Last week I touched on climate change and the ways we ask too much from science.
With sexuality, we often ask too much in an almost diametrically opposed way. We demand that scientific studies tells us more than it’s able, believing that science can determine and not inform our ethics. This is another mistake of relating the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture (to use that well-worn analogy). But there are fundamental limits to what we can learn from the natural world.
In one of my interviews with emerging adults I talked with Tracy, age 19, who told me quite confidently:
“It’s proven in science that you don’t choose to be gay. Denying that makes you look ignorant.”
And I can assure that this position is popular with 18-30 year old (according to surveys and particularly in my conversations). Our genes fully determine our sexuality and sexual behavior.
“The genes made me do it. and will always make me do it.”Whatever the “it” is.
But if our genes made us do it, then where is our moral agency for any action? These are questions that our theological and philosophical traditions have wrestled with for centuries.
It may be necessary to understand any genetic correlations with sexual orientation, but I believe that’s insufficient for our ethics, sexual or otherwise, and I call on the best ethical and biblical minds in the church to keep engaging these questions using science as a guide but not a dictator. How we end up on all this is not entirely clear. Put thought leaders like Rachel Held Evans, N. T. Wright, Jen Hatmaker, Tim Keller, and Rob Bell in one room, and I think there’d be more than one opinion. In fact, I’d direct you to any of their works for thoughtful ethical conversation about sexual ethics.
The point of all this is that the Two Books must be read as complementary. To respect their differences is to realize that they have different insights to share.
Where are you on sexual ethics and science? How much do scientific studies tell us about sexuality?