Civil Liberties

The Gay Science


The gay blogosphere is heralding the results of a new study from the Karolinska Institute that provides even more evidence that sexual orientation is biological, as "the most compelling evidence yet that being gay or straight is a biologically fixed trait."

According to the study, gay men's brains resemble those of straight women, and gay women's brains resemble those of straight men. But while victories like California warrant popping the cork on some champagne, this occasion is far more ambiguous.

Blogger Breaktheterror leads his post on the study by calling it something that the "Religious Right never, ever, ever wants you to see," but the truth is exactly the opposite. Opponents of gay rights have been steadily losing ground in the political fight to maintain a moralistic hetero-hegemony, and they're adapting their culture war strategies to the scientific frontier.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been pushing the anti-gay rights movement in this direction for over a year. In an essay published in March 2007, Mohler called for a revision of the Baptist Church's stance on interference in the genetic development of embryos, for one reason only:

"If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."

The Karolinka Institute's study suggests that sexual orientation might result from too much or too little exposure to androgen in the womb, suggesting to some that it might be changeable using hormone therapy.

So, congrats to gays and lesbians. According to science, you're hardwired to prefer members of the same sex. I'm genuinely glad to hear it. But be mindful of the the ugly history of the use and abuse of science to justify persecution of gays, and tread warily.

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey responded to Albert Mohler here last year.