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Hypothalamic Hypothesis

Does homosexuality have a biological cause? Regardless of whether it should be or not, this is the bottom line question for many people in justifying their attitude toward homosexuality.

The debate reached major news story proportions a few weeks ago with the publication in Science magazine of a study which appeared to show a biological link. A number of people, including a couple of news people have asked for our response to the story, so we thought it might be useful to share it with all of you. We hope it will help you to develop your own response.

First, the facts: Simon LeVay, a biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies reported on his study of the brains of 19 deceased homosexual men and 16 men and 6 women who were deceased and believed to be heterosexual. lie reported that a certain area in the rear of the hypothalamus was about the size of a grain of sand in the heterosexual men, but averaged about half that size in the women and the homosexual men. Prior to this study it was believed that this area of the brain helped regulate male sexual behavior. All of the homosexual men and six of the heterosexuals had died of AIDS. Dr. LeVay is himself a homosexual man.

As I have thought and prayed about this development my response has been as follows:

First, the study, even in Dr. LeVay’s opinion, is in no way conclusive. He seemed to discount the AIDS factor because some of the heterosexuals had died of AIDS, but he did state in a Public Television interview that we could not be sure of what is the cause and what is the effect. It appears that behavior does alter the brain in some ways. By any criteria, the sample study is tiny and clearly is not broadly based.

Second, as Christians, we cannot use Scripture or theological understanding to rule out the possibility of finding a biological cause or contributor to homosexuality. Homosexuality is clearly not God’s will, but neither are many birth defects and chronic conditions such as diabetes. In this sinful and broken world we do encounter those things.

Third, even if an inborn condition were to be recognized as contributing to homosexuality, our Christian response to it should not change. God has clearly said no to homosexual behavior, and there is much evidence that he says no because he loves us and wants to protect us. Most men are born with a tendency to commit adultery, but as Christians we believe that the tendency should be resisted.

Fourth, the existence of a strong biological factor in homosexuality would not change significantly the approach taken by our ministries. We might speak in terms of compensation as well as healing, but there would be no reason to deny the hope we have been offering. For so many of us the road from the gay life to the heterosexual life has been so filled with blessings that we should have no hesitancy in continuing to declare God’s power at work in transforming the lives of homosexual men and women.

I will make one prediction with great confidence. Within a few months there will be some who will be treating Dr. LeVay’ studies as absolute proof of the biological determination of homosexuality. For this reason, I believe all of us who deal with the subject should always keep in mind the specifics of his study, and particularly its limitations.

Reprinted with permission by Regeneration, PO Box 9830, Baltimore, MD 21284. (410) 661-0284. Web: