Sexual Selection

On Monday past, a group of people gathered at the College of The Bahamas to debate the topic of censorship, inspired by the controversy over Brokeback Mountain. Featured speakers were COB lecturers Michael Stevenson, Ian Strachan, and Canon Kirkley Sands, one-time chair of the Bahamas Plays and Films Control Board, as well as Patricia Glinton-Meicholas and myself.Although the discussion stayed mostly on topic, and didn't get bogged down in the whole homosexual red herring, the idea of the unnatural quality of homosexuality was raised.Well -- as anybody who has owned dogs can attest -- the homosexuality of animals is quite evident if one sits around and looks hard enough. I've seen enough female potcakes dry-humping one another not to have made that argument myself. And now, scientists who have studied the sexuality of animals have proven that the universal heterosexuality of nature are as much a construction of our own minds as anything else.The article is here.An excerpt:

Male big horn sheep live in what are often called "homosexual societies." They bond through genital licking and anal intercourse, which often ends in ejaculation. If a male sheep chooses to not have gay sex, it becomes a social outcast. Ironically, scientists call such straight-laced males "effeminate."Giraffes have all-male orgies. So do bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, and West Indian manatees. Japanese macaques, on the other hand, are ardent lesbians; the females enthusiastically mount each other. Bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives, are similar, except that their lesbian sexual encounters occur every two hours. Male bonobos engage in "penis fencing," which leads, surprisingly enough, to ejaculation. They also give each other genital massages.As this list of activities suggests, having homosexual sex is the biological equivalent of apple pie: Everybody likes it. At last count, over 450 different vertebrate species could be beheaded in Saudi Arabia. You name it, there's a vertebrate out there that does it. Nevertheless, most biologists continue to regard homosexuality as a sexual outlier. According to evolutionary theory, being gay is little more than a maladaptive behavior.

And again:

Given the pervasive presence of homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom, same-sex partnering must be an adaptive trait that's been carefully preserved by natural selection. As Roughgarden points out, "a 'common genetic disease' is a contradiction in terms, and homosexuality is three to four orders of magnitude more common than true genetic diseases such as Huntington's disease."So how might homosexuality be good for us? Any concept of sexual selection that emphasizes the selfish propagation of genes and sperm won't be able to account for the abundance of non-heterosexual sex. All those gay penguins and persons will remain inexplicable. However, if one looks at homosexuality from the perspective of a community, one can begin to see why nature might foster a variety of sexual interactions.According to Roughgarden, gayness is a necessary side effect of getting along. Homosexuality evolved in tandem with vertebrate societies, in which a motley group of individuals has to either live together or die alone. In fact, Roughgarden even argues that homosexuality is a defining feature of advanced animal communities, which require communal bonds in order to function. "The more complex and sophisticated a social system is," she writes, "the more likely it is to have homosexuality intermixed with heterosexuality."

And again:

Of course, most humans don't see sex as a way of maintaining the social contract. Our lust doesn't seem logical, especially when that logic involves the abstruse calculations of game theory. Furthermore, it's strange for most people to think of themselves as naturally bisexual. Being gay or straight seems to be an intrinsic and implacable part of our identity. Roughgarden disagrees. "In our culture, we assume that there is a straight-gay binary, and that you are either one or the other. But if you look at vertebrates, that just isn't the case. You will almost never find animals or primates that are exclusively gay. Other human cultures show the same thing." Since Roughgarden believes that the hetero/homo distinction is a purely cultural creation, and not a fact of biology, she thinks it is only a matter of time before we return to the standard primate model. "I'm convinced that in 50 years, the gay-straight dichotomy will dissolve. I think it just takes too much social energy to preserve. All this campy, flamboyant behavior: It's just such hard work."All quotes courtesy of Seed Magazine.

Hee. Turns out fundamentalist Christians are in the same boat regarding the "nature" of sexuality as fundamentalist Darwinist evolutionists. Who'd'a thunk it?