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Friday, June 12, 2009

Is homosexuality innate or acquired?

I recently read two articles in Slate on homosexuality, which I had somehow missed. Both are by William Saletan.

In one of the articles, Saletan discusses evidence that human sexual preference is influenced by exposure to hormones in the womb. The article points out that there are physical differences between the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals, in "overall symmetry and amygdala activity." There are abundant links in the article, but only an abstract, not the complete original research article, is available, unless you have full access to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (This would be true of all articles in that journal, whatever the topic.)

Saletan considers the implications, and suspects that, in time, many parents will ask for pre-natal diagnosis, and intervention to prevent hormone exposure that would make homosexuality likely in their offspring. He says that at least some conservative Christian groups would favor such treatment.

In the other article, Saletan discusses evidence that some male sheep (less than 10%) are attracted to other male sheep. Once again, the abstract, not the primary research article, is available to most readers. Again, there are differences in brain structure and activity, between "homosexual" sheep and "heterosexual" sheep.

I don't expect this research to change anyone's mind about homosexuality, but it is part of the data.

See this post for a reasonably thorough discussion of Christianity and homosexuality.

Thanks for reading.


Keetha Broyles said...

Thanks for this post. The question of whether homosexuality is innate or acquired has bothered me for quite some time, because even without having seen the articles to which you refer (or any others like them for that matter) I have wondered about the hormone influence on fetuses.

Way back in my newly wed CWC days I did birth certificates at Oconee. One of the babies for whom I made a birth certificate was born a true hermaphrodite. I had not at that time heard of that before. I had to, in fact, do several birth certificates because the doctor's couldn't make up their minds about the primary gender of the child. Doing those birth certificates opened a lot of questions in my heart and mind.

Martin LaBar said...


I have noticed that some male homosexuals seem to have a characteristic tone of voice. (I don't think they all do.) This would indicate a hormonal influence on the larynx, and elsewhere, I guess.

James Dobson believes that how the parents raise the child is the most important influence on development of sexual identity. I believe that there's something to that, but doubt if that's the whole story.

I plan to post a broader post on homosexuality tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting to read because I have one niece who is homosexual and living with her partner. Her partner is expecting a baby ... she was made pregnant by an African-American male friend and this has turned my family upside down. My Mom, aged 80 and a staunch Christian, is aghast that such a thing is happening.

I find Dr. Dobson's comment about how the parents raise the child is the most important influence because my sister and brother-in-law never took their children to church and never professed faith in Christ.

A baby shower is being held this week-end for my niece and her pregnant partner and I declined the invitation. As a Christian I can't celebrate their living arrangement and their sin in that manner.

Thank you for this post. I'll check back often.


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous/Lizabeth.

Dobson certainly favors taking children to church, but I believe he is talking much more about how the children observe gender roles in their parents, and how these are taught.

Grasshopper said...

Interesting post(s) and comments in relation to homosexuality. I found yesterdays SS lesson on homosexuality in the adult curriculum from WPH quite interesting as well. My place of employment as a second job is Prodigal Ministries. We are dedicated to helping individuals restore their sexual identity and purity; in plain terms, we work with homosexuals and with family and friends. The founder and director has a true passion for these individuals because he has been delivered from this lifestyle and now has a powerful testimony that he shares with clients when working with them. Since being saved from this lifestyle, he is now married and has an amazing Christian family. However, this is not the situation with all individuals. Each situation is unique and the individual involved must come to the point of complete and total repentance before healing can begin - this is the same with all sin. From this standpoint, it's difficult to say if there is or is not a genetic connection; however, I do feel that homosexuals are greatly influenced by the environment in which they are raised. Who isn't? The media and such have consistently presented this as an acceptable lifestyle to the point that young people are almost "immune" to the truth of a heterosexual lifestyle. Within the Christian churches, it seems that there's a great divide of either accepting this lifestyle or fleeing in the opposite direction at the sound of "homosexual". I pray that God opens my heart in a compassionate manner so that if a friend professes to be homosexual, God will give me the courage and wisdom to counsel them in a compassionate manner so they will see, while I do not accept this lifestyle, I am still expected to share a Christian love with them.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for sharing this.

I'm not sure that every practicing homosexual can become a practicing, happy heterosexual. I am sure that every practicing homosexual can become celibate.

Yes, the church (some of it) needs an attitude check on this matter. God does not hate fags. (He doesn't hate gossips, either, but gossips need to repent and reform, too.)

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I am extremely impressed by these comments. This is the most objective conversation on homosexuality I have heard online so far (maybe it is because I have heard too many slanderous words on the subject as well). 
I am currently undecided on my personal status on homosexuality/gay marriage. I am a heterosexual, Christian, and do have my political views on it, but from all the research and analysis I have done, I am left only more indecisive. Perhaps it is because I can see both sides of the situation and understand a person's reason for his/her support/opposition (that is, if the reason indicates good judgement and not bigotry), and agreeing with each view only contradicts a view I've had from the start.
I can say for certain that the homosexual issue is very controversial, whether in the context of politics or religion, and I also can say that how a person becomes homosexual is just as complicated. Recently, I read an informative article about how homosexuality cannot be simply labled as innate or acquired, as there are so many minute factors that we cannot see or have difficulty finding how they work together. Despite this, I definetely believe that caution is needed in delving in such discovery.
I could probably go on, but I think I should do more research before I attempt any more comments on homosexuality. I hope I have brought a little (even just a pinch) of insight to the situation.
If I am misinformed about the subject in any way, please forgive me and let me know by replying (I would appreciate it because I do not want to appear biased!). I have only now begun intensely diving into this topic and am thinking deeply!       

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, anonymous.

I didn't detect anything to correct in your comment.

God help us all.

Anonymous said...

Dr. LaBar,
Hi! This is the Anonymous person who commented yesterday. I have decided to continue praying and thinking about it. Sorry if my words confused you.
Thank you for replying!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

Continued praying and thinking is a good idea.

By the way, Blogger (this is a Blogger blog) sends any comments to the blog author as e-mail, so it doesn't matter where you comment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I will keep that in mind. And also thank you for yelling me about the Lgger comments (didn't know that before!)


Martin LaBar said...

You are welcome, Callie. It's blogger, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I truly liked this information. You really have talked about a few critical factors at this website

Thomas said...

United States of America... the country where homosexual activists insist on homosexuality being innate and genetic and where Christian groups are the ones supporting that it has a psychological origin... only to assert that it can and must be "corrected".

Put me out of my misery if I have to participate in an American public debate someday.

Seriously though, reading about the debate on homosexuality in America leaves me with a bad taste of irony and misanthropy. It pains me.

Martin LaBar said...

It's a painful issue, really painful for many people, and I don't' have all the answers, Thomas. God does, and He is the final judge on these, and all, matters.

Probably we'd all be better off if conservative Christians were more concerned about gossip, slander, and helping the poor, and less about sexual issues.