Commenter Mark IV asks an interesting question:
IF we determine that homosexuality is genetic, and IF we figure out how to manipulate the fetus in utero to â€œfixâ€? the homosexuality, would it be morally wrong to do so?
This question is hypothetical, but soon may not be. We’d best think about things like this now before time and technology steal up on us. Since we don’t know what form the technology to fix children’s genes will be, lets make the discussion simpler and assume that it doesn’t kill embryos or involve any significant risks to the baby or the mother.
My gut approach to the general question of when its OK to fix children’s genes is the same approach I take to questions of when its OK to use surgery and medicine on living people to alter the natural course of affairs (which in practice turns out to be a discussion about when plastic surgery is OK). My gut always says that its OK to tamper when a person’s condition is below the human norm, which means, for example, that it would be OK to genetically edit out a child’s potential for spina bifida, or cancer, but not to give the child a high IQ. But this is all in the gut, and the gut, like William, can be a gay deceiver. (Har! What a comedian I am).
Anyway, assuming that my gut instinct is right, what does this tell us about tampering with a child’s latent genes for homosexuality? (For discussion on the likelihood that a predisposition to homosexuality has genetic causes, see here) I’m not sure it tells us much, and here’s why. Conditions like spina bifida are pure negatives. Folks who suffer from them sometimes get positive effects from struggling to overcome the condition, but the condition itself has no redeeming features. I’m not sure that is the case with a condition like homosexuality. From an LDS standpoint, the temptation towards homosexual acts and the barrier to heterosexual marriages are big negatives, but I just don’t think that homosexuality is purely a condition of sexual desire. I’m pretty sure that homosexual attraction involves brain chemistry and other elements of personality and character in unique ways that enrich the sum total of human experience. Also, even homosexuality were nothing more than same-sex attraction, sexual attraction is so tied up with our experience and being as humans that I would be hard pressed to see the attraction itself as a pure negative. I asked a lesbian friend who is completely committed to Christian beliefs whether she’d go for a medical change of her condition and her answer was that it was very complicated. I think she’s right.
Finally, several kinds of evidence shows that homosexuality may not be genetic but caused by the mother’s hormones or immune system. (For one example, see here). Does this change the calculus any? It does for my gut. I don’t know why, but changing genes sounds more intrusive into a child’s being than changing the environment does. In practice we try to influence our children environmentally all the time, and the scriptures and the prophets seem to approve.
So, readers, your insights:
1) How do we determine when it is morally OK to alter a child’s genetic make-up?
2) Given your answer to #1, would it be morally OK to alter a child so that it didn’t have homosexuality?
3) Does your answer change if its the biological environment in the womb being altered and not the child’s genes?
4) Does your answer change if the question is applied to an adult who is deciding whether to undergo treatment themselves?
Some ground rules:
1) Discussion should be consistent with the LDS view that homosexual behavior is wrong, that sealed heterosexual unions are our highest, best destiny, etc., and with the LDS view that homosexuality itself is not a sin. Commenters do not need to specifically affirm these ideas and it should not be understood that anyone commenting here necessarily accepts them. Nevertheless, discussion should either accept them arguendo or per impossibile, or should advance arguments that do not rely on the truth or falsity of these ideas.
2) Please avoid discussing legal action. This is a post about morality alone.
3) Please avoid redoing old debates on gay marriage and so on.