What science can tell us about human sexuality is the subject of an important day conference being held in London on December 8, 2018. This event is likely to be of interest to anyone who would like to hear some of the country’s leading experts explain what the most up-to-date science has been saying about sexuality and gender questions in the context of the current church debates.
Why does it matter what science says? It wasn’t so long ago that society discriminated against left-handed people. Older readers may recall stories of children being slapped with a ruler for writing with their left hand or using their left hand to cut food. Historically the left hand was often associated with the Devil, and even our word ‘sinister’ comes from the Latin for ‘left’.
Yet over the last few decades we have come to realise that left-handedness is not a reason for discrimination. We now accept that left-handed people are not inferior or less able, but are just different from the right-handed majority. And we have also discovered that there are good scientific reasons why some people are left-handed.
It might that there are some parallels with Christian attitudes towards sexual minorities. Perhaps we think that people who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex could get rid of their same sex desires if they tried seriously, or if they prayed or received counselling about it?
Perhaps we think that same-sex attraction is more a matter of nurture rather than nature. Maybe it is a consequence of inadequate parenting, for example a distant or unengaged father in the case gay men? Or that people sometimes develop same-sex desires because of an early sexual encounter with someone of the same sex? Or that cultures which do not promote homosexuality have far fewer gay or lesbian people than those which do?