The Biology of Homosexuality

Here’s an interesting article at Salon regarding a recent neurological study on sexual orientation:

One way to distinguish the effects of nature from nurture would be to look at brain regions believed by neuro-anatomists to be fully formed at birth and impervious to subsequent environmental effects, both physical and psychological. Focusing on such brain regions, a research team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, headed by neuroscientist Ivanka Savic, obtained MRIs for 90 adult volunteers — 25 straight men, 25 straight women, 20 gay men and 20 lesbians. Using the latest quantitative techniques for assessing cerebral symmetry and functional connections between various areas of brain, Savic was able to demonstrate highly statistically significant differences between straight and gay brains. Gay and lesbian brains more closely resembled the brains of straight volunteers of the opposite sex than the brains of heterosexual members of the same sex.

The entire article is informative and worth the read. Here’s my question: If sexual orientation, gay or straight, is found to be predominantly a biological matter, how does that affect the stance of many within the Church who are opposed to homosexual relationships?

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15 thoughts on “The Biology of Homosexuality

  1. I think the answer to that question has little to do with these findings, honestly. Most people in the Church who pretend that homosexuality is simply a choice will just deny/ignore any findings.

    As for myself, these findings don’t change my stance that homosexuality is unbiblical, primarily because I’ve previously granted that predisposition to homosexuality is partially (though not wholly) biological. If all of creation is fallen, then that would also include our physiology and, subsequently, our neurology. But I still think there’s a spectrum, and that nature and nurture are both inextricably connected. Some people are more genetically predisposed to be gay, while other people are more environmentally conditioned to be gay. And everywhere in between.

    While I do think homosexual relationships are wrong, it’s a complex issue without any easy black and white answers on how to proceed. You can’t simply say to a gay person, “Stop liking the same sex.” You can’t simply send them to brainwashing camp. But just saying that there’s some science to support that people don’t always “choose” to be gay also doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make the argument that a homosexual lifestyle is bad.

    I think these findings need to be addressed and discussed. They are important, and they mean something in terms of how we deal with and love human beings. The saddest part is, as I said before, that the many in the Church will ignore it, simply because it makes their lives easier.

  2. “how does that affect the stance of many within the Church who are opposed to homosexual relationships?”

    Biological predisposition does not affect whether or not an activity is right or wrong. In fact, most Church-goers believe that we are born with a sin-nature.

    Therefore, if someone believes that homosexuality is a sin, then it would simply be part of their sin nature. If someone believes that homosexuality is good, then it would simply be part of the image of God. So, as you can see, homosexuality being a function of biology would not greatly affect its status within the Church.

    As a comparison, alcoholism is thought by some to be hereditary, but that does not affect its status within the Church.

  3. “how does that affect the stance of many within the Church who are opposed to homosexual relationships”

    a) it won’t affect many because they will still have some other justification as to why the ‘queers need to be feared’.

    b) the ones that are ‘born gay’ , they “chose” to be gay in their spirit and were already destined to be gay because of the “condition of the heart” and god knew that so he skipped a few steps and just had them come out of the womb that way.

    either of those though, are ridiculous , beyond comprehension that people would take. so more than likely it will be one, both or combination of the two :/

    Rocksteady,
    Danno~

  4. Zach, i think the church really needs to get over the whole “it’s not biology, it’s a choice” thing.
    But deciding whether or not homosexuality can be accepted as a legitimate relationship would have to settle on whether or not it’s wrong in the first place over and above whether or not it’s biological, wouldn’t it? And honestly, this is an issue in my family and i’m not settled on what i think about it all, but if it were sinful, the argument is that biology condones nothing (i.e., some are more biologically prone to violence, but nothing is condoned because of inclination).
    your thoughts?

  5. I don’t think it has to affect the stance of Christians who “are opposed to homosexual relationships.”

    In fact, I think that this finding would fit nicely within a Christian Theology that teaches “Original Sin” and “Inherited Corruption.” Christian doctrine, most believe, teaches that all sin and are sinners because of Adam. It seems obvious then that homosexuality would be included in that.

  6. If gay orientation is being determined by the same biological circumstances as hetero
    orientation, I find the position that homosexual orientation is inherently unGodly while hetero orientation is not, to be painfully unfair and cruel. It seems a position of convenience and doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose than to demonize individuals who’ve been created with a God-given desire to love another. “But the bible tells us so”, to me is not enough of a justification. The bible tells us to do scores of things that Christians the world over completely ignore.

  7. To go a little off topic. Ray Botlz, one of the leaders in the CCM industry, just came out of the closet. For people not familiar with this world this isn’t that big of a deal, but he is by far the biggest name in the industry to come out. I would venture to say that in small churches across America, this has a bigger personal impact than Ted Haggert (not that he’s come out yet). Every cheesy Christian drama group out there has done a mime or skit to at least one of his songs.

    I don’t think these findings will impact the way the Church looks at homosexual relationships. Those who are opposed will continue to be and those who are in support will continue to be. What it really should effect is people who are on the fence or have remained silent. It should create more honest discussions, it should create deeper thought, it should cause people to stop using one liners to answer more complicated questions that real people agonize over every day. It should, but it most likely won’t until more people continue to speak up for those who have lost their voice in the Church.

    Intelligent and thoughtful people may still land on opposite sides of the issue, like they have on many others over the years, but my hope would be that through open dialogue a new culture would be created that valued loved above all. Either way it is time for both sides to stop shooting flaming arrows over the wall at an adversary they neither know nor care about and instead stand on the wall and look each side in the eye and try to come to some understanding that values people over politics.

  8. “It should create more honest discussions, it should create deeper thought, it should cause people to stop using one liners to answer more complicated questions that real people agonize over every day…Either way it is time for both sides to stop shooting flaming arrows over the wall at an adversary they neither know nor care about and instead stand on the wall and look each side in the eye and try to come to some understanding that values people over politics.”

    Amen, brother.

  9. I have heard that about the similarity between gay male and straight female brains and between gay female and straight male brains, and I’ve heard about related theories which involve hormones in relation to sexual attraction.

    As for how the Christian Church would react: for the sake of every gay person sitting in a pew, I would hope that it would have a positive impact.

  10. Zach I understand your reasoning that it would be cruel if the argument was strong enough. But I just want to point out that reasonable people can disagree. I’d have to say sin is cruel either way. The way I see it people are on a whole spectrum of different sexual preferences and just because they are biologically driven doesn’t make them right. If genes and biology did authenticate the lifestyle there would be a myriad of preferences we’d logically have to approve of… ya know like all those damn priest and their boy toys. I want to express the same amount of compassion and empathy on this issue as any other but that doesn’t require me to follow bad logic.
    Scientist are finding out that the brain is plastic(it has plasticity) which means you CAN form new patterns and “train” your brain…or as Christians say “renewing your mind”. …anyways they are studying how to rid people of addictions using these new discoveries. Pretty sweet.

  11. “I’d have to say sin is cruel either way. The way I see it people are on a whole spectrum of different sexual preferences and just because they are biologically driven doesn’t make them right. If genes and biology did authenticate the lifestyle there would be a myriad of preferences we’d logically have to approve of… ya know like all those damn priest and their boy toys.”

    That’s a false argument. It’s awfully careless, in my opinion, to equate same-sex orientation to pedophilia. With that logic, I could argue that heterosexuality should not be allowed because men sexually assault under age girls.

    “scientist are finding out that the brain is plastic(it has plasticity) which means you CAN form new patterns and “train” your brain…or as Christians say “renewing your mind”. …anyways they are studying how to rid people of addictions using these new discoveries. Pretty sweet.”

    Randy, try that out with YOUR sexual preference and see how well you do. 😉

  12. I honestly disagree. You assumed that I was saying for example: being attracted to my daughter is the same as being attracted to my wife. Its not the same and if its not then my point still stands. The assumption has always been that men and women are meant to be together. I’m talking functionally here…or biologically…you know the “key” goes in the “key hole”. In a generous conversation it would have been easy for you to see that the “spectrum of preferences” refers to anything other than a monogamous relationship with the opposite gender. But you didn’t afford the time to be generous, which is ok, I don’t always do it either. Plus being generous is so emergent. Point I was trying to make is I believe there are people that are really in their genetic makeup attracted to different things than the opposite gender… I don’t see that as even being questionable hence the priest reference.

    This would be easy to just continually bash me and my “logic” but the interest I have in the topic goes beyond reading this post and just randomly commenting. A very good friend of mine that I’ve known for over 20 years has decided to leave his wife and two boys because he is a homosexual. So I’m not just speaking in the hypothetical. I’ve been apart of a group of people that love him and have tried to work through it with him and as a community. So I guess my point is I’ve dealt with it first hand… seen the family get torn apart and still had to come up with my own opinion. I don’t in anyway intend to rain on your parade but all your commentors are generally in line with you perfectly and it appears that you do in fact not understand that people can honestly disagree without being labeled stupid or not up with the times.
    If I followed your logic then yes your right all would be equal and I could start liking dick… point taken… its not gonna happen.

  13. Sorry Randy. It wasn’t my intention to “bash” you. I was just challenging the assumptions I thought you were making. I was also not trying to label you as being “stupid” at all. I’m simply trying debate your points. If my tone was over the top, then my apologies.

    So just to be clear, do you believe that a monogamous homosexual relationship is equally as deviant or wrong as in instances where a child is molested? I take your example with the priest as a “slippery slope” argument. Did I misread that?

  14. Thats interesting. In my mind the idea of Sin and Wrong in the church should me more aligned with what God wants for someone. I believe God has a plan for everyone, and that it’s a good plan. In a world of sickness and pain, some people are born with a more likely chance to have depression, but that doesn’t mean that it’s God’s plan for their life. I don’t think God’s plan is for someone to be in a homosexual relationship, but in the same regard it’s not His plan for people to be in abusive relationships, which sadly happens in churches a lot and is overlooked. To me this doesn’t change much because the world, and us as people in it, aren’t perfect, nor are our bodies. It’s not God’s design, it’s human flaw, and it doesn’t make anyone less of a person, or less loved by God. Be it a pastor with an anger problem, or a homosexual, or a person with a speach impediment. I don’t believe they’re God’s plan, but a part of fallen humanity.

  15. Zach, I wasn’t looking to prompt an apology but thanks.
    All I was trying to say about the spectrum is that there can be a whole spectrum of sexual attraction. This spectrum is amoral for the sake of the point. If all else is equal and its just biological then any preference, attraction, fetish can be connected to a legit biological cause. Ironically enough I personally believe this. I believe that people are sexually attracted to things that to many are disgusting and sinful. I’m sure it is an enormous struggle for them. As disgusting as it is some men are attracted to little boys, girls, animals…feet. 😉 We make think its sick, sinful and criminal but I don’t think people can deny empirical studies that show this is an authentic attraction.

    The point I’m trying to make is just because sin is expressed biologically in a whole spectrum of sexual preferences from liking your spouses feet to liking donkey feet it does not justify any of them. (You might say that the male/female relationship then isn’t authenticated either… but in the “amoral” example the male female relationship is authenticated through anatomy and the reproduction of the species…obviously).
    People really are going through desires they can’t control just like people go through rages of anger they can’t control. It is biological. This makes sense. But just because it makes sense does not justify or authenticate the action. As in the example of catholic priest. Catholic priest might have been a slippery slope had I not classified all sexual attraction to be amoral but since its on the spectrum of biological attraction it is not a slippery slope. Its just another biological sexual preference. Its actually quite a logical argument that lends itself to Christians expressing compassion for Priest who have violated children and are looking for restoration.

    On a side note that is related to brain functioning as mentioned in the article: I have what is classified as a moderate to severe stutter. Interestingly enough brain scans show that stutterers develop speech with the opposite side of the brain as compared with fluent people. This is very similar to the example in the article that said, “Gay and lesbian brains more closely resembled the brains of straight volunteers of the opposite sex”. I think these are very similar and just because brain function makes us naturally express ourselves in one way does not mean that it is the way its supposed to be. I struggle intensely to talk fluently and I try to fake it but when all is said and done this is out of my control much like the struggle for many homosexuals. In my case I look for a day when this biological thorn in the flesh is taken away as I’m sure some homosexuals feel too.

    Point being. I don’t know how I’m ever going to restore my world view with the life of Ray Boltz or my friend I’ve known almost my whole life. It is a struggle no doubt and I’m stretching as much as I can. But this whole premise of “look science says these people really do desire the same sex” does only one thing. It confirms that “The Fall” is pervasive in every area of life to the point that it steals our desires.

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