There is a dust up being reported at ExgayWatch over comments made by Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project. Here is the background.
NARTH Dean Byrd wrote an article for the NARTH website dated April 4, 2007 quoting Collins’ book, The Language of God, on genetics and homosexuality. Byrd’s review provided accurate quotes but implied that Collins believes free will is involved in the development of homosexuality. Subsequently, David Roberts at XGW wrote Collins to find out if Byrd had captured his views properly. Collins responded by saying in an email:
It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.
The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.
Your note indicated that your real interest is in the truth. And this is about all that we really know. No one has yet identified an actual gene that contributes to the hereditary component (the reports about a gene on the X chromosome from the 1990s have not held up), but it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.
Collins is certainly correct when he says: “But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.” There is a pattern in NARTH publications to assume that evidence against genetic factors is somehow proof for reparative ideas. Evidence suggesting that genetics is not determinative does not support any particular alternative view or the view that genetics play no important role.
Then recently, Greg Quinlan, reacting to the news that Christian singer-songwriter, Ray Boltz had come out as gay quoted Dr. Collins as negating any genetic factors. Quinlan said in a 9/15 interview with Onenewsnow:
In fact, just last year in March, the director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins, said this: homosexuality is not hardwired. There is no gay gene. We mapped the human genome. We now know there is no genetic cause for homosexuality.
Well not exactly. The last sentence goes beyond what Collins said. What has made this into a controversy is that Quinlan said in an email to Roberts that the Collins statement was fraudulent and that Quinlan’s statement better captured Collins views (you can read the detail at XGW).
Along the way, David Roberts asked me if he could copy me on correspondence with Dr. Collins in order to have verfication that Dr. Collins had made the statement reported by XGW. Dr. Collins did so and as far as I can tell these are authentic communications. Dr. Collins wrote,
Hello David and Warren,
I am happy to confirm that these e-mail communications from May 2007 and yesterday are indeed authentic, and represent my best effort at summarzing what we know and what we don’t know about genetic factors in male homosexuality. I appreciate your continuing efforts to correct misstatements that seem to be circulating on the internet.
Regards, Francis Collins
For the record, I think the genetic influence might be a little closer to 30% for the trait, but this is a matter of debate and discussion, not dogmatism. Some people may be more influenced by genes than others. In my view, the body of research available provides a picture of complicated and individual factors leading to adult outcomes in ways we simply cannot delineate with specificity.
Regarding statements about research on causal factors, see my unanswered request to NARTH here…