from Books & Reviews
Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate
(Courtesy of InterVarsity Press)
Stanton L. Jones, Ph.D.
We (Stan and Mark) have watched for years as the supposed "scientific evidence" has been used in the ethical/moral debates of the various Christian denominations over the divisive topic of homosexuality. The majority of the time, the "evidence" has been used against the traditional moral position that sees homosexual behavior as sin.
Stan began writing about this subject in the late 1980s, and was joined by Mark as a co-author in the mid-1990s. Together, we wrote a very well-received article in the Christian Scholar's Review that attempted a complete overview of all of the major scientific studies that had been cited as having some bearing on the moral/ethical debate.
This article was applauded by scientific scholars who managed to read it, but we were disappointed that the article was not more understandable to the educated Christian public. This book was conceived as a way to explain the scientific evidence to pastors and educated Christian laypersons so that they could be better informed about two major areas: first, what the scientific evidence really says, and second the real bearing of this scientific evidence on the ethical/moral debate about homosexuality.
Why did you decide to focus on this particular topic?
There were really three reasons for choosing to focus on homosexuality. First, as scientists, we were deeply disturbed by the way that the supposed "findings of science" were being used in this ethical conflict within the church.
"Science" is seen as having more relevance to what the church should believe ethically and pastorally about homosexuality than about any other topic that is currently being debated in the church.
Second, as evangelical Christians, it seemed to us that homosexuality is the area where more pressure is being put on the church to depart from the explicit moral teachings of scripture than any other area.
Third, we have also been concerned for the well-being of individuals who we know who struggle with homosexual orientation and who themselves receive very confusing messages from church and society about how they are to live their lives. Often, it is "science" that is given as the reason for advice that departs from the teachings of scripture.
How prevalent is homosexuality today?
The prevalence of homosexuality is widely estimated to be 10% or more of the general population. This estimate stems from a terrible misinterpretation of the badly biased Kinsey studies of the 1950s. Gay rights advocates have used this statistic to overestimate the prevalence of homosexuals in order to accentuate the significance of this sub-population as a political and socioeconomic force.
The best research is very clear, however, in suggesting a much lower prevalence, likely somewhere in the range of 1.5% - 3% of homosexual individuals in the general population.
What does scientific research actually show about homosexuality?
To answer this question would actually require that we summarize the entire book! Perhaps one of the most crucial questions that is being asked is the question of causation: "what causes homosexual orientation?" What we attempt to show in the book is that there is no simple or conclusive answer to this question at this stage in the evolution of science.
After a number of years when genetic causes have been celebrated and proclaimed as "THE cause," it now seems clear that genetic influences are weaker than has been suggested in recent years, and are probably only present for a sub-population of homosexual individuals. It is possible that there are other biological influences at work for some poeple, including the possibility of prenatal hormones having some influence.
It is likely that familial, psychological, and experiential variables influence the development of homosexuality, though there is no conclusive evidence about how this happens.
In short, we do not have any conclusive answers to the question of what causes homosexuality. We do have a number of tantalizing clues that genetics, prenatal hormones, and early childhood environment and experiences, along with adult choice, can all be participants in the mix of causal factors.