The Genesis Supremacy: A Comparison of Genesis with the Mesopotamian Epics (Part 1.)

An examination of the Mesopotamian corpus of epics, specifically their creation and flood mythologies, and the textual and narrative relationships between these and the Hebrew Book of Genesis.

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SCHOLARSHIP FROM THE 19TH CENTURY TO THE 21ST

It is now commonplace within secular history and among sceptics to claim that the Book of Genesis is derivative from a regional corpus of Mesopotamian religious epics. This corpus includes the well-known Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 1800 BC), the Enuma Elish (c. 700 BC), the Eridu Genesis (c. 1600 BC), and the Epic of Atrahasis (c. 1600 BC), and others (but see section on historical challenges for more details regarding dating).

The Mesopotamian texts are properly considered to form a family on the basis that they:

    1. Arose from within the same geographical region
    2. Reflect the influence of the Sumerian culture
    3. Either directly quote from each other, or share similar narrative material
    4. Are written in one of the two major languages of the region, Sumerian or Akkadian

Secular historians and sceptics argue that (1.) the Book of Genesis has a late origin, (2) the Book of Genesis is derivative from this collection of Mesopotamian literature and not in an independent narrative category of its own, and (3.) aspects of these foundation stories arise as literary products designed to address politico-cultural pressures.

As an example of (2), Neil deGrasse Tyson claims in one episode of the 2014 documentary series Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey that the story of the flood in the Book of Genesis was a “rewrite” of the Mesopotamian stories about Gilgamesh. An example of (3) can be found in the argument made by the translator and Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen that the Enuma Elish might reflect a Babylonian consciousness of being a upstart, parvenu state whose success came at the expense of its Sumerian cultural progenitor. Since the Enuma Elish features younger gods slaying their progenitors, Jacobsen suggests this may reflect a Babylonian national psychology in which the new empire was all too aware that its advancement was in a sense patricidal.

From a secularist point of view the historical logic that sees the Book of Genesis as a Hebrew appendage of the Mesopotamian corpus is impeccable. Logically, any text that originates later in time must be dependent on those that came earlier rather than the other way about; the first writings of the Book of Genesis are considerably younger than the earliest Sumerian poems, ergo, it is concluded that the Book of Genesis derives from Sumerian poetry.

Moreover, the secularist historian usually assesses cultural power on the basis of military power. Thus, a popular story or text from a militarily powerful region of the ancient world were likely to be exported to less powerful regions beyond its borders, whereas the reverse was more unlikely. Weaker states in the ancient world did not typically exert strong cultural influence upon stronger states (though it is not unheard of, as in the case of Greek influence on Rome). Since the Assyrian and Babylonian empires were strong military and cultural powers, the sceptic or secularist maintains that they must have perpetuated their culture well beyond their immediate borders, and this is why their stories influenced their weaker, neighbour Israel.

Given these arguments, it is hardly a mystery to discover in the interpretations and conjectures (for that is what they are) of both ancient historians and sceptics the claim being repeatedly made that Hebrew scribes plagerised from Mesopotamian scribes. It is claimed that the Hebrew scribes borrowed from already-extant Mesopotamian material, radically rewrote it, and cobbled together their own version of the myth.

The second article in this series will look at these claims in more depth but it is sufficient to say that this claim does not hang from evidence. Any confident declaration that the Book of Genesis is microwaved Mesopotamian mythology is built solely on one thing: that is, there is a narrative resemblance between some accounts in the Book of Genesis and some Mesopotamian myths. We may term this approach to historiography to be “parallelism”, which amounts to the argument that if x resembles y, then y must be dependent on x. No other evidence exists for dependence outside of this argument.

Obviously the Christian historian strongly rejects this conclusion for reasons that will be further explained in the second part of this series.

Nonetheless, Christian historians must take care not to dismiss the secular historian’s conclusions outright. Most of the secular historian’s conclusions are reasonable and sensible (in the domains that do not touch the historicity of the Book of Genesis, at least), and a good many of his assumptions were indeed pioneered by Christian Assyriologists. Most of the conclusions held by the secularist are rational and proper deductions that any properly trained Christian historian would also conclude for himself.

Therefore, the orthodox Christian historian can agree with the secular historian that inter-dependence exists between the Mesopotamian epics. In other words, a Mesopotamian story like Gilgamesh in the Standard Babylonian version clearly evolved from the earlier Sumerian poems that mention Gilgamesh’s adventures, and we can trace this evolution through the cuneiform tablets.

The Christian historian has no need to reject the clear evidence of the development of these epics as if the fact that the Mesopotamian epics grew over time somehow means that the Book of Genesis is just another developmental branch on the tree. While sceptics certainly make this claim (and on this basis), we can cleave that argument apart by simply demonstrating that the conclusion is not even remotely logically inevitable. Again, this will be explored more in part two of this series.

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Thus, we must (and do) recognise that the Mesopotamian epics evolved and expanded over time from a common Sumerian source. This evolution saw the stories split into different versions and grow with the telling.

The case of the flood story found in the Standard Babylonian version of Gilgamesh is a textbook case. The story unquestionably began in an oral tradition and then was converted into Sumerian poetry. During the second millennium BC the story experienced change, until it settled into a fixed and final form in the first millennium BC.

Tracing the cuneiform evidence, we see how earlier iterations of the story are far simpler and shorter. The flood story in Atrahasis is less than 70 lines long, even accounting for the lacunae. On the other hand, the final version of Gilgamesh is between 300 – 400 lines long and tells the story in florid, fanciful and extended detail with extra material about capricious gods and goddesses and their excessively emotional reactions to the flood they themselves unleashed. On the other hand, the earlier versions of Gilgamesh (the fragmentary “Old Babylonian” tablets) do not include the flood story at all to the best of archaeological knowledge.

The differences in detail between the stories across various works are substantial. The differences include so basic a detail as the name of the hero himself (was he called Atrahasis, Ziusudra, or Utanapishtim?). Moreover, these changes appear to be have been deliberate scribal decisions given that Gilgamesh quotes several lines verbatim from Atrahasis – which indicates the scribe had access to the earlier text – but yet gives quite a different account, even contradicting the earlier account in regards to the role of the principle deity, Ea \ Enki.

We can deduce from this evidence without any threat to the Book of Genesis or our intellectual integrity that an original flood story expanded over time within the Mesopotamian culture. Both the Christian and the secular historian agree here!

Where the Christian and secular historian disagree, however, is on the status of the Book of Genesis and how it relates to the Mesopotamian narrative family. The secular historian claims the Hebrew text is derivative because it is a later composition and contains narrative similarities to a range of Mesopotamian texts, not just of the flood, but of creation, and the confusion of the tongues and so on. The Christian historian rejects this conclusion for reasons explained in part two of this series.

The secular historian and Christian can agree, nonetheless, that a distinct genre of myth arose in Mesopotamia centred around a “sacred origins” story. Christians can also agree with the secularist that this story was probably transmitted from an exceedingly ancient oral tradition. Its appearance in numerous forms and in multiple sources in the area (and even outside of the area, such as Egypt) indicate that the story had a widespread currency and significance. There is further evidence of competition to “claim” the story, and stamp upon it a particular city’s deity.

Nonetheless, the Christian historian must insist on fairness for the Book of Genesis. Although the Book of Genesis was probably written at least two hundred years later than the earliest Mesopotamian tablets, this does not logically dictate that the Hebrew scribes sourced their material directly from the earlier Mesopotamian cuneiform texts as sceptics are wont to claim.

The fact that the Book of Genesis contains a tremendous volume of narrative and discursive detail found in none of the Mesopotamian epics; has a radically different cultural outlook; a radically different moral emphasis; a different narrative setting; and its narrative is firmly tethered within the recognisably natural world, all indicates originality and not mere derivation, a conclusion an honest handler of the sources would have to agree with. Indeed, the bulk of the material in the Book of Genesis is entirely novel. Moreover, the Book of Genesis actually violently disagrees with the Mesopotamian epics upon far more than that with which it agrees, to such an extent that the Book of Genesis may be fairly and properly said to present entirely new stories to those found in the Mesopotamian epics.

A Christian historian would argue therefore that the Book of Genesis does not belong in the Mesopotamian corpus of epics on the flimsy basis of some narrative similarities, any more than one should argue that the Islamic account of Noah belongs in the Mesopotamian corpus, or that legends of Robin Hood – the so-called “good thief” – is derivative from the New Testament that records a thief’s confession of Jesus.

Neither should we assume Hebrew dependence upon Mesopotamian tablets. That is an assumption without warrant. Certainly, if oral stories in traditional societies can be transmitted for thousands of years, and can even continue to be transmitted despite the freezing winter of an alphabetic culture that continually longs to standardise stories, so too could oral transmission provide a source for the Hebrew scribes, as we will see in part two of this series.

As is usual within sceptical, secular history, texts of the Old Testament are generally pulled forward in time to make them less ancient (in the same manner that secular historians usually push the texts of the New Testament forward in order to move them further from the time of the events they narrate). By massaging the dates of the texts, the overall effort is to try to make them seem less historically reliable and safe. The Book of Genesis has most definitely been subject to this sort of process.

Since the late 1700’s, and particularly during the sceptical and turbulent scholastic upheavals in the 1800’s, critical scholarship has come to claim that the Book of Genesis contains composite sources within the text, the so-called J, E, and P sources. Since the 1970’s, a great deal of debate has circulated around this documentary hypothesis with some scholars challenging the dating of the three supposed sources, and others seriously challenging whether the sub-sources even exist. Certainly, there is no external textual evidence for these sources, and so these critical claims rest atop successive accretions of assumptions, assertions, conjectures and projections.

In any case, critical source analysis allows secular ancient historians to shave many centuries from some material in the Book of Genesis. Following the textual critics, some historians date some aspects of the Book of Genesis as late as the 5th century BC, and other aspects only as early as the 10th century BC. In contradistinction, the nearly-universal and ancient attestation of the Church and of the rabbinical scribes is that the Book of Genesis was written by Moses sometime around 1400 BC.

It does not help that secular historians frequently display a distinct and peculiar prejudice against the Book of Genesis, especially in regard to its relationship with the Mesopotamian epics. This bias is uncovered by assumptions that are appear to be rooted in a desire to flatten the Book of Genesis into the general blend of Mesopotamian myth.

For example, in his commentary on the Atrahasis, Professor Mark asserts that the hero of the epic, Atrahasis, was directed by the gods to take “two of every kind of animal on the ark” in order to preserve life. Yet neither the existent tablets of Atrahasis nor its older progenitor Sumerian text (the Eridu Genesis) say anything about the number of animals taken on the boat. If anything, the Eridu Genesis suggests that only a sub-set of animals were taken on the boat since it refers several times to “small animals”.

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Both the Atrahasis and the Eridu Genesis (above) are fragmentary tablets with sizeable lacunae spaced throughout their narrative – that is, missing lines or gaps in the text. Lacunae appear at precisely the points where the heroes board the boat. In notes on these lacunae the translators have sought to supply probable narrative content, but oddly enough in some cases have relied upon the biblical Book of Genesis to do so. This is strange because it is interpolating details from a supposedly less ancient text that has also supposedly been subject to centuries of Hebrew revision, back into a more ancient one. The overall effect of these editorial notations in the gaps of the tablets, of course, is to suggest similarities between the biblical text and the Mesopotamian epics for which there is no evidence outside of translator whimsy and conjecture.

In any case, not once but twice Professor Joshua J Mark asserts in his commentary on the Atrahasis that two of every animal was loaded on the boat, when this is most definitely untrue. He makes this error, it would seem, in his rush to exaggerate the similarities between the deluge accounts and thereby minimise any originality of the account found in the Book of Genesis. This bias is more fully developed later in his article where he devotes a considerable amount of space to claiming that traditional Christian historiography has been overturned on the basis of “irrefutable evidence”, though he provides no hint of what that irrefutable evidence might be.

CONTEXT, ORIGINS AND CHALLENGES

Mesopotamia is a diagonal territory that extends from the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean sea in southern Turkey all the way down to the top of the Persian Gulf on the eastern side of Saudi Arabia – roughly following the rivers Tigris and Euphrates which flow through the area.

Ancient Mesopotamia gave birth to a number of cultures, powerful city states, and “superstate” empires. The earliest was the Sumerian civilisation located in the south of Mesopotamia. It was the Sumerians who developed a method of imprinting symbols on wet clay tablets called cuneiform. A wedge-shaped reed would be used by a scribe to make impressions on the clay, and the final product would then be baked. Unlike perishable materials like papyrus or vellum, fired clay is hardy. It is not vulnerable to mould or fungus, does not quickly decay outside of a narrow band of humidity, for example, neither is it subject to mechanical fatigue like a roll of vellum that is repeatedly handled.

The Sumerian civilisation is considered to be one of the oldest in the world if not the oldest, even more ancient than that of the Egyptian or Chinese civilisations. Certainly, the Sumerians themselves were conscious of their own antiquity and claimed for themselves the oldest city in the world, Eridu, possibly founded as early as 5400 BC. Significant city states emerged in Sumer, some recognisable to a reader of scripture, such as Ur.

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Around 2300 – 2400 BC, the Sumerian civilisation was subsumed into the Akkadian Empire by its first ruler and conqueror, Sargon of Akkad who defeated the Sumerian city states and welded them into what is sometimes considered the world’s first empire. Peculiarly, this empire united both speakers of two languages, Sumerian and Akkadian, making it quite possibly one of the first bilingual societies.

Eventually the upstart Akkadian language displaced its Sumerian rival, and Sumerian became the language of scholars and priests in a similar way to which the Latin language has functioned until recently.

Inevitably, the Akkadian Empire crumbled and divided into the Assyrian Empire to the north and the short-lived Babylonian Empire to the south. Both empires spoke Akkadian, although differences evolved within the language. But in time, with the rise and fall of the states in the region, the Akkadian language too suffered the same fate as its Sumerian predecessor, and became the language of scholars and religion until it was absorbed by the Aramaic language that would later be spoken by our Lord.

The transitions between these periods are marked with countless upheavals. There are numerous wars, the rises and falls of powerful and semi-autonomous city states, competition between rival rulers and dynasties, and climactic change (the city-state of Ur, for instance, was at one time situated on the edge of the Euphrates whereas its ruins today are nearly 20 km from the river). Empires expanded and contracted, and there were sudden reversals of national fortune. There are records of periods of extreme mismanagement leading to famine, as well as some periods of relative stability. Eventually, the region was invaded by powerful outsiders in the form of Greeks and Romans.

During this time, the Mesopotamian culture produced large repositories of cuneiform texts which have been unearthed from “libraries” in the ruins of ancient cities. These texts cover everything from law to medicine to religion. Primarily they cover administrative and legal matters, but a sizeable minority address sacred matters. Some of these religious texts are the earliest written material known to history.

The oldest, predictably, are written in Sumerian while later texts are written in Akkadian. Some, like the Enuma Elish are focused on Babylonian culture and supremacy, while others, like the Epic of Gilgamesh lionise actual historical rulers such as King Gilgamesh who once ruled the Sumerian city state of Uruk.

The interplay between this crackle of variables – or, perhaps better, a regional cauldron of pressures and forces – presents all of the linguistic and interpretive challenges usual to the study of ancient history, with an additional set of difficulties that arise from exploring ancient sources that contain elements of the narrative material sacred to the orthodoxies of the world’s monotheistic faiths. For a sceptical secularist, the opportunity to cast doubt on those orthodox certainties is often irresistible.

The task of the scholar, then, involves:

  1. Properly dating the physical texts
  2. Working out the inter-textual relationships between the sources
  3. Understanding the relationship between the text and its society or culture
  4. Properly translating the texts
  5. Piecing together and interpreting fragmentary texts
  6. Properly placing variants of the texts into a larger sequence

Despite ringing declarations of “irrefutable proof” by Professor Mark (who is not, it appears, trained in history but rather in philosophy) and sceptics for whom the primary motive of their writing is often to do a simplistic demolition job on the Book of Genesis rather than really engage in complex and meaningful history, none of these tasks can be completed easily or in full. Conjecture is always the constant companion of the ancient historian. Beware anyone who speaks in triumphal tones about history far distant!

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The complexity of the work is substantial.

For instance, task one (1), though it is the most basic task of the historian, is not at all straightforward when it is considered that the physical remains – in our case, the cuneiform tablets – are not the same thing as the content. Or, put another way, just because a historian can date the tablets themselves does not mean they have also dated the stories told by the tablets although this mistake is frequently made by the layperson or the sceptic. It is important to recognise these two elements are not congruent and hot debate surrounds the age of the various Mesopotamian epics.

To use a modern example, if future historians were to unearth a black and white movie on DVD in the rubble of our civilisation they might readily date the movie to the late 20th century or the early 21st century on the basis that it was distributed on a plastic disc. They would not, however, be able to date the content so easily. Many complications present themselves even in so brief a span of time as cinematography has existed.

For example, the movie might have been filmed in black and white for effect by modern arts students, or it might be a restored copy of a wartime cinema flick. It might be in black and white because it is a pirated copy of a colour edition, or it might be a composite production using material separated in time by a hundred years (e.g. 1920’s material enhanced with special effects from the year 2020).

Even without supposing these elaborate possibilities, the future historian would still have to wrestle with the fact that black and white movies were commonplace for at least thirty years, and so the movie could fit into a wide scope of time.

The same complexities are not just present but all the greater for the Mesopotamian epics. It is a substantial challenge to date the physical cuneiform tablets on the basis of clues in their language, or references to lists of kings, or the strata in which they were found, or the dialect in which they were written, or their location relative to other tablets, or distinctive scribal flourishes and colophons. The result is that to even speak of singular dates for the physical material is either misleading or flatly ridiculous. This has not, however, stopped many sceptics and websites giving definitive dates for this or that clay tablet and assuming that its content is as old.

One of the world’s foremost experts in the Gilgamesh epic, Professor Andrew R. George, spent 16 years collecting all extant sources into a two volume critical edition. This seminal work includes George’s first hand study of all of the cuneiform tablets and the creation of reliable pen and ink copies of the cuneiform script. This definitive work, published in 2003, describes the explosive trend of the previous 70 years since the last academic edition by archaeologist R. Campbell Thompson who excavated Ur and later Nineveh in 1931. New discoveries have greatly multiplied the numbers of sources for the Gilgamesh epic. For example George points out that in 1930 just four fragments older than 1000 BC was known to Thompson and other scholars, whereas by 2003 archaeological effort had uncovered 33. In 1930, 108 first millennium BC fragments were known, whereas by 2003 this had nearly doubled to 184.

The Standard Babylonian Version compiled by George Smith in the late 1860’s, which is still the most common model of Gilgamesh for scholars since, was pieced together from between 15,000 fragments to 30,000 fragments (this latter figure supplied by Morris Jastrow and Albert Clay in 1920, both experts in their era). The avalanche of new discoveries of fragments of Gilgamesh from all over Mesopotamia, with wide differences in their dates, has led to an increasingly complete version of the epic. Nonetheless, it is constituted from a Frankenstein assemblage of tablets from a range of places, dates, and in varying conditions.

Certainly, as Professor Andrew George points out, the second millennium BC tablets are fragmentary and even the first millennium tablets are far from complete, but enough text survives to allow a provisional outline of its evolution. It is clear that the very fragmentary Old Babylonian tablets differ markedly from the earliest references to the character of Gilgamesh that appear in the most ancient texts, these being the five Sumerian poems that feature “episodes” of Gilgamesh’s adventures.

Thus, in some ways the crude dating of the tablets is the easiest task that faces the secular historian or archaeologist, for it is a far more complex matter to date the stories themselves and trace their evolution. The transmission of the stories from the five Sumerian poems, into the disparate and composite Old Babylonian set of fragments with numerous differences, into the standardised imprints of the epic that now comprise the Standard Babylonian Version shows numerous changes. Of course, why the epic changed is open to conjecture, as is the question as to where the expanded material came from.

It is agreed that the older works bear the unmistakable features of an exceedingly ancient oral source, but even so, by the time they were imprinted onto cuneiform tablets the very medium itself bears witness to the fact that a scribal school had emerged. The Sumerian scribes undoubtedly would have modified the oral form of the text – perhaps polished it, or added their own personal touches, or enhanced it with more drama, or refined it to make it more suited to high-class consumption than it might have been in its minstrel or popular origins. Andrew George suggests that the oldest Sumerian poems featuring Gilgamesh were probably forms of court entertainment whereas by the first millennium the extended form of Gilgamesh was a standard copy-book.

Once we reach the frontier of the cuneiform texts, what lies before the historian are the uncertain oral mists of time. At this point, tracing the story is impossible. The origins of the flood and creation accounts are all but impossible to pinpoint or explain in the absence of any evidence, and in the face of the notorious difficulties of accessing oral traditions. We may say that the stories arose from the region, but we cannot say much more than that. Nonetheless, it is agreed – both the Christian and secular historian can say together – that a deep, pervasive, and culturally-significant oral tradition existed which must originally have featured a flood story (or stories), and a creation account.

Task five (5) is a permanent challenge. Many of the cuneiform tablets are cracked or splintered; some exist in a slurry of shards with the texts assembled from different copies; and lines of text are missing – sometimes many lines of text – from even the most complete tablets (e.g. the Enuma Elish, though largely pieced together from multiple fragmentary copies, still has large numbers of lacunae sprinkled throughout its seven tablets, and substantial lacunae obliterating much of Tablet V).

As mentioned already, tasks two (2), five (5) and six (6) are necessarily given that there are several versions of some of the stories. The flood narrative, for example, greatly expanded over time by the time we get to Tablet XI of Gilgamesh in the Standard Babylonian Version. The same narrative appears only in a far briefer form in older Sumerian poetry.

Task four (4) is a perennial problem that will last as long as time itself. As with the translation of any long disused language, difficulties exist when identifying the meaning of ambiguous terms and words. A really full and perfect understanding of some ancient texts may well be impossible to ever attain. It is one thing to decipher words themselves, it is quite another to grasp shades of meaning, contextual allusions, subtleties, word play, literary images, jokes, and the rest of the panoply of meaning conveyed by text. All texts, after all, assume a reader who is thoroughly immersed in the cultural context. Outside of that cultural bubble, meaning starts to be lost. Anyone who has ever casually used a native idiom in another country will be familiar with the shedding of meaning, even when both speakers share the same language!

This is sometimes evident in translations of Gilgamesh, which are subject to correction by later improvements in understanding of Akkadian. Translators are sometimes swayed by their own points of reference in their translation choices. For instance, it is clear that more than a few translators of Gilgamesh were heavily influenced by the Bible – whether from pure motives or perverse is irrelevant – and therefore sometimes translated phrases from the Gilgamesh tablets to resemble the narrative they knew in the Book of Genesis.

For example part of the flood narrative of Gilgamesh tells how his boat at lasts comes to rest. Most translators speak of it alighting on “Mount Nimush” (modern Mount Nasir) in similitude of the “Mount Ararat” mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

Yet the underlying Akkadian word is more directly rendered “hill” (possibly “mound”), not mountain. In the Sumerian language although the word is directly translated “mountains”, it is well understood that this was intended to convey the meaning of “foreign country” since the Sumerian civilisation was bordered by a mountainous region. An alternative translation, therefore, is that the boat settled in the “country of Nimush”, not on the mountain of Nimush.

Translators have likewise adopted linguistic license when translating the text where Gilgamesh leaves the boat and makes an offering. Most older translators of the text have written it in such a way that it refers to Gilgamesh making a sacrifice/offering/pouring out a libation “on the peak of the mountain”. But the original text unquestionably contains the word ziggurat which older translators have simply deleted from the text.

Ziggurats were the religious temple towers or elevated platforms commonly constructed in Mesopotamian cities. They had the rough appearance of a flat-topped mountain.

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There is no good reason to discard the word ziggurat from any English translation. Older translations have deleted the word on no greater authority than merely following the precedent set by previous translations. They have argued that the word “ziggurat” is mere a textual redundancy or scribal flourish that refers to mountains, and since the Book of Genesis refers to Mount Ararat, they interpolate it into their translation.

But what kind of argument is this? It is the mere assertion of parallels; the assumption of a metaphor that is not at all apparent; and with zero evidence a claim that the original writer used the word ziggurat in a disposable manner.

In recognition of the weakness of this older view, newer translations have restored the word ziggurat and now speak of Gilgamesh making his offering “in front of a mountain ziggurat”. One translation uses the phrase “on top of a hilly ziggurat”. Both translations at least do a more credible job of presenting the underlying language without the assumptions and biases made by older translators, who, when faced with a linguistic ambiguity or oddity, seemed to err on the side of making Gilgamesh more closely resemble the narrative in the Book of Genesis.

The above tasks of the ancient historian are never done, which means that we can never achieve absolute certainty about aspects of these texts. Assumptions always have to be made. Ancient history invariably involves making assumptions.

Some of the resulting conclusions from these assumptions are decidedly sensible and there are points upon which both secularist and theist would agree. Other conclusions, however, are reasonable and rational only if one has a secular worldview prior to working with the historiography. Thus, demands to accept the products of such secularism is essentially tantamount to demanding a person should also accept the secularism that gave rise to the conclusion.

For Christians whose worldview is fundamentally supernatural such assumptions and conclusions must rejected from the outset. A believing, orthodox Christian can survey the world of these tablets and stories, of ziggurats and dysfunctional families of deities,  and come to very divergent conclusions that are also historically reasonable. We are not doomed to disbelief, or chained to scepticism, or must lapse into intellectual dishonesty as the only outcome of investigating the ancient past, which sadly is the presumption of too many secular historians, irrational though it actually is.

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The Effect of the Absence of Judgement in Modern Preaching

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In the background of the biblical narrative lies the threatening clouds of judgement. There is hardly a book in the Bible that does not touch on this great theme at some point. From beginning to end, the storm clouds of judgement roll through the pages of scripture until they dissipate forever in the glimpse of the New Jerusalem in the last chapters.

Even the crucifixion of Jesus when rightly understood is a legal transaction betwen the Son and the Father, in which the former carries the judicial penalty of sin on behalf of repentant sinners. The fact that judgement is inextricably entwined with the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, is used by the apostles as an urgent warning that the wrath of God must be taken very seriously. To trample upon the blood of the Messiah leaves one with no forgiveness of sins, even if he performs mountains of good works.

Our first encounter of judgement is found in the opening of Genesis. Already, we are to understand that a fallen angel, Satan, had been cast out of heaven and had grown maximally evil and malignant. We infer that a terrible rebellion had taken place and an equally terrible judgment had been meted out to the disobedient angels.

Judgement quickly appears in the life of humankind. No sooner are they created, God warns the man and the woman that disobedience will lead to death. This is tragically demonstrated when our first parents are expelled from the garden of Eden and the gate is guarded by a fiercesome power that prevents re-admission.

Later, as the human race expands and grows exceedingly sinful God finally sends a promised judgement in the form of a global catastrophe. The Flood of Noah, which nowadays is maligned and scoffed at by sophisticated moderns, is used by the Lord Jesus as a template for what we may expect in the future. Thus it is that the story of the human race is bookended with judgement.

Notably, God did not reserve these judgements only for sinful unbelievers. In the Pentateuch, God outlined progressively more serious judgements (or “curses”) that would befall Israel should it disobey his law. Regrettably, the Old Testament unflinchingly reveals a church that perpetually falls into sin. Over and over again, Israel turned from God to idols; and their worship became trival and hollow.

As a result, the prophets of God spent a lot of their time either trying to impress upon their hearers the importance of obedience, or trying to call their nation back to God. They sought to reform, correct, and warn. For this reason many of the prophets came to a violent end. They said things that their rebellious countrymen simply did not want to hear. And when people habitually sin, enjoy sin, and make sin a core aspect of their personality and life, it tends to produce explosive results when such men are reminded of ultimate accountability before a holy God.

Despite the poisonous spiritual toxins of the peddlers of the prosperity gospel, the threat of judgement does not end with the coming of Christ. Although Christ certainly came to save men’s lives and not to condemn, yet for all of his kindly and gracious entreaties, Christ the Incarnation of God is still presented by scripture as the faithful witness who proclaims frequently the theme of judgement and of hell.

Repeatedly the Lord calls people to obedience. His parables draw sharp and urgent lines across the religious landscape. Jesus leaves us with vivid images of unprepared men and women who are surprised by the sudden return of the Master or the coming of the Bridegroom. Or, if we look to another of Christ’s signature images, he gives to us the graphic picture of the closed door with men and women locked on the wrong side of it, knocking in vain to be admitted.

At the end of the Bible, in the Revelation, the glorified Christ sends seven churches some letters from heaven. Seldom in scripture do we receive such a sense of the intimate closeness between heaven and earth; between Lord and church than here. The boundary line between time and eternity seems to blur and bend on these pages.

Through the pen of St. John, the Lord Jesus who once walked on earth speaks to his foundation churches who are buffeted by the world, persecution, heresies, and “faith decay”. The letters reveal a Christ who is fully aware of the struggles of his church in an ungodly age, the struggles we share still today. The phrase “I know” appears in all of them. Christ knows his people’s works, where they live, and their inner disposition. He knows because he is always observing his church.

Yet, these letters warn the five of the seven churches of imminent judgement upon them. Jesus tells them that due to their present spiritual condition they have strayed from his expectations, and if they do not immediately amend their ways, their lampstand (or candlestick) will be taken away, presumably extinguished.

Regardless, then, of systems and schemes of theology that seek to downplay these warnings and make Christianity all about blessing and feeling good, the New Testament’s consistent backdrop is the urgent need to escape from coming judgement.

Moreover, if scripture illumines anything for us, it is that the judgements of God are not to be taken lightly. From Sodom to Babylon; from Moab to Edom, when God’s hammer fell, the devestation was indescribable. Even the Old Testament church was not spared God’s wrath.

The judgements that fell upon Israel were often described by writers (like Josephus, and also unbelieving gentile writers like Tacitus) as being apocalyptic in nature. They were accompanied with strange signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. For example, the Roman historian Tacitus reports that prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, people spoke of a rushing wind leaving the temple which Tacitus interpreted as “the gods” exiting the temple. Josephus records similar cosmic phenomena.

Each time judgement fell on Israel, entire generations were extinguished and only a small remnant was left. After years of warning, God’s judgement on the disobedient northern kingdom of Israel permanently destroyed its nationhood and extinguished its tribes. They were taken captive to the gentile nations, after which their identity was absorbed by the “peoples of the land” around them.

Meanwhile, the southern kingdom headed by the chosen tribe of Judah, went into exile and thereafter fell into various forms of subjection by gentile powers. Finally, in 70 AD Jerusalem itself faced a supreme judgement for their rejection of the Messiah.

Wracked by nationalist rebellion, three Jewish factions siezed control of Jerusalem. Rent by divisions, they coordinated their defence poorly and consequently the city was sacked by Roman armies. Judgement fell during Passover when the city was choked with maximum numbers of observant Jews. Josephus estimates that more than a million people were slain by the Romans. The elderly were killed. Tens of thousands enslaved, many of whom perished in the arenas for the amusement of their Roman captors. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem sent shockwaves throughout the remaining Jews, and contributed to a psychology of lamentation and despairing traditions of abandonment.

The Jewish people themselves dispersed like seeds on the wind throughout the gentile world. To such an extent did this diaspora dissolve nationhood that as recently as the mid-1800’s only about 10,000 Jewish families resided in Jerusalem.

As terrible and awful this judgement upon Jerusalem might have been, the New Testament warns of an even worse judgement than this. It speaks of a global judgement on all people’s and nations that will be so terrible and dreadful that it will herald the end of the world. This will be the final judgement upon every human being who has ever lived, with none other than God himself rendering a final verdict from which there is no appeal. It is an inescapable appointment for mankind – for both the dead and the living – since God has the power to raise the dead. The legions of self-satisfied sinners, cruel tyrants, evil slaveholders, urban celebrities, and hardened atheists who think by dying they have escaped accountability will discover that death is not the fortress they hoped it would be.

On that day, which the prophet Zechariah describes as a long day, the human race will be assembled and the whole history of the world will be read out and judged. Every secret will be made public; every wrong will be righted. On that day “stripes” (to use Jesus’ language) will be justly apportioned. Every wicked blow will be paid back thousand-fold. Every torturer will himself be tortured. Evil leaders will be subjugated in hell suffering the misery they meted out to others.

Men will be assigned places in hell or gifted places in heaven. Every good Christian deed will receive its eternal treasure. Every evil deed will receive its eternal censure. Men will be placed on pedestals of shame and glory, and there will be order.

God will be magnified over his creation. And for one time only before men are sent to their everlasting destinations, the whole human race will kneel before him – just as the human race should have from the beginning of time – and will acknowledge “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Yet, for all of this unmissable emphasis on judgement in God’s word, it is astonishing how absent it is from modern preaching, modern hymnody, and the concerns of modern theological publications. One may fairly see in this a sign of the times we live in, and the worrying direction in which many self-proclaimed Christians and churches are headed. Here we behold a form of religiosity but without power, which is to say, without obedience.

The lack of emphasis on biblical doctrines of judgement help nobody. Whereas the regular preaching of judgement tends to create believers who:

    1. Have a focus on self-purification (for all who have hope, purify themselves)
    2. Have a strong sense of spiritual urgency
    3. Are innoculated against downgraded versions of the faith
    4. Are missional and evangelical
    5. Provides a concrete reality during spiritual crises or struggles

I have had personal experience of the last item on this list. When I was at college many years ago, I had a crisis of faith which lasted for several years. It was a period of intense depression, and an unending search for truth. Most of my college years were not spent actively pursuing my studies – which seemed pointless in the absence of my faith – but reading voraciously anything that I thought would give me some insight or glimpse as to what was true.

I can never forget that crushing desire to find out what was true that I might believe it. It was like nothing else that I have experienced before or sin. And I see now from the vantage point of twenty years that this urgency was propelled by an underlying fear of missing it, of believing error, and thereby failing to reach the eternal mark.

Unconsciously, doctrines of judgement had so shaped my thinking that even when the bottom fell out of my faith, they quietly worked to produce urgency and activity to resolve burning questions. Apathy was a non-option. How can one be apathetic in the face of eternal accountability?

I remember having conversations with my fellow students on issues of faith. Most were extremely nominal Christians who had a lackadaisical religion. They attended church infrequently. The salvation of their own soul certainly had a low priority on their list. None of them believed in eternal judgement in a biblical sense. They either believed the secular fiction that all “good people” go to heaven, or they believed that if hell existed, it was reserved only for the really wicked people, like Hitler.

They did not share my feverish interest or desparation. I found it disheartening when I saw their eyes glaze over in boredom or embarrassment when the subject turned to God. I found it impossible to understand why their voices lifted with excitement at talk of parties and drinking. These latter motivated them far more than acceptance by God. I could not understand the flabbiness of what they professed to believe. 

On those rare occassions when there was a more orthodox expression of Christianity, it too seemed weak at the edges. It shied away from controversy or firm expressions of principle. It had the strength of wet lettuce and therefore the staying power of the same.

I came to develope a fear and revulsion for such religion because even in the midst of my personal purgatory of doubt, I knew that such weak, anemic “Christianity” bore no resemblance to the fiery, robust, confident faith preached by Christ or his Apostles.

Thus, the doctrines of judgement propelled me inexorably in the right direction, even when I did not understand why, and even when I lapsed into sin and worldliness. It was precisely because I lived in terror of being on the wrong side of the eternal Judge one day that I kept moving, searching, and knocking. Fear generated a desperation to find truth.

The doctrines of judgement are thus not only true – and therefore ought to be preached and meditated on frequently – but are also necessary. Yes, necessary, to produce a genuine Christian. The sort of Christian that Jesus desires.

The doctrines of judgement sanctifies through terror.

If this sentence is problematic for you, then you might need to consider that you have imbibed too deeply the lessons of our culture which is saturated with pop-psychology, positive-thinking and feel-goodism. It teaches us that no good arises from terror. We want to be terribly positive, which is to say, we want to feel good about ourselves. Yet, terror can be a far more powerful influencer for good, and God’s word never sinks into the sugarwater of positive thinking. Truth is always good, but it is not always pleasant, or kind to the ego.

It is by terror of God’s wrath that Christianity produces believers that become concurrently haters of sin and lovers of good. The doctrines of judgement illuminate the soul and cause us to realise how holy God is and how dreadful the wages of sin is.

Furthermore, only the doctrines of judgement equip a believer with the capacity to fully appreciate the love and grace of God, which like a bright star is most vividly seen when it stands against the blackness of the night. As a red silhoutte vanishes against a red background but leaps into existence when displayed against a black one, so it is that the love of God becomes most radiant and properly accessable when witnessed against the background of the terror of his justice.

A lively awareness of our terrible need and the expansion of our love for Christ invariably takes place in the blazing light of the truth of coming judgement. When this is missing, believers are quickly absorbed into temporal affairs, worldly concerns, and lacklustre dedication to living a holy life.

The Hype of Covid-19

Senior man with mask walking on the street

As Covid-19 makes its way across the globe, we have witnessed a truly astounding degree of hysteria. Face masks are in such short supply that there are not enough for doctors; toilet paper has become a scarce commodity in many Western nations; severe restrictions on individual liberties have been imposed by most countries; and we are continually bombarded by the media with the idea that Covid-19 is a most severe illness.

This message has been dinned deeply into the minds of many people. Since cleverness in the 21st century is characterised by uncritical assent to authorities and the broad messages of the media class, this has led people to react as if the Bubonic Plague were on the march again.

Rare indeed is it to find anyone who musters up the intellectual fortitude to question the prevailing narrative. If you should encounter someone who is capable of thinking differently in this day and age, they should be seized upon as if they were gold. Unfortunately, even Christians have singularly failed to live up to the command of St. Paul to be renewed in our minds, and thus exercise independent rational thought that is strong enough to oppose that which is popular and current.

If the exhortation “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” means anything, surely it means (in part) just this.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great evangelical preacher of the 20th century, in a sermon on this topic observed that he had lived to see a trend whereby experts and authorities had been accorded the properties of a high priest.

“In the old days,” he said, “a patient would see a doctor and the doctor would tell the patient what he thought was wrong. The patient would then make an effort to understand the problem, and the treatment, and would believe himself capable of making up his own mind as to whether he should do as his doctor suggested.”

But, the good doctor opined, he had lived to see a great change take place in society where the patient comes to believe his mind is so much the inferior to that of the doctor that he would meekly accept whatever he is told without expending any effort at all to understand the treatment to which his physician will subject him.

Part of renewing our minds, Lloyd-Jones insisted, is to be determined to think differently from the world around us. To be independent in thought and reason, as guided by the word of God. It is to understand that our God-given brains allow us to critically weigh what we are told, and to critically consider the reliability even of experts and authorities.

This leads me to the sheer nonsense of mortality figures for Corvid-19 that abound.

A reputable Stanford epidemiologist has written a calm rebuttal to the general hysteria, and the mishandling of statistics by journalists (and others) who simply do not understand how to make sense of them.

Professor John Ioannidis says that if we were unable to test for coronavirus, it would be undetectable and unnoticed against the “background noise” of regular influenza. At worst, he says, we might perhaps casually note that flu season was a bit more severe this year than normal but we would not otherwise detect anything out of the ordinary.

He points out that the death rate of the virus has been wildly inflated by journalists who have adapted mortality profiles from cruise ships carrying a disproportionate number of elderly people. These statistics have then been applied to society at large. Other statistics are largely based on the cases presenting at hospitals, which are inevitably the most severe. To date, none of the statistical calculations grapples with the fact that there is an unknown number of very mild or asymptomatic cases.

Given this, how the heck can anyone develop a meaningful mortality profile without knowing the sum of cases in existence? It defies fundamental mathematics.

The professor estimates the average mortality rate at around 1% – consistent with increasing evidence across jurisdictions – and possibly as low as 0.5%. Essentially a bad cold, regardless of what a sensationalist and a panicked government might try to suggest.

This entire crisis is manufactured by fear, irrationality, melodrama, and paranoia. It is fuelled by apocalyptic visions of overburdened hospitals and mountains of dead. Even supposedly reputable media outlets have suggested “millions will die”. There has been a welter of the most dire predictions based on selective statistics as if these were predictions. But statistics are not predictions. They merely tell us what has been counted in the past. They are, essentially, historical data sets. Not prophecies.

Then selective manipulation of data does the rest. One of the worst instances of this has been the commentary about Italy.

Remember, as high as the mortality rate in Italy may seem (to use but one example), 3,400 deaths from coronavirus over several months* is dwarfed by the normative death rate from all causes.

In Italy there are 10.6 deaths per 1,000 head of population, which translates to 53,000 deaths per month or 650,000ish per year. Would the country really have noticed an increase in mortality of a two or three thousand more per month distributed over the whole country if nobody knew anything about coronavirus, if nobody could test for it, and if there were not relentless panic and worry from all quarters? Would it have been noticeable if there had been a monthly count of 56,000 deaths instead of 53,000?

Certainly, Italians may have noticed that their chaotic medical system was more chaotic than usual, but this is the side effect of poor administration in a nation with the second oldest population in the world, and not necessarily the disease itself. Disease is often a matter of context. For instance, healthy adults do not typically fear outbreaks of Whooping Cough, but if this disease were to appear in nurseries full of small infants we would quickly need emergency care for many small patients. We might find shortages of necessary equipment and we might witness similar chaotic scenes to those of Italian hospitals, especially if a medical system were mismanaged. That does not inevitably mean that such a disease is so much a threat that we need to grind the economy to dust to stop it.

The problem is, the bombardment of this poor quality information comes from sources people unquestioningly and uncritically believe. Indeed, the average person who flatters themselves as wise these days has been conditioned to believe that not thinking for oneself and simply accepting a version of reality from an authority is actually a sign of intelligence.

*Figure current when this article was originally circulated on social media

Atheists Meltdown in Debate

 

Hot off the Youtube presses – 3 October, 2019. The long-anticipated debate between Jeff Durbin and James White, and the atheists Greg Clark and Dan Ellis.

Man, this debate is a trainwreck! There were so many moments that left me blinking in astonishment. Greg Clark spewed a litany of sarcasm – the whole kitchen sink that ranged from Godzilla, Thor, Joseph Smith, “voices in your head” – and made an absolute fool of himself. My favourite part was when Clark started to bellow that the Bible was clearly made up because the four evangelists had names like Luke and John. “Can you really imagine people called Luke and John running around in the Middle East?” he asked.

Honestly, Greg Clark is a pastiche of atheism. You genuinely get to the point where you’re giggling and laughing at his performance. What else is there to do with this staggering level of ignorance coupled with a staggering level of hubris?

If you watch the debate, consider the question: is atheism really rational? Are atheists rational? Is Greg Clark the sort of guy who has tapped into the realities of the universe and is giving some cogent and meaningful expression of it? Most assuredly, he is not.

I expected this. I have debated with many atheists over the years and my experience has not led me to believe that atheists are particularly good at logical reasoning. Certainly, the reasoning by a theologically informed and studious Christian who invests time in doing their apologetics yardwork, is a lot more philosophically rich and deep than anything I have encountered from atheists in my years of apologetics travels.

In this debate, the atheist side did not start well and it did not rise much higher after that. A trainwreck? Meltdown? Or a total nuclear inferno in which one side when whoosh into a slab of charcoal? You decide.

Oberlin College’s War with Gibson’s Bakery

gibsons

Oberlin College is again in the news and for all the wrong reasons.

The college has become infamous for its dealings with a small shop that has been owned by the Gibson family for 134 years.

The problems began in 2016 when a black Oberlin student attempted to steal alcohol from the shop. One of the part-owners detected the theft and asked him not to leave the shop while he phoned the police. The student decided to leave. The clerk chased him down. When he caught up with the student shoplifter, he was assaulted by the student and his two female friends. This assault, according to the Quadrant, included kicking and hitting.

The following day hundreds of Oberlin students gathered at the Gibson bakery shop for a protest. They claimed the shop was “racist”. Their protest was supported by a number of college officials.

From the Quadrant:

In November 2016 an under-age Oberlin student stole a bottle of wine from the shop. When the shop’s store clerk and co-owner, Allyn Gibson, noticed this theft, he chased the thief in the street, and was then hit and knocked to the ground, punched and kicked by this student and two of his student friends, all of whom were black. The next day, hundreds of Oberlin students gathered for a mass protest, across the street from the shop, aided by its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, and other college officials. Raimondo and others passed out flyers claiming of Gibson’s, “This is a racist establishment with a long account [sic] of racial profiling and discrimination”, and urging a boycott of the shop. The next day, the Oberlin College Senate voted to boycott the shop. The college also urged the shop not to punish first-time shoplifters. This affair occurred the day after Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected president, an event specifically deplored in a memo by Dean Raimondo.

The Chronicle gives a blow-by-blow account of the original incident:

Oberlin police reported that Aladin tried to buy a bottle of wine Nov. 9 but Allyn Gibson, whose family owns the bakery, refused to sell it to him. Gibson confronted Aladin about the two bottles of wine the student allegedly had hidden under his shirt.

The police report said Gibson told Aladin he was calling the police and not to leave. Aladin allegedly tried to leave, and Gibson told police he took out his phone to take a picture. That’s when Gibson said Aladin slapped the phone from his hand and the device hit Gibson in the face. Police have said Aladin then ran from the store, dropping the two bottles of wine to the floor.

Gibson chased after Aladin and the two men got into a physical confrontation outside.

When police arrived, they reported seeing Gibson on the ground with Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone hitting him.

Days of protests followed the incident when the students insinuated that Gibson’s actions were racially motivated as the students are black and Gibson is white.

Before the sentencing, Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone each read statements acknowledging that Gibson was within his right to detain Aladin and that his actions were not racially motivated.

Students from Oberlin College had cost the small shop a considerable amount of money with a constant string of thefts and shoftlifting:

Gibson’s shop has existed for five generations, owned by the same family for 134 years, and has no history of “racial profiling”. Between 2011 and 2016, forty persons were arrested for shoplifting there, of whom thirty-two were white and thirty-three were Oberlin students. The three students involved in the assault themselves claimed that Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. Shoplifting is a problem costing tens of thousands of dollars a year to Gibson’s and other small businesses in the town. Many, perhaps most, shoplifters are Oberlin students, a large number of whom come from affluent homes.

The college, it was alleged by Gibson’s in court, then engaged in a deliberate and concerted attempt to boycott the shop and bankrupt it, leading to a loss of many thousands of dollars and requiring the shop to lay off most of its staff. In other words, a college with 2850 students, 327 academic staff, and $900 million in the bank, attempted to put a small local shop out of business for mendacious reasons stemming from its prevalent left-wing ideology, an egregious example of bullying and intimidation.

gibsons2

Justice dollars at Gibson’s: In 2016, people flocked to Gibson’s Bakery in a conspictuous display of support. The Chronicle reported: “They came on foot and on motorcycles, in cars and trucks and from all corners of the state to Gibson’s Bakery for doughnuts, coffee and, in their words, justice.” It is anticipated that Gibson’s Bakery will again receive widespread community support as it weathers legal attack by Oberlin College.

The courts upheld the cause of Gibson’s shop, which successfully argued that the claims of racism were unjust, unfounded, and amounted to libel and torturous interference. This had cost the business a lot of money and the family their peace of mind.

From CNN:

Then in November 2016, the lawsuit stated, Oberlin College said it severed its business ties with Gibson’s Bakery. The shop had provided baked goods for the school’s dining services through a third-party company.
While those business ties were reinstated three months later, the shop had already suffered severe consequences, the suit said.
The combined effects of the “defamation, boycotts, demonstrations, and refusal to do business with Gibson’s Bakery was having a devastating effect on Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family,” the lawsuit stated.

A jury ordered that the shop pay 11 million dollars in punitive damages. This was not something the college was particularly pleased about. In their view, Oberlin’s officials had only sought to protect their students’ “freedom of speech”. Oberlin took the view that Dean Raimondo was merely policing the protest and was simply there in a protective capacity. Clearly, Gibson’s Bakery represented a threat to the student protestors whose freedom of speech could be denied them at any time. Therefore  it was obviously necessary for Dean Meredith Raimondo to attend the protest in order to prevent the students being robbed of their right to free speech while they committed an act of libel and damaged the business.

But Donica Thomas Varner, Oberlin vice president and general counsel, wrote a letter to members of the Oberlin community.

“We are disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented,” the letter said.

“Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others. Rather, the College and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful, and they attempted to help the plaintiffs repair any harm caused by the student’s protests.”

It’s not clear whether Oberlin will appeal the costly verdict.

“Our team will review the jury’s verdict and determine how to move forward,” Varner wrote.

Meanwhile, the students who staged the assault – Jonathan Aladin and Endia Lawrence – pled guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespass. The third student, Cecelia Whettstone also pled guilty but her case has since been expunged.

trioCrime and punishment: Cecelia Whettstone, Endia Lawrence, and Jonathan Aladin appear before Judge James Miraldi. According to The Chronicle: “Jonathan Aladin, 20, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted theft, aggravated trespassing and underage purchase of alcohol. Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, both 19, pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing.” They were required to each pay $334 to cover the expenses of the victim, Allyn Gibson.

Having had time to review the verdict, Oberlin College has decided that it is the victim after all. Today the College Fix reported that the college will sue the shop using some extremely high powered legal representation:

Ballard Spahr’s Lee Levine and Seth Berlin, based in D.C., are two First Amendment veterans with six decades of experience between them, including arguments before the Supreme Court and many federal appeals courts. Berlin also teaches at Georgetown’s law school.

They join appellate attorneys Benjamin Sassé and Irene Keyse-Walker from the Cleveland office of Tucker Ellis. Sassé (not to be confused with the Republican senator) and Keyse-Walker are Ohio specialists, having argued many times before the Ohio Supreme Court and appellate courts.

There is no clue given as to how much the college will pay for these legal services, but it is estimated to run into many millions of dollars.

The reasons the college gives for this new legal action are twofold:

“The decision is grounded in the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the College’s long-term financial health,” said Board Chairman Chris Canavan. Left standing, the verdict could also set a troubling precedent for those institutions, like Oberlin, that are committed to respecting free speech, he said.

Yet, Oberlin declined to settle with Gibson’s shop for 1 million dollars when it had the chance – a bargain deal in comparison with where they ended up – and they give no indication how they intend to recoup their enormous legal costs from a family-owned local shop if a court rules in their favour. At the very least, it is likely to take many years to recover a fraction of their outlay. This is not fiscal responsibility.

Oberlin also declines to explain how the defamation of a shop on the basis of complete fiction – a totally false narrative – in response to a shop justly protecting its goods from theft, is a free speech issue. Should people be allowed to say whatever they like, even if it is utterly false? Should businesses be ruined because someone cooks up a rumour about them? Gibson’s shop points out that there are limits to freedom of speech, and under law, libel is one such limit. Torturous interference is another. We are not permitted to say what is false about others in order to punish or destroy them.

Oberlin College is notoriously liberal and jealously protects that image. It has obviously decided that it has invested too much in that image to allow it to crack apart at the hands of a local retailer. There is something nearly aristocratic and imperious about this action, as the college appears to think that protecting its image as a champion of constitutional freedoms is more important than actual justice.

It certainly looks terrible for Oberlin to end up as the Goliath in a David and Goliath battle – to be publicly identified as the oversized brute bullying the little guy – but the more legal action they take, the more people will come to this conclusion.

Support for Gibson’s Bakery is enduring and international. On August 6, 2019, the Facebook page for the bakery gave a heartfelt thanks to its supporters. Given the new action by Oberlin, it will be necessary for the family business to once again rely people around the world for support against the bottomless depths of Oberlin’s resources.

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Battle of a lifetime: David Gibson thanks supporters, college students, jurors and others for their support and compassion. He also announces his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. 

The Collapse of the Gay Gene Hypothesis

Genes

Last week, a study of genome markers of homosexuals was published in the August edition of Science. It hit media headlines around the world.

Normally, genetic research is not front page news but this research went viral in the news media across the planet.

SCIENCE THAT GENUFLECTS TO IDEOLOGY

This article deals with what the researchers Ganna et al (2019) discovered. But it’s first worthwhile considering the political influences that now exert a gravitational pull on science. Especially science that addresses identity shibboleths.

Ganna et al’s (2019) genetic research into human sexuality seems to have unleashed all kinds of political and moral anxieties. Some responses have almost verged on panic. Other responses sound like a Trotskyist call to revolution.

Such anxieties exist because the field of human sexuality is now ideological. It is less rooted in science or medical observation than ever. As such, it is a live grenade issue that can quickly blow up should the “wrong” thing be said. This is especially true within academia which is home to a large number of academics and students with a hair trigger response for the slightest suggestion that their orthodoxy is being challenged.

This means that even a scientific investigation of human sexuality cannot survive today unless it adopts as its premises the nostrums, attitudes, virtues, conclusions, platitudes, and even language of what has become cultural orthodoxy. As we shall see, Ganna et al (2019) play by the gender rules. To violate these rules would jeopardise any scientist’s career, or virtually guarantee that their work would die a scholarly death of endless rejection from journal publication.

Business Corruption Problem

Therefore, in one sense, all current scientific research into human sexuality is now dishonest. Honest scientific research never excludes the possibility of a conclusion because it would upset people, and it does not grasp for a particular virtue in order to remain on favourable terms with a crowd. To the contrary, the scientific method requires the researcher to follow the hard evidence even if it leads to uncomfortable revelations or ridicule.

It is bitterly ironic that one of the icons of scientific inquiry – the much-lionised Galileo – is reverenced precisely because he “followed the evidence” even though it landed him in hot water with church authorities. He saw the planets move. His evidence overturned the prevalent Aristotelian philosophy that said they did not.

Such an approach today is no longer possible for an academic who wants to be reputable and conduct study into human sexuality. Or at least, it is very dangerous. There are conclusions that the scientist must not reach and so must be removed from the table a priori. Any finding that threatens the political certainties upon which an identity group claims its legitimacy is automatically assumed to be wrong.

Ideological academics will quickly disparage any research that hits too close to home.

This was highlighted by the comments of Dr Haire, a gay bioethicist at the University of New South Wales who was asked for her view about the research. From her comments recorded by the media, she seemed less concerned about the reliability of the findings and more concerned that the research had taken place at all. Her response is a model of irrational argumentation that makes no sense, yet no doubt would resonate among many of the graduates of higher education.

She said: “I think that there are many very, very good reasons to be highly concerned about studies that look into a genetic basis of same sex-sexual attraction. Currently there are more than 70 countries in the world that criminalise same-sex sexual practices. And in about 12 of them laws can be used to put people to death for their sexuality.”

Dr Haire went on to say that she believes this sort of genetic study presents “dangers” and therefore should not be carried out.

Nevertheless, Dr Haire offered no explanation to justify her claim that any causal relationship exists between investigating genetic markers and the criminalisation of homosexuality in 70 countries. The closest she came was when she told the media that she was worried about some kind of “genetic key” that could be used against homosexual people in these benighted countries at some point in the future. But this seems extremely far-fetched. To argue that research is “dangerous” because some country somewhere might develop an illiberal future technology is a clear exercise at grasping at straws. On that basis all research would have ruled out. Such an extreme application of the cautionary principle would literally shut down scientific inquiry.

For instance, is a genetic study of child misbehaviour dangerous because some countries still use corporal discipline in schools? After all, who knows if they might invent some machine that detects the gene and gives the child shock therapy! What about a genetic study of the digestive biology of different ethnic peoples? Is this dangerous because some countries have racial tensions?

Dr Haire further argues that there’s lots of other things to research, and there is no great demand for this sort of genetic research. It is obvious that this argument is hollow. It could be made about any scientific study, many of which are extremely expensive, extremely esoteric and utterly irrelevant to people outside of academia. Genetic studies of human sexuality at least have the virtue of being relevant to many people and offer meaningful input into moral and political debates. But, one suspects that is precisely why Dr Haire is so obviously keen to delegitimise this material.

Contrary to her empty claims, one suspects her true objections lie not in the principle that the research is dangerous to people on some harebrained notion that it could create a dystopian future, but rather because such research is dangerous to ideology. It says a great deal when ideologues are worried about science.

Fortunately, the researchers Ganna et al (2019) have bent over backwards to forestall the sorts of concerns Dr Haire sketched out. At the very beginning of their published findings, they eagerly establish that they are allied and sympathetic to the LGBTQ movement. For example, they include an insert that discusses something called “othering” and a lengthy exculpatory paragraph on the term “non-heterosexual”. They use this term, the paper explains, to aid only in readability. They do not wish anyone to imagine that they are involved in “othering”.

In a later insert, the researchers state that they engaged with “LGBTQ advocacy groups” in order to explain the limitations of their study. They also go out of their way to strongly affirm contemporary sexual philosophy by explaining that their results point to the “richness and diversity of human sexuality” and that this study cannot possibly be used for “discrimination on the basis of sexual identity of attraction”.

It is a strange thing to find in a scientific paper that the authors have felt it necessary to contact political and social advocacy groups prior to publication. Not only that, but to do so with the express purpose of explaining how limited their study was. Perhaps this was a shrewd political move by the researchers so they did not end up pilloried by those groups for being anti-LGBTQ, or it was motivated by a careerist concern that no taint should mark their political standing within academia.

The researchers further mention that their work “potentially has civil and political ramifications for sexual minority groups”, which is surely an odd statement for dispassionate genetic researchers to make insofar as it is completely false. The odds of genetic research having any “political ramifications” in Western nations is absolutely zero. The chances of it having political ramifications outside of the West where social freedom is already at a low ebb, is also very remote. As for “civil ramifications”, one wonders what these might be. Perhaps the possibility that their work might initiate a debate on homosexuality itself.

All these disclaimers show a deep awareness of a political backdrop to their research. The researchers are not exactly dispassionate, impartial parties. The disclaimers are also intended to mollify their readership. It is a way for the researchers to nail their political and social bona fides to the wall. In essence, the researchers are announcing, “We are compassionate and understanding. We are one of you – liberal academics. We are not doing this study with misguided motives like those sorts of people we are all allied against.” It is a peculiar thing to find in a scholarly paper.

Later, the researchers again demonstrate a conscious awareness of their vulnerability to political attack, this time from transgender activists. They seek to head this off at the pass by explaining that they did not include transgender, intersex, or “other important persons and groups within the queer community” in their study, but they do not explain why. Nonetheless, they are keen to affirm the “importance” of these groups and to indicate they want to include them in an upcoming study. It is as close to an apology that you could expect to find in a paper purporting to be scholarly.

THE GAY GENE HYPOTHESIS IN THE EARLY MILLENNIUM

So why does this genetic research matter so much?

Anyone who can remember the same-sex marriage debates in the early 2000’s will recall the importance of the “gay gene” hypothesis in furthering and shaping the discussion around homosexuality. Although genetic science could not (at that time) confirm or deny the existence of a gay gene, a lot of geneticists strongly hinted that it must exist. A lot of discussion flatly assumed a genetic basis for homosexuality.

A typical set-up would involve a glittering talk show host. They would invite a homosexual person onto their show to talk about the struggles of being gay. The homosexual person would arrive to thunderous applause – perhaps even a standing ovation. There would be tears; painful stories; villains in the form of stern religious parents, and then as the emotion reached its climax, the interviewee would sadly observe, “And all because I was born this way”. Sometimes the line would be delivered with anger rather than pathos: “I want to tell Mr X that he should walk a mile in my shoes! Let him be born this way and survive as proudly as I have!”

Future historians will conclude that the gay gene hypothesis helped sway political and social belief of an entire culture. It provided the theoretical basis for the argument that homosexuality is a characteristic as immutable as skin colour. People are “born gay”, activists asserted, just like a person is born with blonde or black hair. A homosexual cannot “become gay” as a result of upbringing or environment. It is not something they (or anyone else) chooses. It is a sexual orientation foisted upon them from the womb.

At a time when even left-wing presidents and political leaders opposed same-sex marriage and when homosexuality was not a widely celebrated attribute, the gay gene hypothesis had utility. It made guilt-stricken parents of homosexuals feel better. It detached choice from sexual behaviour. It helped to galvanise popular anger. After all, why should people be punished for something outside of their control? It even provided a way to tackle religion. Liberal theologians argued that genetics proved that people were created homosexual or heterosexual by God. It also became a pivotal argument for the legitimacy of same- sex marriage.

Since then, the gay gene hypothesis has formed the basis for an emergent architecture of other policies. For example, the push to criminalise “conversion therapies” draws much of its force from the premise that homosexuality is immutable. Because it is an innate characteristic – e.g. one is born homosexual – and equal to any other innate characteristic like eye colour, no amount of therapy will ever be able to change it. In fact, such therapy will always prove to be harmful because it will make the patient repress their true self in favour of a fictitious one. Without the slightest shred of genetic data, the American Psychological Association has led the charge in this area, always with the assumption that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic.

The latest research by Ganna et al (2019) demonstrates that the gay gene hypothesis is false. Indeed, the researchers flatly state that there is no gay gene. After examining a population sample of 500,000 people, they were unable to identify the existence of a special gene that by itself determines whether a person is inclined toward homosexuality. There is no “on” or “off” switch in the genes.

THE DEMOLITION OF THE ICONS: THE KINSEY SCALE

Instead, the researchers found a range of genetic markers that had some correlation to homosexuality. Yet the researchers state that even these genetic markers lack predictive power. In other words, if a scientist had a map of a person’s genetic markers they would not be able to determine from that information alone whether he or she practised homosexual sexual behaviour. To put this more bluntly, a person could possess all of the identified genetic markers and still be heterosexual.

As a result of these findings, the researchers were forced to leave a very wide latitude for environmental and sociocultural inputs into homosexual sexual behaviour. If genetics alone lacks predictive force for a selected sexual behaviour, then the shortfall can only be explained by environmental factors. This indicates that homosexual sexual behaviour within a population can change based on social and cultural elements. This is not exactly a welcome discovery for obvious reasons, and the researchers are quick to say that these sociocultural inputs may simply influence the genes within those populations. (Even though they cannot find genes that can predict homosexual sexual behaviour.)

The researchers identify five genetic markers that have a statistically significant correlation with homosexual sexual behaviour, yet even the five markers accounted for less than 1% of variation in homosexual behaviour. Taken together, all of the markers included in the study could potentially only account for 8 – 25% of variation.

Worse still, from an activist’s point of view, among the significant genetic markers, there are biological implications and parallels that further call into question the framework of gender ideology. In particular, the researchers take a potshot – a small shot, but a significant one – at the celebrated Kinsey Scale. Developed by Alfred Kinsey and used by researchers as a method of measuring homosexuality on a scale of 0 – 6, the Kinsey Scale has been an icon of sexuality research for decades. The researchers explicitly state that the results of this genetic study call such tools “into question”, mainly because in the estimation of Ganna et al (2019) any bipolar continua are too basic.

The Kinsey Scale was always an unsound tool based on questionable data, but it derived from an era where there were just two sexual possibilities: heterosexuality and homosexuality. Sexuality researchers at the time naturally developed bipolar scales that reflected their zeitgeist. On the other hand, we have arrived in a new era with more than 50 genders and people who fluidly move between genders. It is not surprising that sexuality researchers now think the old tools are too simple and are “discovering” that more complex scholarly architecture is now needed.

SEXUAL GENETICS ARE NOT STRONGER THAN CULTURE

Other findings from the genetic study are also politically inconvenient.

For example, in their final published results, Ganna et al (2019) include a graph that shows the number of people reporting a homosexual experience has risen every year since 1938 until 1970. Their data does not extend backwards past 1938 or forward beyond 1970 presumably because their sample population did not include anyone born earlier or later than these years. The graph shows a consistent upward trend over these decades in homosexual sexual experience. There is no reason not to think that the upward trend is not ongoing.

This graph does not show that the number of exclusive homosexuals within the population is increasing. It only shows that the number of people who report any homosexual sexual experience is increasing. This experience could range from penetrative sexual activity, to other homosexual encounters like oral sex.

What this data shows is that people born in 1940 had relatively low levels of homosexual sexual activity. Slightly more than 2% of males and about 0.75% of females. In contrast, nearly 8% of males born in 1970 and just over 6% of females said they had experienced homosexual activity. The data shows that over a 30 year span, there had been a 400% increase in male homosexual encounters and a greater than 600% increase in female homosexual encounters within the sample population.

The researchers rightly point out – albeit weakly – that this suggests a sociocultural dimension to homosexual behaviour. It is difficult to come to any other deduction. For example, it would be highly unlikely that these figures could be replicated in the Middle East where there is a strong cultural and social disapproval of homosexuality.

This data set does great damage to the gay gene hypothesis. For we have long been told by gay activists that genetics is stronger than culture. This is why homosexual behaviour must socially affirmed, for homosexual activity cannot be repressed by sociocultural constraint. The individual will always suffer under a repressive regimen since the gay gene will drive a person onward with inexpressible potency to express his homosexuality in one form or another.

Now it turns out that the prevalence of homosexual sexual behaviour is not fixed at all. It can vary significantly from generation to generation, and in all likelihood, from culture to culture. Moreover, the most likely explanation for this variation has nothing to do with genetics. It is explicable mostly by sociocultural atmosphere. As the three sample societies in the study have grown more liberal and governments have repealed sexuality laws, it has enabled or even emboldened homosexual experimentation.

If there is a genetic basis to homosexual sexual activity there should be no great variation in homosexual activity from generation to generation. To quote Richard Dawkins, we “dance to the music” of our genes. Since genes are stronger than culture, they will express themselves without regard for culture. Thus, if a person is genetically predisposed to be intolerant to dairy foods, this genetic predisposition will express itself regardless of how much dairy food is celebrated by his country. This data set seriously undermines this premise. The study shows that the genetic basis for homosexuality is weak – if not non-existent – and therefore culture may well prove to be the single most predominant input in shaping sexual behaviour.

MENTAL HEALTH AND HOMOSEXUAL SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR

The study strays into territory that activists have traditionally fought against with great ferocity: the association of homosexuality with mental illness. In their opposition, the activists have a powerful ally in the form of the American Psychological Association who have long rejected the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder. It is important to note that Ganna et al (2019) do not claim that homosexuality is a mental illness. Nonetheless, they do show that it has a statistical correlation with a range of disorders.

As part of their study, Ganna et al (2019) correlated homosexual sexual behaviour with a range of personality traits and disorders. They did this, ostensibly, to evaluate the mental risks among people reporting homosexual sexual activity. They found statistically significant correlations between homosexual sexual activity (whether done exclusively or experimentally) and some of their pre-selected traits.

Smoking – particularly smoking cannabis – presented a significant correlation with homosexual sexual activity, nearly greater than all other correlations. (Interestingly, cannabis use is more strongly linked to female homosexual sexual behaviour than it is to male homosexual behaviour, although both are significant.)

Why smoking drugs should correlate so highly with homosexual sexual behaviour is not explored by the researchers.

Ganna et al (2019) found a negative correlation between “subjective well-being” and homosexual behaviour. In other words, people who report homosexual behaviour also report a lesser sense of well-being than other respondents in the study who never engaged in homosexual sexual behaviour. The researchers also found positive correlations between homosexual behaviour and ADHD, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, loneliness, and numbers of sexual partners.

Th researchers correlated only a small sampling of pre-selected traits and disorders. Obviously a great many others were not included. The type of correlations provide some insight as to why activists are so reluctant for this kind of study to be performed. It does not show this population as a picture of mental health. Even supposing a hypothetical homosexual respondent had just two of the pre-selected traits, they would not only be less likely to enjoy overall happiness and contentment, but also less likely to be as healthy and well-functioning than the average study respondent.

The researchers are careful to avoid making any conclusions about this data set that would suggest that anything innate in homosexuality itself could be a problem. They certainly do not attempt to ascribe a cause and effect relationship to this data, preferring to let it sit in scholarly silence. Like the shapes of galactic nebulae, this data cannot be explained, it just is. Their studious avoidance of any interpretation of the data is justified by a claim of scientific agnosticism. Ganna et al (2019) forcefully state: “We emphasize that the causal processes underlying these genetic correlations are unclear and could be generated by environmental factors relating to prejudice against individuals engaging in same-sex sexual behavior, among other possibilities”.

The researchers promise more discussion on this in their supplementary materials, (which are far less likely to be read by the media or the public). There, they first preface their remarks with the need for “sensitivity” on the topic and then plunge into a discussion that is unwittingly devastating to contemporary gender theory.

First, they explain that the genetic correlations are real linkages between paired traits. For example, major depressive disorder (trait 1) is positively paired with homosexual behaviour (trait 2). These traits must exist in a relationship with each other since an increase in one trait will also tend to increase the second.

To explain the relationship, Ganna et al (2019) briefly mention the possibility that both traits may be the biological products of another unknown genetic variant. This is known as pleiotropy, in which several apparently unrelated traits are influenced by one gene. They theorise that “antagonistically linked sex hormone and stress hormone systems” may be involved in the development of both homosexual sexual behaviour and psychiatric disorders. This is obviously a deeply troubling conclusion because it suggests a common genetic origin – if one exists – of both homosexual sexual behaviour and psychiatric illness. Disentangling the first from the second would be difficult if true.

As a final possibility, they mention that one trait may actually cause the second. This possibility receives no discussion at all. The researchers immediately speculate that a causal relationship could be “mediated by environmental influences”. They conjecture that homosexual sexual behaviour results in prejudice and discrimination. This, in turn, gives rise to psychiatric disorder. In a genetic study, this could make it seem there was a casual genetic relationship when the true source of the trait was environmental all the time.

This is surely a dishonest conclusion that does not make even a passable effort to engage with their own datum. It seems to draw more from popular politics than logical inference. For among the correlations studied by Ganna et al (2019) were ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. None of these conditions have ever been shown to be caused by environmental factors. To put it bluntly, no amount of environmental prejudice will make someone schizophrenic.

Both explanations are equally problematic from a political standpoint. To deduce that mental deficits may contribute to homosexual sexual behaviour renders the sexuality a product of psychiatric disorder. On the other hand, to theorise that homosexual sexual behaviour could be a pleiotrophic effect alongside of mental disorder suggests that both homosexual sexual behaviour and psychiatric disorder are aberrant. That both are unintended side-effects of a puzzling gene interaction.

The researchers did not apparently consider the possibility that homosexual sexual behaviour may contribute to psychiatric disorder. There is no discussion of this at all in either their paper or the supplementary materials.

Ganna et al’s (2019) suggestion that “environmental factors relating to prejudice against individuals engaging in same-sex behaviour” might explain the relationship between some mental disorders and homosexuality is increasingly difficult to sustain in a culture where homosexual people are affirmed and celebrated (e.g. pride parades), given equal rights, access to family privileges, and are legally protected.

The view that society’s prejudice drives mental disorder among LGBTQ people has long been used as an explanation for the prevalence of mental disorder within this population, and as a rallying cry for greater political protection and privilege. But if mental disorder continues to be correlated with homosexuality at a high rate even within some of the most homosexual-friendly societies in the world – a Swedish sample was used in the study – then this hypothesis quickly loses force.

HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOUR AND EVOLUTION

Ganna et al (2019) include a data graphic that shows an inverse relationship between the number of same-sex partners a person has and the number of children they have. The more same-sex partners, the fewer the children.

The average number of children for male homosexuals who never have sex with women is around 0.4%. For exclusively female homosexuals it is around 0.6%. This is not unexpected since homosexual couples who never have sex with the opposite gender cannot produce children without expensive fertility support, a gamete donor, or the involvement of a third, opposite-sex person.

It is oddly naive to find something so obvious given so much time in a scientific paper, as if this were an entirely unforeseen discovery. Ganna et al (2019) write: “individuals who reported same-sex sexual behavior had on average fewer offspring than those of individuals who engaged exclusively in heterosexual behavior, even for individuals reporting only a minority of same-sex partners”. They point out that this reduction in the number of children is equal to, or greater than the reduction in fertility found in other traits that are also linked to lower fertility. It turns out that having sex only with someone of the same gender is very bad for reproduction. Or, put bluntly: homosexuality causes infertility.

Ganna et al (2019) briefly note that the lack of children among homosexuals calls into question the “evolutionary maintenance of the trait”, although they opt against any discussion of this. This may well be a sensible sidestep for geneticists who are engaged in the supremely ridiculous task of trying to find a genetic basis for homosexuality within a population they have discovered does not reproduce.

CONCLUSION

For the past decade the gay gene hypothesis has gradually dwindled in importance.

This is due to two developments.

Firstly, the success of homosexual political aims have made the appeal to genetic science mostly irrelevant. Same-sex marriage laws have been passed by most Western nations and the wholehearted embrace of homosexuality within the mainstream social ecology represents a clear triumph. Everything from Burger King to Harvard supports the LGBTQ movement. Everyone from prime ministers to corporate executives are eager to be seen as allies of the community. The LGBTQ movement has won the culture with or without science.

But secondly, the quiet disappearance of the gay gene hypothesis has coincided with the rise of the extremely disparate transgender movement and the explosion of sexual identities connected with it. The gay gene hypothesis was already ageing when the transgender movement unwittingly laid the axe to it.

They recognised that the hypothesis has spoiled on the shelf like old milk. It arose in a binary era when you were either homosexual or heterosexual. It no longer fits the zeitgeist of times. Worse, not only is the hypothesis no longer useful but it is a potential impediment to the transgender movement.

Since the early 2000’s, gender ideology has gone through a complete rewrite by the transgender movement. Back then, the main concept was a binary sexual identity. Today, the main concept is fluidity.

From the vantage point of 2019, there is something touchingly retrograde about the gay gene hypothesis. It belongs to a different political era, one in which science – even junk science – was grasped at as an evidentiary foundation. But that was then. This is now. The ideology that once demanded from genetics the discovery of a gay gene has been nearly completely displaced by the idea of gender fluidity.

If gender is fluid, and a person’s gender and orientation can be altered by their own fiat without any need for an external measure or authority outside of themselves, then there is no longer any need for a gay gene. Indeed, as Dr Haire noted, such genetic research is actually quite dangerous – terminal, really – to contemporary transgender ideology.

For if sexual identity was a product of genes, people might have to prove that there is an objective biological foundation to their gender identity. It opens questions as to whether a person’s orientation is biological or psychological. This is inimical to the current fashion that insists a person must be accepted for whatever they say they are. Personal autonomy is the stated goal of current gender ideology. To make one’s identity subject to a biological reality would tend to diminish that autonomy. Great academic effort has been invested in elevating the mind over matter and this is directly at odds with the old thinking that suggested matter actually made the mind.

Within the sexual “rainbow”, there are people who claim to switch freely between genders while others claim to reside primarily in one gender but sometimes express the other. Some people want to receive surgical changes so that they become a simulacrum of the opposite sex, while others do not want to be surgically changed but want to dress, behave, and be treated as if they were the other sex.

These flying fragments of gender and sexual identities are the shrapnel that has blown the legs off the gay gene hypothesis and made it the unwelcome, flatulent uncle in academia. It explains why the gay gene hypothesis had quietly slipped off the radar and genetic research into homosexuality had all but stopped. Now it returns in an odorous cloud and no matter how sensitive or progressive its authors, it invariably casts a cloud.

The good news for gender theorists is that most people do not care about having an opinion grounded in science anymore. Ideology and belief has achieved a total ascendancy over objective evidence right across the fields of human endeavour. Indeed, ideology itself is evidence in the minds of many people today.

While this study by Ganna et al (2019) devastates the gay gene hypothesis of the early 2000’s, it has arrived too late to be of any use to conservatives, religious people, or opponents of same-sex marriage. A great edifice has already been built on the gay gene foundation. Science can put cracks and dents in that foundation, and might even explode dynamite on it, but the edifice remains. The ideology has hardened enough to survive a few inconvenient genetic findings, and the culture has been conquered.

FURTHER READING

A welter of articles have recently appeared on the study. They come to a range of conclusions and positions.

Gay Gene theories belong in the past (The Guardian, 30 August 2019)

Retiring the Gay Gene Hypothesis (DNA Science)

No Single Gay Gene (Medscape, 4 September 2019)