This past week we received another interesting question in reference to an article we posted from the Institute for Creation Research. The article had to do with the effects of environmental influences causing enough genetic changes that allow stickleback fish to adapt to salt water and fresh water. The question wanted to know if similar environmental influences could result in homosexual tendencies. I pray that I am able to offer an acceptable explanation.
So are you saying that DNA sequences can be changed by their environment? Could this thinking be translated into other areas? e.g. some will argue against the concept that homosexuality can be influenced by our environment, that is is genetic. Conversely could this theory endorse the idea that even our genetics can be influenced by our environment?
Chuck, thank you for submitting your question and I pray that I am able to provide you with a suitable response.
The environmental influences referred to in the article on stickleback fish are chemical in nature. The chemical makeup of the different waters in which the fish are found appear to trigger genetic signals to turn on and off certain genes and/or to switch them around.
The concept of environmental influences effecting genetics is nothing new. We see this happen all the time in nature and in the human population. Exposure to a variety of chemicals or radiation or even sunlight can cause genetic changes.
For instance, in the years following the nuclear plant disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine back in 1986 released tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The residents that were exposed to higher doses of the radiation have been found to have a much greater incidence of thyroid cancer. The cancer is caused by the radioactivity altering the genes in thyroid cells, turning them cancerous.
By chance did you ever see the movie Erin Brockovich? The movie was based on the real life person, Erin Brockovich who took on Pacific Gas and Electric when she discovered that residents of Hinckley, California appeared to have a higher than normal rate of cancer. She was able to prove that their water supply had been contaminated with hexavalent chromium, which is not known to be a carcinogen. Again, the chemical pollution was sufficient enough to cause some genetic changes in some Hinckley residents causing the cells to turn cancerous.
Other environmental influences can be as simple as temperature changes, geographical isolation or disease. A severe temperature change could be enough to turn on or off certain genes and gene sequences that may govern fat storage or burning, length of fur and even hibernation.
Geographical isolation can also result in some genes being turned on or off. One of the greatest genetic influences caused by geographic isolation is the reduction of genetic variation that exited in the parent population. The individuals isolated will only have access to those genes that they have and perhaps the small group that was isolated with them. The loss of some genetic variability can result in no change, minor change and sometimes enough change to cause a speciation event which is what I discovered happened with the Mediterranean gecko from Florida to Texas to Arizona.
A disease can spread through a population and kill every individual that is weak or genetically susceptible to the disease. The remaining individuals will often be genetically resistant to the same disease.
As you can see, there are many ways that different environmental influences can cause genetic changes.
However, in the case of homosexuality, there is no real evidence to support that it may be caused by genetics. As a rule, homosexuality is more due to nurture than nature. It is more psychological than physical. The only environmental influences that could have anything to do with making someone into a homosexual would be the influence of other homosexuals. This effect is behavioral and not genetic.
More importantly, God defines homosexuality as a sin and an abomination. Leviticus 20:13 states:
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
If you really think about it, God would not call something an abomination that is punishable by death if it was due to genetics. That would be the same as telling the Israelites that everyone born with a physical defect or abnormality that these were abominations and they should be put to death. In order for God to take such a serious view of homosexuality proves that it is a choice and not a genetic mutation.
Therefore to answer your question, no, environmental influences that would result in a genetic change cannot be used as an excuse for homosexuality. It has to be a choice the individual makes, consciously or subconsciously.
The power of your worldview lies in the fact that it is hidden. It is a collection of your underlying beliefs and assumptions which color all of your thinking, yet is rarely examined openly. Idols for Destruction is a challenging read, but well worth the effort for those who would like to gain a fresh perspective on the worldviews that they have unconciously adopted. The author writes from a Christian perspective, and most people will probably not agree with all of his ideas, but he systematically goes through most of the 20th century influences on Western thought and compares them with a traditional Judeo-Christian world view. He does an excellent job in drawing out the implications of the various philosophical systems and providing examples of how they are manifest in modern culture. The most useful things I have gained from this book are first, a review of most of the philosophies which have shaped this century and a heightened awareness of what worldview is implicitly expressed by various thinkers and writers. This helps me to be a more critical thinker and to analyze people’s arguments better. The second thing I have gained is the realization that there are other options then whatever worldview happens to be the most popular today. This has opened up whole new areas of thought and allowed me to understand a much broader range of ideas by people who have differing worldviews. This book is very well documented. It helps if you have had a college course on Philosophy or have a quick reference book to help you to understand all of his references to philosophical and moral systems. It is not casual reading, and it will force you to do some hard thinking, but it is well worth the effort. — Anonymous review from Amazon.com
“The bookshelf next to my desk holds Christian classics and books I refer to often. Idols sits on that shelf, for Herb’s lucid critique has been an invaluable reference for my own writings. It helps believers to understand the ideologies that undergird secular culture, and how they dramatically–and dangerously–differ from the Judeo-Christian view based on adherence to absolute truth.” — Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship
“Well-written and highly readable… discerning and critical analysis of our times; a stimulating contribution.”— Carl F. H. Henry
“This book has become a vade mecum for thousands of Christians who understand the cultural disaster of our time and are determined to do something about it.” — Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-chief, First Things
“Now that Francis Schaeffer is no longer with us, Schlossberg is just about the most provocative Christian thinker around.” — Harold O. J. Brown, Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Years before anyone talked about an American ‘culture war,’ Herb Schlossberg penned an acute description of the crisis of virtue that is the domestic issue of the 1990s. His diagnosis remains essential reading for everyone who believes that self-governing republic requires self-governing and morally serious citizens.” — George Weigel, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center
“Thorough, provocative and especially penetrating. If you want to think Christianly about culture Idols for Destruction is must reading!” — John H. White, President, Geneva College
Paperback; 344 pages