Beyond study failing to find ‘gay gene,’ such behavior still im

WASHINGTON (BP)--While a new study failed to find a genetic basis for homosexuality, a Southern Baptist ethicist says the discovery of such a link would not make homosexual behavior more morally acceptable.

Researchers writing in the journal Science said they had been unable to confirm two studies from earlier this decade that reported linking male homosexuality to part of a chromosome, according to The New York Times.

Ben Mitchell, an ethics professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., called the report "another indicator that homosexuality is not biological in origin."

Yet, he added, "even if researchers found a so-called 'gay gene,' that would not change the immorality of homosexuality. Science cannot do moral work. That is, science does not have the power to determine what's right and what's wrong.

"For instance, even if we could prove a genetic link to alcoholism, we would not say alcoholics should be excused for their behavior. In fact, a genetic link for alcoholism would make it more urgent to avoid taking the first drink. Similarly, the discovery of a genetic link for homosexuality would make avoiding homosexual contact more urgent."

The much more reliable evidence is that homosexuality "is related to nurture [rather] than to nature," said Mitchell, who also is a biomedical consultant with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

"The psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of homosexual behavior have been known for a very long time. Genetics does not answer this question," he said.

Even an official with the country's largest homosexual political organization said the question of a genetic basis for homosexuality should not be overplayed.

"In the final analysis," said David Smith of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, according to The New York Times, "we don't believe these studies should have a significant influence in the public-policy debate on whether to treat gay and lesbian people fairly and equally, whether they conclusively prove a 'gay gene' or not."

The debate over homosexuality's origin, however, has powerful implications for society, especially in the public-policy arena.

Many homosexuals contend they did not choose their sexuality but were born with it. Therefore, when a series of newspaper advertisements consisting of testimonies of former homosexuals appeared last year, many homosexual activists and organizations sharply criticized the campaign and the concept of being "ex-gay." Most evangelical Christians and conservatives say, largely based on biblical teaching, homosexuality is a choice -- and a sinful one at that. Based on Scripture, such Christians offer to homosexuals the message they can leave their lifestyle through the grace and power provided in Jesus Christ.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would make homosexuality a protected classification in the areas of both employment rights and hate crimes. Scientific studies reporting evidence of a 'gay gene' could provide ammunition to those seeking to equate homosexuality with such traits as race, ethnicity and gender in civil rights legislation.

In the study reported in the April 23 issue of The Times, Canadian researchers sought to duplicate 1993 and '95 studies by Dean Hamer, a geneticist at the National Cancer Institute. In his '93 research, Hamer reported 33 of the 40 pairs of homosexual brothers he studied had an area on the bottom half of the X chromosome, which is inherited from the mother, that was identical, indicating a gene or genes in the region could be related to their homosexuality, according to The Times. Hamer's '95 study reported similar, though smaller, evidence, The Times reported.

The Canadian team, which studied 52 sets of homosexual brothers, said their results "do not support an X-linked gene underlying male homosexuality," according to The Times.

Neil Risch, a Stanford University professor who conducted the statistical analysis of the data for the Canadians, told The Times, "If there is an effect there, it is pretty small, and this study casts doubt on there being something there in particular. I don't think the evidence for there being an X-linked gene was very strong to begin with."

Genetics experts said the latest study does not rule out the possibility genes influence sexuality, The Times reported.

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