The Birds and the Bees

Animal Homosexuality

Animal Homosexuality

Do homosexual animals choose to be gay or are they just born that way? In October 2006, The new Natural History Museum in Oslo, Sweden, opened an exhibition entitled “Against Nature?” that displays evidence of animal homosexuality. According to Geir Soeli, the project leader, “Homosexuality has been observed for more than 1,500 animal species, and is well documented for 500 of them.” Examples given include female swans raising young in homosexual couples, male right whales rubbing themselves together, male giraffes mounting another male, and gay behavior in beetles. Yes, you heard right, gay behavior in insects. Bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, are all apparently bisexual. Wow! Of course, Jane Goodall showed us that chimpanzees are highly intelligent and are capable of complex social interaction. So, maybe the Bonobos, as a group, have all just chosen to be bisexual! OK, not likely, especially for the beetles.

Many people claim that human homosexuality is abnormal and immoral. They usually base this judgment on religious scriptures that declare it to be wrong, although for some, it is just a simple personal aversion to the thought of sex between two members of the same sex. It’s a lot easier to get over the “icky” feeling that heterosexuals get when watching gays kiss than it is to ignore scripture that you believe to be the word of god. As younger generations continue to see gays in normal situations on TV and in public life, homosexuality will become more accepted and tolerated within secular society. However, among religious believers, it is really the alleged word of god that stands in the way of complete social acceptance.

As for being abnormal, I must concede that homosexuality may be abnormal from an evolutionary standpoint, since it makes reproduction less likely, but it certainly is common within many species. Now that we have finally taken note of widespread bisexual and homosexual behavior it in animals, including our closest relative, the chimpanzee, this is a pretty undeniable fact. Since the word “abnormal” literally means “deviating from the type” or “irregular,” but homosexuality is now known to be quite common, I don’t think the word applies. If gays are abnormal, then so are tall, blonde, beautiful, blue-eyed girls, especially from the perspective of people in China or Africa. Somehow, I don’t think anybody wants to call them abnormal. Then again, unlike gays, blondes definitely have an evolutionary advantage when it comes to attracting men.

Evolution of Homosexuality

Evolution of Homosexuality

Homosexuality is also condemned for being “against nature.” OK, let’s think about this. Can something be both common and against nature? If being “against nature” means it confers an evolutionary disadvantage relative to other traits, then I suppose so. Being hideously ugly or fat might then be called against nature. Yet, we still have a lot of them around and they seem to be doing just fine. Some of them are even nicer and smarter than the gorgeous, blue-eyed blondes. Imagine that! They are still able to compensate for their shortcomings and compete for the attention of other men or women. Even the fat ones keep reproducing and recruiting others to their over consumptive, early-death inducing lifestyle.

It is possible that gays have been able to compensate for their dead-end reproductive behavior? Many of them do get married to members of the opposite sex and even have children, so the answer probably is yes. Many of them just stay in the closet and act like everyone else. Maybe they don’t get as excited in bed, but now that we’ve got Viagra, who cares? In fact, persecution of gays could in fact be the main reason that they continue to exist. If they were all encouraged to come out of the closet and marry each other, maybe they would stop reproducing and die off!

Now that’s what I call irony. If you really think homosexuality is wrong and bad, you should be one of the first ones to support gay marriage and let natural selection take its course! Unfortunately, the same people who believe it is wrong for religious reasons probably don’t believe in evolution, so that argument probably will not work on them.

In any case, it doesn’t seem to matter since there is no confirmed evidence of any “gay” gene that is passed down to offspring. Homosexual children seem to keep getting produced by hetersexual parents anyway. However, a study of homosexual men in Italy suggested a possible heriditary link that they call the “balancing selection hypothesis.” The study found that the mothers and sisters of gay men had more offspring, thus implying that whatever gene may be responsible for making them gay may also have made their female relatives more fertile, thus conferring a compensating evolutionary advantage! We really just don’t know enough to say why homosexuality is so common among the species of Earth or why it has survived the trials of evolution.

Anyway, when did religious people suddenly start to believe in evolution and decide that a trait is normal based on whether or not it confers an evolutionary advantage? If anything that is against nature is bad, we could easily build a list of behaviors that would diminish our way of life and transform our concept of morality.

Here is a list of a few things that we take for granted as being good, but nevertheless could be considered “against nature” from an evolutionary standpoint:

Hero Worship

Hero Worship

Selfless, heroic actions that place one’s life in danger to save a stranger or defend a cause: One does not tend to pass on a genetic line by risking one’s life unless one is defending family members or gaining some other advantage, such as reciprocal protection from a group of people you are helping. In today’s society, when we are unlikely to even know our neighbors, why would anyone want to help others? Instead of admiring heroes, perhaps we should look down on them as deluded idiots and Darwinian losers.

Caring for the sick and elderly: It makes no biological sense to care for people who are terminally ill or for the elderly once they are no longer able to either work or pass on their wisdom and knowledge to others. I can’t think of any evolutionary benefit for doing so. Are there any examples of animals acting in this way? No, the sick and weak are killed and eaten or left to die. So why are we so compassionate? Well, frankly, not all of us are and society as a whole really does not do that good a job of caring for such people, but we all think it is something that we should be doing. Maybe it isn’t. We spend plenty on Social Security and Medicare that we could otherwise spend on our kids. If helping the old and sick really is against nature, maybe it’s time for a new policy along the lines of the old movie Logan’s Run, where people were killed once they reached the age of 30. Of course, that was just a movie. In reality, we would want it coincide with the Social Security retirement age. Of course, if someone is still productive and agrees to keep working, I’d give them a deferment. Talk about an incentive to stay in good health and keep working! What a plan!

Standing on escalators: Escalators have got to be as unnatural a device as you can get, since they only help the weak and lazy, decrease physical fitness, and require the expenditure of electricity generated by power plants that help to destroy our environment through global warming. Who needs these things anyway and why do people insist on standing when they could be walking? Even on the down escalators, why are most people too lazy to even walk down? When people walk along on the sidewalk, do they normally stop periodically to rest? Of course not! Then why do they do it on an escalator? OK, this may not be the best example of unnatural behavior, but it is a really big pet peeve of mine! I hate to see people standing on a down escalator! At most, escalators should only be made to go up. Stairs are perfectly fine for walking down. If people are really too lazy to walk down, why don’t we just make slides so we can at least have some fun?

Back to the “against nature” issue. Here is a list of things that are perfectly natural in that they help one to propagate one’s genetic line. Unfortunately, I’m not sure everyone would agree that they make for a good, civilized, society:

Rape: Forcing the women of conquered tribes, cities, or countries to have sex has always been popular with soldiers throughout human history and is responsible for much genetic diversity. Genghis Khan did an impressive job of spreading his DNA as he raped his way throughout Asia and Europe. In fact, one might say that rape was a natural part of the evolution of the species, especially back when everyone was a racist and interracial marriage was taboo. I would place rape in the “natural, but not so good” category.

Pillage, Plunder and Theft: Another historically popular way of amassing wealth, thievery and the domination of others is as popular to this day as it ever was and ensures that a large number of people are able to support themselves and their families. Billions of dollars of our economic output actually supports shoplifting, burglary, intellectual property infringement, and the associated law enforcement and corporate security activities intended to stop it. The best thieves actually run entire countries or large corporations and are able to embezzle billions of dollars. Some even have multiple wives, concubines, or girlfriends and are able to pass on their genes far widely than ordinary, law-abiding people. Again, I’d place this in the “natural, but not so good” category.

Murder: This is perhaps the best example of survival of the fittest as long as it doesn’t go too far. One can both gather booty and eliminate the weak through murder, so it is, from an evolutionary perspective, a pretty good way to weed out the human genetic pool. However, we’ve gotten so good at it that we can now eliminate large numbers of people at random, so it might not be as good as it once was. If we end up destroying our entire civilization, then I guess you might say it was a bad thing, unless you happen to be a cockroach. In that case, your evolved offspring a million years in the future may be lecturing their classes on the archeological evidence of the extinct humans. Since murder made it onto the 10 commandments as a big no-no, I would definitely place it in the “natural, but not so good” category.

Slavery: This is pretty much a variant of the pillage, plunder and theft category, since slavery allows an employer to get more for less. Basically, it is like getting labor for the price of food and housing while even allowing you to skimp on the food and housing. It’s sort of like eliminating both the minimum wage and worker’s rights, otherwise known today as illegal immigrant labor. Slavery also came with the side benefit of free rape and murder whenever the master wanted, giving him a decisive evolutionary advantage. Slavery was so popular for most of human history that neither the Old or New Testaments of the Bible nor the Koran prohibited it. It didn’t even make the 10 Commandments. Neither Moses, Jesus, nor Mohammed are known to have made any attempt to stamp out the practice, so one might believe that god has always been a big fan of slavery, especially if the slaves were nonbelievers. Looking back into history, however, most people would place it in the “natural, but not so good” category.

I guess I really have no problem with something that may be against nature. I do, however, have a problem with people who want to meddle in the lives of others when it is really none of their business.

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