Know Your Enemy (Guest Post Edition)

Remeber this guy? Well, in the comments of our post on the subject I said I would email the link to my evil twin (a scientist) and ask him to give the scientific lowdown on this jerk. In the department of "better late than never," here goes (by the way--the only reason it wasn't posted earlier is because I didn't get around to it. It isn't my evil twin's fault or anything:

This professor should be horribly embarrassed for
writing such drivel. He doesn't really say anything
other than he doesn't like gays and assigns some
possible causes for it being an aberration. The real
problem is that his thinking and writing are execrably
sloppy. It took me a read or three to figure out what
he was trying to say.

The author's worst crime is to confuse "normal" with
"natural" and "morally good". None of those three
things are equivalent, except perhaps to a second
grader with a learning disability.

Mutation is normal. It is the very engine of
evolution. It is so normal that we are capable of
measuring how often mutations occur and predict how
likely they will be in the future. In that sense
mutations are as normal as thunderstorms.

Perhaps he meant that mutation was "rare".
Unfortunately he is dead wrong on that count also. The
idea that mutation was some unusual event died decades
ago once proteins and DNA were analyzed more closely.
A great deal of variability was found between
different species and between different members of the
same species. For such variability to be ubiquitous,
mutation must be a common occurrence.

Perhaps he meant to write "natural" since fruit flies
exhibit homosexual behavior when certain genes are
"unnaturally" mutated. Unfortunately for his idea,
homosexual behavior is naturally present in non-human
species such as Bonobo chimps[Am J Primatol. 2006 Mar
13;68(4):333-347] and there are media reports of such
behavior in dolphins [google search "gay dolphins"].
Neither species is threatened with extinction because
of their mating practices.

As to whether "natural" means "morally good": I
shudder to think what a world would be like where
"natural" is our metric for right and wrong.

Using "mutation" or "loss of gene function" as a moral
metric is also a losing proposition -- by that
argument blue eyes are morally inferior to brown ones.

Given that mutation is normal and not that rare, what
does it mean if a non-lethal gene is switched off and
results in homosexual behavior? It certainly doesn't
mean that homosexuality is "abnormal" any more than
any other mutation that we would find. It doesn't
mean that it's "normal" either -- it's a moral wash.

Only our desire to coerce the natural world into
supporting our moralistic views tip the "mutated gay
fruitflies" result into one camp or the other.

No comments: