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 Homosexuals (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 an facade of professional authority and provided to other organizations as a pseudo-scientific alternative to the truth.