Is Homosexuality in the
by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
April 15, 2004
advocates have won a massive victory in the court of public opinion,
and they won without even having to prove their case. Millions of
Americans simply assume that science has "discovered"
a genetic basis for homosexual attraction and behavior, and then
assume that this would mean that homosexuality is just a predetermined
trait. Of course, no genetic basis for homosexuality has ever been
proved, and scientists are deeply divided over the very idea that
homosexuality--or any human behavior--can be traced to our genetic
The idea of a so-called "gay gene" was
invented by homosexual activists as an argument that would help
their cause. For the past fifteen years, those leading the movement
to normalize homosexuality have staked their political strategy
on claims that homosexuality is an inherited trait, like left-handedness,
for a significant minority of human beings. Homosexuality, they
have argued, is thus a "natural" condition and thus is
not morally significant. Indeed, if homosexuality is natural, they
argue, discrimination against homosexuals would be wrong.
The controversy has pitted scientist against scientist
in a battle to control the argument and the data. "What we
have here is a scientific controversy," explains Michael Bailey,
a Northwestern University scientist and proponent of the "gay
gene" theory. With same-sex marriage on the nation's political
agenda, the controversy is worth revisiting.
A report published almost five years ago in Science
magazine refuted earlier claims by scientists to have discovered
the so-called "gay gene."
Clinical neurologists George Rice and George Ebers
of Canada's University of Western Ontario failed to find a link
between male homosexuality and chromosomal region Xq28, a link which
had been claimed by other researchers. The Canadian results were
supported by work at the University of Chicago which, according
to Science, "does not provide strong support for a linkage."
Rice stated that the cumulative evidence, "would suggest that
if there is a linkage it's so weak that it's not important."
Two of the most significant scientists pressing
the case for a genetic link are Dean Hamer of the National Cancer
Institute and Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist formerly with the Salk
Institute. Among those arguing for a biological basis of homosexuality,
Hamer is the establishment expert; LeVay is the passionate evangelist.
In fact, LeVay has left the task of scientific research to others,
and now works mainly as a homosexual activist. He sees the biological
case as essential to overcoming claims that homosexual behavior
is sinful. "A genetic component in sexual orientation says
'This is not a fault, and this is not your fault.'"
The case for a biological cause first gained credibility
in 1991 through research by Michael Bailey, who studied patterns
of male homosexuality among identical twins. The case was strengthened
in 1993 when Hamer and colleagues claimed to have identified a specific
genetic link to male homosexuality, and to have isolated the link
to the X chromosome. Both studies received international media attention
Rice and Ebers undertook their study to see if these
claims could be confirmed. To the contrary, they found no link in
the Xq28 region which could function with any significant influence.
As Ebers stated, "there is no hint or direction of the initial
Hamer defended his research, but conceded that the
new studies do indicate that at least some cases of homosexuality
are not linked to the X-chromosome. He called for yet more research
involving hundreds of homosexual twins. Hamer knows that the research
can be a two-edged sword. In 1997 he warned, "The trick will
be to make sure that sexual orientation is included on a list of
'normal' traits rather that on a list of diseases and disorders."
He acknowledged that deciding "which list sexual orientation
belongs to is a social judgment, not a scientific one." So
much for scientific objectivity.
Homosexual activists downplayed the research study
but appeared to retreat from any claim of a biological basis for
homosexuality. David M. Smith, speaking for the Human Rights Campaign,
a homosexual-rights political organization, told the Washington
Post, "In the final analysis it should not matter whether there
is a biological basis or there is not." This is quite a shift
from the group's established strategy.
Responses to the study were predictable. The argument
that homosexuality is matter of biology rather than morality is
too useful for the homosexual community to abandon it altogether.
Some remain convinced that research will eventually prove this case.
Conservatives will welcome the research as "proof" that
homosexuality is freely chosen and that biology plays no significant
part in the homosexual condition. Both sides had better be careful
lest the scientific evidence should eventually build against their
case. For now, the case against a genetic basis seems convincing.
Neil Whitehead, a biochemist in New Zealand, comments:
"Science has not yet discovered any genetically dictated behavior
in humans. So far, genetically dictated behaviors of the one-gene-one-trait
variety have been found only in very simple organisms. The closest
thing to a genetically-caused behavior that science has come up
with in humans so far (aggression in Dutch men related to a mutation
of one gene), is far too responsive to counseling and varied in
its expression to be genetically determined. This raises the obvious
question: Is there really any such thing as genetically-caused behavior?"
Conservative Christians believe that homosexual
behavior is sinful, not because of scientific evidence or the absence
of a biological basis, but because the Bible is so clear in its
condemnation of all homosexual acts, and even of homosexual desire
[Romans 1: 27]. The Rice and Ebers study does reveal the weakness
of the biological argument put forward by homosexual activists,
but evangelicals must be cautious in denying the possibility of
any biological factors related to homosexuality.
Both serious and ludicrous arguments are now put
forth claiming a genetic basis for, among other things, alcoholism,
gambling addictions, violent behavior, and even excessive television
watching. All of these represent efforts to remove social stigma
and to classify sinful behaviors as normal, or at least understandable.
But, as a 1994 report in Science stated, "Time and time again,
scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions
are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings
when they were not replicated."
The flight from moral responsibility is a hallmark
of the modern age. We hope for modern science to heal our diseases
and excuse our sins. The Bible will not allow this evasion. Our
sinful behavior, rooted in biology or not, is a matter for which
we are fully accountable. After all, as the Psalmist confessed:
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother
conceived me" [Psalm 51:5].
The doctrine of human depravity reminds us that
no part of ourselves is free from sin and its injury. That certainly
includes our genetic code as well. As early Christian theologian
Ambrose of Milan [340-397] stated, "Before we are born we are
infected with the contagion, and before we see the light of day
we experience the injury of our origin." In other words, everyone's
genetic code is corrupted by sin--why should we be surprised?
In the end, the scientific evidence is not morally
important, though it may be medically useful. The church's witness
to the biblical condemnation of homosexuality as sin is a crucial
test of faithfulness, no matter where the biological research may
lead. The church must take its stand on the Word of God, and leave
the genes to the geneticists.