Top Ten Myths of the Sexual Revolution: Part 5
April 22, 2023
by Steven Willing, MD
In the final installment of the series, we critique the argument that deviations from normative heterosexuality are a part of God’s design and hence morally neutral.
Myth 10: “That’s just the way God made me.”
Well, that’s really more of a theological statement than a scientific one. The implied claim is that if one can somehow attribute their behavior to something inborn rather than a matter of will, then one shouldn’t be held morally accountable.
Of course, to get there, you have to dismiss 2,000 years of Christian teaching that we are all born with a sinful nature yet still morally accountable, so that really doesn’t cut it.
This evokes an old saying from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, “whatever is, is right.” In it, Pope was not denying the existence of moral evil but expressing a biblical faith in the sovereignty of God and the ultimate triumph of the greater good.
It’s been pretty convincingly settled that science cannot define morality. This goes back to David Hume, who concluded that you can never derive an “ought” from an “is.”
Of course, we in medicine understand that people are born with all sorts of things that are harmful. While probably well over 50 percent of illness among American adults is directly related to lifestyle and fully preventable, that still leaves a lot of disease. Tay-Sachs disease is a genetic disorder common among Ashkenazy Jews that attacks the central nervous system. Children born with the infantile form almost never live more than five years. But they’re also “born that way.”
Now one could object that Tay-Sachs disease doesn’t have any moral or behavioral connotations, and they’d be right. There’s a fairly long list of behavioral disorders with a strong genetic component, including ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, substance abuse and schizophrenia.
No human behavior or personality trait is exclusively linked to a genetic cause. Everything represents a mixture of nature and nurture. This principle also applies in the area of human sexuality.
Since the myth under discussion is often invoked by those seeking the normalization and acceptance of homosexuality or other elements of the “alphabet soup,” what does science have to say? Are they born that way?
Well, it’s more complicated than that. The official position of both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association is that the causes of same-sex attraction are unknown but probably multifactorial.
Based on twin studies and genome surveys, we can say with confidence that there’s no “gay gene.” Genetics likely plays a role, but a small one.
Like most human traits, same-sex attraction seems to be a combination of nature and nurture. We find, for instance, that it’s slightly higher among identical twins, but in the vast majority of twin pairs, if one is gay, the other is not. There’s a small birth order effect in that younger male siblings are at increased risk over older ones.
But it’s also quite wrong to say it’s a choice. That might have happened in isolated cases, but it must be extremely rare.
Transgenderism is a “whole ‘nother story.” Up until 2013, a person who believed they belonged to the other sex was diagnosed as having “gender identity disorder.” That diagnosis disappeared in the DSM-5, but not because of any scientific breakthrough. It was felt by many that believing one belonged to the opposite sex should not be classified as a “disorder.” Thus, in an accommodation to the political environment, “identity disorder” was replaced with “dysphoria,” with emphasis on the psychological distress rather than underlying delusion.
But here, we pass from the realm of science into metaphysics. It’s scientifically—and logically—incoherent for a biological male to claim he’s ontologically a woman (or vice versa). This is because of the effects of sex hormones during fetal development and the early postnatal period. A young boy—even if puberty is blocked—is already two-thirds of the way to mental manhood and can never go back. Do you recall those male-female differences we talked about earlier? Most present in early childhood, even infancy. Puberty is not required.
However, neurobiology doesn’t cancel out human agency. Even among committed materialists, few are willing to go that far. We still have the ability to make choices. And because the brain is an extremely dynamic and adaptable organ, we have some control over what direction it travels.
Golf instructors love the saying that “practice doesn’t make perfect: practice makes permanent.” That’s quite true of the brain. Every time we indulge in particular thoughts or behaviors, we’re forming connections. Keep doing it, and those connections grow stronger. Practice makes permanent. The reverse is also true. That’s probably why the Bible has so much to say about keeping our minds pure and focused on righteousness. Paul didn’t know any neurobiology, but God invented it.
In conclusion, when it comes to sexuality, it is not Christianity that is in conflict with mainstream science. It is the prevailing cultural narrative. Certainly, these issues are complex. Those opposed to Christian morality can cherry-pick data to support their own preferred narrative.
I have studied and written much about biases, sound thinking, deceptive use of data and intellectual pride. People believe all sorts of error because they want to. How do I know I’m not succumbing here?
Let me give you five reasons:
- You can look at who is on our side: all major world faiths (and even many atheists), all races and many political persuasions. This isn’t some quirk of white fundamentalist Christianity.
- You can look at who is not on our side: highly motivated players with transparent personal agendas. Don’t forget Huxley. Or Harvey Weinstein.
- Common sense: we all see the wreckage around us. How many of your friends and family have been impacted by this? Maybe all of them?
- Our position doesn’t depend on postulating any conspiracies, assuming motives or invisible actors. It doesn’t depend on cherry-picking the evidence or taking quotes out of context.
- Almost all cognitive biases are self-serving. Nothing is more self-serving than the belief that one can have sex any time he or she wants with anyone who will. A Christian sexual ethic runs against self-serving biases.
The Top Ten Myths
- “Gender is a social construct.”
- “Intercourse between consenting adults is harmless.”
- “Marriage is just a piece of paper.”
- “The sexual revolution was a boon for women.”
- “Chastity and monogamy are oppressive.”
- “We’re not responsible for sexual predators.”
- “Pornography doesn’t hurt anyone.”
- “The children will be fine.”
- “There’s no meaningful difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality.”
- “That’s just the way God made me.”