If Darwinian orthodoxy (think naturalism for a moment, not common descent) is the default god mechanism for Western intellectual elites (think New York Times editorial pages), then Steven Pinker’s “Sniffing Out the Gay Gene” piece is a rare chance to see a cluster of gods duke it out in the public square.
As always, GetReligion does not like to visit editorial pages very often. We are into news coverage of religion, as a rule. Yet this may be a case where there are more religion ghosts in a Times op-ed than in the news pages.
Every now and then, someone asks logical questions about homosexuality and natural selection. This is one of those times. The questions lead in all kinds of directions that should be interesting to reporters on the cultural right (alternative media) and left (mainstream media).
First of all, here is Pinker’s summary of the main news story, which you may already have seen elsewhere:
It sounds like something out of the satirical journal Annals of Improbable Research: a team of Swedish neuroscientists scanned people’s brains as they smelled a testosterone derivative found in men’s sweat and an estrogen-like compound found in women’s urine. In heterosexual men, a part of the hypothalamus (the seat of physical drives) responded to the female compound but not the male one; in heterosexual women and homosexual men, it was the other way around.
This is followed by the usual simple statements about massively complex research on “gay gene” questions that have caused such a, well, stink. Then the fun starts:
Homosexuality is a puzzle for biology, not because homosexuality itself is evolutionarily maladaptive (though no more so than any other sexual act that does not result in conception), but because any genetic tendency to avoid heterosexual opportunities should have been selected out long ago. Perhaps “gay genes” have some other compensating advantage, like enhancing fertility, when they are carried by women. Perhaps the environments that set off homosexuality today didn’t exist while our genes were being selected. Or perhaps the main cause is biological yet not directly genetic, like differences in hormones or antibodies that affect the fetus while it is developing.
And how is evolution linked to “the existence of homophobia”? What does all of this have to do with Dr. Laura Schlesinger? And the Boy Scouts? I would think that sex issues are tied rather tightly to issues of the survival of the fittest.
Like I said, there are lots of questions, and I don’t see even a hint of answers. Perhaps some of you do. But where you have massive questions and no answers, you should find interesting news stories — requiring chats with bright people on both sides of an issue that the MSM likes to think is settled.