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Thread: Challenge to the sexual selection theory of Darwin

  1. #1

    Challenge to the sexual selection theory of Darwin

    http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/200...al_kingdom.php

    Evolution
    The Gay Animal Kingdom

    The effeminate sheep & other problems with Darwinian sexual selection.

    by Jonah Lehrer • Posted June 7, 2006 12:14 AM

    From the JUN/JUL 2006 issue of Seed:

    Credit: Catherine Ledner

    Joan Roughgarden thinks Charles Darwin made a terrible mistake. Not about natural selection—she's no bible-toting creationist—but about his other great theory of evolution: sexual selection. According to Roughgarden, sexual selection can't explain the homosexuality that's been documented in over 450 different vertebrate species. This means that same-sex sexuality—long disparaged as a quirk of human culture—is a normal, and probably necessary, fact of life. By neglecting all those gay animals, she says, Darwin misunderstood the basic nature of heterosexuality.

    Without giving the rest of the article away, let me just point out that Darwin chose a few exceptional examples in evolution to make his case the females are coy while males passionately compete for sex, hence accounting for sexual selection. For example, Darwin emphasized the example of the peacock as an example of how the male morphology evolved to be impractical for survival but ultimately successful for access to the female.

    But, many biological observations do not support Darwin's sexual selection theory. The first and foremost is the high incidence of homosexuality in almost all species. If Darwin's theory is correct, homosexuality must have some adaptive advantage. Roughgarden proposes that homosexuality is part of a repertoire of behavior that allows same-sex social bonding, an increasingly important part of society that must get along in order to survive. In a nutshell, genitals are not only for making babies.

    Wise.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Imight's Avatar
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    How exactly is same-sex bonding (sexually) increasingly important to our society?

  3. #3
    i dunno. i rely on barbara kingsolver. her novel, Prodigal Summer is a masterpiece. she also has a masters degree in biology.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Imight View Post
    How exactly is same-sex bonding (sexually) increasingly important to our society?
    While I am not sure that I buy the theory in its entirety, my understanding is that many of the elements of heterosexual attraction and bonding are important for bonding between individuals of the same sex. If competition for females (or males in many species, as Roughgarden points out) and heterosexual relationship is the primary basis for bonding between members of a species, that members of that species are unable to work together and cooperate on projects. Take, for example, a group of male soldiers who must fight a multiyear war together. They must bond together. Although sexual intercourse is not necessary, it may be part and parcel of the same behavior.

    What Roughgarden points out is that if selection of the fittest is occurring, there should be some kind of advantage to some members of a species engaging in homosexual behavior or else it would not be as common as it is in so many species. She claims that these advantages include same-sex bonding and this is highly advantageous to societies where individuals must work together in order to achieve a goal.

    Particularly for males, where their contribution to the species may be a couple of squirts lasting a few seconds or minutes at best, what should the rest of their time and behavior be spent that would most benefit the species? One possibility is that they bond with others of their kind and make themselves useful in hunting and other activities, or even protection and rearing of the young.

    I think that Roughgarden's hypothesis is interesting and thought-provoking. By the way, I really don't think that there is necessarily that much of a difference between sexual and non-sexual bonding. They can both involve intimacy, loyalty, and other aspects of a close relationship.

    wise.

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    Senior Member Wesley's Avatar
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    I read somewhere a theory that male homosexuality was linked to genes that made females in the same family more sexually attracted to males. The idea was that the genes that made women more horny, also made them reproductively successful and that males in the family that became homosexual (demonstrated the same attraction to maleness) simply got those genes as part of their sister's success. Under that theory, homosexuality would not be in and of itself evolutionarily beneficial, but a byproduct of a successful gene combination in women.

    As I recall, the researchers had targeted a particular protein and followed it through families.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Wesley View Post
    I read somewhere a theory that male homosexuality was linked to genes that made females in the same family more sexually attracted to males. The idea was that the genes that made women more horny, also made them reproductively successful and that males in the family that became homosexual (demonstrated the same attraction to maleness) simply got those genes as part of their sister's success. Under that theory, homosexuality would not be in and of itself evolutionarily beneficial, but a byproduct of a successful gene combination in women.

    As I recall, the researchers had targeted a particular protein and followed it through families.
    Wesley,

    That is another very interesting hypothesis. If one were to follow the reasoning of this hypothesis through the entire evolutionary argument, while the women who got the horniness-towards-male gene are more successful, the men who got the same gene would not pass their genes on. It may be the horniness-towards-male gene in females has a stronger evolutionary advantage than the disadvantage of the gene showing up in some males.

    It also seems to me that the homosexuality gene (if there is such a gene) may be more than just a horniness-towards-male gene. What about the lesbian gene (is it the same or different)? What about the other behaviors and characteristics of homosexuality? What makes men so appreciative of certain female attributes? Those attributes, by the way, are dramatically different from culture to culture, suggesting that they are not universal. What are the male attributes that stimulate the horniness-towards-male gene and are they the same in women and homosexual men?

    Wise.

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    Senior Member Wesley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young View Post
    Wesley,

    That is another very interesting hypothesis. If one were to follow the reasoning of this hypothesis through the entire evolutionary argument, while the women who got the horniness-towards-male gene are more successful, the men who got the same gene would not pass their genes on. It may be the horniness-towards-male gene in females has a stronger evolutionary advantage than the disadvantage of the gene showing up in some males.
    Wise.
    combining your original post with the horniness-towards-male theory...
    perhaps it's advantageous to have homosexual men in your kin group because they support the rearing of your children by not having their own children. It's not too hard to imagine that the bachelor uncles would be valuable members of the tribe.

    also, they wouldn't have offspring competing for inheritance with their cousins

  8. #8
    What makes men so appreciative of certain female attributes? Those attributes, by the way, are dramatically different from culture to culture, suggesting that they are not universal.
    Okay, I am a bit late on the uptake here, just caught this thread, but I have caught a couple documentaries on this subject. Apparently, there are some attributes that ARE universal among cultures that do tend to support Darwinian theory. For example, all cultures seem to view symmetry of features as attractive (in both men and women), which tends to occur in individuals who are less apt to suffer from health issues. Also, although different cultures may have different preferences regarding the female weight they consider attractive, the measurement ratio tends to be consistent. The Barbie measurements of 36-24-36, while for most women might require an eating disorder to attain, conform to the "ideal" curvy ratio that predicts fertility, and is the same one sees, for example in paintings by early masters like Rubens, in more voluptuous women that cultures consider attractive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dunwawry View Post
    Okay, I am a bit late on the uptake here, just caught this thread, but I have caught a couple documentaries on this subject. Apparently, there are some attributes that ARE universal among cultures that do tend to support Darwinian theory. For example, all cultures seem to view symmetry of features as attractive (in both men and women), which tends to occur in individuals who are less apt to suffer from health issues. Also, although different cultures may have different preferences regarding the female weight they consider attractive, the measurement ratio tends to be consistent. The Barbie measurements of 36-24-36, while for most women might require an eating disorder to attain, conform to the "ideal" curvy ratio that predicts fertility, and is the same one sees, for example in paintings by early masters like Rubens, in more voluptuous women that cultures consider attractive.
    There are actually some cultures that view obesity as attractive, Im not sure whether this conforms to the measurement ratio theory though. What about these current day super models with no hips or breasts?
    Last edited by IanTPoulter; 12-09-2008 at 08:38 PM.

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