LeVay pt. 1
Hello world. I’m still alive, and I’m doing well. For those of you wondering, the lack of posts isn’t because of a crisis of faith or a sudden change in views or because I started dating a guy (although I wish at times). I’ve just been busy (between work and graduate school), and the thing with me is that when I make priorities, whatever falls out of those priorities really falls out of my life. So I just need to make the blog a priority again, even when I have a ton of research articles to read.
One privilege of attending graduate school at a liberal arts college is that I get free access to the wide variety of lectures, and it just so happens that this campus is really into LGBT issues (like there are rainbows on the doors of professors who want LGBT students to reach out to them; compared to Wheaton, this is refreshing to be honest). This last week I got to attend a lecture by Simon LeVay. If you don’t know who he is, he is notoriously famous for a 1991 study where he reported on a biological difference between gay and straight men. He found that the cell density in a particular area of the hypothalamus was significantly different between the two (for those unfamiliar with statistics, meaning very, very unlikely that the difference was due to chance).
He didn’t just find it by accident. He was comparing hypothalami intentionally because this structure influences basic biological drives such as hunger, thirst, and you guessed it, sexual drives. Thus, if there’s going to be a biological reason for why a man would feel sexually aroused by another man, there’s a good chance it’d be found here. LeVay simply claims that the biological difference he found is one possible explanation for why the two group of men differed in their sexual orientation. He doesn’t claim more than he can; other people have erroneously done that for him. He went out of his way at the lecture to say that his finding does not provide a genetic explanation for homosexuality because the differences in cell density could be due to environmental causes, genetic causes, or both.
Of course, his study is controversial, and many people attempt to discredit it. But I believe that this is mainly because if it’s true, people fear the perceived implications that they extrapolate from it. My friend who attended with me and who went to a different Christian college for undergrad, said that one of her psychology professors vehemently attacked the study because the professor had a premise that homosexuality cannot have a biological root. Many other religious figures have likely attacked the study because they believe in the same premise.
The truth, at least in my opinion, is that this study is well done. Because this isn’t a scientific research blog, I won’t go into specifics as to why it is well done, but if people are going to attempt to discredit this study, then there’s a whole slew of other studies unrelated to homosexuality that they better attempt to discredit as well because they contain the same level of methodological rigor. Just as much as we can’t pick and choose which verses we want to uphold, we can’t pick and choose which scientific studies we want to discredit simply because we don’t like their findings.
When there is a conflict between science and faith, either three things must be truth: (1) the faith belief is wrong, (2) the scientific evidence is wrong, or (3) the conflict doesn’t actually exist.
It is my belief that when individuals get all “up in arms” about research that supports biological factors for homosexuality because based on their religious beliefs it cannot be true, they have created a conflict between their faith and science that doesn’t actually exist.
There is absolutely no conflict between gay attractions having a biological root and the Christian faith.
The argument for this is simple:
(1) We are biological beings (Genesis 1-2), which influences all aspects of our conscious experiences
(2) Sexual feelings are included as being part of biological experiences (brain cells fire when we have an attraction!)
(3) Because biological development is malleable and not everyone’s develops the same way, it is certainly plausible for the biology of certain individuals to develop to have attractions towards their same gender.
(4) Even if Christians believe that God never intended for people to have gay attractions, we know from the Fall in Genesis 3 that the world is currently not how God intended things to be and part of the effect of the Fall is that the biology of all creatures (not just humans) does not always develop in the way it was intended to develop.
So there’s no reason for any Christian to fear LeVay’s research. Do I believe some people are destined to be gay the moment they are conceived due to their genetic combination? Absolutely. Do I believe the hormonal environment of prenatal development can cause gay attractions? Yes. And do I also believe that one’s family environment or choices later in life could also influence a gay orientation? Definitely.
Do I also think that if someone is destined to be gay because of their biological programming that this gives him or her moral license to express their sexuality in whatever way he or she wants?
Not if the person has a bigger moral and theological framework to frame their gay attractions, such as Jordan and myself. And that is the real issue (rather than seeking to refute research that shouldn’t be refuted).
I have more to write about LeVay and will do so at some point (hopefully there won’t be another two month gap).