Desmond Morris, sociobiology and homosexuality
Posted: 04 August 2007 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Arguing with a friend about homosexuality (he’s conservative), he came with an argument taken from a Desmond Morris’s book: the homosexuality is a kind of reaction to the overpopulation, based on the fact that is more common (according to him) in cities than in the countryside. Of course, this supports my friend’s opinion about homosexuality being an unwanted thing caused by a ‘unnatural’ behaviour and it implies a kind of negative connotation.

I remembered a DM’s book (The naked ape (*)) and it seemed to me more speculative and with little evidence to support its claims.

Do you have an opinion on this DM’s claims and in his claims in general?.

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Posted: 04 August 2007 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Haven’t read that one in many years. Seems like it is considered a bit out of date, and certainly it was not the most scientifically rigorous work in the first place. As far as homosexual behavior being a reaction to population density, I don’ think that makes any sense. It smacks of the group selection hypothesis; the discredited idea that evolution acts on groups and so a group would generate non-breeding sexual behavior to reduce population when numbers became dense enough to threaten the group as a whole. Selection works on individuals p;rimarily. Homosexual behavior is ubiquitous in almost every mammalian species, and while one can argue about whether it has any adaptive function, it certainly can’t be called an aberration or unnatural. Sounds like your friend is exhibiting selection bias, trying to find any support he can for the ideas he already holds.

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Posted: 04 August 2007 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What Brennen said.

... and moreover, even if Morris were entirely right about homosexuality, that would imply that it was, in some way, an adaptive behavior. That is, homosexuality would end up being a natural behavior that was selected for in our ancestors. So again, if Morris were right, then homosexual behavior would be biologically desirable and natural—just as natural as any other human behavior, like language or altruism.

So:

(1) Morris’s theory is probably false.
(2) If Morris’s theory were true, it would mean that homosexuality was natural, advantageous for our ancestors, selected for, and thus biologically desirable, at least in overpopulated group environments.

Hence, if your friend is supporting Morris’s theory, but claiming anything other than (2), he is simply displaying homophobic bigotry.

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Posted: 05 August 2007 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s clear to me that he is showing just homophobic ideas. ( BTW, Here in ‘freudland’ it makes him very expossed to freudian repression explanation: being ‘unconsciosly’ homosexual and doing a great effort to hide it. I don’t believe in psichoanalytics explanaition, but I enjoy seeing him bothered with that).

He claims that only in domesticated animals (in farms or zoos) and in human there is homosexual behaviour. I guess he’s is taking his own experience and observation as facts.

I red ‘the nakes ape’ fifteen year ago. I remembered I liked it, but now, every time somebody brings sociobiological arguments, I feel sociobiology has little ground, it is mainly speculative and fails to support its claims. I’d like to hear your opinion on that.

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Posted: 05 August 2007 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Well, I think sociobiology is a generally sound idea often carried to ridiculous extremes not supported by data. I think it is likely true that most human behavior stems from the effects of our natural history, that we evolved behaviors as adaptations to particular selection pressures. I also think, though, that our behavioral mechanisms are very complex and that, as S.J.Gould liked to point out, behaviors can arise from these mechanisms that are connected only distantly or not at all to specific selective factors. We have likely exempted ourselves from most kinds of natural selection that other animals face and have imposed a lot of our own environmental conditions, and this makes it very difficult to draw a direct connection between some hypothetical pre-modern environment and cultural practices. I also like Dawkins’ meme concept, which I think illustrates the fact that cultural practices have a way of perpetuating themselves that does not require they increase reproductive success. SO all-in-all, I think there’s some sound logic to the general idea of sociobiology as applied to human behavior, but I don’t find particular explanations for particular cutural practices seem to hold much water. They more often reflect the biases and preconceptions of the theorists promoting them

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Posted: 05 August 2007 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If it was due to overpopulation, surely we would see it becoming prevalent during the senessent phase of our population graph and we are still part way through the log phase, so that argument does not appear to stand up.  Also, this would render it a natural behaviour by the very nature of population ecology.

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Posted: 05 August 2007 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Barto - 05 August 2007 03:46 PM

He claims that only in domesticated animals (in farms or zoos) and in human there is homosexual behaviour. I guess he’s is taking his own experience and observation as facts.

I don’t believe that this is accurate. See HERE and HERE, for example.

If we have more examples of homosexuality in domesticated or captured animals, that’s likely an example of the availability heuristic. That is, they are easier to watch if they are captive.

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Posted: 05 August 2007 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Well, I guess the Livingstone’s fruit bat was always going to have inclinations in that direction. The old what’s in a name theory.

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Posted: 05 August 2007 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Spend some time watching bonobos in the wild, and you’ll see more same-sex sexual activity than you can get on cable! grin

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Posted: 05 August 2007 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I recall visiting a friend quite a few years ago and bringing my male Samoyed along.  We introduced him to the friend’s male German Shepherd.  They hit it off immediately so we let them play out in the back yard while we talked.  When I was ready to leave we called the dogs and realized they each would need a bath because they were both covered with semen.  Apparently they didn’t get the message about it being ‘unnatural’.  LOL

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Posted: 05 August 2007 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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dougsmith - 05 August 2007 04:28 PM
Barto - 05 August 2007 03:46 PM

He claims that only in domesticated animals (in farms or zoos) and in human there is homosexual behaviour. I guess he’s is taking his own experience and observation as facts.

I don’t believe that this is accurate. See HERE and HERE, for example.

If we have more examples of homosexuality in domesticated or captured animals, that’s likely an example of the availability heuristic. That is, they are easier to watch if they are captive.

Thank you for the links. It is exactly what I wanted to confirm my suspect about that the think aboud domestic animals were, indeed, a bias because of the things we have closer.

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Posted: 10 August 2007 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Occam - 05 August 2007 06:22 PM

I recall visiting a friend quite a few years ago and bringing my male Samoyed along.  We introduced him to the friend’s male German Shepherd.  They hit it off immediately so we let them play out in the back yard while we talked.  When I was ready to leave we called the dogs and realized they each would need a bath because they were both covered with semen.  Apparently they didn’t get the message about it being ‘unnatural’.  LOL

Occam

sounds like they “wanted” it too!

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Posted: 10 August 2007 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Hmmm, do you know for certain it was dog semen.  Now, I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but did you keep an eye on them the whole time?  Do you know for certain they didn’t stray into the weido guy next door’s garden?

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Posted: 10 August 2007 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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He would have had to have had a huge prostate.

Occam

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Posted: 10 August 2007 08:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Indeed I do.  Hi neighbour.

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