Education on homosexuality in non-human nature

  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Sep 26, 2007 12:14 PM GMT
    *berating myself for not adding this earlier*

    I'm adding this topic from the website I work with:

    Against nature? - an exhibition on animal homosexuality
    The first-ever museum exhibition dedicated to gay animals opened at the Natural History Museum in Oslo, October 2006. Homosexuality is a common and widespread phenomenon in the animal world. Most museums have no traditions for airing difficult, concealed, and possibly controversial questions. Homosexuality is certainly such a question.
    Read more at the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum

    The exhibition, which closed on August 17, 2007, was controversial and popular here in Norway.

    Have any of you heard of similar exhibitions or planned exhibitions in your local communities or regions?

    Also, what thoughts do you have on the issue of non-human homosexuality, on the exclusion / inclusion of the issue within natural sciences education, or on the application of non-human homosexuality as evidence of the naturality of human homosexuality?
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    Sep 26, 2007 3:24 PM GMT
    I think it's evidence that in both the animal kingdom or in humans that the penis (or it's equivalent) is king. Vive le PĂ©nis.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Sep 26, 2007 3:44 PM GMT
    Well, here in the US, certain groups got really upset when, say, zookeepers in New York City were talking about the same sex pair of penguins they had. There was a very amusing segment on the Daily Show about it a few years back.

    Personally, I think that a focus on whether or not a given orientation is natural is misplaced. Assuming that that which is natural is good, and that which is unnatural is bad is such a common error in logic that it has a specific name: the naturalistic fallacy. There are things which are unnatural which are good (adopting unrelated orphans), and things which are natural and yet are still bad (murder, rape, theft, etc). I worry that focusing attention on the inborn nature of our sexuality will simply encourage people to see it as a medical condition to be cured. For me, I'd rather focus on the what harm are we doing anyone angle.
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    Sep 26, 2007 4:00 PM GMT
    If you're interested in this, look up the author Joan Roughgarden (used to be John Roughgarden). Her 1st book was "Evolution's Rainbow" and is good, if flawed in the sense that it ventures into the political. Another one of those debuts that has many years of personal energy behind it. I don't know her second book, but I heard it is a bit less political.

    Needless to say, I believe nearly every animal species includes an aspect of homosexuality.
  • art_smass

    Posts: 960

    Sep 26, 2007 4:45 PM GMT
    We had some lesbian peregrine falcons living on a highrise here in Edmonton. It was all over the news for a while. kd lang is also from around here, so it must be something in the water.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Sep 26, 2007 5:02 PM GMT
    Actually, Evolution's Rainbow isn't Joan's first book. Back when she was a grad student and named Jonathan, she was coauthor of an Ecology textbook with Paul Ehrlich.

    Evolution's Rainbow suffers somewhat from shifting terminology. In it, for instance, she defines male as producing sperm and female as producing eggs. She then discusses an alternately spawning fish, where one individual will release eggs for 20 seconds while the other releases sperm, then they switch roles. She refers to this as a thirty second sex change. It's not, by her own definition; since the eggs and sperm would have been produced ahead of time, this is merely a case of hermaphrodity, though an interesting behavioral trait. Her general point that a hard-and-fast two sexes per species is not a universal trait is indeed correct--I work on asexual bacteria, after all--but I find her to go overboard in her attempts to find counterexamples.

    I find in much of Joan's work--particularly her work on sexual selection and her recent belief that cooperative game theory overturns the field of sexual selection (a field of work I don't believe she understands nearly as well as she thinks she does)--contains a tendency to overstate her case to make it seem like a bigger deal to her audience. That's not a trait I appreciate in scientists.
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    Sep 26, 2007 5:08 PM GMT
    Jeez, there are all kinds of examples, from fungi to fruit trees.

    Anyway, anyone who has grown up on a farm pretty well knows that all animals are bisexual, to some varying extent.
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    Sep 26, 2007 7:33 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd: Thanks. I guess I saw her extrapolations as personally and politically motivated. Still, she's doing good work, you have to admit. When you can take certain things with a grain of salt, you get even more out of it.
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    Sep 26, 2007 8:51 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd
    Personally, I think that a focus on whether or not a given orientation is natural is misplaced. Assuming that that which is natural is good, and that which is unnatural is bad is such a common error in logic that it has a specific name: the naturalistic fallacy.


    Spot on! This fallacy flies all the time. And the root is in the theistic mindset. It sets the stage for homosexuality, human and non-human, to be condemned as a product of "the devil."
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    Sep 26, 2007 9:26 PM GMT
    From what I understand, "the naturalistic fallacy" has more to do with the semantics of making root definitions.

    The "appeal to nature" argument that you guys are discussing is simply good old circular logic combined with an arbitrary and incorrect definition of "natural." In reality, anything that has an objective demonstrable existence is "natural." The way that the word is used in popular culture it has no objective meaning at all. Most of the time, it seems to be just a euphemism for "that which I approve of."
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    Sep 26, 2007 10:22 PM GMT
    NickoftheNorth wrote:

    Have any of you heard of similar exhibitions or planned exhibitions in your local communities or regions?


    The Cabot Science Library at Harvard is putting together a small exhibit this Fall called Baby Flamingo Has Two Daddies.