Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Gays and Downs

Several people (most notably Ryan Rakness) have taken me to task for ignoring the controversial statement of Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler to the effect that, if it turns out that being gay is genetic, we’d be doing God’s work through biomedical interventions in the womb to excise that gene and reduce, at least, the amount of homosexuality in the world. Now Mohler is completely against abortion and would only endorse a procedure that involved "fixing," not killing.

At the same time we read that the experts now recommend that all women get prenatal screening for Downs Syndrome. And the intention there, of course, is to encourage women to abort. Already, of course, such screening has caused a dramatic reduction in the number of Downs babies being born.

Any campaign against gays and people with Downs in the world would, of course, be against genuine human diversity. But the truth is that if there were a way to "fix," as opposing to killing, Downs babies in the womb we’d be for it. Downs people are loving and charming and a joy to have around, but they’re genuinely the result of a genetic defect. We shouldn’t be killing them, but surely we’d be for curing them.

Nobody much is talking about aborting gay babies, because the people who regard homosexuality as a sin have the same opinion about abortion.

And most of the people all for aborting Downs babies are politically correct enough that they couldn’t imagine doing the same to correct for sexual orientation. (Actually libertarian Ronald Bailey would give parents that latter freedom, although he hopes they would be enlightened enough not to use it.)

To say the least, it’s unclear that being gay is a genetic DEFECT on the order of being Downs, and it’s very unclear that the cause of gayness will turn out to be as unambiguously genetic and so as unambiguously fixable in principle as Downs.
But the new studies on gay sheep that are the source of this genetic speculation do suggest to some that an effort to exterminate gay orientation is a war against nature itself.

To help Ryan out here, I’m laying out the creepy facts quickly in a linkless way. The only opinion I will offer is that we don’t possess the WISDOM to use the POWER we might conceivably eventually have to choose people’s sexual orientation for them. And in saying that, I’ve said nothing about the morality of homosexuality. God might give some people certain challenges as an opportunity for vritue and grace. Let’s let God do God’s work.

Discussions - 20 Comments

Well, I don’t know whether they’d be more or less lovable, but the point is that they’re lovable either way.

Sorry, Peter--after I posted the comment I decided to delete it and instead do a formal blog post on this question. I didn’t know you’d be so quick onthe draw!

All I do is sit here hoping you will write, John. How lovable does that make me?

Come on, Peter. "Let’s let God do God’s work." Geez. So, what do we do when God’s work entails bubonic plague? I think we have to abandon the "no tinkering" tenet...what’s needed is a new ethical code that lays out when (and when not) to tinker, perhaps along the lines of the Hippocratic Oath. If we can improve our lives, we should, and I think there is sufficient consensus to forge such an ethnical code.

Funny how people want to blame God for "defects" and ignore him for anything that works as it "should"...

Anyway, let’s talk about God. While I personally believe God created the whole process of conception, and thereby has a hand in the creation of every human being, I also believe He allows for defects as part of the natural process of life. NOTHING is perfection. Nothing always works perfectly as it should every single time in nature, so why should we expect it to happen during conception, the very basis of nature?

As far as genetics go, I also feel that some genetics are black and white and entirely predetermined (eye color, hair color, Down’s syndrome, etc.) while others are "tendencies" that due to environment or other outside factors, help shape or guide the outcomes. For instance, alcoholism has been found to be genetic. Does that mean that every person with the gene for alcoholism becomes an alcoholic? Juvenile diabetes is genetic, but recent research has brought to light that it can be triggered by the effects of a virus in the child’s body. Obesity is another one that is genetic, but also shaped (no pun intended) by lifestyle choices one makes. I feel that this is where the homosexuality gene falls as well. I don’t think it is a predetermined-black-and-white gene - but one that can be triggered during one’s life. What do I base this on? Nothing scientific.

The God’s work comment doesn’t apply to eradicating obvious genetic defects and diseases but only to futile efforts to play God on stuff like homosexuality. It was meant as a soft but real criticism of Mohler.

I think what you’re saying, Peter, is that we can feel secure in our knowledge that it is in the best interest of people with Downs to correct it if we can--much in the same way that most people view it as sensible to correct deafness if you can. There is a fringe element who supports "deaf culture" and I’m sure there will be a fringe who support "Downs culture"--but that argument is not very serious. On the other hand, while it may be fair to speculate that homosexuality is related to a genetic cause, we cannot now and may not ever be able to feel secure in postulating that it is the best interest of people so predisposed to alter that genetically.

I think I’m with you on leaving this to God. This is not an endorsement of homosexuality, of course, but rather an endorsement of the human condition such as it is. Because homosexuality has more to do with behavior and character than with one’s capacity to live a productive and healthy life, re-orienting a person in utero might have unforeseen consequences and might open the floodgates to a myriad of other character altering experiments. If we can find the gene that makes a person predisposed to be aggressive, should we change that too? How about lazy? What about a predisposition to promiscuity? What about that predisposition toward religion (the God gene) we’ve been hearing so much about? And if we alter that, in which direction? What about all the aspects of human intelligence? Is there a math gene? (If there is one, I didn’t get it and I want a refund!) But think of what it would mean if we could control for all of these things. What would there be left to live for? What challenges would any of us have to overcome if our parents could script our characters in the womb? What would be the drama of life? I hope I die before that happens.

This discussion presupposes that homosexuality, like Downs, is something to be done without if we could do without it without abortion. I do not accept the implicit analogy. Assuming the presence of a therapeutic intervention to correct Downs in vitro, I would leave the choice to the mother/parents. To do the same in the case of (hypothetically predicted) homosexuality says (1) that homosexuality is morally wrong and society should mandate a new form of eugenics, or (2) that the parent(s) can be permitted to avoid homosexual children (without abortion). I reject the idea that homosexuality is morally wrong or otherwise socially undesirable. Mr. Mohler is, as always, entitled to his opinion, but I cannot see why any reasonable person or any Christian would agree with him.

Listen to Julie: I should have said that stuff...

"I reject the idea that homosexuality is morally wrong or otherwise socially undesirable. Mr. Mohler is, as always, entitled to his opinion, but I cannot see why any reasonable person or any Christian would agree with him."

Mr. Thomas, the Bible clearly condems homosexuality in both the Old and New Testament. How could any Christian not believe it is morally wrong?

Even though I’m against abortion, it would be God’s work to abort a gay fetus. It would be the lesser of two evils.

Dan Phillips - I believe you refer to homosexual acts, not homosexuality as such. Many Christians, moreover, disagree with you, rejecting the idea that Biblical injunctions are always conclusive.

Gary - Your calculus is frightening and appalling.

My reluctance to post this was because I feared comments like Gary’s. And my conclusion, I hoped (and Julie showed), doesn’t depend on agreement on answers to all the moral questions surrounding homosexuality--which what I mean about "the morality of homosexuality." Nobody with eyes to see can deny that homosexuals have special moral challenges. Steve, after all, is surely right that the Bible doesn’t (how could it?) come out against being homosexual--having a homosexual orientation. (I’ve gotten a couple of emails from being who say that, if they could, they would choose to negate any genetic propensity toward homosexuality in their kids in the name of their happiness and their ability to have their own kids. Surely you could have such a thought without any animosity toward homosexuals etc. But Julie explains why you really wouldn’t know what you were doing if you excercised that power.)

For my part, I doubt Gary’s sincerity. No real pro-lifer would utter such nonsense.

"Many Christians, moreover, disagree with you, rejecting the idea that Biblical injunctions are always conclusive."

Yeah, they are called liberal Christians, and many of them also reject the basic tenets of the faith.

Dan Phillips - This is not a debate I feel qualified or inclined to pursue. Just this. You are right that there is a long tradition of "liberalism" in Christianity, and you are right that Christians disagree among themselves about "the basic tenets of the faith." I do not know what God thinks about homosexuality, and I do not know what Jesus’ attitude toward homosexuals was. The love that I find Jesus preaching in the Gospels seems to me to be a rebuke to those who would exclude homosexuals from his embrace and his Church.

Let me (gently) suggest that Christianity as a synthetic whole does not provide a suitable foundation for politics. It is a religion that keys on individual salvation, and when applied to larger social phenomena it much be changed/warped in order to function. Loving your enemies will get you killed, at least most of the time.

Greetings. I am an admiring fan of "No Left Turns" and I found this series of comments very interesting. One clarification I would offer is that I did not endorse genetic therapies to "cure" homosexuality. The magazine article I cited raised the hypothetical (very hypothetical) issue of a simple medical cause of male-male sexual attraction and a simple medical treatment -- not germline therapy. I am opposed to all germline therapies at this time. The danger of misuse and unintended consequences is just too great at present. If this is Peter Lawler’s point in his "soft but real criticism," I am in agreement with him and appreciative of his point.

The larger issue here, as seen clearly in some comments above, is the morality of homosexual behavior

Dr Mohler,
Thanks for the clarification. It’s so unlikely that homosexuality will turn out to have a simple medical cause that there’s no use in pursuing any disagreement right now. Julie (above) gives the case I hope you would probably make on germline therapy for anything but narrowly medical reasons even if the health and safety issues could be worked out. And I appreciate you plugging my books!

Yes, that’s the larger and not at all hypothetical issue about which, I would insist, reasonable, law-abiding, and God-fearing people can and do disagree.

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