Tag Archives: Homosexuality

A Sin Or A Crime? – On Legislating Morality

(Click here for Chinese version)

October 2018 Pulse

On September 24 (2018), The Straits Times published an article by Professor Tommy Koh entitled ‘Section 377A: There is a difference between a sin and a crime’. This article was written in the wake of renewed debate in Singapore on Section 377A, sparked by the recent decision by the Indian apex court to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Both the ‘repeal’ and ‘retain’ parties have organised online petitions to garner support for their positions. Several prominent public figures, including Koh, have jumped into the fray and expressed their support for its repeal. The National Council of Churches, the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church and the Islamic Authorities have issued official statements arguing against the repeal.

In his article, Koh discusses a wide range of issues. They include the concepts of sin and crime in relation to homosexual sex, the scientific evidence for sexual orientation, the role of the courts and the place of religion in debates on the law.

However, Koh’s article, in my view, is riddled with a number of distorting generalisations and sweeping statements that have the potential to mislead. I hope to address some of them in this brief article.

LAW AND MORALITY

Koh argues that with respect to homosexual acts a distinction must be made between a sin and a crime. Sodomy, he asserts – in agreement with former attorney-general Walter Woon – may be seen as a sin by some religions, but it should not be regarded as a crime by the state.

On the surface, this argument may seem quite compelling. But upon closer scrutiny, this way of framing the issue can be misleading because it fails to capture the profound relationship between morality and the law. Although there are distinctions between morality and the law, there is also an intricate relationship between them that should never be trivialised or ignored.

It must be said at the outset that the entire legal system is in some profound sense based on the moral vision of a particular society. Thus we can say that there can be no law without morality.

This moral vision, expressed in part in the laws of the land, is absolutely vital for the well-being of any society. As Lord Patrick Devlin has famously put it in his essay entitled ‘Morals and Criminal Law’: ‘Society means a community of ideas; without shared ideas of politics, morality and ethics, no society can exist’.

Laws are made because they bring to concrete expression the moral sensibilities of a society, that is, its understanding of right and wrong. This proposition is so self-evident that it requires very little elaboration or defence.

A few examples would be sufficient to illustrate this.

Homicide is a crime because it is wrong to intentionally take the life of another human being. Rape is a crime because society deems sexual violence on a woman or a man as a morally reprehensible offence that should never be countenanced.

The recent review of the Penal Code also brings this out very clearly. New laws pertaining to marital rape, the protection of minors from sexual predators and crimes against the vulnerable are made because they uphold the moral vision of our society.

In other words, they are put in place to reflect the shared moral convictions and commitments on the basis of which we want to order our society. Lord Devlin would say that these laws are there to give voice to ‘society’s constitutive morality’.

Incidentally, in all of the examples cited above, what religion (in this case, Christianity) calls sins, the state also regards as crimes punishable under the law.

In relation to section 377A, we must therefore ask what is the moral stance of the Singapore public on the issue of homosexual intercourse and lifestyle.

In a survey conducted by IPS in 2014, 78.2 per cent of the respondents said that they were against the homosexual lifestyle, and 72.9 per cent were against same-sex marriage. In the recent IPSOS survey (2018) on section 377A, 55 per cent of the respondents were not in favour of the repeal of the law, while only 12 per cent wanted it removed.

PM Lee is surely right when he said in a 2014 BBC interview that the status of section 377A is a ‘matter of society’s values’. To use Lord Devlin’s expression, its presence in the Penal Code is an articulation of ‘society’s constitutive morality’.

However, it must be stressed that the relationship between the law and morality is a reciprocal one. This means that while societal values can shape the legal system, the lawmaker can also exert influence on the social habits of society.

This applies to section 377A. As Christopher de Souza has succinctly put it in the 2007 debate in Parliament:

A repeal of section 377A will not merely remove the offence. It is much more significant than that. Because of the concept of negative liberty, the removal of section 377A puts homosexual lifestyle on par with heterosexual lifestyle. It is to accord both lifestyles a sense of parity.

In other words, the repeal of this piece of legislation can gradually result in significant changes in the ‘constitutive morality’ of our society (Devlin).

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) understands this very well. Its recent statement expresses its concern that the repeal of section 377A ‘would result in the normalisation and promotion of this [i.e., homosexual] lifestyle, which in turn would lead to undesirable moral and social consequences’.

The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, William Goh, also understands the importance of maintaining the status quo. In his pastoral letter, he writes:

I am of the view that S377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances. This is because, by accepting homosexual acts as a social norm, the dreadful consequences for the stability of our families, the well-being of our children, and the risks to the common good will be long-term and irreversible.

The relationship between morality and the law is complex. It defies the simplistic dichotomies suggested by Koh in his article.

PUBLIC LAW, PRIVATE MORALITY?

In his article, Koh briefly alluded to the landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas that the criminalisation of sodomy was unconstitutional. He cited Justice Anthony Kennedy, who said that: ‘The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime’.

The debate concerning the role of the law in the spheres of public and private morality in modern jurisprudence need not detain us. However, Koh seems to suggest, in concert with Justice Kennedy, that private sexual conduct of consenting adults should be off limits to the law.

While this may generally be the case, there are notable exceptions, adult incest being a compelling example. As section 376G of Singapore’s Penal Code makes clear, an incestuous sexual relationship between adults, even if it is consensual and conducted in private, is an offence punishable by imprisonment.

In 2012, The Straits Times reported that a 24-year-old woman was sentenced to 12 months’ probation for having consensual sex with her father and ordered to see a psychiatrist. Her father was sentenced to three years imprisonment for incest.

This means that not every private sexual activity between consenting adults is beyond the reach of the law. The onus is therefore on Koh to show why the argument that the law should not intrude on private sexual relations applies to section 377A and not to section 376G of the Penal Code.

In the famous Hart-Devlin debate, Lord Devlin argued persuasively that private acts should not be free from public sanction if they pose a threat to society’s morality. The sodomy laws of England and America were originally made in part on the basis of this reasoning.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

In his article, Koh asserts that while scientists do not know what determines sexual orientation, they ‘favour biologically based theories, which point to genetic factors’. He maintains that scientists do not view sexual orientation as a choice, giving the impression that the scientific community has achieved consensus on the matter.

This, however, is not the case at all, and to make such sweeping and unqualified statements is surely to mislead.

From the 1990s onwards, a slew of scientific studies have been conducted to find a biological basis for homosexuality. These studies have failed to show conclusively that homosexual orientation is determined by genetic factors.

In fact, these studies suggest the contrary. For example, the twin studies, originally conducted in 1991 by John Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard and subsequently replicated by many other scientists, show quite conclusively that biology does not determine homosexuality.

In an article in Scientific America, William Byrne concludes that the Bailey and Pillard study ‘clearly challenges a simple genetic hypothesis and strongly suggests that environment contributes significantly to sexual orientation’.

This conclusion is supported by the extensive studies on twins conducted by Peter S. Bearman and Hannah Brückner in 2002 and Niklas Långström in 2010.

In their wide-ranging report on sexuality published in 2016 by The New Atlantis entitled Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences, Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh conclude:

Some of the most widely held views about sexual orientation, such as the “born that way” hypothesis, simply are not supported by science. The literature in this area does describe a small ensemble of biological differences between non-heterosexuals and heterosexuals, but those biological differences are not sufficient to predict sexual orientation.

‘[H]ard science’ writes Jeffrey Satinover in his book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, ‘is far from providing an explanation of homosexuality, let alone one that reduces it to genetic determinism’.

Although science has hitherto failed to demonstrate that there is a biological determinant for homosexuality, gay lobbyists have repeatedly used ‘science’ to advance their claim that homosexual orientation is innate and immutable. Koh appears to be uncritically parroting that narrative.

In his article, Koh also mentioned the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the list of pathological psychiatric conditions published in DSM (II). The revised verdict states that ‘… homosexuality per se is one form of sexual behaviour and, like other forms of sexual behaviour which are not themselves psychiatric disorders, is not listed in the nomenclature of disorders’.

This change of status, however, was not the result of new scientific evidence for the genetic or neurological basis for homosexual orientation. As Ronald Bayer has clearly shown in his book entitled Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (1987), this revision was made due to political pressure by the gay lobbyists within APA.

‘The result’, writes Bayer, ‘was not a conclusion based upon an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times’. Albert Dean Byrd and Stony Olsen could therefore declare that ‘The stigma of a disease was gone due to politics’.

In his 1992 article entitled ‘Sexual Politics and Scientific Knowledge’, Charles W. Socarides warns that the APA decision

… remains a chilling reminder that if scientific principles are not fought for, they can be lost – a disillusioning warning that unless we make no exceptions to science, we are subject to the snares of political factionalism and the propagation of untruths to an unsuspecting and uninformed public, to the rest of the medical profession and to the behavioural science.

This is a story that is not widely known and needs to be told.

THE ROLE OF RELIGION

We turn finally to Koh’s remarks on the role of religious communities in the debate on section 377A.

‘I would respectfully remind them [Christian and Islamic authorities]’, Koh writes, ‘that Singapore is a secular state. It is not a Christian country or a Muslim country. It is not the business of the state to enforce the dogmas of those religions’. He goes on to stress that in Singapore, there is a separation between religion and the state and that ‘Church leaders and Islamic leaders should respect that separation’.

Koh’s tone is condescending and paternalistic. He assumes that the religious leaders in Singapore need to be tutored by him on the proper relationship between religion and the state.

To suggest that religious bodies like NCCS issue statements because they want the state to enforce their dogmas is ludicrous. When NCCS makes a statement on an issue, it is not trying to impose its worldview on society or to transform Singapore into a Christian theocratic state. Its purpose is merely to help its member churches to understand its position on that particular issue.

It is therefore extremely unhelpful for a public figure like Koh to politicise the statements that the Council issues for the purpose of guiding Christians on social and moral issues in this melodramatic fashion. In fact, such a suggestion coming from him may sow the seeds of suspicion and distrust that can compromise the fragile social harmony and cohesion that we have worked so hard to achieve.

In reminding the religious authorities that in Singapore there is a separation between religion and politics, Koh is implying that they have no right to comment on section 377A.

But the institutional separation between religion and the state, enshrined in the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act of 1990, does not banish religion altogether from the public square. Neither does it prohibit faith communities from commenting on moral and social issues that affect their members.

In the past few decades, NCCS has issued a number of statements on a variety of issues including euthanasia, organ trading and homosexuality. The Council made these statements to educate and guide Christians, and for the sake of the common good – not to impose its views on others.

The Council understands that Singapore is a multi-religious society and no single religion can pontificate on social and moral issues. But in similar vein, no individual or minority group can impose their views on sexuality on the majority.

Religion’s input is especially important in debates on issues pertaining to public morality, like section 377A, which as PM Lee has so clearly said, has to do with ‘society’s values’. Insofar as religious people and their communities are part of our society and are committed to the latter’s flourishing, their views have a right to be heard on this issue.

To exclude faith communities in such conversations is to deny them of their rightful place in our multi-religious society. In fact, we can go so far as to say that censoring religious voices from such debates is an affront to the spirit of deliberative democracy. It flies in the face of the inclusive society that we have been trying so hard to build.

To steer public discourse by silencing religious voices instead of encouraging an ever-greater inclusivity is to fuel a new and insidious form of intolerance.

Thankfully, the Singapore government does not share Koh’s perspective. Instead of excluding religious communities, it has made every effort to seek their views and feedbacks on important issues.

For example, in the recent Penal Code review, the Ministries of Home Affairs and Law organised special meetings with religious leaders to obtain their comments. In fact, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam even took the trouble to meet up with the different religious communities separately to explain the reviews and solicit their views.

Unlike Koh, the Singapore government recognises the secular state should not exercise hegemony on matters of public morality. It recognises that in such matters, the view of religious communities must be sought and taken seriously. This is especially pertinent to multi-religious Singapore, where more than 80 per cent of the population professes religious affiliation.



Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Clarity on Sexuality

November 2017 Credo

Without a doubt, human sexuality is one of the most controversial issues that the modern church faces. Insofar as the church is situated within a cultural milieu, it is in some sense influenced and sometimes inadvertently even shaped by society’s strongest sentiments. This is especially true with issues surrounding homosexuality.

Buffeted by unrelenting pressures from all sides, Christians have sometimes come under considerable stress to simply acquiesce to their demands. And recently, a number of conservative Christian thinkers and leaders appear to have buckled under the strain.

For example, in a recent public lecture, Nicholas Wolterstorff shocked those who have always known him to be theologically conservative by expressing his approval for same-sex marriage. ‘I’ve listened to these people’, says Wolterstorff, ‘To their agony. To their feelings of exclusion and oppression. To their longings. To their expressions of love. To their commitments. To their faith. So listening has changed me’.

In an interview conducted by columnist Jonathan Merritt of Religion New Service, Eugene Petersen, the celebrated author of The Message also affirmed same-sex marriage. He told Merritt that the ‘debate about lesbians and gays might be over’ and that he would conduct a same-sex wedding if he were a pastor.

Soon after the interview was published, however, Petersen retracted his statements. ‘To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm the biblical view of everything’, he said in a subsequent statement.

Amidst these episodes of capitulation and flip-flop by some of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders, the Nashville Statement on human sexuality is refreshing, timely and welcomed (https://cbmw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/The_Nashville_Statement_Initial_Signatories_List.pdf).

The Statement is uncompromisingly faithful to Scripture, and provides a reliable compass to help the church navigate safely through the fog of confusion about sexuality and gender.

In its preamble, the Statement underscores the fact that Christians in the 21st century inhabit a period of ‘historic transition’. As Western culture drifts from its Judeo-Christian heritage, we witness ‘massive revisions of what it means to be a human being’.

This has brought about radical changes to the way in which we understand human sexuality. ‘It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences’.

The Statement presents a series of affirmations and denials (in 14 articles) concerning human sexuality based on the teachings of Scripture. In the rest of this article, I will briefly highlight some of its most salient points.

The Statement begins by clearly articulating its position concerning marriage (Article 1). Everything that it has to say about human sexuality and sexual relations in subsequent articles is framed by its biblical view of marriage.

The Statement eschews the view that homosexual, polygamous and polyarmorous ‘marriages’ are part and parcel of God’s design. It states categorically that marriage as God had intended it is a ‘covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, husband and wife’.

Against the prevailing secular understanding of marriage as a contract, the Statement insists on the covenantal nature of this union.

Sexual relations between a man and a woman are appropriate only within the covenant of marriage. The Statement clearly affirms ‘chastity outside marriage and fidelity within marriage’, and rejects all forms of sexual immorality, including sexual intercourse outside marriage (Article 2).

The divine institution of marriage is established on the doctrine of creation, especially that creation of human beings as male and female (Articles 3 & 4).

The Statement affirms that God created human beings as male and female as bearers of his image and ‘equal before God as persons’ (Article 3). In addition, sexual distinctions – male and female – are not the tragic results of the fall. Instead, they are ‘divinely ordained’, that is, they ‘reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing’ (Article 4).

God has created humans as sexed beings. Sexual difference – being male or female – is therefore not a social construct, but a biological reality ordained by the loving Creator for human flourishing. This means that human sexuality cannot be re-defined according to the temper of the times, the whims and fancies of the prevailing culture.

Articles 3 & 4 set the stage for the more complex issues surrounding human sexuality. They include the dissonance that some people experience between their biological sex and their self-conception as male and female (Articles 5–8). These articles deal primarily with homosexuality and transgenderism.

Article 5 makes clear that neither physical anomalies (inter-sex?) nor psychological conditions (gender dysphoria) ‘nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male and female’. The Statement rejects the claim that ‘adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption’ (Article 7).

Article 6 maintains that those with sexual disorders are bearers of the divine image and ‘have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers’. Article 8 in turn gives the assurance that people who experience same-sex attraction ‘may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ …’

Sin receives its first mention in Article 9. The authors of the Statement judiciously avoid singling out homosexual acts alone, but include both homosexual and heterosexual immorality in this brief article. ‘We affirm that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality – a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality’.

The remaining four articles of the Statement address a number of different issues. These include attitudes towards homosexual immorality to the efficacy of divine grace in conquering sexual temptations and sins.

Article 10 states that ‘it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism’. Such approval, it notes, can never be seen as a ‘matter of moral indifference’ but rather essentially as a ‘departure from Christian faithfulness and witness’. Article 11 underscores ‘our duty to speak the truth in love at all times’.

Article 12 affirms that the grace of God in Christ has transforming power that enables Christians to ‘walk in a manner worthy of the Lord’. This same grace enables ‘sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions’, states Article 13, and to see the connection between biological sex and one’s self-conception as male and female.

Article 14 is a summary of the Gospel.

Like most documents of this nature, some passages are lacking in clarity and issues that are either left out or given just a cursory mention should be given more attention.

For example, it would be helpful to make clear the distinction between experiencing same-sex attraction and having homosexual sex. It would also be helpful to clarify that while the Bible categorically prohibits homosexual sex, it does not address the issue of sexual orientation.

The issue of sexual orientation, so important in the current debate, is totally omitted by the Statement.

Article 6 appears to be most problematic because of its lack of clarity. Who exactly is the Statement referring to by ‘those born with a physical disorder of sex development’ – the homosexual, transgendered or inter-sex person?

Since inter-sexuality is not mentioned at all, the unfortunate impression is that the Statement affirms the biological basis for homosexuality and transgenderism. But if Article 6 refers to the inter-sex person (which I think it does), it should make this more explicit.

But these minor glitches aside, the Nashville Statement is a clear and robust articulation of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is thoroughly biblical and in harmony with the orthodox teachings of the Church throughout the centuries.

Since its publication, however, the Nashville Statement has been heavily criticised. This should not surprise us.

Some of the most venomous criticisms come from Christians who appear to have become subservient to the very culture to which they were called to exercise a prophetic witness.

For example, Brian McLaren (of ‘emerging church movement’ fame) scathingly opines that theologically the Statement ‘is based on the same regressive way of reading the Bible that was used to justify slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, the suppression of women, the rejection of good science, and the slaughter of native people’.

On the social front, McLaren says, the Statement ‘plays into the same virulent scapegoating that has encouraged the KKK and other white supremacists to take off their sheets’.

Finally, he adds that politically it ‘perfectly serves the purposes of Trumpism by creating a pristine and pure “us” who need to push the dirty “other” to the margins’.

Some Christians may no doubt find such rhetoric compelling. But these sweeping harangues are in fact vacuous and ludicrous. They only show how far some Christians have capitulated to the prevailing culture.


 


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

The Third Sex

August 2017 Pulse

In the past few decades, scores of books on homosexuality and transgenderism have poured out from the Christian presses in America, UK and Europe. However, works by Christian theologians and ethicists on intersexuality – a condition which affects 0.1 – 0.2 percent of the population – remains scant and sketchy.

‘Intersexuality has not been properly addressed within recent ethical discussions about sexuality, writes John Hare. ‘One consequence of this omission has been that the rigid and polarized view that humans are clearly and discretely either male or female has gone unchallenged’.

The term ‘intersex’ covers a wide range of conditions that present atypical physical sex in one form or another. These include people (1) with ambiguous genitalia, whose physical appearance is between the male and female genitals; (2) whose genital appearance is not matched with some other physical aspect (e.g., a female vulva with testes); and (3) with unusual chromosomes (e.g., XXY or combination of XX and XY).

Intersex must not be confused with transgender. Transgendered people experience a dysphoria between their biological sex and gender identity, while intersex people have physical features that make their biological sex ambiguous. In the same way, intersex should not be mistaken as homosexuality because it does not have to do with sexual orientation but with biological sex.

In the past – between 1960 and 1990 – it was not uncommon for children born with atypical genitalia to undergo corrective surgery soon after birth. This approach, however, has been largely abandoned because of the serious ethical and psychological issues it presents.

Current approaches include delaying surgery until the children are old enough to understand their condition and explore options for their own bodies. In some cases, treatment does not involve surgery at all because of the belief that intersex people can achieve psychological security about their gender without the need to have a typical genital anatomy.

Intersex has called to question current definitions of biological sex. For example, many legal commentators have pointed out that English law’s emphasis on chromosomes as the decisive factor in determining sex is problematic when it comes to intersex people.

This in turn has created problems in ascertaining the legal status of people with genital anomalies. Needless to say that this has profound implications for marriage law.

In some European countries (e.g., Finland, Portugal and France) the sex of the child can be registered at a later date if it cannot be determined from birth.

Intersex people pose a challenge to the Christian understanding of sex because they do not fit into the neat categories of ‘male’ or ‘female’. This has led some intersex people to think that they are a ‘third sex’.

John Hare echoes the views of some Christian writers when he writes: ‘The existence of intersexuality confounds the tidy categories that some Christian ethicists and church leaders work with and challenges us all to think more deeply about the God-given nature of our sexuality … The condition of intersexuality … draws our attention to the complexity and diversity in the development of human sexuality’.

In similar vein, Susannah Cornwall of the University of Manchester asserts that ‘Theologies which assume everyone is clearly male or female may find themselves uncomfortably stretched when they begin to take into account the experiences of people whose bodies do not fit either category’.

However, despite the undeniable theological and pastoral complexities associated with intersex, the biblical or creational norm of human beings created as either male or female (Genesis 5:2) must be upheld.

As Dennis Hollinger has rightly argued in his book entitled, The Meaning of Sex: ‘Natural sexual conditions and anomalies in no way undermine the creational norms. All distortions in the world must be judged against the divine creational givens’.

‘In a fallen world’, he adds, ‘there will be chaos and confusion that extends even to human sexuality. But the normative structure toward which God calls humanity is not the fallenness of nature; it is, rather, God’s created designs’.

To argue that intersex is one of the distortions of our sin-scarred and fallen world is not to say that atypical genitalia is the result of the personal sins of the people with this condition. It is rather to emphasise that they – like all of us – are part of a world fractured by original sin, a world that is radically different from what the Creator had originally intended it to be.

Christians must regard intersex people as bearers of the image and likeness of God, who must be accorded with equal dignity and value. Christians therefore can never tolerate the discrimination or humiliation of intersex people.

More reflection is needed on the part of theologians, Christian ethicists and pastors on the theological and pastoral issues associated with intersex Christians – issues such as marriage, having children and their full involvement in the life of the Church, including leadership and ordination.

In addition, we must listen very attentively to the experience of intersex people so that we may achieve a deeper appreciation of their struggles and aspirations.

But most importantly, we must accept intersex Christians as members of Christ’s body, the Church. For as Christians, our identity is established in Christ.

As the Apostle Paul puts it: ‘For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26-28).


 

Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

The Gay Gene Re-Visited

December 2016 Pulse 

In 2014 Alan Sanders, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern University at Evanston, and his team conducted a study of 409 pairs of twin brothers to see if there are some linkages between homosexuality and chromosomal region Xq28.

This study – the largest to be undertaken to date – attempts to validate the results obtained by a study by Dean Hamer and his team of scientists in 1993 at the National Cancer Institute in the United States. Working with only 40 pairs of homosexual brothers, Hamer and his team discovered that 33 pairs (or 83%) had the same sequence of markers in the X chromosome region known as Xq28.

This had led Hamer to conclude that ‘One form of homosexuality is preferentially transmitted through the maternal side and is generally linked to chromosomal region Xq28’.

To their surprise, Sanders and his team – which included J. Michael Bailey, who together with Richard Pillard, conducted the famous twin study – found the same linkages between homosexuality and the chromosomal region Xq28 suggested by the earlier study by Hamer.

Hamer was understandably delighted with the findings of the Sanders study. ‘Twenty years is a long wait for validation’, he is reported to have said, ‘but now it’s clear the original results were right. It’s very nice to see it confirmed’.

However, like the Hamer study in 1993, the Sanders study of 2014 failed to establish conclusively the genetic determinant for homosexual orientation.

Sanders used the same method that Hamer employed twenty years ago in order to replicate Hamer’s study. But this method – known as the linkage method – has been found to be deficient in many ways and it has since been superseded by another method known as genome-wide association (GWA). Sanders himself acknowledged the fact that GWA studies are far more superior to genetic-linkage studies.

Although Sanders was able to confirm the link between homosexuality and the chromosomal region Xq28, the causative or correlative relationship between them is never established, making this finding insignificant. Thus, a number of researchers and scientists such as Neil Risch have pointed out the findings of both the Hamer and Sanders studies are statistically insignificant.

In fact, Sanders himself acknowledged that the findings have not crossed the threshold of significance. He further stated that even though he believes that Xq28 has something to do with homosexuality, a trait as complex as sexual orientation depends on many factors, genetic and nongenetic alike.

Geneticists have long understood that the exact relationship between the genotype and the phenotype is very difficult to establish. The genotype refers to the set of genes in the DNA that is associated with a particular trait, while the phenotype is the actual expression of that trait.

Many geneticists maintain that the relationship between the two is never straightforward and warn against a naïve ‘genetic determinism’ that refuses to recognise the complexities. In fact, many would argue that the genotype typically undermines the phenotype.

With the advance of the field of epigenetics, scientists are beginning to see the importance of the interaction of the genes with their immediate cellular environment as well as the external environment. In addition, intrauterine influences (which includes nongenetic factors) as well as extrauterine influences also play their part.

Life experiences also play a significant role in forging a particular trait, especially one as complicated as sexual preference and behaviour. Experiences that were had in the early stages of one’s personal development are deemed especially important.

As Frances Campaigne of Columbia University puts it: ‘Social experiences throughout life influence gene expression and behaviour, however, early in development these influences have a profound effect’.

The Sanders study has left all these other aspects unexplored and the questions they raise unanswered.

Although science is important in our attempt to understand human sexual preferences and behaviour, for the Christian it cannot have the last word. Thus, even if science is able to discover the genetic basis for homosexual orientation, the Christian cannot on that premise alone conclude that homosexual behaviour is natural and therefore must not be prohibited.

For the Christian, it is the mystery of human sexuality that Scripture reveals that should serve as the basis for sexual behaviour. In our fallen world, supposedly ‘innate’ impulses cannot be indicative of what is natural – that is, what is intended by the Creator – even if the genetic or neurological determinants of these impulses are ascertained.

For the Christian, sexual conduct must be ordered according to the way in which human sexuality has been designed and purposed by the Creator. And according to the Bible, the only legitimate form of sexual activity is between a man and a woman, and the only legitimate context for such activity is the covenant of marriage.

It is in light of God’s design of and purpose for human sexuality that all other forms of sexual behaviour and activity – fornication, adultery, incest, prostitution and bestiality – are not only strictly prohibited, but are also often regarded as abominations.

This means that the meaning of human sexuality is too complex and multifaceted for science to unravel. It has to do not only with biology, but also morality. It has to do not only with impulses and emotions, but also ontology. It has to do not only with the individual, but also and more fundamentally with the ordering of our familial and social lives in a way that is harmonious with God’s design and intention.

In a word, human sexuality is too profound a reality to be left to science alone.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Catholic Bishops on Same-Sex Marriage

May 2016 Pulse

The recently-concluded Synod on the Family (4 – 25 October 2015), a historic meeting of 270 bishops from around the world at the Vatican, published a report on some of the most controversial issues surrounding marriage, divorce and sexuality after three weeks of “rich and lively dialogue”. Pope Francis convened this summit in order to “open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints”.

The 94-paragraph report examines the profound changes in culture and social habits that have worrying ramifications on the way in which marriage and family is viewed. It not only addresses hot-button issues like divorce, re-marriage and co-habitation but also artificial reproductive technology, echoing the teachings of John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995).

The entire report emphasises the beauty of marriage and the family.

The opening of the Synod was briefly overshadowed by Monsignor Krysztof Charasma, a Polish-born priest and Vatican theologian who declared that he was in a gay relationship and that he wanted to be an advocate “for all sexual minorities and their families who have suffered in silence”. The Vatican summarily dismissed the priest, describing his actions timed at the beginning of the synod to get full media attention “very serious and irresponsible”.

Progressives hoping to see significant changes in the Church’s position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage were no doubt disappointed with the Synod’s report, which continued to uphold the traditional teachings of the Church.

The position of the Roman Catholic Church on homosexual behaviour, as stated in its authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) is clear: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.

Paragraph 76 of the Synod report, which states the Bishops’ position on gays and lesbians, fully concurs with the basic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, although it takes a distinctively more pastoral approach by focusing its attention on the care of “families that have a member who has homosexual tendencies”.

The Synod also reiterates what the Church has always taught, “that every person, regardless of their own sexual tendency, be respected in his dignity and welcomed with respect, trying to avoid ‘any kind of unjust discrimination’.”

The Bishops’ position on same- sex marriage is clearly articulated in the second half of Paragraph 76: “Regarding projects that try to equal homosexual unions to marriage, ‘There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family’.”

The Synod therefore continues to uphold the teaching of the Church – again clearly articulated in the Catechism – that marriage according to God’s intention is the union between a man and a woman. As the Catechism puts it, such a union “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”.

The Bishops also openly and directly criticised international bodies for coercing poor countries to introduce same-sex marriage laws in return for financial aid.

In his carefully-worded address at the close of the Synod, Pope Francis said that the summit sought to take seriously the “difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family” and confront them “fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand”.

But the Pope was quick to add that the summit was also about “urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life”.

Thus, although the Church must always be cognisant of the differences in cultures and of the fact that Christianity must take root in culture – what Vatican II has called inculturation – it does not follow that it must embrace moral relativism.

‘Inculturation’, says the Pope, “Inculturation,” says the Pope, “does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures”.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of the Methodist Message. 

 

Sordid Science

April 2016 Pulse

In its ‘FAQs on Sexuality’, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) of Singapore seems to base its understanding of human sexuality substantially, although not exclusively, on the studies conducted by Alfred Kinsey in the middle of the last century. HPB not only appears to accept Kinsey’s portrayal of sexuality as orthodox; it also seems disturbingly oblivious to the serious criticisms that these studies have come under.

Alfred C. Kinsey, a zoologist from Indiana University, has been dubbed the ‘father of the sexual revolution’ because of his provocative studies on human sexuality: Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female (1953). These reports were allegedly responsible for turning conservative middle-class values upside-down in American society in the mid-20th century.

Here are some of the shocking findings in the Kinsey Reports: 85 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women had premarital sex; 50 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women had been unfaithful in marriage; 69 per cent of men had been with prostitutes; and 17 per cent of farm boys had sex with animals.

However, the Kinsey studies were seriously flawed, making their findings dangerously misleading.

For example, most of the 5,000 men surveyed were prison inmates, many of whom were sex offenders. The participants were mainly volunteers who were sexually adventurous and therefore out of the mainstream. Other participants were recruited via organisations and magazines that promoted homosexuality.

Stanton Jones and Mark Yardhouse point out that “this is obviously not the type of methodology a person would implement if he or she were trying to get a representative outlook on the sexual behaviour of the general population”.

Some writers opine that no other person in the 20th century has done more to bring homosexuality into the public forum than Kinsey.

Kinsey tried to normalise homosexuality in society by devising the Kinsey Scale and by insisting that 10 per cent of men between ages of 16 and 55 were homosexual. Ronald Bayer has perceptively observed that at the time, “for homosexuals who were just beginning their efforts at organisation and the struggle for social acceptance and legal rights, the findings were emboldening”.

But Kinsey’s findings are wide off the mark!

According to the nationwide studies conducted by the Battelle Human Affairs Research Centres in Seattle, only 1 per cent of the population was homosexual. In 1993, Time magazine reported that “recent surveys from France, Britain, Canada, Norway and Denmark all point to numbers lower than 10 per cent and tend to come out in the 1 to 4 per cent range”.

Kinsey’s materialistic philosophy of sex also profoundly skewed his studies. Sex, for Kinsey, was simply an animal response to physical stimuli and has nothing to do with love or procreation. According to anthropologist Margaret Mead, Kinsey was a radical sexual relativist for whom there is no difference between a man having sex with a woman and an animal.

Kinsey also attempted to normalise paedophilia and child abuse. (The Reports were obsessed with homosexuality and paedophilia.) In his 1948 book, Kinsey chillingly insisted that what most people would consider child rape was in fact “sex play” with children, which was harmless, especially when consent was given by the child.

In his 1953 work on female sexuality, Kinsey wrote: “It is difficult to understand why a child, except for its cultural conditioning, should be disturbed at having its genitalia touched, or disturbed at seeing the genitalia of other persons, or disturbed at even more specific sexual contacts.”

In 1990, Judith Reisman and Edward Eichel exposed the Kinsey Reports as malicious deception in their book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud. In a review, The Lancet states: “The important allegations from the scientific viewpoint are imperfections in the (Kinsey) sample and unethical, possibly criminal, observations on children … Dr Judith Reisman and her colleagues demolish the foundations of the two (Kinsey) reports.”

The Kinsey Reports are in reality propaganda for libertine pansexuality masquerading as a work of science.

Nevertheless, because they promote tolerance and sexual liberation, the Kinseyan myths continue to mesmerise the masses. Their influence in America over the decades is disturbingly evident in the legal system, education, psychiatry and culture.

But bad or bogus science is never good for society!

“Demythologising the Kinsey Reports,” insists Christian ethicist Sister Reneé Mirkes, “is absolutely essential” if we are to “stem the humanly destructive tide of sexual revolution”.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 

On Marriage

On 11 August 2012, Huffington Post reported on the first same-sex marriage in Taiwan conducted in a Buddhist monastery. Fish Huang and her partner You Ya-ting exchanged prayer beads in a ceremony that global rights advocates hope will eventually make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage. According to the AFP report, Shih-Chao Hui, the female monk who presided at the ritual, said, ‘We are witnessing history. The two women are willing to stand out and fight for their fate … to overcome social discrimination’. In May, President Barack Obama openly supported same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts. ‘I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married’, he reportedly said. Interestingly, Obama cites the ‘golden rule’ as the basis for his decision: ‘The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule – you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated … And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president’.

Although Obama’s ‘evolved’ view on same-sex marriage is a non-event politically speaking, it has nonetheless contributed to the rapidly changing attitude towards gay marriages in the West. In the US, Massachusetts was the first state to legalise gay marriage on May 17, 2004. This set the precedent that was followed by seven other states in rapid succession: Connecticut (November 12, 2008), Iowa (April 24, 2009), Vermont (September 1, 2009), New Hampshire (January 1, 2010), New York (June 24, 2011), Washington (June 7, 2012) and Maryland (passed on March 1, 2012, and effective from January 1, 2013). The US is of course not the only country that has legalised same-sex marriages; nor was it the first to do so. At the time of writing, same-sex marriage is legal in the following countries: the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (1009), Argentina (2010), Iceland (2010), and Portugal (2010). Many other countries recognise same-sex couples through non-marital partnership registrations and other policies.

Same-sex marriages or civil unions are not the only developments that have eroded the institution of marriage as traditionally conceived. Rapid and wide-ranging changes in family patterns witnessed especially – but not exclusively – in Western societies in the past five decades such as the growing rate of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation, and the rise of single-parenthood have contributed to the current crisis. Psychologists, sociologists and philosophers have cited modernisation, globalisation and the seismic shifts in moral and cultural sensibilities as factors contributing to this unprecedented deconstruction of marriage and the family. In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre, four-in-ten survey respondents (39%) say that marriage is becoming obsolete because it is no longer deemed necessary. People do not need to enter into a marriage contract in order to have companionship, sex or even children. One’s marital status is no longer a criterion for success or respect in modern society.

For Christians, however, marriage cannot be simply reduced to a social convention that can be revised according to the changing and transient moods of society. For the Christian, marriage as a divinely ordained partnership between a man and a woman is God’s gift. As the narrative in Genesis 2 clearly and beautifully portrays, marriage was instituted by God, through which he completes his creative act. In other words, by joining the man and the woman as one flesh, and by bringing about new life through this special union, God has willed marriage to be the context in which a man and a woman establish a community of love, which is also a life-giving community. This community may be described as the cell of human society and of the Church. Marriage is therefore the most basic of human institutions that is vital for the health and security of the human person as well as for the wellbeing of human society. As such, marriage is a divine institution that human beings must respect and preserve despite changing attitudes and preferences. As the Catholic moral theologian Bernard Häring has perceptively put it, ‘A state or society that is careless about the stability of marriage and family, and about allowing and helping parents to educate their children properly, is undermining its own health and prosperity’.

In addition, for the Christian, marriage cannot be reduced to a contract. Christian marriage, then, is more than just a blessing of a couple or the solemnisation of vows made by two people in mutual responsibility and service. The Christian faith sees marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman that is set within the structure of the Covenant between God and man. Thus, the great Reformer John Calvin could speak of marriage as holy and that ‘God reigns in a little household, even one in dire poverty, when the husband and the wife dedicate themselves to their duties to each other’. He adds: ‘Here there is a holiness greater and nearer the kingdom of God than there is even in a cloister’. This is the reason why adultery is regarded as a fearful sin in both the OT and NT, and is often treated as seriously as murder, blasphemy and idolatry (Exodus 20:14; 1 Cor 6:9-10). This is also the reason why Christians maintain that marriage must be monogamous and exclusive.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have argued that gay and lesbian couples that truly love one another and seek to be faithful to each other should be allowed to marry because they fulfil the basic demands of covenant. But this view fails to take into account the fact that the Bible endorses only one form of marriage – that is, between a man and a woman – and not others. The man-woman requirement for marriage is beautifully and vividly brought out in the account of the formation of the woman from the ‘side’ of Adam in Genesis 2:18-23. This narrative depicts the woman as the perfect ‘counterpart’ or ‘complement’ (Hebrew, neged, Genesis 2:18) of the man. As such the woman is profoundly ‘like’ the man, sharing in his humanity in every aspect. And yet, she is also, and equally profoundly ‘unlike’ the man with regard to sex or gender, and therefore has been rightly described as the ‘opposite’ of the man. In marriage, the two (which originally came from ‘one flesh’) are united to become ‘one flesh’. Thus, the man and the woman complement each other perfectly because each is the other’s sexual ‘other half’. Together, they reflect or image their Creator. Thus, the Reformed theologian Thomas Torrance writes elegantly: ‘It was man and woman in the unity of their inter-personal human being who are made in the image of God, not man without woman, not woman without man. Man is not distinctively man except as a fellow of woman, and woman is not distinctively woman except as a fellow of man’. The Bible therefore clearly indicates the man-woman prerequisite for marriage.

Take away this biblical basis and everything – the notion of marriage, all man-woman relations, ideas of sex and sexuality, and all sexual ethics – sinks into the murky waters of cultural relativism. But if the biblical doctrine is taken seriously, marriage as an institution will serve as the social ballast that would not only provide stability in society, but also guarantee humans flourishing. But more importantly, marriage as a covenantal union of a man and a woman points beyond itself because it symbolises God’s covenant with his people and Christ’s love for humanity. Such is the sacramental significance of Christian marriage. As Pope John Paul II has put it:

‘Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the church of what happened on the cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers. Of this salvation event marriage, like every sacrament, is a memorial, actuation and prophecy’.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 
This article was first published in The Bible Speaks Today (November 2012).

Gay Rights?

On 6 December 2011, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered what has been described as her historic speech on LGBT rights in Geneva. Clinton spoke eloquently and passionately about the unconscionable atrocities that LGBT people have suffered due to societal discrimination. She spoke of lesbian or trans-gendered women who were subjected to ‘corrective rape’ or hormone treatments against their will. She spoke also of gays who had to flee their nations in order to save their lives and forced to seek asylum elsewhere. And she spoke movingly of people who are denied equal access to justice and banned from public spaces because they are gay. ‘No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are’, she asserted emphatically in this wide ranging speech, ‘we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity’.

These unjust and cruel acts against men and women because of their sexual preferences must never be countenanced by any society. They are gross human rights violations that must be condemned, and their perpetrators must be brought to justice. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated in 1948 unequivocally states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’ (Article 1). In Article 3 of the same document, we read: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person’.

These principles are universal in that they should be applied to all human beings, regardless of race, gender, status, nationality, and sexual preferences. As I have argued elsewhere, Christians should have no difficulties embracing these principles because they resonate with the biblical teaching that every human being is created in the image of God, and must therefore be valued and respected (Genesis 1:26-28).

In her speech Clinton parrots the rather tired slogan that gay activists have repeatedly employed: ‘gays rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights’. There is, however, some truth in this slogan. Looked at from one angle, it simply states that gays have rights because they are human beings. But if this is true, why is there the need to speak of gay rights at all? Why not just speak about human rights? Why the need to make this distinction when gay rights and human rights mean the same thing and is nothing but a tautology? As it turns out, when gay activists speak of gay rights, they wish to emphasise certain rights that must be accorded to gays or LGBT people that society does not ordinarily recognise as a universal human right.

A case in point is the ongoing and often bewildering debate on gay marriage. For the Christian, the biblical and theological response to this issue is clear (or at least it should be). The Christian faith maintains that marriage is an institution ordained by God, and that everyone should have the right to marry (or the freedom not to). This principle is enshrined in Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly states that: ‘Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family’.

Although the Christian understanding of human rights may be somewhat different from secular accounts, the Christian should have no problems with concurring fully with Article 16 of the Declaration. This basic principle surely applies to gays and lesbians.

But the Christian is opposed to replacing the traditional concept of marriage, which is the union of a man and a woman, with same-sex marriage. In the context of the discussion on human rights, we may put it this way: while everyone of full age has the right to marry, no one has the right to change the fundamental structure of marriage. The confusion in current discourse on gay marriage is that the redefinition of marriage itself – not just marriage – is presented as a right.

Thus, according to the Christian view, homosexuals have the right to marry members of the opposite sex. But no one has the right to redefine marriage, either for themselves or for a whole society. Many gays and lesbians have indeed married members of the opposite sex. No state or legal system has hitherto barred people with same sex preferences from marrying people of the opposite sex. In the same way, until very recently, no society throughout history has recognised or legalised same-sex marriage.

The traditional structure of marriage as the union between a man and a woman is older than the Church and the state. It is found in ancient societies, and, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, it can be traced to the earliest history of man (Genesis 2:23-25). Revisionists have often failed to appreciate or ignored the fact that marriage has to do with more than the love and commitment of two people. It has primarily to do with its basic structure, namely, the union of a man and a woman.

As a result the debate on same-sex marriage is often obfuscated by invalid arguments, non sequiturs, and misleading analogies. They give the wrong impression that marriage is only about commitment and equality when in fact it has to do with much more. Just two examples of such erroneous approaches would suffice to bring this out.

The first is the argument that two adults who love each other and who have pledged their commitment to one another should be allowed to marry, even if they are of the same sex. This argument is often very persuasive, and when supplemented by the observation that heterosexual marriages sometimes end up in divorce because of lack of love and commitment on the part of the parties involved, the argument is made all the more compelling. But this argument fails because marriage is more than just love and commitment, important though they are.

The second example is inter-racial marriage, which was once despised because of racism and discrimination. Gay activists have often used this as an analogy, sometimes with good rhetorical effect. Just as the prohibition of inter-racial marriage is an inexcusable act of discrimination, so the argument goes, so is the ban against same-sex marriage. But this analogy fails because inter-racial marriage does not transgress the basic structure of marriage in the way same-sex marriage does. As Robert George, et el point out in their excellent article, ‘What is Marriage?’, in the case of inter-racial marriages, the ‘antimiscegenation was about whom to allow to marry, not what marriage is essentially about’. In both cases, the fundamental nature of marriage as the union between a man and a woman is ignored.

To conclude, if ‘gay rights are human rights’, as Clinton and many others have insisted, then there is a sense in which it is superfluous to speak of ‘gay rights’ at all. Its persistent use by gay activists, therefore, must signal that some else is afoot, a surreptitious agenda. It appears that gay activists are attempting to push the envelope through the language of rights. This is seen in the debate on same-sex marriage, where the goal is nothing short of the redefinition of marriage. Christians – and many outside the Christian community – maintain that no one has the right to do this.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 
This article was first published in The Bible Speaks Today (June 2013).

Have scientists discovered the gay gene?

Perhaps the most frequently cited study that maintains the connection between genetics and homosexuality is that conducted by molecular biologists at the National Institutes of Health under the direction of Dean Hamer in 1993. By examining DNA samples from self-identified gay men and other gay male family members, Hamer and his team claimed to have discovered a DNA segment, called a ‘marker’, on the X chromosome. Men inherit this chromosome only from their mothers, not from their fathers. By defining this marker more closely, Hamer and his team of scientists hope to identify a ‘gene for gayness’ on the X chromosome. In his report Hamer, who is a gay man, concludes that there is a strong genetic basis for homosexuality, although he admits that the environment also has a part to play.

Scientists have found Hamer’s methodology questionable and his conclusions unconvincing. In the first place, Hamer did not check if straight men also share the marker in question. His theory would be disproved if only a few straight men were found to have the marker. The second and perhaps more serious flaw has to do with Hamer’s definition of who is gay. Hamer only studied what he considers to be ‘real’ gay men, that is, men who have never veered from the preference for men in their sexual activities. But because Hamer ignores the large population of men who have sexual relations with men but who do not identify as gay, his research is seriously compromised. It simply fails to account for the diversity of sexual identities. According to an article by the Council for Responsible Genetics, Hamer’s study is ‘currently under investigation by the Federal Office of Research Integrity for possible scientific misconduct, because one of the study collaborators alleges that Hamer suppressed data that would have reduced the statistical significance of the reported results’. Unfortunately the outcome of the investigation is not available to me at this writing.

Another study, conducted in 1991 by neuropsychologist Simon LeVay with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California also argues that homosexual orientation is genetic. By examining the brain structures of gay and straight men, Le Vay concluded that a specific structure in the brain of gay men is smaller (about the size of the brain structure in heterosexual women) than in straight men. Le Vay concludes that there is a certain connection between homosexuality and biology. Le Vay’s study, however, is seriously compromised for two reasons. Firstly, his observations were made on cadavers, and his evidence about the sexual orientation and practices of the people in life were at best circumstantial. And secondly, the ‘gay men’ all died of AIDS, which is known to affect brain structures. Thus scientists have generally found Le Vay’s conclusions unconvincing.

Space does not allow me to discuss the studies by Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard at Northwestern University and the Boston University School of Medicine that argue for a biological basis of sexual orientation. But many scientists have also found these studies problematic and inconclusive. Furthermore, most scientists reject the one-gene-one-trait theory as naïve because of its reductionism and determinism. Such theories fail to take human freedom seriously due to its simplistic correlation between genes and human behaviour. Human beings are such complex creatures (profoundly different from the other animals) who interact creatively and meaningfully with their environment. Even Dean Hamer admits that it is ludicrous to reduce human beings to their animal prototypes. ‘Pigs’, he writes, rather humorously, ‘don’t date, ducks don’t frequent stripper bars, and hoses don’t get married … Animals don’t speak, write love songs, build churches, or do a lot of other things that we consider worthwhile’. Human sexual behaviour, in other words, cannot be simply reduced to genetic predisposition.

But what if one day the one-gene-one-trait theory is proven to be true? What if scientists can demonstrate that homosexual orientation has a genetic basis? What if the scientific community and society at large accept the view that homosexuality is ‘natural’? Must the church abandon her traditional position concerning homosexual behaviour and revise her teaching?

Here we must clarify what modern culture means by ‘nature’. From the time of the European Enlightenment, the concept of nature has been increasingly secularized, plucked out of its original context of a theistic worldview and the Christian doctrine of creation. ‘Nature’, according to this view is defined by science and no longer by a religious metaphysics. Nature, then, is that which can be subjected to empirical observation and the scrutiny of modern science. According to this view, it follows that if a certain behavioural trait is the result of the presence of a particular gene, that behaviour must be ‘natural’.

For the Christian faith, however, what is natural, and nature itself, cannot be gleaned from the scientific study of the world. It is disclosed only by revelation. What is natural is not based on the way things are but on God’s original intention for the creation. The empirical study of the world cannot yield knowledge of the created order as God had intended it to be because ours is a fallen world. The world as we see it is denatured due to the Fall. In addition, the scientific instruments, methods and concepts that we use are also affected by the Fall.

When Paul argues that homosexual behaviour is unnatural (Rom 1:26-27), his assertion is not based on a secular understanding of nature or a particular social convention. Rather it is based on the doctrine of creation. Paul is referring to human sexuality as God had intended it when he created human beings male and female. In the same way, the Christian’s conception of what is natural cannot be based on scientific research but on God’s revelation in Scripture.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. This article was first published in the Methodist Message. 

Most Scientists Reject the One-Gene-One-Trait Theory as Naïve

Have scientists discovered the gay gene?

PERHAPS the most frequently cited study that maintains the connection between genetics and homosexuality is that conducted by molecular biologists at the National Institutes of Health under the direction of Dean Hamer in 1993.

By examining DNA samples from self-identified gay men and other gay male family members, Hamer and his team claimed to have discovered a DNA segment called a “marker” on the X chromosome. Men inherit this chromosome only from their mothers, not from their fathers. By defining this marker more closely, Hamer and his team of scientists hope to identify a “gene for gayness” on the X chromosome. In his report Hamer, who is a gay man, concludes that there is a strong genetic basis for homosexuality, although he admits that the environment also has a part to play.

Scientists have found Hamer’s methodology questionable and his conclusions unconvincing. In the first place, Hamer did not check if straight men also share the marker in question. His theory would be disproved if only a few straight men were found to have the marker. The second and perhaps more serious flaw has to do with his definition of who is gay. Hamer only studied what he considers to be “real” gay men, that is, men who have never veered from the preference for men in their sexual activities. But because he ignores the large population of men who have sexual relations with men but who do not identify as gay, his research is seriously compromised. It simply fails to account for the diversity of sexual behaviours.

According to an article by the Council for Responsible Genetics, Hamer’s study is “currently under investigation by the Federal Office of Research Integrity for possible scientific misconduct, because one of the study collaborators alleges that Hamer suppressed data that would have reduced the statistical significance of the reported results”. Unfortunately the outcome of the investigation is not available to me at this writing.

Another study, conducted in 1991 by neuropsychologist Simon Le Vay with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California also argues that homosexual orientation is genetic. By examining the brain structures of gay and straight men, Le Vay concluded that a specific structure in the brain of gay men is smaller (about the size of the brain structure in heterosexual women) than in straight men. Le Vay concludes that there is a certain connection between homosexuality and biology.

Le Vay’s study, however, is seriously compromised for two reasons. Firstly, his observations were made on cadavers, and his evidence about the sexual orientation and practices of the people in life were at best circumstantial. And secondly, all the “gay men” died of Aids, which is known to affect brain structures. Thus scientists have generally found Le Vay’s conclusions unconvincing.

Space does not allow me to discuss the studies by Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard at Northwestern University and the Boston University School of Medicine that argue for a biological basis of sexual orientation. But many scientists have also found these studies problematic and inconclusive. Furthermore, most scientists reject the one-gene-one-trait theory as naïve because of its reductionism and determinism. Such theories fail to take human freedom seriously due to its simplistic correlation between genes and human behaviour.

Human beings are such complex creatures (profoundly different from the other animals) who interact creatively and meaningfully with their environment. Even Dean Hamer admits that it is ludicrous to reduce human beings to their animal prototypes. “Pigs,” he writes, rather humorously, “don’t date, ducks don’t frequent stripper bars, and horses don’t get married … Animals don’t speak, write love songs, build churches, or do a lot of other things that we consider worthwhile.” Human sexual behaviour, in other words, cannot be simply reduced to genetic predisposition.

But what if one day the one-gene-one-trait theory is proven to be true? What if scientists can demonstrate that homosexual orientation has a genetic basis? What if the scientific community and society at large accept the view that homosexuality is “natural”? Must the Church abandon its traditional position concerning homosexual behaviour and revise its teaching?

Here we must clarify what modern culture means by “nature”. From the time of the European Enlightenment, the concept of nature has been increasingly secularised, plucked out of its original context of a theistic worldview and the Christian doctrine of creation. “Nature,” according to this view, is defined by science and no longer by a religious metaphysics. Nature, then, is that which can be subjected to empirical observation and the scrutiny of modern science. According to this view, it follows that if a certain behavioural trait is the result of the presence of a particular gene, that behaviour must be “natural”.

For the Christian faith, however, what is natural, and nature itself, cannot be gleaned from the scientific study of the world. It is disclosed only by revelation. What is natural is not based on the way things are but on God’s original intention for the creation. The empirical study of the world cannot yield knowledge of the created order as God had intended it to be because ours is a fallen world. The world as we see it is denatured due to the Fall. In addition, the scientific instruments, methods and concepts that we use are also affected by the Fall.

When Paul argues that homosexual behaviour is unnatural (Rom 1:26-27), his assertion is not based on a secular understanding of nature or a particular social convention. Rather it is based on the doctrine of creation. Paul is referring to human sexuality as God had intended it when He created human beings male and female. In the same way, the Christian’s conception of what is natural cannot be based on scientific research but on God’s revelation in Scripture.

QUOTE:
‘When Paul argues that homosexual behaviour is unnatural (Rom 1:26-27), his assertion is not based on a secular understanding of nature or a particular social convention. Rather it is based on the doctrine of creation. Paul is referring to human sexuality as God had intended it when He created human beings male and female.’


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.
This article was originally published in the Methodist Message.