Archive for February, 2012

Are Homosexuals Born that Way?

Posted: February 29, 2012 by Alan Shlemon in Do the Right Thing
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Lady Gaga’s mega-hit song “Born this Way” sold millions of copies affirming what many people believe: homosexuality is hardwired. In fact, people think that’s as axiomatic as saying the earth revolves around the sun. No rational person rejects the idea. The only hold-outs, it is said, are either ignorant of science, homophobic, or bigots (read: Christians). But before I explain why this view is beset with problems, let me make a tactical suggestion.

Many Christians get defensive when someone says homosexuality is inborn. I understand the temptation to argue against this claim. But it’s a mistake to try to show it’s false, at least initially. That’s because the claim is not an argument. It’s just an opinion and, therefore, not necessarily true. In order for their claim to become a bona fide argument, it must be supported with evidence or reasons.

So, instead of defending your convictions, make them defend their claim. Simply ask, “What evidence do you have that homosexuals are born that way?” Then wait and listen. This is totally appropriate and not just a rhetorical trick. It’s how the burden of proof works. Whoever makes the claim bears the burden to show it’s true. Since they’ve made the claim, it’s their job to back it up, not your job to prove them wrong.

If they don’t have evidence for their claim, then it’s fair to graciously explain that their view is unreasonable – that they don’t hold their view for good reason. If they do offer evidence for their view, only then is it appropriate to respond with a counter-argument.

With that tactic in mind, let’s look at three problems with the born-that-way theory. The first is the most egregious. A simple scientific fact-check demonstrates that no study has proven that homosexuality is biologically determined.

Decades of research to discover a “gay gene” have been unsuccessful. It’s now uncommon for scientists to think that homosexuality is solely genetic. Perhaps the most powerful line of evidence is found in twin studies. Since identical twins have identical genetics, it would follow that if one twin was homosexual, the other would also have to be homosexual 100% of the time. But both twins are homosexual in less than 15% of the cases.[i]

Not only is the genetic effect extremely low, but it also accounts for shared environmental factors. In other words, even saying that the genetic contribution to homosexuality is 15% is not accurate because identical twins are usually raised together and share a similar environment. In order to isolate the contribution of genetics, one would have to study identical twins raised apart. That way you eliminate the effect of their environment.

It was also speculated that homosexuality had a biological basis. But research that correlates brain anatomy/physiology with homosexual behavior doesn’t prove causation. In other words, even if the brains of homosexuals have structural differences from those of heterosexuals, that might suggest their behavior changes their brain, not necessarily the other way around. This is possible due to neuroplasticity– the lifelong ability of the brain to change in response to the environment, behavior, brain injury, or even acquiring knowledge. For example, blind people’s brains have a different neurologic structure because reading braille using fingers is a different behavior than using eyes to read.

What’s surprising is that pro-gay researchers and organizations acknowledge the dearth of evidence for a biological cause to homosexuality. The American Psychological Association (APA), for example, once held the position in 1998 that, there is “evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.” However, a decade of scientific research debunked this idea and caused the APA to revise their view in 2009. Their new position reads: “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors”[ii] [emphasis mine]. A pro-gay group like the APA wouldn’t revise their statement unless there was overwhelming evidence that necessitated a position change.

A second problem with the born-that-way theory is that even if true, it wouldn’t prove that homosexual behavior is moral. Consider that scientific research has discovered genes they believe contribute to alcoholism, unfaithfulness, violence, and even many diseases. Are we to believe that because there is a genetic contribution to these behaviors (or even if they were genetically determined) that they should be regarded as morally appropriate? Of course not. So, proving homosexual behavior is appropriate by appealing to a genetic determinant is equally spurious.

This mistake in thinking is known as the naturalistic fallacy. You can’t get an “ought” from an “is.” Even if homosexuality is natural, it doesn’t prove it ought to be. And scientists who are attempting to prove homosexuality is inborn agree. Harvard geneticist Dean Hamer, himself a homosexual, says, “Biology is amoral; it offers no help in distinguishing between right and wrong. Only people guided by their values and beliefs can decide what is moral and what is not.”[iii] Simon LeVay, a Harvard trained neuroscientist and also openly gay, concurs: “Science itself cannot render judgments about human worth or about what constitutes normality or disease. These are value judgments that individuals must make for themselves, while taking scientific findings into account.”[iv]

A third problem stems from the mere existence of the “ex-gay” community. If homosexuality is, as many pro-gay advocates state, as inescapable as eye color, then how do they explain former homosexuals? Eye color is genetic, something that one is born with and can’t change. But sexual orientation is fluid, as evidenced by the changed lives of thousands of men and women.

There are women who have had long-term, lesbian relationships with other women and then changed and became attracted to men. There are also men who have had same-sex attractions since puberty, spent a decade in gay relationships, and then developed attractions to the opposite sex. Many of these people have gone through some form of counseling or therapy, but many have not.

The fact that even one person has changed is evidence that homosexuality is not hard-wired. But that there are thousands of individuals who share this experience is significant counter-evidence against the born-that-way theory. I know many of these people. They can’t all be lying about their life.

Instead, what they offer is hope. Since many people are dissatisfied with their same-sex attractions, these changed lives represent an opposing voice to the cultural chorus that claims homosexuals are born that way.

[i] Bailey JM, Dunne MP, Martin NG. 2000. Genetic and Environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78:524-36.

[iii] Hamer, Dean & Copeland, P. (1994). The Science of Desire (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 214.

[iv] LeVay, Simon, “Sexual Orientation:  The Science and its Social Impact,” in Reverso, 2000, p. 12.

Here’s a picture that’s making the rounds on Facebook. Sometimes challenges like this one are very effective because the actual argument goes unstated. Can you state the argument this picture is making? Clarification is the first step to responding to a challenge, particularly when the subject stirs up as many emotions as this one does. Once you and your friend are clear about the argument, then you can address it.

So give us your ideas about how to respond to a friend who posts this picture, and we’ll hear from Alan on Thursday.

Coming to Theaters: October Baby

Posted: February 27, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Do the Right Thing, Events, Movie Musings

Mark your calendars for March 23. That’s when a new movie, October Baby, will hit movie screens.  I was able to preview the film last week and I suggest you go see this one in the theater.  I’ll be up front, it is a strong pro-life movie dealing head-on with abortion.  But it was powerful and compelling, without being preachy.  The message comes through loud and clear, but in a way that stirred my soul (yes, yes…I cried like 4 times — it was intense).  And ultimately, the message is hopeful.

It’s exactly the kind of thing the pro-life movement needs more of to make a compelling argument in the broader culture.  It raises important questions like:

  • Are there morally significant differences between an unborn baby and a newborn child?
  • Are there significant consequences for the mother who aborts her baby?
  • Is there hope and redemption for women who have had abortions?
  • How can adoption assist our pro-life efforts?
But it raises these questions naturally, in the context of the movie’s narrative, and suggests answers in the same way.

So take your friends, take your wife, take your kids (my 9 & 10 year old watched it with me), take your youth group, take some students, take whoever you can get to go with you and see October Baby on opening weekend.

Friday Fun: All Things Are Better in Koine

Posted: February 24, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Just for Fun

A little Greek fun from students at Biola University…

Challenge Response: Just One Fewer God

Posted: February 23, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

Atheists will claim that they and theists are actually BOTH atheists.  The theist is an atheist about all other gods beside their own and therefore, there’s really no big difference between theism and atheism, just that the atheist believes in one less god.  Is this a real challenge for theists?  Here’s my response:

2012 Dare to Defend Apologetics Event

Posted: February 23, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Events

If you live in So Cal and aren’t too far from the Inland Empire, come join me at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside the next two Monday nights…

There are two separate, but related, implications to this challenge. The first is that it’s wrong to impose any moral rules on society. The second is that it’s wrong for Christians to impose their morality.

The first implication is a common myth that needs to be debunked. It’s perfectly acceptable to legislate morality. When you think about it, morals are the only thing you can legislate. For example, we have laws against stealing for one reason: it’s immoral to take someone’s property. So, we take that moral rule and establish it in law.

The same is true for laws against murder. The reason they exist is because we think it’s immoral to kill an innocent human being. So, we take that moral rule and make it against the law to break it. By legislating that rule, we are legislating morality.

In fact, it’s the moral rule that legitimizes the law’s power to limit freedom. Without a moral grounding, laws would be unjust. They would be the raw use of power to get what someone wants, not to do what’s right. That’s called tyranny.

Therefore, all laws reflect a moral viewpoint. The only question is whose morals will be legislated and which viewpoint will be advanced.

The second implication of this challenge is that it’s wrong for Christians (or religious people for that matter) to impose their morality (i.e. views on homosexuality) on society. Because their policies are motivated by religion, they shouldn’t be allowed to inform the political process.

But why are only Christians limited from imposing their moral views? Why can’t we restrict other people? Homosexuals want to impose their moral standards on society. Let’s make them keep their private beliefs out of the public square. Does that sound fair? It doesn’t because our country endows all citizens with the privilege to participate in the political process. No one is excluded, not even Christians or homosexuals.

Some will respond by saying that Christian morals should be excluded because they are religious and that violates the separation of church and state. But the words, “separation of church and state” are neither in the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution. Even the First Amendment protects religious expression, it doesn’t silence it: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Notice who and what is restricted: the government is restricted from establishing a state religion. The people, however, are free to exercise their religious beliefs.

People who are motivated by religion are free to advocate for public policy. Yet the establishment clause is often read as restricting religious people, when in reality its purpose is the exact opposite. Every citizen enjoys the freedom to legislate their morality. You can’t be disqualified because of your motivations.

Finally, thinking our laws restrict religiously motivated people leads to absurd conclusions. Most of the framers of the Constitution, for example, were practicing Christians. It doesn’t make sense that they would willfully write into the Constitution and Bill of Rights a system of law that they knew would disqualify them from political involvement.

Not only that, but it would also mean that if an ordinary American was against theft because the New Testament (Ephesians 4:28) forbade it, then they wouldn’t be permitted to legislate against larceny. Every person with a religious view would have to remain silent on public policy. This would disenfranchise massive portions of United States population.

Christians have the right, as well as any citizen, to impose their morals on society. To try to limit their role in public policy is an illegitimate attempt to silence dissent. It’s a group’s way of saying, “Just go away,” while at the same time imposing their own moral vision on society. It’s not only unlawful, it’s un-American.

Challenge: Just One Fewer God

Posted: February 21, 2012 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

Here’s an interesting challenge from the website, “God Is Imaginary.” The main part I’d like you to focus on is the quote from Stephen Roberts. The rest of the challenge is there to provide context, but it’s the quote by Roberts that I’ve seen popping up in various atheists’ remarks.

If you believe in God, you have chosen to reject Allah, Vishnu, Budda, Waheguru and all of the thousands of other gods that other people worship today…. In the same way, the followers of all these other religions have chosen to reject God. You think their gods are imaginary, and they think your God is imaginary.

In other words, each religious person on earth today arbitrarily rejects thousands of gods as imaginary, many of which he/she has never even heard of, and arbitrarily chooses to “believe” in one of them.

The following quote from Stephen F. Roberts sums up the situation very nicely:

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

A rational person rejects all human gods equally, because all of them are equally imaginary.

Are you really not that different from an atheist? Is the difference between his beliefs and yours merely “one fewer god”? Is his rejection of God the same as your rejection of all the other gods? Tell us what you think of this one. How would you respond? Brett will give us his thoughts on Thursday.

The Books of the Bible

Posted: February 20, 2012 by Amy Hall in God Has Spoken

Tim Challies created an infographic to give you an overview of the books of the Bible. Click on the image below to view the full-size version, or you can download a high-quality PDF and desktop wallpaper from Challies’s site.

Friday Fun: Studying Theology

Posted: February 17, 2012 by Amy Hall in Just for Fun

This is hilarious…and I suspect, very accurate.