What if Homosexuality is Biological?

By Selwyn Duke

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., recently penned an article that has both fellow evangelicals and homosexual activists feeling none too gay. Mohler raised the ire of the former group by stating that science may very well prove there is a biological basis for homosexuality; he then sent the latter group into a tizzy by reasserting that homosexual behavior is sinful and that modern science may offer prenatal remedies for it.

That homosexuality may have a basis in biology is rejected by many on the right for the same reason it is embraced by homosexuals. The reasoning is that if such feelings are biologically induced, then homosexual behavior is neither sinful nor a choice. Thus, the genesis of same-sex attraction has become a locus of debate in the culture war. The truth is, however, that both sides have fallen victim to a misconception, one I have long wanted to dispel.

Any biological basis for homosexuality would only be relevant insofar as preventing the condition is concerned; it has no bearing on morality. This is for a very simple reason: Biology doesn’t determine morality.

Think about it. Many of the same people who tell us homosexuality is inborn also claim that sociopaths (those without consciences and who exhibit antisocial behavior) may be born and not made. But, if this is true, would that render it moral for these individuals to trample the rights of others? If one is born with homicidal instincts, would it be licit for him to commit murder? Don’t scoff, for it’s precisely the same reasoning. Either morality is dictated by biology or it isn’t.

How we answer this question has profound implications for the future, and this is why relativistic single-issue activists – who are often blinded by an all-consuming passion to promote their cause – are so dangerous. We must not embrace the fiction that biology has any bearing on morality whatsoever, not in the name of legitimizing homosexuality or in that of any other issue, no matter how great or small. Even if the issue were a noble one, to do so would constitute the setting of a dangerous philosophical precedent simply to achieve a short-term social victory.

After all, to accept this supposition would place society’s moral compass at the mercy of nature, which, mind you, is far from inerrant. Biologically induced disorders and deformities are as staggering in number as they are curious in character. Whether it’s dwarfism, giantism, microcephaly, Huntington’s disease, spina bifida or something else, they’re sufficiently frightening to make every parent hope and pray for a healthy child. Thus, even if biology were the sole author of a person’s feelings (which I don’t believe), why would we think nature any more perfect an architect of that realm than it is of the physical one?

It doesn’t take too fertile an imagination to grasp where such a misconception would leave us. If biology determined morality, then any tendency attributable to nature would have to be thought moral. If, as some claim, there is a hereditary basis for alcoholism, it would follow that it is moral for those so afflicted to drink like a fish; if we found that incorrigible children were in the grip of a bad-seed gene, it would follow that it is moral for them to misbehave. And what if we next found a biological basis for domestic violence or pedophilia? Why, it would be a Pandora’s box, for our collective moral compass could then be no better than the worst of human biology.

A corollary of the aforementioned is that whether or not homosexuality is a choice is also irrelevant to the discussion of morality. Again, the sometimes brutal dictates of nature – and those of nurture, for that matter – saddle innumerable hapless souls with crosses to bear, some physical, some emotional and some psychological, and we never labor under the illusion that innateness translates into goodness. That is, not until a squeaky wheel finds that its agenda collapses when people don’t check their brains at the door.

And I need to clarify something about this matter of choice. The wise don’t claim that people choose to have homosexual feelings, as the homosexual lobby would have you believe. It’s obvious that feelings are rarely of our own conscious design, as nature, nurture or both determine man’s emotional constitution just as they do his physical one. Rather, choice enters the equation when the afflicted choose to act upon those feelings.

And so it is with all feelings. People can experience countless urges and impulses, some positive and some negative, and insofar as their wisdom and will are sufficient, they avoid acting upon the latter. And when they do act upon them with full knowledge and consent of the will, they sin.

Thus, the truth here is simple: Homosexuality may not be a choice, but homosexual behavior certainly is.

Regardless of their origin, to assert we are to be governed by feelings is not only wrong, it reduces us to animals. Beasts act on feelings, enslaved as they are by instinct, which is why we don’t accuse them of immorality. A lion may kill the cubs when taking over a pride, a female praying mantis may decapitate the male, and a coyote may eat his prey while it’s still alive, but they do not sin. They merely act in accordance with their nature, being bereft of both intellect and free will, two qualities that make man like God.

Getting back to the embattled Rev. Mohler, he has also been likened to infamous Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele for his support of prenatal intervention to prevent homosexuality. And Harry Knox, a spokesman for the homosexual group the Human Rights Campaign, said “He’s [Mohler is] willing to play God . . . in spite of everything else he believes about not tinkering with the unborn.”

This is irrational and another example of ignoring a widely accepted and moral principle in the name of furthering a selfish cause. Medical intervention – be it genetic or chemical, within the womb or without – is morally licit when designed to correct abnormality. For instance, who wouldn’t support such intervention to cure sickle cell anemia or any of the problems I mentioned earlier? This isn’t playing God or the Devil, for it isn’t directed toward eugenics or the creation of monsters. It isn’t the remaking or unmaking of God’s plan but the bringing of rebellious nature back into harmony with it.

I might also point out that, while I never shrink from labeling homosexual behavior immoral, such a belief is no prerequisite for remedial action. After all, we don’t for even a moment think microcephaly is immoral, but neither would we for even a moment hesitate to correct such a problem. By definition, homosexuality is an abnormality and there are many good reasons to cure it, among them being health, social and personal happiness imperatives.

Of course, like other groups that seek power, the homosexual lobby wants its constituency to grow, knowing there is strength in numbers. Like anyone looking for happiness not in virtue but in the acceptance of his vice, they want the approval of others. And like anyone seeking to justify the unjustifiable, they cannot bear the light of truth shone on that which looks best in darkness. After all, the truth can be scary. It’s just a pity it doesn’t scare them straight.

Selwyn Duke can be contacted at SD@SelwynDuke.com.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001