What are gay people for?

Whenever I have a conversation with hard-line Christians about homosexual attraction, they are guaranteed to point out that it makes no sense, biologically. A gay couple cannot reproduce, they say. The species has no need of this couple, there is no evolutionary advantage to be had for same-sex attraction in any species that reproduces sexually.

Then I saw this Facebook post. I had entirely overlooked the adoption kerfuffle a few years back when the bill that was to become the Equality Act 2010 was still working its way through parliament. Of course, my favourite church was right at the heart of the mess and, of course, it was being belligerent and prejudiced into the bargain. The Catholic church had run adoption agencies in the UK for a considerable time and was howling that they would have to shut them down if they were covered by the legislation stating that they were not allowed to discriminate against gay couples who wanted to adopt.

It seems, according to the Facebook poster’s poster (based on the poster’s research about the research that has been done on this subject), that every sexual species we know about has individuals who do the whole courtship and/or mating thing with members of the same sex. To suggest that this behaviour makes no sense in biological or evolutionary terms doesn’t square with its prevalence in nature.

Gay sex is clearly not against nature, given how much of nature is getting jiggy with like-genitalled compatriots.

And same-sex coupling does seem to serve the species. A same-sex couple can adopt an abandoned youngster/egg and they have been observed doing exactly this in many species. And the Catholic church shut down its adoption agencies because of gay couples. Gay couples who wanted to look after a youngster who couldn’t be with its parents for whatever reason. Youngsters who were desperately looking for people to look after them, but all the straight couples were too busy breeding.

Face, meet palm.

Have a great week, everyone.

2 thoughts on “What are gay people for?

  1. Richard B

    Oh I love a good science and Church debate. Sciencey bit from me first. To me the interesting thing about homosexuality from a Darwinian evolutionary point of view, is how does it get passed on. I’m no expert on this, but I believe there is a degree of genetic heritability, so how do individuals who choose not to engage in heterosexual intercourse / mating pass their genes onto the next generation? Well, they don’t if they’re not having heterosexual sex. If it’s not the homosexual individuals themselves passing on their genes through sexual reproduction, it must be passed on via heterosexual parents (yes in our society many gay people get married and have kids due to social pressures, but that doesn’t apply to other species, and I suspect most gay people have straight parents). Phenotype is a very complex product of genotype with many polygenic traits, epigenetic factors and environment (i.e. in utero hormonal fluctuations etc.), so good luck to the people trying to unravel all of that lot. But the consistent existence of homosexual individuals must mean that it’s in the evolutionary interests of species to retain within their genotypes the potential for individuals expressing a homosexual phenotype to emerge, to fulfil the nurturing role you mentioned in your post. Maybe evolution keeps the homosexual / bisexual population at a consistent level (5 – 10 %? I don’t know) through whatever the mechanism is.

    The church though is in a pickle, being led by the Bible. There are a handful (and really only a handful) of biblical verses condemning homosexual activity. Not many, but they are there and use pretty strong language – hateful to God, that type of thing. To me though, the Bible simply doesn’t recognise that homosexuality exists as an innate feature in a certain number of people. Its writers wrote from an entirely, rigidly heterosexual perspective. So to be fair, from a heterosexual perspective, homosexual activity does seem rather odd, and was therefore condemned by our forefathers in faith 2000 and more years ago.

    So what about now? The Church does now recognise the existence of homosexual persons, but still considers acts of homosexual intercourse to be “objectively disordered”. Whilst the Church does not condemn anybody for being gay, and in fact teaches that any persecution is wrong: CCC 2358: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”, the teaching is still that gay sex is wrong: CCC 2357 “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and CCC 2359 “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” “Grave depravity”??? Obligatory chastity??? Still pretty strong, and surely not great reading for any gay Catholics out there. Evangelical churches are even worse in the sense that they are biblical literalists, well they are when it suits them but not when it doesn’t. I’m a Catholic and a scientist, and I have no problem with evolutionary theory or the notion that we are all made in God’s image – sounds dichotomous I know , but I love a good dichotomy. I also have no problem with the concept that gay people are made in God’s image as much as anybody else. I wonder if the Church will move, Pope Frank seems a bit more open to the blooming obvious.

    1. PGR Post author

      Splendid and well-thought comment, my friend. Thank you.

      Frank does seem to be embracing the dichotomy quite well. I will eat Paddy Ashdown’s hat if the church adjusts the CCC (that’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for anyone who doesn’t know this: it’s the church’s official rule book) any time soon, though.

      There is going to come a point where the church needs to decide if it is going to adjust its message in a way that our younger people find acceptable or face extinction. So many opportunities to be radically Christ-like have been wasted, let’s hope we don’t run out before it’s too late.

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