Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity

Author: Bruce Bagemihl
4.2

Comments

by pdfernhout   2018-03-11
Here are some related quotes on social problems in science cover a wide range of concerns (from an essay I wrote in 2011: http://www.amazon.com/Biological-Exuberance-Homosexuality-Na... "Bruce Bagemihl writes that Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity was a "labor of love." And indeed it must have been, since most scientists have thus far studiously avoided the topic of widespread homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom--sometimes in the face of undeniable evidence. Bagemihl begins with an overview of same-sex activity in animals, carefully defining courtship patterns, affectionate behaviors, sexual techniques, mating and pair-bonding, and same-sex parenting. He firmly dispels the prevailing notion that homosexuality is uniquely human and only occurs in "unnatural" circumstances. As far as the nature-versus-nurture argument--it's obviously both, he concludes. An overview of biologists' discomfort with their own observations of animal homosexuality over 200 years would be truly hilarious if it didn't reflect a tendency of humans (and only humans) to respond with aggression and hostility to same-sex behavior in our own species. In fact, Bagemihl reports, scientists have sometimes been afraid to report their observations for fear of recrimination from a hidebound (and homophobic) academia. Scientists' use of anthropomorphizing vocabulary such as insulting, unfortunate, and inappropriate to describe same-sex matings shows a decided lack of objectivity on the part of naturalists. ... Throw this book into the middle of a crowd of wildlife biologists and watch them scatter. ..."

Some more links I've collected about failures of science as a social enterprise (including educational aspects, like David Goodstein also talks about) are posted in comments here: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1932134&cid=3474... http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1932134&cid=3474...

More on the schooling aspects of dumbing people down and making them conformists (according to New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto): https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur... https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur... https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur...

No doubt one could find quotes celebrating science (or even schooling, as opposed to true education). I am not denying science (and even some schooling) has not been useful in some cases. I agree science may move by fits and starts and to an extent be self-correcting. Even as science and academia tend to take the credit for a lot of engineering skill learned on-the-job and the innovation that such skills may lead to. :-)

Still, if you think about all these quotes from professionals in the field of science, you can see that science, as a human enterprise, has some major social problems operating within a capitalistic framework. Now, science also has problems operating within a feudal/religious framework, like Galileo encountered (and David Goodstein discussed in "The Mechanical Universe"). And science has problems operating within a totalitarian framework like with Lysenkoism in the USSR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

But the key point is, science can have major systematic problems related to the socioeconomic system it is part of. No amount of skepticism can really fix that as a big issue. Skepticism can help us to deal somewhat with the consequences, but ultimately, pervasive skepticism related to worries about fraud and dumbed-down people everywhere is very wearing and psychologically expensive.