Re: Sexual Jealousy

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sun Dec 03 1995 - 21:06:33 GMT

> From: "Bollons Nicholas" <>
> Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 13:42:50 GMT
> In my opinion there could be some justification to
> a 'Darwinian' approach to the occurrence of Homosexuality.
> If a genetic theory is employed [to explain] for homosexual
> behaviour, as has recently been identified, if this is true: then how
> come the gay/lesbian population has not died out? Due to their
> [disinclination] to mate with the opposite sex and therefore not
> continuing there gene pool ie homosexual desires.

Well, as we discussed in class, there are several hypotheses about how
it may have stuck around -- IF it's genetic -- as a kind of
"fellow-traveller"; one of these theories is that having a few homosexual
brothers to help out at home instead of investing in unrelated women
might have helped get some genes over the top. Or some specialised
skills might accidentally have been paired with the homosexual gene
(there seem to be more homosexual artists). But basically, the Darwinian
stories sound pretty far-fetched -- "Just So Stories" -- and certainly
moreso than the explanations of sexual jealousy.

And of course it may turn out that, though inborn, homosexuality may not
be genetic (for example, developmental differences in early hormonal
processes could have a permanent effect on the brain).

> This has to be seen in a cultural context that until this century,
> and predominantly the last two/three decades, has homosexual behaviour
> become more acceptable and accessible. But this does not mean that
> the homosexual desires were not there before (ie in centuries
> preceding this -no time scale) and it is this that the 'Darwinian'
> theory implies.

You think this century is the one where homosexuality was the most
acceptable and accessible? You'll have to read up a bit about, for example,
ancient Greece! Or about army and navy and boy-school and prison life
across the ages!

In "The Evolution of Human Sexuality" Donald Symon analyses the case of
male homosexuality as an illustration of what male sexuality would be
like if it were not restrained by the conflict of interest that there is
between males and females. There's food for thought, there. But of
course it doesn't answer the question of the Darwinian basis of
homosexuality (IF it's genetic)... I somehow doubt it is genetic; it may
be inborn, but it doesn't seem to run in families (indeed, you would
imagine that it would have to be rate-limiting if it were genetic and
ran in families, otherwise it really WOULD price itself off the genetic

> This may explain the reason for them in present society: but it also
> gives them a bleak outlook for the future. Continued Homosexual
> practise will not create any children, let alone ones with their gene
> pool, and in accordance with Darwinianism it will supposedly eradicate
> the inferior species characteristic.

Inferior? Darwinian mechanisms don't know anything about inferior or
superior; they only speak the language of reproductive success. And
genetic trait that it present today must either be reproductively
advantageous, or at least not reproductively disadvantageous.

But remember what I said about "Hamilton's rule" and "inclusive fitness"
(I'd lay down my life for 2 brothers, four cousins... etc.). IF
homosexuality is genetic, it might contribute to inclusive fitness of
kin, rather than to the particular individual who has the genetic

Note that this kind of thinking -- it is called "sociobiology" -- is
also a form of psychological thinking. We are not just reasoning,
cognitive creatures, and some of what we do and are inclined to do
can only be understood if we look at our biology and the history of our

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