April 4th, 2010

why you should read books to keep up with the "news"


I'm not done reading it yet -- it is really good -- but this is an article in the NYT Magazine about animal co-parenting and/or sex that is not male-female. Apparently, some of those papers that would previously have seen the light of day only in a book like Bagemihl's _Biological Exuberance_ are finally getting published in peer reviewed journals, mostly because some nerdy women took the time and trouble to sex an entire colony of Laysan albatrosses and discovered that a third of them were f/f. They did this because they were trying to explain why some of these pairs were producing nests with two eggs year after year, when this kind of bird apparently only ever lays one egg a year. Period.

Of course, none of this would be particularly surprising to anyone who read Bagemihl's book when it was published. In 1999 (paperback in 2000). Well, maybe the part where it is only _now_ in 2010, okay to publish a paper where you describe what you are observing animals doing without going through ridiculous gyrations to pretend it's something else entirely.

In the course of trying to explain why people had so much trouble with this idea (what, homophobia is inadequate?), the author is describing evolutionary theory (oh, and believe me, Darwin's theories about reproduction are so far beyond whack it is difficult to convey). This gem popped up:

[quote begins here]The Yale ornithologist Richard Prum told me: “Our field is a lot like economics: we have a core of theory, like free-market theory, where we have the invisible hand of the market creating order — all commodities attain exactly the price they’re worth. Homosexuality is a tough case, because it appears to violate that central tenet, that all of sexual behavior is about reproduction. The question is, why would anyone invest in sexual behavior that isn’t reproductive?”[quote ends here]

Why would anyone invest in sexual behavior that isn't reproductive? You have to ask? I mean, it's not like our entire culture is saturated in sexual behavior that is profoundly _not_ reproductive. [ <-- Sarcasm.]

ETA: Okay, maybe it's not a good article. On the next page:

[quote begins here]Given this big umbrella of theory, the very existence of homosexual behavior in animals can feel a little like impenetrable nonsense, something a researcher could spend years banging his or her head against the wall deliberating. The difficulty of that challenge, more than any implicit or explicit homophobia, may be why past biologists skirted the subject.[quote ends here]

I give it to you straight (har de har har): Darwin's theory of reproduction is homophobic and heterosexist. Period. Anyone operating under the assumption that Darwin's theory of reproduction is somehow neutral is displaying bias and enacting homophobia and heterosexism, also, exploiting heterosexist privilege and, generally, behaving badly.

The rest of the article looks like a lot of effort to shoehorn what people are seeing into Darwin's creepily limited idea of how reproduction works. Depressing.

ETAYA: After concluding, not unreasonably, that a single unifying explanation for homosexual behavior in animals (and honestly? That's not even the interesting issue here, but all the trans stuff is way past what these people can cope with ADDED LATER: Vasey works with third gender people in Samoa, so my comment was really unfair) is not happening, Vasey goes on to say: "The point of heterosexual sex, Vasey said, no matter what kind of animal is doing it, is primarily reproduction." *head desk* Metaphorically, of course. I'm sitting in the Dutailier with my computer in my lap. There is no handy desk. Worse, Vasey is not here to practice finger locks on, which would be infinitely better. We are animals. Some of us have heterosexual sex. A lot of that heterosexual sex is primarily about _NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT_ reproducing.

Fucking idiot.

ETA one more time: *sigh* And Vasey is gay. How can he _say_ crap like that?

yeah, yeah, blame the victim, wait, mormons?!?


Let's just skip right over Eugene Grant, because it's pretty obvious he's a bad guy. Maybe not himself a molestor, who really can say any more, but blaming the victims and their parents? Not cool.

[quote begins here]In an additional complication to the case, Grant estimated that 30% to 50% of the Boy Scout troops in the U.S. during the mid-1980s were chartered by the Mormon Church, which has already settled its portion of the lawsuit.

Grant explained that the arrangement allowed Mormon officials to manage scout troops, rather than traditional Boy Scouts employees.

As a result, this arrangement meant the Boy Scouts knew that disciplinary actions taken against any adult volunteers suspected of abuse would be kept secret because the church considered it a private matter.[quote ends here]

I guess my first reaction is wtf? My second reaction is, that explains the anti-gay policy and it being so amazingly tough to budge. Most of their membership is LDS so most of their membership is so okay with being Bigots with a capital B by mainstream American standards that a little pressure from any other poor saps who want their kids to have time outdoors isn't even going to register.

My third reaction is, I would like to have a little brochure to explain all the participants, now, please?

Until then, here's what http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0327867520071004 has to say about Timur Dykes:

"Timur Dykes, a former spiritual leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and former scout leader"

Actually, Reuters has a lot more to say about Timur Dykes, however, I would like to point out the parallels here (monolithic church, pedophile in the hierarchy simultaneously doing Boy Scouts stuff, hierarchy knows about it and may or may not protect its members in church activities but leaves the guy in place causing trouble through the Scouts) with the priest I blogged about yesterday.