Much has been made of Obama’s “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. In fact, society as a whole has been “evolving” on sex-associated behaviors over the past century.
But this reminds me of another interesting question: What does biological evolution have to do with same-sex behaviors? In my town, the same people seem to oppose both. For example, the middle school teacher who got fired after eleven years of teaching against evolution also taught (in eighth-grade physics class) against homosexuality. And the same group that came to our church to protest our gay-straight-alliance Halloween party also went to Kenyon College to protest evolution.
If some churches have been slow to accept love between people sharing the same karyotype, let’s remember that science was pretty slow too. Bagemihl recounts two hundred years of scientists failing to discover the normality of same-sex behavior among animals. The unmistakable evidence that same-sex behaviors have evolved amongst all creatures. The story of non-discovery is instructive beyond its subject, in that similar obstacles occur every day in science, in every scientific field, even lowly microbiology–there is prejudice wherever there are people. Still…two hundred years?
So how did this discovery take so long?
- When two animals were observed to interact, the active one was recorded as male, the passive one as female.
- When the anatomical sex of the animals was observed, the animals must be making a mistake.
- Or the observer was mistaken, “disturbed,” or “could not account” for the results.
- If the observations were submitted for publication, they were rejected.
- If the observations were published, they had opaque titles such as “On the lowering of moral standards among butterflies.”
- The published works were not cited.
For some reason, things began to change in the 1980s, when an interest developed in the topic. Why that particular decade? As Spock would say, there is no logical reason why scientists would suddenly become more observant at that time.
But there is certainly an argument for science research to include people of the widest range of backgrounds. The more diverse the array of experiences, the more likely that someone in the research group will come up with a fruitful idea–and someone else will bounce it back. Paradoxically, while science is supposed to be “objective,” it makes a big difference who is doing the research.