Major Geneticist Francis Collins Responds to NARTH Article
Francis Collins is a respected geneticist most recognized for his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He has championed the free, open access of genomic information to the worldwide scientific community so that as many minds as possible can work on solving the connections between genes and disease. He envisions a world where disease can be prevented and citizens of even the least developed nations can benefit from that work.
Dr. Collins recently published a book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” As a man of faith, he rejects Creationism and Intelligent Design, but instead sees evidence of God in boundless scientific discoveries. His own understanding of the nature of life and the universe is called Theistic Evolution. It is an approach I find intriguing and refreshingly honest.
Knowing something of the character of this man, I was confused to find the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) prominently displaying an article on their website titled, “Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,” Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project. It was written by A. Dean Byrd, president elect of NARTH. My first scan of the article left me further confused, as it did not strike me as something Dr. Collins would endorse.
After a more careful reading, it became apparent that Dr. Byrd had written his article around a few short, general quotes from Dr. Collins, such as:
“there is an inescapable component of heritability to many human behavioral traits. For virtually none of them is heredity ever close to predictive…”
“Yes, we have all been dealt a particular set of cards, and the cards will eventually be revealed. But how we play the hand is up to us.”
To those Dr. Byrd added more opinionated blurbs from others and, of course, himself. With this he was able to create an article in which it appears that Dr. Collins shares his view that homosexuality is not inborn and can therefore be changed. Dr. Byrd is able to make his claims appear more credible by borrowing credibility from a respected scientist.
I decided to contact Dr. Collins and ask him to read the NARTH article and offer his comments. He replied with permission for me to share the following here.
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.
NARTH is obsessed with theories on the cause of homosexuality. It enables them to treat it like a disease, not simply part of the human condition. And of course, a disease needs a cure, right? In a way, this article is NARTH in miniature; a lot of odd, recycled theories packaged with a facade of professional authority and provided to other organizations as a pseudo-scientific alternative to the truth.
[…] is reporting an email exchange with geneticist Francis Collins of Human Genome Project fame. In it, Dr. Collins reacts to a NARTH article describing his views of […]
[…] Watch contacted Dr. Collins to ask whether he agrees with Byrd’s descriptions of his views. Collins responded this way: It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others […]
Certainly the sorts of genes that cause mental and physical disabilities that profoundly restrain social and physical function ARE worth finding and curing.
However, in the MEANTIME, NARTH’s own function dismisses what constitutes DISABLING and dysfunction where social integration and cooperation is concerned exclusively among gays and lesbians.
There is, despite ALL empirical evidence to the contrary, a biased approach to examining homosexuality AND a continue political function to disqualify gay persons FROM integrating and assuming full responsibility for themselves and their respective community.
What I mean is, unless someone is ACTUALLY not functioning and therefore must be treated, is very different from KEEPING them from doing so.
Treating a person as an inferior, with inferior status and integration, is very different from that person ACTUALLY being so.
And judging and approaching that gay person by that social treatment, rather than advocating that fair and equal social integration determine whether or not there is a problem.
NARTH puts the cart before the horse, and calls the horse the reason the cart will go in the wrong direction.
I can think of any number of painful, horrific and socially impossible things that humans should be cured of.
Sociopathy, schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s and substance addiction.
I’m amazed that people who are supposed to be experts on human behavioral issues, are so obsessed with homosexuality, that they literally cannot see the difference it has from the other categories I mentioned.
And still….those who have those conditions are not barred from marrying or having biological children or adopting them, are they?
This is where the consistency that a professional entity should have when it comes to functioning as influence on civil law comes into play.
It’s one thing to work within the legal system to attain vital services, funds for study and refuges for the families to get fully informed and supported.
But anyone who has actually lived with an addict, an elderly parent with dementia or an addict, should themselves be informed of the expectations around such problems and that inevitably the untreated end IS disability and death.
Homosexuality isn’t a harbinger of disability and death.
And it’s unbelievable to me that not only does NARTH and other ex gay industry get away with saying that, but that’s it’s even LEGAL to misinform and essentially FRIGHTEN concerned families and individuals in that way.
This IS the realm of malpractice and commercial fraud.
From diagnosis, to claims for cure, to the assertion that of all the other mental health disability, homosexuality is the only one that’s virtually confronted with religion and isn’t and can’t be treated with drugs.
This geneticist is very honest in saying what they know UP TO NOW.
But there is plenty known up to now too, about homosexuality.
Enough to know that it isn’t an addiction, let alone a crippling or tragic condition that has urgency to reduce and that gay people have the same potential, capability and function as heterosexuals.
Especially if heterosexuals got out of the way.
And that’s why I ask the question or make the statement that what IS known, should be good news for society, and then we can move on to the more urgent issues of addiction and disabling mental illness, whose victims are the millions of homeless we step over every day in any given city or town, right?
A biased medical or psychiatric community can be very dangerous, can’t they?
Distorting the work of this obviously ethical geneticist, is looking at a eugenics movement in the making.
Typical intellectual dishonesty and fraud of the political ex-gay industry (NARTH, Dobson, Cameron, et al.):
Cherry pick phrases out of a respectable medical study to lend a veneer of respectability to your hate; act all offended and surprised when called on it.
Hope the sheeple don’t catch on; meanwhile continue to propagate the lies and use them to buttress unsupportable positions. Claim (boo-hoo) teh media are persecuting you by twisting what you really said.
Hope the sheeple aren’t autonomous enough to actually check the sources or your original quote to see you lied.
David, good work!!
Isn’t it funny but we’ve yet to see an example of the anti-gay activists quoting a respected scientist and when the scientist is contacted they actually agree with the anti-gays. In every instance I can recall, the scientist has to rebuke the anti-gays for “misconstruing” their work (ie. lying).
Thanks for your input, but please steer clear of terms like “sheeple” when commenting. Thanks 😉
This isn’t the first time Francis Collins and his writings have been used in a way which antithetical to his own standards of belief and reasoning as a scientist. In a video production, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy, D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries railed against the theory of evolution and especially Charles Darwin, claiming all social ills, fascism and Hitler’s war were due to the theory of evolution. Collins was unambiguous in stating that he was interviewed about his book, and that was then inserted into the video without his knowledge. Collins mixes his beliefs and reason into theistic evolution, and he fully backs Darwin and the modern synthesis of the theory of evolution.
Thanks for mentioning that Lynn David. I thought about adding it to the post but didn’t. You can read the Anti-Defamation League article about it here. Dr. Collins was incensed over that.
David, would this be relevent for Wayne Besen’s respectmyresearch.org, and/or do you know if he’s been made aware of it?
Sadly, this is all too typical of how NARTH and its anti-gay, Christianist allies lie and distort legitimate research. For supposed “Christians” they have a real hard time not lying and bearing false witness against the LGBT community. Last time I looked, this was someting the Ten Commandments – which they claim to honor – prohibit.
I contacted Wayne and he’s going to check on it. It would depend on whether Dr. Collins has the time or inclination I suppose. As the current head of the human genome project, I’m sure he is busy but he also seemed quite concerned. I’ll post about it if that happens – thanks.
Thanks Timothy, and yes it is amazing. The respected scientists without a “cure” to hawk seem never to agree with those who quote/distort their work.
I assume then that the NARTH disclaimer now covers misrepresentations of non-NARTH scientists views.
NARTH’s leadership appears to be somewhere in between oddly incredible and non-credible. Using the cover of Free Speech to cover misrepresentations of scientists’ views seems unbelievable, but since the article as of this writing is still up after being exposed as inaccurate says it is believable. It also speaks to NARTH’s poor track record of actually doing quality “R” for “Research” that their full name of the “National Association For Research And Therapy Of Homosexuality” indicates they allegedly do.
Correction = . . . on [The NARTH] web site. . .
[…] the XGW article Major Geneticist Francis Collins Responds to NARTH Article, Dr. Collins states: It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause […]
“Oh so you “think” that I’m punching you in the face? Well being the fair person that I am, I value and encourage your difference of opinion…”
I like Collins’s wording in his response…. one of the facets of heritability that is often misunderstood is that a lack of pure genetic determination (such as a 100% concordance rate between twins) does NOT mean that the rest is accounted for by psychological or familial factors. In fact, there’s a leading theory that focuses on the perinatal environment and the interaction of chemicals in the womb with particular “gay” genes that might co-occur to lead to homosexuality. In gene studies, this would make the rate look less than 100% as well, and in behavioral genetics those influences during gestation are still considered to be “environmental,” but many commentators outside the field get confused about that word, and think it translates as “distant fathers, smothering mothers” (a premise that has failed to hold up to over a century of research, I might add). This is why some folk have the genetic markers but are heterosexual. FYI: this is also why you hear of so many studies about finger length, fingerprint whorls, etc., between gay and straight men – these may be impacted by those same hormones, so it is seen as possible proof for this approach. This research isn’t without its problems and complications (as with all sexuality research), but it holds some major sway in biological studies of sexuality.
For those of you interested, here are some citations in the research re: the perinatal theories:
Byne, W., & Parsons, B. (1993). Human sexual orientation: The biologic theories reappraised. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 228-239.
Ellis, L., & Ames, M.A. (1987). Neurohormonal functioning and sexual orientation: A theory of homosexuality-heterosexuality. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 233-258.
Collins asserts (and Throckmorton agrees) that current science points directly to heredity as a major component. He acknowledges that there must be other factors, but apparently these have not been as clearly identified asheredity has been.
Throckmorton states on his blog that this scientifically supported point of view whould be what is what SHOULD be taught our in schools, in the media and in our chruches. Collin then points out that “other factors” playing a part does not necessarily mean that these factors are any more “alterable” than genetic hard-wiring seems to be.
Can’t we possibly get Dean Bird bounced from whatever institution of higher learning is currently giving him shelter? Even if it’s Brigham Young University, I know they have legitimate scientists there, who have to be embarrassed at this man’s “work”?
At the very least, Bird totally misrepresented Collins’ work and should be reprimanded. But I guess Bird’s internalized “Lying for the Lord” as his guiding light.
David, thank you for contacting Dr. Collins and sharing the results here. I find his perspective very balanced and sensible.
I think you miss the problem that you are so desperate to justify or rationalize your homosexuality that you only look at those facts that support your position. One the whole, the vast majority of pro-homosexual studies suffer from gross sampling errors, researcher biases and logical fallacies.
I don’t think any of you have the ability to be objective about homosexuality, considering your emotions prevent you from being objective, and you miss your own political biases.
Also, a pro-homosexual research bias is every bit as damaging as an anti-homosexual bias becuase it reduces everything to the level of meaningless propaganda. Everything have ever seen out of homosexual activists is a litany of logical fallacies.
Let me list them.
Appeal to emotion: Gay people love each other, and who can deny people the right to love each other. I feel homosexuality is normal and healthy; therefore, research that demostrates otherwise is hateful, bigoted, etc.
Red herring/Smokescreen: When an a person raises certain problems with homosexual behavior, make the issue about heterosexual behavior and how heterosexuals engage in anal sex, narcissistic behaviors, smoking, drinking, etc.
Appeal to pity: If you don’t accept homosexuality, then “gay people” will commit suicide.
Ad hominem: Anyone who disagrees with you is “bigoted,” “homophobic,” “intolerant,” “narrow-minded,” “hate-filled,” etc.
The basis underlying your desire to say homosexuality is genetic, etc., is to reject the concept of free-will and your culpability for your actions. The only reason homosexuality was ever removed from the DSM was due to the terror tactics employed by homosexual militants. It had nothing to do with science.
The Hooker study, Beach study, etc., are simply cleverly disguised subjective pieces of propaganda. If you believe them, it says a lot about your own willing self-deception. You need to maintain the illusion that homosexuality is innate to keep your political hold. If the concept of “sexual orientation” is discredited, all would be lost. Not to mention “sexual orientation” was invented by queer PR folks in the late 1980s to deceive the masses into buying into your lies.
Also, not all homosexuals believe that homosexuality is innate. http:www.queerbychoice.com