2011/12/15

Becky Sharp and evolution

In the piece "Gay gene, deconstructed," the observations were made that:

Most scientists who study human sexuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?

Some gays and lesbians do reproduce, said Pennsylvania State University anthropologist and geneticist Mark Shriver, but not as much as straight people do. Even if a gene decreases people's fertility by 1 percent, it's going to be eliminated.

To which I answer "Becky Sharp." Was she the heroine of Vanity Fair? Hmm, "heroine" would be much too complimentary a term.  "Protagonist" will do. Miss Sharp was a woman who very much enjoyed sex (It's made clear that her primary reason to marry the fellow she does is so she can have plenty of sex without the scandal of being a single woman doing so) and who bore a number of healthy children. Problem: She didn't particularly like children. She didn't enjoy spending time with children and greatly preferred the company of grown-ups.


Let's presume that that was the natural consequence of regular old human diversity and ask "How could such a gene survive?" Clearly, in an agricultural or an industrial society, it wouldn't. But in a hunting and gathering society, I can very easily see how people who were attracted to same-sex partners could ally themselves with the Becky Sharps of the world.


For humans, with their lengthy times for child-raising, producing the child is only a first step. To get a fully competent human being that can raise itself and take care of its own needs requires, what for any other mammal, would be a very extended period of care and devotion from at least one parent, but preferably from two of them.


In an agricultural or industrial society, a nuclear family is the preferred social unit because that's the ideal social group for assuring that material wealth is passed down from one generation to the next. Why don't we see nuclear families in hunting and gathering societies? That's easy, in that type of society, there's no material wealth to pass down.Everything that's used is taken directly from the environment and is easily replaceable.


Without being constrained by a nuclear family, where husbands and wives stay with each other and with their children, the Becky Sharps who don't like spending time with children can pass them off to a same-sex couple that is less likely to produce children themselves. The same-sex couple is then able to take over the job of raising the children that the Becky Sharps produce.


So, my theory is that the two types of people, women who produce children but don't like spending time with them and gay couples who are likely to produce fewer children than regular opposite-sex couples would, would ally with each other in a symbiotic relationship. Their own tendencies would complement each other.

2 comments:

Tony Schiavo said...

This article presents an interesting viewpoint on the possible survival of a homosexual gene which is less likely to be reproduced. Unfortunately, homosexual couples taking care of heterosexual children will not propagate such a gene. If the author was implying that one of the homosexual pair would have been the parent of the children, that seems unlikely then and much less likely since rise of the family unit.

Tony Schiavo

David4Peace said...

I think your explanation is way more complicated than it needs to be. Having gay people in a group probably increases the survival chances of the whole population. They can help with childcare and also do things that parents are too busy to do. So by helping the group survive and thrive, they improve the chances of people like them being born.

That's where the "evolutionary psychologists" always get it wrong. You don't have to pass down your specific genes. If you help someone with similar genes reproduce, you get the same evolutionary effect.

Many, many traits (like noncompetitiveness) that would have been long gone under the theories of these "evolutionists" are obviously thriving. Life is not each against all - it's communities developing or failing.