Why Are Animals Gay? Why Not?
How The Questions We Ask Have Been Tainting The Scientific Debate
The importance of not being caught up in our own bias when it comes to the examination of scientific material has long been a source of hot debate. How can someone who is completely invested in an ideal really separate themselves from that ideal long enough to objectively study it properly? While in the past, this has been used to point out holes in research, it is just as important to point out areas where information has been over-analyzed as well.
In this case, the data in question and the assumptions it have led to are the assumptions that homosexual, or same sex behavior between animals is in any way detrimental to the animals in question. Instead, students at one Texas University, Yale, and UC-Berkley, have found that same sex behavior may actually be connected to increasing the number of mating opportunities that are presented across the whole of the species. The fact that populations don't seem to differentiate between same sex and opposite sex activities, even in creatures such as burrowing beetles, also suggests a much more important social cohesion role to same sex relationships than was thought of before. If mating opportunities are important for more than just the creation of the next generation, then many of our assumptions that center breeding above everything else will have to be challenged as well.
This exciting research underscores just how important it is to challenge even the most set in stone assumptions. Just a few years ago, anyone questioning the idea of same sex behavior existing as a population deterrent or abjuration of data would not have been taken seriously. It took the hard work of these diligent students who were willing to go back and revise what they and everyone else had been told to shine light onto the truth. As academics, this isn't something that should make us sad. Instead, it should make us happy that we are challenging what we think we know, revising our knowledge in light of new facts, beginning to explore connected ideas, and have not stopped learning. I for one am excited to see what kind of ripples this publication will cause in the coming years.
Building on the amazing breakthrough above, the paper goes on to talk about the overall neutrality of same sex behavior on populations, meaning that there has been no reason for it to be selected against during the evolutionary process. This also likely means, and this assumption is supported within the paper, that same sex behavior has continued on within populations since the first steps of evolution. This directly challenges the idea that same sex behavior only emerges during times of high population stress or that it is a response to the environment that is otherwise lacking within populations. While this has long been used as an answer for the question of why animals are gay, it turns out that sometimes the simpler answer, or "why not," is actually the correct answer, even in an academic situation.
Individuals who remember that humans are animals as well, may find this information to be particularly interesting. The implications that homosexuality between humans is not only a neutral effect, but one that naturally occurs with no cause or evolutionary divergence from accepted norms, is one that could have long-reaching impacts on the way that we view human sexuality. One would be hard pressed to find an area where this paper is not going to have an impact in terms of our understanding of human behaviors. Psychology, biology, sociology, political science, all of the different lenses by which we view each other will have to take into consideration this new information in order to accurately represent the latest information in their fields.
View the article here; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-1019-7