The Search for a Gay Gene

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“‘The phone rang off the hook with calls from reporters; there were TV cameramen lined up outside the lab; the mailbox and e-mail overflowed,’ Dean Hamer later remembered the reaction to his July, 1993 paper in the journal Science. ‘Rarely before have so many reacted so loudly to so little.’ Hamer’s paper—‘A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation’— had the modest ring of science, where change is often slow and incremental. But the underlying idea seemed to carry enormous implications: Homosexuality was not a choice—‘the wrong choice,’ as many religious and political leaders have demagogued on the issue. Instead, homosexuality was as much a biological fact as eye color.”[1] This was part of a Public Broadcasting Service report on the gay gene debate, and it is representative of the mainstream media’s coverage of what has been erroneously called “the gay gene.” For years scientists have sought to discover a genetic cause for homosexuality that would substantiate the oft heard claim that homosexuals are born gay, and as such, have no choice regarding their behavior.

Certainly, the most renowned of these studies is that of Dr. Dean Hamer who, while with the National Cancer Institute, claimed to have found a genetic link to homosexuality. After studying 40 pairs of homosexual brothers, he found that 33 of them shared the same set of DNA sequences in the Xq28 region of the X chromosome. However, in 1995 Dr. Dean Hamer was accused by one of the study’s collaborators of selectively reporting his research and data. He was charged with research improprieties and was investigated by the National Institute of Health’s Federal Office of Research Integrity. The results of this study were never released, but Dr. Hamer was shortly thereafter transferred to another section, and it is believed by many that his study amounts to little more than pseudo-science.[2]

More importantly, Dr. Hamer’s results have never been reproduced. Rather, a 1999 study by the University of Western Ontario of 52 pairs of homosexual brothers found the genetic markers cited by Dr. Hamer in exactly half of the brother pairs, which is consistent with the laws of chance. It concluded that the results of Dr. Hamer’s study “did not support an X-linked gene underlying male homosexuality.”[3] Nevertheless, the media and gay activists continue to cite Dr. Hamer’s study as proof of a gay gene.

Interestingly enough, even Dr. Dean Hamer has admitted that his study did not prove that homosexuality is the result of genetic determinism, saying, “There is a lot more than just genes going on.”[4] He believes that genes are a factor in determining homosexuality, but environmental influences are also an important factor.[5] This is necessarily true when one considers instances where one identical twin is gay, and the other is straight. Because they share identical DNA, if homosexuality were entirely determined by one’s genes, then both twins would be either gay or straight in every instance. There could never be a case where one identical twin is gay and the other is straight. The mere fact that this is not uncommon disproves any notion that homosexuality might be entirely the result of a person’s genetic composition.

This was also the conclusion of a 2014 study by Dr. J. Michael Bailey at Northwestern University. Despite the fact that many media reports touted this study as evidence of a gay gene that compels a person to exhibit homosexual behavior, Dr. Bailey announced, “Our findings suggest there may be genes at play—we found evidence for two sets that affect whether a man is gay or straight. But it is not completely determinative; there are certainly other environmental factors involved.”[6] He even admitted that environmental factors were likely to have the biggest impact on homosexuality.

In all fairness Dr. Bailey appears to have desired a different outcome from his study because he prefaced his findings with the contradictory declaration, “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice.” This declaration was then followed by the admission, “But it is not completely determinative.”[7] In other words Dr. Bailey believes that sexual orientation is determinative—that it has nothing to do with choice—but the results of his study have proven that homosexuality is not completely determinative—that it is the result of both genetic and environmental factors.

A careful consideration of each scientific study supposedly proving the existence of a gay gene would result in a stack of scientifically disqualified studies and a general consensus that there is no genetic determinative cause for homosexuality. Even the decidedly pro-gay American Psychological Association stated in 2009:

There are numerous theories about the origins of a person’s sexual orientation; most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality. In summary, it is important to recognize that there are probably many reasons for a person’s sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people.[8]

 

Likewise, the pro-gay American Psychiatric Association has said, “To date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality.”[9] Also, Dr. Neil Whitehead, after examining more than 10,000 scholarly papers and publications on the subject, concluded, “Geneticists, anthropologists, sociologists, endocrinologists, neuroanatomists, medical researchers into gender, and twin study researchers are in broad agreement about the role of genetics in homosexuality. Genes don’t make you do it. There is no genetic determinism, and genetic influence at most is minor.”[10]

Be sure to read Timothy Zebell’s book Laid Bare: Uncovering the Relationship Between Homosexuality & the Gospel.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. “The ‘Gay Gene’ Debate.” Frontline. PBS, n.d. Accessed March 18, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/assault/genetics.

2. Sorba, Ryan. “The ‘Gay Gene’ Hoax.” World Net Daily, June 3, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Accessed June 19, 2014. http://www.wnd.com/2010/06/161549.

3. Sorba.

4. Diggs Jr., John. “The Health Risks of Gay Sex.” Corporate Research Council, 2002, Reprinted by Catholic Education Resource Center. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html.

5. Marlboro College. “Dean Hamer – Gays, God and Genes.” YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol2D0X40Lts (accessed June 19, 2014).

6. Knapton, Sarah. “Being Homosexual Is Only Partly Due to Gay Gene, Research Finds.” News. Telegraph, February 13, 2014, 11:59 p.m., GMT. Accessed June 19, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10637532/Being-homosexual-is-only-partly-due-to-gay-gene-research-finds.html.

7. Knapton.

8. Brown, Michael. A Queer Thing Happened to America, 201. Concord: EqualTime Books, 2011.

9. Brown, 201.

10. Brown, 202.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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