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June 18, 2010 Print

Responding to Pro-Gay Social Arguments: ‘Homosexuality is Inborn’

by CitizenLink Team

Pro-gay “social justice” arguments are effective because they sound so good.  They demand an end to homophobia and insensitivity; who wants to say they are against such goals?

Authored by Joe Dallas

Social justice arguments are effective because they sound so good. They demand an end to homophobia and insensitivity; who wants to say they are against such goals? But just as the question “When did you stop beating your wife, Mr. Jones?” assumes (without proof) that Mr. Jones has been beating his wife, so the pro-gay social justice arguments assume (without proof) that gays are victims, and that the conservative church is largely responsible for their victimhood.

These arguments are most effective in secular discussions (talk shows, interviews, university debates) where listeners are unlikely to judge them by Biblical standards. Instead of discerning which side is theologically correct, non-Christian audiences tend to side with whomever seems “nicest.” Usually, that means the gay spokesman asking for anti-discrimination laws or support clubs for gay teenagers. The person against these things – usually a conservative Christian – does not seem “nice,” no matter how nice he or she may truly be.

That is not to say pro-gay social justice arguments are unwinnable; answered properly and politely, non-Biblical ideas can be challenged in the secular arena. Paul proved that with the citizens at Mars Hill (Acts 17:22). But the challenger needs to be aware that often, because of his position, he will be seen as the “bad guy.” This is all the more reason to speak with an equal measure of clarity and politeness.

Social justice argument #1: ‘Homosexuality is inborn.’

Argument #1-A: Simon LeVay and the hypothalamus

In 1991 Dr. LeVay, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute of La Jolla, California, examined the brains of 41 cadavers: 19 allegedly homosexual men, 16 allegedly heterosexual men, and six allegedly heterosexual women. His study focused on a group of neurons in the hypothalamus structure called the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus, or the INAH3.

He reported this region of the brain to be larger in heterosexual men than in homosexuals; likewise, he found it to be larger in heterosexual men than in the women he studied. For that reason, he postulated homosexuality to be inborn, the result of size variations in the INAH3, and his findings were published in Science in August of 1991. (1)  This is the study most often quoted when people insist homosexuality has been “proven” to be inborn.

Response: This argument is exaggerated and misleading for six reasons:

First, LeVay did not prove homosexuality to be inborn; his results were not uniformly consistent. On the surface it appears all of LeVay’s homosexual subjects had smaller INAH3’s than his heterosexual ones; in fact, three of the homosexual subjects actually had larger INAH3’s than the heterosexuals. Additionally, three of the heterosexual subjects had smaller INAH3’s than the average homosexual subject. Thus, six of LeVay’s 35 male subjects (17 percent of his total study group) contradicted his own theory. (2)

Second, LeVay did not necessarily measure the INAH3 properly. The area LeVay was measuring is quite small—smaller than snowflakes, according to scientists interviewed when his study was released. His peers in the neuroscientific community cannot agree on whether the INAH3 should be measured by its size/volume or by its number of neurons. (3)

Third, it’s unclear whether brain structure affects behavior or behavior affects brain structure. Dr. Kenneth Klivington, also of SALK Institute, points out that neurons can change in response to experience. “You could postulate,” he says, “that brain change occurs throughout life, as a consequence of experience.” (4) In other words, even if there is a significant difference between the brain structures of heterosexual and homosexual men, it is unclear whether the brain structure caused their homosexuality, or if their homosexuality affected their brain structure.

In fact, one year after LeVay’s study was released, Dr. Lewis Baxter of UCLA obtained evidence that behavioral therapy can produce changes in brain circuitry, reinforcing the idea that behavior can and does affect brain structure. (5)  Therefore, even if differences do exist between the INAH3’s of homosexual and heterosexual men, it is possible that the diminished size of the homosexual’s is caused by his behavior, rather than his behavior being caused by the INAH3’s size.

Fourth, LeVay was not certain which of his subjects were homosexual and which were heterosexual. Dr. LeVay admits this represents a “distinct shortcoming” in his study. Having only case histories on his subjects to go by (which were by no means guaranteed to provide accurate information about the patient’s sexual orientation), he could only assume that, if a patient’s records did not indicate he was gay, he must have been heterosexual.

Yet six of the 16 reportedly heterosexual men studied had died of AIDS, increasing the chances their sexual histories may have been incompletely recorded.6)  If it is uncertain which of LeVay’s subjects were heterosexual and which were homosexual, how can his conclusions about “differences” between them really be accurate and useful?

Fifth, LeVay did not approach the subject objectively. Dr. LeVay, who is openly homosexual, told Newsweek that, after the death of his lover, he was determined to find a genetic cause for homosexuality or he would abandon science altogether. Furthermore, he admitted, he hoped to educate society about homosexuality, affecting legal and religious attitudes towards it. (7)  None of which diminishes his credentials as a neuroscientist, but his research can hardly be classified as purely objective and unbiased.

Sixth, the scientific community did not by any means unanimously accept Dr. LeVay’s study. Comments from other scientists in response to LeVay’s work are noteworthy. Dr. Richard Nakamura of the National Institute of Mental Health says it will take a “larger effort to be convinced there is a link between this structure and homosexuality.” (8)  Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling of Brown University is less gentle in her response: “My freshman biology students know enough to sink this study.” (9) Dr. Rochelle Klinger, a psychiatrist at Medical College of Virginia, doubts we will “ever find a single cause of homosexuality.” (10) And Scientific American sums up the reason many professionals approach the INAH3 theory with caution: “LeVay’s study has yet to be fully replicated by another researcher.” (11)

Argument #1-B: Twins

In 1991, psychologist Michael Bailey of Northwestern University (a gay rights advocate) and psychiatrist Richard Pillard of Boston University School of Medicine (who is openly homosexual) compared sets of identical male twins to fraternal twins (whose genetic ties are less close). In each set, at least one twin was homosexual. They found that, among the identical twins, 52 percent were both homosexual, as opposed to the fraternal twins, among whom only 22 percent shared a homosexual orientation. (12) Pillard and Bailey suggested the higher incidence of shared homosexuality among identical twins meant homosexuality was genetic in origin.

Response: The argument is misleading and exaggerated for four reasons:

First, Pillard and Bailey’s findings actually indicate that something besides genes must account for homosexuality. If 48 percent of identical twins, who are closely linked genetically, do NOT share the same sexual orientation, then genetics alone CANNOT account for homosexuality. Bailey admitted as much by stating, “There must be something in the environment to yield the discordant twins.” (13)

Second, all of the twins Pillard and Bailey studied were raised in the same household. If the sets of twins in which both brothers were homosexual were raised in separate homes, it might be easier to believe genes played a role in their sexual development. But since they were all raised in the same households, it is impossible to know what effect environment played, and what effect, if any, genes played. Dr. Fausto-Sterling summarized the problem: “In order for such a study to be at all meaningful, you’d have to look at twins raised apart.” (14)

Third, Drs. Pillard and Bailey, like Dr. LeVay, did not approach their subject objectively. Their personal feelings about homosexuality, like Dr. LeVay’s, certainly do not disqualify them from doing good research on the subject. But they must be, at the very least, considered. In fact, Pillard said: “A genetic component in sexual orientation says, ‘This is not a fault,’ and both he and Bailey stated they hoped their work would “disprove homophobic claims.” (15)

Fourth, a later study on twins yielded results different from Pillard and Bailey’s. In March of 1992, The British Journal of Psychiatry published a report on homosexuals who are twins (both fraternal and identical) and found that only 20 percent of the homosexual twins had a gay co-twin, leading the researchers to conclude that “genetic factors are an insufficient explanation of the development of sexual orientation.” (16)  Not only, then, has Pillard and Bailey’s work not been replicated; when a similar study was conducted, it had completely different results.

Argument #1-C: Genes

In 1993, Dr. Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute studied 40 pairs of non-identical gay brothers and claimed that 33 of the pairs had inherited the same X-linked genetic markers, thus indicating a genetic cause for homosexuality. (17)

Response #1: The argument is misleading and exaggerated for two reasons:

First, like LeVay’s study, Hamer’s results have yet to be replicated. Again, it should be noted a lack of replication does NOT mean a study is invalid; it only means the study’s conclusions have not been confirmed by further research.

Second, a later, similar study actually contradicted Hamer’s conclusions. George Ebers of the University of Western Ontario examined 52 pairs of gay brothers, and found “no evidence for a linkage of homosexuality to markers on the X-chromosome or elsewhere.” (18) Ebers also, with an associate, studied 400 families with one or more homosexual males, and found “no evidence for the X-linked, mother-to-son transmission posited by Hamer.” (19)  Again, like Pillard and Bailey’s earlier work, a later study similar to Hamer’s yielded clearly different results.

Response #2: This argument, like those based on LeVay, Pillard, and Bailey’s work, is illogical; it assumes ‘inborn’ means normal or morally acceptable. That assumption is faulty for three reasons:

First, “inborn” and “normal” are not necessarily the same. Even if homosexuality is someday proven to be inborn, inborn does not necessarily mean normal. Any number of defects or handicaps, for example, may be inborn, but we’d hardly call them normal for that reason alone. Why should we be compelled to call homosexuality normal, just because it may be inborn?

Second, inborn tendencies towards certain behaviors (like homosexuality) do not make those behaviors moral. Studies in the past fifteen years indicate a variety of behaviors may have their roots in genetics or biology. In 1983 the former Director of the National Council on Alcoholism reported on a number of chemical events that can produce alcoholism; (20)  in 1991, the City of Hope Medical Center found a certain gene present in 77 percent of their alcoholic patients. (21)  Obesity and violent behavior are now thought to be genetically influenced, (22) and even infidelity, according to research reported in Time, may be in our genes! (23)  Surely we’re not going to say that obesity, violence, alcoholism and adultery are legitimate because they were inherited. So it is with homosexuality. Whether inborn or acquired, it is still, like all sexual contact apart from marriage, immoral.

Third, we are a fallen race, born in sin. Scripture teaches we inherited a corrupt sin nature affecting us physically and spiritually (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12). We were born spiritually dead (John 3:5-6) and physically imperfect (1 Corinthians 15:1-54). We cannot assume, then, that because something is inborn, it is also God-ordained. There are mental, psychological, physical and sexual aspects of our being that God never intended us to have. “Inborn,” in short, does not mean “divinely sanctioned.”

Response #3: Professional opinion is by no means unanimously convinced of the ‘homosexuality is inborn’ argument.

Some researchers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, actually say the “born gay” theories are “unfounded and politically dangerous.” (24)  Dr. William Byne of Columbia University calls the “inborn” evidence “inconclusive” and compares it to “trying to add up a hundred zeroes so you can get one.” (25)  Dr. Fausto-Sterling says the studies, and ensuing debate, are not even about biology but about politics, (26) and Professor John D’Emilio of the University of North Carolina, while willing to consider the possibility of inborn homosexuality, says there’s “too much else we haven’t explored.” (27)
Joe Dallas founder of Genesis Counseling, is the author of four books on homosexuality, including Gay Gospel?  How Pro-gay Advocates Misread the Bible

This article was used by permission from Exodus International, North America.

This article was originally published on 17 August 2006.


(1) Simon LeVay, “A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men,” Science, August 30, 1991, p. 1034-1037.
(2) John Ankerberg, “The Myth That Homosexuality Is Due to Biological or Genetic Causes” (Research Paper), PO Box 8977, Chattanooga, TN 37411.
(3) “Is This Child Gay?” Newsweek, September 9, 1991, p. 52.
(4) “Is This Child Gay?” Newsweek, September 9, 1991, p. 52.
(5) Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1992, p. 1, as cited in NARTH Newsletter, December 1992, p. 1.
(6) “Sexual Disorientation: Faulty Research in the Homosexual Debate,” Family (a publication of the Family Research Council), October 28, 1992, p. 4.
(7) “Is This Child Gay?” Newsweek, September 9, 1991, p. 52.
(8) Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1991, Section A, Page 1; Time, September 9, 1991, Vol. 138, Number 10, p. 61.
(9)”Is This Child Gay?” Newsweek, September 9, 1991, p. 52.
(10) Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 1992, p. A7.
(11) ”Gay Genes Revisited,” Scientific American, November 1995, p. 26.
(12) Bailey and Pillard, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry #48, 1991, p. 1089-1096.
(13) David Gelman, “Born or Bred?,” Newsweek, February 24, 1992, p. 46.
(14) Gelman, p. 46.
(15) Gelman, p. 46.
(16) King and McDonald, “Homosexuals Who Are Twins,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, March 1992, Vol. 160, p. 409.
(17) Dean Hamer, “A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation,” Science 261, July 16, 1993, p. 321-327.
(18) ”Gay Genes Revisited: Doubts Arise over Research on the Biology of Homosexuality,” Scientific American, November 1995, p. 26.
(19) Scientific American, p. 26.
(20) Frank Siexas, former Director of the National Council on Alcoholism, quoted in The Boston Globe, August 8, 1983.
(21) Joe Dallas, “Born Gay?,” Christianity Today, June 22, 1992, p. 22; Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 1992, p. A7.
(22) ”Rethinking the Origins of Sin,” The Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1993 Section A, p. 31.
(23) Robert Wright, “Our Cheating Hearts,” Time, August 15, 1994, Vol. 144, No 7, p. 44-52.
(24) Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 1992, p. A7.
(25) Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A7.
(26) Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 47.
(27) Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 47.