The Evolutionary Purpose of Male Homosexuality

A recent show on the science channel alerted me to an interesting new hypothesis about the evolution of homosexuality. Contrary to popular thought, it does not appear to be an accident. (If anyone can find documentation about this new hypothesis... let me know). Particularly interesting is the behavior of primate males in family groups. As is well known, apes (such as chimanzees, bonobos, and gorillas) that live in family groups consist of many females, one dominant male that gets exclusive access to mating with the females, and sometimes one or more submissive males that do not have the right to mate with the females. A new scientific hypothesis suggests that our early ancestors (who may have lived in similar family groups) may have developed homosexuality among these "submissive" males. The sexual behavior of the apes currently being studied suggests that male homosexuality has an important evolutionary advantage in family groups. The submissive males engage in homosexual behavior as a way to satisfy sexual instincts... but the advantage goes further than that. By engaging in homosexuality, the submissive males present themselves as no threat to the dominate male and thus promote group harmony, by discouraging male fighting over mates. Furthermore, these homosexual males provided survival advantages to the family group by helping to protect the females and infants from predators and rival family groups and to find food for the group. In this case, the sacrifice of the genetic survival of one individual gave an enormous advantage to the survival of the group. - Which is something evolution has been known to favor.

Although this particular advantage of homosexuality is obsolete for humans, the homosexual orientation would have survived despite that because our society changes far faster than evolution.

So.. for any homophobes that claim homosexuality is "unnatural" - Au Contraire! It is VERY natural, for some people!

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Tags: Science, biology, evolution, gay rights, homophobia, religion

Comment by CJoe on November 19, 2013 at 12:06pm

evolution only makes changes that are necessary to survival.

This is incorrect. Evolution isn't a process with a purpose. Evolution is simply changes, or mutations, in organisms that may or may not lend to the survival of the organism. There's no "purpose" in the changes. Of course, with every cause, there is an effect... but the effect is incidental. This is one of the main misunderstandings of evolution: that it is guided, or that it has a purpose. It does not. Evolution is not a progression to something better or more likely to survive. Many times evolution causes changes that lead to death or disadvantage. What happens is that those changes make the organism unable to procreate and pass along the trait that put them at a disadvantage... but not always, which is the reason so many "bad" traits continue to get passed on.

Females can be impregnated whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Most female sexuality is somewhat fluid anyway. Sexuality in general is more of a gradient instead of black and white, straight vs gay. It is hard to "breed out" sexual attraction when it's such a mixed bag. Many, many people have produced offspring despite their attraction to the same sex. It hasn't been until recently that women have even had the option of rejecting men as partners. And parents are not just passing their own sexuality to their offspring: they are passing thousands of generations of sexuality to their offspring.

Evolution happens slowly. I doubt that homosexuality has been enough of an advantage or disadvantage to be affected one way or another. Even if a culture decides to kill off homosexuals, they will not succeed because those with homosexual tendencies will simply suppress their desires and go "in the closet". Besides, it's not just homosexuals who carry the "gene". It's just there, and I think it always has been. It doesn't have to serve a functional purpose. That's not what evolution is.

Comment by Warren on November 19, 2013 at 12:41pm

Evolution is a series of random mutations over time over generations, most are harmless, some don't work out at all, and some benefit the animal or even plant that makes it more competitive in it's environment. Evolution mostly takes a lot of time, but not always. We can even see it in our lifetime. Case in point over crabs in Japan. There is a crab in Japan that the carapace looks like a Samurai warrior. It wasn't always like that, when Japanese fisherman saw a crab that they caught looked a bit like a Samurai face, they threw it back, sort of encouraging that design of crab carapace to the point that it is not unusual to find that "mutation" catching that kind of crab there. It happens, quicker than you think. Esp with microorganisms and viruses, which mutate often and go by the same rules of some become more competitive.

Comment by Daniel Pereira on November 20, 2013 at 6:37am

Cara I'm sure everything in evolution has a purpose, otherwise it would make no sense for evolution to occur. I'm pretty sure homosexuality has a purpose. I just don't think the purpose outlined in this blog adds up. It doesn't explain the existence of female homosexuality either.

Comment by CJoe on November 20, 2013 at 1:10pm

You're wrong, Daniel. You need to study evolution a little more diligently. It makes perfect sense if you understand it correctly. I recommend "The Greatest Show On Earth" by Richard Dawkins for an accessible explanation of evolution.


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