I have referred to this story several times. Seems like a fitting parable for our discussion.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe
It was six men of Hindustan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind)
That each by observation
Might satisfy the mind.
The first approached the Elephant
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side
At once began to bawl:
“Bless me, it seems the Elephant
Is very like a wall”.
The second, feeling of his tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear”.
The third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Then boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake.”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
Crosswalk.com today published an article I wrote regarding the issue of causes of same-sex attraction. In it, I describe several problems with reparative drive theory as a general explanation for same-sex attraction. You can go there to read the entire article, but I want to post an email from a couple regarding their experience with the failure-to-bond idea. This segment is also in the Crosswalk article.
As parents of a same-sex-attracted son, there was no mountain too high for us to connect our son and our family to the “best help” for our issues. We found a counselor for him, and then joined him in many sessions and spent a good deal of time examining our parent – child relationships; classifying them as “close” or “distant” and figuring out why. With our broken hearts on the table each week, we looked for the magic thread, the exact moment we disabled our son’s sexuality so as to examine it, repent of it, be forgiven and put this nightmare away. Our counselor finally admitted that we were “unique” and that our son was “unique,” not fitting into the usual (how does the term “usual” apply to sexually fallen humans?) categories and that he basically did not know what else to say to help to untangle these conflicts for our son. We went on to read many books, we attended a famous conference 1000’s of miles away from our home, only to meet one of the most famous authors whose flippant response to us upon introducing ourselves to him was “Yes – I can see it, the mother who did all the research and coordination to get here, the dad who has no idea why he is here and the son who is miserable being here.” The three of us were after words of life, not words of sarcasm.
I can accurately say now that naval gazing your potential contribution to a child’s same-sex attraction is nothing short of anguish. Our son would tell you that his father and mother did not contribute to his same-sex attraction. We actually wish some days that it were that easy to put into an equation like “Dad ignored you for some formative years, mom made up for it, you identify with mom not dad – therein lies the reason!” Alas, this is not true in our family. We never ignored our children, our family has been busy bearing one another up, and our son takes responsibility for his same-sex attraction. If we were responsible, we would have accepted the blame gladly. Instead, now, we find ourselves relying on the truths of Scripture such as Romans 8 and II Corinthians 1:3-4. My husband and I come from a promiscuous past, we were products of the sexual revolution and legalized abortion. We are the right parents for this son of ours because we know restoration of sexual brokenness through a relationship with the living Lord Jesus. That is the relationship we pray that our son examines and gazes upon. In the meantime, we adore him and he us and we celebrate God’s goodness and sovereignty.
UPDATE: 2/2/09 – The Christian Post published a version of this article today.
On another post, a commenter (Dave G) brought up this case which has raised some eyebrows among academics. Here is the media version:
The controversy centers on an incident in June 2007, when Sheldon was asked by a student in a human heredity class about heredity’s impact on “homosexual behavior in males and females.” Among other references, Sheldon noted a German study demonstrating some link between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males, according to the lawsuit.
After a student complained, college officials investigated and dismissed Sheldon, an adjunct professor at the school since January 2004. Court papers say the student expressed concern that Sheldon’s response was “offensive and unscientific.”
In the lawsuit and in a letter sent to the college district’s board of trustees, Sheldon, a veteran biology instructor, maintains she was simply providing students with an exchange on the “nature vs. nurture” aspect of sexual orientation. While acknowledging she was offering views that may have been controversial, Sheldon argues that it was relevant to the course work and part of important classroom dialogue.
“The textbook itself points out that the causes of homosexual behavior are a subject of debate in the scientific community,” said David Hacker, Sheldon’s lawyer. “This teacher did nothing more than explain this fact.”
The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education has taken on the issue and has a lengthy description of the case as well.
A biology professor, P.Z. Myers, who describes himself as a “godless liberal,” blogs about this at Pharyngula (H/t Brady). He casts a somewhat skeptical eye on the complaint and makes some good points in the process. He provides links to relevant documents for those interested.
Coincidentally, this past week, I was researching for my book by reading Lisa Diamond’s new book Sexual Fluidity. By the way, this is an excellent book with a wonderful description of her research. On page 39, the maternal stress hypothesis is mentioned:
Another line of research on the neuroendocrine theory concerns male children born to mothers who were exposed to extremely high levels of stress during pregnancy. Animal research has found that such experiences can affect sexual differentiation in utero through a delay of the testosterone surge that influences brain masculinization.
Here she cites two studies, one led by Michael Bailey and the other by Lee Ellis, along with a review of biological studies with Brian Mustanski as the first author. Professor Sheldon was citing Dorner’s work on hormones and brain differentiation. However, I suspect when this goes to trial, page 39 of Diamond’s book might also be presented in the court room.
Given what I have read regarding this situation, I like Sheldon’s chances in court. Professors present controversial material about subjects daily. Some (much?) of that material we do not agree with but present to help students become aware of the field as it is.