Sunday, January 22, 2006

Homosexuality in animals

Those who rant on about homosexuality being unnatural need to touch up on their ethology. There is an excellent paragraph on this subject on wikipedia (thanks to UK Naija for the ref). It includes this paragraph:

* Male penguin couples have been documented to mate for life, build nests together, and to use a stone as a surrogate egg in nesting and brooding. In 2004, the Central Park Zoo in the United States replaced one male couple's stone with a fertile egg, which the couple then raised as their own offspring. [2] German and Japanese zoos have also reported homosexuality among their penguins. This phenomenon has also been reported at Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand. [3]

* Courtship, mounting, and full anal penetration between bulls is common among American bison. The Mandan nation Okipa festival concludes with a ceremonial enactment of this behaviour, to "ensure the return of the buffalo in the coming season." [4] Also, mounting of one female by another is common among cattle. (See also, Freemartin. Freemartins occur because of clearly causal hormonal factors at work during gestation.)

* Homosexuality in male sheep (found in 6-10% of rams) is associated with variations in cerebral mass distribution and chemical activity. A study reported in Endocrinology concluded that biological and physiological factors are in effect. [5] These findings are similar to human findings studied by Simon LeVay.


Keguro 4:53 pm  

Unfortunately, Jeremy, such studies are not inconsistent with the irrational logic of homophobia.

In the Freudian/Hegelian schema, we move from our animal impulses to become civilized, i.e., heterosexual. When we point to animals, we "simply" confirm that homosexuality is inconsistent with cultural progress. (I've spent a bit too much time reading 19th C. sexology to accept recourse to "the natural."

When critics say "unnatural," they mean "uncivilized," a term with profound historical and philosophical resonances. But that's a whole other discussion.

Anonymous,  6:55 pm  

Is it possible that the animals in questions are breeds of human experiments. Things like cross-breeding manipulate genetic structures I suppose.

Just trying to give an answer to that.

Teju Cole 9:42 pm  

I agree with Keguro on this.

The argument has to be made from ethics, not from biology.

It has to be an argument about the rights of the other, about the right to be different. It has to be about freedom from persecution.

I have seen murder in apes. Dogs rape bitches. Male leopards abandon their young.

But we are human. Regardless of what is "natural", we can start from a position of tolerance.

That others have a being-in-the-world that might not be identical with ours, but that is not thus any less valuable.

Anonymous,  9:39 pm  

i guess these studies do show something, but animals steal too, monkey and cats s know fully well when they steal bits of food... they know... but God did not give animals a clear ruling on right and wrong and sin. homosexuality is a sin and a grave one at that. and yes hormones control us but lets call a spade a spade and call it what it is.

Kemi,  12:11 pm  

Is it possible that the animals in questions are breeds of human experiments. Things like cross-breeding manipulate genetic structures I suppose.

Just trying to give an answer to that.
# posted by Anonymous : 5:55 PM

Cross-breeding does not create any new genes.
The characteristics of cross-bred progeny must come from one of the parents.

That is how genetics works.

And in any case, even if your theory was true (It's not) that would prove that being gay was a genetic mutation, not a lifestyle choice.

Should you now punish people because of a biology lottery.

Why look for crackpot theories to support your own prejudice?

Scientific cross-breeding created gay genes indeed. What next?
If that was the case, then homosexuality wouldn't have been discussed in the bible!

Anonymous,  3:39 pm  

I watched a programme on SKY where the 'civilised British govt' jailed someone for six years for having incest.. Is incest is criminal? Would logic not put it that genetal sexual attraction is anything but criminal? On thios matter, I think we should try and respect how people have chosen to live their lives (that is culture). If the western world accepts homosexuality as part of their culture, then they should allow Nigeria live their lives with homosexuals.

Jens Hegg 10:01 pm  

There are some interesting things to say about animal homosexuality for sure. The research isn't very conclusive though because the brain differences that have been seen can't be proven as a cause. There is a possibility that the brain has adapted based on homosexual behavior to look different and not the other way around.

I think it's pretty hard to make the argument that homosexuality doesn't exist in the animal world though, whether the cause is genetic or social, but there are people who do it.

Take a look here for an example of a rabid conservative view on the suject. He posts a new post rather than replying to the first one so the debate is scattered through the blog but easy to find.

Unfortunately the view is pretty one sided. I had posted quite a few scientific articles and such in defense of my points and it was beginning to look like a decent, if heated, discussion with both sides represented. Then he realized he couldn't refute my points and decided to delete all my comments. Now it looks like a crazy conservative rant. It was nice of him, really.

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