In its 17 January 2004 edition, New Scientist carried an article titled “Does Darwin’s theory ‘fall flat’ when it comes to homosexuality?” In the article, ecologist Joan Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford University in California, cited examples of homosexual behaviour observed in various animals and considered the lethal blow these deal to Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.
Roughgarden wrote, “I found that evolutionary theory had followed a wrong path that leads inexorably back to Darwin – specifically to his theory of sexual selection, which I have concluded should be declared not only false but unfixable.” Indeed, she held a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2003 annual meeting, clearly setting out together with other scientists why Darwin’s theory of sexual selection was invalidated in the face of scientific observations. The following expressions were employed at the symposium:
A great deal of empirical evidence exists that refutes Darwinian sexual selection… The exceptions are so numerous they cry out for explanation… The whole context for Darwin”s theory of sexual selection is dissolving… So, Darwin is incorrect in the particulars, but more importantly, [his theory of sexual selection] is inadequate even as an approach. 1
At the February 17 symposium, Paul Vasey of the University of Lethbridge (Canada), Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, commented on the subject as follows:
… [T]raditional evolutionary theories for sexual behavior are inadequate and impoverished to account for what is going on.2 (Our emphasis. For further details about the claims of the sexual selection theory, and their invalidity, see Discovery Channel and the Wonderful Colours of Deep-Sea Creatures)
In the article in New Scientist Roughgarden deals with homosexual behaviour and states that examples of homosexual behaviour she cites in animals such as the bonobo and spotted hyena reveal the invalidity of Darwin’s theory of selection.
The Error That “If It Is Widespread Among Animals It Cannot Be Abnormal in Human Beings”
The invalidity of the theory of sexual selection is evident and incontrovertible. Therefore instead of going into the detail of the subject in the next part of this article, it will be helpful to draw attention to a message, intended to misinform, sent out by New Scientist in the article. The message in question, that “if homosexuality is widespread among animals it cannot be abnormal in human beings,” is a totally illogical one.
The way that Hürriyet Bilim published that distorted view of Roughgarden’s word for word shows that it expects its readers to take it on board:
This broad occurrence of homosexuality among vertebrates raises the possibility that if it has a genetic basis at all, it has some broad adaptive significance, and is not an aberrant condition just a few species happen to be stuck with. In humans, moreover, homosexuality is much too common for it to be considered a genetic aberration. (our emphasis)
Roughgarden simply considers diffusion and aberration inversely proportional, revealing a mistaken approach in saying “if it is common it is not aberrant.” This viewpoint is a most erroneous one. The word “aberrant” means “deviating from what is normal or desirable.3” Making the appropriate adjustment to Roughgarden’s words we may conclude, “If it is common, it has not deviated from what is normal.”
Clearly, however, that the fact that an aberration is common does not stop it being wrong. For example, a rise in the number of rapes in a city does not stop rape being an aberrant crime. Alternatively, frequent lying in a society does not make lying an acceptable form of behaviour. No judicial body says that a crime is not a crime because it is widespread in society.
This is one aspect of the error committed in Hürriyet Bilim. In addition, Roughgarden’s statement, based on the fact that it is widespread among vertebrates, that homosexuality cannot be regarded as aberrant among human beings is a subjective view, not a scientific one. For instance, Paul Vasey has personally observed homosexual behaviour in monkeys for many years, and offers this common sense view as a scientist with expert knowledge of the subject:
People often look to animals to decide for themselves what’s natural and what’s not natural. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing to do. I mean, animals engage in cannibalism and infanticide. They also don’t take care of elderly individuals. Just because animals do something doesn’t make it right or wrong. (our emphasis)4
The Error of Genetic Determinism and Roughgarden’s Preconception
It is noteworthy that Roughgarden makes the proviso “if it has a genetic basis at all” in the first sentence of the extract quoted above. First and foremost, even if the activity of the genes can play a role by altering the balances of various hormonal or biochemical products in the organism it still cannot be regarded as a factor leading to homosexuality. This erroneous point of view rests on a notion known as genetic determinism, which ignores a great many individual, social and historical factors.
This view that behaviour as well as physical characteristics in human beings can be explained in terms of the activity of genes, and that denies the existence of other factors, is criticised by many members of the scientific community. The proponents of genetic determinism define homosexuality not as a deviation between two individuals, but in such a way as to turn it into a phenotype (all the visible characteristics of an organism or qualities that can be seen, touched or otherwise revealed). The fact is, however, that this is a definition based solely on prejudice, with no scientific evidence behind it. Furthermore, it is in fact a political movement that seeks a cultural change, and it is no surprise that homosexuals should constitute the majority of the supporters of genetic determinism. (Joan Roughgarden is herself a transsexual.5 )
Homosexuality is a historical, sociological, psychological and anthropological abnormality, and the efforts to legitimise it based on biological findings are completely political and unscientific.
We have a duty to remind our readers that no statements made along those lines in newspapers or scientific magazines or in radio/TV interviews have any scientific foundations. These efforts are actually attempts by circles devoted to naturalist philosophy, which regards everything as being limited to nature, for which reason the cause of all human behaviour needs to be sought in biology, to shape society and culture in line with the model in their own minds. Such writings must be identified as a long-term tactic to change society’s anti-homosexuality value judgements.
The attempt to portray homosexuality as something beneficial is an error which bears a heavy social responsibility. Homosexuality is a violation of human nature. The attempt to use science as a vehicle in the dissemination of a world view that regards homosexuality as a “sexual preference” must be abandoned. Those who seek to legitimise homosexuality by looking at animal behaviour or certain characteristics of genes must realise that homosexuality “oversteps the limits” in the sight of God and must change their behaviour in the light of this warning in the Qur’an:
“”Of all beings, do you lie with males, leaving the wives God has created for you? You are a people who have overstepped the limits.”” (Qur’an, 26: 165-166)
1. Stephanie Chasteen, “Sex and gender scientists explore a revolution in evolution,” 16 February 2003, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-02/su-sag021003.php
3. Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation.
4. Chasteen, “Sex and gender scientists explore a revolution in evolution,” http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-02/su-sag021003.php
5. Virginia Gewin, “Joan Roughgarden profile: A plea for diversity,” Nature, 422, 368 – 369, 27 March 2003