Knight: Is Homosexuality Genetic?

Recently I discussed Matt Barber’s bigotry toward homosexuals, based on two of Barber’s articles published by Townhall.com. Today I turn my attention to a more thoughtful article by Robert Knight, again from Townhall.com.

Knight never explicitly states his opinion on homosexuality, though in his article he defends “people who believe homosexuality is wrong.” Knight “is director of the Culture & Media Institute,” an overtly religious group, which, in its “Best of the Web” section, includes a link to the article, “Eminent Psychiatrist Says Homosexuality a Curable Disorder.” So we have a pretty good indication of where Knight is coming from. Yet we must evaluate Knight’s claims by their own merits.

In his article, Knight reviews a Good Morning America segment that promotes the idea that homosexuality is a genetic trait. Knight claims that establishing such a claim “is a central strategy of homosexual activists… If sexual behavior is hard-wired like race, then moral considerations can be swept aside, homosexuality declared a ‘civil right’ and governments can move against people who believe homosexuality is wrong.”

Knight’s comment contains two errors. First, even if homosexuality were established as a genetic trait, that in no way would justify governments using force “against people who believe homosexuality is wrong.” People have a right to be wrong, and they have a right to free speech.

Second, even if homosexuality were established as a genetic trait, that would not prove definitively that it is either morally right or wrong. It would still be possible to argue that a genetic predisposition should not be acted upon. The comparison to race fails, because people cannot choose to change the color of their skin, but they can choose whether and with whom to have sex. To take a different example, some people argue that people are genetically hard-wired to accept religious beliefs. I don’t think that’s true, but, if it were, I would still argue that we should use our reason to overcome such predispositions. In another example, according to a review of Matt Ridley’s The Red Qeen, Riddley “argues that men are polygamous” by genetic predisposition. Even if that were the case, I would not waver in my support of monogamy.

I suspect that homosexuality usually results from a confluence of genetics, environmental factors, and conscious choice. Yet, regardless of which of these three factors is most at play in any given case, I hold that homosexuality can be a healthy, moral path that leads to quality romance. Can homosexual relationships be unhealthy? Yes — just as heterosexual ones can.

Knight suggests that genetics does not explain homosexuality. He seems open, though, to a genetic predisposition acting in concert with environmental factors:

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist with degrees from MIT, the University of Texas and Harvard, has written extensively about problems with genetic research on homosexuality, and also about professional organizations’ refusal to consider opposing evidence. In his book Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Satinover says genetic factors might contribute “not to homosexuality per se, but rather to some other trait that makes the homosexual ‘option’ more readily available than to those who lack this genetic trait.”

He notes that most basketball players tend to be tall, but that this does not mean that they have a “basketball gene.” It only means that they might gravitate toward that sport because of their height. Similarly, a young boy might be more sensitive than other boys, be less athletic, be rejected by his father and peers, and hence be starved for male approval. An early sexual experience could then take him down a path he might not necessarily have taken.

Satinover notes that cultures worldwide historically have varied greatly in terms of homosexual practice and that this indicates that “environmental” factors are at work.

Given that such cultures have existed where the incidence of homosexuality is far greater than at present, the incidence of homosexuality is clearly influenced by mores.

Of course, the incidence of admitted homosexuality — and of underground homosexual activity — is also influenced by mores as well as by laws. For example, in Iran, where the government kills homosexuals, people are unlikely to advertise the practice.

Whether homosexuality is caused by genes, environment, choice, or a combination of the three, homosexuals deserve legal protection of their rights and safety. On the cultural level, homosexuals also deserve not to be condemned merely because of their sexual orientation.

1 thought on “Knight: Is Homosexuality Genetic?”

  1. Even if “men are polygamous by genetic predisposition”, I would not waver in my support of monogamy.

    Why argue for reason in other cases, Ari, and yet admit that you are unmoved by either reason or facts in this area?

    I find it both odd and inconsistent that you appear to argue FOR homosexuality, in spite of the obvious health and anti-evolutionary issues, and against polygyny (or even polygamy) in spite of the potential economic, survival, and division-of-labor advantages.

    And I find it at least humorous that the Bible takes the opposite position on both. That wouldn’t have anything to do with that dichotomy, would it? ;)

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