AGAIN THE controversy is renewed over whether homosexuals are born or made. This sounds very reminiscent of the hubbub stimulated last year by the book ''The Bell Curve'' about whether genetic intelligence differs by race.
That there is a political agenda in these issues cannot be escaped. Conservatives, for example, tend to favor the genetic theory behind IQ as a rationalization for decreasing entitlements for remedial education programs since presumably no amount of extra time or effort (or money) can ''cure'' a genetic slow learner.
At the same time, conservatives invoke the environmental effect, not our genes, in stating that homosexuality is chosen or socially created.
Liberals appear just as silly when they claim IQ is completely environmentally determined, yet homosexuality has a genetic basis.
The fact is, among the plethora of research on these issues one can find more than one study supporting any side of any cause. Common sense tells us that the answer is in the middle: Genetic predeterminers interact with the environment to develop many of our traits.
Recent research in songbirds reveals that young birds, when exposed to the sound of their indigenous song, respond by creating new nerve cell hook-ups in their brains. Withdrawal of this stimulus prevents these hook-ups. Therefore, bird brains are genetically set to respond to the environment which, in turn, effects further brain development -- an illustrative example of the interactive nature-nurture paradigm.
There is no reason to disbelieve that on a more complicated scale this is what happens to human beings (assuming, of course, that human brains are more complex than bird brains).
But there is one more question to ask. So what? What if we decide that 50 percent of IQ is inherited -- will we respond by cutting entitlements in half? What if we accept that 20 percent of homosexuality is innate -- should we now be 20 percent more tolerant?
The point it, there's no point
The point is, there is no point to much of this research except to cause divisive rhetoric and obtain 15 minutes of fame.
In the end, our genetic code probably programs some limits to our range of human performance, and what level we ultimately attain within this range probably depends heavily on our environment. Since we can't change the genetic code on any grand scale yet, the most we can do presently is provide a forgiving and optimal environment for all to reach their genetic potential -- whatever that may be.
Clark Brill is a physician who writes from Columbia.