reception.


Expanding on his 1993 Atlantic article "Homosexuality and Biology",[3] Burr discussed the work of researchers such as Simon LeVay, Laura A. Allen, Roger Gorski, and Dean Hamer,[4] and compared the clinical profiles of sexual orientation and handedness, arguing that the best analogy for homosexuality is left-handedness.[5]

Burr described the different views that researchers have expressed of sexual orientation, observing that while some believe that sexual orientations are distributed across a population in a way that could be mapped onto a bell curve between poles of heterosexuality and homosexuality, with most people having some measure of bisexuality, others believe that sexual orientation is bimodally distributed, with most people being either heterosexual or homosexual and few being bisexual. Some researchers, including an anonymous colleague of Hamer who would not let Burr identify him, think that erotic interests divide neatly into sex-specific types. Burr also discussed the various ways in which same-sex behavior among animals is and is not similar to human homosexuality.[6][7]

In his account of LeVay's research, Burr wrote that LeVay's 1991 neuroanatomical report was the first major biological investigation of sexual orientation. Burr described some of the limitations of LeVay's study. Neurobiologist and psychiatrist William Byne, as Burr noted, pointed out that testosterone effects, medications being used by subjects with AIDS, and disease effects may have had an effect on the comparative size of INAH 3 (the area of the brain LeVay studied), and that measuring these tiny cell groups is difficult. Regarding attempts to change people's sexual orientations through therapy, Burr cited Byne's view that the literature on the subject shows that very few people have been able to successfully achieve such change, and that sexual orientation is largely immutable. Burr mentioned the concern of some commentators that current sexual orientation research has the potential to reinvigorate pathological interpretations of homosexuality. He quoted biologist Richard Lewontin's assertion that researchers need to show why the origins of homosexuality is an important question, and described the views of clinical geneticist Philip Reilly, who believes that women should have the right to abort a fetus predisposed to become gay.[8][9]


Mainstream media[edit]

A Separate Creation was reviewed by Ray Olson in Booklist,[10] the philosopher Michael Ruse in The Times Literary Supplement,[11] Genevieve Stuttaford in Publishers Weekly,[12] Gail Vines in New Scientist,[13] the historian Roy Porter in The New York Times Book Review,[14] the historian Jonathan Kirsch in the Los Angeles Times,[15] and Jon Turney in the Times Higher Education Supplement.[16] Porter wrote that researchers into sexual orientation have made exaggerated claims based on limited and sometimes flawed evidence, and called Burr's book a dispiriting comment on the state of science.[14] Kirsch called it a "mostly successful" effort to explain the findings of genetic research.[15]

Gay media[edit]

A Separate Creation was reviewed by the physician Lawrence D. Mass in Lambda Book Report,[17] and Stephen H. Miller in the New York Native.[18] Mass considered Burr a "gay-positive essentialist" and his book "a valuable historical document with personal and dramatic moments", comparable to Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On (1987).[17]

Evaluations in books[edit]

The philosopher Timothy F. Murphy wrote that Burr is incorrect in claiming that LeVay's 1991 neuroanatomical report on the hypothalamus was the first major biological investigation of sexual orientation, as scientific study of its determinants dates to the 19th century and many investigations of the possible biological basis of homosexuality preceded LeVay's work.[8] The philosopher Edward Stein, writing in The Mismeasure of Desire (1999), considered Burr "unsophisticated" for failing to discuss social constructionist views and uncritically accepting claims about the factors that cause homosexuality in fruit flies, including the discovery of a single gene that supposedly controls courtship behavior between male flies. Stein maintained that such animal research commits the fallacy of anthropomorphism and is irrelevant to understanding sexual orientation in humans.[19]

The feminist Germaine Greer praised A Separate Creation.[20] Professor of Biology Marlene Zuk described Separate Creation as an, "Excellent discussion of the various findings about the biological basis of sexual orientation."[21] The psychologist Louis A. Berman described Burr's evaluation of the biological evidence as optimistic. Berman, who believes that writers supportive of gay rights have ignored professional literature dealing with efforts to change sexual orientation, noted in this connexion that though Burr conducted a two-hour interview with the psychoanalyst Charles Socarides, Burr does not mention this either in "Homosexuality and Biology" or in A Separate Creation.[3]



  1. ^ Stein 1999. p. 166.
  2. ^ Burr 1996. p. iv.
  3. ^ a b Berman 2003. p. 511.
  4. ^ Berman 2003. p. 498.
  5. ^ Burr 1996. pp. 14-15.
  6. ^ Murphy 1997. pp. 14, 232-233.
  7. ^ Burr 1996. pp. 4, 232, 243-247.
  8. ^ a b Murphy 1997. pp. 4, 29, 62-63, 235, 238, 240, 247, 253.
  9. ^ Burr 1996. pp. 3, 43-44, 81, 163-181, 273, 278.
  10. ^ Olson 1996. p. 1466.
  11. ^ Ruse 1996. p. 14.
  12. ^ Stuttaford 1996. p. 65.
  13. ^ Vines 1996. p. 41.
  14. ^ a b Porter 1996.
  15. ^ a b Kirsch 1996.
  16. ^ Turney 1997. p. 22.
  17. ^ a b Mass 1996. p. 14.
  18. ^ Miller 1996. p. 18.
  19. ^ Stein 1999. pp. 166, 350.
  20. ^ Greer 1999. p. 344.
  21. ^ Zuk 2002. p. 218.


  • Berman, Louis A. (2003). The Puzzle: Exploring the Evolutionary Puzzle of Male Homosexuality. Wilmette, Illinois: Godot Press. ISBN 0-9723013-1-3. 
  • Burr, Chandler (1996). A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0-78-68-6081-2. 
  • Greer, Germaine (1999). The Whole Women. London: Transworld Publishers. ISBN 0-385-60016-X. 
  • Murphy, Timothy F. (1997). Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10849-4. 
  • Stein, Edward (1999). The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation. Berkeley: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514244-6. 
  • Zuk, Marlene (2002). Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex from Animals. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21974-0. 
  • Mass, Lawrence D. (1996). "Born gay?". Lambda Book Report. 5 (1).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Miller, Stephen H. (1996). "Dissenting Voices". New York Native (692).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Olson, Ray (1996). "Upfront: Advance reviews". Booklist. 92 (17).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Ruse, Michael (1996). "Glad to be gay?". The Times Literary Supplement (4883).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Stuttaford, Genevieve (1996). "Forecasts: Nonfiction". Publishers Weekly. 243 (20).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Turney, Jon (1997). "Biology to sway the Vatican?". The Times Higher Education Supplement (1280).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Vines, Gail (1996). "Pride and prejudice". New Scientist. 151 (2038).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
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