In 1993, this statement gained prominent and popular attention when Newsweek magazine devoted an entire issue to homosexuality and scientific studies. They reviewed the work of Simon LeVay, a professed homosexual, who set out to prove the biological basis of homosexuality by studying the autopsies of thirty-five people who had died of AIDS. Nineteen of these people were known to be gay, while sixteen were supposedly from a heterosexual lifestyle. LeVay found that the hypothalamus of the brain was smaller in homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals, and thus concluded that there was a genetic basis for homosexuality.
The acceptance of LeVay’s theory was limited in the scientific community, as he was unable to verify whether those people in each group were truly homosexual or heterosexual. In addition, the variations in brain size were significant within each group, so his conclusions were not well founded. Many reputable researchers have found this study to be seriously flawed. Not only is there not a clearly identifiable “control” group in this study, but it assumes, rather than proves, a cause/effect relationship between the hypothalamus and homosexuality. It is just as possible to postulate that homosexual behavior could well affect the hypothalamus size. In summary, the limited size of the study and flawed procedure make the conclusions anecdotal at best, not scientific.
A second study was conducted by Dr. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University and Dr. Richard C. Pillard of Boston University. They reported that in identical male twins, when one is homosexual, the other is three times more likely to be homosexual than a fraternal twin. Therefore, the study concluded, there must be a genetic link. The flaws of the study were that the sample size was quite small, that 48 percent of the identical twins were not homosexual, and that no account was given of shared early home life and upbringing or early environmental factors. Most researchers argue that the percentages work just as well against a genetic connection as in support of one.
So the point is, if homosexuality is genetic, identical twins who have exactly the same genes should be uniform in their sexuality. They are not.
Here’s what I can say about the genetics. Other research has been done, and in terms of all the literature available, although there has been a consistent desire to find links, there is no correlation between genetic makeup and homosexual behavior. Studies by Johns Hopkins University; Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Evelyn Hooker, a pro-homosexual scientist; and Masters and Johnson all deny there’s any genetic link. They agree that the connection between genetics and homosexuality is a wishful myth.
For example, it would be fair to say to homosexual friends that many of us have predisposition toward one direction or another in many areas of life that might not be best for us. The research seems to indicate there may be a predisposition in some people toward homosexuality even as others seem to be predisposed by type and environment to become overly dependent on alcohol. But the evidence of gay predisposition is far smaller than alcoholism. We know that almost 67 to 70 percent of alcoholics display at least a genetic predisposition toward becoming an alcoholic.
But we would never tell an alcoholic, “Predisposition is an excellent excuse. Go ahead and just get drunk all your life,” right? There’s a predisposition in some people for stealing or lying. But even if there’s a genetic predisposition, another huge factor is accumulated effects of the fallen world we live in. All of us feel those effects in different ways. People need to be loved, understood, even when they may have temptations in areas that might not be our particular area of struggle. The basics of dealing with powerful temptations, whether they relate to lust, destructive thought patterns, or self-centeredness are the same. We all need help. And the same grace of God is available. But we need to get this on the table, and care deeply about people, so the truth and the love come in the same package.
Our guide and helper in this great task is Jesus Christ. He can teach us to see the way He saw. In Mark 2:1–12, four men brought their friend who was a paralytic to Jesus. His need was obvious. They went to great lengths to get him in front of Jesus, including ripping a hole in the roof to lower the man’s stretcher. Yet despite the obvious need, Jesus immediately saw the real, deeper need this man had for forgiveness. He looked at the “stuck” man and said, “Your sins are forgiven” (v. 9). When we deal with people as they present themselves to us, we need to develop Jesus’s capacity for looking past the obvious to meet the real need, so that the obvious need can be taken care of also.
Now, what you need to understand, though, is that in the popular culture the myth of complete genetic determination is seen as accepted fact. Realize that hearing anything repeated long enough and loud enough can make it begin to sound like the truth. The unchangeable fate of genetics is what has been championed by the gay community and repeated often by public education. But frequency of repetition or increasing familiarity doesn’t equal truth. For centuries it was taken as unquestionable truth that the earth was flat. Many people can fervently believe what is not true.
And yet young people from a Bible-teaching church who go to school and talk to a friend are told, “Those feelings, that attraction you have for the same sex you just mentioned? You’re a homosexual. And you were born that way. There’s no choice but to act on those feelings.”
When honestly questioning the most basic premise of the homosexual community, the following question is valid, whether asked by those inside or outside the lifestyle: If homosexuality is not due to genetics, then what causes people to have same-sex attraction? If we aren’t born that way, why do some people end up feeling like they are that way?
When you review the research, you find there are several significant factors that influence a person who struggles with same-sex attraction.
Chip Ingram, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: Culture Shock, by Chip Ingram
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Culture Shock, Lesson #1
Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong
How Did We Get into This Mess?
Culture Shock, Lesson #2
Culture Shock, Lesson #3
Culture Shock, Lesson #4
Culture Shock, Lesson #5
Culture Shock, Lesson #6
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Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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