Here is the Latest on the Science of Same-Sex Attraction

Jesus loves LGBT!

“. . . [T]here is a great chasm between much of the public discourse and what science has shown.”

             – Lawrence S. Mayer, Paul R. McHugh, Special Report: Sexuality and Gender – Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.  The New Atlantis, Number 50, Fall 2016.

In the first six months of 2015, I researched and wrote my Survey of the scholarly literature concerning the nature of same-sex attraction (SSA) and its causes, and published it on this blog under the title, What is Homosexuality – A Survey of the Scholarly Literature.  (Originally posted June 26, 2015; reposted July 4, 2015, see below.)  My primary motive for diving into the literature was to inform myself in order to be able to help my sons in their thinking about the topic.  Chiefly I wanted to know: is there anything to the claim that SSA is inborn and immutable?

Not much, I learned.  The most concise and fair way to summarize my findings would be to say that while there do appear to be one or more unidentified biological factors – perhaps genetic and/or epigenetic – which contribute causally to the incidence of homosexuality, other causes are much more significant, including adverse childhood experience, parental role modeling, and individual free choice; and large numbers of LGBT do change their choices of partners and even their SSA, some once, and some many times over the course of a lifetime.  In short, the weight of the evidence, far from justifying the supplanting of traditional sexual morality, instead provides substantial reason for its reaffirmation.

By pure coincidence, I finished my Survey and posted it on the very day of the decision of the US Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, the gay marriage case.  By that time I had become conscious of the utter lack of discussion about the science of SSA in the policy debates, from gay marriage to transgenderism; but I was still amazed that the science was given virtually no place at all in the Court’s decision.  In the opinion of the Court there was only one mention of any scientific authority, which was a reference to the claim in the brief filed by the American Psychological Association that “sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable” – but the APA brief contains no reference to any scientific evidence.  Yet none of the four dissenting Justices even mentioned the APA’s claim, much less challenged it.  Could it be that 100 “friend of the court” briefs ignored the science completely?

I began looking for someone, anyone, engaged in bringing the science into the policy discussion.  It took over a year, but I have found two pairs of scholars who have published their own surveys of the scientific findings about SSA.  It is very gratifying to be able to say that my own findings are almost entirely consistent with theirs.

One pair published their findings way back in 2000 – unfortunately, I did not become aware of it until August 2016.  Stanton Jones is Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, and Mark A. Yarhouse is Professor of Psychology at Regent University.  Their book, Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate, published by InterVarsity Press, is outstanding.  The other pair of scholars published their review of the literature in a lengthy article in the Fall 2016 issue of The New Atlantis.  Lawrence S. Mayer is a scholar at the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.  Paul R. McHugh is University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Their conclusions track very closely with Jones’ and Yarhouse’s (and with mine), namely: there does appear to be a weak biological factor in SSA, but “scientific research does not give much support to the hypothesis that sexual orientation is innate and fixed. . . .  Some of the most widely held views about sexual orientation, such as the ‘born that way’ hypothesis, simply are not supported by science.”

Let me emphasize again, LGBT individuals bear the image of God as much as anyone.  They are citizens and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  However, the reckless departure on which our society has embarked is very dangerous.  May it be that our courts and legislatures will soon become acquainted with what science has to say about SSA.  Spread the word.

This entry was posted in Law and policy, Same-sex Attraction, Science and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Here is the Latest on the Science of Same-Sex Attraction

  1. Bob Scroggins says:

    Thanks Tom for your posting on SSA and the information on the scientific research. I have a friend that is walking through the reality of his daughter attracted to a women and wants him to give his blessing to their marriage. Your comments are helpful.




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