Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity

Author: Bruce Bagemihl


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: "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:

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):

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.

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.