A new app called "How Gay Are You?" has surfaced, and its makers, a startup called Insolent.AI, claim to be able predict users' sexual preferences by analyzing their DNA.
But leading genetics experts tell Futurism magazine that the app is bunk. The Broad Institute's Daniel MacArthur has tweeted a letter the Broad's Benjamin Neale sent the app platform GenePlaza urging the company to take the app down.
In August, a large-scale GWAS study published in Science found that there are multiple loci implicated in same-sex sexual behavior and that nonheterosexual behavior is polygenic. As such, Futurism says, the app's premise that it can find a specific gene or genes that points to a person's "gayness" is "useless at best and dangerous at worst."
Leading genetics expert Deanna Church tells the magazine that the app is "garbage," adding, "You cannot tell 'how gay' someone is from looking at their DNA and I don't think you will ever be able to do this."
Katayoun Chamany, a geneticist and cell biologist at The New School Collaboratory, tells Futurism that the app "sounds terrible."
The magazine notes that even the app's website points to the Science study's findings that there's no obvious link between a specific gene and sexual orientation, but then the website also claims that it uses this study's findings to place customers somewhere along a graph of "same sex attraction" based on their genetic profiles.
The most the app could conceivably do is to compare a user's gene expression against a large database of people with known sexualities, extrapolating that the customer would have similar preferences to people with similar DNA, Futurism says. But it's more likely to be "totally inaccurate," the magazine adds.
A petition on Change.org calling for the app's removal has accumulated nearly 1,400 signatures.
In his letter to the company, Neale and the other authors of the Science paper say the gay "score" the app purports to provide to users "is a total misrepresentation of the conclusions of [our] work." Neale notes that the study indicated it's impossible to predict the likelihood of same-sex sexual behavior on an individual level, and that the app presents a "gross and dangerous mischaracterization" of the study's conclusions.