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Although this particular advantage of homosexuality is obsolete for humans, the homosexual orientation would have survived despite that because our society changes far faster than evolution.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

Views: 4032

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

Comment by Shabaka Tecumseh on March 8, 2012 at 8:16pm

When there's so much doubt, controversy, misunderstanding, information, and misinformation about a topic then something must be amiss.  Atheist does that put you in mind of any "false" doctrine that for centuries people have died defending?

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 8, 2012 at 8:20pm

@unseen - I'm not clear how your response fits into the cause and effect discussion Rob and I were having. Possibly you should consider resubmitting your revised comment once you've read ours.

pax vobiscum,

Comment by Unseen on March 8, 2012 at 8:46pm

Perhaps you should reread my contribution. I think it makes perfect sense without revision. It's only intended to apply to the given quote, not to the overarching discussion.

Comment by Marissa Karp on March 8, 2012 at 8:57pm

I haven't studied population trends or homosexuality in any depth, really, but I was toying with the idea that rates of homosexuality might rise in times when, globally, food is running low...

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 8, 2012 at 9:35pm

Regardless, Unseen, of how many times one reads an inapplicable statement, it's still inapplicable, but thanks for playing.

Comment by Unseen on March 8, 2012 at 9:40pm

You're a hoot.

Comment by Rob Klaers on March 8, 2012 at 10:59pm

@Unseen.. Perhaps the part that environment plays is the degree to which homosexuality is ignored or scorned in the particular environment.

I believe you're confusing society's views with environment. The two are different. The way I see environment playing a role is in regards to population. Such as once a certain population concentration is has been attained it flips a switch (if you will). Since it's a biological trigger it would continue to keep it a genetic factor. There are a number of instances where an individual of a species (a several species of fish for example) change from one sex to another to compensate for a lack of particular sex. Since humans can't physically change sex naturally, some other change would need to happen. This could be a chemical or maybe a hormonal change. .. Of course this is just conjecture on my end.

Comment by SteveInCO on March 9, 2012 at 1:08am

I guess going off and doing gay sex because you cannot get laid by female apes in a polygamous culture is preferable to the "modern" alternative of flying planes into buildings.

Comment by Ward Cressin on March 9, 2012 at 1:13am

Shabaka Tecumseh, please then explain the gays and lesbians who don't live the gay/lesbian lifestyle. I know more than one gay man who does not live the gay lifestyle but is exclusively attracted to guys. Because of who I associate with I can only point out science fiction/fantasy fans who are gay but I'm sure others here know people who are gays or lesbians that you wouldn't know it from the way they dress or talk or their apartment/home.

Rob Klaers, "The way I see environment playing a role is in regards to population. Such as once a certain population concentration is has been attained it flips a switch (if you will). ..."

There has been some potential verification of this idea but only on a local scale: birth order, and maternal relative's fecundity (are two that I know of). If it were valid on a larger scale, large old cities should have a greater percentage of gays/lesbians than can be accounted for by the movement of rural gays/lesbians to cities. Tokyo, Delhi, Calcutta, London, New York just to list a few should have increasing percentages in spite of social pressures if this was correct on a large scale. It would be an advantageous adaptation and might become one (assuming we survive).

There is sufficient evidence that there is a genetic component (in spite of what people like Shabaka believe). But given the local scale expression, I doubt expression of homosexuality in an individual is purely genetic – there seems to be an epigenetic portion of the equation. Are there also sociological components? That's an even bigger and more difficult to answer question.

Comment by Shabaka Tecumseh on March 9, 2012 at 5:40am

Ward people who say they are homosexual, but don't practice same sex either practice abstinence or become asexual. Most humans admire people of the same sex for whatever reason, that's not "abnormal." Look I don't know for sure to what degree homosexuality is genetic, but I can say it's aberrant in Nature. I don't know because of today's ability to alter genes that could drop the testosterone levels in men and increase them in women.  I don't know because having such large male prison populations without females can alter the males lifestyle perspectives. I don't know if there a effort afoot to use homosexuality as a population control tool.  I just don't know those things, but I can say with certainty that it is aberrant in Nature. 


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