Changing Attitude Misrepresent the Kirk Sexuality Report

In the latest blog post from Changing Attitude, the penultimate paragraph makes the following assertion.

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly meeting on Monday held a significant debate on questions relating to ministers in same-sex relationships and also with regard to ministers who are looking to bless couples in same-sex relationships. They have made a very modest step forward, according to Kelvin Holdsworth, Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow. It was a triumph of process rather than a triumph for the gay cause.

A report about gay clergy commissioned for Monday’s meeting acknowledged that homosexuality is something people are born with, not something they choose.

Really? Did it? Here’s what the report from the Church of Scotland, specially commissioned to look into the issue of a biological basis of homosexuality, actually said.

At present however we do not understand the relative contributions of biological and environmental factors to sexual orientation.
Page 28

Perhaps it was the Executive Summary that Changing Attitude were referring to?

In conclusion, it is not possible on the currently available scientific evidence to make an unequivocal statement about the origin of human sexual orientation. The evidence that exists is consistent with, but does not prove, the hypothesis that human sexual orientation is caused by biological factors … a role of other non-biological factors cannot be excluded at present.
Page 2

Perhaps Colin Coward would like to tell us (I know he reads this blog) exactly where in the Kirk report it claims that “homosexuality is something people are born with”? I can’t see it and my reading of the report says that the authors, whilst moving towards the position that there is a (possible very) large biological component to homosexuality (and this would adhere to my position and also the current scientific consensus), very clearly express caution at asserting that it is unequivocally something that people are simply “born with”.

As an aside, the new Changing Attitude website is superb and a great example of what can be achieved with WordPress. Great new logo as well – someone understands branding very well.

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  • Drew_Mac

    So the addition of the word 'probably' would get them off the hook. To be fair the CofS report does seem to be leaning firmly in that direction. To defend CA even further isn't it actually true that if there is even a slight (not unequivocal) biological component then it is indeed something people are 'born with'?

    Anyway, personally I think the interplay between biological and environmental factors is a red herring. Whatever its origin, whether nature or nurture or (as is most likely) a mix of factors, I believe that, for most people, sexual orientation is a pretty fundamental 'given' of someone's personality that has to be taken seriously.

    All IMO, of course – and covered by the same 'probably'.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Even a "probably" is too bold to be warranted by current science. That something biological is part of sexual orientation – undoubted. That it is the sole cause – very unlikely. That we know what the mix is – absolutely not.

      There is, at present, little evidence to support the conjecture that people are (as Colin Coward suggests in his piece) "born gay" and equally there is zero evidence that homosexuality is entirely a developmental issue.

      • Drew_Mac

        So possible/probable (or "possible, very large") – as I said what does it really matter?

        Perhaps CA will edit their page? Actually it looks like they already did – so no continuing misrepresentation then. It still doesn't alter their main point. Furthermore if there is ANY mix then a biological component IS part of the story and people are born with a gay 'possibility'.

        Personally I think 'born gay' is a poor choice of phrase. We are all the product of both genes and development, in all sorts of ways, but not completley determined by either.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Nope, CA haven't edited their page. Still claiming the Kirk says people are born gay.

          • Drew_Mac

            Agreed – I was confused because you quote from the page without making it clear that you have edited out a big chunk in the middle.

            However, since you are clearly objecting to a careful, or perhaps careless, use of words I personally think that if you believe there is any biological element involved at all, however small, then saying "homosexuality is something people are born with, not something they choose" is not the same as saying "people are born gay." I don't think either is meant to be a scientific statement and I think I'd avoid using either (or their opposites). How sexuality develops is complicated way beyond simplistic statements – but the heart of CA's claim here is the "not something they choose", ie inate or given, and "born with" may be a useful, if inaccurate, way of emphasising that.

            I still think it would help if CA edited their page and regret they have not done so.

            BTW I know people who acknowledge they are homosexual but quite definitely not 'gay' – but then I guess it depends on how the terms are being defined.

  • ryan

    The document is largely political, no? The passages you cite, in and of themselves, certainly negate rather the crude reading (which I of course concede is not the only evangelical anti-gay one!) that Romans shows that all same-sex actions are a choice comparable to e.g. drinking or shooting crack not an outward expression of an innate biological drive. The passages quoted might say that we don't have a definitive answer but also state that the most valid hypothesis at least regards biological factors as significant – that's surely closer to the (if you'll permit the Gaga quotation ;)) "Born this Way" position than the arguments offered by the "Day of Truth" brigade . The fact that Gagnon had to deal with the biological factor argument is not because it's an omnipresent strawmen; to this day, anti-gay Christian groups spend much energy trying to prove that homosexuality is 'just' a choice.

  • Drew_Mac

    Anyway, a great deal of this is just pointless arguing about words used quite differently by different people.

    I'd still like to hear why you think the nurture/nature argument matters at all. To me it is irrelevant to the question of how people chose to live their lives. "Born this way" (sorry Lady Gagag) is no reason for anything. We all have to rise above our nature and nurture in so many ways – but also have to try to be true to ourselves both as God created us and as he saves us in Christ.

    • ryan

      Nature/nurture matters because homosexuality has been innacurately portrayed as more analagous to e.g. choosing to shoot up heroin than a benign trait that is significantly biological in origin. Gay people rightly object to that view. But to be honest the nature/nurture debate is more whipped-up by the conservative side. I recall a debate between Peter and the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth (www.thurible.net)where Peter seemed somewhat surprised that the liberal Kelvin very much did not regard the biological "aetiology" of homosexuality as a Hill to Die On.
      And I think even some Focus on the Family types are now saying that masturbation is perfectly normal and natural, in which light it is useful to challenge the old pernicious analogies that were used to persecute gays. If inane proof-texters hadn't spent so much time trying to convince people that Romans proves that homosexual orientation is a choice then so much ink would not have needed to be spilled in response.

      • Drew_Mac

        Yes, I do understand all that – but I think it is wrong. Proving a biological cause of homosexuality would not alter the ethical discussion one bit as you can't get an ought from an is. So the debate about homosexual practice would still have to be settled on other moral ground. On the other hand proving that there is no biological cause for homosexuality would not prove the suggestion that it is therefore merely a matter of choice. Other environmental causes such as nurture can be just as fixed in their effect making homosexuality as much a 'given' as if it was down to a 'gay gene'.

        That's why I think the debate about nature to be largely irrelevant. As it happens we are unlikely to be able to settle the nurture/nature debate firmly in one direction or the other so we might as well pursue the ethical debate on other grounds.

  • ryan

    According to the 'Christian' Institute the C of Scotland, has in, fact voted in favour of gay clergy. http://www.christian.org.uk/news/church-of-scotla

    perhaps worth bearing in mind next time evangelicals are tempted to defend the CI's 'journalism' (!) because they are apparent ideological team-mates?

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