BYU Professor claims scientific evidence of homosexuality

Wow, this must be a record for the number of new topics in one day. At any rate, this is an article from the 26 Mar 04 BYU NewsNet that I thought was interesting.
(If the link does’t work, try

29 comments for “BYU Professor claims scientific evidence of homosexuality

  1. Kristine
    March 29, 2004 at 9:08 pm

    just fixing the link

  2. Aaron Brown
    March 29, 2004 at 10:23 pm

    The title of the article (and this thread) led me to believe that a BYU professor had made some breakthrough “discovery.” However, this is just another BYU biology professor reviewing the state of the evidence. I assumed this kind of lecture goes on with relative frequency. I remember attending a similar Duane Jeffries lecture when I was at the Y.

    Bradshaw bemoans the level of uninformed discourse in the LDS community. Fair enough, but I must say I have noticed at least some improvement over the years. The notion that homosexuality may have at least a partial genetic component strikes me as less controversial in the LDS community than it did even 10 years ago. (Of course, this hasn’t lessened opposition to homosexual behavior; rather, it has just changed the tenor and focus of the moral arguments). Then again, maybe my perception is just a product of the the types of LDS people I choose to socialize with.

    Aaron B

  3. paul
    March 29, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    I found the article very interesting, although is it really that profound? I thought scientists have been saying this for a while now. Is he the first BYU scientist to come out and say it? I did find it particularly disturbing though his comment about the atonement. Was he actually saying that the LDS attitude towards the atonement (i.e. that it could overcome all trials/sin) could not apply to homosexuals? That’s a pretty daring statement.

  4. Aaron Brown
    March 29, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    Julie, didn’t you get the memo? This post should be titled:

    “Obligatory Semi-Weekly Times and Seasons Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage Post, #14”


    Aaron B

  5. March 29, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    I guess I’ll jump in. The article really highlights nothing new, unless the knowledge that homosexuals are more likely to be left handed is groundbreaking. (Maybe that was the basis for all of those rumors about Steve Young.) Most people agree that biology plays some role in homosexuality. What is difficult to pin down is the degree to which nature has an impact over nurture. Professor Bradshaw’s “evidence”, at least that discussed in the article, does not seem to really help with this analysis. He simply shows some correlative facts but then seems to suggest that all homosexuals are “born that way.” Biology may play a role, but it also like plays a role in a host of other tendencies and behaviors that are not in keeping with gospel principles. And this is where what I would call the “political agenda” of his research comes into play.

    Bradshaw’s suggestion that the Church needs to change its approach to dealing with homosexuality seems somewhat problematic. This is so because we aren’t really told what is wrong with the Church’s approach. From what I have read and heard from Church leaders and Church materials, the Church teaches to love the sinner and hate the sin. The Church teaches tolerance and love. It also teaches the Lord’s law of morality. Thus, I am curious by what Bradshaw means about the Church’s approach needing to change. I also had a slight problem with Bradshaw’s statement that he is “committed to the atonement of Jesus Christ” but then he feels that it may not be sufficient means to assist homosexuals overcome their homosexuality. It may merely be the way the article was written, but it didn’t seem all that helpful in addressing the issue.

    This is not to say that we should shy away from trying to more effectively deal with homosexuality as we promote the truths of the gospel and as we seek to help all of God’s children to receive the benefits of Christ’s atonement. For this to happen, though, we need a little more in-depth discussion than that presented in the article.

  6. Julie in Austin
    March 29, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    Wow, I think I just fulfilled Jim’s neurosis about repeating the obvious, according to the comments above.

    What I thought was less-than-obvious here: the idea that homosexuals simply can’t change their behavior. That the atonement isn’t ‘enough’ to make it possible for them to change. (As mentioned above, I don’t have his original text; I am working from the article; this might be dangerous.) I can’t recall ever hearing these ideas in any LDS forum.

  7. Julie in Austin
    March 29, 2004 at 11:01 pm

    Just before everyone jumps on me, I am sure other LDS have suggested that homosexuals can’t change their orientation. What I was trying to say was that you don’t often hear that they cannot control their *behavior*.

  8. March 29, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Julie, I think you are right that that may be the implication of what Bradshaw is saying, but it is not explicit. If he is claiming that they can’t control their behaviour, then yes, it would be pretty shocking. I don’t know that he really makes that claim. I don’t know how he could make that claim based on the evidence presented.

  9. Susan
    March 29, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    “suffer with homosexuality”

    This phrase seems to capture the stance toward homosexuality in the BYU article. I admit I’m not enough in church circles to hear how homosexuality is routinely discussed. But I’m very sad if this is the best we can do.

  10. Aaron Brown
    March 30, 2004 at 1:11 am

    Brent is right to point out that the article doesn’t explicitly portray Bradshaw as saying homosexuals can’t control their behavior. There is one sentence in the article that seems to imply this, but I suspect it is sloppy writing on the part of the writer. It’s a little hard for me to believe Bradshaw would have argued the impossibility of behavioral change, since (1) it would be too controversial at BYU; and (2) it also seems like a silly conclusion to draw, quite frankly.

    This is one of those topics where the chances of a BYU reporter accurately drawing careful distinctions seems REALLY LOW. So we probably shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions based upon the article.

    Aaron B

  11. Ben Huff
    March 30, 2004 at 11:10 am

    Based on several personal experiences with the disconnect between journalism and reality, I offer the following hypothesis: When Bradshaw said our attitudes need to change, perhaps he was referring to the idea that homosexuality is a choice, and that homosexuals can change their orientation. In the article, this idea, held by many LDS, appears several lines before the remark about Bradshaw’s referring to the Ensign article on the Atonement. So perhaps he means LDS need to let go of the idea that homosexuals can change their orientation. The atonement applies as much to our suffering as to our changing our wills, so maybe he’s just suggesting we should think of the atonement as applying more in that sense than in the “change of heart” sense, here.

    For my part, most of the (small number of) homosexuals I know personally seem to have approached it as a choice as much as anything. But they also don’t choose to maintain a relationship with the Church! It seems to me if there’s anything clear about homosexuality, it’s that not everyone gets there the same way. (And not everything that is resistant to change is genetically grounded! What about the business about having two or three older brothers? That sounds like nurture, not nature, but it may still powerfully shape someone, in ways that persist despite efforts to change. And is left-handedness nature or nurture?) But it would not be surprising if those with same-sex attraction who still try to stay involved with the Church are predominantly those who do not feel their sexual preference is a matter of choice, and do not see or experience much prospect of it changing.

  12. March 30, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    The title reminds me of when Dr. Johnson was asked whether he believed in infant baptism. “Believe it? Sir, I’ve seen it done.”

  13. John H
    March 30, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    I didn’t take Dr. Bradshaw’s comments about the atonement as suggesting it is somehow lacking or ineffective. I think he was more likely addressing the LDS tendency to say “Just have faith and pray about it” and all will be well. I think the Church has done a great job acknowledging there is more to it than that by setting up LDS Social Services and providing counseling. They have also done a remarkable job in taking better care of early returned missionaries and acknowledging if a missionary has a serious mental illness, it isn’t enough for the mission president to give him a pep talk and a slap on the back with the encouragement to pray more and think about the atonement lots.

    I think Dr. Bradshaw was just suggesting that homosexuality isn’t the same as praying to overcome your anger at your neighbor for playing music too loud.

  14. lyle
    March 30, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    (A scene at City Hall in San Francisco )

    Court Officer: “Next.”

    Two men: “Good morning. We want to apply for a marriage license.”

    Court Officer: “Names?”

    Two men: “Tim and Jim Jones.”

    Court Officer: “Jones? Are you related? I see a resemblance.”

    Two men: “Yes, we’re brothers.”

    Court Officer: “Brothers? You can’t get married.”

    Two men: “Why not? Aren’t you giving marriage licenses to same gender couples?”

    Court Officer: “Yes, thousands. But we haven’t had any siblings. That’s incest!”

    Two men: “Incest?” No, we are not gay.”

    Court Officer: “Not gay? Then why do you want to get married?”

    Two men: “For the financial benefits, of course. And we do love each other. Besides, we don’t have any other prospects.”

    Court Officer: “But we’re issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couple s who’ve been denied equal protection under the law. If you are not gay, you can get married to a woman.”

    Two men: “Wait a minute. A gay man has the same right to marry a woman as I have. But just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I want to marry a woman. I want to marry Jim.”

    “And I want to marry Tim, Are you going to discriminate against us just because we are not gay?”

    Court Officer: “All right, all right. I’ll give you your license. Next.”

    Two men and two women: “Hi. We are here to get married.”

    Court Officer: “Names?”

    Two men and two women: “John Smith, Jane James, Robert Green, and June Johnson.”

    Court Officer: “Who wants to marry whom?”

    Two men and two women: “We all want to marry each other.”

    Court Officer: “But there are four of you!”

    Two men and two women: “That’s right. You see, we’re all bisexual. I love Jane and Robert, Jane loves me and June, June loves Robert and Jane, and Robert loves June and me. All of us getting married together is the only way that we can express our sexual preferences in a marital relationship.”

    Court Officer: “But we’ve only been granting licenses to gay and lesbian couples.”

    Two men and two women: “So you’re discriminating against bisexuals!”

    Court Officer: “No, it’s just that, well, the traditional idea of marriage is that it’s just for couples.”

    Two men and two women: “Since when are you standing on tradition?”

    Court Officer: “Well, I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.”

    Two men and two women: “Who says? There’s no logical reason to limit marriage to couples. The more the better. Besides, we demand our rights! The mayor says the constitution guarantees equal protec tion under the law. Give us a marriage license!”

    Court Officer: “All right, all right. Next.”

    A man: “Hello, I’d like a marriage license.” Court Officer: “In what names?”

    A man: “David Deets.”

    Court Officer: “And the other man?”

    A man: “That’s all. I want to marry myself.”

    Court Officer: “Marry yourself? What do you mean?”

    A man: “Well, my psychiatrist says I have a dual personality, so I want to marry the two together. Maybe I can file a joint income-tax return.”

    Court Officer: “That does it! I quit!! You people are making a mockery of marriage!!”

    (and you the court did not do that already?)

  15. Adam Greenwood
    March 30, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Cute, Lyle. I know you and your brother are politically committed, but I just don’t think its worth it. :)

  16. March 30, 2004 at 6:07 pm

    Didn’t Elder Oaks more or less say that homosexuality could be innate in one of the talks on the subject in the Ensign four or five years ago?

    While the religion and psychology departments were rightly “infamous” especially during the early 90’s, I think there was more openness there than some. By that I mean I can think of several religion classes in which the teacher basically said that he thought in many cases it was genetic.

    Now if we can get the more reactionary parts of the university to deal with this then things will be far better.

    To Susan’s comment about “suffer homosexuality” I’m not quite sure how to take that. It would seem that regardless of the *cause* that it leads to suffering. Further if it causes some to desire something inappropriate which is not easily under the individual’s control, then I’m not sure how else to put it.

    BTW – why are there so many threads on this topic? It just doesn’t seem interesting enough to need that many. Yet it seems the most popular topic on the blog. Of course I’m just jealous because of the lack of physics topics.

  17. lyle
    March 30, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    thanks Kaimi…i just figured it would work best in the current thread. finding old threads is somewhat of a challenge…but if its misplaced, feel free to erase it and replace it elsewhere.

  18. lyle
    March 30, 2004 at 6:29 pm

    oh…Clark had a good point. Maybe having just one permanent thread for certain topics…such as this one?

  19. ed
    March 31, 2004 at 6:11 am

    Bradshaw’s comments may seem unremarkable to the intellectuals that frequent this blog, but judging from the letters to the editor, many BYU students found them upsetting:

    There was also one positive letter:

    (For some reason, all the letters seem to come from men…)

  20. Adam Greenwood
    March 31, 2004 at 11:24 am

    There’s a difference between letters claiming that there is no biological basis to homosexuality, period, and those that point out that not all homosexuality is biologically coerced, nor is biological coercion proven, but that much of the efforts to prove it are tied to an agenda.

  21. John H
    March 31, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    Perhaps I’ve been living in a liberal bubble too long, but these letters shock me. Not because they disagree with Dr. Bradshaw, but their utter unwillingness to examine the issue beyond “the prophet said so.” Some make a few scientific arguments, but most do not.

    The prophets are not scientists. Their mission is to testify of Jesus Christ. If I want to hear testimony of the Savior, I listen to the prophets. If I want to hear science, I listen to scientists. Whenever someone says, “The prophet says such and such” about a topic the leader being quoted has no training in, I wonder if the same person would ask the prophet to perform heart surgery on them. After all, they are the prophet.

  22. Thom
    March 31, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Oh puh-leaze. . .the Prophet needs scientific traing to be able to speak authoritatively about the nature of homosexuality? There’s a statement of faith if I ever heard one. If the Lord wants the prophet to make an authoritative statement about the nature of anything, the Lord will tell the prophet what the authoritative answer is. And if the Lord needed to the prophet to perform heart surgery on me, I’d let him, because the Lord can make the prophet capable of it if need be.

    I suppose the antediluvians would have taken Noah more seriously if he had had a little more meteorological training.

  23. John H
    March 31, 2004 at 5:09 pm

    No, he doesn’t need scientific training to speak about God and His law regarding homosexuality. But I believe he probably does if he wants to get into the specifics of the argument.

    Compare it to this: Did Joseph Smith or Joseph Fielding Smith (and just about every leader in between) need scientific training to testify that the Book of Mormon was the word of God? Of course not. But when they tried to pinpoint the location of the Book of Mormon events and get specific, they got it painfully wrong, didn’t they? I don’t know of too many LDS scholars or scientists who still advocate a hemispheric model for the Book of Mormon – do you? I think the same is true for homosexuality. They can speak to God’s feelings about it (provided God has let them know His view), but I suspect if they try and argue biology they’ll come off looking wrong.

    As for Noah and the antediluvians, maybe they would have taken him more seriously, but seeing as how he didn’t exist and only serves as a metaphor for teaching a story, I don’t think it’s a problem. Either that or he’s the greatest zoo keeper in the world – I’m not sure how he managed to get kangaroos, polar bears, koalas, and diamond back rattlesnakes all on the same boat. Not to mention the 100,000 species of insect that exist in the world. But I suppose that’s another thread.

  24. Kevin
    March 31, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    Thom, obviously the Lord can make the prophet, or anyone else, capable of performing heart surgery. He could also tell the prophet how to cure cancer. But experience teaches us that he doesn’t, so we continue to put a lot of time and money into cancer research.

    Throughout history, scientific advances have come from scientists and religious truths from prophets. I have no problem with scientists correcting prophets on matters of science, just as prophets correct scientists on religious matters.

  25. March 31, 2004 at 9:14 pm

    Today’s Daily Universe has an editorial by Bradshaw, in which he clarifies his position (which was evidently misreported by the DU). Said editorial doesn’t seem to be online yet (they tend to be a day or two late in posting content online).

  26. paul
    April 1, 2004 at 11:21 am

    I emailed Bradshaw asking for a clarification, if one was required. He responded with his editorial to the Universe. Here it is…

    Paul: Thanks for your interest. I’ve copied below a letter I submitted to the Daily Universe in an attempt to clarify my intent. The newspaper’s original report was quite incomplete. Please write if I can be of further help. Bill Bradshaw

    I have had occasion over the past several days to ponder the state of the Church 25 years from now. I’ll be deceased, and you, the current crop of BYU students will be, for the most part, parents of another generation of university students. You will also be presidents of Young Men and Young Women’s organizations, and Bishops, and in other ways be engaged in the work of the Savior through serving the children of other LDS parents. Some of your own children will disclose to you that they are homosexual (attracted to people of the same gender). Some of those children outside your own immediate families will also be homosexual. In all of this you may likely find yourselves perplexed, and uncertain, and confused. You will go to our Father In Heaven in prayer for guidance, and help, and comfort. And I hope you will seek to become informed. That should happen, at least in part, because you are graduates of BYU and have become committed to thoughtful, careful, empirical study as a companion to faith and devotion as you deal with the trials of mortality. Please accept my genuine hopes, offered in advance, that the Lord will bless you in those efforts.

    The hope I hold for myself after 25 years is that I will be permitted at least a brief glimpse of how the Church and our people are doing, and that I will find we are doing better. I hope that your homosexual children are treated with much more understanding and sensitivity than is currently the case. I hope that there will be much less anguish and despair in the homes of those who, without any willful intent at all, are different. I hope that you will not disown or disavow your homosexual children and acquaintances, as is so frequently the case today, and there will be much more of unconditional love, which for myself lies at the heart of the gospel. I hope for less of ill will, born primarily out of ignorance and fear, and much more of respect – for the inherent goodness, decency, and integrity of those who are homosexual – a respect gained because instead of shunning them you have become friends with them, and learned who they really are.

    I would like to make clear my position on one point delivered in the lecture last Thursday (March 25, 2004), which the Universe article of the following day reported incompletely, concerning the appropriate application of the doctrine of the Atonement. The article in the Ensign (September, 1999) to which I referred, is often cited as justification for the position that with sufficient righteous effort a homosexual Latter-day Saint will be able to change that orientation to a heterosexual one because “There is no struggle for which the Atonement is not sufficient.” It is with that sentiment that I disagree. I believe that we all are engaged in an effort to acquire more of godliness, but mortality serves up for many people conditions that do not (or in God’s wisdom, cannot) change. The magnificent doctrine of the Atonement helps us to find ways to cope, to deal with our challenges, but is not an assurance that a condition will change. I did not bring this matter up to stimulate a theoretical doctrinal discussion. I included it in the talk to make my listeners aware of how frequently, when finally realizing that heroic efforts will not change their homosexuality, our current children, finding themselves excluded and marginalized and without acceptable options, despair of life and faith and spirituality and hope – believing tragically that the Atonement may not apply to them. I don’t want that to happen.

    It may be that 25 years from now you will have unequivocal evidence at your fingertips proving that homosexuality is not rooted in biology, and further that methods have been developed that insure, without any failures, the replacement of same-sex attraction with a heterosexual one. You can then look back and conclude that Brother Bradshaw was dead wrong (both dead and wrong), and you will be able to agree with the writer of an e-mail message, who apparently sees me in a predatory light: “It will be good to see one more wolf in sheep’s clothing expunged. Good Riddance.” But for now I am going to continue to do at BYU what I’ve been doing for 25 years in the other direction, continue to teach what I taught the generation of your parents when they were here. And that has been the virtue of learning to ask and answer two questions: What are the data? and What do the data mean? It was in the spirit of trying to follow my own advice, on a topic that I believe is terribly important, that I spoke last Thursday.

    One more thought. I hope you will be provoked to talk to each other about this. When you do, please let your discourse be civil. Please don’t get angry with one other. Let your conversation
    be vigorous, careful, informed – and spoken in a spirit of love, even to those with whom you disagree.


    Bill Bradshaw

  27. Kristine
    April 1, 2004 at 11:36 am

    paul, thanks for posting that!

  28. Chris
    August 26, 2004 at 2:53 am

    As a homosexual man, I think it is important to discuss this issue from a different stand point…ours. I’ve been a Christian for 14 years now and was baptized at age 8. I grew up in a non-denominational church, which reading all your comments about LDS, is somewhat different. Either way, I like your teachings and am open to all ideas of Christianity. I shunned away from the church around age 9 after discovering my “true self”. I couldn’t bare myself for the longest time because of what I learned in church about homosexuality being a sin. I couldn’t understand for the longest time why god would call such a strong feeling….a sin. NOT feelings of lust and infatuation, but feelings of love! Yes I said LOVE! I have the hardest time figuring this out and maybe one day the truth will reveal itself, but how could god put such a strong feeling in me towards another and say that it is sinful? Obviously only those that are homosexuals can understand why I “state” that god put this feeling in me. Think of it as a man loving a woman. Why is there an attraction between them? According to scientific evidence, it is biological. Another words….genetic makeup.
    I like how Bradshaw makes homosexuality sound like a type of sickness by saying that we “suffer with homosexuality”. Whatever way he truly meant to say that…it is, in a way, true. We may suffer from it, not because of any ailment, but because of the worlds view on us. We suffer because we must hide our “true” selves. That is the only reason we suffer. Now, the talk from homosexuals that say they don’t discover their sexuality until their teen years is a true statement, and one that seems to confuse most heterosexuals. Some discover it earlier than others, but I find that it hits around the time that an individuals’ hormones are produced (puberty). Just as a heterosexual would start to have an attraction to the opposite sex, a homosexual would have an attraction to the same sex. When we say this though, it sounds as though we once liked women, but then did a 360 and like men now. However, I don’t remember liking any sex at such a young age. As children we were always saying…ewww….girls are gross. I’d say that when my hormones started kicking in is when I discovered which sex I liked. I’m trying to make this as short as possible and still convey to you all my feelings. It’s harder than I originally thought, so bear with me.
    Think of a hetero man’s attraction to a woman. He likes women, and has no thoughts of a man. That is the way it is for a homosexual. In my case, I (male) have thoughts for a man, but not any for a woman. Granted, everyone gets curious, whether you are hetero or homo. That goes away like anything else. Being “curious” doesn’t define ones’ sexuality. You must believe me when I say that it’s not a choice. We did not “choose” to be outcasts for the rest of our lives and “suffer” from the ridicules of uneducated heterosexuals.
    Okay, now to respond to some of the comments above.
    Here is what Brent has to say….“Bradshaw’s suggestion that the Church needs to change its approach to dealing with homosexuality seems somewhat problematic. This is so because we aren’t really told what is wrong with the Church’s approach. From what I have read and heard from Church leaders and Church materials, the Church teaches to love the sinner and hate the sin.” Okay. The church has never tried to understand the cause of homosexuality. They assumed that it could be changed by undergoing therapy, psychoanalysis, hypnosis, counseling etc… That has been the church’s approach. I believe that he is just stating that something other than those things needs to be done now. He isn’t necessarily stating that you shouldn’t love us. On that note, however, homosexuality is (according to the Lord) a sin. So our very being is sinful, since that is who we are. That’s something else to think about.
    Julie in Austin says this….“Just before everyone jumps on me, I am sure other LDS have suggested that homosexuals can’t change their orientation. What I was trying to say was that you don’t often hear that they cannot control their *behavior*.” Okay, let me start with the fact that everyone is different. All hetero people act different, and all homos act different. If you combine them into one category….then everyone is different!!! Acting girly seems to be a characteristic of homosexual males. Acting masculine for homosexual females. In the heterosexual world that is the opposite. There are just different behavioral patterns for each and every individual. I can not stress that enough! Now, don’t get me wrong, we can “act” just like everyone else, but that is not who we are. That is called being in the closet. EVERYONE CAN ACT….acting is pretending.
    Aaron Brown says this….“There is one sentence in the article that seems to imply this, but I suspect it is sloppy writing on the part of the writer. It’s a little hard for me to believe Bradshaw would have argued the impossibility of behavioral change, since (1) it would be too controversial at BYU; and (2) it also seems like a silly conclusion to draw, quite frankly.” Why is this so hard to believe? Can you change your genetic makeup? I sure can’t. Remember, they’ve done tests (hypnosis, therapy, scientific etc…).
    Ben Huff said…. “For my part, most of the (small number of) homosexuals I know personally seem to have approached it as a choice as much as anything.” Ummm…I’m sorry, but maybe they were uncomfortable with you asking them. Ask them again.
    I think this is where I’m going to stop. If anyone has questions for me, I’d be glad to try and answer them. I hope that everything flowed easily as you read this. It’s somewhat hard to convey a feeling and pay attention to the way it sounds after you write it. Believe it or not, I am happy that this is a growing topic in the churches. I’m interested in the outcome. I think that more scientific studies in the future will open the door to more understanding. However, that will cause major controversy in the written word, which is just something we will have to deal with. The word is tested on a daily basis. I can’t stress this enough, but please go with what your heart tells you. Listen to your heart and soul, that is where god is.

Comments are closed.