March 3, 2004

Biological Advantage in Homosexuality? (aka. Another Homo Post)

Here’s yet another post that will lead my readers to believe I am gay.

I think it’s hilarious. In all the vitriol we’ve gotten against a previously posted gay-marriage-related humor piece, it seems that anti-gay folks immediately assume you’re gay if you’re for equal rights for gay people.

But now, a fun story regarding penguins.

Bruce Bagemihl, author of Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, says homosexual behaviour has been noted in more than 450 species and more often in wild animals than captive ones. The question is: why? Some researchers say it helps a species’ survival. By not producing offspring, homosexuals can help to support relatives’ young. ‘That’s a contribution to the gene pool,’ says Professor Marlene Zuk of University of California, Riverside. (Guardian Unlimited)

Won’t it be hilarious if there really is a biological advantage to having gays in society? I expect this will make a head or two explode as yet one more argument of the bigots falls away.

I continue to be completely amazed at the responses to that “12 Reasons Against Gay Marriage” post. But I’d like to talk a little more about the kind of comments I’m getting here.

I’m going to quote one of the more coherent comments in its entirety, from someone calling herself Rachel:

I thought certain things were not true about what you wrote. I am a single mother of a beautiful and above average two year old boy. I am a full time student to better the lives of my son and I. Although I may be young I am still very much capable of raising a child on my own. I also do not agree with saying straight parents raise straight children as do gay parents raise gay children. Tha is absolutely wrong in saying. I am against gay marriage as it is said in the bible that marriage is between a man and a women.

Taking her at her word (that she’s a single mother, and the rest) I feel sorry for her. But I have to wonder what moved her to comment without reading the post. I can understand not reading the immense list of comments on the post, but…

Right in the post I state that I am not the author, yet she comments as if I am. Secondly, she has mistaken the parody for serious argument.

How can you reason faced with that? Especially across this communications gulf of the internet?

But it was the last thing that finally made me want to address this specific post. She is against gay marriage because of what it says in the Bible. My first, snarky instinct is to say “Well if the Bible told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that?” And, in a way, that question is not snarky, but relevant.

(Putting aside for the moment that the Bible does not tell us that we have to keep other people from having gay marriages, and putting aside that the Bible is a book which only a fraction of the population deem holy, and putting aside for the moment that the Bible does not dictate US law, and putting aside the fact that the Bible says plenty of things like not to eat shrimp…)

The Bible is a book. You may consider it a holy book. That’s fine. But at some point, you need to interpret it. And that means you have to think about it. And that means you have to come to some conclusion about it. Your ability to come to a conclusion in interpreting the Bible has to come from somewhere.

For example, you read “Love thy neighbor.” Now, there are different definitions of love. Maybe this means “Sex up your neighbor.” I don’t think so, but who am I to say? I am me, that’s who. I have to come to a conclusion about this. My conclusion is that, for me, having sex with all of my neighbors would not be a good way to conduct my life. So “love thy neighbor” is going to have to mean something different to me.

Do you see how I reached into some place inside to get that interpretation? Some of us just go straight to that place and skip using a Bible. It is partly for this reason that “the Bible says so” doesn’t fly as an argument for most people. Not for arguments, and especially not for laws.

One other thing on this subject. Use the Bible to try to figure out how you should live your life. Don’t use the Bible to try to figure out and dictate how other people should live theirs. You might want to read the part about removing the plank from your eye instead of concentrating on the speck in someone else’s

Rachel, assuming you’re sincere and return here for some reason, I’m glad to hear you’re educating yourself. Let me recommend that you stick to your faith if it gives you strength, but consider that denying the rights of others because of what your religion says is just about as bad as denying two people to marry because they are not members of your religion.

To conclude this post, I’ll link to this item which appeared on Atrios’ weblog. Here he quotes Cameron, an oft-cited source of anti-gay bigotry. Atrios is perfectly correct when he says it reads as an over the top parody, but a quick look at the comments on my weblog will start to make you realize that so many of these folks are guilty of self-parody. Cameron says:

“Marital sex tends toward the boring end,” he points out. “Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does” So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

Here is a closer-to-original source of the Cameron quote. I’m not pro or against gay sex. But if gay sex becomes dominant (and I don’t mean that in a BDSM way) won’t that help to stretch out what will undoubtedly be increasingly precious natural resources? And the post comes full circle.

Posted by James at March 3, 2004 6:17 PM
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I just want to know how you can tell if your two year old is above average. I don't know that much about kids, so is it like, only trying to put the star shape in the round hole once instead of over and over? Is her son reading or something? Has he mastered the pull-ups faster than the instructions said he would? What does it mean?!

Posted by: Bil at March 3, 2004 6:58 PM

RE: Gay Penguins.

This relates to a point I was trying to make in the overflowing commentary in the 12-reasons post (which has my vote for the "Classic Posts", btw).

Generally "Natural Selection" is a theory which is widely accepted in the scientific community. Whatever organism has the most advantageous of attributes is most likely to pass on its genes through reproduction and therefore pass on its own advantageous traits. Traits which are disadvantageous are much less likely to be passed on. Traits which are neither advantageous nor disadvantageous, may get passed on, or may not.

Which brings us to the question of homosexuality. If homosexuality is an entirely genetic trait (there is evidence to suggest that it is not entirely genetic) then why wouldn't natural selection weed it out? Well of course it could be that homosexuality occasionally gives way to bisexuality which could lead to reproduction and passing on of the genes. But, assuming that doesn't happen, why would the same disadvantageous traits keep showing up?

To illustrate, let's use lions. I'm pretty sure that Biological Exuberance mentions homosexuality in lions, but even if it doesn't this is just an example for illustrative purposes. Assume two prides, each has 3 males, 8 females, and a number of cubs. All the members of pride 1 are heterosexual, but two of the male lions in pride 2 are homosexual.

The male lions in pride #1 must divide their attention between defending the pride, and procreating, and competing with each other for procreation rights.

In pride #2, the sole hetero male has no competition for procreation rights, but still has the same number of males to assist in defense of the pride. This reduces fighting among the males, killing of cubs fathered by other males, and so forth.

In other words, prides with some gay members may be better off, and more reproductive than tribes with no gay members. Were that not the case, it seems likely that natural selection would have long since weeded out homosexuality. But if predisposition to homosexuality is carried in a recessive complex of genes, and family groups with some homosexual members tend to be fitter and more reproductive, then the strongest populations are going to continue carry the recessive gene complex in the gene pool.

Nature keeps generating homosexual organisms. I would not be surprised if a study showed that there might be advantages to this. After all, it keeps happening. If it were harmful, it would have stopped happening millenia ago.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 3, 2004 7:14 PM

Good point again, Chuck.

Right now the 12 reasons post still appears regularly in the "Latest Comments." I'll definitely take your suggestion and add it to the classic posts when the comments start to die down. People are not yet having trouble finding it! :)

Posted by: James at March 3, 2004 9:24 PM

The gay lions would only help the pride if they were leather gay lions. The effeminate lions would just hang out watching soap operas with the lionesses, contributing nothing and probably planning some gay lion agenda where they undermine the sanctity of good old lion on lioness action.

Seriously though, I've seen suppositions that homosexual individuals arise in communities (I'm using ecological terms, not social) where there is an abundant population. Apparently when rats live in crowded conditions some of them begin exhibiting homosexual behavior (and, interestingly, rat females become bad mothers. I swear to god). The idea of population dictating homosexual behavior doesn't square with a straight genetic component (and of course very few human traits are single gene determined), though a very complex multi-gene sequence is fairly likely. And even if there were only environmental factors that induced homosexuality, well if it happens to rats then it's not a conscious choice.

Posted by: Bil at March 3, 2004 11:42 PM

and no one's answered my first question yet!

Posted by: Bil at March 3, 2004 11:43 PM

Yes, Bil. There are a number of ways you can tell whether your 2-Year old is advanced.There are ranges of time when physical, emotional, social and mental milestones are passed.

If a child is able to speak in complete sentences by age 2, that's pretty advanced, for example.
Even using a spoon at 2 is pretty good.

Posted by: James at March 4, 2004 12:17 AM

Good point about the rats, Bil. I read something about that years ago.

I wonder if there are a lot of gay people in China and India. They would probably have to be in the closet, so there would be no way to know for sure.

Posted by: julie at March 4, 2004 9:21 AM

What about getting your first Yahtzee at age 2?

Posted by: briwei at March 4, 2004 9:34 AM

I'm not sure if Yahtzee was invented yet when I was 2. Too bad. My parents would have recognized my genius and put me in a gifted program and my life would be totally different now.

Posted by: julie at March 4, 2004 9:58 AM

I've often wondered what life would be like if people based their thinking on, say, the complete works of Shakespeare rather than the bible.

If you're going to pick a book, why not an anthology of The Bard?

Posted by: Patti at March 4, 2004 10:04 AM

OK with me, as long as we don't have to speak in rhymed couplets.

Posted by: julie at March 4, 2004 10:30 AM

Or dress in frills and pantaloons.

Posted by: Mike L. at March 4, 2004 10:40 AM

Hey some of us might like the frills and pantaloons, especially since we're all apparently gay. I'm pretty happy but I'm not so sure about gay.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at March 4, 2004 11:07 AM

Speaking of the kinds of comments that were coming in on that original subject, another thing that struck me was that some people are really, really, *really* hung up on the various sexual things gay people, especially men, might do in the sack.

Hung up to the point where they evidently have thought about it at great length, and in great detail, and are so sensitive to any mention of it that they giggle (even spelling out their giggling when writing something online, tee hee) when any word comes up that reminds them of it.

That's curious to me, because I don't spend that much time or energy thinking about things people do that don't involve me. Unless it is something I enjoy thinking about. Then I think and talk about it all the time. Most people are the same way.

If I was worried that other people might disapprove of my interest, I might feel inclined to denounce the subject. But I'd still be thinking and talking about it all the time.

That's what it sounds like to me when I hear a homophobe obsessing about what other people do in bed.

Posted by: Julie at March 4, 2004 12:04 PM

> OK with me, as long as we don't have to
> speak in rhymed couplets.

'Tis Jim's blog that we love the most,
As always he's our gracious host,

He's ever kind and writes what ought
Drive one to comment, or provoke thought.

The topic might be sad or gay,
Or odd in the most whimsied way,

Or he may share his views political,
Perhaps with praise, or comments critical.

You may agree, or not, or wonder
What strange place you chanced to blunder,

But all agree he has the knack
To keep his readers coming back

So Jim's blog, with its bug-light pull,
Will always keep its Aces Full.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 4, 2004 12:08 PM

Ugh. OK I'm definately in favor of banning the improvised rhymed couplets.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at March 4, 2004 12:49 PM

Maybe you should ammend your constitution?

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at March 4, 2004 12:51 PM

Julie, you've got a good point. The obsession with what sexual acts homosexual men and women may engage in is very strage. My mother and I were talking about the "I'm shocked" attitude of some folks, and she said it's not as though straight people NEVER deviate from the mission position, and to, again, "mind your own business."

Some straight people have anal sex, just like homosexual men.

Some straigh women enjoy cunnilingus, just like homosexual women.

Some straight people enjoy sex toys, just like homosexual people.

Do I care? No. Should anyone else? No again.

Don't people have more pressing things to think about and fret over than who has sex with whom and what hole/implement is utilized?

Pardon me for being so blunt, but sometimes one must be so to drive home the point.

Posted by: Patti at March 4, 2004 1:55 PM

Poetry? I'm touched.

When I get my shit together, I'm goign to put that on the "about" page. When I have an "about" page.

Posted by: James at March 4, 2004 2:03 PM

Now, now. In Shakespeare, rhymed couplets were primarily used to signal the exit of a character. There were exceptions, like the Witches in Macbeth. So we shouldn't need to speak in them. However, we do need to learn Iambic Pentameter. ;-)

Posted by: briwei at March 5, 2004 1:37 PM

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