Against nature? Homosexuality and evolution (17 Nov 2011)

>>We have to start with
God, and, of course, we wouldn’t doubt that
God gets it right. But something must have
gone wrong somewhere, because there is a couple being
married in Oslo that is two men. And not only that, two
women are married in Oslo. And poor Charles Darwin,
what would he say about that. These people shouldn’t exist because probably they
don’t make babies together. And those who make a lot
of babies will be selected. You have two men kissing; celebrating their
Civil Partnership Act and the certificate they
got in San Francisco, and male homosexuality, or
same-sex sexual behavior, is prevalent throughout the
ages, throughout the cultures. Here you have an
interaction between two males in ancient Greece
and an interaction between two females
in ancient Greece. Well, if we do the
body count nowadays and we follow what Alfred Kinsey
found out, about 4 percent of all males, human males,
would be exclusively, sexually oriented towards
their own sex and about 1 to 2 percent of all females. If we now calculate that
we have 7 billion people, 1 percent would be 7 million. If I take the exclusively
homosexual males and females together, and
I’m a bit conservative, that would be 5 percent
of the world’s population, so that would be 350 million. Well, that’s the
population of the USA. These many people are
exclusively homosexual. Maybe that’s why the economy
is not so good in the USA. It’s the same amount of people,
which are in the Eurozone. Maybe that explains
the recent turmoils. And it’s the same
amount of population, like in whole South America. Maybe that explains why they are
doing so well with the economy. Of course, speaking
about homosexuals and heterosexuals is
black and white thinking. I just do that for this talk
to make it a bit easier, but the world is much more
complex, much more complicated, much more colorful
as already indicated by the classic Kinsey scale where you would be exclusively
heterosexual if you were on the left side; you
would score a zero on this Kinsey scale. If you were exclusively
homosexual, you are on the right,
but, of course, there is so much in the middle. And then, of course,
nowadays what really is at the forefront is
the queer studies. It’s not any longer
about black and white, but it’s about the whole
of nature’s rainbow. Now, my talk will try to
address that apparent paradoxum. Isn’t it against
nature to be homosexual? I speak to you as an expert
in behavioral ecology. I’ve studied monkeys and apes. For many years, I have
studied other animals, and with other animals, I
mean animals like me and you, because I look at us as
being another type of animal. And I have published a few
books about this topic. On the left-hand side,
“Wider die Natur?” was an attempt to
help change the laws in the German-speaking
world that did succeed. In the middle is a book I edited
with my colleague, Paul Vasey, on homosexual behavior
in animals, and on the right-hand side is my
latest book on “Apes Like Us.” Well, of course,
God was not sloppy. You know, people
have their free will. God didn’t make the mistake. It was people sinning
against God’s good intentions, which made them make
the wrong choices. So that means that from
a moral point of view, we have a whole big
coalition which has been up there throughout the ages
trying to condemn people who love members
of their own sex. This is the current world map. If it’s dark brown, there
you will be put to death if you confess being
a homosexual. If it’s dark blue, countries
like Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, the
Scandinavian countries, there you have equal
rights, basically. It doesn’t mean you will not
be discriminated against, but on paper, you
have equal rights, and then there are all
the shades in between. Why would people be
so hung up and why, and how will they make their
arguments why homosexual is behavior is wrong? One of the main arguments
is throughout the different religions that it’s
a sin against nature. Animals do not do that. And here you have all kinds
of experts in animal behavior: Robert Mugabe, President
Weizmann, who are telling you that they know that
animals don’t do that, and that for that reason,
really, it’s against nature and for that reason, such
behavior should be condemned. Let me take these expert
zoologists a little bit into their responsibility. Are animals really
the better people? Do they not do what
sinful humans do? Well, let me show you the
sinful humans again, and show, at the same time, that animals
pretty much can do anything humans might do in one
or the other situation. That’s a copulation more canum,
in the way that dogs do it. I’m not saying the vernacular
term for it, you might know it, but here are some non-dogs,
which do that exactly in the same way, bonobos
in southern California. This is ventro-ventral
copulation, more hominum in the way humans do it, and you
see our bonobos doing exactly the same. Well, the bonobos in
southern California get tired of just having heterosexual
sex, and they have to think about more exciting
stuff, and when they do so, they might settle for
this kind of activity, which is called male
masturbation, in case you didn’t recognize. Now this is called
female masturbation. So animals do a lot
of stuff humans, so I have read in a book, do. Now, females show an interest
in each other, and that leads to the famous GG rubbing, genito-genital rubbing
in bonobos. You have them here pressing
their anogenital region against each other and rubbing
the clitoris to the left, and the middle, to the right,
and this kind of rubbing seems to be very exciting to them. Now what about the nice orgy. You know, I mean, we haven’t
really gotten everything out of them. Well, they can do it. Here is somebody sticking
his finger into, you know, the area where the action is,
and then jumping on top of it. So what about sex
between children? What about sex with children? Well, they do a lot of stuff,
these bonobos, and hmmm, are they the better people? Well, that invitation
you might try out one day if you get into the situation. If I zoomorphise homosexuality,
there could be a lot of criticism leveled against me. For example, well, obviously
they live in San Diego, that is a captive environment,
and that’s, you know, why they are so deprived. Well, look at these guys. These are the wildest
gorillas you can possibly find, mountain gorillas in
East Africa, and no, this is not a male
and the female, these are two males
doing it in the wild. What about homosexual sex
is just rare and anecdotal. Here is a band of
Indian langur monkeys. They do it with each
other every single day. What about homo-sex
is speculation. Given a choice, they
wouldn’t do it. Here you have two female
langur monkeys rubbing their, one of them rubbing
her genital region on the back of another one. On the right-hand
side is a willing male who is clearly objecting,
and saying, don’t do that, but
it doesn’t help. It’s their choice. What about homo-sex is
not social behavior? Sorry, what about homo-sex
is just social behavior, it’s not sexual. Stump-tailed macaques. If you see what they do, it
will be very difficult to say that that isn’t sex,
but just social. Look at number E, two males
masturbating each other. Look at number B, that is anal
intercourse between two males. Look at number F, that is
position 69 between two males. Most important, look
at number A, which shows you what
stump-tailed macaques do what they have an orgasm,
they show the O mouth, which is an indicator. And you can actually
implant radio transmitters which tell you the
heart frequency and which also tell you the
uterus contractions in females when they have homosexual
sex and whatever you can say, it’s the same excitement and
pleasure during homosexual sex as there is during
heterosexual sex. So it is sex. Now, clearly these
animals, they are bisexual, they are not exclusively
homosexual. But there are quite
a few animals where males will never
have any sexual contact in their life except
with other males. For example, you find
that in flamingos, you find that in Graylag geese,
and most interestingly — oh, now there is one
— oh, right, sorry. Graylag geese, fine. But, still they could
be deprived somehow and not have the
right opportunities. So what about if they
really have a choice, is there what we could call
a homosexual orientation that animals actually fantasize
about wanting to have sex with members of their own sex. Amongst the bovids is very
good evidence for that, and in particular,
again, amongst these guys, these are domestic sheep. Ten percent of all rams
are exclusively homosexual in their behavior and
will mount other males, even if they are
presented with a choice. It’s indicated here in this box, so here are four experimental
sheep, which are constrained with their heads, two
females here, two males here, and this guy will
only go for the males. He will never go
for the females. And 10 percent of
all male sheep seem to have a homosexual
orientation. They love to do that. Now, we could still say that
oh, this is all somehow instinct and so, and humans are
different because, you know, there’s all kind of
cultural variation, cultural construction
of that behavior. Now, we also know that
amongst other animals, there is a great variation
within a given species. For example, this homosexual
behavior amongst female Japanese macaques is seen
only in some groups; in the neighboring groups
they may not do that, meaning there are
sexual cultures amongst nonhuman animals. Now to the more complicated
questions. Why would humans and
other animals do that? Well, Andre Gide had the idea
that it really must be stuff that is difficult to explain by
biology, because it would have to be passed on through
a heterosexual act, but he can’t quite see
how this would work. And so he says the drive must
reside deep inside the flesh. Let’s have a look. Here is our flesh
partly consisting of DNA, and there is evidence that homosexual behavior has
a genetic component in humans, and we get that evidence,
for example, from the studies
of identical twins. If you have a gay brother or
a lesbian sister, your chance, if you’re an identical twin, of having the same
orientation is about 50 percent. If you are a dizygotic,
nonidentical twin, then the chance that you have
the same orientation is still about 20 percent. If you have a homosexual
brother or sister, your chance is still 10
percent; that is, still higher than above random
expectation, so there is some, perhaps genetic component. Or has it to do with the brain? We know that sexual orientation
starts to develop already in the fetus, and
hormones which are floating around in the fetal brain
can do a lot of stuff. For example, there is an
interesting study about how in the womb, the likelihood
— sorry, how in the womb, mothers will actually
develop an immune response against male fetuses, and
that is an immune response against the histocompatibility
antigens of these male fetuses. So if a mother then
has a second son, she will already be
slightly immunized against such male fetuses,
and her antibodies, which she will produce,
will be there with a greater frequency,
so to speak. So you get that interesting
phenomenon that older brothers, if you have older brothers,
they increase the likelihood that you, as a newborn son to
your mother, will be homosexual. That’s only found for
males, not for females. What about your upbringing? Good old Freud had good ideas,
very interesting, they are, of course, classic ideas which
may be, will not quite hold up to modern scrutiny
in females. They have a penis envy,
and they have anxiety of paternal penetration, and all
that leads to females wanting to have sex with other females
to get out of that problem. In males, they might be
attracted to their mama, but there is the incest taboo,
which doesn’t allow them to do that, and, of course,
there’s also the anxiety that the father might
castrate them. So they’d rather have
sex with other males. These are explanations, which
have been put forward, and, of course, there is a huge
literature on these mechanisms, which might cause
homosexual behavior. But that’s, of course, not
what Darwin was concerned with. What we have to ask is the
“why” question at another level. If we say why is
that behavior there, we have to ask two
questions, actually, which are related to why. For example, take the question,
why do people crave sugar? You can answer that by asking
how come they crave sugar, and you say, oh, it
tastes really good. But then you would
also have to ask, oh, what for are people
craving sugar. Well, it provides energy. Well here, animals playing. How come they are playing. Well, it’s fun, they are young. What for? Well, it provides
some training for later life. That’s the same here
for our phenomenon. You have to distinguish
between the mechanisms, also called causa
efficiens by Aristotle, from the functions,
the causa finalis. We have only now touched
upon potential mechanisms. How come, genes, hormones,
neurons, upbringing. We have to ask what for
might such behavior there, what evolutionary
advantage might be there so that it’s not wiped out. Potential functions
of homosexual sex. Well, let’s start with this one. If it’s bisexual, it could
just be good training for what you need later in
life, like in these dolphins. That’s a penis, not easy to see, two males having some
fun in the water. It’s known that males have
to be very, very coordinated to later actually abduct
females which other males want to mate with, and also coerce
females if they don’t want to do what they want to do. And you really have to know
where you put your genitals and how to do it efficiently. It would be training. We could also say that
sex is a social tool. It’s a currency, you know,
you’re pleasing other people and they, you know, might trust
you, they might engage with you. Like here this these famous male
combinations: on the upper left from Babylon; in the
middle, David and Jonathan, famous warriors; in
the upper right corner, a couple from Egypt and
beside Achilles and Patroclus, warriors who had homosexual
sex with each other, who knew each other very
well; and also famous in the lower left corner,
the Sacred Band of Thebes where Greek warriors would be
well known to fight very well because they had a
lot of homosexual sex. And a recent example
on the right-hand side, Hitler’s Sturm Abteilung,
the SA, which was a band
of gay brothers. Now, remember the bonobo females with their homosexual GG
rubbing, genito-genital rubs? They use that to
form coalitions, and here you see two
females walking off after they enjoyed each other. They trust each other and
they are very strong together, and they can beat up males,
and that’s what they do due to their lesbian power. Now, kin selection is another
possibility how you could actually explain, at least, how
you could explain the existence of non-reproductive behavior. Evolution doesn’t always need
to look at the individual that passes on his or her
genes, copies of the genes in relatives will also do. And if you become a non-breeder
and you increase the likelihood that certain genes are passed on because you’re helping your
relatives, that will work. And it’s, of course,
behind insect societies like bees, like termites. It’s well known in birds,
like scrub-jays, in wild dogs, in hyenas, in all these
societies do you find non-breeders, which, at
times, act homosexually, they are sexually mature. You find it in these cute
ones, the meerkats — ever thought about that? Hmmm. And you find it in
primates such as callitrichids. There has been a proposal that that was a pattern
during early human evolution, non-reproductive helpers
who would acquire meat and who would be not mating and
not being in the mating game. Now, if they are still, if this
is still the driving force today for homosexual behavior
and, let’s just focus on male homosexual behavior,
then you would expect that these guys who are
not breeding themselves, but helping their relatives,
have particular talents, so that they can increase
the reproductive success of their brothers and sisters. There are studies, quite a few, which show that gay men have
a higher intelligence quotient and they earn more
than heterosexual men, which is a good way of
helping your relatives. That pattern, you also find it
in more traditional societies, like in the Native Americans. Individuals like
Way-Wah [phonetic], whom you see here dressed
up in women’s clothes, he is a genetic male, and
she is a skillful weaver. And he/she is somebody
who is placed in his tribe between the males
and the females, because Way-Wah wields a lot of
authority in the way Shamans do and did in other
traditional societies, would be a matchmaker,
a prophet and somebody who would be called
upon during conflict. That leads to these individuals
having a high authority and a lot of wealth, and
that wealth will often go to their relatives. There is a particular word, which is given to
these individuals. They are [foreign word]. We would call them
in our parlance, homosexual cross-dressers,
but, of course, that’s our gender lingo which
we nowadays attach to them. And it may well be
that the inclination to cross-dressing is still very
much alive, as you can see here, surely, at certain
occasions, and not only at certain occasions,
quite a few of us take to it very proudly. There is, of course,
cross-dressing in other castes of
modern society. And I don’t think I would go out
of my way by saying that a lot of these individuals
choose to be in the institution they are
in, and I mean the individual on the right-hand side,
because there are homosexual men in that institution,
and because they like to bond with such males. It is also perhaps no
coincidence that you have a lot of performing artists
being gay or lesbian, and these would be the modern
Shamans, if you so want. These would be those who perform
rituals and make us wonder, fashion designers,
quite well known. And most interestingly,
you have here an example where Versace passed
on his wealth, and that’s what the kin
selection hypothesis predicts, to his niece. So he would be a good example for that hypothesis
having some validity, and other data also show that. Another example for how
homosexual behavior can come about has to do with our blood. Well, there is a phenomenon
called sickle cell anemia, and that aberration of how blood
cells are formed is maintained, because when you
have it, you are more or less immune against malaria. And the mechanism
works like this. There would be a
mother and a father and there would be carriers
for one or the other of these alleles, and because,
if you are heterozygote, if you were not a full-blown
carrier who will die, but if you are just having
half of it in your genes, then you have a greater
likelihood to survive. And we can just play this now,
let’s say with the inclination to be heterosexual, called
HE here, and the inclination to be homosexual,
called HO here. So if you have HE/HO parents,
they will produce children which are HE/HE, which
are HE/HO, HE/HO, and those which are HO/HO, they
would be manifest homosexual. Those which are HE/HE
would be heterozygotes, and it is now quite
well known that females who carry an allele
which, if homozygote in males will make
them homosexual, that such females
are more attractive and have a greater
reproductive success. So that may also explain why
Santa Claus is always shouting, “ho, ho.” And it explains even more why he
is shouting actually, “ho, ho, ho,” because he loves Rudolph. For that he needs one more “ho.” Now, clearly, homosexuality
is compatible with evolutionary theory
and not against nature, but to end my talk, I just want to show how we can do
anything with nature. Homosexuality is against nature, that’s what a lot
of people said. They are wrong, as I showed
you, but nevertheless, for that reason they will
condemn homosexuality. You could, however, say, oh,
homosexuality is natural. Animals do it, and you could
say, well, for that reason, we should condemn it
because we are not animals. Primitive animals,
no, we are not. But you could turn it around. You could say homosexuality
is natural, and for that reason we should
condone it because, you know, humans should not
suppress such drives. And most bizarre of
all, you could come up with the remaining
combination. You could say, now listen
carefully, homosexuality is against nature, animals
do not do it, and for that reason we
should do it, because, lions don’t desire other males,
they are not philosophers. Why does man, however
pursue same sex love? So, make of it what you
want if you invoke nature. It’s natural, that’s all
the stuff animals do, American family values. But animals do also
this stuff, and, hmmm, do we really want to do that? Maybe. Animals do that stuff; maybe in some cultures people
think that they should do that. So there is a lot of stuff
animals do and animals don’t, and if we like it, we call
it natural, and if we don’t like it, we call it animalistic. Clearly, nature does
not bestow virtue. It is an art to become good. To finish, I have a
sentence, which I like better: Never let your sense of
morals get in the way of doing what’s right. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Thank you so much
for such an enlightening and fascinating talk. We do have a few minutes for
questions, if anyone has any. There is roving mikes waiting
around, so please do wait for those, because this lecture
is being broadcast online and they won’t be able to
hear you without a microphone. So does anyone have
any questions? There’s one right in
the middle down here. [ Pause ]>>Just thinking about
the map that you put up, clearly what is clearly natural
is to be against homosexuality, because that seems to be what
is so prevalent in the world. Can evolution say anything to
us about why so many people for such a long period of
time have been against it?>>It’s a difficult question. Why should there be homophobia, if I as a heterosexual man
will have less competition, if these other guys are
not messing with me. There is no clear answer, but
I would think it actually has to do with when societies
become more liberal, when they become more liberal, then you will somehow
become more insecure about the role you
play, and then you have to pigeonhole yourself. Look at our societies. Being gay is a social construct that didn’t exist
100 years ago or so. But now because everything
is so liberal, we have to say who we are, and we have to come out of the closet,
we have to be gay. But at the same time
those who are insecure on the heterosexual side,
now have an opposition where they can say, that’s not
me, you know, I am straight, and these ones shouldn’t be. That, of course doesn’t
really explain it, and I do not have
an explanation, but that’s the best
one I can come up with.>>Thank you. Any other questions? There’s one up here.>>What is your opinion on entirely environmental
explanations of homosexuality, such as Daryl Bern’s “exotic
becomes erotic” theory?>>You can take it either way. If you look down there
on the LGBT credos, it was more fashionable
in the 20th century to say it’s just
environmental, it’s my choice. I don’t believe that nature/nurture
is a good dichotomy. There is always nature
and always nurture, and you can’t really
distinguish between the two. And nowadays, however, that
is a view which, for example, in LGBT forums, you will
hardly ever hear, actually. Now people will say, of course
it’s not my choice, you know, there’s nothing I
can do about it. So I think what people say and what they believe is
also strongly influenced by our political climate, and
we are more willing now to sort of listen to some
genetic explanation.>>There’s one behind
you, I see. Just at the top. Can you, sorry, can you wait for a microphone so
they can hear you.>>Thank you, thank you. You said about flamingos that
they are entirely homosexual, so how do they reproduce?>>They steal eggs from heterosexual pairs
and raise these eggs. That’s the same in
Graylag geese. So they do not directly
reproduce, and how that behavior would
be maintained is not clear, but it could be that, let’s say,
they would aim to, at one point in their life, become
heterosexual breeders, but they can never do it, and
so they keep on practicing with eggs which are
not their own.>>Okay, we have one
right in the middle. He’s already got the microphone.>>Okay, infantophilia is
obviously something extremely horrific, but would say
infantophilia is natural for the same reasons you say
homosexuality is natural?>>Of course I avoided
that word, pedophilia, because I didn’t want to
get into the discussion. Once again, if something
is natural or not natural doesn’t say
anything whether or not we find that morally acceptable or not. But, of course, you could say
that the conduct, which you saw in ancient Greece where you
had adult males having sex with children, according
to our definition — they would be 12 years old,
13 years old, 14 years old — nowadays would be a crime. And so that tell you at least
that it’s relativistic depending on the cultures, and I would
say, yes, there is a lot of what looks like sex with
children in other animals. That’s as much as I would say. So I’m really not
entering into the debate of how we should judge that in
terms of values, but clearly, societies have to make
decisions, and they always do. And when you do that, you
will have to have a compromise in the society and then certain
behaviors are off bounds.>>There’s one over
here on this side.>>I was interested in the
concordance between the twins. I think you said identical
twins was about 50 percent, nonidentical twins
about 20 percent, and siblings about 10 percent. The latter two, I mean,
nonidentical twins, dizygotic twins and ordinary
siblings are genetically, have the same relationship
two each other, except the twins
are the same age.>>Then you would, of course,
invoke the environment.>>Well, yes, yes, nurture one
would think would play a part in it, a lofty 50
percent in that case. Would you agree with that?>>Yes. That’s why genes
don’t explain everything, otherwise you would
have, in identical twins, the same sexual orientation
all the time.>>I think we have time
for one more question if — that’s just immediately
to your left there.>>Good afternoon. There have been new studies
on epigenetics and the effects of it over generations. Do you think that has any
role in homosexuality?>>I couldn’t really answer the
question, but I would believe that yes, if certain
behaviors are favored in certain environments, that they perhaps would
become more frequent. For example, in the case
of the homosexual rams, you can clearly see
if they are in lines where the breeders are
allowing the mothers of these homosexual
rams to breed, that you will get
more homosexual rams. And so it could well be that environmental
conditions will lead to an increase in
certain behaviors.>>Okay, well that’s, I’m
afraid, all we’ve got time for. I would like to thank you
all so much for coming today, and for your questions. [ Applause ]

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