Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation

By Jim McKnight | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Homosexuality as social evolution

There is, I wish to suggest, a strong possibility that homosexuality is normal in the biological sense, that it is a distinctive beneficent behavior that evolved as an important element of early human social organisation. Homosexuals may be the genetic carriers of some of mankind's rare altruistic impulses.

(Wilson, 1978:143)

If we cannot find a gene for homosexuality does this rule out biosocial explanations entirely? While social constructivist critiques would like to think that homosexuality needs a gene to be positively selected from generation to generation there are other ways of achieving the same end. What has to be remembered is that the ultimate purpose of biosocial theorising is to explain how we increase our overall genetic representation in subsequent generations. The analysis of individual traits such as homosexuality is to see how they contribute to this end. If the goal is to pass on as much of our genetic message as we can then a whole variety of cultural prescriptions and individual choices will effect this goal. The survival of our genotype is as much a matter of individual action as it is of physical (biological) evolution. If we act wisely then we increase the chances of our genes surviving. When our individual efforts are aggregated across a population, the same selective pressures which apply to our physical evolution decide the relative merits of any one individual action. This coevolution then selects for behaviours which work and discards those which don't, so social evolution is as much about differential survival as physical evolution. What has to be remembered is that we as individuals are not selecting for any one trait but for the continuity of our entire genetic message. Evolution on the other hand retains individual traits that favour current circumstances. In practice, social and physical evolution work together to decide one's genetic future. Even when one's genetic endowment hinders one's reproductive chances, social evolution selects for traits and behaviour which advance survivability. That is, social and physical evolution are additive, and deficits in one area may be

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Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface x
  • Chapter 1 - Is Male Homosexuality Adaptive? 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Biology of Homosexuality 18
  • Chapter 3 - Homosexuality as Physical Evolution 64
  • Chapter 4 - Homosexuality as Social Evolution 124
  • Chapter 5 - The Seven Deadly Sins of Sociobiology 163
  • Glossary 188
  • Bibliography 194
  • Author Index 210
  • Subject Index 214
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