A Few Thoughts about Science and Theology

A Few Thoughts about Science and Theology May 5, 2012

I did not get to hear Alvin Plantinga when he spoke at my university a couple weeks ago. His topic was theology and science. He has a new book about it that I plan to read (when I have a month to digest it!).

Several people have asked me here about what role I think science does play in theology. That’s because I rejected as invalid “Dear Abby’s” claim that modern science has made the Bible’s view of homosexuality invalid. I said that science can’t do that.

The argument is that if science proves (as some allege has happened) that sexual orientation is biological/genetic, then we have to believe that same sex sexual behavior is morally right. The usual caveat is that it must be mutual and not coercive. And, of course, that it must be between consenting adults.

The reason this doesn’t touch the traditional Christian stance about sex outside of heterosexual marriage is that traditional Christianity has always taught that we are all fallen and born with sinful inclinations (orientations). Science proving that homosexual desire is biological/genetic wouldn’t affect that belief any more than science proving that men are naturally inclined toward sexual promiscuity would force Christians to alter their belief about sexual promiscuity. (One could go on and talk about alcoholism and numerous other conditions that may very well be biological/genetic but not therefore morally good to act on.)

The larger issue, of course, is whether you can ever derive an “ought” (moral imperative positive or negative) from an “is.” Science deals ONLY with “is.” Ethics deals with “ought.” The latter cannot be based on the former in a causal relationship. Certainly what is the case may have some bearing on decisions about what ought to be the case, but what is the case can never determine what ought to be the case. By definition “ought” goes beyond “is.”

Oughtness requires something transcendent to nature. Attempting to derive ought from is is called the “naturalistic fallacy.” Whether a certain sexual behavior is right or wrong cannot be determined by observing nature–even by observing what people do that they cannot help.

Illustration: Let’s suppose that the day arrives when science demonstrates conclusively that pedophilia is biological/genetic. I do not know of anyone who would argue that that would result in our having to conclude that adults preying on children is okay.

I have been told by scientists that it is just as likely that, in some people, alcohol addiction is genetic as that homosexual orientation is genetic. Yet I know of no one who argues that abusing alcohol (or abusing oneself with it) is good or right or even neutral. It’s a bad thing that people ought not to do.

None of this speaks to other issues such as what ought our attitude toward people who do what they ought not to do be. That’s a secondary issue. Nor does any of this speak to issues of punishment or treatment or anything like that. Those are all secondary issues that come up AFTER it is decided that a certain behavior is wrong.

My point here is not about homosexuality or alcoholism or any other specific orientation or behavior. It is only about the relationship between science and morality/ethics. It is simply a logical fallacy to think that what science discovers determines the rightness or wrongness of anything. There is an unbridgeable gulf between science that sticks to its sphere of research and proper methods and ethics. You cannot get from one to the other.

Now, having said that, I qualify that I am NOT arguing that ethicists (or theologians) ought to ignore science or vice versa. Of course not. The disciplines can and should communicate. Science needs ethics to guide how it handles sentient subjects in research, for example. And ethics needs science to tell it what is possible which can be helpful in determining proper punishments or treatments for (for example) criminals who do what they cannot avoid doing.

But simply to leap from the “fact” (the jury is still out) that homosexuality is biological/genetic to that same sex intercourse, for example, is morally acceptable is logically fallacious. At most all one could conclude (if one is a naturalist, for example) is that it is normal for some people. To go anywhere in determining moral rightness or wrongness one has to transcend what is natural or normal.

Now, there’s much more to this subject than what I have said here. For example, to what extent should theology adjust its doctrines based on scientific inquiry and proven conclusions? There I will appeal to and agree with Charles Hodge (who agreed with Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina) that theology cannot and should not ignore facts. Whenever science (of any branch) proves something (i.e., it becomes undeniable fact), theology must adjust to that. However, theology does not have to adjust to theories. All of that assumes that science stays in its proper boundaries.  For example, that the earth revolves around the sun is fact and lies within the purview of science. Whether a certain behavior is right is not within science’s purview.

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  • ME

    And before Galileo didn’t Thomas Aquinas write that if a newly learned fact indicates an interpretation of scripture is wrong then that interpretation of scripture should be revisited? Seems to me that particular issue has been solved for hundreds of years but it’s never sunk in with our culture.

    I agree with everything you wrote and additionally don’t believe there is effectively any kind of objective morality that we can ascertain in this world. Whatever morals one holds are all based on a “leap of faith”. Mine are based on belief in Christianity. For agnostics/atheists, they can’t grasp on to any morality at all, they can only appeal to sentiment.

  • Daniel W

    Dr. Olson,

    I am rather excited that my inquiries in part prompted you to write a blog entry. I certainly realize that an “ought” should not be derived from an “is.” I suppose my issue is that I cannot figure out why homosexuality between committed consenting adults should be declared sinful by God. Unlike male promiscuity and alcoholism, it does not seem to hurt others or damage relationships. If the reasoning goes back to the proper ordering of creation and the purpose of marriage and sex, then why don’t evangelicals that oppose homosexuality also oppose contraception? There is nothing in the Bible, except, according to some theologians, the Song of Songs, that asserts sex should be for pleasure. Even Song of Songs does not explicitly divorce sex from procreation. In fact, in the Bible, sex seems to be the primary purpose of procreation. When Paul advises Christians to get married if they burn with lust, it seems to be in way of concession more than anything to avoid sin. In conclusion, if we use the natural order and the purpose of sex to argue against homosexuality, then contraception should also come under fire.

    In light of the above, I am tempted to conclude that the homosexuality condemned in the Bible is a specific exploitative historically situated type of homosexuality.

    And before anyone tells me I should just accept what the Bible says and not ask questions, I want to say that such an answer does not really fly with me. For one, the Bible invites various reasonable interpretations. Secondly, the appeal to mystery should not be overused, and I think God acts logically and allows us to understand that to a certain extent.

    • Daniel W

      Correction: In the Bible, procreation seems to be the primary purpose of sex.

    • rogereolson

      I guess I am just enough of a biblicist to think that if God forbids some behavior it is always for a good reason even if the reason isn’t revealed. Using your reasoning, let’s ask what harm sex between consenting adult (biological) siblings can do if every precaution is used to avoid conception. I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s wrong.

      • Daniel W

        Fair enough. Your points are excellent.
        However, I still don’t understand how it is consistent for Christians to prohibit homosexuality but not contraception. Biblical condemnations of homosexuality in both the Old and New Testament seem to condemn it on the basis of it going against the natural God-ordained order of sexual relationships. Contraception certainly also goes against this natural order, considering the close connection between sex and procreation in the Bible. How can someone argue biblically that contraception is not a corruption of God’s intentions for sexuality, but then turn around and argue that homosexuality is such a corruption?

        Feel free to stop responding to me at any time. I know you are busy, and it is difficult to express oneself fully through a medium such as this.

        • rogereolson

          I assume the reason is that the Bible nowhere condemns or even mentions contraception.

      • J.E. Edwards

        Dr. Olson,
        Let me issue my sincere apologies to you for my hostile post in regards to the subject of homosexuality here. That is, because I really did blast you with some unthoughtful comments on this subject in a recent post. What I said was not helpful at all, and I didn’t really know where you stood on homosexual behavior in that post. I’m guessing you know where I stand, but I was very unkind. You said it much better here than I did and could. May the Lord bless what you’ve stated clearly.

      • Charles

        “I guess I am just enough of a biblicist to think that if God forbids some behavior it is always for a good reason even if the reason isn’t revealed.” By that ethic, wouldn’t it seem that there was a good reason for God to forbid the Israelites from sparing any of the men, women, infants, and animals in 1 Samuel 15:3?

        • rogereolson

          That is a possible explanation, but the mind stretches to the breaking point to try to think of any good reason to command slaughter of innocent children. My point was about biblical ethics, not interpretation of OT narratives.

      • John

        I think that Daniel and I have been trying to point out that some evangelicals are coming to the opinion that Webb’s “redemptive trajectory” also applies to homosexuality (even though (perhaps unconvincingly at times) Webb thinks that the biblical trajectory works in the opposite direction on this issue).
        I don’t think it is a hermeneutical leap to assume that Leviticus was forbidding priests from having same-sex relations because of the pro-creation ethic in ancient Israel. As for the other few texts on homosexuality, there are a variety of interpretations that are beginning to fall inside the bounds of orthodoxy, both around the theological and denominational world. Remember, we are not trying to make a case from science, but from the Bible. After that case is formed, we are letting science inform and educate are biblical foundation on sexuality.
        Taking a Cristo-centric approach to Scripture (as you do), we both tend to work with different presuppositions as we come to science, just like you come to the Bible with certain presuppositions that Calvinists wouldn’t agree with (i.e. realism vs. nominalism). The open and affirming Christian communities around the world are hoping to point out that the Bible is not as clear as some people wish it was on these issues. I know you don’t believe that “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture (BFM2000, Article VI).” In fact, you would probably agree with me that “both men and women have been gifted for work in the Church, thus the office of pastor is open to both men and women as qualified by Scripture’s (redemptive hermeneutic).”
        The SBC has done a wonderful job of saying that they are biblicists and that the biblical is very clear about these restrictions upon women and the church. Of course, we know that the Bible isn’t so clear and there are a variety of ways to look the texts that forbid women form performing certain actions within an ecclesial setting.

        • PSF

          In what way does Webb’s redemptive movement imply accepting homosexuality? I can’t see it? Webb certainly didn’t. I’ve heard others ‘agree’ with Webb on women and slavery, but then ‘disagree’ with him on homosexuality. But nobody shows how that actually works. Do you just disagree because you don’t want it to work out that way?

  • John C. Gardner

    This is a very helpful posting and one which I will direct others to check. It is about boundary issues between Christian morality/ethics and the “facts” of science. Thank you for writing it.

  • Val

    Quick correction, Theories, in science, are what explain the facts. Gravity is a theory, so is the earth’s orbit around the sun aka. Heliocentrism, Evolution, Big Bang, etc. In science, a theory is a very well supported and durable hypothesis, that stands the tests of inquiry and opposition. For science to declare something a theory, it is a well tested and supported framework, however, if something better, more plausible and definitely testable (so, Young Earth creationists don’t fall into this area)comes along, then science will examine it and determine if it is better. Last fall some scientists at the Cern research facility thought they had discovered a particle that beat the speed of light (fastest particle known, believed to be the fastest particle in the universe). Science didn’t freak out, tell them they were wrong. They just had to re-test and produce the same results (it didn’t work, so Light remains the fastest). Science will move to a new theory IF it can show it is a better explanation that the current one. It needs to be testable – saying “the Bible says so” isn’t a better scientific explanation. For a specific look, Evolution is supported by: palaeontology, genetics, anatomy, biochemistry, genomics and developmental biology. IF one were to challenge Evolution, one would need to find a theory that worked across all these disciplines in order to replace it. Something the ID/Creationist crowd hasn’t been able to hold a candle to (and they know is a problem, hence why you never hear it).

    Agreed on the inconclusiveness of all genetic studies on human sexuality to date. They looked and looked for a “gay” gene, but, if human sexuality is simply a genetic response, it is one involving a much larger and multileveled genome function than we are every going to map in our lifetime. They moved on from the “gay” gene to searching for a gene in the very violent sex offenders, and guess what? Same thing, nothing is showing a common match. I think people will begin to realize genes are a blueprint for our physical selves, but living life (environment) probably shapes and forms us as much as our genetics. I compare it to two houses, using the same blueprints and materials, being built, one on sand, the other on bedrock. Of, same house – one built in the rainforest, the other in the arctic. Will they even look the same after 10, 20, 40 years?

    • rogereolson

      When I spoke of scientific “theories” I meant the term in its popular sense which is probably better called hypotheses. I once knew a scientist who spent years studying identical twins at a major university research institute of genetic studies. He told me that there is a statistically significant correlation between genetics and homosexual orientation. That is to say, identical twins are more likely both to be gay than non-identical twins. However, if homosexuality (as a sexual orientation) were strictly genetic, as many believe and say, you would expect all identical twins to both be gay. They aren’t. But a higher percentage of sets are both gay than in the case of non-identical twins.

      • Val

        I know, the popular – really the literary – term for ‘theory’ is equivalent to a scientific hypothesis, it’s just that I end up needing to explain this endlessly, so I like to define it this way when the discussion switches to science.

        Did the twin study involve a control group of identical twins raised apart? It would still be hard to separate nature from nurture if the twins are raised together – identical twins are often treated as one person with an identical personality (not true, but a common attitude) unlike fraternal twins, so it may be how others perceive them that plays into it too? Well, it might not, but being raised in the same environment (how parents and sibs associated, attitudes to homosexuality, birth order, etc.) can still have an influence that being raised apart cannot. I suppose these ‘raised apart’ identical twin studies will get fewer subjects now that most adoptions are open and most twins are adopted together, but that would be a great way to separate nature vs. nurture.

        • rogereolson

          The gentleman I referred to was a leading geneticist working within the context of a major state university, so I assume every normal scientific protocol was followed.

  • John

    I agree that modern science cannot claim that the Bible’s view of homosexuality is invalid, only good hermeneutics may do that. Having read Webb and others like Scroggs’ The New Testament and Homosexuality, I agree that the issue of homosexuality is first and foremost about the Bible. How can’t it be? The Bible is God’s infallible revelation of himself to humanity, how can it not be the center and the ultimate factor that determines our views on human sexuality…
    Still, as an open and affirming evangelical Christian who is pursuing an mdiv from a prominent Southern Baptist Seminary in Texas, I think that it may not be helpful to make such a simplistic presentation of our position, even though that was not your main intent. I don’t know of any Christians at my seminary that advocate for the gay Christian community by strictly using science or even primarily using these kinds of scientific theories to bolster their case, I think that is strictly a secular tactic.
    The difficulty is, comparing homosexuality with pedophilia, alcoholism, or sexual promiscuity with males is not necessarily helpful. The negative effects on children, society, the self, and others is readily apparent in the latter cases. One cannot (yet) say the same about loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.
    I believe you have talked about your adherence to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral in the past, I find that to be helpful as well. The LGBTQ Christian community is not saying that you have to agree with us because of what science says, we just know that science should have a voice somewhere after Scripture and Christian Tradition. You are right, “these issues cannot be settled by science,” but certainly biology’s relationship to sexual orientation is theologically relevant. We have to wrestle with the handful of passages that talk about sexuality, even though they are more difficult to understand than most conservative/moderate evangelicals are usually willing to admit. We have to pray about them and we will likely come to different conclusions as good and faithful Christians have in the past, but I hope we can see the spectrum of evangelical beliefs is broadening on sexuality and it shouldn’t be shot down because a few people make unthoughtful arguments that don’t rely on good hermeneutics to say the least of a thoughtful exegesis.
    An earlier comment read, “Just as egalitarians observe that forcing women to be submissive is harmfully oppressive, and allowing women to lead is not harmful to the church, so people who accept homosexuality observe that forcing homosexuals to be celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex is harmfully oppressive, and that homosexuality in itself does not harm individuals like adultery does.”
    I use these arguments within my framework of women in ministry and after long irenic conversations about homosexuality, I find them to be another compelling piece to the difficult conversation between contemporary sexuality and the Bible.
    Sorry for my long winded post, it is a tangent, but an important one nonetheless. I respect your work and look forward to future posts 🙂

    • rogereolson

      But I didn’t compare homosexual orientation with pedophilia EXCEPT in the sense that they COULD both be wrong (when acted out) EVEN IF both should be shown by science to be biological/genetic. I was not comparing them as to degree of wrongness or even saying homosexual orientation/behavior is wrong. You read into prescription into what I wrote which was meant only as description.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    Well said, Dr. Olson. The best and most logical treatment of the issue I’ve ever encountered.

  • GeneT

    Without an accepted Authority external to society/C.S.Lewis , without the concept of “true truth”/Francis S, then the only available authority is societal behavior. Then the “ought” is determined by the “is” – and this seems to be the current state of our culture. Homosexuality, pedophilia, etc. are only specific outcomes of the fundamental vacuum.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    Quick correction: Val said, “For science to declare something a theory, it is a well tested and supported framework, however, if something better, more plausible and definitely testable (so, Young Earth creationists don’t fall into this area)comes along, then science will examine it and determine if it is better.”

    The above statement assumes that “science” is some kind of a monolithic god-like last word on any subject. May I point out that “science” is a singular profession practiced by a multitude of scientists. Further, nothing could be more over-stated than to insist that ALL scientists are agreed on the subject of Origins. For instance, there are many credible creation scientists currently teaching in some of the most prestigious colleges and universities who do not support the unproven theory of evolution. I have personally heard on-campus debates between creationist and evolutionist scientists on the subject of Origins. (It is interesting to note that inasmuch as the creationist scientists were winning these debates, the evolutionist camp has since refused to engage in any further head-to-head open forums. They couldn’t stand the embarrassment.) The theory of evolution, especially Darwinian evolution, is fast falling into disfavor even among confirmed evolutionary scientists. It’s also true that new genome discoveries are more and more casting doubt on long-accepted evolutionary claims, while at the same time supporting the creation model i.e., “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

  • Roger, thanks for your thoughts. Getting back to your original point (rather than homosexuality as an issue), should we also consider that the point goes both ways. Yes, one cannot derive an ethical ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ (as ‘natural facts’), but neither can we draw an ‘is’ (natural facts) from a theological/biblical ‘ought’ (? – question mark here – I’m asking). I have in mind here positions like YEC, which seem to want to do just this. Of course, the two truths might correspond, but the one can’t determine the other because they are different kinds of truth questions demanding different types of inquiries – and thus methods and traditions of inquiry. (?)

    • rogereolson

      I’m not sure what the “two truths” that “might correspond” are. Spell out an example of an attempt to derive “is” from “ought.” You mention Young Earth Creationism. How does it attempt to derive “is” from “ought?” Just off the top of my head, it seems that the reverse of the naturalistic fallacy is also a fallacy. That is, you cannot derive an “is” from an “ought” where “ought” refers to a moral imperative (“thou shalt” or “thou shalt not”) and where “is” refers to a state of affairs in the external world (i.e., not just that it “is” true that you “ought” to do something).

      • I think I formulated my question too quickly. It’s not simply a matter of is-ought relations, but also that there are different types of ‘is’ questions to begin with. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that both scientism and fundamentalism (here rep. by YEC) confuse the type of ‘is’ questions we’re dealing with and derive inappropriate conclusions. Scientism begins with a physical ‘is’ and derives non-physical conclusions (philosophical, theological, ethical) that don’t actually follow. Fundamentalism (YEC) begins with a theological ‘is’ (God creates) and derives non-theological conclusions from it (everything from age of the earth to what must be true about biology, etc.) that don’t actually follow.

        • rogereolson

          That’s helpful, but I think we are using “is” and “ought” in different senses. When I say you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is” I am referring to moral judgments that cannot be proven true or false simply by appeal to what is the case. For example, you can’t demonstrate the truth of a moral imperative from what most people think or how most people behave, etc. Some behavior might be morally wrong even though everybody does it and thinks it is okay. A basic fallacy that drives much of our culture is that morality is determinable by consensus. The pollsters then become the ultimate moral philosophers.

  • Jeff Martin

    Dr. Olson,

    I am glad you wrote this post. In a website almost totally dedicated to this topic and using the same arugments one would do well to check it out – Robert Gagnon’s (professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) personal website – http://www.robgagnon.net

  • Chase

    Great post. I wrote a response to it here if anyone is interested http://psychotheology.blogspot.com/2012/05/are-there-bright-lines-between-is-and.html

    • rogereolson

      You are again completely misrepresenting (I hope unintentionally) what I wrote. Nowhere in that post (“A Few Thoughts about Science and Theology”) did I make any statement about the moral status of homosexuality (either orientation or behavior). All I did was argue that science cannot settle the issue. You accuse me of comparing homosexuality with pedophilia. The only point of comparison I made was that both may be biologically/genetically determined (like many other inclinations). That comparison says nothing about any moral status of either one or both. My one and only point was that science cannot settle the moral issue of whether homosexual orientation or behavior are morally right. For you to suggest that I was comparing homosexuals with pedophiles is outrageous. I was not and I do not.

      • Chase

        Sorry to have misspoken. It was most definitely unintentional. I was trying to say that it is not only a moral issue. Since homosexuality is also an identity issue that is central to one’s being, it falls within the realm of “is” (science). I think the behavior is more of a ethical/moral issue while the orientation is more of a identity/scientific issue.

        I understand what you were doing with the analogy, and I’m sorry if it came across wrong. My point of contention is that they are not biological in the same manner. I think pedophilia and alcoholism are both destructive and post-eventu labels. Monogamous homosexuality is much healthier. And one need not engage in the behavior in order to be a homosexual. S/he would just be a repressed homosexual.

        • rogereolson

          I have not been around anyone in a very long time who thinks homosexual orientation (“same sex attraction”) is sinful. The Catholic Church says it is “objectively disordered,” but that’s not the same as saying it is sinful or morally wrong simply to have it. Admittedly a few extremists think just having same sex attraction is sinful, but I haven’t met any mature, reflective person who thinks that in a long time. So, when the issue comes up, I always assume such a distinction–between orientation and behavior. On the other hand (or just a different hand), I’m not sure what scientific basis there would be for making you identity distinction between a genetically determined homosexual orientation and, for example, a genetically determined orientation toward sexual attraction to children. Again, just to be perfectly clear, so there is no confusion here, I am NOT talking about a moral distinction which is another matter entirely. I’m talking about your “identity” distinction in which homosexual orientation is a matter of identity while a pedophilia orientation is not. That distinction seems to be read back into the science from the perspective of a moral judgment. The moral judgment that they are entirely different is one thing; such a distinction based on a strictly scientific judgment would seem problematic. Genetics is genetics, isn’t it? If a person has a genetic predisposition to A and to B, what is the scientific basis for saying “A” is a matter of identity whereas “B” is not? Again, I want to make perfectly clear, I am NOT comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. I am simply inquiring about the basis for your distinction between them as scientifically different IF it is the case (and the jury is still out on both) that both are genetically determined. When we shift from science to ethics (a category leap), the difference is clearer assuming the homosexual orientation in question is strictly to adults of the same sex (which I do not question).

      • Tuck

        I dealt with a pedophile for 3+ years in a counseling/prayer relationship. For reasons I won’t go into, I am convinced that he was totally and often painful honest with me in his struggle. He that from his earliest memories of sexual interest, his “orientation” was for little girls. Whether this was biologically determined or imprinted by some early trauma seems immaterial; he didn’t choose it. He knows it’s wrong and refuses to act on it, even though that attraction is natural for him and something he struggles with every day. If the Bible does condemn homosexuality is wrong, then it remains wrong even science “proves” that it is inborn (or acquired very early). You never equate the two (nor do I), but it does seem that the same dynamic applies here. I think that means that if science proves that the orientation to lose one’s temper in angry outbursts is hereditary, my temper will still be a work of the flesh that I will need to struggle against. If I am wrong here, please let me know; there are a couple of people I really would like to blow up at! (Just kidding… sorta). Thanks for your work.

        • Great point Tuck. I might be wrong here. Honestly, I need to learn more about pedophilia and its relation to biology. This is a bit of a sensitive issue in my home though because a relative’s personal experience, which is part of the reason why I disagree with its use as an analogy so greatly. At the end of the day though, I (and the American Psychological Association) view pedophilia as a maladaptive and detrimental sexual behavior, but not homosexuality. Aggression/temperament is a great metaphor for the biological predisposition for homosexual orientation though. Thank you for that.

  • Dr. Olson,
    with your permission I would like to translate this very helpful article into German to pass it on to some friends here (no official publishing) .

    • rogereolson

      You have my permission. Please translate and distribute the post in its entirety. Thank you for asking.

  • John Inglis

    RE “it [homosexualiry] does not seem to hurt others or damage relationships.”

    That is, in fact, a statement where science can indeed aid us and shed some light: The evidence available from science indicates that homosexual relationships do, in fact, exhibit a disproportionately high rate of measurable harms. In general, homosexual men have a significantly greater number of sex partners in the course of life and a significantly higher rate of sexually transmitted disease (on average, compared to heterosexual males). Gay male sex results in much higher rates of HIV and anal cancer (several multiples of order, not just a percentage increase). Homosexual women generally have relationships of much shorter duration (than women in heterosexual relationships) and they have significantly higher rates of adverse mental health problems. Overall, homosexuals of both sexes have significantly higher rates of sexually transmitted disease, mental illness, as well as more sex partners, and a larger number of failed intimate relationships than heterosexuals. This data is true across a range of countries and cultures, and for both men and women, which indicates that these effects are not the result of so-called homophobia.

    As for data sources, among others one may consult American Psychologist (Vol. 56, No. 11) which reviewed several studies that found higher rates of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and substance use, suicidal thoughts, and use of mental health services.

    Of course, this does not mean that homosexuality always results in such harms, nor does it mean that heterosexuals never experience such harms. However, it cannot be said that homosexuality does not carry increased risk of harms, i.e., it does indeed have higher risks. Moreover these risks carry familial and societal consequences.


    • rogereolson

      Of course, the response will be that these risks and harms are higher for homosexuals only because of society’s disdain and marginalization of them. The response will be that IF society allowed homosexual men and women to marry and IF they were treated with equal dignity (with heterosexuals) homosexuals would not feel the need to engage in such risky behaviors. Advocates of gay marriage (especially Christian ones) will say they are not advocating promiscuity but committed, monogamous homosexual relationships only.

  • John Inglis

    In addition to the fact that “homosexuality does not negatively affect the homosexual” is a fallacy, that false conclusion is a red herring–especially for Christians. An adequate system of morality cannot be based simply on the concept of “harm”, and several theories and conceptualizations of morality generate moral systems in which certain behaviours are immoral even if not harmful. More pertinent for Christians, however, is that there is no evidence that Jesus’ morality is at all based on some sort of “harm” principle.


    • rogereolson

      Agreed. But what I wonder is this: IF the New Testament does not expressly forbid a behavior (or behavior that includes it by close analogy) and it can be shown that the behavior is harmless, should Christians continue to condemn it as morally evil just because tradition says so? I am referring, of course, to “sins” based entirely on natural law ethics such as sex between a husband and wife using contraception to avoid conception. Of course, most Christians who argued that that is sin will try to support it by appeal to some obscure passages of Scripture, but, in my opinion, and even most Catholics’ opinions, those appeals are tenuous at best. (I have been involved in protracted discussions of this with Catholics including Malcolm Muggeridge [yes, I’m that old to have met him!] who adamantly insisted sex is morally good only when engaged in for the purpose of procreation; otherwise it is sinful. At the end of the discussion he fell back on natural law ethics and intuition because his appeals to Scripture were not convincing even to Christians committed to biblical authority.)

  • Mark

    The Bible isn’t a science book, but conversely science can’t determine right from wrong. Science is impersonal and informs us about the Universe, but it can’t inform us about the soul. And science without a moral compass can be of the devil rather than an instrument of good. There may be a scientific basis for human frailties such as alcoholism or homosexuality, but like the hard statistics that are the bedrock of scientific theory, they can’t differentiate right from wrong. I always thought part of being a Christian was the struggle against our own fallen nature, or frailties, which is far from a cake walk.

  • Here is my own personal story of the psychological and emotional impact that church placed upon my dad. Immediately after coming out to my family, my father was told that it was his fault that I am gay. They said he was distant, and likely unloving. It’s a ridiculous claim, in light of my life, that my dad made me gay, but because the Church convinced him it to be true, he has battled some serious emotional demons ever since.

    We need to have a larger conversation about this.