Homosexuality as a Challenge to Darwinism

An author called Joan Roughgarden, in her new book Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexualilty in Nature and People, argues that Darwin’s theory of sexual selection doesn’t fit the available data based on her research on homosexuality and same-sex relationships in humans and other animals.

This interview with Roughgarden is interesting, although a bit shallow, and actually left me wanting to yell through my computer screen at her. At one point she says, “A typical couple has sex once a week for 50 years, but has only two offspring,” which is so wrong if you’re looking at the human population as a whole right now and at humans in the millions of years that we’ve existed. At other times, though, she makes intelligent reference to things like polygamy.

I hope this is a useful, interesting and well-researched book, but this interview raises a few doubts. I wondered what you all would think.

4 thoughts on “Homosexuality as a Challenge to Darwinism

  1. This book is the latest in a movement of evolutionary theory that is causing it to, well, evolve. Actually, it’s a little behind the times. And the intro at the beginning of the article is a bit uninformed, for example:

    Assumption 1) All inherited traits have to be harmful or hurtful.

    Reality: Some traits are neutral or not harmful enough to kill said organism before it reproduces successfully.

    Assumption 2) All inherited traits are genetic.

    Reality: Some species, it seems, may also evolve socially; parents pass on behaviors to their offspring that help them to reproduce more successfully. I think this might be taken to a cultural/societal level: some societies encourage behaviors that help them be more successful than others . . .

    Assumption 3) All sex is for reproductive purposes only.

    Reality: This is the assumption that the book in question seems to be trying to reform. In social species, sex is also a means of solidifying social relationships, etc., etc. as is discussed in the interview. This opens the discussion beyond just the “selfish gene.”

    Assumption 4) No homosexual reproduces (before A.I.)

    Reality: Often, “homosexuals” are really “bisexuals” and might have both hetero and homo-erotic encounters. This does not preclude them from reproducing. Also, the society in question needs to be taken into account — in our culture, gay people often hid (hide?) their preference, got married, had kids, came out later.

    I still think we should be careful of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater (that’s not successful reproduction, now is it?) The theory of evolution is a useful tool that I see as being expanded upon, not gotten rid off.

  2. According to your philosophy or should I say criticisim of Evloutions Rainbow I agree as to assumptions 1 and 3. However, are you suggesting that behavior is not a genetically inherited trait and further more is it socially beneficial for a homosexual to reproduce? I ask this question to secure an understanding of why homosexual and bisexual behavior would benefit the theory of darwinistic progress, concerning mans’ evolution.

  3. Also, you are forgetting about multiple allele inheritance and recessive inheritance. Two extremely important things to know before arguing any point over genetics.

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