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December 10, 2001

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Dear Presbyweb,

While I disagree with Dr. Tenke about how one should vote on amendment A, I strongly agree with him that people have been abusing Spitzer’s study about the possibility of homosexual change. Dr. Spitzer clearly points out that this is only one study that describes a subgroup of highly motivated homosexuals who may or may not be representative of a wider group. We know very little of the scientific basis for any behavior (and much less on how to change it) and Dr. Tenke correctly describes a few of the many difficulties of pursuing this type of research. It is likely that a complex human behavior like homosexuality will turn out to be even more complicated the closer we look at it. Even the idea that all homosexuals are alike in some way besides behavior is an unproven conjecture. For example, Dr. Tenke believes that Presbyterian homosexuals may have different patterns of sexual behavior from their secular counterparts. In a few hundred years we may understand human behavior better, but we have to make decisions now. Both sides of this argument are turning to science for answers that science does not have: both sides should stop misusing scientific studies to support their view points.

Ultimately, the fact that scientific data are incomplete does not affect our decision-making: the question is not whether a behavior is genetic, natural, or immutable; it is whether the behavior is sinful that matters. For example, it can be argued that human’s tendency to violence is an inborn (i.e., not a learned behavior) and certain individuals have great difficulty refraining from violence when provoked. There is also evidence that substance abuse has significant genetic components in some families. However, we do not believe that continuing violence or substance abuse is the best course of action for those affected individuals. Alas, it is also likely that our greed and xenophobia are (in part) inborn as well. Indeed, we believe that our human nature is fallen and that there are many desires and urges upon which we would best not act. When we do act on them, many bad things happen (such as oppression of the poor or perhaps discrimination against those who are different from us). How one votes on amendment A may depend on one’s viewpoint on the interpretation of scripture, the role of ordained officers in our church, or even how best to stop the mistreatment of homosexuals in our society, but it should not depend on the scientific data.


Hal Franch, M.D.
Member, Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA

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