D. Paul Sullins
Ruth Institute’s Fr. D. Paul Sullins

via YouTube

Monday, Father D. Paul Sullins — who is now affiliated with Ruth Institute, an anti-LGBTQ hate group — offers: “Born That Way” No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation. Sullins is trying to prove that gay people are gay by choice. It would then follow that sexual orientation is not immutable and, thus, gay people are not entitled to nondiscrimination protections.

The faithful might believe Sullins’ nonsense. Critical thinkers will not. The outlet for this treatise is Witherspoon Institute’s pretentious blog.

From time-to-time Sullins publishes his bigotry to pay-to-post journals with cursory peer-review. Recently he published to a journal based in Egypt. His judgmental nonsense would never survive the referee process at a reputable academic journal.

It starts with an intellectually dishonest subtitle

A new study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that the dominant narrative about sexual orientation—that it is genetically determined—simply cannot be true. Instead, the science shows that a person’s sexual orientation and choice of partners depends heavily on the development and expression of personal autonomy regarding one’s own sexual possibilities. People with same-sex attractions should be legally and culturally free not to identify with or act on them.

 BS. There simply is no body of evidence — growing or not — that sexual orientation is not organic. The scientific consensus is that sexual orientation is formed by about two years of age due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In science environmental means anything that is not genetic. The best example might be the birth mother’s hormones.

The last sentence of that subtitle is a red herring fallacy (ignoratio elenchi). The Latin translates to “a form of bullshit.” Gay people are — and always have been — legally and culturally free to not have gay sex and to claim to be something other than gay. That doesn’t change the reality of their sexual orientation.

“Same-sex attractions” is Catholic Church bullshit. Sullins, as a Catholic fundamentalist, avoids “gay person” or “gay people.” He prefers to pretend that we do not really exist.

It doesn’t get any better

Late last month, a team of MIT and Harvard scientists published a landmark study of the genetic basis for sexual orientation in the journal Science. The study, which was based on an examination of the genetic material of almost half a million individuals, definitively refutes the idea that being gay is an innate condition that is controlled or largely compelled by one’s genetic makeup.

The study contained two key findings. First, it found that the effect of the genes we inherit from our parents (known as “heritability”) on same-sex orientation was very weak, at only .32 on a scale from 0 (none) to 1 (total) heritability. This means that a person’s developmental environment—which includes diet, family, friends, neighborhood, religion, and a host of other life conditions—is twice as influential on the probability of developing same-sex behavior or orientation as a person’s genes are.

The above is more bullshit. According to NIH (emphasis added):

Heritability does not indicate what proportion of a trait is determined by genes and what proportion is determined by environment. So, a heritability of 0.7 does not mean that a trait is 70% caused by genetic factors; it means than 70% of the variability in the trait in a population is due to genetic differences among people.

In continuation of the spew:

Second, rebutting decades of widespread belief, the study established that “there is certainly no single genetic determinant (sometimes referred to as the ‘gay gene’ in the media)” that causes same-sex sexual behavior. On the contrary, “the variants involved are numerous and spread across the genome.” Each of these genetic variants increases a person’s propensity for same-sex behavior by an infinitesimally small amount. In scientific terms, same-sex orientation and behavior are highly polygenetic.

Another red herring. The only people who seem to refer to a “gay gene” are religious conservatives in order to claim that it does not exist. In no way does the study suggest that each of the genes which, together, contribute to sexual orientation, increase the potential for influencing homosexuality “an infinitesimally small amount.” The study did not quantify or compare magnitude of influence.

Sullins then gets to his point

The logic of these two results—low heritability and high polygenicity—clearly demonstrate that the dominant cultural narrative about sexual orientation—which sees homosexual persons as a distinctly bounded biological class of people who were “born that way”—simply cannot be true.

Aside from the fact that heritability and polygenicity do not demonstrate anything of the sort, the scientific consensus is not “born that way.” Rather, repeating myself, it is sexual orientation formed by about two years of age and not by choice. The Church says that gay people are “objectively disordered.” That bit of superstition does not hold up to critical analysis.

Sexual orientation is a continuum with heterosexual and homosexual at the extreme ends. Every expression across the spectrum is a natural variance in human sexuality. Father Sullins’ beliefs about gay people are formed by faith (in spite of the fact that he has a PhD in sociology). Science is based on evidence.

I am not a geneticist (and neither is Sullins). I do not claim to fully understand the subject study and I perceive little difference between one gene influencing sexual orientation in contrast to the combination of many genes doing the same. What I do know to a reasonable certainty are two things:

  1. No gay person is so because they made a choice and;
  2. There exists no way of turning a gay person straight.

The above is due in part to genetics. Part is due to factors that are not genetic. Sullins’ list: “diet, family, friends, neighborhood, religion, and a host of other life conditions” is utterly preposterous. None of that would apply to a two-year-old except, perhaps, diet. Perhaps the Gerber Good Start is the culprit.

Sullins goes on at considerable length. It is entirely irrelevant to legal or societal issues related to sexual orientation. From the beginning of time, a minority of people have been romantically and sexually attracted to people of their own sex. It is perfectly natural. Deal with it Father Sullins. Scripture and the catechism say all sorts of crazy things that Sullins probably does not believe.

On that note, D. Paul Sullins is entitled to believe anything that he likes. Promoting misinformation to essentially encourage marginalizing and discriminating against a sexual minority is indecent. If there really is a god then he or she is probably quite pissed off at sanctimonious fools like Sullins.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.