S. Joseph Scott
Special for News Talk Florida
Every time a scientist looks into a microscope, he or she gazes through clouded lenses. “Nothing but the facts,” is a fixture of Western scientific mythology. But, as John Adams quipped, “facts are stubborn things,” every fact has meaning. Facts are not mute, nor brute. They speak. They have meaning and meaning must be interpreted. Human beings are, of course, incessant interpreters. We kid ourselves that we are neutral, objective observers, until a potentially dangerous fact appears, like that in a recent study published in the journal Science, August 30, 2019, on the influence of genetics on human sexuality. Another contribution in the quest for the so-called gay gene, or genes.
Melinda Mills reviewed the study for the journal. In her concluding remarks she moves from merely summarizing the findings, to raising provocative questions about their significance. She indicates, that in certain hands the study could indicate sexuality is a foregone conclusion at birth and, “There is an inclination to reduce sexuality to genetic determinism or to resent this reduction.” Mills goes on to say, “Attributing same-sex orientation to genetics could enhance civil rights or reduce stigma. Conversely, there are fears it provides a tool for intervention or ‘cure.’”
Her comments powerfully highlight how almost any fact can be used to affirm either side of an argument, depending upon who is doing the interpreting. Mills, the objective scientist, in a moment of perceptive honesty, spotlights what is most important; not simply what is observed in the petri dish, but what we do with what grows there.
What does it mean? If a genetic predisposition toward homosexual behavior were found, then what? Does that mean, human behavior is programmed like a computer toward certain actions? We are the code embedded in our DNA? If so, such a correlation could reduce social stigma, offering a biological justification for one’s sexuality.
Or, on the flip side, might the discovery of a genetic basis for homosexual behavior prove that like Down Syndrome, something in our biology is broken and in need of a “cure,” as Mills puts it?
What is all important, Mills rightly points out, is not merely the facts, but what we do with them. We nearly always use them to build a case for our argument, placing them like Lego blocks into the house we want to build, a house where every brick in the wall has meaning. A house we use to interpret and defend what makes us mad, or sad. Friends and family. Joys and sorrows.
And at the foundation, there is God. What we do with God is there, lurking like a shadow, closely bound to all our other experiences and beliefs. We either include God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, or we exclude him from the house of meaning we build. In “The God Delusion,” the popular atheist writer Richard Dawkins admits, “A universe in which we are alone except for other slowly evolved intelligences, is a very different universe from one with an original guiding agent whose intelligent design is responsible for its very existence.” On this, he is exactly right; there either is a creator, a sovereign God, or there isn’t.
The Oxford professor of English literature, C.S. Lewis explained, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” In the words of the Psalmist, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). God, through his revealed Word in Scripture, gives light by which the whole world becomes bright, including what is seen through the microscope.
We all look at the world, and yes, facts, through a set of faith-based assumptions. The question is, what are those assumptions, where did they come from, and how do they color the world I see around me? If one day a “gay gene” or genes were found, then what? Then, nothing. God is a sovereign creator/sustainer whose loving commands and precepts about biology, physics, genetics, art and emotion, all of creation, are writ large for us in Scripture, and he is the ultimate and eternal interpreter.
S. Joseph Scott has a Ph.D. in theology and has served in leadership positions in both higher education and religious institutions. He has published in both academic and popular journals and has a special interest in the intersection of faith and culture.