Let the scientists lecture us on science

From “The Friends of Jake” blog comes this response to the Bishop’s report…why exactly are theologians lecturing the wider church about science?


I won’t lecture you on theology if you don’t lecture me on science

From “The Friends of Jake” blog

Now that the TEC Bishops’ Super Secret Theology committee has released its report(or rather, its two competing reports), I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion.

I have read through the conservative’s arguments against acceptance of GLBT people and my blood pressure is skyrocketing over the same old tired flat earth arguments.

I will leave it to others to dissect their theological aspect (Tobias Haller comes to mind) but I will point out one direct quote that I find breathtakingly outrageous.

“…we are left with three fallacies that need correction: (1) that current science points to sexual orientation as basically innate; (2) that the attempt to change orientation is bound to cause harm; and (3) if homosexuality is something “given,” it cannot be considered in the category of “unnatural.” The rest of this section on scientific evidence will counter the first two points, and the section on natural law that follows will clarify what a theological notion of “unnatural” implies, and why this still applies.”

Their discussion of genetics (a field I know a little something about) shows a complete failure to understand basic principles–what it means to say something is innate, and the fallacy of a single gene theory. They embarrass themselves. And rather than take your time here with lecture, I will refer you to Gay Married Californian, where tomorrow I will begin a series on Genetics.

And meanwhile, they also justify “reparative therapy” thus flying into the face of the medical profession. Their citations are to religious texts and summaries, not to primary literature.

Read the rest at “Friends of Jake” blog

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10 Comments
  1. Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

    Thanks for the cross posting. I already “called out” on the scientific evidence section. I was extremely surprised to find that they had tried to use that as an argument. I’m not qualified to do more than say I have a basic understanding of complex genetics, but it is good that someone else can do so. Given that biological research is seldom as “conclusive” as that in other branches of science such as in physics or chemistry, spin and argument are always going to be possible, even in scientific circles. Some persons are always ready to “spin” the natural scientific reticence to say that something is “definitely so” rather than more cautious words such as “seems to indicate,” “suggests that,” “most likely” by saying that this indicates that it is only “unproven theory” or “inconclusive.” This betrays simply an ignorance of ability to read scientific language. It is the reverse face of the so-called “atheist” scientist reading religious language literally. It represents the most fundamental of misunderstandings, but is is one with which the current popular “religion versus science” debate is filled.

    I might ask, further, what would be “conclusive” evidence? Shall we take a sample of human fetuses and submit them to experimentation by hormonal manipulation in utero? Shall we freeze the brains of living homosexuals in liquid nitrogen and place them under the electron microscope or “excise” the suspect areas of the brain to “see what happens.” We are talking about human subjects here, and there are vast limitations on what is accepted to be moral/ethical in this type of research.

  2. Peter Pearson

    If I want something to be true badly enough I can do all sorts of mental gymnastics to make it so in my own mind. That happens all the time for all of us. But when the thing I want to be true affects the lives of others in a negative way I am being selfish and lacking in trust for those around me or in God’s ability to deal with them as God sees fit. We are such strange creatures.

    In 12-Step programs the place of honesty is really important because without a courageous commitment to it none of us can get better. The problem is that we cannot force others to come to that place, although we can invite it. We’re inside the prison cell with the key in our hands. Let’s hope that each of us uses it.

    I, for one, am growing tired of chewing this same old cud over and over again. It’s time to move on.

  3. Ann Fontaine

    Spitzer et al are discredited sources for scientific info – if that is all the traditionalists offer who can take them seriously?

    Footnote 41: “The main studies have been by Nicolosi et al. (2000), Spitzer (2003), and Jones and Yarhouse (2007) and are reviewed by Glynn Harrison, “Unwanted Same-sex Attractions: Can Pastoral and Counseling interventions Help People to Change?” in Groves (ed.), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, 293-332.”

  4. IT

    Thank you for the crosspost!

    They do not even cite primary current literature for their assertions, and as Ann says, those they do cite indirectly are largely discredited. Dr Shy’s comments are correct, they show a complete failure to understand the scientific process.

    Their point seems to be that same sex orientation is not innate, and if it IS innate, it’s still wrong. They should have stuck to theological turf.

    I am reminded of the confidence of the Inquisition examining Galileo.

    Eppur si muove.

    IT, FoJ blogger

  5. John B. Chilton

    I bet I’ve asked this before, and have forgotten the answer. But as long as they are healthy, nonabusive, don’t involve children, etc. who cares where sexual preferences come from? We should merely be debating what makes sexual practices not inherently sinful. And celibacy outside of commitment to a long term relationship. I happen to think yodeling and playing the accordion are unnatural and disordered — but so what?

    I’ve not read either paper, but it strikes me that the biological and acculturation questions are irrelevant to the theology. I may be a born criminal. In that case, I’m still accountable for my actions.

  6. Rod Gillis

    Bishops should be pastoral, caring for the poor, supporting clergy, building up the body, and most especially striving for unity. They should leave theology to professional theologians and science to scientists, and allow the peers of such specialists to do the work of critical analysis. Some are called to be bishops, some theologians, some scientists, for the building up of the commonwealth of God.

  7. Rarely have I heard a Lesbian or Gay person speculate on the love, partnering and sexual intimacies of Heterosexuals…there is something sour and emotionally and spiritually maladjusted in those who ¨speculate about Gay sex¨ done by those who exclude, demonize, marginalize and castigate (and run for cover). Only my opion, I have no ¨sources¨ other than my own experience.

  8. William R. MacKaye

    It would appear that Rod Gillis has not read the report of the Bishops’ Committee on Theology since, whether you like the report or not, the bishops have done precisely what he recommends: left theology to professional theologians. All eight of the authors are theologians. None of them are bishops.

  9. Rod Gillis

    You are correct. I have not yet had opportunity to study the report. Although a quick scan shows references to the work of Brevard Childs, so I’m definitely in for the read. My post makes no comment on the report. Some times efforts at concision collapse into confusion. My post used the article in Episcopal Café (above) as a jumping off point for a general comment on the frequent lack of inter-disciplinary work in the church. Let me be a little more long winded. Theology must be based on an adequate anthropology. Developing an adequate anthropology requires an adequate update on the human phenomena from experts in various fields. It requires cross-disciplinary collaboration. The same holds within the category of theological reflection. It is important to pay attention to what Bernard Lonergan referred to decades ago as the “functional specialties” in the transcendental method. The positions taken by many of the bishops in the Anglican Communion on issues of human sexuality are lacking in theological rigor. While it is possible for a person to be both a bishop and a theologian, such is not usually the case. Ironically perhaps, Rowan Williams (whose leadership style has frustrated many of us) and a number of the British bishops are exceptions to the norm. I gather your Presiding Bishop is also a scientist. Our Primate has a science education. Typically reports developed by official commission simply articulate or further entrench existing polarization. I suppose there is some benefit in two sides having opportunity to detail their positions. Will we learn anything new I wonder? However, the church should exercise caution in its use of reports. Here in Canada we have “The Primate’s Theological Commission”. It is staffed with good theologians. Notwithstanding, the work they have done should be subject to peer review before becoming a basis for decision-making. Enthusiasts, including some bishops, often quote the work of The Primate’s Theological Commission uncritically. They do so without any sense of how the theology produced is received by peers of Commission members. Hopefully the report produced for TEC will make a contribution to the debate in the church on matters of human sexuality. It will be interesting to look for critical response on the contents of the report from the peers of the people who produced it. For the record, I think the basis is well established both in anthropology and theology, for full and complete inclusion of gay and lesbian people. Meanwhile, I refer readers to a dated but still interesting work about the complexities of decision making in the church. It shines a light on the dynamics that often produce controversy and dysfunction. “Believing in the Church: The Corporate Nature of Faith. A Report by The Doctrine Commission of the Church of England. “ (1981)

  10. Rod Gillis

    Quick example and follow up from my previous post. An official report of the Canadian Church is often cheerfully quoted, making a distinction about “core doctrine”. It seldom occurs to people to ask about the viability of the distinction itself. The link below will take you to a very interesting article,from The Episcopal Church context, and one that ought to be instructive to Canadians.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_199804/ai_n8793164/?tag=content;col1

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